Open letter to former State President FW de Klerk

Sir,

On the night of 14 upon 15 April 1912, the RMS Titanic, at that stage the world’s largest moving man-made object, collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank within 4 hours with a loss of 1514 lives.

That is the short, well-known version of the story. The full version offers a number of uncanny similarities to what is happening to South Africa at the moment. You yourself on a number of occasions expressed concern and dissatisfaction with the direction South Africa is taking. One gathers that it is because you never thought this is the way things will go. I believe captain Edward Smith of the Titanic also stood on deck and muttered to himself: “This is not how I wanted it.” But so it is, and he had to face the facts. As do you…

You see, mr De Klerk, both captain Smith and yourself had numerous warnings that the course of action you are embarking upon might lead to disaster. Captain Smith knew he had lifeboats on board for less than half of his passengers. You knew that there was no provision for the protection of the rights of the minorities in the New South Africa. Yet, with equal disregard for the risk and the possible consequences, you steered your ship into the ice field, exactly as captain Smith proceeded full-steam ahead at 22 knots into a dangerous field of icebergs.

Now you might argue that you had a mandate from your passengers through the referendum and quite rightly you did. But if Captain Smith asked his passengers whether they were concerned about the speed of the Titanic, I doubt that many of them would have questioned him. After all, like yourself, he would have said: “I ask that you trust me.” And like you did, he also would have told his passengers that his ship was unsinkable. But like you, he also knew that it was not.

At 11:40 that night of the 14th of April, Captain Smith’s ship hit an iceberg. Last Saturday afternoon yours did so as well. Your ship was dealt a deadly blow by an iceberg called racism. Following an unacceptably cruel comment by a woman calling black people “monkeys”, there was an outpour of insults both ways and open, unashamedly bloodthirsty calls for the genocide of white people. The breach in mutual confidence can never be healed again. Racism and hatred is the iceberg which carries in him the seed of the final destruction of South Africa.

Shortly after midnight they started swinging out the lifeboats on board the Titanic. It is happening here as well. For some people the total genocide of the white man in South Africa is a lifeboat. For others the creation of seperatism and self-determination is a life boat. All over this dark and icy ocean little boats are floating with people on board. But the majority is still on board your ship clinging to a desperate belief in the unsinkable ship without realising that time is running out for them.

And on the bridge stood Captain Edward Smith, helpless to do anything about one of the worst disasters in the history of humankind. Maybe he firmly believed in the infallibility of his leadership, in his ship being unsinkable – maybe he took a calculated risk and lost the gamble at the terrible cost of innocent lives. Maybe you did as well – only you would know, Mr de Klerk.

But there the similarities between the good captain and yourself comes to an end. Because where captain Smith had no way out but to face destiny, you still have time. You still have in your power the opportunity to save at least something of your ship for the sake of the people who put their trust in you. You have international standing and influence. You can stand up and say: We made a mistake. This experiment was not properly conducted, we rushed into an ice field putting our faith in the putative man-made infallibility of the society we created. And it failed. Let us go back to the drawing board and start all over again, for if we do not, history will judge us as it judged captain Smith and all those who perished with him.

Daniël Lötter
Front Nasionaal Suid-Afrika
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