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President FW de Klerk and name changes

Dr Denis Worrall
Photo by Duane Daws
Dr Denis Worrall

16th April 2015

By: Denis Worrall


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Since 1984 the African National Congress (ANC) government has honoured ANC heroes of the “struggle” by naming roadways and public buildings after them. In this regard it has been doing what previous South African governments have done. To our international readers perhaps the best-known would be the change of name of South Africa’s main airport from Jan Smuts to Oliver Tambo. This has applied to roadways and public buildings in all our bigger cities.

Over the past weeks there has been an intense debate on a proposal to rename Table bay Boulevard in Cape Town after President FW de Klerk. (Cape Town already has honoured Nelson Mandela, Helen Suzman and other luminaries in this way).


Knowing de Klerk, who is a modest person, the whole debate is discomforting. But, being an historically significant figure, his personal views are obviously not relevant. Does he deserve the recognition? Of course.
The ending of apartheid and the introduction of a fully democratic South Africa did not just happen. It was a process, starting even with certain changes Prime Minister John Vorster made after Dr Hendrik Verwoerd’s assassination. President PW Botha took the process further. But what they were in effect doing was just amending the apartheid book. FW De Klerk, with his speech of 2 February, 1990 freeing Nelson Mandela and his associates, and unbanning the ANC and other similar liberation organisations, threw that book away and opened a new-democratic-one. And that took enormous strength of character and moral and political courage – something which very pleasingly has just been acknowledged by Ahmed Kathrada, “a struggle stalwart”, and former Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, both of whom have come out in favour of the renaming.

Written by Dr Denis Worrall, chairperson, Insight Africa



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