Call to deny late F.W de Klerk state funeral unnecessary

Call to deny late F.W de Klerk state funeral unnecessary
Late and Former Apartheid South Africa’s President Frederik Willem de Klerk (photo credit: DW)

In the Nuer language, we say: “thile raan mii maar-ke-liah”, meaning “no one is related to death”. This enemy called death normally robs and terminates our people’s rights to live permanently.

Many people around the globe would want to live and enjoy life forever, and that is why the “death penalty” has been abolished in most progressive and human rights-oriented constitutions.

 Although our holy books remind us of life after death, I have never heard or seen people feeling at ease owing to the belief that their deceased will enjoy another life elsewhere.

This is why we weep, wittingly, after death, putting doubt on this biblical notion that there is “life after death.” It is understandable that every death is a painful one for the loved ones of the deceased.

F.W. de Klerk, who was the last apartheid leader in South Africa, will hardly disappear from the socio-economic and political history of modern South Africa and Africa as a whole.

Born in Johannesburg in 1936, De Klerk studied law and practised law before being elected into the white-only parliament. In 1989, de Klerk became the National Party leader after serving in various ministerial posts.

He became the face of the Apartheid regime, which derives its name from ‘apartness’ in the Afrikaan language- a segregationist system that divided South Africa into social classes. When one hears that the late President Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, it was people like President Pieter Willem Botha and his successor, President Frederik Willem de Klerk, who arrested him for harbouring anti-apartheid views.

When de Klerk died on November 11, 2021, reactions were inevitable and this may have prompted the De Klerk Foundation to apologise for the atrocities he committed against black South Africans during his reign. His body is set for internment on Sunday, November 21, 2021, at a private ceremony that will be attended by family members only without media coverage.


Soon after De Klerk’s passing, his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner and towering anti-apartheid activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, issued a statement saying De Klerk played an important role in South Africa’s history, adding that, De Klerk recognised the moment for change and demonstrated the will to act on it.

However, Archbishop Tutu said de Klerk tried to avoid responsibility for the enormity of the abuses of apartheid, including in his testimony at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was chaired by Tutu.

 In the video clip shared on social media after his death, De Klerk said, “Let me today, in the last message repeat: I, without qualification, apologise for the pain and the hurt, and the indignity, and the damage, to black, brown, and Indians in South Africa.’’

In his eulogy, the incumbent South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, stated that De Klerk “played a vital role in our transition to democracy in the 1990s.” That De Klerk took the courageous decision to unban political parties, release political prisoners, and enter into negotiations with the liberation movement amid severe pressure to the contrary from many in his political constituency “.

In 1993, a year before President Nelson Mandela’s ascension to the throne as the first black President of South Africa, de Klerk was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Mandela “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundation for a new democratic South Africa.”


On the day F.W Klerk died, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party leader Julius Malema wrote a press statement entitled ‘‘EFF statement on the death of apartheid president F.W de Klerk’’ in which they stated that ‘‘EFF notes the death of the former apartheid president F.W de Klerk, who presided over a murderous and inhumane regime of terror against African people; as president of apartheid, de Klerk holds no legitimate claim to any title or honour of having led this country; it is for this reason that the EFF calls for de Klerk not to be given state funeral of any category, as he lost the right to be honoured the day that the evil regime he led collapsed in 1994.’’

These calls to deny President de Klerk a state funeral are uncalled for because when de Klerk was alive, the South African government and its people did not prosecute him for any crime that they claimed he committed willfully until he died peacefully. So, there is no need to fight the dead body now. So far, he has met his fate, and any entity that wants to honour him should be free to do so without hindrance and hesitation.

When President de Klerk was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with President Nelson Mandela, the government and the South African people did not protest the move then.

Moreover, the South African government did not even proscribe the existing F.W. de Klerk Foundation, which was established to preserve and advance de Klerk’s leadership legacies and work in South Africa.

These noises that De Klerk should not be given a state funeral are nothing but a cover-up for refusing to speak out when De Klerk was alive. I also think De Klerk must have been a brave man to live fearlessly all his life in South Africa.

Normally, all despots and autocratic leaders who are accused of butchering their citizens flee their respective countries immediately after they lose the grip of power for fear of being prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I am pretty sure that even if the South African government heeds to these unnecessary calls to deny F.W de Klerk a state funeral, it will not add anything new or change their cowardice culture.

The Writer is the Chairman of the Liech Community Association in Kenya; the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via

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