De Klerk honoured by boulevard renaming

Johannesburg – Former president FW de Klerk on Thursday hailed the renaming of a Cape Town road in his honour as a tribute to all those who helped form South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

“I would like to thank you all for the great honour that you have bestowed upon me by deciding to rename Table Bay Boulevard in my honour,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery at the renaming ceremony.

He thanked those who initiated the renaming and secured the support of prominent Capetonians, including Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

De Klerk said he did not seek out the honour.

“I was also not at all sure that places and streets should be renamed after living people – and particularly after living former politicians!

“…I see this honour – not in the first place as a tribute to me – but as an acknowledgement of the contribution that so many parties, institutions and people made to the creation of our new non-racial constitutional democracy.”

After much debate on the proposed renaming of Table Bay Boulevard, the office of the city’s mayor Patricia de Lille last month said it would change it to FW de Klerk Boulevard.

De Klerk, 79, was president from September 1989 to May 1994. He was last head of state of South Africa under the apartheid era. In 1993, he won the Nobel Peace Prize along with struggle icon Nelson Mandela for their role in ending apartheid.

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe on Tuesday spoke out in support of Table Bay Boulevard being renamed after his counterpart De Klerk, after struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada said he had no objection to the change.

Cosatu provincial secretary in the Western Cape Tony Ehrenreich last month said the Cape Town city council was wrongly dividing honours equally between Mandela and De Klerk, as the former was a liberator and the latter “an architect of apartheid”.

In remarks published on Tuesday, Kathrada, a Rivonia trialist and close friend of Mandela, said he had no objections to the renaming and believed it would be wrong not to acknowledge De Klerk’s historical role.

On Thursday De Klerk said it was “essential” to contradict attempts from some quarters to re-write history to the effect that the ANC alone created South Africa’s democracy.

“Anyone who was present at the constitutional negotiations during the early 90s will realise how untrue this is – and how central the contribution of all the participating parties was to the success of our process.”