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De Klerk commemorates groundbreaking speech
Former president FW de Klerk on Tuesday celebrated the 20th anniversary of his historic speech at the opening of Parliament in 1990.

Former president FW de Klerk on Tuesday celebrated the 20th anniversary of his historic speech at the opening of Parliament in 1990 with a commemoration meeting in Cape Town's Civic Centre.

De Klerk's February 2 1990 speech to Parliament called for a new democratic constitution, lifted the ban on dissident political parties and announced the release of all political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.

In attendance, with some apocalyptic views of the dire threats that face the fragile democracy in South Africa, was Helen Zille, the leader of the Democratic Alliance and Premier of the Western Cape.

Other speakers included former chief justice Pius Langa, Bobby Godsell, former chairperson of Eskom, and Baroness Chalker, former British cabinet minister.

Messages from Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu were read out, acknowledging De Klerk's role. Mikhail Gorbachev former Soviet leader, and George Bush Snr, former US president, sent video messages with the same import. Unfortunately, Gorbachev's tape was lost in the post. Bush's was not.

Outlining the historical imperatives that drove him to make the speech he did on February 2 1990, De Klerk stressed that there are still many white South Africans who are critical of the Constitution-writing process, even though the constitutions in 1993 and 1996 succeeded in securing many of the National Party's core objectives.

"The reality is that, had we not grasped the transformation initiative when we did — South Africa would soon have been completely isolated in the international community," De Klerk told his audience, which included other political party members, and former National Party ministers.

He added that many South Africans accepted that South Africa had to change, but believed that he and Roelf Meyer bungled the negotiations and should have negotiated some or other minority veto. "Let me assure them that this would have been neither politically feasible nor internationally acceptable," he said.

The former president admitted, however, that their main failure was in respect of power sharing at the executive level. "I felt and still feel that there should be constitutional mechanisms in multicultural societies that ensure the involvement of all communities in a consensus-seeking executive model"

Denying that she revelled in negativity, Zille told the audience that wishful thinking never saved a democracy.

She warned that what she called the Jacobins in the African National Congress are abusing the institutions of the criminal justice system to protect their political allies, purge their opponents, entrench their power and enrich themselves.

"And they are seeking to control the levers of communication," Zille said. "The constitution envisages the SABC as a public broadcaster, but the ANC believed it should be the party's broadcaster. The new broadcasting Bill will, if passed, give the minister of communications, who happens to be one of he Jacobins, excessive power to interfere in the SABC." -- I-Net Bridge, AFP