Mbeki Mocked For Botha Stance

It was baffling to many people that South African flags flew at half-mast in a tribute to apartheid’s chief architect who sanctioned the murder and torture of Black freedom activists and raids into the Front Line states.


(Mbeki honored Botha, an unrepentant racist).

Former apartheid hardliner PW Botha was buried on November 8 with critics, opposition parties and the labor movement launching a barrage of criticism on South African President Thabo Mbeki’s offer for a state funeral to a man who was reviled for his brutal policies.

One of the country’s liberation movements, the Pan Africanist Congress said the decision to give PW Botha a state funeral is an insult to African people.

“The offer to give PW Botha a state funeral is naked appeasement to the forces of apartheid. It is bordering on docility and is an insult to the intelligence of the African people,” Motsoko Pheko, the PAC leader said. “The PAC is appalled that the ruling party has offered a state funeral to Botha, who butchered so many Africans in this country and the neighboring African states.”

PW Botha who died on October 31 aged 90 was buried on Wednesday in a private funeral attended by President Mbeki, FW de Klerk and former members of the Botha cabinet.

It was baffling to many people that South African flags flew at half-mast in a tribute to apartheid’s chief architect who sanctioned the murder and torture of Black freedom activists and raids into the Front Line states. Pheko slammed the decision to fly the national flag at half post for “such an obviously unjustified decision and undeserving man.”

“Lest it be forgotten, PW Botha refused to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Is being given a state funeral a reward for his defiance and crime of genocide?”  said Pheko.

The powerful labor movement, the Congress of South African Trade Unions said PW Botha would be remembered with “hatred and disgust” as a brutal dictator who presided over a system that denied the majority all their basic human rights.
“His hands were stained with the blood of hundreds who were murdered during the struggle for democracy and liberation under his presidency,” Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said.

“The overwhelming majority of South Africans and the people of the world will remember PW Botha only with hatred and disgust. On the contrary, he remained to the very last a staunch defender of apartheid, racism, dictatorship and inequality, for which he refused to make the slightest apology.”

The African Christian Democratic Party said Mbeki’s decision to fly the national flag at half-mast in recognition of Botha’s death was a sign of “political maturity” which consolidates the reconciliation process. Journalists in the most southern African countries say President Mbeki had been magnanimous in the extreme. “Worst of all, he has died believing he did the right thing. Why do we try to sanitize people once they are dead? Why should we respect the dead who failed to respect the living?â€? ran a commentary in the Namibian, a newspaper in that country.

In South West Africa, now Namibia, PW Botha sanctioned killer units like the Koevet to kill, torture or detain Swapo freedom fighters and other activists opposed to apartheid rule.

Terry Bell of the City Press asks: “Should we mourn the death of an unrepentant racist bully, a man responsible for the maiming, torture and deaths of thousands of men, women and children, not only in South Africa but throughout the region? And, should we attempt to gloss over human rights abuses in the belief that it is in our culture not to speak ill of the dead? I ask these questions with a sense of outrage because anyone who answers ‘yes’ insults the memory of the thousands who died, let alone the many more who were damaged, often horribly, on the orders of PW Botha as defense minister from 1966 as president.”

Says Ido Lekota, a columnist for The Sowetan, which takes its name from one of the Black townships-Soweto, the cradle of the anti-apartheid movement: “What is misleading is this impression that Botha made the initiatives (paving the way for the end of apartheid) out of the goodness of his heart. The reality is that international pressure, coupled with the sanctions imposed on South Africa, as well as the internal struggles waged by the oppressed, led him to realize the futility of white rule.”

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and was released by the last white president FW de Klerk. Emotions were high but Mbeki chose to extend an olive branch in an effort to strengthen nation building and national reconciliation.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’ Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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