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Death of FW de Klerk

Last night I saw on TV that FW de Klerk, last white President of South Africa had died. I saw that de Klerk had made a video that was a posthumous apology for the pain of Apartheid. I thought I would watch it to see what he had to say. For me Apartheid still remains raw and real. I was cast in its mould. It would be freedom to escape its skin at last.

FW de Klerk began by saying "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." Really? This statement made me incandescent with rage. As if whites were all insensitive to the pain of the experience, as if we were all guilty to the same degree as him and his cronies!

I am a white South African, born in 1949, one year after the Nationalists came to power on the promise of Apartheid. I had to become sentient and suffer growing up under the worst of Apartheid's segregation and racism. All the negative indignities of being made to feel guilty for the racism of de Klerk's Nationalist party and its supporters poured like coals upon my apologetic teenage head. I did not support Apartheid. I tried to behave normally and be moral in an abnormal society. I grew up alienated, arrested for anti-Apatheid activities which my defence stated were a "psychological cold, not cancer". As if Apartheid was normal and its opponents all socially sick.

I wish to swear now and tell FW de Klerk where to go with his apology. He can stick it up that place where the sun no longer shines for him.

FW de Klerk  didn't get it. Few do. Apartheid was not just about "black, brown and Indians". Yes, they represent the great majority of the South African population who suffered the most. I understand that. Yes, the standard view is that whites had it easy and comfortable under Apartheid. Yes, many did. But many of us grew up idealistic in the Sixties as innocent kids who never supported it, whose lives and loves were blighted by the Immorality Act, the Group Areas Act, the Seperate Amenities Act, ended by conscription and defined by the everyday casual racism and blind stupid ignorance of all who supported the Apartheid system. By 1989 when de Klerk came to power there were hundreds of thousands of young white South Africans who opposed Apartheid!

FW de Klerk failed to grasp that where people are segregated and divided all are diminished. Everyone becomes a victim. Post-Apartheid he took comfort in his whisky, his golf and his gated lifestyle. He carried on living the lie. It should come as no surprise that he was unable to acknowledge the magnitude of the apology that he owes all South Africans irrespective of the colour of their skins. has reacted to this post.

Is this site about philately or politics? Although we might share your view, this forum is not the place to air personal political views.

Let's stick to philately.

Hopefully no offence taken...

Thanks for the comment.  No offence taken and hopefully none or not too much given.

I wrote that when I was angry. I make no apologies for it.

I appreciate your feedback. Few take the time to add to the debate, either philatelically or politically.

It is my view that stamps are political, the product of an arm of government. Therefore, if you want to fully understand them and the times they were designed and issued in it is useful to have an appreciation of the politics of that era. In South Africa we had ad hoc segregation that created closed mine compounds in the 1880s and locations in the 1890s leading to separate postal facilities and postmarks from about 1905. Over time this segregation became more extreme, leading to the full-blown policy of Apartheid in 1948. All of this is documented through postmarks and postal history. It is a wonderful field of study for those unaffected by Apartheid's misery.

From my side, I have realised recently that what I like to do is write about South African history and to illustrate it with stamps, covers and ephemera.  So, with my displays and posts you will usually get some political comment. If readers do not like it, they are welcome to submit philatelic comment and material that is without a drop of politics in it. I realise that many philatelists and postal historians would prefer this to the discomfort of others' political opinions. However, I think that if we were to completely ignore the political aspects of our country's recent history it would only serve to speed up philately's descent down the slippery slope to social irrelevance.

Politics is optional on this website. Readers can ignore me (which most do) or take me to task for it with strong opinions of their own (which not enough do). I am not a snowflake, some liberal woke wit oke who cannot take it on the chin. As long as it is not racist, I will take all the comments that readers of the South African Philately Club care to throw at me. If I am proved wrong, I will admit it.

Finally, regarding the Post Office as an arm of government, for proof take a look at the denouement of 'Miracle on 34th Street', the original Christmas movie made in 1947, one year before the Nats came to power, a time when the USA was still profoundly segregated. It features Maureen O'Hara and a young Natalie Wood, she of John Ford's 'The Searchers', a movie that is today called 'racist' by some but which is my Top Ten Western of All Time. Maureen O'Hara died recently. The Irish taoiseach said that she will be remembered as a versatile red head. I recall this staunch conservative Republican as a Pirate Queen with big breasts. But that's another boyhood story about my adolesence and Saturday matinee's in the Rosebank Savoy in 1959! I will stop here lest anyone who has read this far will think this site is now declined into a cinematic one. (It's about anything philatelists care to write about.)

Jim Findlay and steveiow have reacted to this post.
Jim Findlaysteveiow

Hi Steve

I totally agree with you that stamps are political. I was born in 1949 and also lived through the Apartheid years as a member of a very liberal family some of whom went into exile to escape the Security Police at the time. At the age of 66, I settled in Greece where I am now. I can tell you many stories of being Greek in a conservative town and in a conservative school. For conservative, read language group 🙂

 I have absolutely no problem with what you opined - my argument is exactly that of yours in your second post i.e., connect your opinion to something philatelic. Since 1821, Greece has had a very turbulent and oft violent history much of which is centered around politics involving warlords, kings, prime ministers, dictators, foreign invasions, etc. My current philatelic project is to try and illustrate the Greek history using stamps and other ephemera. You cannot do this effectively without being in some way political or biased.

I had no problem with what you said in your first post, I just felt that this was not the forum to say what you did without some reference to philately.

I look foreward to seeing you depict De Klerk's life (and of others of similar ilk) in stamps, covers, and ephemera. 🙂 🙂






Thanks for the understanding. You have much to offer in terms of understanding Apartheid better.

Recently, at the SACS (South African Collectors Society) meeting in Letchworth, Ian Shapiro gave a display on 'Premiers and Presidents: Archival Items from the Collection of Herman Steyn, Head of Philatelic Services, Pretoria'. Ian's display began with philatelic items covering the life of Prime Minister Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of the policy of Apartheid, who was assasinated in the House of Assembly in September 1966 by Dimitri Tsafendas. You probably remember that day. I do. Afterwards Ian spoke of the great fear that swept through South Africa's Greek community who worried that it might become a victim of the "conservatives's" revenge.

Regarding your illustration of Greek history through stamps and other ephemera, once it is complete, (if it ever is, are they ever?), I would be pleased to host it on this website. In understanding Greek history better, we should be able to learn more about our own troubled tribes. Over the centuries many Greek communties suffered violence and extermination, even in the ancient Greek heartland. On the basis of that experience, South Africa's small Greek community had every reason to be fearful in 1966, just as it  has now.