Van Zyl Slabbert: Remembering a legacy

Posted on May 18, 2010. Filed under: News |

Shasha Seakamela

Last week, Dr. Frederick van Zyl Slabbert passed away at his home in Johannesburg.

Van Zyl Slabbert’s passing has reminded us of the many activists, among them Afrikaners, who took a stance against apartheid. Those who followed his life will recall his courage and ideals – though often sidelined for his political views, he realized what needed to be done in this country and followed through with it. His contributions to the struggle included using his parliamentary platform to oppose apartheid, and when he ultimately  resigned as opposition leader of the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) in 1986, he founded Idasa together with Alex Boraine. In the following year, he arranged for a group of prominent white intellectuals and leaders to meet with the ANC in Dakar, Senegal.

Van Zyl Slabbert’s legacy is one that celebrates courage and independence, tolerance and respect for others, and a spirit of open, democratic debate – and these values remain of critical importance today.

Among the tributes to this unique South African…

A “visionary leader” who made a valuable contribution in South Africa’s transition to democracy  – President Jacob Zuma

“His life was rooted in the values of social justice which guided his participation on an ongoing basis in considering what democracy is and how it should be lived by citizens of South Africa and other countries.” Idasa press statement

“It took the pioneering and indomitable spirit of many different South Africans to overcome apartheid. Dr Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert was one of those pioneers. He went against his upbringing, his culture, his peers to offer an alternative, progressive Afrikaner voice to the Afrikaner Nationalist government of the time.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“He will remain an icon for a long time because he was one of the real, decent, great men in our politics. We should honour him for the fact that he didn’t choose to stay in white politics. He chose to follow his conscience and his departure from parliament and his initiative in Dakar were the great moments in unlocking the political dynamics that led to an era of negotiations.” Max du Preez, Journalist

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