For perspective on what life under the reign of FW de Klerk was like, I decided to ask someone who was there: Vytjie Mentor, former ANC MP and freedom fighter. The below, unedited and candid, is what she had to tell me about life in apartheid South Africa.
“I was in detention during both of the State of Emergencies called by De Klerk.”
“I was a young teacher, I could not teach then. I was in Solitary Confinement for 180 days × 2. I was charged under Internal Security Act for possession of banned literature and for “harbouring terrorists”.
“I went into a hunger strike in prison and was hospitalized, I was released into House arrest after 39 days of hunger Strike. I could not be in the company of more than 10 people at a time until after the negotiated settlement. ( I could go on and on and on and on.)”
Former president FW de Klerk is a man of international prominence: He was instrumental in negotiations which brought a final end to apartheid, he was the man to sign off on the release of former president Nelson Mandela, he was the recipient of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize – and a handful of references also point to him as a bridge player.
Most references to bridge and FW de Klerk are scarce, scattered throughout books (like Vulnerable in Hearts: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons and Contract Bridge) and articles (Eisenhower’s Other Title: Bridge Player in Chief; NY Times, 2009) with a brief mention and, unfortunately, little background.
I finally received an e-mail from the FW de Klerk Foundation through Brenda, personal assistant to Mr de Klerk, that clarifies.
The official response appears below – and I’m glad to be able to confirm that we both share an admiration for the great game of bridge!
“Mr De Klerk used to play a lot of bridge at university level but neglected it afterwards. He was never a fully committed contract bridge player and never read a manual on bridge. However, he still reads bridge columns wherever he can find them, and he is a great admirer of the game.”