Aida 203 Swindles ………

DE KLERK'S 1992 REFERENDUM:

HOW VOTERS WERE SWINDLED

THE catalogue of National Party mistakes committed by F W de Klerk is truly awesome: none so appalling as (1) the rigged 1992 referendum, the most undemocratic and shameful farce in the country's shabby history of betrayal and (2) the September 1992 "Record of Understanding" agreed upon by the NP, ANC, SACP. In this surrender document, the Nats effectively entered into an alliance with the ANC/SACP, establishing a de facto coalition.

STUNNING DEFEAT

There is no question that between them, these two events represent the most decisive moments in this sub-continent since Van Riebeeck.

It all started in February 1992 when the Nats suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of the Conservative Party in the Potchefstroom by-election. Almost immediately De Klerk sought to regain the initiative by announcing his plans for a referendum, ostensibly to gain voter approval for the continuation of his "reform" process.

The real issues facing the country were clouded with panic-mongering slogans and bare-faced fabrications, no matter how absurd, grotesque or fraudulent, all calculated to numb the sober senses of a bewildered and frightened electorate.

DP chairman of the time, the ever-naïve Zach de Beer, really excelled himself. The Star, 7.3.92, reported him as expecting the world's reaction to a "No" vote to be beyond extreme. He would expect to see, he claimed, "battleships off the Cape … as an outraged international community implemented the naval blockade of South Africa." Not satisfied with battleships in Cape Town, he also indicated that "we could expect that the international reaction could be … comparable to that against Saddam Hussein." In other words, another Gulf War.

The Star editorialised, 12.3.92, that a "No" vote would be "a prescription for national suicide comparable to that committed by the Xhosas in 1856/7." The Cape Times, not to be outdone, predicted that SA "would become a Lebanon writ large."

Saatchi & Saatchi advertising hammered away on the same nightmare scenario. "Sanctions … devastating the economy … moderates into radicals … anger against every White … your wife, your children, your parents … factories and offices, schools and school grounds … burnt … complete chaos."

COSATU threatened "unprecedented" worker action. We were warned that a "No" would mean SA cricketers then playing a Test in Australia would be immediately forced home. There would be no aircraft landing at Jan Smuts (except, possibly, with returning cricketers). "No contact whatsoever with the outside world." The ultimate boycott: total paralysis.

Every rich bully from Big Business, every fatcat politician, every patronising hypocrite from overseas with a few million to spare, all subscribed to the blitz of daily full-page newspaper ads. Photographs portrayed ugly visions of the sanctions a "No" vote could produce … Whites begging, hooded AWB wielding guns, an ill-equipped hospital surgery, an overgrown cricket pitch with smashed stumps. (Cricket was the flavour of the month, one recalls, with Ally Bacher leading the onslaught on sanity).

HOLOCAUST

One breathtaking Nat ad compared a No vote with the Nazi holocaust and "the loss of 45 million lives." A few come-on ads were thrown in for good measure. We were assured there was a real possibility of an "Afrikaner Israel" being peacefully achieved. A Nat pamphlet "guaranteed" the "communists will not be able to get a foothold in SA … because the NP will insist that the new constitution builds in frequent multi-party elections, a free economy and strong security forces." The Citizen, 2.3.92, carried a splash headline: "FW: NP Fiercely Anti-Communist." Ho, ho.

Main tactic though was to drive voters wild with fear. The scare tactics worked. On March 17, 1992, 3 280 000 Whites voted on whether De Klerk should continue with his "reforms." "Yes" votes totalled 1 924 186, or 68,6%. "No" votes totalled 875 619, or 31,22%. The Star, 20.3.92, chortled that "a gratified DP senior MP" went on record "It's thanks to the media … you've scared them shitless."

The NP's referendum "victory" was followed by the fateful "Record of Understanding", signed in September, 1992, yet another event of the utmost deceit and dishonesty. It was agreed that the NP and ANC/SACP resume full bilateral relations, leaving the Nats for all practical purposes empty-handed. The radical alliance from then on hijacked the entire negotiating process.

Dr Buthelezi said that comparison of the accord with the maleficent Von Ribbentrop/Molotov agreement between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR was "not out of place." He was right. In signing this disgraceful Record of Understanding, De Klerk and his henchmen rejected all their alliance partners, notably the IFP, Bophuthatswana and Ciskei, discarding them like so much unwanted garbage.

Now, piling irony on irony in an increasingly desperate situation, De Klerk and Roelf Meyer pitifully seek a new "political alliance" or coalition, primarily with the IFP and DP. The time for that was in 1992. You cannot, unfortunately, rewrite history.

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