Inaugural FW de Klerk Memorial Lecture

15 November 2022

This past Friday on the 11th of November, the History Society Committee of Liam Day, Sam Berrisford and Jack Buckham, together with Nikolaos Augoustatos, had the pleasure of attending the inaugural FW de Klerk Memorial Lecture. The function was hosted by Elita de Klerk, the wife of the late Mr de Klerk, and Mr Dave Steward, an OD. They hadn’t known what to expect and so they were somewhat taken aback by the “height” of the people in attendance, amongst them being the likes of Leader of the Opposition  John Steenhuisen, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, Thuli Madonsela, Mandla Mandela, and Helen Zille amongst many others. Incidentally, one of the boys had not known who Helen Zille was and, after grabbing the same piece of biltong as her at the snacks table, proceeded to have a mini tug-of-war with her over the last piece of biltong on the table ! We learnt later that he came out on top with the bigger piece of the biltong. Ms. Zille was most amused by this interaction and shared as much in the post-lecture conversation we had.
Amongst many of the people that we met there were many ODs, some dating back to the foundation of White House in 1954. The likes included men such as Dave Steward and his son, former diplomat to Swaziland and Zambia, Sam Sterburn and Mr. Glenn Babb. They were most excited to have present the boys, obviously recognising their uniform. A number of them had served as diplomats during the de Klerk’s time in presidency and so were well placed to give the boys some insights into the history of that time in South Africa in the winding down of Apartheid.

The talk, in my assessment of the boys, was a resounding success for them in that it achieved its intent: to afford them with the opportunity to attend this kind of event, to learn more about the political history of South Africa as well as promoting an interest in constitutional issues with an aim to make actionable the betterment of South Africa’s future. OD Sam Sterban gave the boys an interesting analogy on the role of each generation, saying, “life is like a game of rugby – it is incumbent on each generation to pass the ball onto the next to put them into a better position. We must, at all costs, avoid giving future generations ‘hospital passes’ which place them in a worse position than we were in.”
The boys certainly rose to the occasion and got themselves into the thick of things by actively engaging with various attendees. They highlight, and so do I, the stories that were shared by various former diplomats regarding their time in the diplomatic service during de Klerk’s time in office. They spent the remainder of their time networking and connecting, getting the contact details of some of South African history’s most distinguished.
The History Society with Thuli Madonsela