I'm sure many South Africans have mixed feelings about the passing of P W Botha.
I certainly have powerful memories of the man and the times. Most memorable, perhaps a better word is notorious, for me is when he failed to cross the Rubicon with that wagging finger. I can remember so clearly the disappointment as so many of us realised that life in South Africa was set to get tougher, not better. Many good friends, freshly graduated, emigrated on the basis of that one speech. Perhaps that was the real start of the exodus of young talent.
Scanning the news reports is fascinating. I think this is more than the passing of a man, it could be the closing of an era.
The best report I've found on the life of P W is by Leon Engelbrecht and can be found on M&G here. It is well worth the read.
When I first heard the news this morning, my first question to myself was whether there would be a state funeral. P W is a past President of our country. However, he certainly is not remembered fondly by many.
It would be easy to say that not awarding PW a state funeral is justifiable. I was certainly no fan. But I think not doing so is sending a poor message. Effectively, if the current order does not like the politics of a previous national leader, it's OK to not respect his passing despite the position he once held.
Perhaps, one day in the future, our current President may pass away, and perhaps the government of that day thinks poorly of his politics of the time - and so decide not to award a state funeral too.
That on its own might give pause for thought. But I'd like to suggest for a moment here that this is more than an issue of good form. Could this once again be an opportunity missed, a Rubicon uncrossed.
Much has been made of the need for reconciliation in our country. Recent developments have been such that the "previously advantaged" population have been increasingly alienated in what we consider our country too.
Wouldn't it be healthy for the big gesture from our government to show that they do, in fact, have space in their lives for folk who don't nescessarily see things quite the same way as they do.