On the Passing of General Constand Viljoen.

4 April, 2020.

The founder and former leader of the Freedom Front, Gen Constand Viljoen, passed away on 3 April, 2020. The Patron of the TMF, President Thabo Mbeki, its Board and staff would like to convey our deepest condolences to his dear wife, Christina Susanna Heckroodt, and the rest of the family.

 

By the time the process of change in our country away from apartheid started in 1990, Gen Viljoen had firmly established himself especially among the Afrikaners as an outstanding military leader. Faced with the uncertainties and anxieties thrown up by the transition, the Afrikaner people also saw him as an important political leader.

 

He therefore became part of the leadership of the conservative Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF) he formed in May 1993 with other apartheid Generals to respond to the transition. Because of his prestige as a military leader, he also took charge of a large Citizen Force, reserve soldiers of the SADF who accepted the leadership of the AVF, said to number 50-60 000 armed combatants.

 

He was also part of the leadership of COSAG, the ‘Concerned South Africans Group’, an alliance made up of the AVF, the IFP, and the Bophuthatswana and Ciskei Bantustan leaders.

 

The ANC decided to engage the AVF to draw them into the process of negotiations rather than give them space to engage in actions hostile to the process of negotiations. Gen Viljoen led the AVF during these negotiations.

 

An agreement was reached during December 1993 on two matters relevant to the concerns raised by the AVF. However, the document was not signed by the two parties and the then South African Government (SAG) because of disagreements within the AVF.

 

However, the ANC and the SAG agreed that the matters that had been agreed by the ANC and the AVF should be incorporated in the 1993 Transitional Constitution which had already been concluded. The required amendments were effected early in March 1994.

 

The 1993 Constitution therefore made provision for the creation of an Afrikaner Volkstaat Council which was required later to present its proposals for the establishment of the Volkstaat to the then impending Constitutional Assembly.

 

The second amendment was the inclusion of a new Constitutional Principle, numbered XXXIV, which added a territorial element to provisions on self-determination already made in Constitutional Principle XII.

 

These two amendments meant that the negotiating process had, in fact, agreed to the central issues which had been raised by the Afrikaner right wing. This should have meant to this right wing that there was no need for it to resort to the use of arms to derail the negotiations.

 

Effectively the amendments had defanged the argument of the right wing, for an armed counter revolutionary offensive. Gen Viljoen, commander of the 50-60 000 force we have mentioned, accepted this reality.

 

Despite this, the Afrikaner right wing was still determined to obstruct the advance to a democratic order. Faced with mass opposition, Lucas Mangope, leader of the Bophuthatswana Bantustan and member of COSAG, asked Gen Viljoen and the AVF to send forces to protect his regime. The AVF forces came but only occupied an air force base.

 

However other armed groups arrived to protect Mangope. These, led by the AWB of Eugene Terreblanche, decided to act, again in March 1993, to ensure that COSAG member, Lucas Mangope, continued as head of the Bophuthatswana Bantustan. They did this by openly terrorising the people by shooting at civilians.

 

In the end, three among the AWB armed gangs were shot dead by a member of the Bophuthatswana police. After that both the AVF and the AWB armed units left the Bophuthatswana Bantustan.

 

The Afrikaner right wing had expected that indeed Gen Viljoen would order the thousands of armed SADF reservists he commanded physically to protect the puppet Mangope regime and thus establish an armed bridgehead to stop the progress to democratic rule by force of arms.

 

Gen Viljoen refused to engage in what would have been a very destructive and reckless act of counter revolution.

 

Shortly after these events in the Bophuthatswana Bantustan Gen Viljoen broke away from the AVF and formed the political party called the Freedom Front (FF). The FF registered with the IEC on time, which enabled it to participate in the 1994 elections.

 

Despite this, the ANC remained concerned that there were some among the Afrikaners who still entertained the idea of a counter revolutionary armed uprising. It therefore engaged the FF, led by Gen Viljoen, to put in place another agreement which would finally invalidate all argument in favour of an Afrikaner resort to arms.

 

Four days before the 1994 elections, on 23rd April, the Freedom Front, the ANC and the National Party signed a document entitled ‘Accord on Afrikaner Self-Determination between the Freedom Front, the African National Congress and the South African Government/National Party’.

 

Quite correctly the document started by taking note of the Constitutional Principle XXXIV we have mentioned and proceeded to say, among others: “The parties agree to address, through a process of negotiations, the idea of Afrikaner self-determination, including the concept of a Volkstaat.

 

Four days before the historic first democratic elections in our country, Gen Viljoen could therefore justly claim that he had put on the national agenda for the transformation of our country the central issues on the agenda of the Afrikaner right wing, without firing a single shot to block the path towards the birth of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa!

 

Thus did it come about that a distinguished soldier for the defence of apartheid, Gen Constand Viljoen, became a pathfinder for the Afrikaner people as a whole as a co-architect of a democratic and non-racial South Africa, firmly opposed to all reactionary ideas and plans about resort to counter revolution!

 

May he rest in peace.

 

Issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation

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