If the late Helen Suzman DBE had been a cadre of the Congress or of the National Democratic Revolution, she would have no doubt received a state funeral. There would have been speech after speech made by Congress leaders remembering Suzman, against the backdrop of a state funeral bedecked in the colours of the Congress.
Perhaps Suzman deserves a state funeral or at least a state memorial service; perhaps Suzman deserves a public monument or statue which stands to remind all South Africans to seek the courage within them; and perhaps Suzman deserves to be awarded the highest national order, albeit posthumously.
But it is clear that no Liberal countenances the use of state funerals for electioneering; apart from being tacky and tasteless in the extreme, to make politics from the death of a retired politician, who succumbed peacefully to the march of time, is just a very cheap form of politics.
Suzman did not die from an egregious crime or from some great tragedy, so there can be no gnashing of teeth and wailing for justice, or can there? Can we now say that Suzman gave her life both as an academic and as a politician to serving our country, to fighting for justice and demanding protection for the rights of each and every single one of us? Can we now say that Suzman was a struggle veteran, a cadre, a comrade and a revolutionary stalwart?
My own dealings with Suzman were indirectly through my Liberal students’ association, of which she was an honourary patron; and it was clear that the respect and admiration she commanded from within Liberal South Africa were unrivalled by any of the other Liberal icons in South Africa because she was unashamedly, unreservedly and unapologetically a Liberal – and therein was the proof of her courage and her commitment to Liberalism.
And even though we have witnessed over the last 30 years South Africa’s Liberal party, the Democratic Alliance, having evolved into a very broadly liberal party, making some concessions on fundamental Liberal principles (like the death penalty and the welfare state) in the name of growth and size, the DA has been true to Suzman’s legacy. It has in fact stayed on the path of what The Hon Tony Leon MP calls “first principles”.
For Liberals, first principles are clearly those of Liberty, Dignity and Privacy, and all of the things which flow and derive from them. And it is a courageous Liberal who argues for the protection of the rights of each and every single person, who fights to ensure that the rule of law is respected; and who demands that the integrity of the constitutional democracy should never be subject to the whims of tyrannical kleptocracy.
And so Suzman’s legacy is courage, its dedication, its honesty and forthrightness and it’s a belief in the inherent potential for responsibility and good in each and every single person. But Suzman’s legacy is also an uncompromising belief that tolerance and open mindedness are the only means by which to facilitate an appreciation, celebration and beneficiation of the diversity of a multicultural society.
It is now up to each and every single one of us as Liberals to stay true to this legacy; to stay true to our first principles. Halala Dame Helen Suzman Halala – may your legacy live on in the Liberty of our lives – Hamba Gahle Dame Helen Suzman Hamba Gahle.
The South African Liberal Students Association mourns the passing away of The Hon Helen Suzman MP (Rtd) DBE and gives thanks to Yahveh for the life and legacy of a great revolutionary stalwart and patriotic South African.