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FW De Klerk under siege over apartheid comment


Condemnation of FW de Klerk’s comment on apartheid has escalated, with Thabo Mbeki, the ANC and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation entering the fray.

Johannesburg – Condemnation of former president FW de Klerk’s comment on apartheid has escalated, with ex-president Thabo Mbeki, the ANC and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation entering the fray.

The Tutu Foundation on Sunday called on De Klerk to retract his comment that apartheid was never a crime against humanity.

But Mbeki said he questioned De Klerk on this in Parliament, after the State of the Nation address. Mbeki said he would send De Klerk the UN Convention on this.

“I had a brief discussion with De Klerk, because we were seated more or less next to each other in Parliament. I asked him about that, and what transpired is that he actually did not know that there is a convention declaring apartheid a crime against humanity.

“He said to me that he had been asked a question and he had said apartheid was reprehensible, he apologised for the bad things that had happened. But he was making a very narrow comment, he didn’t know that there is a legal document in international law which says apartheid is a crime against humanity.

“So I said let us not take the matter further because I want to send him the convention, so that he knows that there is an international law that says apartheid is a crime against humanity,” Mbeki said.

Tutu supported the call by the SA Council of Churches for De Klerk to withdraw and apologise for his comment. “South Africa is on an economic precipice. It is beset by radical poverty and inequity.

“Those who suffered most under apartheid continue to suffer most. It is incumbent on leaders and former leaders of the white community, in particular, to demonstrate the courage, magnanimity and compassion necessary to contribute to societal healing,” Tutu said.

The FW de Klerk Foundation’s statement said apartheid was a “agitpró* ” (propaganda) project initiated by the Soviets and their ANC/SACP allies to stigmatise white South Africans by associating them with genuine crimes against humanity, which have generally included totalitarian repression and the slaughter of millions of people.

The ANC said De Klerk’s comments were a threat to nation-building and the reconciliation process espoused by former president Nelson Mandela, after his release from prison in February 1990 following his conviction and sentence to life in jail in June 1964.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the FW de Klerk Foundation’s denial that apartheid was a crime against humanity was “a blatant whitewash”.

“The ANC calls on Mr de Klerk and his foundation not to undermine the compact that forms the foundation of our democracy, which is that we deal with the past through institutional mechanisms and the rule of law.”

Mabe said the ANC would not abandon the project of nation-building, adding that “the FW de Klerk Foundation’s actions are a betrayal of the memory of Mandela, whose commitment to reconciliation saw him concede to share the Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk in 1993”.

The ANC urged the government to tighten provisions around hate speech, and declare the denial of apartheid as a crime against humanity, as is done in other jurisdictions such as Germany where the Holocaust denial is not tolerated in any form, Mabe said.

“In the interests of advancing reconciliation and nation-building, the ANC calls on the FW de Klerk Foundation to unconditionally retract its irresponsible statement, and start showing commitment to the building of a South Africa we all want,” Mabe said.

The EFF said it would write to the Nobel Peace Prize committee to withdraw the award it gave to De Klerk.

Cope said: “We want to say to Mr De Klerk that this is an insult to those who lost loved ones in Sharpeville, in Soweto in June 1976 and in the Boipatong massacre.”

Cope national spokesperson Dennis Bloem added: “Who can forget the brutal death of Steve Biko in detention and many others in detention? The brutal death of the Cradock Four, the many freedom fighters who were killed at Vlakplaas by the apartheid murder squad of Colonel Eugene de Kock. Millions of people are still suffering because of the evil system that he (De Klerk) was part of, and later became the leader of that system.”

The foundation did not respond to calls to withdraw its statement.

Its spokesperson Megan Dick referred all media queries to chairperson Dave Steward, who did not respond to text and email messages.

Political Bureau

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