FW De Klerk at the State of the Nation address on February 13. (David Harrison/M&G)
The FW De Klerk Foundation has retreated from and apologised for a statement in which it reiterated that apartheid was not a crime against humanity.
The ANC, former president Thabo Mbeki and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation all came out over the weekend to condemn the De Klerk Foundation’s comments.
In a statement by the last apartheid president himself and issued by his foundation, De Klerk apologised for the public uproar about the previous statement.
“I agree with the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation that this is not the time to quibble about the degrees of the unacceptability of apartheid. It was totally unacceptable,” De Klerk said.
In its previous statement, the foundation said the labelling of apartheid as a crime against humanity was Soviet-era propaganda.
It had made this statement despite a 1973 United Nations Resolution labelling apartheid as a “crime against humanity”, which led to intensified sanctions and isolation of the apartheid state.
“The FW de Klerk Foundation has accordingly decided to withdraw its statement of 14 February unconditionally and apologises for the confusion, anger and hurt that it has caused,” the statement said.
The furore over De Klerk, who was a deputy president under the presidency of Nelson Mandela — South Africa’s first democratically elected president — came to a head in the build-up to the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Mandela’s release from prison.
During a televised interview, De Klerk said it wasn’t his view that apartheid was a crime against humanity, even though he has, on several occasions, apologised for the system of segregation and oppression against the majority black population.
During last week’s State of the Nation Address, the Economic Freedom Fighters objected to De Klerk’s presence in the gallery and refused to let proceedings continue until he left.
The EFF also refused to let President Cyril Ramaphosa continue with his speech until Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was fired.
National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo refused to budge and, after a brief suspension of proceedings, the EFF left the chamber.
In Monday’s statement, De Klerk said he supports the legal definition of the crime of apartheid as set out in the Rome Statute — the international legal framework behind the International Court of Justice.
The Rome Statute defines the crime of apartheid as a crime against humanity and describes it as “inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutional regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime”.
The Nobel peace prize laureate, who shared the award with Mandela in 1993, now endorses this provision.
“The FW de Klerk Foundation supports this provision,” his statement read.
“It can also be seen as the legislative expression of Nelson Mandela’s statement during his inaugural address that ‘Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another’,” De Klerk said.