FW de Klerk withdraws controversial apartheid statement

The FW de Klerk Foundation of South Africa has withdrawn its statement made on 14 February during which the former president said he didn’t believe apartheid was a crime against humanity.

“I have taken note of the vehement reaction to our response to the EFF’s attack on me at the state of the nation address on Thursday night,” said De Klerk.

The foundation said it agreed with the Desmond Tutu Foundation in that it was “not the time to quibble about the degrees of unacceptability of apartheid” and that “it was totally unacceptable”.

The foundation withdrew its statement and apologised for the confusion, anger, and hurt it caused.

“By 27 April 1994, under my leadership, the whole legislative framework of apartheid had been dismantled and the way had been opened for the adoption of our present non-racial democratic Constitution.

“However, the international crime of apartheid did not disappear with the demise of apartheid in South Africa. In 1998, it was included in the Statute of Rome, which established the International Criminal Court. In terms of Article 7(1) a ‘crime against humanity’ is defined as acts ‘…committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.’

“It includes ‘the crime of apartheid’ as a crime against humanity and defines 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 foundation supports this provision, and said the provision could also be seen as a 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’.”

The foundation said it remained deeply committed to national reconciliation.

De Klerk’s statement has been ill-received by political parties and the public, with a picket expected to start at 1pm on Wednesday outside the FW De Klerk Foundation’s offices in Plattekloof, Cape Town.

Meanwhile, former president Thabo Mbeki, who sat next to De Klerk, weighed in on the issue. Briefly describing his conversation with De Klerk, Mbeki said De Klerk did not know there was a convention which declared apartheid a crime against humanity.