Kallie Kriel with Fox News show host Tucker Carlson and Ernst Roets. Picture: Twitter
Durban - AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel’s controversial statement that apartheid was not a crime against humanity has sparked widespread anger and condemnation, with experts saying such utterances will derail the country’s reconciliation project.

In an interview with 702 Radio talk show host Eusebius McKaiser, Kriel said it was not fair to equate crimes against humanity with apartheid, as “there was not a mass killing of people”.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), accused Kriel on Tuesday of seeking to dilute damages, which were beyond just murders, that the apartheid government had caused to the black population by denying that apartheid was a crime against humanity.

The radio discussion was held after Professor Adam Habib took to Twitter to criticise AfriForum for engaging “a known fascist”, John Bolton, who is US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser during the organisation’s roadshow in the US.

Kriel, during the radio interview, said according to his records only 700 people were killed by the apartheid government security forces.

“His statement is an attempt to rewrite and revise history,” Ntsebeza said.

“It is the same kind of thing that is dangerous because the Nazis, before they eliminated 6 million Jewish people, started by denying the fact that the Jews had a right to existence.”

Ntsebeza said the UN Security Council had declared the apartheid system a crime against humanity not only because of murders that were committed by the regime.

“Apartheid was a system where people died of malnutrition. Under apartheid, children, for years and years, never reached the age of five because of malnutrition.

“So it was something approaching the Holocaust, and it is silly of Mr Kriel to claim that the apartheid atrocities that led to people dying are only the number of people he can count,” he said.

Ntsebeza said Kriel’s figures were incorrect because the apartheid government’s killings dated back to 1960 and involved state-sponsored black-on-black violence, and other murders that happened in the front-line states.

Ntsebeza said because of denialists like Kriel there were white farmers who continued to perpetuate apartheid-like acts of killing their employees.

Kriel told The Mercury on Tuesday that AfriForum had reached the figure of 700 deaths during apartheid through research conducted by his deputy, Alana Bailey, and from information gathered from the SA Human Rights Commission.

Kriel said he recognised that apartheid abused and infringed human rights. “But the problem is that people compare it with Hitler killing millions of people in gas chambers.

“But apartheid did not go to that extent. The crime against humanity is when you take a decision to kill all people, and that is how I see it,” said Kriel.

Habib said AfriForum was linking up with fascists around the world, and this was socially unacceptable.

“They have met with Germany’s far-right AfD, France’s National Front (FN), Italy’s Five Star Movement and parts of Trump’s administration that are fascist. This is transnational relationship building in the far right grouping of proto-fascists,” said Habib.

Dr Rama Naidu, of the ­Democracy Development Programme, said AfriForum and those who portrayed apartheid as being “not that bad” were trying to absolve themselves of the guilt of supporting an oppressive system.

“If they are using the Holocaust as a comparison, then they must realise that the Holocaust also systematically targeted people,” Naidu said.

“The legacy of apartheid lived far longer than the Holocaust. Apartheid had an impact on communities and affected millions of people, not just 700.

“This is an irresponsible statement and shows they are not ready to tackle ­reconciliation.”

Naidu said that only once organisations like AfriForum acknowledged that apartheid was a crime against humanity, could the country make strides towards reconciliation.

The deputy chief executive of AfriForum, Ernst Roets, was interviewed by the New American magazine while they were in the US. The publication is owned by a group described as a radical right and far-right ­organisation.

Roets reportedly told the magazine that in “farm murders”, innocent families - falsely accused by government of “stealing” the land - are mercilessly tortured and murdered. he reportedly also said that thousands have been slaughtered, including babies.

The Mercury