DURBAN - The ANC said on Tuesday that the sincerity of an apology made by former president FW de Klerk following offensive comments about apartheid would be visible through his actions.
This as the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Tuesday said it welcomed de Klerk retracting the statements that apartheid was not a crime against humanity.
De Klerk first made the statements during a television interview two weeks ago, which caused consternation at Thursday's state of the nation address (SONA), with EFF MPs demanding that he leave parliament, where he was seated as a guest.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe: "The sincerity of Mr de Klerk's apology will be tested by his posture to selflessly commit both in words and in deeds towards the advancement of the ongoing reconstruction and development project through nation building in his local community.
"The ANC has consistently maintained, in line with the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, that apartheid was and remains a crime against humanity," said Mabe.
He said the convention adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1973 declared that apartheid was a crime against humanity, "and that inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination ... are crimes violating the principles of international law, in particular the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations, and constituting a serious threat to international peace and security".
Mabe said that "unfortunate and inconsiderate utterances" went against the spirit of unity that was trying to be fostered in South Africa, and were "unhealthy for our young democracy".
"It is therefore expected of our elders and statesmen to carry the moral duty of helping to unite and reconcile all of South Africa’s people with an unequivocal measure of humility.
"The callous brutality, oppression, indignity and destruction that apartheid brought to millions of black South Africans should never be trivialised by anyone in our country regardless of their political affiliation, beliefs, skin colour and station in life," he said.
Any form of denying apartheid was a crime against humanity was an affront "to the lived reality of the majority of South Africans and a complete digression from the noble cause of social cohesion", said Mabe.
"Our new democratic society is based on the values of non-racialism, national unity, and acknowledgement of the brutality and injustices of our past".
Meanwhile, Sello Hatang, the chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, slammed de Klerk and called for dialogue.
"We believe that this kind of statement (the retraction and the apology) does not take us anywhere in terms of the nation-building, reconciliation path that Nelson Mandela put us on, but also in tackling the difficult systemic issues the nation is dealing with.”
"In terms of engaging with the FW de Klerk Foundation, we believe that that is the only way forward. The rise of racism and the rise of the denial of crimes such as apartheid is something that we see progressing.
"If we are to do anything right, it is to continue to engage those kind of voices with a view to ensuring that we can then transform our nation into one that [sees clearly]," he said.
De Klerk on Monday apologised for his reluctance to fully accept the classification of apartheid as a crime against humanity and said he concurred with the wording of the Statute of Rome, which describes it as such.
The climb-down came amid a furore after his eponymous foundation last Friday likened to "Soviet agitprop" the pressure on De Klerk over recent remarks where he, like in the past, appeared to take issue with the definition of the racial oppression of South Africa's black majority as crime against humanity.
That statement came a day after the EFF disrupted the opening of parliament with a demand that South Africa's last white president leave the National Assembly, terming him a "murderer" and apartheid apologist.
"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," De Klerk said.
"I agree with the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation that this is not the time to quibble about the degrees of unacceptability of apartheid. It was totally unacceptable. 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," De Klerk said on Monday.
He added that while apartheid was dismantled by 1994, when the Statute of Rome was adopted four years later, it was ranked as a crime against humanity and defined 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 FW de Klerk Foundation supports this provision," De Klerk said.