Pretoria - AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel was seeking to dilute the damage - beyond just murders - that the apartheid government had caused to the black population.
He was denying that apartheid was a crime against humanity, said advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, former TRC commissioner.
Kriel told 702 radio talk show host Eusebius McKaiser: “You cannot equate crimes against humanity with apartheid as there was no mass killing of people.”
The radio discussion was held after Professor Adam Habib criticised AfriForum on Twitter for engaging "a known fascist" John Bolton - US president Donald Trump’s national security adviser.
Read: Apartheid no crime against humanity, says AfriForum's Kriel
Kriel told McKaiser his records showed 700 people had been killed by the apartheid government's security forces.
“His statement is an attempt to revise history. It is dangerous because the Nazis, before they eliminated 15million Jewish people, started denying that the Jewish had a right to existence."
The UN Security Council had declared the apartheid system a crime against humanity not only because of murders committed by the regime. “Apartheid was a system where people died of malnutrition - for years children never reached the age of 5. So it was something approaching the Holocaust. It is silly of Mr Kriel to claim apartheid atrocities that led to people dying are only the number of people he can count."
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 in the frontline states.
In 2013, AfriForum approached the UN to intervene in farm murders. Kriel told McKaiser that “farm murders are not normal murders. People are tortured”.
On Tuesday, Kriel told Independent Media AfriForum had reached the figure of 700 apartheid deaths through research by his deputy Alana Bailey and information gathered from the SAHRC.
Kriel said he recognised that apartheid abused and infringed on human rights. “But the problem is people compare it with Hitler killing millions in gas chambers.
“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."
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 of far-right proto-fascists."
If Kriel had any sympathy, all that ended after the radio interview when Kriel said only 700 people died as a result of apartheid and that it was not a crime against humanity, Habib said.
Dr Rama Naidu of the Democracy Development Programme said AfriForum and those who portrayed apartheid as "not that bad" were trying to absolve themselves of the guilt of supporting an oppressive system.
“The legacy of apartheid lived far longer than the Holocaust. Apartheid affected millions of people, not just 700. This is an irresponsible statement.” Once organisations like AfriForum acknowledged that apartheid was a crime against humanity, the country would make strides towards reconciliation, Naidu said.
McKaiser told Independent Media that Kriel’s statement was similar to former president FW De Klerk's comments in 2012 when he told CNN “it was wrong for apartheid to be compared to Nazism. I don’t apologise for it”, he had said.
Kriel and his deputy Ernst Roets were in the US recently. Roets was interviewed by New American magazine, owned by a group described as a radical right and far-right organisation. It described AfriForum as "moderate and falsely demonised by the radical left, racist factions in South Africa".
It said among Roets's key concerns were farm murders "in which families - falsely accused by government of 'stealing' the land - are killed. Meanwhile, political leaders openly sing songs advocating genocide".