Former president FW de Klerk arrives at Parliament in Cape Town to attend President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday. Picture: Brenton Geach/Reuters
Former president FW de Klerk arrives at Parliament in Cape Town to attend President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday. Picture: Brenton Geach/Reuters

De Klerk should stand up one last time, say he's sorry then step back from public life

By EDITORIAL OPINION Time of article published Feb 18, 2020

Share this article:

FW de Klerk sat in the gallery of the National Assembly for the SONA (State of the Nation Address) last week, and seemed to be blind and deaf to the ruckus being caused by the EFF demanding his removal from the chamber.

The EFF was responding to a remark De Klerk made in an interview with the SABC to mark 30 years since he had announced the unbanning of liberation movements and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

In response to a question from Manelisi Dubase, De Klerk suggested that while apartheid could not be justified, he did not necessarily agree that it was a crime against humanity.

It is astonishing that a seasoned politician could have made such a claim but his ineptitude played into the hands of the EFF and embarrassed the ANC who had to defend his presence at SONA.

Furthermore, his foundation endorsed his view. Yesterday, however, it withdrew his comment and apologised “for the confusion, anger and hurt it has caused”.

Thabo Mbeki, who sat with De Klerk in the gallery, schooled him in the truth that apartheid had been declared a crime against humanity by the UN. Later the Tutus and others stepped in to educate him further.

We believe De Klerk should stand up one last time, say he is sorry, and then step back from public life.

Meanwhile, there is a broader lesson and that is the importance of understanding our history.

There is no justification for the evil system of apartheid, and as the statement says, one can’t quibble about “degrees of unacceptability”.

As Dali Mpofu has pointed out, if you can’t understand after 30 years that apartheid was a crime, an apology is simply a public relations exercise.

Share this article:

Related Articles