There were not enough people killed during apartheid to justify it being called a crime against humanity, AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said on Monday.

"The figure we have is that 600 people were killed in the [19]90s. In the ’80s and early ’90s people died during the people’s war conducted by the ANC," Kriel said. Asked how many deaths would warrant it being classified as a crime against humanity, Kriel said: "A decision to eradicate people by Adolf Hitler."

Kriel told 702 radio talkshow host Eusebius McKaiser he did not believe that apartheid was a crime against humanity.

On Monday night he defended himself, saying he recognised the system was "an infringement of the rights of other people based on their race".

However, in an apparent contradiction he insisted the UN was wrong to call it a crime against humanity. "There were never mass killings of people under apartheid as we saw under communism when the Jews were killed. When you speak about a concept of apartheid as a crime against humanity I see mass killings. That did not happen under apartheid."

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, charged with investigating politically motivated gross human rights violations between 1960 and 1994 in its report endorsed the international law position that apartheid was a crime against humanity.

ANC national spokesman Pule Mabe said what characterised apartheid was its entrenchment of divisions and hatred in society.

He said it was important that everyone contributed towards building a better country where people did not see each other through the colour of skins.

EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said AfriForum should be ignored because it was unreliable. "AfriForum knows they are lying. So the question is why would they say such ridiculous things? It is because they hope media will spread this very lie for them."

DA federal chairman Athol Trollip said Kriel was inaccurate. "The DA believes that apartheid was a real travesty in every single respect … nobody in their right mind can say apartheid was not a travesty. I believe it was," Trollip said.