Former president FW de Klerk has apologised for his foundation justifying its stance that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/NARDUS ENGELBRECHT
Former president FW de Klerk has apologised for his foundation justifying its stance that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/NARDUS ENGELBRECHT

FW de Klerk has apologised for a statement issued by his foundation on Friday that said the apartheid political system, which he presided over in its final days, was not a crime against humanity.

"I have taken note of the vehement reaction to our response to the EFF’s (Economic Freedom Front’s) attack on me at the state of the nation address on Thursday night," said De Klerk in a statement from his foundation on Monday.

"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 February 14 unconditionally, and apologises for the confusion, anger and hurt that it has caused," the statement said.

De Klerk has been widely condemned following a statement by his foundation saying the idea that apartheid was a crime against humanity was, and remains, an "agitprop" project initiated by the Soviets and their ANC/SACP allies "to stigmatise white South Africans by associating them with genuine crimes against humanity — which have generally included totalitarian repression and the slaughter of millions of people".

On Thursday, the EFF halted proceedings last week, disrupting President Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address. They demanded that De Klerk, who was sitting in the public gallery, be kicked out of the event as "he had (apartheid)  blood on his hands".

 De Klerk, whose government finally dismantled apartheid, was appointed joint deputy president with Thabo Mbeki  under former president Nelson Mandela in the first majority rule cabinet of 1994.

“By April 27 1994, under my leadership, the whole legislative framework of apartheid had been dismantled and the way had been opened for the adoption of our present nonracial democratic constitution,” continued the statement.

“However, the international crime of apartheid did not disappear with the demise of apartheid in SA. In 1998 it was included in the Statute of Rome, which established the International Criminal Court. In terms of article 7(1), a ‘crime against humanity’ is defined as acts ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack’.

“It includes ‘the crime of apartheid’ as a crime against humanity and defines 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. It can also be seen as the legislative expression of Nelson Mandela’s statement during his inaugural address that ‘never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.’”

The foundation said it was deeply committed to national reconciliation and to the achievement of the values on which the constitution is based, including human dignity, the achievement of equality, the advancement of human rights and freedoms, nonracialism and nonsexism, the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law and a genuine multiparty system of democratic governance.