The busts of HF Verwoerd and other former apartheid leaders in Orania, Northern Cape. Picture: THE TIMES
The busts of HF Verwoerd and other former apartheid leaders in Orania, Northern Cape. Picture: THE TIMES

A group of 10 Afrikaner academics who benefited  from apartheid in the past acknowledged in declarations  on Sunday that the system was a crime against humanity.

The academics, who called themselves concerned South Africans, admitted in one of four declarations that the continued denialism around apartheid being a crime was insensitive and aimed at avoiding the truth.

The group includes former diplomat and ambassador Dawie Jacobs, journalist Foeta Krige, Dutch Reform Church minister André Bartlett and member of the advisory council of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation emeritus professor Willie Esterhuyse.

They all signed another declaration condemning and apologising for apartheid.

Former deputy president FW de Klerk caused a stir when he initially denied that apartheid had been declared a crime against humanity.

De Klerk has since retracted his comments and apologised through his foundation last week.

The academics said the exclusion of black people from opportunities during apartheid was regrettable.

“We deeply regret the suffering of our fellow citizens under that inhumane and humiliating system and express our sincere apology towards all fellow South Africans,” one of the four declaration read.

“We also regret the fact that all South Africans were prevented from mixing freely socially and economically, thus being denied the enjoyment of the rich diversity of the rainbow nation and subjected to indoctrination based on fear and prejudice. It has left our society all the poorer for it.”

Jacobs said De Klerk’s statements on apartheid were wrong.

“It was a missed opportunity. De Klerk lost a good opportunity to take us forward. I was angry about this. ... If you make statements that he made, you are opening the wounds of the people who suffered. The least you can do as a person who benefited from apartheid is to be humble,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs worked as private secretary to late former foreign affairs minister Pik Botha, a consul-general to Germany and was appointed by late former president Nelson Mandela as ambassador to Greece and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the democratic era.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week that in his view denying that apartheid was a crime against humanity was treasonous.

“Apartheid was so immoral in its conception and so devastating in its execution that there is no South African living today who is not touched by its legacy,” Ramaphosa said in parliament last week.

“I would even go on to say that to deny this, in my view, is treasonous.”