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From Sona to 'sorry': Six must-read stories on FW de Klerk and his remarks on apartheid

19 February 2020 - 05:53 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Former president FW de Klerk has been back in the news this week.
Former president FW de Klerk has been back in the news this week.
Image: Gallo Images / Nardus Engelbrecht

Former president FW de Klerk has been on the receiving end of criticism after his controversial remarks on apartheid, and his initial denial that it was a crime against humanity.

He expressed his views two weeks ago, in an SABC interview where he reflected on the 30th anniversary since his party lifted the ban on liberation movements and called for the release of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.

Here are six must-read stories on how the entire saga has unfolded.

1. EFF calls for De Klerk's dismissal from Sona 

The Sona was riddled with chaos on Thursday last week after EFF leader Julius Malema called for “murder” and “apartheid apologist” De Klerk's dismissal from the house. He asked National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise to dismiss him based on his remarks that apartheid was not a crime against humanity.

“Speaker, we have a murderer in the house,” said Malema.

“We have a man who has got blood of innocent people in this house, which is supposed to represent the will of our people — and therefore it’s incorrect for you to have extended  an invitation to De Klerk because De Klerk is a murderer.” 

2. Malema says Ramaphosa is De Klerk's 'ice boy'

Reacting to the former president's presence at the Sona, Malema told TimesLIVE that De Klerk has had a hold on Cyril Ramaphosa since the 1970s. He said this is why De Klerk only expressed his views about apartheid during Ramaphosa's tenure as president.

“He didn't do it during Mbeki's era, he didn't do it during Zuma's era. Now he has got his 'ice boy' as a president, now he thinks he can undermine us because he controls Cyril.”

3. Ndlozi calls for 'unapologetic' De Klerk to be tried

Former EFF spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi lashed out at some white people for being “unapologetic” about apartheid.

He called for the trial of De Klerk for depriving blacks of their basic human rights during the apartheid era.

4. Tutu Foundation lashes out at De Klerk

Responding to De Klerk's insistence that apartheid was not a crime against humanity, the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation foundation said it was irresponsible for the former president to debate this matter.

It said the views expressed by De Klerk sought to erase the gains SA has made post-apartheid - and made it clear that it backed the SA Council of Churches' call for De Klerk to withdraw his statement.

5. Mbeki offers to send UN convention to De Klerk

Former president Thabo Mbeki offered to send De Klerk the United Nations convention that declared that apartheid was a crime against humanity. Mbeki told journalists on Sunday in KwaZulu-Natal that De Klerk was not aware of the convention.

The former presidents sat next to each other during the Sona on Thursday last week.

“He did not know that there is a legal document in international law which says apartheid was a crime against humanity. I want to send him the convention, so that he knows that there is an international convention which says apartheid is a crime against humanity. That is how we discussed it,” said Mbeki.

6. De Klerk apologises 

On Monday, De Klerk apologised unconditionally for his Friday statement, in which he insisted that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. The statement was issued after he was asked to leave parliament by the EFF during the Sona.

De Klerk said he was in agreement with the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation that a debate on the extent of apartheid is not necessary.

“I agree with the Desmond & Leah Tutu Foundation that this is not the time to quibble about the degrees of unacceptability of apartheid. It was totally unacceptable," he said.

“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.”