FW de Klerk on the unbanning of political parties: 'It had to be done to bring justice to all'

03 February 2020 - 09:55 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Former president FW de Klerk.
Former president FW de Klerk.
Image: Loanna Hoffmann

Former apartheid president FW De Klerk says he has no regrets about the decisions he made during his time in government.

Sunday marked 30 years since De Klerk announced the unbanning of political organisations such as the ANC, PAC and SACP, releasing political prisoners and setting in motion steps towards a negotiated settlement.

He served as state president of SA from 1989 to 1994.

De Klerk's speech was seen as a catalyst for dramatic and surprising events.

Case in point? Nine days after his speech, former president Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years and, within three months, the first bilateral talks between the ANC and De Klerk's government took place.

In an interview on eNCA, De Klerk said: “Knowing what I know today I would have made that same speech 30 years ago. It had to be done and it had to be done to bring justice, and it had to be done to avert catastrophe in SA,” said De Klerk.

He said had civil war not been averted, the country would now look like Syria.  

“I could not have made that speech if the Berlin wall did not come down with the communist threat, which was more real than people nowadays believe. There was a real threat,” said De Klerk.

There was a fallacy, he said, that he never completely apologised for apartheid.  

“That is wrong. I've done that [apologised] many times. Apartheid was wrong. Apartheid was morally unjustifiable. We didn't only say sorry, we took the initiative to rectify the wrongness of apartheid and to bring justice to all in SA.

“I sincerely believe that apartheid left marks which are still visible today and which people still feel, but to blame everything which is wrong in SA today, after 25 years, on apartheid is also not true.