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De Klerk stirs ire with apartheid remarks

By Reuters, CNN | May 11, 2012 | COMMENTS [ 117 ]

Comments from South Africa's last white president, FW de Klerk, defending separate racial states during apartheid, have set off a storm of criticism

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, [click here for the video link], De Klerk apologised for the racial policies of the white-minority government that oppressed the black majority, but defended separate states for blacks and whites.  

“I have made the most profound apology... about the injustices which were wrought by apartheid,” he told Amanpour.

“What I haven’t apologised for is the original concept of nation states.”  

He was referring to the homeland system that once divided South Africa into states for different ethnic groups. Apartheid laws also required blacks to hold permits to live and work in white areas.  

De Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Nelson Mandela in 1993 but was later criticised by Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, for not renouncing apartheid.  

“To justify apartheid in 2012? Wow!” Gugulethethu Mthembu wrote on Twitter.  

Others challenged De Klerk, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for releasing Mandela in 1990 and allowing multi-racial elections four years later, to make such remarks in Soweto, the largest of South Africa’s black townships.  

“Can FW de Klerk come home and repeat those words he said on Amanpour in front of a live audience in Soweto?,” Florence Masebe tweeted.

Others called on him to return his Nobel prize.  

In the interview, De Klerk said apartheid was “morally repugnant” and added that, with hindsight, his party should have instituted reforms earlier.  

Even though it has been 18 years since apartheid ended, it remains the source of deep division in the “Rainbow Nation”.  


It was noted that Mandela had once called De Klerk "a man of integrity" but had taken it back, regretting that De Klerk had never renounced the principle of apartheid.

De Klerk responded:  "Well, let me first say I'm not aware that Mr Mandela says I've never renounced apartheid". He then said, "I have made the most profound apology in front of the Truth Commission and on other occasions about the injustices which were wrought by apartheid".

Then he added: "What I haven't apologized for is the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states (homelands). But in South Africa it failed," he said. "And by the end of the '70s, we had to realize, and accept and admit to ourselves that it had failed.  And that is when fundamental reform started".

He was then asked if apartheid failed because it was unworkable, or because it was simply morally repugnant.

"There are three reasons it (apartheid) failed," he said. "It failed because the whites wanted to keep too much land for themselves. It failed because we (whites and blacks) became economically integrated, and it failed because the majority of blacks said that is not how we want our rights."

Still, De Klerk would not back off his belief in the validity of the original concept of "separate but equal" nation states.

"There is this picture that apartheid was.. used to be compared to Nazism. It's wrong, and on that, I don't apologize for saying that what drove me as a young man, before I decided we need to embrace a new vision, was a quest to bring justice for black South Africans in a way which would not - that's what I believed then - destroyed the justice to which my people were entitled.

"That's how I was brought up," said De Klerk. "And it was in an era when also in America and elsewhere, and across the continent of Africa, there was still not this realization that we are trampling upon the human rights of people. 

"So I'm a convert."

Again, he was asked if he wanted to take the opportunity to say that apartheid was, in retrospect, morally repugnant.

"I can only say, in a qualified way," said De Klerk. "Inasmuch as it trampled human rights, it was - and remains - and that I've said also publicly, morally reprehensible.

"But the concept of giving as the Czechs have it and the Slovaks have it, of saying that ethnic unities with one culture, with one language, can be happy and can fulfill their democratic aspirations in an own state, that is not repugnant.

"With the advantage of hindsight," said De Klerk, "we should have started the reform much earlier.. But the intention was to end at a point which would ensure justice for all. 

"The tipping point in my mind was when I realized.. we need to abandon the concept of separateness.  And we need to build a new nation with its eleven official languages, accommodating its diversity, but taking hands and moving forward together."

Interview: CNN

COMMENTS [ 117 ]

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By the past, I mean before colonialism because nobody knows how they were then, and they just wanted to impose upon them, and since then, it has been struggle for freedom for Africans, how can you think of inventing TVs when your movement is controlled, told when, what, and how to eat, sleep, walk, and even think.

May 11, 2012 1:42 | 0 replies


1.All the tribes that defeated are now Z.ulu(i.e. people who fought in wars were "Amabutho"), Shaka was not a loose canon out to purge all other tribes, but he conquered, here he built one big

in which case its probably true to say that, all the smaller tribes can be greatful for still having an identity. In which case its what this old w1tee is getting at...

May 11, 2012 2:3 | 0 replies


When it comes to politics, its ALWAYS greed

May 11, 2012 2:5 | 0 replies

Can a w.hite person ever become the leader of the ANC, or even any structure ? What must a w.hite member of the ANC do while they sing " dh.bula I'Bhunu" You know the answer.

Oh yes they can became leaders!! And there are many wh!tes within the ANC that hold key leadership and ministerial positions within government!! If you are lacking in general knowledge, I suggest you read up some more...

As for the song....What do they do and what did the many non-racist wh!tes like Joe Slovo do when that song was sang..??

And what are you doing to your children to make sure that they dont end up being the next Leandres of this country..?? pfft

May 11, 2012 2:7 | 0 replies

DeCock01 they did the first heart transplant in the world, first space tourist, first paraplegic taking part in normal running competion, first human polar bear, the rooikat first optical aiming devices, guirilla war fair... biltong ... for cornelius boerewors

May 11, 2012 2:8 | 0 replies

U kno what De K you just did not have a choice in the matter thats it. We woke up from a deep sleep and you were scared to death, first the Imbokodo ladies and the kids in 1976

May 11, 2012 2:9 | 0 replies

1. Were you there, why would they resist? Are you still trying to potray Shaka as a barbarian?
2. Who said anything about Holland/Germany, and if they were not in existence, why would you associate them with those countries.

May 11, 2012 2:9 | 0 replies

decock01 the now imfamfamous apartheid...and without it we would not have had what is a world icon as a leader our Madiba.... so in a way....we can say

May 11, 2012 2:10 | 0 replies

@ DeCock. What were the borders of " your" country, what was its name, who governed it ?

Also, if you hat.e everything the Europea.n brought and introduced, can I take it you are wearing a loi.n cloth and living in a mud hut as you type your vitri.ol ?

May 11, 2012 2:11 | 0 replies


1. I was brought up with Mzilikhazi's version of his brother's conquests
2. It wasn't me who brought up the Dutch it was you

May 11, 2012 2:12 | 0 replies

It is your kind that Afri.cans(Including myself) hat.e, narrow minded whi.te suprem.acists seeking to undermine every other ra.ce. You always cry foul on how people took things from you, get a life, in fact go to school, upgrade yourself and get yourself a job somewhere in europe as there is no room for your kind in South Africa.

May 11, 2012 2:17 | 0 replies