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Under fire, South Africa's former president repudiates apartheid

May 16th, 2012
01:44 PM ET

To watch the full original interview with President de Klerk, click here.

Highlights
- F.W. de Klerk drew criticism for not fully repudiating the concept of apartheid
- He clarifies his remarks Wednesday, saying he has no belief in segregation
- His foundation said last week that the original comments were taken out of context
- Many have waited for de Klerk to renounce the brutal era of South Africa's history

By Samuel Burke, CNN

(CNN) - Under fire for his comments on apartheid, former South African President F.W. de Klerk clarified his position again Wednesday, saying that he repudiates the system of racial segregation as unacceptable.

In a statement Wednesday, de Klerk called apartheid "morally unjustifiable." He went on to say, "that it could not be reformed, that the concept of separate development had led to manifest injustice and had to be abandoned."

"I have no residual belief in, or attachment to, separate development," de Klerk told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"Whatever the intentions may have been, I concluded many years ago that apartheid had failed, that it was unacceptable and offensive, and that it had resulted in manifest injustice."

Many South Africans say they have waited for their former president, who helped dismantle apartheid and give rise to Nelson Mandela's presidency, to renounce the brutal period of their nation's history.

CNN offered that opportunity to de Klerk last week.

In the original CNN interview, de Klerk would not back off his belief in the validity of the concept of "separate but equal" nation states.

"I'm offering you the opportunity as the person who helped dismantle apartheid to say whether or not you believed that it was also morally repugnant, today, in retrospect," Amanpour said.

De Klerk repudiated the effects of apartheid, but not the concept.

"I can only say that in a qualified way," de Klerk said. "In as much as it trampled human rights, it was - and remains, and that I've said also publicly - morally indefensible. There were many aspects which are morally indefensible."

The qualified statement drew criticism on Twitter and in South African and international media.

"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 - destroy the justice to which my people were entitled," de Klerk said last week on CNN. "My people, whose self-determination (was) taken away by colonial power in the Anglo-Boer War."

And De Klerk's foundation said the former president's initial remarks on CNN had been taken out of context.

"The F.W. de Klerk Foundation regrets that the comments that F.W, de Klerk made in his recent interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN have been taken so unfairly out of context," the foundation said in a statement last Friday.

"The question that she asked related to the policies that he had supported when he was a young man - and his reply centered on his view that, though idealistic at the time, they had resulted in the unacceptable injustices of apartheid," the foundation said.

De Klerk, 76, shared the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, 93, for their efforts to abolish apartheid. Following the remarks, critics have called for de Klerk to be stripped of the honor.

De Klerk told CNN that he and Mandela have been "close friends."

"Not the closest in the sense that we see each other once a week," he said. "But he's been in my home as a guest. I've been in his home as a guest. When I go to Johannesburg, my wife and I will have tea with him and Graca, his wife.

"There is no animosity left between us," he said.

However, his opinion on the African National Congress, South Africa's governing party once led by Mandela, was less kind.

The ANC, de Klerk said, has wielded too much power and its leaders have lost their "moral compass."

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Jean pierre Tshimanga

    South africa must improve the integration of its people,as we can see in the country they still the area or communities were you can found only blacks,coulored or white people,as well as the jobs olso that doesn't cope to eradicate the wrond doing of apartheid era.

    May 18, 2012 at 4:51 am | Reply
  2. Don Lucuis

    his statement was clear; i understood it. You can disagree with someone but understand there position and goals. People these days can't do that; things are black and white. there is no room for respect.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:20 am | Reply
  3. Farid

    I have become faialimr with the work of Paul Dix and Pam Fitzpatrick, who have completed the book, Nicaragua: Surviving the Legacy of U.S. Policy. This photojournalistic book features interviews with Nicaraguans at the time of the Contra War and how it was impacting their lives. Twenty years thereafter, Dix and Fitzpatrick went back to Nicaragua and located many of the people originally interviewed, to see what their perspectives might be long afterward. It's a visually stunning and moving book, the interviews are mesmerizing, the lessons to be learned are critically important ones and I think their work and their work process would lend themselves very well to a Forum Session. The have made presentations in the past and I have been told that they do a very thorough job which is engaging to the audience. If there is more to the recommendation process, including submissions by Dix and Fitzpatrick, please let me know.

    July 6, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply
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    July 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Reply

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