SOUTH Africa’s last white president, F.W. de Klerk, who died on Thursday aged 85, apologised for the crimes committed to people of colour in a video released by his foundation on its website hours after his death.
“I, without qualification, apologise for the pain and the hurt and the indignity and the damage that apartheid has done to Black, Brown and Indians in South Africa,” de Klerk said.
In his message, he also cautioned that the country was facing many serious challenges, saying: “I’m deeply concerned about the undermining of many aspects of the Constitution, which we perceive almost day to day.”
It was not immediately clear when the recording was made.
De Klerk, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, is globally seen as a politician who negotiated a peaceful transfer of power from white-minority rule to a black-majority democratic government led by Nelson Mandela.
Here is what the country’s leaders and its citizens are saying about his death.
PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA
“(De Klerk) played a key role in ushering in democracy in our country. He was a leader of a party that was largely discredited in relation to the role that the National Party played in enforcing apartheid. But he had the courage to step away from the path… And we will remember him for that.”
“The policies that the apartheid regime espoused and implemented have caused a lot of havoc on millions and millions of South Africans. And it was the havoc that many of our people will never forget, and have suffered from.”
“But as a human being, it is important for us as South Africans to pay our condolences and to allow him to go and rest… our hearts are with the declared family.”
NELSON MANDELA FOUNDATION
“De Klerk will forever be linked to Nelson Mandela in the annals of South African history. As head of state, he oversaw the release of Madiba from prison on 11 February 1990.”
“In 1993 they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize for ushering in a negotiated settlement that led to South Africa holding its first democratic election in 1994.”
“De Klerk’s legacy is a big one. It is also an uneven one, something South Africans are called to reckon with in this moment.”
DESMOND TUTU FOUNDATION
“The former President occupied a historic but difficult space in South Africa. He was the last head of state of a minority government after 350 years of colonial and apartheid rule, who ceded power to a hugely popular President Nelson Mandela after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.”
“Although some South Africans found the global recognition of Mr De Klerk hard to accept, Mr Mandela, himself, praised him for his courage in seeing the country’s political transformation process through.”
“At a time when not all of his colleagues saw the future trajectory of the country unfolding in the same way, he recognised the moment for change and demonstrated the will to act on it.”
SOUTH AFRICAN PEOPLE
SIHLE JWARA, STUDENT, JOHANNESBURG
“Granted, the time he was president and the actions that he did take part (in) to become a president are bad, very bad, sinful. It was the mass genocide of black people and as a human being you can’t agree with that.”
“But at the same time, you have to look at the actions that he did take to change the country.”
PUSILETSO MAKOFANE, 30, JOHANNESBURG
“Honestly, I feel no remorse, even though a politician died. I feel like his death helps South Africa move forward in a way, away from all the criticism, the negativity, the racism. So I feel like it moved us in a way.”
THE ECONOMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS
“De Klerk, who denied that the legislated separate development, exploitation, torture and murder of Black people was a crime of humanity, dies with no honour, and with the dark cloud of having maimed and traumatised families across our nation.”
“He was a president of an undemocratic and racist society… who led on the basis of the political and economic disenfranchisement of the majority Black population of South Africa.”
JOHN STEENHUISEN, LEADER, DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE
“Mr de Klerk’s contribution to South Africa’s transition to democracy cannot be overstated. His decision… to unban liberation movements, release Nelson Mandela from prison, lift the ban on political marches and begin the four-year negotiation process towards our first democratic election was a watershed moment in our country’s history.”
“Importantly, he was also able to bring the majority of white voters along with him, and this played a critical role in ensuring that the transition happened peacefully and that the 1994 elections, as well as the constitutional negotiations, were embraced by all South Africans.”