South Africans say apartheid was crime against humanity and De Klerk was complicit

2021-11-20 13:16:48
South Africans say apartheid was crime against humanity and De Klerk was complicit

F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president from the apartheid era, died last week at 85 and is to be buried Sunday.

South Africa is engrossed in debate over the legacy of de Klerk. The controversy follows him to the grave 27 years after the official end of the brutal apartheid regime that oppressed the country’s Black majority for generations.

Many South Africans are critical of de Klerk, saying he avoided acknowledging that apartheid was a crime against humanity in which he was complicit.

Stoking the furor is a video that he released posthumously in which he said he was sorry.

“It's the last of a series of half-baked apologies,” the Rev. Michael Lapsley told The Associated Press. “It’s good that he apologizes for the pain and hurt, but there’s no reckoning. There’s no accountability. There’s no accepting of responsibility for what happened under his watch.”

“De Klerk’s rule was one of the most violent periods of our history,” Lapsley said.

An Anglican priest and anti-apartheid activist, Lapsley was hit by a parcel bomb that blew off his hands and blinded him in one eye in 1990, months after de Klerk freed Nelson Mandela and began negotiations that eventually dismantled apartheid.

As the chairman of the State Security Council, de Klerk was present at meetings where violence against anti-apartheid leaders was ordered, right up to the 1994 elections that ended apartheid and brought to power Mandela and his party, the African National Congress.

Apartheid, imposed in 1948, denied the vote and basic rights to South Africa's Black majority and other people of color. Resistance grew for decades, and by the 1980s the country had built up a large military and security apparatus to battle uprisings in the townships where Blacks were confined.

Lapsley, who founded the Institute for the Healing of Memories to help mend the wounds of apartheid, said another problem that de Klerk contributed to is economic inequality.

“Apartheid, like slavery before it, was always about profit,” Lapsley said. “Apartheid was always about political oppression and economic exploitation. We have slayed one monster, but we leave the other one very much intact.”

Referring to studies that show South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal countries, Lapsley said, “If we remain the most unequal society on Earth, our grandchildren will not live in peace.”

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