South Africa’s last white president, F.W. de Klerk, who died today aged 85, apologised for the crimes committed against people of colour in a video released by his foundation on its website hours after his death. Here is the full text of his recorded message to the people of South Africa:
This is my last message addressed to the people of South Africa. To my dear wife and family, I will say goodbye in a different way.
Our country faces so many challenges of a serious nature. I hold firm opinions about all of them, but decided to keep this message very short, and only really focus on two issues – touching me and touching the country.
Before I do so, I would like to thank all my friends and supporters for the wonderful support and encouragement they gave me throughout my life. And throughout my political career. Many of them were close to me, even for decades, others intervened occasionally. I thank you for your support, and your trust in me. I thank you for your friendship. Thank you for having carried me on your shoulders for so many years.
The first issue I want to focus on is apartheid, and apartheid and me.
I’m still often accused by critics, that I, in some way or another, continue to justify apartheid or separate development, as we later preferred to call it. It is true that in my younger years, I defended separate development as I never liked the word apartheid. I did so when I was a member of Parliament, and I did so as I became a member of cabinet.
Afterwards, on many occasions, I apologised for the pain of the indignity that apartheid has brought to persons, to persons of colour in South Africa. Many believed me, but others didn’t. Therefore, let me today in this last message, repeat.
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. I do so not only in my capacity as the former leader of the National Party, but also as an individual.
Allow me in this last message to share with you the fact that since the early 80s, my views changed completely. It was as if I had a conversion. And in my heart of hearts, I realized that apartheid was wrong. I realized that we had arrived at a place which was morally unjustifiable. My conversion, to which I refer didn’t end with the admission to myself of the total unacceptability of apartheid. It motivated us in the National Party to take the initiatives we took from the time that I became leader of the National Party. And more specifically, during my presidency. We did not only admit the wrongness of apartheid, we took far-reaching measures to ensure negotiation and a new dispensation which could bring justice to all.
This brings me to the second issue I want to focus on.
Together, with most other South Africans, I’m proud of our Constitution. The Constitution which we hammered out in the negotiations we started in 1990 and which culminated in the final constitution of 1996. I truly associate myself with the values and principles enshrined in our Constitution, and I’m deeply concerned about the undermining of many aspects of the Constitution, which we perceive almost day to day.
It is my plea that the government, all parties, civil society, and all South Africans should once again embrace the Constitution and interpret it in the balanced way which the Constitution demands. We need to align the principles of non-racialism and non-discrimination with the need to deal with the past, and issues like affirmative action.
We need to guard over the independence and the impartiality of our courts.
We need to promote economic growth and job creation by basing economic policies on the principles contained in the Constitution, and not on ideologies, which militate against the Constitution.
We need to make the Constitution the cornerstone of the new society we are building.
The road forward is a difficult one. But I firmly believe that if we take hands and if all the reasonable people in South Africa put their heads together, we can overcome the challenges we face and we can fulfil the tremendous potential that South Africa has.
May the South African nation show the courage and the ingenuity to achieve this.