How South Africa’s last apartheid leader “spurned the opportunity to become human” 

By Patrick Smith

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Posted on November 15, 2021 11:34

South African Nobel Peace Laureates Mandela and Archbishop Tutu arrive for birthday celebrations of fellow laureate former President de Klerk in Cape Town
South African Nobel Peace Laureates Nelson Mandela (L) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2nd L) arrive for the 70th birthday celebrations of fellow laureate former President FW de Klerk (R) in Cape Town, March 17, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

While FW de Klerk may have been eulogised in the West, tributes were far thinner on the ground in South Africa. His contentious role in the bloody final years of apartheid, and his attempts to revise the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee put paid to that.

In the end it came, his last attempt at an apology for apartheid, released within hours of his death on 11 November.

In an eerie video, a frail Frederik Willem de Klerk, seated in front of painting of an African woman clutching red flowers, looks at the camera and struggles to make his peace: “I, without qualification. apologise for the pain and the hurt and 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.”

It was an apology that De Klerk had been unwilling to make in his lifetime. It has changed nothing in South Africa, not even people’s minds. Perhaps he was trying to convince himself. Or his god.

For most of South Africa’s 60 million people, De Klerk was the last white leader of the apartheid state. He was the National Party politician who,

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