'Separate but equal' comment taken 'out of context,' de Klerk's rep says

Legacy left in post-apartheid S. Africa

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Story highlights

  • F.W. de Klerk stirs controversy about the origins of "separate but equal" nation states
  • Critics question whether he's still worthy of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize
  • De Klerk's remarks were "taken so unfairly out of context," his foundation says
  • The comments were made in a CNN interview

Controversial remarks by the last white president of South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, in which he validated the origins of "separate but equal" nation states, have been used by critics "unfairly out of context," his foundation said.

"The FW de Klerk Foundation regrets that the comments that FW 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 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," said the foundation, whose founder and chairman is de Klerk.

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

That remark provoked criticism, including on Twitter where some South Africans said de Klerk isn't worthy of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize he shared with Nelson Mandela for ending South Africa's apartheid regime.

Said de Klerk on CNN this week: "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. My people, whose self-determination (was) taken away by colonial power in the Anglo-Boer War."

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That, de Klerk said, is how he was raised.

"And it was in an era when also in America and elsewhere, and across the continent of Africa, there was still not this realization that we are trampling upon the human rights of people. So I'm a convert."

The foundation's subsequent statement elaborated on de Klerk's position, saying "there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the idea that the problems of territories that include different peoples should be addressed on the basis of territorial partition.

"This, after all, is what has happened in such societies all over the world -- in the territorial divisions of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and more recently in Sudan. It is the solution that has long been advocated for Israel/Palestine," the foundation said.

South Africa's apartheid system was born out of "by the loss of the right of Afrikaners to self-determination in the Anglo-Boer War," the statement said.

"However, as De Klerk pointed out, the National Party's application of territorial partition was a complete failure because the territorial division was manifestly unfair (something that De Klerk opposed as a young politician)," the statement said.

"The Amanpour interview dealt with De Klerk's views as a young man. He tried, as frankly as he could, to explain what motivated him at the time. What motivated him as a young man ceased many years ago to motivate him as a political leader," the statement said. "Since the mid-eighties he has accepted that the policies that he supported as a young man were wrong and that there was not any possibility of justly settling South Africa's complex problems on the basis of territorial partition."

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