WATCH | FW de Klerk apologises 'without qualification' for apartheid in 'last message to people of SA'

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  • Apartheid's last president FW de Klerk has apologised "without qualification" for the misery apartheid wrought on black, brown and Indian South Africans.
  • In a pre-recorded message, De Klerk said he had a change of heart about apartheid in the early 1980s. 
  • De Klerk died on Thursday, aged 85.

In a message from beyond the grave, apartheid's last president FW de Klerk offered his apology, "without qualification", for the misery caused by apartheid.

In what a visibly frail De Klerk described as his "last message to the people of South Africa", shared in video format by the FW de Klerk Foundation, he said: "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 and indignity that apartheid has brought to persons of colour in South Africa. Many believed me, but others didn't.

OBITUARY | FW de Klerk: Apartheid president who helped dismantle system despite history and heritage

"Therefore, let me today, in the last message repeat: I, without qualification, apologise for the pain and the hurt, and the indignity, and the damage, to black, brown and Indians in South Africa."

He said he was apologising, not only in his capacity as former National Party leader, but also as an individual.

De Klerk said that, since the early 1980s, his views had changed completely.

"It was as if I had a conversion. And in my heart of hearts, I realised that apartheid was wrong. I realised that we have arrived at a place which was morally unjustifiable."

He said this "conversion" had motivated the "far-reaching measures" the National Party took during his presidency to ensure negotiations and a new dispensation "which could bring justice to all".

REFLECTIONS | Mac Maharaj, Mavuso Msimang, Christi van der Westhuizen and more on FW de Klerk's legacy

De Klerk said, like most South Africans, he was proud of the Constitution, which was "hammered out" during the negotiations. He said he fully associated himself with the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, but was deeply concerned about the undermining of many aspects of the document.

He did not say anything about the still many unanswered questions about his role in the deaths of anti-apartheid activists and the violence of the early 1990s.

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