FW de Klerk pulls out of US seminar on minority rights and racism

Amid growing pressure from various quarters former National Party Leader and the final apartheid state president FW de Klerk has withdrawn from a virtual seminar on minority rights.

De Klerk was scheduled to speak on 1 July at an American Bar Association (ABA) virtual event on issues such as minority rights, racism and the rule of law.

FW De Klerk pulls out of US seminar

The former head of state has pulled out to avoid embarrassing himself or his hosts in the current charged racial climate, according to a statement issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation.

The ABA's decision to invite de Klerk to speak at their event drew fierce criticism from activists in South Africa and the United States as well as a number of prominent political parties.

There are those who accuse de Klerk of being culpable in human rights abuses committed by Apartheid security forces. The former president made a submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but did not apply for amnesty. 

His submission sought to set "out the National Party's view of the historical context within which the conflicts of the past should be considered."

De Klerk's Foundation refuted any suggestion that he was involved in human rights violations either as president or in his previous appointments to government.

"The allegation that De Klerk was involved in gross violations of human rights is baseless," the F.W. de Klerk foundation said in a statement.
"However, it appears unacceptable in the current super-heated racial climate that any leader from South Africa's troubled past should be permitted to retain the slightest vestige of honour," it said.

Cancellation welcomed

While de Klerk announced his withdrawal, the ABA confirmed that his talk had been cancelled.

Journalist, writer and son of one the murdered Cradock Four, Lukhanyo Calata was a vocal opponent of the decision to invite de Klerk to speak in the current climate.

"At a time like this where the whole world is crying out for recognition and demanding that value be placed on our lives, on Black lives, we think that ABA erred in inviting someone like De Klerk," said Calata in an interview with News24.
"We just wish that the National Prosecuting Authority could act as swiftly as the ABA in taking decisions to act against those implicated in the murders of the Cradock Four. For now, at least we can mark the 35th commemoration of their murders next week Saturday, knowing that we had stopped De Klerk from taking a public platform where he would no doubt have dishonoured their lives and legacies."