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Johannesburg (AFP) – Four militants kidnapped and killed. A dead man, after falling from the top of a police building. Five teenagers killed in their bed by soldiers. In these cursed apartheid-era cases, Frederik de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, was expected as a witness.
Regarded as a peacekeeping hero abroad, and celebrated for his decisive role in dismantling the racist regime that he had previously supported throughout his political life, De Klerk died last week at age 85.
Most South Africans recall the former president’s reluctance to investigate apartheid atrocities. And his posthumous message, released hours after his death, to lament “the pain, suffering, indignity and damage” inflicted, has not convinced.
After the election of his former public enemy Nelson Mandela in 1994, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Monsignor Desmond Tutu, made it possible to appease the country by offering a global amnesty.
850 amnesties were granted, but the Commission recommended that legal actions be upheld in more than 300 cases, and formulated reparation proposals for some victims.
But all this came to nothing. And in the months leading up to de Klerk’s death, the country understood why.
In July, when South Africa was going through an unprecedented period of unrest in a context of social misery, the De Klerk Foundation included in a statement essential information: “Due to an informal agreement between the leadership of the ANC (Mandela’s party) and the former Government agents from before 1994, the national prosecutor’s office has suspended its judicial proceedings for the crimes of the apartheid era. ”
“We always suspect that a kind of agreement was reached behind closed doors,” Lukhanyo Calata, whose father was one of the four militants kidnapped and murdered in Cradock (south) in 1985, told AFP.
The Commission had refused to grant amnesty to the murderers, but they were never prosecuted. The State Security Council of the apartheid regime had met three weeks before his death.
– Do not take seriously –
De Klerk participated in that Council, where military officials recommended “the permanent exclusion from society” of Fort Calata and his militant friend Matthew Goniwe, according to elements that appeared in hearings of the Commission.
Calata’s son initiated a legal action to force the prosecutors to study the case and summon De Klerk. His decision was to come in early December.
“It is a disgrace that De Klerk is no longer here. He is a former president. He must have had knowledge of other elements” laments the son Calata, furious at the ANC in power for not having “never taken seriously the idea of taking carry out those legal actions “.
De Klerk’s unanswered questions don’t all go back that far. Just a month before sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, in 1993, he ordered an attack on a house where soldiers shot and killed five teenagers sleeping in their beds.
De Klerk admitted to ordering this attack but claimed to have received bad information according to which the house was used by armed combatants of the anti-apartheid struggle.
“For a president, authorizing the murder of minors is a flagrant act of terrorism,” Mandela had declared then.
It was one of Mandela’s stern words about De Klerk, though they were later overshadowed by the euphoria that followed the Nobel Prize and his election to lead a multi-colored country, dubbed the “rainbow.”
Families continue to demand answers. Imtiaz Cajee’s uncle, Ahmed Timol, fell from the 10th floor of the notorious Johannesburg police headquarters in 1971.
His fight to reopen the case – initially classified as suicide – led to a new murder prosecution against the old police officer Joao Rodrigues.
But Rodrigues also managed to delay the trial until after his own death.
© 2021 AFP
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De Klerk, a hero abroad, had accounts pending in South Africa