JOHANNESBURG, Fri, 22 Sep 2006
Former president F W De Klerk failed to act on his suspicions that the apartheid security forces were committing human rights abuses, he admits in an authorised biography of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
“Where maybe I failed was not asking more questions, not going on a crusade about things, following up on a slight uncomfortableness you feel here and there.”
“I was at times maybe not strong enough on following up on my instincts,” he told Tutu’s former press secretary John Allen, who authored the biography, ‘Rabble Rouser for Peace’.
“Not a new position”
The admission was “not a new position”, De Klerk’s spokesman Dave Steward said on Thursday.
“He (De Klerk) has said what was said on a number of occasions in recent years.”
Steward did not believe De Klerk’s inaction could be likened to that of Former Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok.
Vlok recently washed the feet of former anti-apartheid activist Frank Chikane, now director-general in the Office of the Presidency, in an apology for atrocities committed by police under his command.
Word of honour
“His (De Klerk’s) colleagues swore to him on their word of honour there was nothing unusual or illegal about their activities whereas there probably was,” said Steward.
The biography quotes Britain’s former ambassador to South Africa, Robin Renwick, as saying De Klerk “did know that mayhem was going on” as a result of security force activities.
De Klerk’s mistake was that “he has never been prepared to say as bluntly as he should have done that he was by no means properly in control” of the security forces, Renwick told Allen.
However Steward pointed out that some elements in the security forces had “their own agenda”.
By and large there was no question of mayhem or that the security forces were out of control.
Security forces “were carrying out orders”
“They continued to carry out FW De Klerk’s orders loyally… until the end of his presidency,” he said.
Steward said De Klerk was of the opinion Allen had been “very fair” in the biography. “At the end of the day it is a fair book.”
The biography, published by Rider (Random House), which will be available from September 28, also contains a number of other revelations.
It reveals that Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Oliver Tambo were shortlisted for the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, and that Albert Luthuli told the Norwegians of the African National Congress’s planned armed struggle before receiving the peace prize.
It also discloses that Tutu enlisted the help of former foreign minister Pik Botha in trying to keep his son, Trevor, out of prison after he was sentenced for making threats at airports.
Stance on gays makes Tutu “ashamed to be Anglican”
According to the biography, Tutu told the former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, that he was “ashamed to be an Anglican” after the world’s Anglican bishops rejected a proposal to reconsider the church’s attitude towards gays and lesbians.
Tutu is also said to have also criticised Carey’s successor, Rowan Williams, for being too accommodating of conservative Anglican leaders working for the expulsion of North American Anglicans who were tolerant of homosexuality.
If the conservatives did not like the Anglican Communion’s inclusiveness, Tutu told Allen, “then [they] have the freedom to leave.”