De Klerk 'sorry' for apartheid era

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FW de Klerk, the former South African president and leader of the party which invented apart-heid, yesterday offered an historic official apology. However, as sorries go, it was heavy with qualification and defiance.

At a special hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Mr de Klerk, on behalf of the National Party, accepted responsibility for the conditions which allowed the atrocities of the apartheid years to take place. For that he was "genuinely" remorseful.

But he passed the buck for the countless murders and political assasinations. The NP government had never authorised its security forces to commit murder, torture, rape, assas- sination or assault, he said.

The long-awaited submission sparked cheers of "viva de Klerk" from the hall in Cape Town, packed with NP supporters, including many Cape coloureds. It did nothing to placate the small ANC demonstration outside, brandishing placards asking "How many did you murder, PW Botha?"

"What de Klerk says is not enough," said one demonstrator. "We want to know how many died. How many did the government kill?"

There is little hope of an answer from former President Botha. He has retired to a place called Wilderness and apparently does not recognise the commission. In his submission, Mr de Klerk said he had made serious attempts to get Mr Botha to co-operate with the NP submission but he had refused. It seems unlikely that he will be forced to give evidence.

According to Mr de Klerk, the government did adopt "unconventional strategies" for dealing with "revolutionary forces". But he said: "I have never been part of any decision taken by Cabinet, the State Security Council or any committee authorising or instructung the commission of such gross violations of human rights."