— By Darren Schuettler
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's last white president F.W.
de Klerk rejected on Saturday a truth commission report on his role
in apartheid-era rights abuses and said the commission's
reconciliation campaign had failed.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its final
report on Friday, ending a nearly seven-year probe into murder,
torture and political crimes committed by all sides during more than
four decades of white-minority rule. The TRC heard from thousands of
victims of gross human rights violations, but most of the apartheid
state's top leaders shunned the process as a witchhunt.
"The TRC process did not achieve its objective of establishing
the full truth related to the conflict of the past and ... it has
not promoted reconciliation in South Africa as intended," de Klerk's
office said in a statement.
De Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela in
1993 for negotiating the transition to a democratic South Africa,
filed suit in 1998 to force the TRC to black out findings that he
knew of rights abuses.
After lengthy negotiations, the TRC agreed to some changes in the
final report but published a key finding that de Klerk knew of the
1988 bombing of a church group office which had been authorized by
the apartheid government.
"He (de Klerk) did not want to continue with the court action and
even though he is displeased with the report, he did not want to
delay it," said his spokesman Dave Steward.
The August 31, 1988 bombing of Khotso House, the Johannesburg
headquarters of the South African Council of Churches which grouped
several churches opposed to apartheid, demolished the building and
injured 21 people.
"INDEFENSIBLE," SAYS TRUTH COMMISSION
During TRC hearings, top apartheid police officers implicated
former president P.W. Botha as having personally ordered the attack
and cast doubt on claims by his successor de Klerk that his hands
De Klerk told the TRC in 1996 and 1997 that neither he nor his
colleagues in cabinet and the state security council had authorized
assassinations, torture or other rights abuses.
But the TRC's final report said former police commissioner
General Johan van der Merwe had told de Klerk of the order to bomb
It said de Klerk's testimony was indefensible and ... "he failed
to make a full disclosure of the involvement of senior members of
the government and the South African police in the bombing of Khotso
De Klerk's office said he only became aware of the police role in
the bombing toward the end of his 1989-1994 presidency and long
after the attack occurred.
"It was and remains Mr. de Klerk's opinion that the Khotso House
bombing was outrageous and reprehensible, but did not constitute a
gross violation of human rights in terms of the TRC Act," it
Botha, who ruled South Africa from 1978 until replaced by
reformer de Klerk in 1989, has consistently denied any wrongdoing
during his rule.
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