De Klerk's treatment of TRC was a mistake - struggle stalwart Maharaj

Struggle stalwart Mac Maharaj said that there were two sides to FW de Klerk's legacy and he would be remembered for both.

FW de Klerk delivers a speech to mark 20 years of democracy, on January 31, 2014 in Cape Town. Picture: JENNIFER BRUCE/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Struggle stalwart Mac Maharaj said that there were two sides to FW de Klerk's legacy and he would be remembered for both.

The last president under apartheid died in his Cape Town home at the age of 85 on Thursday following a battle with cancer.

Maharaj said that De Klerk was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to encourage him to continue with the project of dismantling apartheid, but the way he treated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a mistake.

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"I think that we have to acknowledge that his walking out and his failure to respond left the foot soldiers of apartheid who committed the atrocities to bear the burden and left the leadership who gave the instructions, who should have carried the responsibility, free to go," Maharaj said.

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon said that De Klerk's premature resignation from the transitional government of national unity may have contributed to the polarisation of South Africa's politics.

"Could he have played his role in the government of national unity better or was it just as he compared graphically, that it was like being the political form of death row to be number two or number three person but actually unable to influence policy. Did he help polarise politics by leaving the government of national unity three years before its term expired?" Leon said.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) founder Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has described De Klerk as a dedicated servant, pointing to his service even after retirement.

"This is a painful moment, not only for his family but for an entire nation. We have lost a champion of democratic principles and who served South Africa long after his retirement from government," Buthelezi said.

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