F.W. de Klerk foundation said on Sunday,that de Klerk, has withdrawn from a U.S. seminar about minority rights because he did not want to embarrass himself or his hosts in the current charged racial climate.
De Klerk, who was the head of South Africa’s white minority government until 1994, was scheduled to speak on July 1 at an American Bar Association (ABA) virtual event on issues such as minority rights, racism and the rule of law.
But his participation unleashed a barrage of criticism from South African opposition parties and activists who called on ABA to cancel De Klerk’s attendance given his role in the apartheid-era security apparatus.
“The allegation that De Klerk was involved in gross violations of human rights is baseless,” the F.W. de Klerk foundation said in a statement.
“However, it appears unacceptable in the current super-heated racial climate that any leader from South Africa’s troubled past should be permitted to retain the slightest vestige of honour,” it said.
ABA confirmed De Klerk would no longer speak at the event.
The former apartheid president came under fire earlier this year for his denial that apartheid was a crime against humanity - with many calling for his Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.