Last Friday a report appeared in the Mail & Guardian under the heading “De Klerk faces a Vlokking”. It was accompanied by a front page headline that read “Vlok trial: FW in the dock?” The report was based on a confidential source who alleged that Mr Vlok and General van der Merwe would incriminate me in gross violations of human rights that occurred under the former government when they appear in court next month.

The next day front-page stories appeared in all the Independent group newspapers repeating the same allegations and reporting, quite wrongly, that “FW says Charge Me if you Dare”. (In fact, I was hunting in the Karoo and was happily unaware of any supposed challenge to the NPA.) The report was accompanied by a cartoon depicting a malevolent F W de Klerk sitting on a locked chest bulging with apartheid secrets that was about to be opened by the NPA using the Vlok/van der Merwe key.

The following day, the Sunday Times front page lead was headlined “Vlok turns on FW: Apartheid police minister implicates his old boss after prosecutors bring charges against him.” The story was based on information received from “an insider close to the talks” between the NPA and the attorney of Mr Vlok and General van der Merwe. The story claimed that both men had made “submissions pointing fingers at De Klerk and his Cabinet, who allegedly approved their activities.”

The general and widespread effect of these articles was the dissemination in South African and overseas of perceptions that I had committed perjury when I told the TRC under oath that I had not known of such actions; and that I had, despite my denials, been involved in, or known of, the perpetration of gross violations of human rights under the previous government. The stories have done my reputation immense harm; they try to make it difficult for me to continue to play a constructive role nationally and internationally; and they have the very real potential of seriously and negatively affecting my material interests.

As became clear on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning none of these stories contained a grain of truth. On Sunday afternoon General van der Merwe vehemently denied to Beeld that there was any truth in the allegations. His message was soon reinforced by his and Mr Vlok’s attorney, Mr Jan Wagener who unambiguously distanced himself from the reports. On Monday morning NPA spokesman Mr Panyasa Lufisi told Jeremy Maggs of SAFM that the media reports were ‘unfortunate’. He went on to say that “We believe those reports are groundless. We were quite shocked when we heard that the submission made to us contained those allegations. We are not aware of those allegations.”

One would have thought that these developments would have elicited some kind of correction or apology from the newspapers involved. Far from it. On Monday 23 July, despite the abovementioned denials, the Independent newspapers carried a cartoon depicting Mr Vlok with a chicken in the form of the Rev Frank Chikane on his head, pointing to a guilt-ridden F W de Klerk – with the caption that the chickens were ‘starting to come home to roost.’ This was after Mr Vlok’s attorney had dissociated his clients from the allegations and after the NPA denial – but heck, why let details like that get in the way of a good cartoon!

Also despite these developments, Sunday Times editor Mondi Makhanya insisted on Tuesday 24 July that his paper “would stick to its guns”. He said that “We have it on solid authority that Vlok and Van der Merwe have given incriminating information to the NPA. We know the sources and we are 100 percent sure our information is rock solid.” So his sources are apparently more rock solid than General Van der Merwe, Mr Vlok themselves; their attorney who conducted the negotiations on their behalf and the NPA itself.

A modicum of basic journalism would have enabled the press to avoid an error that the Sunday Times, Business Day and the Cape Times all made: they wrote that the mindless and atrocious attack on the Rev Frank Chikane occurred after I became President. In fact, it took place in April 1989 several months before I was inaugurated.

Why then does the press continue with these allegations?

The key may I think be found in Business Day’s editorial of 25 July in which it states that those who hope that Vlok and van der Merwe’s evidence may incriminate me, may be disappointed. The key word here is ‘hope’. The reality is that there are clearly many people in the media and elsewhere who ‘hope’ that I will, after all, be revealed to be a villain. The word for hoping that harm will befall someone else is, of course, ‘malevolence’. The same ‘hope’ motivated many of the struggle zealots in the TRC. In his recent book “Rabble Rouser For Peace”, John Allen, who was closely associated with Archbishop Tutu and the TRC process confirms that there was an agenda to incriminate me. He writes of the TRC’s “frustration” at its failure to “pin responsibility for violations of human rights” on me and acknowledges “the embarrassing weakness” of its finding against me. He also acknowledges that “no evidence was ever forthcoming implicating De Klerk in violence.”

What motivates such attitudes? I have reached the conclusion that an important part of it might result from the current Manichean analysis of our history in terms of which everything and everyone from the past was irredeemably evil, while those who were on the side of the struggle were more or less good. For such people it is unacceptable that any leaders from the past could possibly have acted from worthy motives. Accordingly, I am deemed to have had no choice in making the decisions that I announced on 2 February 1990; I am supposed to have had a double agenda while I was president – supporting violence on the one hand and continuing with negotiations on the other; It is said that I had no intention of negotiating a genuine democracy, but wanted to retain a permanent white minority veto. There is no truth in any of these views.

There is also no truth in the Manichean analysis of history. The vast majority of the politicians, public servants and security force members with whom I served – including Mr Adriaan Vlok and General Johann van der Merwe – were good and honourable men and who were struggling as best they could with huge historic forces often in the most difficult circumstances. It is to their credit that they joined me in overcoming extremely well-founded fears and concerns in putting an end to the injustices of apartheid and in helping to create our new non-racial democracy.

However, the effect of the Manichean analysis of our history has been incessant attempts to strip me – and I believe the 70% of whites who supported me in the 1992 referendum – of an honourable place at the table as co-creators of the new South Africa – a place that we briefly occupied in the halcyon days between 1994 and 1996. However, after the hearings and activities of the TRC the tendency was increasingly to relegate whites to a position, morally, as second class citizens.

This, in turn, has been a factor in the growing alienation of many white South Africans. Between 800 000 and a million have emigrated since 1994; others feel increasingly disempowered in their own country. Afrikaners, in particular, perceive that their language and their schools are under threat; that they are subject to new forms of discrimination; that they are no longer participants in the processes by which they are governed – but subjects of a new form of domination. The editors of Afrikaans-language newspaper report that their letter columns are full of bitter correspondence – much of it blaming me for having ‘sold out’ the country. These attitudes are as unfair and ill-informed as the recent press attacks on me to which I now object. However, they cannot be ignored.

The answer, in my opinion, is to return to the national accord that we South Africans negotiated between 1990 and 1996 – which is articulated in our Constitution. It guarantees our legal and moral equality. It provides protection to those who fear that their rights are being ignored. It calls for us to work for equality and for a society in which all South Africans will be able to enjoy fully all the rights that the Constitution protects.

My Foundation – with its new Centre for Constitutional Rights – and I will continue to support our Constitutional values and rights – many of which are currently under pressure. However, my ability to do so is being seriously impaired by the unreasoned and unfounded attacks that elements in the press and elsewhere continue to mount against my reputation.

I have accordingly asked my attorneys to send letters to the Mail & Guardian and to the Sunday Times demanding that they either place full and prominent corrections of the unfair perceptions that their unfounded reports have generated or that they allow me sufficient prominent space to respond to them myself. My attorneys have informed them that I reserve all my rights to take whatever additional action I might deem fit. The Mail & Guardian has already accepted these terms and have invited me to write a reply in their edition next week.

I do not want to go through the whole complex explanation of my position once again in this statement – but I will be making available for the record a statement that sets out the basic positions that I have communicated so frequently – and evidently with so little success – in the past. I shall also make available to you an article that appeared in the current edition of the Financial Mail that sets out my views on amnesty as well as information brochures on the activities of the F W de Klerk Foundation and its Centre for Constitutional Rights. For those of you with access to the internet, I recommend that you visit our website at