CAPE TOWN October 28 1998 - SAPA


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has decided to delete its criticism of FW de Klerk, South Africa's former state president, from the final draft of the TRC report which is to be released on Thursday.

In a statement on Wednesday, TRC chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the 11th-hour decision was taken because of De Klerk's planned urgent application in the Cape Town High Court on Wednesday afternoon - to stop the TRC publishing a finding that he was an accessory after the fact to the bombing of Khotso House and Cosatu House in the 1980s - and did not report this to the police.

De Klerk allegedly became aware that former police commissioner Johan van der Merwe and former law and order minister Adriaan Vlok were involved in the bombings.

He has contended that he did not go the police because the two men were in the process of applying to the TRC for amnesty.

"Our contemplated finding on Mr de Klerk had been included in our final draft to our printers - as were all our contemplated findings. This was done in part because of the enormous pressure from the public and the media to have the report available for release tomorrow," Tutu explained.

"However, senior counsel has advised us that if they are to present our defence adequately to the court, they need time to prepare properly for the case, bearing in mind that the documents filed exceed 2500 pages."

"We have therefore instructed our lawyers to approach the court later this afternoon, to ask for a postponement of the matter for some weeks, if possible by agreement with Mr de Klerk's lawyers."

Tutu said the TRC was due to make a decision on its finding in relation to De Klerk at a meeting on Tuesday.

"However, his application for an interdict prevented us from doing this - it would have been wrong in law for us to press ahead when the contemplated finding was before the court," Tutu said.

"As a consequence of our inability to make a finding, we have instructed our printers to excise the contemplated finding on Mr de Klerk from the copy of the report that will be handed to the president tomorrow."

Tutu said it was with very great reluctance that he had agreed to request a postponement and the resultant decision not to finalise the commission's finding in relation to De Klerk at this stage.

"It upsets me deeply. We have been scrupulously fair to Mr de Klerk and we reject the contention that we have been engaged in a vendetta against him. But we must and will respect the courts and his rights under the Constitution. We fought hard for those rights, and we can be proud in South Africa that Mr de Klerk now shares in them," he concluded.

South African Press Association, 1998
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