The video was “a last-minute revision of history” and Mr. de Klerk’s self-conscious attempt to preserve his legacy as the hero who released Mr. Mandela from jail, said Sithembile Mbete, a senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria.
“The more tragic part of F.W. de Klerk’s death is that he dies with so many secrets,” said Ms. Mbete.
Among those secrets is any knowledge of the planning that led to the murder of the “Cradock Four,” four activists killed in 1985 by state security forces as violence roiled in the last years of apartheid, analysts and relatives of the victims said.
“He takes all of that knowledge with him, and it deprives us of the truth and closure of the deaths of the Cradock Four,” said Lukhanyo Calata, the son of one of those activists. While their families refused to engage with Mr. de Klerk directly, they pushed for him to reveal any information that could have led to a trial, and demanded in vain that prosecutors compel him to do so.
“If he’d said, ‘I apologize and this is what I am now going to do with my assets, with my foundation, this is how I am going to speak up for the people who were the victims on my watch, I will account for my part’ — but there was nothing of that at all,” said Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest and anti-apartheid activist who lost both of his hands when he opened a letter bomb sent by the apartheid regime’s security forces in 1990.
“No matter how much he acknowledged that apartheid was a mistake, he refused to come to terms with it as a gross human rights violation, as an atrocity,” said Mac Maharaj, an anti-apartheid activist who participated in the negotiations to dismantle the system.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the current president of South Africa, who led those negotiations on behalf of the African National Congress, was more gracious, lauding Mr. de Klerk’s “key role in ushering in democracy” in South Africa.