Former president FW de Klerk on Monday said he respected Adriaan Vlok's apology to Frank Chikane, and wondered why Vlok's motives were being questioned.
"It is a pity that his apology has been quite widely rejected and that his motives have been unfairly questioned. The inability of many of his fellow citizens to accept even so sincere and humble an apology is an indication of the profound and unresolved differences over our past that continue to divide us," said De Klerk in a statement.
He was responding to former apartheid minister of law and order Vlok's recent decision to atone for his misdeeds by washing the feet of Chikane, now in the office of the president, but then an anti-apartheid activist.
De Klerk, recalling that his own apology for apartheid, made in 1996, was "trivialised or forgotten" said that apologies were in themselves never enough.
"The first and most important step in dealing with any transgression is to rectify the situation," said De Klerk. He added that he and the "great majority" of white South Africans did this when they initiated and supported the transformation process in the early nineties.
He said a substantial majority of white South Africans continued to support balanced transformation policies to help the disadvantaged.
However, De Klerk said that a resolution on these issues needed to be reached at some stage.
He said the current Constitution enjoined citizens to heal the divisions of the past, and reasoned that guilt or innocence could only be determined within the context of an individual's circumstances, motives and actions.
"And not on the blanket basis of membership of this or that racial group. We cannot accept a situation where some South Africans, and their children and grandchildren, continue to be regarded as morally second-class citizens, evidently in perpetuity. To do so would be to breach their most fundamental right - their right to human dignity - as enshrined in the Constitution," said De Klerk.