South Africa’s former president, F.W. De Klerk on Monday retracted the controversial submission he made earlier this month saying apartheid was not a crime against humanity, and apologized to the nation.

De Klerk, 83, who was South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela in 1993 for dismantling white-minority rule and ushering in democracy.

But he sparked fury among many South Africans when he publicly denied that apartheid was a crime against humanity, despite the UN declaring it as such.

“The idea that apartheid was a crime against humanity was and remains an agitprop project initiated by the Soviets and their ANC/SACP allies to stigmatize White South Africans by associating them with genuine crimes against humanity,” he had said.

The remarks were made on February 2 in an interview with the national broadcaster, SABC and reiterated in a statement by De Klerk’s foundation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was forced to delay his annual State of the Union address after lawmakers from the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) staged a rowdy protest in parliament, demanding De Klerk be ejected from the legislature.

“It is an insult to those who died and (who were) tortured… under the instructions of De Klerk to have De Klerk sitting in a democratic parliament,” it said.

On Monday De Klerk retracted his statement and apologized for the “confusion, anger and hurt that it has caused”.

“I agree with the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation that this is not the time to quibble about the degrees of unacceptability of apartheid. It was totally unacceptable,” he said in a statement issued by his foundation.