It should be treasonous to deny that apartheid was a crime against humanity, President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the start of his response to the debate on his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Ramaphosa took to the podium in the National Assembly for the second time in a week, following two days of debate.
In his first public response since former deputy president FW de Klerk caused a national outcry last week when he said apartheid was not a crime against humanity, Ramaphosa tackled the issue head on.
He began by reading the preamble of the Constitution - which says South Africans are united in their diversity - and said it acknowledged where South Africans came from but described the society they wanted to build.
It cannot be denied that apartheid was inherently a crime against humanity, Ramaphosa said.
He said the United Nations - the "family of nations" - which declared apartheid a crime against humanity, would not be hoodwinked where a "great crime has been committed against the majority" of South Africans.
He added that apartheid was so immoral and devastating that every living South African was still affected by it.
"To deny this, is treasonous," he said to applause.
Ramaphosa also said the government's goal was to build a society that was the antithesis of apartheid - a multi-racial society.
He said for him, non-racialism wasn't the product of the negotiations, but an "unmutable principle that defines our democratic nation".
The topic of apartheid as a crime against humanity reared its head when De Klerk first made the comments in an interview with SABC a week before the SONA that he wouldn't agree that apartheid was a crime against humanity comparable to genocide.
After the EFF unsuccessfully insisted that he be removed from last Thursday's SONA, the FW de Klerk Foundation issued a statement the next day in which is also denied that apartheid was a crime against humanity, saying that the idea was the outcome of a Soviet propaganda campaign.
Following a mass outcry, the foundation withdrew and apologised for the statement. It said it supported the International Criminal's Court provision that apartheid was a crime against humanity.
Ramaphosa didn't mention De Klerk by name.
The reply continued.