S. Africa’s De Klerk warns on ‘racially divisive path’
South Africa is at the crossroads between moving in a "racially divisive" direction or a pragmatic, inclusive path under the ruling ANC, former president FW De Klerk said Saturday.
“Are we still at the tipping point? I think we’re still at the crossroads,” De Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid leader, told a conference organised by his foundation.
“Time will tell which of these tendencies will win out in the end. Time will tell which of these two conflicting approaches will have the victory within the internal debate of the ANC.”
South Africa is in a “volatile stage in the development of our young democracy,” he said.
Two approaches by the African National Congress (ANC) to tackle economic and social problems offer different routes for the country, he said.
A policy to narrow still gaping inequalities as part of what the ANC calls its national democratic revolution would result in an “increasingly ideological and racially divisive path”, De Klerk said.
This includes moves toward a greater state role in the economy, notably in mining, and a speeding up of lagging land reforms.
But the party has also given the nod to a comprehensive development plan with proposals for addressing the country’s challenges.
De Klerk said this offered a “pragmatic, inclusive and rational basis for discussions about our future”.
De Klerk said the ANC in December and President Jacob Zuma in a speech last month had leaned in both directions.
“It opened with repeated and inflammatory references to the depredations of apartheid which appeared to be considerably consciously aimed at stirring up racial grievances and more insistent demands for restitution,” he said of Zuma’s speech.
The racist legacy is also blamed for poverty, inequality and joblessness, and not the policies and actions of the past 18 years of democracy, he added.
However, he said Zuma had also urged pragmatic steps, such as defending the constitution, vigilance against corruption and uniting behind the development plan, which has been adopted as “the primary blueprint for the future”.
De Klerk said few South Africans would disagree with the development plan’s vision or its stated challenges.
De Klerk released Nelson Mandela from 27 years of prison in 1990, four years before the anti-apartheid hero became South Africa’s first black president.