White South Africans should continue to try and understand and acknowledge the pain and humiliation that apartheid caused black, coloured and Indian people, FW de Klerk said on Tuesday.
“At the same time, black South Africans must show greater sensitivity to our history,” said De Klerk at a function to mark his speech of Feburary 2 1990 which paved the way for the fall of the apartheid government and the National Party which enforced apartheid.
“They should not judge previous generations by the moral standards of today. History is not a simple cowboy story of good guys versus bad guys.”
He said he had apologised for apartheid in the past and the apology still stood.
“But even more important than apologies is the determination to put right what is wrong.”
De Klerk said South Africa was a creation of European imperialists and colonialists, with arbitrary boundary lines drawn by the British.
The union of 1910 gave whites a monopoly on power, which they used to protect their own interests.
He described that period as “condescending paternalism at best, naked exploitation and dispossession at worst”.
He said it was a privilege to begin the process to end the monopoly of whites on power.
He observed that the greatest problem that the modern world faced was ethnic, religious and linguistic lines.
If handled well it could lead to greater cultural diversity and enrich people’s lives, but if handled badly, it could become one of the greatest sources of instability.
He said people should not latch on to one aspect of a person’s identity and define them in that way alone.
“I am African and I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. None of these is mutually exclusive.”
“People can be all these things at the same time and people should not suffer discrimination because of any of these affiliations.”
He observed that many South Africans were living in “white bubbles”, oblivious to the problems around them. “Blacks see this as unconscious racial superiority.
The attitude of many blacks towards white South Africans is becoming harsher and more uncompromising.
“Many believe whites stole the land… and their relative prosperity is based not on hard work and enterprise.” The government openly attacked their history and their heroes, like Paul Kruger, “who ironically led one of the greatest anti-imperialist struggles in history”, said De Klerk.
“South Africans are once again perceiving peoples from other communities, not as individual human beings, but in racial stereotypes. “We simply cannot afford this racial polarisation.”
He said leaders had too call for calm and condemn racism and urge tolerance and open dialogue to gain understanding of the sources of anger, fear and hurt.