Former president FW De Klerk speaks at a Cape Town Press Club luncheon at Kelvin Grove. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Former president FW de Klerk says South Africa can no longer be regarded as a non-racial society.

“It is probably once again one of the most racially dirigiste societies in the world – a society in which the prospects of individuals are once again increasingly determined by the colour of their skin rather than the content of their character,” De Klerk said.

He was speaking at the Cape Town Press Club earlier in the week, where he told delegates that the country was seeing increasing racial intolerance.

“We are observing a disturbing escalation of aggressive racial rhetoric punctuated by ugly incidents – such as the recent victimisation of a young teacher in Schweizer-Reneke and the invasion of a primary school by an angry mob. 

“There is no balance in the manner in which racist remarks and incidents are judged: foolish and unacceptable racist remarks by white non-entities – not intended for public dissemination – are treated far more harshly than incendiary remarks made in public by political leaders openly calling for racial violence,” he said.

De Klerk said government had virtually abandoned the great tradition of promoting racial reconciliation that was exemplified by Nelson Mandela.

“It is extremely dangerous when governments and political leaders in multicultural societies begin to propagate such stereotypes – particularly when the propagators often believe them with incandescent intensity. 

“Such attitudes create space for even more radical elements to sweep up racial tensions and increase the danger of a serious racial incident with all the dreadful and irreparable consequences that would ensue.” 

De Klerk said the country was fortunate that Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as president of the ANC and subsequently of the country: “I believe that he is sincere in his efforts to restore the integrity of state institutions.”

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Cape Argus