Former president FW de Klerk File photo: Michael Walker

Cape Town - FW de Klerk, who with Nelson Mandela won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, speaks about democracy in South Africa, the country's role in the continent and its future challenges.

Many South African leaders are not following the example of Nelson Mandela and see government office as a “means to self-enrichment,” says Frederik Willem de Klerk, the country's former president who brokered the end of apartheid.

As South Africa marks the 20th anniversary of its democracy in April, de Klerk tells dpa about his country's democracy, its role in Africa and future challenges.

He answered the questions in writing.

dpa: How much is the idea of a truly democratic political system with a strong rule of law rooted in the political elite of South Africa and among the people of the country?

De Klerk: South Africa has been a constitutional democracy for only 20 years. Our democratic political system is slowly taking root, but it will take some time for it to reach full fruition in the hearts and minds of all South Africans.

This will require higher levels of education and tangible evidence that the system is effectively improving the lives of all South Africans. It will also require programmes to inform South Africans about how the system works and how it protects the rights of all our citizens.

dpa: Is there still a realistic worst-case scenario for the near future of South Africa ending in dramatic instability within a decade and jeopardizing the existence of the white community in the country as we know it today?

De Klerk: Things can go badly wrong in any country and some futurists claim that there is a 25-per-cent chance that South Africa might become a failed state. However, I am confident that if we abide by our constitution, prospects for the future will be good.

I do not believe that there will be any developments that might jeopardize the existence of the white community in South Africa - or of any other community.

South Africans have shown in the past that they have the ability to work together to confront challenges and I am confident that, should the need arise, they will be able to do so again in the future.

dpa: How much does the ANC nowadays live the political and historical legacy of Nelson Mandela?

De Klerk: There are, unfortunately, far too many leaders who are not following the example set by Nelson Mandela. There is an unseemly tendency among too many leaders to see government office as a means to self-enrichment rather than as an opportunity to serve the public.

This is the antithesis of Nelson Mandela's approach.

dpa: Does South Africa meet the expectations concerning its role in Africa as a continent?

De Klerk: In some important respects, South Africa continues to play an exemplary role in Africa. It is a functioning democracy with regular elections, free institutions and independent courts. It has by far the largest and most sophisticated economy on the continent.

It has also played a constructive role within the African Union and in peacekeeping operations in Africa.

However, in some other respects, it has failed to meet expectations: Economic growth should be higher; unemployment should be lower; given the resources that it commits to education, it should have the best education system on the continent - instead, it is one of the worst; unemployment is far too high and South Africa has made little or no progress in combating inequality.

We would also have hoped that the South African government would have made greater progress in combating corruption and in maintaining higher standards of integrity and effectiveness in government. - Sapa-dpa