De Klerk predicts doom

2012-06-01 00:00

FORMER president FW de Klerk waded back into controversy yesterday when he predicted an apocalyptic future for the country, unless the ANC discarded its socialist cloak.

Blaming the ruling party for a return to racial classification, De Klerk told a gathering of property industry delegates in Durban that South Africa had reached a “tipping point” this year.

He used the same words three weeks ago during an infamous CNN broadcast to describe the moment he realised apartheid would have to be dismantled.

Interviewer Christiane Amanpour pestered De Klerk to admit that apartheid was morally repugnant, but he chose rather to defend the concept of “separate but equal” nation states, a view he has upheld since on his foundation website and in the media.

De Klerk, who was in Chicago at a summit of fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners, said apartheid collapsed because blacks rejected it as a system of justice while whites wanted too much land.

What was “morally reprehensible”, he said, was the destruction of human rights under apartheid, but not the idea of Bantustans as such. The comments caused outrage at home, and while De Klerk skirted the incident yesterday, he happily stuck the boot into the ANC.

“The next five to 10 years will determine which way our country will go, whether we will fulfil our potential or continue to slide,” said De Klerk.

A packed Hall 1 at the International Convention Centre, hosting the 44th South African Property Owners’ Association expo, heard De Klerk concede some successes to the ruling party, such as the delivery of houses.

Mostly, though, his keynote address was all about his views on the horrors of communism and the virtues of a free economy, with the right to own property at the core of such a system.

De Klerk said only a truly open economy would haul the masses out of poverty because of the incentive to own property, which he described as being “innate in humankind”. He said he saw, therefore, the worst kind of outcome in discussions by the ANC on land reform, expected to feature high on the agenda at its policy conference next month.

According to De Klerk, farmers are likely to be targeted for their land and foreign ownership of property further restricted.

If the party was serious with its considerations, he added, it would mean the eroding of property rights on the basis of race.

“The future of private property depends on its contribution to the government’s development plans and ideological stance.”

The 76-year-old former lawyer proceeded to debunk what he contended were certain myths about the lack of progress black people have made acquiring land and participating in the economy since 1994.

Quoting research by the South African Institute of Race Relations, De Klerk said claims that less than five percent of land had been transferred into black hands were false.

The figure was closer to 35%, and even more, when taking into account land owned by national government and local municipalities, he continued.

Then perhaps with reference to the CNN controversy, De Klerk added a caveat to his criticism.

“Nearly everyone accepts the need for ongoing land reform … but it must be done in a manner that is fair to farmers and will not impact on food production.”

In terms of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, De Klerk said black South Africans owned 17% of shares in the top 100 companies. And more than R2,3 trillion worth of residential property — at 56% of the population — was owned by non-whites.

These numbers, said De Klerk, sourced from various research showed the claim that no change had taken place since 1994 was “clearly wrong”, even though the white share of the economy was still “disproportionately large”.

De Klerk laboured on the point that free markets around the globe enjoy the highest living standards in general, rubbishing the government’s push for further state intervention as a solution to poverty.

“We have reached a tipping point and the question is — do we follow the road that lets us reach our potential or the road that has the capacity to devastate the hopes and dreams of our people?” he said.

In the audience was Public Protector, advocate Thuli Madonsela, who delivered a far tamer address after De Klerk, outlining the role her office plays and touching briefly on some its investigations.

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