Silent majority must speak out against racism - De Klerk

2016-02-02 15:40
The last apartheid-era president FW de Klerk. (Jenni Evans, News24)

The last apartheid-era president FW de Klerk. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - If FW de Klerk did give leadership lessons, he would ask political leaders not to feed racism.

"The present political leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, should avoid utterances which actively feed racism," said De Klerk on the sidelines of a conference marking his historic speech on February 2 1990, in which he announced the unbanning of the ANC and the SACP, and promised to free Nelson Mandela from jail.

The Mail & Guardian reported last week that De Klerk was giving DA leader Mmusi Maimane leadership lessons - a claim both have denied.

De Klerk, who was the last apartheid president, and co-winner with Nelson Mandela of the Nobel Peace Prize, said it was time for the "silent majority" to stand up against hate speech and racism that was dividing the country.

"We dare not allow that the debate is dictated by extremists on the left and right, black and white.

"I don't think it's the majority. The majority want South Africa to succeed," he said.

"If there ever was a time for the silent majority to stand up, it is now."

At the beginning of the year, Twitter and Facebook feeds buzzed with angry debates sparked by KwaZulu-Natal woman Penny Sparrow calling black people "monkeys" in a post complaining about beach litter.

The post put wind in the sails of a growing movement pointing out instances where racism is still firmly entrenched in South African society, in spite of the fall of the apartheid administration.

An ANC supporter and Gauteng department of arts and culture employee, Velaphi Khumalo, was also rounded on for allegedly posting that white people should be killed.

Media personality Gareth Cliff also entered the fray with a comment that people didn't understand free speech, and found himself axed from his position as a judge of talent show Idols.

He has since won a court case compelling M-Net to reinstate him.

The foundation named after De Klerk has already taken issue with comments on social media by reporting 45 tweets it believes incite extreme violence against white South Africans to the SA Human Rights Council.

De Klerk said Sparrow's comments were clearly racist, but were not a majority view.

But passing a law against racism would be dangerous because of the broad definition of racism.

Current laws against hate speech were enough, he said.

"I think we will be on very thin ice to make laws on racism."

De Klerk was expected to deliver his address at 15:00.

Read more on:    fw de klerk  |  racism

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