JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa’s last apartheid president FW de Klerk on Friday accused President Jacob Zuma of using apartheid to cover his own government’s failure to tackle joblessness and poor education.
“Attempts to blame these failures on ‘apartheid’ will simply divert government and public attention from the urgent need to implement the kind of realistic solutions” needed to address spiralling social and economic woes, he said.
Wading into a fierce debate about the legacy in the country of enforced racial segregation under white minority rule, De Klerk also warned that such statements only rekindle unnecessary racial acrimony.
“They also serve intentionally or unintentionally to stir up racial animosities that we simply cannot afford,” the 77-year old Nobel Peace prize-winner said in a statement.
Zuma on Wednesday rejected a cabinet minister’s suggestion that government could no longer use apartheid as an excuse for poor public service.
“To suggest that we can’t blame apartheid for what we are doing now or for what is happening in our country, I think is a mistake, to say the least,” Zuma said.
But De Klerk said “when President Zuma says that ‘we cannot stop blaming those who caused it’, he is playing the very dangerous game of making whites the racial scapegoats for the manifest failures of his own government.”
While admitting that an unequal society existed when democracy came to South Africa in 1994, De Klerk said two decades on, the country faces unacceptably high levels of inequality.
“The fact that, 19 years later, we are an even more unequal society is the consequence of the failure of government policy.”