De klerk: end of apartheid prevented civil war

De klerk: end of apartheid prevented civil war

The abolition of the racist apartheid system 25 years ago prevented a "devastating civil war," according to sudafrica’s last white president.

Although women held all the power in sudafrica at the time, a complete break with apartheid was necessary for the sake of justice, the former head of state said in an interview with ZDF television.

South africa celebrates its 25th anniversary on saturday. Anniversary of the first free election in 1994. De klerk, 83, was awarded the nobel peace prize together with nelson mandela for the abolition of apartheid. "I believe that if we had not done what we did, there would have been a devastating civil war, we could have ended up like syria," de klerk told zdf.

The politician was a deputy and later a minister during the apartheid era, when the black majority was systematically oppressed. In 1989 he became president and began to override the system. "Apartheid was wrong. It took me a long time to fully realize this and admit that it was unjustifiable, even morally," said de klerk.

Today, however, sud africa is not the "rainbow nation" of a nation united in diversity that anti-apartheid campaigner nelson mandela aspired to, de klerk criticized. The government must right past wrongs, but in the meantime the policy of affirmative action in favor of blacks has gone too far and is in danger of being racism of a different sort, de klerk said. The majority in the country, however, is not racist and has internalized that all sud africans are in the same boat. "Anything that damages this boat will cause us all to sink"."

Sudafrica’s apartheid state came under increasing pressure from the late 1980s onward: security forces at home found it increasingly difficult to keep riots and protests under control, while foreign countries put sudafrica under pressure with harsh sanctions.

As president, de klerk then led the legalization of the black opposition and the unconditional release of mandela. Together, the two negotiated sudafrica’s transition to a democracy in which all people have the same rights. "What i liked most about him was his full commitment to reward," de klerk recalled of mandela. "What i admired most was the remarkable lack of bitterness after 27 years of captivity."

After the first free election on 27. April 1994 de klerk served in mandela’s government as vice president. 1997 he retired from politics. Mandela relinquished the presidency two years later. He died in late 2012 at the age of 95.

In sud africa today, about eight percent of the 55 million inhabitants are still women of color. On average, the white minority is still far better off than the black majority. The persistent inequality is also one of the most important issues in the upcoming parliamentary election on 8. May.

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