Last white president confident on S.Africa's future, warns on crime
(dpa) - South Africa's economy and civil society are strong, ensuring the country will not follow the downward spiral of Zimbabwe, Frederik Willem de Klerk, the last white president, said in an interview published in Germany Wednesday.
De Klerk, who shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with his successor as president, Nelson Mandela, predicted a period of great uncertainty and warned that crime was driving skilled whites out of the country.
But he insisted in an interview with the daily Die Welt: "The moderate centre is holding, across all racial lines."
The former president, who began dismantling apartheid on taking the helm in 1989, predicted that the dominant African National Congress (ANC) would maintain its alliance with the trade union movement and the communist party and remain in power.
He dismissed the fears of many regarding newly-elected ANC leader Jacob Zuma, a populist leader bidding to take over when President Thabo Mbeki steps down after two terms in May 2009.
ANC moderates would form a new party if Zuma took unacceptable decisions, De Klerk predicted.
De Klerk, 71, expressed criticism of ANC leaders for a "racist undertone" in some of their speeches and he was also critical of Mbeki for his criticism of South African whites.
The biggest challenge facing South Africa was reducing poverty, De Klerk said, pointing to around half the population living under the poverty level.
The highest priority had to be given to fighting crime, he said. Mbeki had recently for the first time acknowledged that crime was a serious threat.
"Now action must follow," said the former minority president, who helped manage a constitutional handover of power to a majority government under Mandela in 1994.