Speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on Wednesday night, former apartheid-era president FW de Klerk expressed his view that there was a double standard when it came to how racial issues were handled in South Africa.
“We are observing a disturbing escalation of aggressive racial rhetoric punctuated by ugly incidents such as the recent victimisation of a young teacher in Schweizer-Reneke and the invasion of a primary school by an angry mob,” he said.
“There is no balance in the manner in which racist remarks and incidents are judged. Foolish and unacceptable racist remarks by one [nonentity], not intended for public dissemination, are treated far more harshly than incendiary remarks made in public by political leaders openly calling for racial violence.”
De Klerk served as South Africa’s last state president during apartheid, and whose government dismantled the system and facilitated the negotiations that led to the country’s first democratic elections. He received the joint Nobel Peace Prize alongside Nelson Mandela in 1993.
When he speaks of “foolish and unacceptable racist remarks by one [nonentity]” he could be referring to any one of the many incidents in 2018 where white people were exposed for racism. For instance Adam Catzavelos, who found himself at the centre of outrage after casually using the “k-word” while on a beach holiday, or Vicki Momberg, who became the first person to be jailed for the slur after using it 48 times when speaking to police after she was a victim of a smash-and-grab. Momberg was sentenced to an effective two years in jail, but has since been granted bail and leave to appeal.
It is also possible he was referring to Andile Mngxitama when he spoke of “incendiary remarks made in public by political leaders openly calling for racial violence”.
A video clip showing the Black First Land First (BLF) president threatening that he and his followers would kill white people and their pets, and calling for five white people to be killed for every black person killed, inspired several organisations to charge him with hate speech.
Mngixtama said he had been speaking in the context of “self-defence” and was being misunderstood and taken out of that supposed context.
BLF has repeatedly called for De Klerk, who is 82 years old, to be jailed.
(Additional reporting by Charles Cilliers)