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The BBC's Jane Standley in Johannesburg
"Both communities are worried about what their futures hold"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
Whites reject Mbeki criticism
South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki
Mbeki sets the agenda for the fight against racism
Opposition parties in South Africa have given a cool reception to President Thabo Mbeki's appeal for an end to "the nightmare" of racism.

Opening a national conference on racism, President Mbeki warned that deep-rooted attitudes had survived the end of the apartheid era.

There is a strange time warp in the president's determination to set black and white against each other

Opposition spokeswoman Dene Smuts
And he urged the white community to recognise the reality of racism and join their fellow black citizens in creating a non-racial society.

However opposition politicians from mainly white parties rejected the suggestion that white people were slowing the process of political transformation.

Whites 'disappointed'

The four-day conference, organised by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), is aimed at addressing the gulf in wealth and opportunity between blacks and whites.

Soweto shanty town
Most black people live in slums
There is also concern about what is seen as a rise in xenophobia, with tensions between black South Africans and immigrants from neighbouring countries.

The mainly white New National Party said it was disappointed by what it perceived as Mr Mbeki's insistence that racism is caused by whites.

It accused the president of undermining the efforts of South Africa's former leader, Nelson Mandela, to bring about national reconciliation.

Apartheid laws
Land act
Restricted black settlement in rural areas
Population registration act
Assigned racial labels to everyone
Group areas act
Segregated residential areas
Pass laws
Restricted blacks' right to work in cities
Mixed marriages act
Banned inter-racial marriage
Immorality act
Banned inter-racial sex
The Freedom Front, a mainly-white Afrikaaner party, said Mr Mbeki's speech had served only to lick the wounds of the black part of the population.

The leader of the United Democratic party, Bantu Holomisa, meanwhile described the national conference on racism as a gathering of a black intelligensia that sees racism in every gesture made by whites.

He said that only an economic revolution could rid South Africa of racism.

Racial divide

The BBC's correspondent in Johannesburg, Greg Barrow, says such views will confirm some people's fears that the conference will only serve to increase the racial divide in South Africa.

Mr Mbeki's comments reflect the findings of the South African human rights commission, which heard public experiences of racism at a series of hearings earlier this year.

Few whites attended the hearings and most of the black participants gave alarming stories of racial hatred and abuse from white neighbours and employers.

Police on Tuesday began an investigation into the death of a black labourer who was allegedly chained to the back of a truck by his white employer and then dragged more than five kilometres.

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See also:

24 Aug 00 | Africa
Racism 'pervasive' in SA media
26 Jan 00 | Africa
South Africa bans discrimination
28 Aug 00 | Africa
South Africa's new racism
29 Aug 00 | Africa
Apartheid 'still alive' in SA
29 Aug 00 | Africa
SA worker dragged to death
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