Introductory comments by F W de Klerk in anticipation of the F W de Klerk Foundation Bosberaad, Grande Roche Hotel, Paarl, 19 January 2001


At the outset, I should like to stress the informal, unstructured and off-the-record nature of the bosberaad.   We want no publicity and I would respectfully ask that none of us should speak with the media about the fact, nature or content of the bosberaad.


Our foundation’s focus is the promotion of harmonious relations in multicultural countries such as our own.  We are particularly interested in identifying those approaches that  enable different communities to coexist peacefully and we also want to examine the causes of inter-communal tension and conflict.  We do this because most of the conflict in the world today has its roots in disputes between communities within the same countries and no longer between countries themselves.  Also, the future success of our own country depends on our ability to maintain positive relations between our many diverse communities.


It was because of our concerns over recent developments in race relations in South Africa that we decided to hold this bosberaad – and particularly because of growing criticism of, and uncertainty about, the role of white South Africans.  These concerns arise from


White concerns and demoralisation have grown apace.  Many are disillusioned with the new South Africa which most enthusiastically welcomed in 1994.  Because of the above-mentioned factors many whites no longer feel truly welcome in their own country or represented in the institutions by which they are governed.   They are increasingly  concerned about



These developments and perceptions have led to a growing sense of alienation among many whites.  Because of this, many are withdrawing into their own communities; others are encouraging their children to acquire international qualifications; and emigration has increased. These responses, in turn, add to black perceptions of white insensitivity and lack of commitment to the country.


In my view there is no room for complacency.   Whether or not we agree with the ‘two nations’ analysis, there can be no doubt that it represents the perception of the Government and underlies many of its transformation policies.   Also, we would be foolish to ignore the historic reality that privileged ethnic minorities have traditionally presented attractive targets, particularly in times of economic hardship.


One of the key problems is that although whites are frequently addressed and targeted as a group (President Mbeki, TRC, Racism Conference, Home for All initiative) they do not in fact constitute a coherent group and also probably do not want to be regarded as such. For this reason the response from whites to the above-mentioned developments – has mostly been fragmented and ad hoc and consequently relatively ineffective.


The purpose of this bosberaad then is to consider this situation as well as the following questions:



After careful consideration, we decided not to include representatives of other communities in these discussions at this stage.  We have accordingly invited a cross section of leaders from various sections of the ‘white’ communities to assist us with these deliberations.  A next step would be to involve leaders from other communities.


The participants are:



We will start off by inviting all our participants to make short introductory statements that should not exceed ten minutes.  I would like to suggest, without being prescriptive, that the above questions be addressed in such opening statements, maybe from the perspective of the following topics:



The first session will last until lunch at 1:00 pm.  I hope that the various contributions will elicit keen discussion at the lunch table and will whet our appetites for the afternoon session, in respect of which I will submit a draft proposal towards the end of the morning session.


It is my sincere hope that our discussions will be solution orientated.  We need to become more focussed in our development of action plans and strategies, rather than on open ended problem analysis.