Mbeki called for more blacks to enter the judiciary
Mbeki: Anti-apartheid change slow
Monday, December 16, 2002 Posted: 8:31 AM EST (1331 GMT)
STELLENBOSCH, South Africa (AP) -- President Thabo Mbeki bemoaned the slow pace of change in post-apartheid South Africa, saying Monday that whites still dominate the country's economy and judiciary after nearly nine years of democratic rule.
"We must admit that, in many critical respects, we still have a long way to go before we achieve the goal of creating a non-racial society," Mbeki said in a wide-ranging address opening his ruling African National Congress' party convention.
"The bulk of our economy, including the land, remains predominantly white-owned. Wealth, income, opportunity and skills continue to be distributed according to racial patterns."
The more than 3,000 delegates attending the conference, dressed in the ANC's yellow, black and green colours, included just a handful of whites. The delegates are to elect new leaders and debate government policy, but no major change in strategy is expected from the five-day gathering.
Mbeki, 60, a British-trained economist who succeeded Nelson Mandela as president in 1999, is expected to be re-elected unopposed as party leader for a second five-year term.
He urged the party to focus on combating widespread poverty more effectively, and said blacks should have greater access to the judiciary, which remains dominated by apartheid-era magistrates.
Delegates also had to seek ways to combat terrorism, fight corruption and address political turmoil in neighbouring Zimbabwe, Mbeki said.
His two-hour speech contained just two passing references to the rampant AIDS epidemic, widely regarded as the country's most pressing problem.
An estimated 4.7 million South Africans -- one in nine -- is HIV positive, one of the worst infection rates in the world. The government has been widely accused of failing to adequately combat the epidemic.
In recent months, the government has allocated more money for anti-AIDS programs. But Mbeki, who has questioned the link between HIV and AIDS, still rarely addresses the issue.
His speech was interrupted when Mandela's arrival in the conference hall prompted delegates to break into a song praising the popular former president, who is now a leading anti-AIDS campaigner.
The timing and venue of this week's conference is tinged with irony. It takes places at the University of Stellenbosch, where all of apartheid South Africa's presidents were educated. It is widely regarded as the intellectual cradle and heartland of Afrikaner nationalism.
Delegates are meeting in the D.F. Malan Memorial Hall, erected in honour of one of apartheid's architects with funding from the National Party. Blacks were confined to the margins of society and denied the vote during the party's 1948-1994 rule.
"The names Stellenbosch and D.F. Malan represent particular periods in the history of our country," Mbeki said. "The fact that we are meeting here today sends out a powerful message ... that the people of South Africa have made the common determination that our country belongs to all who live in it, black and white."