Anti-Apartheid Activist Warned of Rich-Poor Gap

Special to the NNPA from the GIN | 5/25/2010, 11:38 a.m.

Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert, a scholar, author and former member of the anti-apartheid opposition, died this week at age 70 during treatment for liver and other problems.Before he died, he signaled the dangers of the growing gap between rich and poor. "I do know from talking to ordinary people that there is a great deal of anger at the conspicuous consumption of the new emerging elite," the former leader said in a press interview.

"The biggest gap at the moment is not between black and white, but between black and black in terms of access to economic opportunities."
Once the rugby-playing son of conservative Afrikaners, Slabbert turned towards multi-racial politics in the late 70s and 80s, opening up dialogue between Afrikaners and the exiled African National Congress.
Later, with rights advocate Alex Boraine, he helped formed the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa, known as Idasa, to organize meetings between whites and blacks in apartheid South Africa. The group is now the Institute for Democracy in Africa.

Meanwhile, in an unscheduled visit to a Johannesburg slum, President Jacob Zuma said he was nearly reduced to tears when he saw a family's living conditions in a shack he visited there. "You could swear no-one lived in that shack," Zuma told premiers and ministers at the President's Coordinating Council in Pretoria.

There is currently a 2.1 million housing backlog and more than 2,700 informal settlements.