Leon Wessels: On racism and hope for the future

Leon Wessels became one of the big symbols of reconciliation. He was one of the negotiators of the National Party and played a major role in bridging the racial divides and bringing south Africa back from the brink during the pre-1994 negotiations.

He is now director at the Centre for Human Rights at University of Free State and joins Melanie Verwoerd (standing in for John Maytham) on the line about the spate of racist incidents and the importance of building a society that understands its history in order to move forward in a positive way.

I believe for a number of years now we have been aware of the fact that we are not where we would like to be.

Leon Wessels, director at the Centre for Human Rights at University of Free State

What we've seen this year is a number of incidents which grabbed the headlines, but for a very, very long time now we have not been well. To put it bluntly, we've been pretty ill in this regard.

Leon Wessels, director at the Centre for Human Rights at University of Free State

What disturbs me is to see the number of young people involved in these incidents...like the Waterkloof 4.

Leon Wessels, director at the Centre for Human Rights at University of Free State

He says after 1994 the two things that were never dealt with properly were the issues of inequality and race.

Both of them are deeply rooted in our society.

Leon Wessels, director at the Centre for Human Rights at University of Free State

The country needs to build social cohesion he says, and though finger pointing is not helpful there is a greater onus on whites because of the privilege they have enjoyed.

He says civil society has a big role to play.

Listen to Leon Wessels in a conversation about race below:

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