There's just no pleasing some people. Like the extremists of both the right and left who keep sniping at President F.W. de Klerk despite the sweeping progress he is making toward ridding South Africa of apartheid.

This week a giant step was taken when de Klerk announced plans to scrap South Africa's remaining race laws - those classifying everyone by race, segregating housing and reserving most farmland for whites.But that wasn't good enough for white rightists, who fear the loss of their inordinate privileges, or for hardline blacks, who seem to resent any progress for which they cannot claim at least some credit.

True, South Africa won't have gone as far as it can and should until it also scraps the laws that keep blacks, who compose 75 per cent of the population, from voting for the white-dominated parliament now composed of whites, ethnic Indians and mixed-race "coloreds."

Even so, de Klerk's new proposals are bound to be rubber-stamped by parliament, dominated by his National Party. These reforms set South Africa on a course that cannot be reversed without a major bloodbath. It is a course that seems bound to generate still more progress toward racial justice.

The biggest remaining obstacle to further progress is not the white majority government but the threat of continued violence that involves blacks killing other blacks.

Since 1986, fighting between the rival Xhosa and Zulu factions of South Africa's black community has claimed 5,000 lives, including 1,000 in just the past six months. With this week's peace meeting between Nelson Mandela and Chief Buthelezi, the groundwork has been laid for overcoming the deep-rooted hatreds between the major tribes. But there are limits to how much real progress can be made until Mandela renounces not only violence but also the communism with which he has long been allied.

In short, there are new reasons to be hopeful about the future of South Africa. But the road ahead for this troubled country remains long and hard.