The majority of South Africans dislike apartheid and the country is making rapid progress toward abolishing official racial discrimination, South Africa's ambassador to the United States said Monday.
Ambassador Piet Koornhof spoke briefly with reporters before leaving Utah. He had spent the weekend visiting officials from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, meeting church missionaries destined for his country and meeting with Gov. Norm Bangerter.The visit was purely for pleasure, Koornhof said. He had never been to Utah and longed to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing. He insisted he was not here to woo investments from any Utah companies.
But Koornhof was more than happy to talk about his country's racial problems and to defend what he called the progress made in recent years.
He acknowledged that white extremists are strongly opposed to racial equality. "But their voice is a voice of a small minority. They no longer represent the views of the mainstream of society," he said.
Black extremists also are causing problems, Koornhof said. They believe change must come through violence.
He cited a recent opinion poll done by a South African newspaper showing 75 percent of the country's residents believe blacks should be represented in government. He noted that the Dutch Reformed Church recently announced that discrimination is contrary to the teachings of the Bible.
"That indicated a change of heart, a change of mind and a change of very deep feelings in our society," Koornhof said. "If there are successes for the people going for the middle of the road, as the government is trying to do, then there is no way those on the right or the extreme left can win."
He urged the news media to be patient and said his government does believe in the principles of a free press.
The government has imposed severe restrictions against reporters trying to cover unrest in South Africa. Koornhof said those restrictions were necessary to avoid fueling violence that could have caused a revolution.
In his meeting with Bangerter, Koornhof urged the governor to visit South Africa and praised the many LDS Church missionaries who have proselytized in his country.
"We say we can't make any better investment than to get people to come there and see for themselves," Koornhof said.
He attended a Tabernacle Choir concert Sunday. "That was really an event for me," he said. "There is greatness there. The glory that comes from it (the choir) is great and immense."