A year ago, President F. W. de Klerk dropped a bombshell on opening the white parliament by announcing the legalization of outlawed organizations including the African National Congress. When he repeated the performance Friday, by announcing as his legislative program an end to the legal foundations of apartheid, the ANC was out in the street on a one-day national strike demanding an immediate share in political power for black people.
Scrapping old laws of residential and land ownership segregation will not make one black person richer or happier or better housed the next day. The results of generations of those laws going back to 1913 will still be in place and will remain a major subject for future, multiracial South African politics.
Yet when Mr. de Klerk said, "The South African statute book will be devoid within months of the remnants of racially discriminatory laws, which have become known as the cornerstones of apartheid," he was pushing forward his undoubted commitment to reform and change. The Conservative Party of die-hard apartheid, now the official opposition in parliament, walked out. There can be no better evidence of Mr. de Klerk's credibility.