JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- President Frederik de Klerk announced Friday plans to scrap South Africa's remaining race laws, drawing praise from officials abroad and liberals and conservative blacks at home, but outrage from white rightists and more protests from hardline blacks.
'The ending of apartheid and the repeal of these last remaining discriminatory laws will bring us to the end of an era,' De Klerk said in his speech to the Opening of Parliament, prompting a mass walkout by rightwing opposition legislators.
Should the all-white parliament pass the intended legislation, considered a formality, 'the South African statute book will be devoid within months of the remnants of racially discriminatory legislation which have become known as the cornerstones of apartheid,' de Klerk said.
De Klerk said his legislation would repeal the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936 that reserve more than 87 percent of land for whites, and the Group Areas Act of 1966 and the related Development of Black Communities Act of 1984, which determine where races may live.
He also called for repeal of the Population Registration Act of 1950, under which people are classified by race at birth. He said there would be certain 'temporary transitional measures' until a post-apartheid constitution is implemented.
He said his legislation would guarantee human rights to all people, including the right to participate in government, and and assure a non- segregated education system.
His speech came exactly one year after he launched his program of racial reforms and cleared away most remaining obstacles to substantive power-sharing negotiations with the black majority.
In an interview over the Cable News Network, Nobel Prize-winning Episcopal Archbishop Desmond Tutu said 'there were many very positive points' in the speech but that de Klerk did not go far enough.
Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the leading black anti-apartheid movement, the African National Congress, had no immediate comment but the ANC's members joined those of most other black anti-apartheid groups with continuing protests, marches and strikes.
British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd 'strongly welcomed' de Klerk's speech and said the process of racial reform is clearly irreversible, the South African Broadcasting Corp. reported.
'It's a highly positive step ... to be greatly welcomed,' said the leader of the liberal Democratic Party in the all-white House of Assembly, Zach de Beer.
Pretoria was 'eagerly' awaiting official reaction from Washington, one government official noted, hoping the reforms would eliminate the 5- year-old U.S. trade sanctions.
State Department spokeswoman Margeret Tutwiler called de Klerk's announcement 'historic' and 'further evidence of (his) courageous statesmanship.' She said the reforms would make it more likely that the sanctions would be lifted.
She said the only remaining condition to be met would be the release of all remaining political prisoners.
The reforms 'all amount to a significant move forward,' said Mangosuthu Buthelezi, president of the conservative all-Zulu Inkatha Movement.
The reforms were also praised by leaders of the Asian and mixed-race (colored) chambers of the racially segregated three-chamber Parliament.
But they prompted a mass walkout by the Official Opposition Conservative Party.
'The speech was scandalous. It's the end of white rights in the country,' the leader of the white-supremacist Conservatives, Andries Treurnicht, said later.
Hardline black leader Clarence Makwetu, president of the militantly anti-apartheid Pan Africanist Congress, said the government remained in white hands and de Klerk 'obviously wants to control the process of change without blacks being involved.'
Tens of thousands of blacks, under the umbrella of the ANC and PAC, staged mass marches and strikes across South Africa to press their demand for full power sharing and not just an end to certain discriminatory laws.
Inaktha was the only black anti-apartheid movement to boycott the protests, arguing that they are excessive and unnecessary.
The demonstrations were felt throughout the country.
'Let this be the last whites-only Parliament,' Walter Sisilu, internal leader of the ANC, told a crowd of more than 15,000 before they marched on Parliament in Cape Town.
'Nothing less than a say in how the country is run is enough,' he said, referring to ANC demand that the government resign and allow a Constituent Assembly of all races to precede a formal post-apartheid constitution.
De Klerk has said any new constitution must be the subject of full- scale negotiations and has ruled out an interim government.
More than 5,000 blacks marched in the Indian Ocean port city of Durban and thousands more did in Port Elizabeth and the conservative central city of Bloemfontein.
A one-day strike brought many businesses in major cities to a halt. Commuter trains were nearly empty in several cities. A number of cities, including Port Elizabeth, temporarily closed certain essential municipal services.
During the speech, dozens of members of the white-supremacist Conservative Party shouted angrily at de Klerk and then streamed out of the House of Assembly.
'This is a disgrace ... a disgrace,' muttered Conservative leader Andries Treurnicht in the lobby of the Parliament.
In an interview from Cape Town with the Cable News Network, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said 'there were many very positive points' in the speech but added that the South African leader's proposals did not go far enough.
While de Klerk was speaking, thousands of black anti-apartheid activists nationwide were staging mass marches and strikes to press their demand for an immediate end to white minority rule and not just a scrapping of discriminatory laws. More than 8,000 people marched on Parliament.
'Demonstrators who disrupt the public, harm individuals and undermine the economy are not engaged in democratic activities,' de Klerk said in his speech, which also cleared away most remaining obstacles to substantive talks with the black opposition on ending white minority rule.
African National Congress Deputy President Nelson Mandela had insisted thee protests, dubbed 'mass action,' would go ahead until the government agreed to resign and make way for a temporary legislature of all races to precede a post-apartheid Parliament.
Mandela has demanded an end to segregationist laws as well as so- called security legislation, which gives police wide-ranging powers of search and arrest. De Klerk made no mention of these laws, and also praised the security forces for their handling of black facitonal violence.
But he pledged to follow through with action once the discriminatory laws were scrapped and address problems caused by decades of apartheid rule.
'Much more is necessary than the mere repeal of discriminatory legislation,' de Klerk said. 'At the same time, provision will have to be made for the protection of rights and of making land ownership accessible,' he said, referring particularly to the fact that the white minority owns most of the nation's land.