President Cyril Ramaphosa is worried about deteriorating race relations in the country but believes this is a "great opportunity" for the ANC to regain its non-racial character.
"The ANC believes South Africa belongs to all who live in it. The Freedom Charter is clear," he told a group of editors during a briefing with the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) in Cape Town on Thursday.
Asked whether he was concerned about relations between different race groups in South Africa following a number of well publicised incidents of racism, Ramaphosa said one of the ANC's biggest weaknesses was the fact that it has lost its "non-racial character".
All racial groups should feel at home in the country, and feel that they have a role to play, he said.
Message for white South Africans
The president had a specific message for white South Africans: "We should accept what had happened in the past where a particular racial group reaped the benefits, economic and other. They must own up and say, 'therefore we have a responsibility to contribute so that we can build a new nation from the ashes of apartheid'."
Asked about the role played by the now defunct British PR firm Bell Pottinger to sow racial division to the benefit of the Gupta and Zuma families, Ramaphosa said Bell Pottinger attempted to "poison the atmosphere".
Bell Pottinger, on brief from the Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane, engineered the so-called "white monopoly capital (WMC)" campaign whereby journalists, politicians and activists opposing state capture were labelled agents of WMC on social media platforms.
Ramaphosa said the ANC had to assist the country in ridding itself from the "poison that Bell Pottinger tried to propagate".
All groups should feel valued in South Africa, and diversity must be applauded. Racial polarisation was "anti-ANC and militates against the Constitution," Ramaphosa said.
City Press editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya urged Ramaphosa to "rise above the noise" and do something about racial polarisation, which he described as "very bad".