KwaZulu-Natal Premier S'bu Ndebele says that most white people are still battling to come to grips with centuries of "ingrained racism", and have yet to embrace the concept of reconciliation.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Mercury on Tuesday, Ndebele said this was evident in the uproar over the renaming of streets in Durban, which had brought many old wounds to the surface.

He said that in many quarters, the concept of reconciliation was regarded as "blacks to be reconciled with their continued oppression", and not about whites and blacks reaching out and forgiving each other.

"The consciousness that we are also human beings is not there," he said.

Recounting his own experiences at the hands of apartheid security forces, Ndebele said that while there was an outcry over the renaming process, the heartache suffered by the majority during apartheid was easily dismissed and there was a feeling that "blacks have no right to be angry".

Ndebele questioned why Durban remained the most colonial of all South African cities, saying that "if you land in Edinburgh (Scotland) or if you land in Durban, (there is) no difference" if one looked at the street names.

He said Duncan Mackenzie Drive in Pietermaritzburg also evoked chilling memories for blacks.

He said Mackenzie was regarded as the best shot in the country, and had used his gift to kill blacks during the Bambatha rebellion and other wars.

Ndebele questioned why people who had voted for the ANC had to constantly be reminded of a man who had probably killed their grandfathers.

The premier said that while many, like former president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, spoke about reconciliation, it was a process that could only occur between people who were regarded as equals, and this was not how blacks were viewed by most whites.

He said the general attitude among whites was one of: "Who do you think you are for forgiving me?" and that even the memory of their oppression was forbidden.

Ndebele said there was a huge difference between "amnesty and amnesia" and that "white people, in general, need liberation".

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