‘The country's development hinges on the race debate’

Mmusi Maimane says the rainbow nation that was tolerant of diversity in 1994 has taken steps backwards.

FILE: Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Democratic Alliance(DA) leader Mmusi Maimane says the national debate around race and race relations is currently the most pressing issue that could hamper the country's development.

Maimane delivered a speech on racism and his experience growing up in an undemocratic South Africa at the Apartheid Museum earlier today.

He says the rainbow nation that was tolerant of diversity in 1994 has taken steps backwards and insists it's now vital to have the uncomfortable conversations.

"As a black South African, we are entitled to ask uncomfortable questions. We are entitled to askā€¦ why is it that today, 21 years on, a black child is a hundred times more likely than a white child to grow up in poverty."

Political analyst Daniel Silke says Maimane's speech was a step in the right direction.

"I think at the very least he would have bought the DA some breathing space within the broader South African political debate; and I think that's what he achieved with the statement today."

WATCH: Maimane: The DA has no place for racists

The DA leader also says racist views on social media are merely the tip of the iceberg and inherent racism will only stop when it's tackled inside every home.

Maimane says South Africa is regressing from former President Nelson Mandela's ideals of a non-racial society.

He says the colour of a person's skin still determines their fate in life.

"Part of the problem is that we, as black South Africans, are still made to feel inferior because of the colour of our skin."

Maimane says he believes racism is rifer behind closed doors and inside people's homes.

"If you are thinking of voting for the DA and you are a racist, please don't vote for us."