First Published: 2013-06-27

 

White South Africans fear ‘being thrown into sea’ after Mandela

 

Some members of once-ruling white minority fear Nelson Mandela's spirit of reconciliation may fade after his death.

 

Middle East Online

By Charlotte Plantive –JOHANNESBURG

Father of Rainbow Nation

As South Africa prepares for life without the father of the Rainbow Nation, some members of the once-ruling white minority fear Nelson Mandela's spirit of reconciliation may fade after his death.

When apartheid ended nearly two decades ago, many whites braced for the worst. Conditioned for years to be wary of the "swart gevaar" -- black threat -- they feared being thrown into the sea.

That prophecy never materialised.

When he became South Africa's first black president in 1994, Nelson Mandela closed a dark chapter of his life in prison and reached out to his former oppressors to the point of having tea with the widow of the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd.

With the father of democratic South Africa now fighting for his life in hospital, wild rumours have been flying around the Internet about what life will be like without Mandela for the white population.

"The death of Mandela could mark a turning point toward disaster," according to one article posted on the Facebook page of a group calling itself "Save the white people in South Africa".

AfriForum, a non-profit organisation that represents the interests of white Afrikaners, has received phone calls from people asking: "What's going to happen? Should they be afraid?" said its deputy chief executive Ernst Roets.

"We see people, especially on social media, saying things like 'if Mandela dies, they will kill all white people'," he said.

But their investigations find these warnings to be baseless.

"We don't think there is any reason to have that fear," Roets said.

For Esmi, a 47-year-old Afrikaner who stopped by the Pretoria hospital where Mandela is being treated, fears of blacks turning on whites after Mandela is gone are the least of her worries.

"That hasn't even crossed my mind," she said.

"Everyone is so focused on Mandela. I've got the same feeling as during the soccer in 2010 when we were all as one together. The atmosphere is more sombre but we are all for Mandela because he was good for our country."

The ruling African National Congress has also sought to calm any jitters, noting that Mandela left public office more than a decade ago and the country has not fallen into disarray.

"All the policy positions of the ANC speak to this progressive thinking of the ANC, there is nothing that says whites will be thrown into the sea," ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu told The New Age daily.

Weakened by age and his 27 years in prison, Mandela has not appeared in public for three years, which encourages hope that his eventual passing will not unleash racial tensions.

"I don't think there is anything to worry about," said Sherwin van Blerk, development manager of the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR). "We are an open society. We are a great democracy."

A bigger concern is wealth inequalities, van Blerk said.

But the line between the two is not clear. The average income of a white household is six times that of a black household, according to the latest census.

The two communities do mix but to a limited extent. Rampant crime breeds mistrust. While most of the 43 murders that happen daily take place mainly in black townships, whites are shocked by the violent burglaries in their neighbourhoods and the occasional killing of white farmers.

Independent political analyst Olmo von Meijenfeldt said fears can be fed by the "lack of a conciliatory voice at the top of the establishment".

Although President Jacob Zuma has given up singing a popular struggle song "give me my machine gun", he still sparked controversy in December when he suggested that keeping dogs was part of white culture.

With Mandela in critical condition on life support, calls are growing for his legacy of peace and tolerance to be safeguarded for future generations.

"I am not fearing for my life," said Natalie, who lives in the country's remote northeast. "But I am worrying for his legacy. People in power don't care about reconciliation."

 

Saudi King sets up new state security agency

Hezbollah launches Syria border operation

Intensifying Jihadist-rebel clashes in Syria's Idlib

Police fire tear gas to disperse Morocco protest

Foreign food chains hoping for taste of Iran market

Three Palestinians shot dead in Jerusalem

Nearly 360 injured in Turkey by magnitude 6.7 quake

UN says Saudi to blame for deadly Yemen strike on civilians

Germany reviews arms sales to Turkey

China calls for Gulf crisis talks

Israel bars men under 50 from Jerusalem Old City prayers

Rebel ambush kills 28 regime fighters near Damascus

Turkey slams 'dangerous' Cyprus energy plans

Saudi prince 'arrested over leaked abuse videos'

Israel boosts 'security measures' as Al-Aqsa tensions simmer

Kuwait expels Iranian diplomats over 'terror' cell

Germany vows to overhaul Turkey ties as row escalates

Home cooked meals a relief for fighters in Syria's Raqa

US maintains designation of Iran as top 'state sponsor'

US halting support for Syria rebels

30 civilians dead in anti-IS strikes in Syria

Palestinian civilians urge ICC to speed up probe

Turkey PM opts for stability in light cabinet reshuffle

UN aid flight carrying journalists barred from Yemen

Former IS slaves fight for revenge in Raqa

US, Iran trade tit-for-tat sanctions

20 Yemeni civilians killed in air strike

14 killed in opposition infighting in Syria's Idlib

Morocco sentences 25 to prison over W. Sahara killings

Egypt police kill top militants

Heavy rainfall hits Istanbul causing transport chaos

Palestinians protest Israeli security measures at Al-Aqsa compound

Saudi police question woman who wore miniskirt

Rebels, US-backed Kurds clash in northern Syria

Netanyahu says Hungary is 'standing up for' Israel

Lebanon army to launch operation near Syria border

Morocco delays currency reform amid speculation

Iran parliament vows to fight US 'adventurism'

4 killed in suicide car bomb at Kurdish checkpoint in Syria

Israel opposes Syria truce deal over Iran presence

Egypt to end visas on arrival for Qatari citizens

Erdogan to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia

Turkey court refuses to free six rights activists

Trump keeps Iran deal, but sanctions will stay in place

UAE FM warns Qatar is 'undermining' GCC allies