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."

 

Libya jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

Images emerge of Manchester bomber as runners defy threat

Iran leader launches fierce attack on ‘milking cow’ Saudis

Jordan gearing up for another Ramadan with refugees

Syria girls escape war with Snow White

Egypt’s left-wing parties start searching for Sisi competitor

US urged to keep track of its Iraq arms supply

Qatar risks US sanctions over support for Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood

US-Turkish relations go from bad to worse

Egypt hits jihadists as IS claims deadly attack on Christians

Britain arrests two more in Manchester attack probe

Turkey charges opposition newspaper staff

Death toll in Tripoli clashes reaches 52

Hundreds of migrants rescued in major operation off Libya

Palestinians end mass hunger strike in Israel jails

Egypt Christians bury victims with tears, anger

Ramadan in Libya: little cash, much violence

UN braces for up to 200,000 Iraqis to flee Mosul

Iraq forces launch broad attack on IS holdouts in Mosul

Civilians flee IS-held Syria cities after deadly strikes

At least 28 dead in Tripoli clashes

UN says nations bombing IS must protect civilians

26 killed in attack on Egypt Christians

Turkey identifies 'intelligence weaknesses' before coup attempt

Tunisia opens trial over 2015 beach massacre

Syria army takes control of key road

US-led strikes kill 35 civilians in east Syria

Probe finds over 100 Mosul civilians killed in US air strike

Palestinian president says US should mediate hunger strike

Libya says working closely with Britain over concert attack

EU leaders, Erdogan meet in bid to ease tensions

Myanmar to deport Turkish family wanted for alleged coup links

Iran says it has built third underground missile factory

Trump gets rough ride in EU, NATO meeting

Saudi minister confident on oil output deal

Egyptians brace for austere Ramadan

Qatari FM says country victim of smear campaign, particularly in US

Britain probes jihadist network amid row with US intelligence

Egypt blocks several media websites including Jazeera

IS suicide bomber kills five in Somalia

Israel uneasy over 'crazy' regional arms race

Algeria president replaces Prime Minister

16 civilians dead in coalition strikes near Raqa

4 arrested in Tunisia anti-corruption drive

German MPs call off Turkey visit as tensions fester