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 forces launch ‘final battle for Sirte’

Dozens killed as Turkey ramps up unprecedented offensive in Syria

Yemen government cautiously welcomes US peace plan

Iraq officially asks Saudi Arabia to change ambassador

In Saudi city of Najran, Huthis commit war crimes with indiscriminate rockets

Iran arrests 'nuclear spy'

Egypt frees renowned rights lawyer, Malek Adly

Yemen shelling kills three-year-old boy in Saudi border region

Turkey sends more tanks into Syria to bolster military offensive

Turkey arrests former top diplomats over failed coup

Tunisia swears in new premier after approval from parliament

Israeli troops shoot dead Palestinian in occupied West Bank

11 Turkish police officers killed in Cizre bomb attack claimed by PKK

French court suspends burkini ban

Tears as evacuation starts in Syria's Daraya

Turkey PM denies Syria operation singling out Kurds

Kerry, Lavrov meet for talks on Syria

Tunisia parliament to vote on cabinet proposal

Kuwait arrests govt employee promoting IS online

Turkey shells Kurdish fighters in Syria after warning

Oil prices fall on Saudi doubt on output cut

Jeddah meeting bears no fruit on Yemen conflict

Kerry in Saudi for talks on regional conflicts

UN Syria envoy expects 'impact' from Kerry-Lavrov meeting

Iraq parliament votes to impeach defense minister

Russia says will cooperate in Syria chemical attacks probe

Iraq forces take key town south of Mosul

Hamas to leave name off ballot in Palestinian elections

Iranian navy in 'unsafe' intercept of US destroyer

Three wounded in PKK attack on Turkey opposition chief's convoy

Erdogan to inaugurate Istanbul's third Bosphorus bridge

China to train Syrian troops

Turkey reinforces ground forces across border into Syria

Turkey says 'every right' to intervene if Kurds fail to withdraw

UN rights chief urges international probe of Yemen violations

Tunisia unity government to remain unchanged

Raped teen who took own life finally gets justice in Morocco

Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' Jarabulus

Libya's presidential council to present new cabinet

Syria regime, Kurds blast Turkish incursion

Biden: Washington told Kurds not to cross Euphrates

Israeli court shuns plea to unchain Palestinian hunger striker

Saudi police foil mosque suicide bombing

Kerry to meet Russia's Lavrov in Geneva on Friday

Kurdish forces in Syria prime target for Turkey