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."

 

Pressure on multiple fronts squeezes rebels in northern Syria

Iraq prepares for Mosul offensive with massive deployment

Libya Presidential Council needs ‘more time’ to form unity government

Khamenei to Iran officials: Don’t let elections distract you!

Qatar hopes to host Summer Olympics (…) ‘maybe 2028’

Israel sets two conditions for return of Palestinian bodies

Moscow denies accusation that air strikes undermined Syria talks

Israeli general says IS wounded were treated in Gaza

Doctors, police protest in northern Iraq

Canada to cease all air strikes against ISIS by February 22

Outraged Italy demands answers over brutal killing of student in Egypt

Bahrain charges 11 with forming 'terrorist' group

Obama to Arab countries: security requires 'inclusive government'

Tunnel collapse kills one Gazan man on Egypt border

South Sudan war zones on the brink of famine

UN accuses Assad regime of 'extermination' in jails

At least 35 migrants drown in two accidents in Aegean Sea

Cameron's office warns Brexit could affect border controls

Russia detains seven alleged IS members

Turkey groups send in aid for thousands of Syria refugees on border

Syria rebels withdraw from three Aleppo villages

Saudi intercepts Scud missile from Yemen

Merkel heads to Turkey to press for tighter border controls

Turkey promises to let in Syria refugees 'if necessary'

Hamas armed branch executes one of its own members

Syria army advances towards rebel town of Tal Rifaat

Netherlands probes civilian casualties in Iraq air strikes

Algeria parliament adopts Bouteflika’s constitutional reforms

Erdogan asks Americans: Who’s your partner, Turkey or Kurds?

UAE ready to send ground troops to Syria

Tunisia completes construction of Libya border fence

Algeria parliament to vote on constitutional reforms

Egypt returns body of Italian student Giulio Regeni

Iran reverses mass ban on candidates for parliamentary polls

Thousands of Syria refugees brave bad weather at border with Turkey

New photos reveal serious abuse of Iraq prisoners in US facilities

EU reminds Turkey: Keep your border open to Syria refugees

Somalia recaptures key port of Merka from Shebab

Iran warns Saudi Arabia over possible ground action in Syria

Palestinian journalist to keep up hunger strike

Iraq’s Sistani to end weekly political sermons

Shebab fighters recapture key port in Somalia

Syria regime forces close in on Daraa

Israeli leaders slam Arab MPs, refuse to return Palestinian corpses

IS jihadists rise in Libya, drop in Iraq and Syria