As the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela lies in a hospital bed, desperately clinging to life, some extremists, racialists, alarmists and others have expressed fears that his likely imminent death will trigger widespread bloodshed in South Africa, namely the mass murder of the white minority.
Even the respected Independent Online recently published a story with the headline “Whites Fear Mayhem After Mandela’s Death,” which alleges that there is a “widespread” fear that blacks will start killing whites as soon as Mandela expires.
Independent Online indicated that “thousands” of websites exist that purport to warn South Africa’s whites that they are doomed and that the country will sink into complete anarchy. Some white supremacy groups in the country, which claim to represent the 9 percent of the population who formerly ruled the rest, warn that white families must protect themselves from black marauders and that the ruling African National Congress took away their guns as a means of enabling their mass slaughter.
They cite the murders and land confiscations in neighboring Zimbabwe (formerly called Rhodesia) when white power ended. Ernst Roets, deputy chief executive of AfriForum, a group that says it represents the interests of minorities in South Africa, told The Guardian: “We get a lot of fear. We do get calls from people saying they’re scared about the day Mandela dies and what they should do. There are fringe organizations that say ‘flee the country.’ We are encouraging people to be aware and look after their own safety.”
Independent Online also reported that the military, the South African National Defence Force, is preparing for mass civil unrest in the wake of Mandela’s death.
A black citizen calling himself or herself "Oamis Lacad Ariedlac" reportedly said that Mandela’s death will unleash a tidal wave of violence against whites, who ruled the country until apartheid collapsed 20 years ago, according to IOL. “I’ve been informed that payback is on [its] way after Mandela departs,” Ariedlac said. “All we need is a small group of like-minded individuals to fulfill this prophecy. I hope I’m wrong, but reality cannot be ignored, nor the high level of impoverishment [and] dissatisfaction at [the] grass roots level.”
A South African named Leon Wolfe wrote that Mandela’s death will prompt the country’s poor to loot and perhaps commit murder, suggesting that the instability will be too much for the ANC to control and might even lead the United States to enter the country to “’restore order’ and secure [South Africa’s] mineral resources for themselves.”
Even some seemingly reasonable and responsible people fear what Mandela’s death will mean for the country. Father Sebastian Rossouw, a black priest at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto township, told The Australian: “Many of us fear that what he stood for will also die. It’s a concern that when Mandela goes, there will be a threat of civil war. People are concerned that if he dies, will we still have democracy? Will we still have peace?”
Fred Brigland, a writer in South Africa, wrote a column in Scotland’s Herald newspaper suggesting that once Mandela dies, the ruling ANC, under President Jacob Zuma, will become more ruthless and aggressive. “Already the extent to which the ANC, the organization to which Mandela devoted his entire adult life, has lost its hold over its own stated core principles, is astonishing,” he wrote. “The ANC under Zuma has tolerated toxic verbal assaults on the white minority by firebrand ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, whose rants have poisoned the national atmosphere to a degree not seen since apartheid days.”
Brigland further warned that in a country with 40 percent unemployment and widespread poverty among the black majority, the loss of Mandela could lead to a “potential blowup on the scale of current Middle East developments,” citing Mandela as the “last reason for restraint.”
Similarly, a wealthy white South African woman named Elaine told NBC News, “I am really scared that the country will explode. There are a lot of people out there who are just holding themselves back until he dies. It genuinely frightens me.” She added, “I don’t know what they [the blacks] will do. ... I may be paranoid, but there are lots of people who think like me.”
Such paranoia is not restricted to South African borders. David Blair of the Daily Telegraph newspaper in the UK blogged: "For as long as he lives, South Africans breathe a little easier and believe in their country a little more. When the day after Mandela dawns, that belief will be shaken, not dramatically or immediately, but slowly and perhaps imperceptibly. South Africa will, quite simply, be a different country."
The ultra-right-wing American "news" website World Net Daily has made even starker warnings -- that the South African Communist Party (an ally of the ANC) is plotting to “slaughter” all the nation’s whites after the death of Mandela, citing sources at something called “G2B.”
World Net Daily claims these plans include the mass mobilization of “70,000 armed black men” toward the center of Johannesburg to attack whites. This Communist-inspired “plot” is allegedly designed to stage a coup and overthrow South African democracy. “White people in South Africa can deny it to the end of the earth, but we are in real danger,” a white South African resident apparently told WND. “This is no joke.”
Of course, some South Africans ridicule such talk. Max du Preez, a widely respected white Afrikaner columnist and editor of the Afrikaans-language Vrye Weekblad, who was an anti-apartheid activist himself, does not believe in these hysterical predictions. “I suspect the only consequence of Mandela’s death is going to be a period of sadness, nostalgia and a feeling of national coherence,” he wrote. “It will remind South Africans of all groups and persuasions of the almost miraculous transition from apartheid to democracy and of the golden era under his presidency after 1994.”
A South African blogger named "Tawanda" opined that it’s “quite insulting to the intelligence of black people to suggest they’ll just start … slaughtering anyone who possesses reduced amounts of melanin. Any why? Because a former president will have passed away?”
Tawanda suggests that white South Africans who engage in such fear-mongering should instead “put their efforts into spreading the word about the need to build a more equal and economically sustainable South Africa for all its citizens regardless of race. And while they are at it, drop the superiority complex that plagues many white South Africans. Because all this complex does is create fodder for fear-inducing, anti-democracy, privilege-demanding right wing extremists.”
Georgina Sefara, a 20-year-old black student in Johannesburg, also believes that white fears are grossly overblown. “Many white South Africans think that there will be apartheid in reverse,” she told NBC. “That’s what they’re afraid of. You hear many whites saying they will move to Australia when that happens. But [the violence] will never happen… It’s patronizing and outdated to think that it will.”
Even Roets of the AfriForum softened his rhetoric by adding, "If we want to make a prediction, there's not going to be an all-out race war. There might be isolated incidents, but I think most people, white or black, want to live in peaceful coexistence."
One should also remember that even with Mandela living, the country is already in a kind of state of chaos -- with the world’s highest rates of murder, rape and AIDS infection.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.