While the country waits with bated breath for news of Nelson Mandela’s health, some South Africans breathe a sigh of relief when they learn that the ailing statesman’s condition is improving.
Because these South Africans live in fear of the day Mandela dies. It is widespread. Search the words “fear, Mandela and death” and the headings of websites include “Blacks will massacre whites after Mandela’s death”, “South Africans fear Mandela’s death” and “White genocide after Mandela’s death in SA?”.
There are thousands of websites from interest groups to social networks and news sites. It happens whenever Mandela is admitted to hospital.
There is a fear on the part of some white people that black people will no longer hold back - that they will wield sjamboks, knives and guns and take what they believe is owed to them. It will be chaos, they say; the country will burn.
Far right organisations warn white people to be prepared, protect their families, unless they have handed in their firearms as the ANC government requested a few years ago. This, they say, was the government’s plan all along.
This week Media 24 reported how the SANDF had been placed on standby after a secret contingency plan kicked in when Mandela took ill. Soldiers were warned to prepare themselves about 10 days ago, before Mandela was even admitted to hospital.
Most notable were the comments from ordinary citizens expressing fear.
One user, Oamis Lacad Ariedlac, wrote that the story of “uhuru” against the white population was widespread.
“I’ve been informed that payback is on it’s way after Mandela departs. All we need is a small group of like-minded individuals to fulfil this prophecy. I hope I’m wrong, but reality cannot be ignored, nor the high level of impoverishment/ dissatisfaction at grass roots level. Now with Malema and his ilk seeking a following, more fiery rhetoric will be expected, further exacerbating the potential for conflict.”
Leon Wolfe wrote: “The poorest of the poor will use it as an excuse to loot, the stupidest of the stupid will use it as an excuse to murder. The ANC will run away, the US (already on their way) will use it as an excuse to “restore order” and secure SA’s mineral resources for themselves. And then it’s going to hit the fan. Sing your praises about harmony and ubuntu if you like. See the number of violent service delivery protests as an example of the reigning mentality in this country. Be ready or be dead.”
The reports stretch from as far afield as Australia, the UK and the US. This is what some South Africans are telling them.
Earlier this year Father Sebastian Rossouw, of the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto expressed his fear to 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?”
Ernst Roets, deputy chief executive of racial minority rights group AfriForum, told The Guardian that peacekeeping organisations are working to resolve people’s concerns.
“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 organisations that say ‘flee the country’. We are encouraging people to be aware and look after their own safety.”
Political commentator Max du Preez was lambasted after he criticised the naysayers.
“A softer version of the ‘white genocide’ scare is that the ANC would regard the end of Mandela as a kind of licence to start behaving like Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF because the last voice of tolerance, reason and reconciliation had fallen silent. Even more moderate people believe Mandela’s death would lead to a sharp decline in the worth of the rand and the stock exchange,” he wrote.
“I suspect the only consequence of Mandela’s death is going to be a period of sadness, nostalgia and a feeling of national coherence. 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.” - Saturday Star