White South Africans' uneasy love affair with Mandela

White South Africans' uneasy love affair with Mandela

The sidewalk blackboard outside the pizza parlour in South Africa's quaint seaside village Kalk Bay, inhabited mainly by whites, changed for the first time in months.

"RIP Tata Madiba", it read the day after the aged liberation leader's death, using Nelson Mandela's clan name and the affectionate "tata" (daddy).

The other side carried a quote from Mandela encouraging people of different racial groups to love one another.

The thoughtful homily was a variation on the usual trite inspirational offering: "A day without wine is a day without sunshine."

This portrays the respect "new" South Africa's whites harbour for the revered statesman.But it also glosses over historical distrust of the "terrorist" imprisoned for 27 years, then suddenly lauded for a lifetime of peaceful struggle.

It didn't fit with the image white authorities had sketched of Mandela during apartheid.Outside the nearby Holy Trinity Anglican Church, which dates back to early colonial days, the beautiful lychgate was adorned with posters with images of Mandela and some of his famous sayings.

On the main street women in short shorts jogged past antique shops and fashion boutiques, while in the background could be heard the whump of cannon fire from the nearby Simon's Town naval base.

It was a practice, but a reminder that South Africa has not always been as peaceful as it is today.

And residents' words betray a divergence in views between older generations who once voted in favour of white-minority rule, and young people who have known only all-race democracy in their lifetimes.

"I'm really sad," said fashion design student Philip Heijnan, 22, outside the church."Mandela was the country's best president. I don't think there is any one person in this country who doesn't like him."

Born in 1992, two years before the country's first democratic elections that ended apartheid, Heijnan plans to live out his life here, even though he could join relatives in New Zealand."I'll stay in South Africa, if it still stays as great as it is."

But down the road a dour shopkeeper had a different take on Mandela.

"While he was in jail for 27 years whites thought he was the devil. Now they think he was God," she said, asking not to be named because her remarks were so out of tune with public sentiment.

A 76-year-old man painting a sign outside a pub came close to confirming her prognosis of the white psyche.

"He was a statesman, not an ordinary politician," he told AFP.
"But you have to obey the law of the land and if he had grown old without his punishment I don't think he would have been talking to anybody. Jail made him, and the country."

Though South Africa today is doing is "better generally" since the end of apartheid, corruption in government made him doubt that "the blacks are better off".

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