South African Whites Question Their Future

One writer contemplates life after the days when "the apartheid system looked after whites and did very little for anyone else."

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Tourists at Cape Town's Table Mountain (Gianluigi Guercia/Getty Images)

In South Africa, apartheid has been over for two decades. So it's really no surprise that being white in the country feels different now from the way it did under the forced system of harsh, institutionalized racial segregation that curtailed the rights of black residents in favor or the ruling Afrikaaner population.

As the BBC's John Simpson acknowledges in a piece today, the legacy of apartheid means that white South Africans still have a disproportionate influence on the economy, politics and media and have far more wealth than their black counterparts. But Simpson, seemingly somewhat nostalgic for "the old days" when "the apartheid system looked after whites and did very little for anyone else," wonders whether they -- especially the working-class among them -- have a future in the country.

Look below the surface and you will find poverty and a sense of growing vulnerability.

The question I have come to South Africa to answer is whether white people genuinely have a future here.

The answer, as with so many similar existential questions, is "Yes -- but ... "

It seems to me that only certain parts of the white community really have a genuine future here: the better-off, more adaptable parts.

Working-class white people, most of them Afrikaans-speakers, are going through an intense crisis. But you will not read about it in the newspapers or see it reported on television because their plight seems to be something arising out of South Africa's bad old past -- a past which everyone, black and white, would like to forget.

According to one leading political activist, Mandla Nyaqela, this is the after-effect of the huge degree of selfishness and brutality which was shown towards the black population under apartheid.

Read more at the BBC.

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