'Rainbow Nation' Still Only a Dream Nelson Mandela's vision of a "rainbow nation" is still far from being fulfilled. Much tension still exists between black and white South Africans. This tension has boiled over into violence in several recent incidents.
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'Rainbow Nation' Still Only a Dream

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'Rainbow Nation' Still Only a Dream

'Rainbow Nation' Still Only a Dream

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All this week on MORNING EDITION we're examining life in South Africa today. And as NPR's Charlayne Hunter-Gault finds, the country Mandela envisioned is clouded by lingering racism.


CHARLAYNE HUNTER: A white youth on a rampage shoots four blacks. Whites only toilets in a police precinct. A white columnist imagining a time before the arrival of the white man writes, Every so often a child goes missing from the village, either eaten by a hungry lion or a crocodile. The family mourn for a week or so and then have another child. And a black journalist organization sued for refusing to allow a white reporter to attend their meeting with the country's ruling party leader.


HUNTER: But this video was one of the most explosive. At the once predominantly Afrikaner University of the Free State, Afrikaner students played a vicious trick on a black cleaning staff, forcing them to eat a putrid stew on which one of the Afrikaner students was seen to be urinating - a protest apparently against the university's move to integrate dormitories. After eating the stew, the video shows the staff members vomiting.

HUNTER: This is very good!


HUNTER: A few months after the incident, a comedy show on campus draws a mixed audience having fun. But just beneath the surface, racial tensions and fears linger.

MONTAGNE: Very tense, very tense.

HUNTER: Palesa Masweu is a 22-year-old black senior.

MONTAGNE: I actually get scared when I see a white person coming towards me. I try and make space so that just he can pass.

MONTAGNE: The atmosphere has changed for the worse.

HUNTER: What? For the worse?


HUNTER: Some Afrikaner students, like sophomore Jock Coetzer and his friend Sam Weston, say they think the video was wrong. But they also say while they once had black friends, they now feel threatened after seeing the protest posters of some of the black students. Says Jock...

MONTAGNE: The black people come and they threaten. They say they're going to rape the white woman and stuff like that.

HUNTER: The black vice rector, Ezekiel Morake, insists integrating the dorms will continue, because, he says, it's necessary to prepare the students for accepting diversity in the larger society. But, he says, his mission is complicated by a conservative white party's active recruitment on campus and also home training.

MONTAGNE: There are people who are still upholding the separation on the basis of race that existed during the apartheid era.

HUNTER: Frederick Fourie, an Afrikaner and rector of the university, acknowledges the university is more polarized than before the video, and says...

MONTAGNE: We must tackle the absence perhaps of a shared vision and the presence of fears and anguish in some groups and other groups' expectations or over-expectations and pain.

HUNTER: Jody Kollapen, chairman of the Human Rights Commission, says the University of the Free State case is not isolated and points to postings from young whites around the country on a cyberspace chat room.

MONTAGNE: There's one that says F the government, F the ANC, F the flag, and F soccer. Soccer's associated as a black sport.

HUNTER: Kollapen says such attitudes are not limited to the young and are also older than apartheid, which became government policy in 1948.

MONTAGNE: It started in 1652, when the settlers arrived here. And so it's been deeply ingrained into the psyche of both white people and black people. And therefore I think perhaps it was an unrealistic expectation of how fast we could achieve this ideal of a nonracial democratic society.

HUNTER: How dangerous is it?

MONTAGNE: Well, I think if left unchecked it can seriously tear the nation apart.

HUNTER: University of the Free State rector Fourie.

MONTAGNE: A rainbow is a good vision to have for this country, but I think it's still fully under construction. Parts are falling down. Parts haven't been constructed. And I think the challenges we have is to openly face that, to have this fantastic vision, but to say we've got to construct this still and we must be honest and open about it.

HUNTER: Oh my God. (Unintelligible)

HUNTER: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, NPR News, Johannesburg, South Africa.

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