Standing Behind S. African Reform
Family of British descent does not feel threatened by gradual move toward black majority rule
WITBANK, SOUTH AFRICA
THE Bannatynes, a white South African family of British descent, have carved out a niche for themselves in this conservative industrial town despite their relatively liberal views. ``It would take more than a revolt to get rid of me,'' says David Bannatyne, a second generation South African who has no intention of bailing out when the going gets tough.Skip to next paragraph
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``I think eventually things will be fine in this country,'' he says. ``But there will be some rough patches on the way.''
Mr. Bannatyne, a building contractor who grew up in Witbank and was educated in Pretoria, looks to the future with hope despite the political violence and turmoil of the past year.
``I think in four or five years time the people who queued to emigrate to Australia and Israel will be coming back again,'' he says.
The Bannatynes live with their three young sons in a comfortable suburban home with an enclosed garden and swimming pool and two lively Staffordshire bull terriers. Their domestic worker Emily, a Zulu woman who has worked for them for most of their married lives, is considered part of the family.
Their lifestyle and values are similar to most English-speaking South Africans who populate the leafy and well-groomed neighborhoods surrounding the cities and larger towns.
They enjoy an active social life that has centered around David's participation in the local chapter of the Round Table, a service organization whose projects benefit the needy on both sides of the color line.
To an outsider, they appear to occupy a diminishing space between a reactionary white minority and a restive black majority eager to taste the fruits of the ``new South Africa.''
Yet they seem to feel more secure than many liberal whites in the affluent northern suburbs of Johannesburg, perhaps because they are more directly in touch with the opposing camps.
Witbank, situated about 80 miles east of Johannesburg, lies at the center of South Africa's coal-producing and power-generating complex. Heavy pollution makes for a harsh physical environment.
There are 32 coal mines in the district and nine thermal coal-fired power stations - the biggest complex of its kind in the world.
Witbank's white population of about 45,000 has a high proportion of contract employees who come to work at the massive Highveld Steel and Vanadium plant. The population of some 50,000 black workers keeps the wheels of industry turning.
The momentous political events of the past year have meant tougher times.
David Bannatyne's construction business has been hard hit by the turmoil and boycotts in the black community. On some days only two or three of his 20 workers have turned up for work. One worker was killed in political violence. A rising crime wave has also taken its toll.
``It's been a very bad year,'' says Bannatyne, an unpretentious man who speaks his mind. ``But I don't want to overstate it. We made a living and the kids got Christmas presents.''
David's day starts at 6 a.m. He takes his three sons (including one not pictured here) to school and is at the office by 7 a.m. to direct his black workers to various building projects.
His main passion is fishing with artificial lures - something he is able to do frequently in the Witbank Lake. He combines this with a wider love for nature and the environment and is a keen conservationist.