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S. Africa's Mixed Race Side With Whites To Resist Black Rule

By Judith MatloffStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 6, 1995



RETREAT, SOUTH AFRICA

FISHERMAN Jonathan Janodeen stood on a stretch of sandy wasteland and tried to explain why he and other mixed-race South Africans supported the former white minority rulers who took away their land, dignity, and rights under apartheid.

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He articulated a widespread hostility among the Coloured community towards the new black majority government led by the African National Congress (ANC), which long campaigned for equality for nonwhites.

Maybe it was racism. Maybe it was fear of losing one's identity. What he expressed was a perception that his people had been passed over by a group deemed inferior, and that it was preferable to deal with the devil you knew than the devil you didn't.

''Nelson Mandela is not my president. He and the ANC have done nothing for me and my people,'' said Mr. Janodeen. ''We still struggle to live while they live it up.''

Coloureds' political preference seems like a collective amnesia of past sufferings -- or a desire by an inherently conservative community to protect itself from a perceived black threat.

The racial cleavages wrought by apartheid are still very much intact in the Cape, 10 months after the country's first democratic elections. The Western Cape was the only one of South Africa's nine provinces won by the former ruling National Party (NP), which orchestrated apartheid's social engineering. This was mainly due to the votes of the Coloureds, who outnumber whites by 2 to 1 and blacks by 3 to 1 in the area.

Under apartheid, tens of thousands of Coloureds -- who make up more than 3 million of the country's 40 million people and are descendants of white slave owners and slaves -- were expelled from Cape Town and forced to live in bleak areas like this one miles away from the city. Mixed families were broken apart by the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act and the Immorality Act, which banned interracial sex.

NOW that apartheid is dead, legally the racial category of Coloured is obsolete, but is still widely used, even among people of mixed race.

In apartheid's rigid racial strata, Coloureds saw themselves as a distinct group, neither white nor black. The community became an inward-looking one, keen to protect its few privileges. Coloureds enjoyed better education and jobs, and had their own house in parliament, albeit a powerless one. Many black militants were therefore suspicious of the Afrikaans-speaking Coloureds, who scarcely numbered in the high echelons of the ANC. Many express a sense of indignity that they are not sharing in the spoils of a new power structure.

Janodeen and his friends, a gaggle of unemployed men and gangsters, said that as in the national elections, they would vote for the NP in local elections in October. They expressed anger about corruption scandals in the ANC, particularly Allan Boesak, a Coloured churchman and anti-apartheid icon, who is alleged to have misused charity funds for personal gain.

''If I steal a fish I go to jail. Why has Allan Boesak not gone to jail?'' asks bricklayer Nigel Jacobs. ''He has betrayed our people.''

Chris Nissen, the provincial economics minister who is the local ANC leader -- and a Coloured -- agreed that Mr. Boesak had damaged the ANC's standing. He admitted the ANC might do even worse in the local elections than in the national ones, but blamed it on racism.

''The ANC suffered because we were not judged on the basis of policies but racism. People were saying a vote for Mandela meant your house would be taken away. The legacy of apartheid lives on. There is a perception that Coloureds are now marginalized -- which is untrue,'' he says.

He pointed to an incident earlier this month in the Ruyterwacht district, where Coloureds joined whites at a public meeting to protest against black students being bused in.

The racism charge was rejected, however, by Peter Marais, a Coloured NP official who is the province's local government minister. ''This has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with culture. They also believe the ANC is involved in a cultural assassination of the Afrikaans language,'' he says.

Mr. Marais said many Cape Coloureds, who live in a city with the world's highest murder rate and lack decent housing or jobs, were angered by a lack of delivery by the ANC-led coalition government on promises to improve social conditions. They felt they were not benefiting from affirmative action.

''The Coloureds say, rightly or wrongly, that the blacks are pushing them out of jobs. This is causing animosity,'' he says.