PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) – Joyous crowds of black South Africans celebrated the unveiling of a new Nelson Mandela statue in Pretoria on Monday while many white Afrikaners on the other side of town expressed their worries about the country’s future as they celebrated the 175th anniversary of a bloody victory over the indigenous Zulus.
A new 9 meter (30 feet) statue of Mandela was unveiled in the heart of Pretoria in front of the Union Buildings that used to be the seat of the apartheid government, where Mandela was sworn in as the country’s first democratically elected president 19 years ago.
“One of the things he taught us was to actually talk to our enemies and learn to appreciate things that they’ve done that didn’t directly affect us in a bad way,” said Thando Silimela, 28, expressing appreciation for the impressive hilltop government complex.
“We don’t see it as a hostile building or a building of apartheid; it’s a beautiful building. It’s part of our heritage. We’ve come to peace with a lot of things that have been done. I’m quite proud of South Africa.”
There was a less celebratory mood across town where more than 1,000 Afrikaner people gathered to mark the anniversary of their victory over the Zulus.
Dec. 16 used to be a public holiday under the apartheid regime to commemorate the battle against the Zulus, but it has since been renamed the National Day of Reconciliation.
Most Afrikaners, who dominated the racist minority rule which ended in 1994, have now embraced the end of discrimination. But a minority of the Dutch-descended group remains harshly critical.
The event at the Afrikaner monument attracted many white critics who condemned corruption and expressed the fear the black majority might eventually turn on them. They saw Mandela, who died Dec. 5, as a guarantor of moderate and non-discriminatory policies.
“If the new black leaders were to act like him, would build the society that he envisioned, it would all be good,” said Elizabeth Neethling, a 65-year-old mother of five from Pretoria.
“Nelson Mandela was a good person but nowadays they are all corrupt. I don’t see any future here for my children and grandchildren. It’s hard for them to find work. Now the black people are dominant and doing apartheid to us,” she said.
Neethling was among the Afrikaners gathered on the southern edge of Pretoria to celebrate the anniversary of the 1838 victory carried by some 500 of their forefathers who repeled an attack by over 10,000 Zulus. The Afrikaners won thanks to their firearms, leaving more than 3,000 Zulus dead.
South Africa is a nation of 53 million people, including about 9 percent white citizens, or 4.6 million, according to the government.
The mood was much more festive among the predominantly black crowd of several thousand who came to see the unveiling of the Mandela statue.
“He is embracing the whole nation,” said President Jacob Zuma of the statue showing Mandela with open arms. “He is advancing to the nation to say let us come together, let us unite.”
But the message of unity was lost on many Afrikaners gathered on another hilltop just a few kilometers (miles) away.
“These people will demolish everything that has been established here,” said Anton Lubbe.
“We have our western culture, our values, but they are different. What South Africa was is being abused,” the 80-year-old former professor in veterinary science from Pretoria said.
“If there were more Madibas it would be different,” he said, using Mandela’s clan name.
Follow Juergen Baetz on Twitter at
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Water tips to save money, help save the Earth
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon
- What you need to know about Alzheimer's disease in Arizona
- Spring clean your windows like a pro with these 8 tips
- 7 films that should have won best-picture Oscars
- New plumbing technology saves money and improves your home
- Survey shows Arizona CFOs optimistic about 2016
- How chronic pain can affect your love life
- 5 potential warning signs about your child's development