This week I visited Kleinfontein in Pretoria, a white-only community of 1,000 men, women and children who live behind high fences, with a gatehouse manned by men in military fatigues, who also carry out regular patrols of the grounds to prevent black intruders entering.
Anyone without an appointment with an official resident is refused entry. If they are black, they will not get in at all.
Inside, there is a shopping mall, while the town has its own water supply and sewage system. All manual work is carried out by white residents.
There is a rugby pitch, opulent homes overlooking miles of open countryside where antelope and zebra roam, and a hospital for the elderly residents.
Most crucially of all, in a country with 60 murders a day, there is no armed robbery, murder or rape in Kleinfontein. ‘An old lady can draw money here without any fear,’ says Marisa Haasbroek, a resident, mother of two teenage girls, and my guide for the morning.
‘It’s safe, quiet and peaceful. It’s not racist — it is about protecting our Afrikaner cultural identity.’
Like all the residents, she is descended from the first Afrikaners, the Dutch settlers who came to South Africa and were driven into the African interior on the famous Great Trek during the war with the British from 1899 to 1902.
Kleinfontein has been in existence since Mandela’s first presidency in 1994 — but its existence remained largely unknown until reports last year that black police officers had been barred from entry to the property.
The Afrikaners, of course, were those who devised and presided over apartheid, a gruesome social experiment that did so much to divide the nation and subjugate the black population.To get round race laws, Kleinfontein insists its criteria for entry are not based on skin colour. It claims to exist to protect distinct Afrikaans-speaking people and culture, and that English-speaking white people are also banned, so the community is non-racist.
With Mandela on a life support machine, the founders of this community in the so-called ‘Rainbow Nation’ were this week being inundated with requests by other whites to join them.
‘I think there will be trouble,’ Anna, an elderly lady tending her garden inside the all-white compound, tells me.
‘There may be tribal warfare first between the black races. Then they might turn on us.’
Standing near a sign written in Afrikaans stating ‘ons is hier om te bly’ (we are here to stay), Marike, another resident, was convinced that there is a sinister plot to kill all whites.
‘You don’t attack farms and rape 80-year-old women with broken bottles and kill their husbands for a mobile phone,’ Marike says. ‘People say it’s not genocide — but it is.’
Such uncertainty about the future has been given added credence by the tawdry, shameful scenes surrounding Mandela’s death bed — where his family were last night continuing to squabble over where he should be buried and who should get the most loot from tourists visiting the grave.
Despite all the arguments about the future direction of the country, the truth is that only one thing has stayed the same in South Africa before and after Mandela’s presidency: the mutual fear and distrust between some blacks and whites, particularly in rural areas away from the cosmopolitan cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Yet as one acquaintance of mine, a black security guard named Pietor, told me yesterday: ‘The whites said they would be slaughtered when Mandela came to power, and thought they’d be killed when he stood down as President.
'Now, they’re saying they will be slaughtered when Mandela dies. Black people just want jobs and a decent life, not killing.’
Nelson Mandela dreamed of a South Africa that was at peace with itself — and warned that the black population taking vengeance on whites would only deepen old enmities.
Whether the black leaders who are following him can muster an ounce of his authority or humanity remains to be seen.
STORY BY ANDREW MALONE IN PRETORIA