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S. Africa Holiday Underscores Split Among Whites

December 17, 2000|From Reuters

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Reconciliation Day on Saturday showed deep divisions among this nation's white population: rising racial tension galvanized some to publish a declaration of collective guilt while others paid homage to apartheid.

A group of prominent white South Africans formally declared collective guilt for apartheid and launched a fund at Cape Town's St. George's Cathedral to help poor blacks and to try to narrow a widening racial gap just six years after the country's first all-race election.

At the same time right-wingers gathered at an apartheid-era monument erected at Blood River in KwaZulu-Natal province to celebrate the original reason for the public holiday--the routing of Zulu warriors by Afrikaners on Dec. 16, 1838.

The anniversary was known during white rule as the Day of Vow. The black-majority government kept the holiday but renamed it the Day of Reconciliation in a bid to bring the racially divided nation together.

"It is necessary for whites to acknowledge the damage caused by apartheid and its legacy, to support and empower disadvantaged communities and to contribute to eliminating racism," Carl Niehaus, a white veteran of the African National Congress, said at the reconciliation initiative Saturday.

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