South African enclave raises old race questions

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“We find ourselves exiles in our own fatherland,” the statement said. “We experience this new dispensation not as a democracy, but as the dictatorship of an alien majority.”

For some observers, any uproar over Kleinfontein masks bigger challenges about racial integration in South Africa, where average income levels of whites still outstrip those of blacks. Unemployment is high and residents of some districts have protested violently against the government’s failure to provide basic services, a fact that Kleinfontein’s leaders did not let slip in their discussions with Pretoria officials.

Author Eusebius McKaiser said the country is still wrestling with the legacy of “apartheid geography,” in which some districts originally designed for different races still remain largely segregated.

“We need to stop gloating about the anger we feel towards people like those who live in Kleinfontein,” McKaiser wrote in The Star newspaper. “They are honest and crude about their revulsion of people who are different to themselves. We are not fundamentally different to Kleinfontein’s people. We are just less honest, more subtle.”

Ramokgopa, the mayor, toured Kleinfontein in a convoy of vehicles that kicked up dust and had residents peering at the commotion from their windows. He said the “inherent contradictions” at play over Kleinfontein would emerge elsewhere.

“The nature of the conflict in South Africa is defined by race and that’s something that we need attend to,” he said. “The next generation will still be grappling with this question.”

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