The rumor of Mandela's imminent death has become a usual speculative spectacle among some armchair pundits.
Like before, Mandela's personal assistant, Zelda Le Grange, has fielded questions and explained that the rumours are not true. Le Grange is quoted as saying:
"Rumours have again surfaced today (on Friday) about Mr Mandela's well-being. Mr Mandela is in the former Transkei, where he is enjoying the festive season with his family.
He is due back in Johannesburg only towards the end of January ..."
And so we know that Mandela is just fine.
Earlier this year (February 2) I wrote the following post about the "onslaught rumour" in the post-apartheid era.
I am reposting here because I think it appropriate still. Well also because I thought it one of my better posts and yet it garnered not even one comment ;0)
Peace and Struggle.
Today (February 20, 2007) the administrative aides of Nelson Mandela have denied rampant rumors that the ex-president has suffered a stroke and is on his death bed. Those who know say that Mandela (87) is quite healthy and in Mozambique with his wife.
This round of rumors are primarily attributed to a self-styled Boer and white advocacy outfit called the Suitlanders. They, and others, are sending emails, SMSs, and mailings, to warn whites that Blacks will attack them once Mandela dies.
Apparently, the 'Herren Volk' (God's chosen people) are being directed to congregate in predetermined "safe-areas" where they will no-doubt circle their wagons and fight like they did at the Battle of Blood River 168 years ago.
This is not the first time that such racist nonsense has made the rounds in post-apartheid South Africa. Anyone who has spent any amount of time among whites will have been subjected to one or the other version of this rumor.
In fact, in the weeks that led up to the election of President Mandela in 1994, there were many versions of the 'onslaught rumor' making the rounds. Blacks were said to be preparing to pilfer, rape, and murder white people.
None of that crap happened but the 'onslaught rumor' lived on despite. And, from time to time the Volk get together in Pretoria to practice circling their wagons. You know, just in case the barbaric 'spear-chuckers' come rushing from the hills.
No matter the historical context, place, or timing, the 'onslaught rumor' is a mainstay marker of whiteness. The rumor draws the Volk together in a rationalized, and not irrational, plan of action.
The episodical posturing of 'fear' (gevaar) that drives the 'onslaught rumor' is nothing more than a rehearsed manipulation of facts.
In these contexts, whiteness draws on the 'onslaught rumor' to guard and expand, or redistribute, political and material interests.
I am reminded of my joint article with Distinguished Professor Art Neal that discusses how rumors were used to herd Japanese-Americans into concentration-like camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Contrived and racist 'onslaught rumors' allowed the the American state to strip Japanese-Americans of their constitutional rights, their property, and their dignity.
I am also reminded that after the Civil War marauding white mobs lynched innocent Blacks who were rumored to have raped white women or were just otherwise thought to be unruly (Black women included). In either case, the politics of interest, not the rumor, was the primary motivator behind acts of violence against Blacks and Japanese-Americans.
In effect, the 'onslaught rumor' can also be found in the manner that Bush and company have mobilized neocon interests in Afghanistan, Irag, and now Iran. The Arab, or Muslim, is positied as slayer-in-waiting for purposes of imperial reach and domination.
South African whites, and sell-out coloureds and Indians, use the 'onslaught rumor' to justify post-apartheid racism. The inhumanity of apartheid and the persistence of white privilege is purposely displaced by manipulative stories and images that characterize Blacks as intrinsically inferior and violent.
This despite the fact that South Africa is a majoritarian liberal democracy that is very friendly to white/Western and multicultural interests.
In mid 2006 Archbishop Desmond Tutu commented that whites should be grateful that Blacks have not sought to take revenge for apartheid. Tutu was, in part, commenting on the usual wanking among most whites that they are victims of racial discrimination.
Tutu was trying to engage whites to recognize and take responsibility for apartheid. If even at an intellectual rather than material level.
A predictable backlash ensued. Tutu was labelled a racist. Some really angry whites crawled out of the denial woodwork to point out that they did not support apartheid (I guess they were 'victims' of privilege too). Others threatened with the usual disgust to leave South Africa, again.
Without missing a heatbeat, Derek, Gugu, and I, quickly offered to help 'em pack and even to chip in on the gas if need be. But sadly no-one took our offer. Nevertheless, the offer stands.
South Africa does not need hoards of racist naysayers who thrive on demeaning Blacks.
That said, I fully expect that unrepentant whites will continue to dredge up the 'onslaught rumor' to advance their political interests. This postured fearrorism (do you like my word?) won't just disappear until whiteness is structurally discarded.
Anything less will be mere cosmetic rearranging. Sorry liberals.