Peace prize deals blow to extremists: SA democracy gets a shot in the arm, writes John Carlin in Johannesburg

THE awarding of the Nobel peace prize to Nelson Mandela and F W de Klerk yesterday and, within two hours, the death sentences delivered in the Hani trial came as a double blow to South African extremists fighting a rearguard battle against democracy.

A right-wing Afrikaner who had attended the trial stood on the steps of the Rand Supreme Court building yesterday afternoon, watched the jubilation on the faces of the hundreds of black African National Congress (ANC) supporters on the street, and said: 'I understand now what Walus felt about life in Communist Poland, how he had 'emigrated in his mind', as his brother put it, even before he had left the country. This is not my country any more. My children will grow up not speaking Afrikaans - and that is sad - but it is time to leave.'

In the same way that the response of many right- wingers to the powerful symbolism behind the Nobel award will be one of resignation, the vast majority of South Africans who support the democratic solution proposed by the president of the ANC and the President of South Africa will be buoyed in the belief that peace will triumph.

A snap poll of popular opinion, black and white, on the streets of Johannesburg yesterday yielded precisely such responses. 'It's great. I hope it will bring peace in South Africa.' 'Fantastic - richly deserved.' 'It's something we should all be proud of in South Africa. The peace process is getting recognised in the world.' 'I feel very much pleased. I feel proud.'

An ANC supporter, a black woman, debated with her friends whether Mr de Klerk had the right to share in the Nobel spoils. 'That's all right. De Klerk is also a peace man now. So they must share the prize. I'm very proud to be a South Arican.'

But an ANC official from Thokoza township, where hundreds have died in political violence since June, was more cautious - especially after the South African army raid in the Transkei 'homeland' last Friday, sanctioned by Mr de Klerk, which left five defenceless youngsters dead. 'After the deaths of the children in Transkei, I see no reason why we should accept that - but maybe it will pressure De Klerk to bring peace,' he said. Other black youths were more uncompromising, saying it was a scandal morally to equate Mr Mandela and Mr de Klerk.

The views of ordinary South Africans yesterday mirrored the broader political debate. Clearly the awarding of the peace prize to the two giants of South African politics was at one level a distortion and at another riskily premature. Mr de Klerk actively promoted apartheid, 'a crime against humanity', for 17 of his 20 years in the white parliament while Mr Mandela languished in jail.

In the three and a half years since Mr de Klerk unbanned the ANC and ordered the release of Mr Mandela, 10,000 people have died in political violence in South Africa.

In some parts of the country the killings have abated but the black and white right continue to threaten civil war if elections go ahead next April as planned without their blessing. The Afrikaner Volksfront and Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party (united in the new 'Freedom Alliance') have made this clear.

Mr Mandela, besides, is the first to acknowledge he does not exercise full control over the more militant elements of the angry black youth. Mr de Klerk does not acknowledge it but his police generals have not yet made the required mental leap out of the apartheid era.

But if South Africa does not necessarily deserve the peace prize, those who favour democracy certainly need it. The international imprimatur on the settlement agreed by the ANC and the government - all-race elections followed by a five- year coalition government - provides welcome additional momentum at a time of dangerous political strain.

Leading article, page 16

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home