FEAR of criminal, as opposed to political, violence is the principal obsession of the white, liberal middle-classes. We enter a shopping mall in the northern Johannesburg suburbs late in the evening in search of food. A scruffily dressed white figure with a limp moustache emerges from the shadows. Remembering tales of unaccustomed white poverty, we expect to be hustled for spare change. But the figure announces: 'Hi. I'm Steve, your armed security guard for this evening. I will escort you to the bistro for your safety and peace of mind.' Inside, 60 trendily dressed whites and one black sit down to dinner.
PANIC-buying and food hoarding among the middle-class is widely reported. But political humour, black and white, also thrives (one of many reasons to be hopeful). Graffiti on a wall in Parktown, a leafy Johannesburg suburb, include: 'Buy now while shops last' and 'Help your local branch of ANC/IFP - beat yourself up.' A sign beside the road to Tanzania township in the East Rand reads: 'Welcome to Tanzania - Any problems dial AK-47'.
A CONVENTIONAL, white view of The Problem from a pearl- draped matron in a Cape Town restaurant: 'Next year, we'll probably have a holiday every day. Mandela Day. Mandela Freedom Day. Chris Hani day. Freedom Charter Day. Foundation of the ANC Day.'
'Yisss,' says her pearl-draped companion. 'And every Avenue will be named after Nelson Mandela and every cross street after Winnie.'
AN UNCONVENTIONAL view of The Problem from Eddie von Maltitz, a farmer, rock-star lookalike and leading figure in the white-supremacist AWB. The problem with South Africa, he says, is too many whites. 'I would like to see our white population dwindle down to a hard core of about two million.' Is this why he drives aroud his Orange Free State farm with a bumper-sticker reading: 'Kill the Farmer. Kill the Boer.' No. 'I would like to see the white liberal run. And he is going to have to run, because he has let the lions and tigers and the pythons out of the zoo and there is no way he is going to get them back in. Man, I hate liberals.'