South African Elections: Old oppressors find a welcome in enemy's lair

PIK BOTHA, who has served as foreign minister in three successive apartheid governments, jumped to the front of a half-mile queue and cast his vote yesterday in Soweto's Orlando West, the symbolic heart of black South Africa's liberation struggle.

Mr Botha, 62, was the only white man who voted at Orlando's Holy Cross Anglican Church, emptied of pews for the two days of polling and transformed into a temple of earthly redemption.

The great survivor - there's talk he might preserve his portfolio under Nelson Mandela - stepped out of a silver Mercedes Benz and waited for the press to engulf him. 'My feelings,' he said, 'are that for the first time we are participating in an election that will have legitimacy. Now we can go to the polling booth without a bad conscience.'

Mr Botha became foreign minister in 1977, a year after the Soweto uprising, the event that sparked new life into a liberation movement that had lain dormant since the jailing of Mr Mandela in 1964.

Orlando West was where it all began. It was here, the neighbourhood where the Mandela and the Sisulus had their homes, that the schoolchildren gathered to launch their rebellion. It was here that the police first opened fire and the first victim, Hector Petersen, fell.

But that was history. There was no ill-feeling towards Mr Botha. One lady near the front of the queue remarked that it was a good thing he had come to Soweto. 'It shows you that the world is changing.' Nor was there any ill-feeling towards Roelf Meyer, the Minister of Constitutional Development, and, the last to arrive of the National Party troika, F W de Klerk. Mr Meyer said he was delighted to be out in the sun away from the musty negotiating chamber.

Although Soweto was the enemy's lair - the local ANC organiser said he had no doubts as to which party was going to clean up this particular corner of South Africa - Mr de Klerk did not come across as a man consumed by worry.

Nor did he need to be. One woman, spotting his distinctive bald pate through the inevitable reporters' scrum, shrieked: 'I love you] I love you] I love you]' The same woman, approached a moment later by a journalist to see if she was going to vote for Mr de Klerk, replied, simply: 'No.'

One of Mr de Klerk's aides, fearing a wasted trip, sought out a South African state television crew. One having been found, the soundbites flew. Then South Africa's last white president - until 1999 at any rate - stepped back into his car and waved to the crowd. Most did not even know he was there, but a small group heckled him out of the church gate.

But they were chuckling, not hissing. The time for hating had passed. They weren't really resentful that De Klerk had come, were they? 'No, man, No]' said their cheerleader, a young woman wearing a gold necklace and black leather boots. 'No problem. We're happy, really. We're just teasing.'

A man came up to a group of European election observers and said, solemn-faced, 'Look, guys, I'm not intimidating you, but . . .' his face suddenly broke out into a huge grin, 'Vote Mandela]' The observers grinned back as the man ran off to join the voting line with a wave and a 'Bye, guys]'

For all the high spirits, it was going to be a long day. Across the road from the church queues tailed back from the entrance to Uncle Tom's Hall. Here were the people who had failed to get their ID documents in time hoping to obtain a temporary voting card. Three women stood chattering at the back of one of the queues. Didn't they feel tempted to leave the voting for next time? 'What? Not vote? We've waited all our lives for this.'

'We're not going to worry if we have to wait two days more.'

'We're not queuing. We're flying. It's a blessed today.'

Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
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
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

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