South Africans Fear Mandela’s Death Would Bring Violence

South Africa is holding its collective breath in fear of uprisings and riots that could follow the death of political icon Nelson Mandela, who is 94 and struggling with health issues.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winner is in his fifth day of another hospital visit for a lung infection. Ernst Roets, deputy executive chief of South African racial minority rights group AfriForum, told The Guardian that peacekeeping organizations are working to absolve the people’s concerns.

“We get a lot of fear,” Roets said. “We do get calls from people saying they’re scared about the day Mandela dies and what they should do. There are fringe organizations that say flee the country. We are encouraging people to be aware and look after their own safety.”

The South African government issues daily updates on Mandela’s health; that’s how much of a significant figure he has in the country’s culture.

“This is a dangerous country and crime is a problem,” Roets said. “But if we want to make a prediction, there’s not going to be an all-out race war. There might be isolated incidents, but I think most people, white or black, want to live in peaceful coexistence.”

In interview with the BBC last week, President Jacob Zuma suggested that citizens prepare for Mandela’s passing, citing his advanced age. In the years since Mandela left South Africa’s political world have been marked by human rights concerns, and some fear that his death could bring about an end to the country’s post-apartheid “golden period.”

“For as long as he lives, South Africans breathe a little easier and believe in their country a little more,” Daily Telegraph Foreign Correspondent David Blair wrote. “When the day after Mandela dawns, that belief will be shaken, not dramatically or immediately, but slowly and perhaps imperceptibly, South Africa will, quite simply, be a different country.”

Mandela has spent Christmas, and now Easter hospitalized as the result a respiratory infection. A statement from the president’s office reported that Mandela can once again breathe without difficulty and is still responding well to treatment.

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