South Africa's predominantly white elite are going through another of their periodic bouts of pessimism about the future of the country and their role - or lack of one - in it.
A poll published last weekend showed that 74 percent of people with skilled jobs are longing to emigrate."In the old South Africa, a significant number of people of darker hues accepted and welcomed me because of my anti-apartheid views," one white liberal wrote in a Johannesburg newspaper. "In the new South Africa, I am treated with contempt and hatred, for no other reason than that I have a white skin."
The author was Mandi Smallhorne, a member of the Black Sash - a band of white women who engaged in a famous crusade against National Party rule during the dark days of apartheid.
Recalling her excitement when she acted as a monitor during the 1994 majority-rule elections, she said, "I believed that the fight against apartheid had been won, and that, finally, I would be able to live in a country where it did not matter so much what color my skin was, a country where I belonged. But I don't."
Referring to the characterization of South Africa by Bishop Desmond Tutu as a "rainbow nation," she said: "What kind of rainbow is it where every color is acceptable, as long as it is black?"
The hostility of black South Africans toward their former "comrades" in the liberal community has also manifested itself in a succession of attacks on the English language press. The Mail & Guardian newspaper in Johannesburg has been a consistent target, seemingly as a result of articles exposing corruption in the government.
Early this year, after it disclosed the alleged shady past of the premier of Gauteng, South Africa's richest province, the newspaper was subjected to a broadside of racial invective. In an editorial, it protested: "It is completely irrelevant to us that the premier of Gauteng is a black man. But it matters to us very much that he seems to be a crook."
The distinction went unrecognized in some quarters, however. The Black Lawyers' Association and the Association of Black Accountants of South Africa lodged a formal complaint against the newspaper with the country's human rights committee, charging it with "subliminal racism."