Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 12:56 UK

Deep race divisions within the Rainbow Nation

Watch Tim Whewell's full film on how Nelson Mandela's vision of South Africans living in peace and harmony still has a long way to go

Tim Whewell
BBC Newsnight, South Africa

South Africa fans
Uniform support for the national team belies South Africa's divisions

When South Africa was chosen in 2004 to host the World Cup, its leaders predicted that the event would finally make their country gel as a nation.

Six years on, there is no doubting the enthusiasm among all South Africans for the national football team, known as Bafana Bafana, or The Boys.

But a very public battle between two young men suggests some divisions in South Africa are in fact getting wider.

In one corner is Julius Malema, leader of the governing African National Congress youth wing and South Africa's most controversial politician.

A firebrand speaker, tipped by some as a future president of the country, Mr Malema wants wholesale land redistribution and nationalisation of the mines.

Parallel lives

In the other corner is Ernst Roets, the youth leader of AfriForum, a new group campaigning for white rights.

Julius Malema on why it is time to talk about racial division in the 'rainbow nation'

He accuses Mr Malema of promoting racism and helping to incite the deaths of white farmers.

Julius Malema and Ernst Roets are both children of the new South Africa. They grew up just 60 miles (97km) apart in the country's northernmost province, Limpopo, are both still in their 20s and both head campaigning youth organisations.

But there the similarities end.

Mr Malema is the son of a domestic servant, raised in poverty in the black township of Seshego.

Mr Roets grew up on one of Limpopo's largest private farms, part of an Afrikaner family proud of the avocados they export around the world.

Seeking damages

Now he is taking Mr Malema to court, claiming that an anti-apartheid song the ANC youth leader has been singing, which includes the lyric "Shoot the Boer", is indirectly responsible for a spate of attacks on white farmers. He wants damages for victims' families.

The concept is that if you own land and you are white, then that means you have stolen the land, and we must take it and give it to the blacks
Ernst Roets

Behind the case is a wider set of grievances that has led Mr Roets - a law student - to embark on a new career as a defender of his community.

"The government, instead of promoting non-racialism, is promoting racism," he says.

Increasingly, he claims, whites are at a disadvantage in the new South Africa.

He is angry about affirmative action policies that make it easier for non-whites to get university grants. He is angry that rugby teams - even in schools - can be selected partly on racial grounds, to make them more diverse.

Land ownership

Above all he is angry that the government wants to speed up a land redistribution programme that he fears may eventually expropriate farms from families like his.

"We didn't take this land from anyone," he says, walking through neat rows of avocado trees near the town of Tzaneen as pickers go past with heavy sacks.

I have been singing that song since I was nine. It is not my song. They are unfair on me as a person
Julius Malema on 'Shoot the Boer' song

"It's part of our family, our heritage. But these land transformation programmes are so aggressive. The concept is that if you own land and you are white, then that means you have stolen the land, and we must take it and give it to the blacks."

So far, land reform has been slow, and voluntary. But Mr Malema wants South Africa to copy Zimbabwe's mass redistribution from white to black ownership.

To cheers from delegates at a youth league congress, he declared:

"The courageous and militant land reform programme has contributed in a big way to the empowerment of the people of Zimbabwe. From the 400 white farmers who used to own farms, there are currently more than 350,000 who are in farms and agriculture."

Lyric change

Mr Malema condemns the violence used to enforce reform in Zimbabwe. And he rejects any suggestion that he has incited attacks on farmers in South Africa:

Ernst Roets says government policies are worsening tensions

"I have been singing that song since I was nine. It is not my song. They are unfair on me as a person."

After the song was criticised by South African President Jacob Zuma, Mr Malema sang the song again at a recent youth league meeting, but with the words changed to "Kiss the Boer."

Whether he was being apologetic or rude, he faces increasing opposition within the ANC, and even within his own youth league.

Some think his outspokenness is an embarrassment. Some think nationalisation of the mines - his key policy demand - would destabilise South Africa.

'Lightning rod'

By comparison, Afriforum Youth's campaign against Mr Malema is just an irritant. And some think the white campaigners are deliberately exaggerating the threat he may pose, in order to promote themselves.

Mr Roets rejects that. He argues Afriforum acts as a political lightning rod to channel mounting frustrations among whites, and particularly Afrikaners. It encourages them to participate in public debate, rather than taking the law into their own hands.

"We get criticism saying we aren't aggressive enough," he says. "Many people say that where South Africa is now is where Zimbabwe was 20 years ago."

Would Mr Malema care if many more whites left, I ask as we sit surrounded by a tight crowd of his supporters on the fringes of a youth league congress.

"They can't leave, they have nowhere to go," he replies. "Even when the guerrillas were planting bombs, in a heavy armed struggle, they stayed here. Why would they leave now when there is a debate?"

He shrugs theatrically - and his fans laugh. It is a crowd-pleasing moment. But it is hard to know what Julius Malema really thinks.

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