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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

South Africa Worried About Racist Revival

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South Africa's most serious bombings since the end of racist apartheid rule in 1994 aimed to destroy a fragile racial balance and bring back the violent past, government and opposition figures said on Thursday.

Nine bombs exploded in the sprawling black township of Soweto near Johannesburg early Wednesday, killing a woman. A 10th explosion near Pretoria wounded two others, raising fears that white extremists are back on the warpath.

"It's people who are enemies of this country, who don't like the level of tranquility, the peace that we have achieved together, black and white, after a difficult history," Justice Minister Penuell Maduna said.

"There is indeed an organization, with cars and transport and money and things like that," he told SABC state radio, adding that no arrests had yet been made.

South African President Thabo Mbeki pointed the finger at white extremists whom he accused of plotting to topple his black-led government by stirring up racial hatred.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the worst since a bombing blitz by white right-wingers in the run-up to all-race elections in 1994 that swept Nelson Mandela to power.

Major airports beefed up security. Cars entering Johannesburg airport, Africa's biggest, were searched.

Concern that South Africa's extreme right was resurfacing rose earlier this year when police said they had foiled a plot to topple Mbeki's government.

A small, black opposition party warned of a possible backlash against whites.

"Black people are landless, unemployed and now they are not protected from racist whites. They will become very desperate and want to protect themselves," said Thami Ka Plaatjie, secretary-general of the Pan Africanist Congress.

A PAC slogan during the long and bloody fight against apartheid was "One settler, one bullet."

"I think it's an attempt to get black people scared but it's not working. ... I don't think yesterday's blasts were the last," said Mikie Mofokeng, a young black woman, as she served coffee at a cafe in a smart shopping mall in a Johannesburg suburb.

Late on Wednesday, police arrested two white men in connection with the alleged plot to topple the government, bringing to 17 the number of men facing treason and terrorism charges. Police said the pair were implicated in the plot, but had so far not been linked to Wednesday's bombings. At least three of the 17 arrested have army connections.

Analysts say that while such groups appear too weak to force a change in government, they could seriously disrupt the country.

The right-wingers are mostly from the Afrikaner community. Afrikaners dominated under apartheid and make up about 60 percent of the 4.4 million whites in a country of 43 million.

Some Afrikaners complain about high crime, affirmative action for blacks and the diminishing status of their language in the new South Africa. Others are allied to Mbeki's African National Congress and dismiss the plotters as crackpots.

"Afrikaners may feel alienated, unhappy and threatened, but the vast majority are not desperate or angry enough to support violence, sabotage or the killing of civilians," liberal Afrikaner journalist Max du Preez wrote in a commentary in The Star newspaper.

Analysts say fringe groups have used concerns about violent farm invasions in neighboring Zimbabwe and criminal attacks on farmers at home to recruit support from insecure whites.

The conservative Freedom Front, which represents Afrikaner interests, said it opposed violence, but said, "There can be no doubt that frustrations are building up in Afrikaner ranks."