PRETORIA, South Africa, Feb. 15, 1990 (UPI) - Thousands of white supremacists marched through the capital in their first major protest against the government's racial reform program Thursday, warning black leader Nelson Mandela to ''keep your eyes off white South Africa.''
The crowd chanted Conservative Party slogans as it moved toward City Hall in the gathering darkness along Paul Kruger Street, named to honor the Bible-toting Afrikaner hero whose fierce resistance to British rule led to the creation of the first Boer republic.
''We will bow to no man, only to God,'' party deputy Freddie Hartzenberg told the crowd as it massed at Church Square near a monument to Kruger. ''We will sweep through South Africa like a bush fire, we will mobilize the majority of whites.''
Despite requests to refrain from raising swastikas, several marchers carried Nazi flags. Others raised emblems of the white extremist Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), patterned after the swastika, while others waved the green, red, white and blue banners of the former Transvaal Republic, now a South African province.
As they headed through town, blacks who work in the city disappeared from the streets. Most of the men participating in the march wore khaki clothing. One carried a black doll with a noose around its neck, dismissing appeals to put away racist paraphernalia.
Police maintained a low profile and no violence was reported in the first white protest since President Frederik de Klerk announced a sweeping racial reform program Feb. 2 that included the release of black activist Nelson Mandela, the lifting a 30-year ban on the African National Congress and plans for power-sharing negotiations with the black majority.
''You are in Parliament on immoral grounds,'' Hartzenberg, referring to de Klerk, told the crowd of Afrikaners, the descendents of Dutch settlers who comprise the majority of the country's 5 million whites. ''You don't belong there. Resign.''
At City Hall, as many as 15,000 demonstrators swarmed the auditorium and spilled into the street as Conservative Party leader Andries Treurnicht, a former Dutch Reformed Church minister, declared Afrikaners faced ''one of their most serious challenges.''
Television monitors on the steps of City Hall and inside the building allowed the overflow crowd to follow his speech, which lasted nearly two hours. The Conservative Party dubbed the rally ''Protest Against Surrender.'' Outside the hall, three men held aloft a banner proclaiming, ''Freedom with Justice.''
''Nelson Mandela, keep your eyes off white South Africa,'' said Treurnicht, who broke with the ruling National Party in 1982. ''You have nothing to do with us. The African National Congress and the South African Communist Party have no right to rule over white people.''
He warned that the Afrikaner was ''a friendly tiger,'' but added, ''Don't push him.'' Treurnicht called U.S. sanctions against South Africa a ''form of cold war.''
Ilsa de Beer, an Afrikaner from Naboomspruit, just north of Pretoria, came to the rally ''for the freedom of my people.''
''My forefathers fought with their blood for this land,'' she said, clutching a flag of the old Transvaal Republic. ''We don't want an integrated system.''
The protest came five days after the release of Mandela, who was freed unconditionally on de Klerk's orders in a bid to create a climate of trust for the power sharing negotiations.
Mandela, in an interview at his home in Soweto, said Thursday he would be honored to become president in a post-apartheid South Africa and that whites and blacks were ''beginning to see problems from the same angle.''
He said the ANC would not suspend its limited guerrilla war against white domination but said the ANC would ''seize with both hands'' the opportunity for negotiations with the government if de Klerk lifts a 43-month-long state of emergency and frees all political prisoners.
''We are beginning to remove the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion which has undermined all efforts to get the two communities to cooperate,'' Mandela said.
Mandela said he would ''rely on the decision of the people'' when asked whether he might serve as the country's first black president if agreement is reached on a new constitution before the expiration of de Klerk's term in 1994.
''It would be an honor if that was the position but it's not one of my ambitions,'' he said. ''My ambition is to see to it that we have peace in the country and that we can appreciate each other's contribution to the future of South Africa.''
Earlier Thursday, Mandela met for an hour with civil rights activist Jesse Jackson who gave him a personal invitation to visit New York from Mayor David Dinkins. Jackson later told reporters that although Mandela was released it was a ''misnomer'' to say he was free.
"Mandela is out of jail. He is not free," Jackson said after the meeting. ''He is not free to vote and run for office and thus those pillars of apartheid must be removed in order to create a framework and a timetable for democratic reform.''