South Africa: Democracy That Could've Been
Johann Wingard - 6/2/2005
During the early nineties of the previous decade, one often met people with American accents in the now defunct Carlton Hotel in central Johannesburg. They were obviously from either the CIA or some political think tank institute. Some were academics who visited the country to put the finishing touches to the final brain washing process of the Afrikaner establishment, to persuade them to relinquish power to the African National Congress.
"Are you an Afrikaner?" an American asked me. He heard me greeting a colleague in Afrikaans before I stepped into the elevator at the end of the foyer. (Afrikaners are white South Africans from Dutch, French, German and British descent, who intermarried over 350 years to form a new African 'tribe,' somewhat like Australians or anglo Americans.)
"Yes, I am," I answered him, knowing that the inevitable next question would follow: "So, will the elections be peaceful, or should one expect violence?"
US policymakers probably worked day and night preparing for the final episode of Africa's liberation struggle. That final step was planned with the 1994 elections in mind, when the ugly face of a modern South Africa, associating itself with the west, would finally be exchanged for the more pleasing face of a third world country that associates with Africa.
The American was surprised at my response: "Has power ever been handed over peacefully anywhere in history?" I asked. "Why on earth would any government, possessed with an international intelligence service that compares with the best, backed by the best trained and equipped defense force on the continent, has a nuclear capability and is in full control of a country with the strongest economy in Africa? Why would any such government merely hand power over to a rabble of terrorists, whose political and warfare backers, the Soviet Union and other communist countries, have finally collapsed? Yes, why indeed?"
The American was speechless.
He invited me for a drink at the mezzanine Bar: "Call me Mike," he said.
"My name's Johann, how do you do," and we settled in a quiet corner.
"One may indeed ask why your government should hand over power and deliver the head of the Afrikaner nation on a plate to the ANC?" Mike said with a frown.
[During the intensive lobbying that took place in the preceding three or four years, a constitutional paradigm evolved which dictated that the nation state of South Africa is sacrosanct, that balkanization should be avoided and that the new South Africa should be based on liberal democratic principles (not values?). This paradigm would be the only acceptable model, with a constitution in place to safeguard the individual rights of every citizen of the country; 'the perfect constitutional framework for a modern society'.]
Obviously part of an advisory team, Mike lamented: "But your government has already agreed with all the proposals; the interim constitution has already been drafted and agreed upon. Do you really think that De Klerk and his government would renege on the deal?"
"No, they won't," I said. "They just do not have what it takes to carry the huge responsibility of governing this country. They have become enslaved to the dogma of political correctness and have succumbed to the pressures of economic interests. They rank those higher than the cause of the people they are supposed to serve. No, he won't renege. He and his cabinet simply don't have the liver for it."
I then proceeded to inform my new American friend of South Africa's history. Rather surprised how well-informed he was, I decided to explain history from an Afrikaner's perspective: "South Africa is a complex country and the product of its own history. At the turn of the previous century it consisted of the two British Colonies, namely the Cape Colony, Natal and the two independent Boer Republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Rich gold deposits were discovered in the Transvaal, which brought the Boer republic under Imperialist Britain's spotlight. The interests of the so-called 'gold bugs' prompted the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) to depose the Boer (Afrikaner) rulers of the Transvaal Republic. It was the last remaining non-British territory in Southern Africa and territorially it naturally belonged to Britain. (sic)
"The British taxpayers had to fork out £200 million for that war - the most expensive war Britain waged up to that time. No less than 22,000 thousand British soldiers lost their lives. On the Boer side, 4,000 Boer fighters, 12,000 black farm workers and 26,000 Boer women and children paid with their lives in a war contrived by the conniving gold bugs as "British interests". In first liberation war, the lust for gold and financial power, caused the Boer people to loose their two young republics. Denuded of their economy, their country and in many instances their families, the young Boer nation regrouped with the white Afrikaans speaking people in the rest of South Africa and emerged as the Afrikaners. They became a trusted ally of the West up to the end of the 20th century.
"The South African Native Affairs Commission (SANAC) was appointed by Lord Milner in 1903 and published their findings in 1905. Most scholars today recognise their recommendations as having laid the blue-print not only for the policies of racial segregation from 1910 to 1948, but also apartheid and separate development up to 1990.
"Lord Balfour, an intellectual in his own right, intervened in the house of Commons in London and warned about the dangers of extending the franchise to the 'natives' as blacks were known at the time. Chamberlain, Lord Milner, J.A. Froude, Anthony Trollope and Lord Bryce, among others, were dead-set against extending the franchise to the 'natives.' The South African colonies were to join the 'white' commonwealth in the form of the Union of South Africa to become 'a white man's country like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
So, Afrikaners regained political power in 1910, albeit as a surrogate authority, acting for and on behalf of Great Britain, to govern all four colonies as 'The Union of South Africa', a Dominium within the Commonwealth, and according to the laws of England.
"The combined black population of the four Colonies at the formation of the Union was estimated to be approximately 3.5 million, [hardly the population of Soweto today] located mostly in Zululand, the Transkei and in the far north in Vendaland. The farms and towns were truly white man's territory and it is logical that the English Lords could picture South Africa as a white man's country at the time.
"But the foundations of what was later to be called apartheid, were already cast in concrete by the gold bugs, who employed thousands of black workers on the mines, where they instituted a rigid system of racial segregation. That indeed developed a paradigm of separateness which shaped the country's political future in the decades that followed.
[COSATU explained in their written submission to the Truth Commission: "Captains of industry, particularly those associated with the diamond and gold-mining industry, pioneered many of the core features of what later came to be known as apartheid; far from spontaneously eroding racial oppression, profit-driven economic growth in South Africa coincided with the deepening oppression and dispossession of the majority; and even in the final two decades of apartheid rule, in the midst of a deepening economic crisis, a sometimes-wavering business community in South Africa generally collaborated heavily and benefited enormously from a close relationship with the minority regime."]
But today, the Afrikaners are being demonized as 'the creators of apartheid'.
"During 1939 at the Ekonomiese Volkskongres, the Afrikaners founded an ethnic economic system often referred to as ethnic capitalism, aimed at uplifting themselves after the effects of the Boer war and the 1933 depression. The SANLAM group was established on Afrikaner sentiments on a captive client base. Out of humble beginnings a huge financial and banking conglomerate emerged, which eventually entwined every aspect of the country's economic activity.
The public sector was also used to empower the Afrikaners, where the Afrikaner establishment in the formal public sector used the state's resources to develop massive projects. Within forty years, the state's investment portfolio consisted of a dozen modern coal fired power stations, SASOL, the world's largest oil and chemicals from coal complex, ISCOR, the state Iron an Steel Corporation, Foskor, the Phosphate Corporation, the massive forestry department as well as the South African Railways, - Harbours and - Airways, the post and telegraph network, etc.
"All these assets were built under Afrikaner control and management, using the most up to date technologies. These state assets, combined with those of the SANLAM group, were seen by many prominent Afrikaners as the ethnic capital base of the Afrikaner people, put specifically in place by them. The state's assets in 1987 totaled $98.2 Billion, and those of SANLAM not much less. To this must be added the future cash to be generated for profits, salaries and wages, amounting to a further $10 billion per annum.
"A very rich prize to fight a liberation struggle for, indeed… the real bounty that was handed on a plate to the ANC, representing another ethnic group."
Mike objected: "But you cannot claim that all those assets belong to the Afrikaners alone. They are state assets and belong to all the people of the country."
"That may be so. Picture South Africa without its gold mines, and you would still see a first world economy. But without the Afrikaners as well, you see another Mozambique or Angola. The primary aim of ethnic capitalism was to develop a first world economy, of self-sufficiency, of self-development, which to Afrikaners, is the basis of economic activity and social property. Without Afrikaners in control; these assets would not have existed," I reacted.
"After those assets had been handed over, the ANC will undoubtedly embark on a massive campaign of "job grabbing." Thousands, yes hundreds of thousands of Afrikaners, at every level of economic activity, will loose their jobs to unqualified or relatively inexperienced Africans. Americans invented the concept of affirmative action around 1960. In South Africa it would not apply to a minority, but applied and entrenched by a majority.
"We'll be back to racial classification and discrimination, abandoned several years ago. The much maligned practice of 'job reservation', phased out in the eighties, will be reinstalled when government contracts are reserved for black firms only. Institutionalized apartheid, phased out over the past decade, will be at the order of the day again, but in the guise of 'rectifying the wrongs of the past' or 'affirming historically disadvantaged people', and similar other euphemisms.
"The Afrikaners' strategy was to develop the economic basis of the country, or, if you will, the surface of the country, for the creation of wealth, whilst African governments inherently have a desire to develop their people directly, with rigid centralized control, leaving little room for individual creativity. An approach resembling an intravenous drug, a continuous drip-injection of cash into a hungry and roofless society, whose numbers are gyrating out of control. Remove the drip and the patient falters, calling for western aid to replace the denuded indigenous source. It happened in every single African country where the white man was sent packing.
"This model of government has consistently failed to create investor confidence for major projects elsewhere in Africa. Major new projects will not happen here soon. There will hardly be enough money to maintain existing projects established by Afrikaners, as every available cent will be consumed one way or another 'to uplift the people'. That is Africa's way of doing things, it is not wrong, its merely a different approach," I stated.
Mike enquired: "And what about the private sector component of your Afrikaner ethnic capitalist system? Will that also be handed over?"
"You'll remember the gold bugs I told you about? They were the ones that deposed the old Transvaal government with British aid and lives. Well, by 1965, the bugs invited the Afrikaners to join the mysterious financial world of the gold and diamond mining industry. Since then Afrikaner business had become so intertwined, that they no longer saw the gold bugs as their principal enemy. Instead, Afrikaner nationalism became enemy number one. Ethnic nationalism is a centrifugal force that drive people apart and may destabilize a multicultural country if unchecked. Business, on the other hand, inherently wants political stability for economic growth. A divergence, certainly not a confluence of strategic interests of potentially opposing forces are at play.
[Stated the South African Chamber of Business's Raymond Parsons before the Truth Commission: "The positive response by the business community to the relative political stability of the 1960s should not be viewed as support for the apartheid system, but rather as evidence that business is generally risk-averse, and that a stable and effective political system are prerequisites for business and investor confidence."]
I continued: "Afrikaner business interests aligns itself with those of the gold bugs, converting a major part of the ethnic capital base to the value system of international big business. Today more than 80% of all companies quoted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is under their control. This unholy alliance has a pathological fear of an unlikely civil war in South Africa. Added to that comes the threat of increased US-lead economic sanctions. The fortunes of the private sector - as well as parastatal empires, controlled by the handful of captains of industry, are at risk.
"The inevitable outcome can only be massive political pressure on government to adopt a pragmatic business approach and to bring about a new government, one that will be acceptable to the international community."
[Gold Bug Julian Ogilvie Thompson, Anglo-American's boss, conceded before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that apartheid created "a siege economy with wasted investment in strategic industries' which often enjoyed domestic monopolies and were protected from international competition by high tariff barriers."]
Mike listened attentively as I continued: "The surrender of power is not an act of any great, wise statesman, but the product of a bellyless group of businessmen, who learned their skills in a protectionist environment and who will undoubtedly buy their way through a new government to protect their business empires. The cultural or other interests of Afrikaners will be the last thing that would bother them. Before long, the new African elite will also be co-opted in the mining business."
"Fascinating, " my American friend reacted, "and how do you see the political future of the Afrikaner in the new dispensation?"
"Before commenting specifically, one should understand the dynamic of what happened in post colonial Africa. The European colonial powers all decided to vacate, even to desert their erstwhile African colonies and return to their home offices with the luxury of an Atlantic Ocean between them and their former colonies…
"But Afrikaners inherited the Union of South Africa from Great Britain and became a surrogate colonial power, a role they fulfilled for nearly a century. Like other colonial powers, it was a hierarchical system, where Afrikaners had a democratically elected government, whilst the different African tribes had their own structures, evolved over time. Over a century the black population increased tenfold and the demography of the country changed dramatically. The dilemma of an internal 'surrogate colonial power', such as the Afrikaners, is that they became captive inside their colony, sharing the same territory and having no chance of escaping.
"What would have happened, for instance, if the Belgians decided not to abandon the Belgian Congo but rather decided to form a one man one vote 'democracy' in a nation state with the Congo? Clearly, as a result of the tyranny of numbers, there would have been a black government in Brussels and pretty soon large numbers of blacks would have moved to Brussels to fill the posts demanded by a racial quota system. 'The workplace must portray the demographic realities of the country as a whole!' is the slogan often heard today. The civil service, the army and the police would become black overnight. Would Germany, France or Holland, or even Belgium's own citizens have tolerated such a model?"
"Heavens no, that is unthinkable!" Mike exclaimed.
" But that is exactly what we now have to do. Think about that one."
After a sip of Castle Lager, I continued: "We read and hear that South Africa must be transformed. 'It must look and function like an African state,' it is said. 'Transformation will be the principle focus during the next ten years.' Why? Is it because Africans are unwilling or unable to run a western country? Or is it merely to exclude Afrikaners from all walks of life, as they find it difficult to fit into an all African society?" I concluded perhaps somewhat vehemently.
Mike took out his wallet: "Here's my business card, I would like to hear how Afrikaners will cope in this strange new situation. Will you drop me a line?" We greeted and parted.
That was March, 1994.
(End of Part One)
A Democracy that could be.(2)
By Johann Wingard
In part (1) I related my discussion with the American consultant. So, how did things turn out during the ensuing decade? Since the Government's propaganda media, assisted by the obedient politically correct Afrikaans press, are pouring out a constant one sided view of the New South Africa, it may be interesting to view the political landscape from the Afrikaner's perspective.
A few months after the 1994 election, my car was hi-jacked at gunpoint. The new South Africa is now fully operational. Unfortunately, I left Mike's business card in the hijacked car, so that I lost his co-ordinates. Perhaps he would be lucky enough to get his feed back on the fate of the Afrikaners through this article, written ten years after our interview; ten years of "democratic" rule.
So, what does the new South Africa really look like?
Purely from an Afrikaner's perspective, a major problem appears to be the black Africans' pathological need to assert themselves politically and to demonstrate their new found power in every arena of society, usually at the expense of minorities. The 1994 settlement is viewed by the new black elite as a victory after the struggle; not as a political settlement aimed at embracing all the virtues of 'democratic principles'. The white minority is viewed as their legitimate prey after a political contest for power. Their intolerance with the demands of minorities reflect their disdain for legality as against legitimacy.
Intolerance in the workplace and in the cultural sphere is the most visible. Afrikaans, the most developed African language on the entire African continent, and formerly one of the two national official languages, has been relegated to one of eleven indigenous languages. English has unofficially been elevated as the 'national language of record'. Although cultural intolerance is prohibited by the constitution, (a constitution widely praised by the international liberal establishment,) it is totally ignored by the administration who argues that the previously disadvantaged majority has every right to assert themselves by transforming the cultural landscape: "Stop us if you can," seems to be their attitude. There may be strong arguments in favor of this insensitive behavior, but there are equally strong arguments to recognize and develop the smaller languages in a win-win situation.
Afrikaans schools and universities have been targeted for 'transformation'. Of the five Afrikaans universities only the smallest two have any hope of surviving partly as Afrikaans institutions, whilst there are nearly a dozen English language universities and technikons. Only 3% of the schools in Limpopo Province are Afrikaans medium, yet they are forced to become dual medium; inevitably to evolve as English medium. Afrikaans speaking teachers have to teach Afrikaans pupils in English only because a few black children refuse to be taught in Afrikaans. This is happening in a province where English is the home language of a fraction of one per cent of the white people and even less among blacks. Right across the country, the annual school pass rate reflects a shocking deterioration since 1994. Before that date, mother tongue education was official policy and produced brilliant black scholars and leaders. Today the practice is to teach children in a strange 'pidgin' English.
Several towns with Afrikaans names have been renamed in spite of violent opposition from the white communities. Nylstroom, (meaning Nile Stream) an old Voortrekker town, became Modipole, whilst Potgietersrust, named after Voortrekker Piet Potgieter, became Makopane. (Potgieter was the man who chased the genocidal and plundering Matabele chieftain Mzilikazi across the Limpopo river into Zimbabwe. Potgieter was afterwards captured by local chief, Makopane, who tortured him to death by skinning him alive.) Pretoria, the capital city, founded by Afrikaners and named after Pretorius, a Voortrekker leader, has now become Tshwane, a minor African chief who lived in those days. In his term of office, Nelson Mandela would never have allowed such insensitive cultural intrusions without the agreement of the communities concerned.
For nearly eighty years the town of Warmbaths had two other names: Warmbad in Afrikaans and Bela Bela (North Sotho for hot springs or 'bubbling water'). Only the "African" names may in future be used as a sign of black affirmation, according to Premier Ramathlodi. Cultural chauvinism is considered to be a divine right of the ruling class. Naked anti-white discrimination in the workplace cause thousands of otherwise economically productive employees to resign and turn themselves into a cocoon of political apathy.
Robert D. Kaplan, the well known author and philosopher, gave a vivid description of this country as it is today and to which informed people agree:
"Democratic South Africa, meanwhile, has become one of the most violent places on earth that are not war zones, according to the security firm Kroll Associates. The murder rate is six times that in the United States, five times that in Russia. There are ten private-security guards for every policeman. The currency has substantially declined, educated people continue to flee, and international drug cartels have made the country a new transshipment center. Real unemployment is about 33 percent, and is probably much higher among youths. Jobs cannot be created without the cooperation of foreign investors, but assuaging their fear could require the kind of union-busting and police actions that democracy will not permit. The South African military was the power behind the regime in the last decade of apartheid. And it is the military that may yet help to rule South Africa in the future. Like Pakistan but more so, South Africa is destined for a hybrid regime if it is to succeed. The abundant coverage of South Africa's impressive attempts at coming to terms with the crimes of apartheid serves to obscure the country's growing problems. There is a sense of fear in such celebratory, backward-looking coverage, as if writing too much about difficulties in that racially symbolic country would expose the limits of the liberal humanist enterprise worldwide."
To this can be added that the new administration displays nothing positive or creative. Its stance on the AIDS pandemic is pathetic. Their's certainly is a 'people-focus'. Running water and electric power has been laid on in scores of shanty towns and hundreds of thousands of single room houses built for a population group whose numbers are out of control. The property taxes of white residents have increased in most cases by more than 300% to pay for these services. One sees lots of symbolic rallies in T-shirts, baseball caps an banners to demonstrate solidarity between government and the people. Lots of very expensive international conferences and trips abroad occupy the time and budgets of state officials.
The African custom of 'kgotla' or large community meetings to discuss important issues, takes place at regular intervals. The (black) communities' involvement in many aspects of decision making makes them believe that they matter and that they are involved. But all decisions are taken beforehand and these rallies are merely intended to explain the decisions so that grass roots support is obtained.
The only creative or imaginative aspects of the new government's policies, are measures at uplifting the black communities and implementing its policy of transformation. Mediocrity, lack of management leadership and planning displays an attempt to ride out the economic momentum of the previous order whilst South Africa is transformed into an African state with a few thousand black millionaires. The only light in the tunnel appears to be the strong fiscal control of the finance department.
In a survey poll conducted by the Cape Town-based Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), aimed at evaluating people's opinions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and its effect on South African society, researchers Professor James Gibson of Washington University in the United States, and IJR staffer Helen Macdonald said inter alia that "racial isolation" of the different groups impeded reconciliation.
"Black South Africans do not understand whites, they feel uncomfortable around them," they said. " We do not argue that to 'know' is necessarily to 'love' ... but it is difficult not to be suspicious of groups with which one has had little personal contact and experience."
"South Africa is far from being a contented 'rainbow nation', but it is also a country in which many seem to reject the intense racial animosity of the past."
The survey found that less than a quarter of blacks said they understood the customs and ways of whites, [and yet blacks decide unilaterally what is good for whites in their everyday lives]. Roughly half of the whites, colored and Asians asserted they did not understand blacks. Just over half the blacks found it hard to imagine ever being friends with a white person. For whites, the figure was 19 percent. Equal proportions of blacks and whites - just under a fifth of each group - thought South Africa would be a better place without the other race.
Half of the white respondents, and a "somewhat surprising" 36 percent of blacks, believed that though there had been abuses, the ideas behind apartheid were "basically good".
"This most likely means that the 'separate development' aspects of apartheid are endorsed, rather than the idea that a racial hierarchy is acceptable," said the authors.
[Under apartheid, black and white officials worked closely together to develop the rural areas under the auspices of several state development corporations, which are now all defunct. Some of the major agricultural projects of these development corporations, which provided a livelihood to thousands of rural families, are now being liquidated]
The survey said it was consequently not surprising to find that many South Africans believed the struggle to preserve apartheid was just.
The finding that a greater proportion of blacks than whites (40 percent to 34 percent) held this view was "unexpected", perhaps indicating that people accepted that each racial community had the right to a separate existence.
[It also indicates that black grievances were grossly exaggerated by the media under the previous regime. "If they were not unhappy about their lot, they should have been."]
"South Africans of every race accepted what was probably a central conclusion of the TRC - that those who struggled for and against apartheid committed horrible abuses, and the differences between blacks and whites on this issue were insignificant."
The fact that 40% of blacks held the view that each racial community has the right to a separate existence, illustrate the folly of forcing a western style national state democracy onto a country so deeply divided along racial lines. Too much power was handed over too soon to too few. This is a bad formula for a country like South Africa with its diverse population. It may take decades to come to grips with itself as Nigeria is still unable to do.
Afrikaners, recognized as the most sophisticated tribe of Africa, have been sidelined in the new dispensation. More than 200,000 of their best brains have left for countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and of course Europe, where they are enriching their new countries with their skills and talents. Simultaneously, a strong brain drain is taking place from neighboring African states, who are losing their best black talent to South Africa, where they find sheltered employment under the affirmative action policy and transformation at the expense of white South Africans.
Many Afrikaners find it difficult to be territorial patriots. They are strangers in their own country and demand cultural autonomy as envisaged in the constitution. With the help of the international community, exerting pressure on the Mbeki government, the Afrikaner community will again participate in the daily affairs of the country, lest they may take matters into their own hands.
This democracy could work if its creative minorities are given the space to be themselves. Community leaders of all races have the patience and wisdom to see that it does. The creative minority of Zimbabwe was squashed and the pearl of Africa is in ruins. A similar situation should be avoided in South Africa.