wish to express my profound gratitude to the people of South Africa for inspiring this work.
trials and tribulations under apartheid and even before then, and their spirit of endurance, were a constant reminder to me
when I was writing this book that nothing is impossible of accomplishment, as is humanly possible, if you are determined to
was determined to write this book about South Africa. And I wrote it. I also wrote a book about South Africa although I am
not a South African just like many other people write books about countries which are not their home countries.
I could not even have undertaken the project without the people of South Africa. They are the subject of my work. If they
did not exist, I would not have been able to write the book. And if they did not do what they did, I would not have been inspired
to write it.
could not have written it the way I did, had it not been for their struggle for freedom which provided me with a lot of encouragement
to complete the project, focusing on the struggle and on the prospects and challenges they now face in the post-apartheid
struggle against apartheid was embraced by all of us as fellow Africans and won international support as well. And my interest
in South Africa has always been strong, as it has always been in other African countries as well, because of my identity as
the inspiration I drew from the struggle against apartheid to write this book, my interest in South Africa assumed another
dimension when my home country, Tanzania, became the headquarters of all the African liberation movements under the auspices
of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Liberation Committee which was based in our nation's capital, Dar es Salaam, where
I also worked as a news reporter and got the chance to know many freedom fighters from Southern Africa in general, not just
from South Africa.
writing this book was a very special undertaking for me, and it brought back fond memories of the camaraderie we as news reporters
and as Tanzanians in general shared with the freedom fighters who were based in our country.
inspired me in a very special way in writing this book and I will always be grateful to them. The commitment and the sacrifices
they made, as did my country, will always be a source of inspiration for me whenever I am confronted with tasks which require
a lot of sacrifice and enormous endurance.
I kept on writing this book, I recalled those days, liberation days, especially in the seventies, and got a lot of inspiration
not only from the members of the liberation movements during that period who found sanctuary in Tanzania, but also from my
fellow countrymen for the great sacrifice our country made to help our brethren win their freedom.
remember what President Julius Nyerere told us in those days. He said Tanzania was not free until the rest of Africa was free,
and our national party which led our country to independence was still a liberation movement like those in Southern Africa
and in the Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. And his commitment to African unity and liberation has always
been a source of inspiration in my life.
work is only a small part, in fact a very small part, of the body of works which have been written about South Africa through
the years and even since the end of apartheid. But it is written from my perspective which others may not have. In that sense,
it may be a contribution to cumulative knowledge we all share as human beings through the ages and from different cultures
round the globe.
unique experience of the people of South Africa does not make this work unique. But it reinforces my belief that in each of
us is the ability to make a unique contribution to mankind.
may not have succeeded in doing so in any of the books I have written. But I have tried.
but least is the contribution of those whose works I have cited in this book for documentation, with full attribution to them,
in full acknowledgement of the indispensable role they played as an invaluable source of the material I used in the completion
of my project.
I bear full responsibility for any mistakes in my work, it is with the full understanding that any project undertaken by man
in pursuit of knowledge is a collective enterprise in the sense that, as human beings, we are able to see far when we scan
the horizon only because we stand on the shoulders of others.
there is still so much beyond.
work looks at South Africa in contemporary times in historical terms. And it spans an entire generation since the sixties.
work is also a telescopic survey of the country's history since its founding more than 300 years ago.
have written another book, under a pen name, about South Africa in contemporary times. But this work is more comprehensive
than the other one from a historical perspective and an analytical standpoint with regard to some of the prospects and challenges
the country faces in the post-apartheid era.
won't say what my pen name is, but some of the readers may be able to recognise my other book on South Africa. I can only
say that I have incorporated into the other book a small portion of the material I have used in this study.
the focus of my other book is entirely different from this one, although the two works are intended to complement each other
as a humble contribution to a better understanding of what is unquestionably one of the most dynamic societies not only in
Africa but in the entire world.
South Africa has gone through in its traumatic history has been an invaluable lesson to all mankind. And some of the challenges
the country has faced and which it continues to face, especially in modern times since the introduction of apartheid as official
policy in 1948, have pushed the people of that nation to the limit of human endurance.
they have gone through has shown the resiliency of the human spirit against overwhelming odds. And their achievements are
the achievements of mankind.
being a general introduction to South Africa especially from a contemporary perspective, this simple survey also looks at
some of the most important milestones on the long road to freedom in that country. Millions travelled on that road. Countless
died in the struggle for freedom. And millions still remember what they went through.
in a way, this work is also a tribute to all those who suffered so much to free South Africa from bondage.
transformed the country into a better society for all and, by so doing, helped to make this world a better place for all mankind.
as members of the human family, it is our hope that we will leave this world a better place than we found it.
Post-Apartheid South Africa
PEOPLE in South Africa are now legally free. So are the Coloureds and the Indians.
the terms which were used by the apartheid regime to describe them are no longer much in use.
people never accepted the term “Bantu” which was used as a racial category to define them because of its derogatory
connotations. They also rejected it simply because it was wrong. There is no such thing as a Bantu race.
also have challenged the legitimacy of the assumptions articulated by the authorities during the apartheid era who used the
term arbitrarily as a descriptive category to define them in spite of the differences among them in terms of racial identity.
in spite of their newly won freedom, the extent to which they will be able to translate that into reality will, to a large
degree, depend on what whites do.
democratic government which assumed power after the end of apartheid inherited a bureaucracy dominated by male Afrikaners
most of whom, as supporters of apartheid, had no interest in implementing the policies of the new government aimed at achieving
of them were racist diehards – and they still are – fully committed to the ideology of white supremacy even in
the new dispensation of a multiracial democratic South Africa.
much of the success, and failure, of the government's policies will depend on the cooperation – or lack thereof –
from this hostile civil service and the rest of the white community, the vast majority of whom have only grudgingly, if at
all, accepted black-majority rule.
is common knowledge among many South Africans and even among foreigners that many whites, if not the majority, are unrepentant
and don't feel they did anything wrong during apartheid. They have nothing to apologise for.
is also common knowledge that black people have been more willing to forgive whites for what they did to them than whites
have been in acknowledging guilt for the mistreatment and racial injustices perpetrated with impunity against blacks and other
nonwhites during the apartheid era.
intransigence by whites was also underscored by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
which investigated apartheid-era crimes. As he stated on 18 August 1998, South African whites should be grateful black people
did not seek vengeance and white people did not face retaliatory violence when apartheid ended.
went on to say that whites should be more willing to seek racial reconciliation and demonstrate a commitment to building a
in a radio interview in Johannesburg, Tutu criticised whites for defending white privilege at the expense of blacks and other
nonwhites and for their unwillingness to bridge the racial gap across the socioeconomic spectrum.
was ending two years of work as chairman of the Truth Commission when he made those comments and referred to a survey that
showed 80 per cent of blacks believed racial reconciliation was possible, while only 20 per cent of whites, Coloureds and
Asians, combined, believed that.
the radio interview, Tutu said whites can not claim as many Germans did after Hitler's reign that they didn't know the truth
about the persecution and extermination of the Jews. Yet the majority of South African blacks have been more than willing
to forgive whites than whites have been willing to admit wrongdoing. As Tutu stated:
It is an incredible thing that has
happened, that (blacks) who still live in shacks, squalor and poverty, come to work in your beautiful homes, and they don't
say 'We're going to murder all of you in your beds'....
think that many white people can't actually bear to know that they got benefits and privileges (through apartheid). - (“Tutu
Critical of Whites: Churchman Says South Africans Pout Over Lost Privileges,” in The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 19 August 1998, p. A-13).
The National Party which instituted apartheid and ruled South Africa during that oppressive era never
apologised; nor did the majority of whites:
In recent years, (only) some Afrikaners have apologized for apartheid. - (The Boston Globe, Ibid).
Not only have the majority refused to apologise; whites still wield enormous power in South Africa, especially
in the economic arena.
And statistics are staggering. Not only do whites still control the economy; they still own 75 of the
land. Yet, they constitute only about 13 per cent of the total population, while blacks are in the vast majority, constituting
75 per cent. But they are virtually landless in their own native land.
All that has serious implications for the future of South Africa, whether or not the country will develop
and survive as a truly democratic and multi-racial society without serious racial problems.
And it can. However, this noble goal is being held hostage in the laager because of the fortress mentality
of many whites who feel, wrongly, that they are swamped in a sea of hostile blacks who vastly outnumber them.
But it is the unwillingness of most whites to help end racial inequalities especially in the economic
arena, and their refusal to admit that apartheid was wrong, which poses the biggest threat to the future of South Africa as
a rainbow nation where people of all races lives in harmony and without racial inequalities.
This siege mentality among many whites can only serve to alienate friendly blacks and radicalise a substantial
segment of the black population – including a significant number of them in the ruling African National Congress (ANC)
– and polarise relations among the races, especially between blacks and whites.
The result could be a populist rebellion led by groups such as the militant Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)
and the radical wing of the African National Congress in which whites are going to be the losers.
Such radical transformation of South Africa will, of course, inevitably lead to white flight including
many whites with needed skills. They have, in fact, been leaving in significant numbers since the end of apartheid.
There is no question that the country will suffer a brain drain. But that is the price probably the majority
of blacks are willing to pay to end racial inequalities and give concrete expression to their newly won freedom.
And it is a price imposed on blacks by whites; for, while legal apartheid has ended, the racist mentality
which created that monstrous institution still exists. And while black majority rule is now a fact of life, many whites, if
not the majority, are nostalgic about “the good old days” when the finger-wagging president, P.W. Botha, defiant
as ever even when his regime was under siege and on its way out, bluntly stated on 18 August 1988 in his speech at the National
Party's annual congress in Durban:
As far as I'm concerned, I'm not even considering the possibility of black
majority government in South Africa. - (P.W. Botha, quoted by the Independent, South Africa, 19 August 1988).
History proved him wrong. Less than six years later, black majority rule became a reality, although
the majority of whites did not want that to happen. That is why they supported apartheid through the years since it was instituted
It is true that in an all-white referendum in March 1992, white voters gave F.W. De Klerk, the
last white president, the mandate to proceed with constitutional changes which would lead to racial equality under the law.
But that is not because they had, all of a sudden, undergone change of heart and accepted blacks as equals. People don't become
Whites in South Africa had simply resigned themselves to the inevitability of black majority rule
because they couldn't do anything to stop it. As Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere once said, “throughout history,
all nationalist struggles have had one end: victory.”
In fact, President de Klerk himself and his colleagues did everything they could to sabotage the
process leading to the establishment of a multiracial democratic government in which blacks would be in the majority. He sought,
instead, an asymmetrical kind of power-sharing skillfully disguised as democratic under which the white minority would retain
their dominant position in society by having veto power under the constitution.
Therefore it was no surprise that even after the triumph of democracy over white supremacy, whites
opposed to black majority rule resorted to subterfuge to sabotage it; a point underscored by President Nelson Mandela in December
1997 in his farewell speech as head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
And as de Klerk himself stated in May 1997 in his testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, the overall programme of “separate development” of the races – euphemism for apartheid, hence
racial oppression – was justifiable. His only concession, which was lukewarm at best, was that only some aspects of
apartheid were morally wrong. As he stated:
The underlying philosophy of separate development was to bring political
freedom to all South Africans through what many would call partitioning, which is exactly the policy that the whole world
now supports and accepts as morally justifiable for Israel and Palestine....
I argue that constitutional goals of that policy were theoretically –
and while it remained a practical possibility – morally justifiable. - (F.W. De Klerk, quoted by Lynne Duke, “South
Africa: De Klerk's New War – The Former South African President Draws Fire for Battling the Country's Truth Commission,”
in The Washington Post, National Weekly Edition, July 28, 1997,
It is such moral posturing in defence of apartheid which fuelled sentiments
for a volkstaat – a separate state carved out of
multiracial South Africa – among many whites who resented living under black majority rule.
In the new state, white separatists would continue to practise the old policy of apartheid.
The majority of whites did not support that. Or they simply abandoned the idea as a practical impossibility.
But a significant number of racist diehards went on establish a racist outpost called Orania.
In fact, the predominantly black government which, under Nelson Mandela,
assumed power after apartheid ended, made room in the new constitution for the concept of a Volkstaat (people's state), thus giving legal sanction to the establishment of Orania
or any other enclave seeking some kind of self-determination along those lines.
The concession to whites who believed in that was intended to make sure that no one was denied
any rights as long as the enjoyment of those rights did not interfere with the rights of others.
The enclave of Orania, in a remote part of the Northern Cape Province, was intended to be a white
homeland reminiscent of life under apartheid for whites when they lived in their own separate areas sanctioned by law.
Although there were blacks and Coloureds in the area, they were not allowed to live or work in
It was a magnificent dream for racists, yet fraught with danger in terms of survival as a viable
community. Total separation from the rest of South Africa would be impossible.
Yet they remained persistent in pursuit of their dream. According to a report by Barnaby Phillips,
“South Africa's 'White Homeland',” on BBC:
On a bleak hill in the midst of the vast Karoo desert stands a statue of Hendrik
A former prime minister of South Africa, few
people remember Mr Verwoerd kindly.
He was known as the "mastermind of apartheid",
a determined exponent of the theory that South Africa's different races should live apart, and that the white minority should
be in control.
But in the tiny community clustered below
the hill, Mr Verwoerd's memory is cherished.
This is Orania, a town populated exclusively
by white Afrikaners, who have withdrawn from the modern South Africa, and are now trying to build their own, racially pure
homeland in this harsh landscape.
Orania's elders say they are trying to protect
a language and a culture which are under threat.
At the forefront of the project is Carel Boshoff,
a grandson of Hendrik Verwoerd and an eloquent spokesman.
Mr Boshoff argues that he and his fellow Oranians
are not trying to re-create apartheid, they are seeking to protect Afrikaners' values
Orania is built on private land, bought by
Mr Boshoff and colleagues at the beginning of the 1990s.
During the past decade people here have done
their best to stay out of the limelight.
But the recent announcement by the South African police that they had arrested
about 20 Afrikaners allegedly involved in a plot to overthrow the ANC government has brought a wave of unwelcome publicity
South Africans are once again curious about hard-line Afrikaner nationalism, and
the potential threat it poses to the new, multi-racial democracy.
South Africans are once again curious about hard-line Afrikaner nationalism, and
the potential threat it poses to the new, multi-racial democracy.
South Africans are once again curious about hard-line Afrikaner nationalism, and
the potential threat it poses to the new, multi-racial democracy.
Mr Boshoff vehemently condemns the use of violence, but he says the government must address
the concerns of anxious Afrikaners.
"By just ignoring them, the present ANC government would be doing exactly what
the past National Party government did when it labelled ANC activists as extremists," he says.
Many of Orania's 600 residents say they have come here to escape the violence and
crime which are so prevalent in modern day South Africa.
Amongst them is Ina Smit, a pensioner from Johannesburg, who is a firm believer
that white and black people should not live together.
"I feel that they have to stay on their side, and we on our side, because we have
a different culture," she says.
Orania's museum is a shrine to Afrikaner history - glass cabinets are full of old
muskets and rifles, and pride of place is given to fading photos and maps depicting the battles of the Anglo-Boer war.
The museum curator, Kokkie de Kock, has lived in Orania for five years.
He told me that those Afrikaner leaders who negotiated with the ANC to transfer
power to the black majority are "traitors".
When I asked him whether he considered President Thabo Mbeki to be the leader of
South Africa, he paused, before saying "no comment".
The South African parliament is now considering Orania's request that it would
be granted its own municipality.
I drove 40 kilometres up the road to meet the black and coloured communities who
live in the neighbouring dusty and poor townships, to try and gauge their attitude towards Orania.
One young black man said to me: "We think they are racists. It's true that some
of them are trying to reach out to us, but most of them are racist."
Another man agreed. "I don't think they should have their own land. In South Africa
today we are all trying to live together, and that's very important to us." - (Barnaby Phillips, “South Africa's 'White Homeland',”
BBC News, Africa, 22 November 2002).
But Orania continued to fade through the years. Ten years after the end of apartheid,
it was easy to drive past the town without even noticing the small enclave which considered itself to be the heartland of
the Afrikaner with a dream of establishing an independent homeland for whites.
All that remained was a dream. As Carel Boshoff, founder of Orania and son-in-law of
late Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd said in 2004 when he was 76 years old:
If South Africa stays peaceful, if no conflict breaks out, then I do not think I will see the realisation of a
Volkstaat in my lifetime. - (Carel Boshoff, quoted in “10
Years On, Orania Fades Away: South Africa: Decade of Freedom: News24, South Africa).
Even after more than 10 years since apartheid ended, there were Afrikaners in Orania
and elsewhere who continued to cherish their dream of establishing an Afrikaner homeland. Others were more realistic. The
new dispensation, of post-apartheid South Africa, was irrevocable.
They had to learn how to adjust to it and find other ways to articulate
their desire for self-determination. According to a report, “Orania, White and Blue,” published in one of South
Africa's major news papers, Mail&Guardian:
It must be the only South African town still presided over by a statue of Hendrik
Verwoerd, out-and-out believer in white supremacy and the architect of apartheid. Eleven years after South Africa’s
first all-race elections, Orania seems, more than ever, to be lost in a time warp.
The eerie feeling of stepping back into a bygone age pervaded last week’s
conference on Afrikaners’ right to selfstandigheid (independence), which was staged in Orania’s community hall -- next to
Verwoerd’s heroic bronze. It was accentuated by the fact that most of the delegates from the Northern Cape town are
in or past their middle years.
Among the intellectuals who attended -- including academic and businessman Jakes
Gerwel, former opposition leader Van Zyl Slabbert and former Unisa principal Marinus Wiechers -- there was little enthusiasm
for territorial separation. Some of the hundred-odd delegates called for solutions to Afrikaner selfbeskikking (self-determination) in ways other than through a volkstaat. Suggestions included a
The sapping of Afrikaner identity, culture and language in the new dispensation,
and the sad reality that Afrikaners have not embraced their rights to independence under the Constitution, were tossed around
in inconclusive debate. A resolution calling for legislation to be prepared for Parliament, making the self-determination
of different South African communities possible, was adopted.
Orania’s population of 600 does not suggest South Africa’s 2,5million
Afrikaners are lining up to demand their own state. The dorpie stands in semi-desert terrain, 160km outside Kimberley, and
is not renowned as one of the country’s economic hubs. Where will the jobs come from?
Built on private land, it is ruled by residents. Forty Afrikaner families bought
the dilapidated town for R1,5-million in December 1990 and have since added more land to extend the borders of their Utopia.
The independence fantasies of Oranians find strange outlets and festivals to celebrate
Afrikaner holidays. The local kerk (church) bazaar issues its own currency, the “Ora”.
“We are for Afrikaners; people who speak Afrikaans and who want to preserve
the Afrikaner culture,” resident John Strydom told the Mail
& Guardian last year. “If you want to
live here, you are welcome, as long as you subscribe to Afrikaner culture.”
Carel Boshoff, Orania’s 77-year-old founding father, admitted at the conference
that he had envisaged 60 000 residents after 15 years. Boshoff and his followers once dreamed of a volkstaat
stretching to Namaqualand and the West Coast, but the patriarch has pretty much accepted that this will not happen in his
Other Orania pioneers do not take such a long view. Sam de Klerk told delegates
that time was running out for Orania’s ageing population.
The problem is Afrikaner pragmatism. Boshoff’s grandson, Carel Boshoff IV,
commented that, instead of striving for an independent volk that would contribute to a better country, today’s Afrikaners had decided
to seek a place in the sun in a greater South Africa. In the new South Africa, he lamented, Afrikaner identity had undergone
a transformation. “What was once a resolute community that demanded respect has now developed into a loose bundle of
individuals that totter between nostalgia and opportunism,” he observed.
But Boshoff conceded that Afrikaners could not be expected to embrace the ideology
of selfbeskikking if its advocates did not adequately analyse South Africa’s structural power
shifts and political developments.
Wiechers told the conference that Afrikaners should look to cyberspace as geographical
independence looked more and more unlikely. “For such a virtual government, all interested parties and bodies could
draw up a constitution,” he said. “Membership and appurtenances could be recruited on a voluntary basis, ‘voter
registration’ undertaken, party politics organised, elections held, virtual government bodies such as Parliament and
executive organs elected, budgets calculated and taxes imposed.” Wiechers also argued that Afrikaner unity would never
be achieved, and that Afrikaners “had to accept each other in all our variety”.
One of the few coloured people at the conference, Gerwel was concerned about the
dangers of racism in any separatist enterprise. He said there had to be space for cultures to develop independently, but without
racism or creating divisions in the country. Not only Afrikaners had the right to self-determination. Gerwel added that it
would be difficult for Afrikaners to create a territorial volkstaat, but that they might achieve autonomy in other ways, such as through community-driven
Asked whether the African National Congress was sympathetic to the volkstaat
cause, Gerwel said the ruling party “was apprehensive about ‘bantustanising’ South Africa again, because
of what happened under apartheid”. One of apartheid’s fatal contradictions was whites’ desire for political
control while retaining access to black muscle power. At least Orania cannot be accused of such hypocrisy, it is “Boer
or bust”, with no black labour allowed. Here whites do the dirty work themselves, whether cleaning toilets or building
“Afrikaners have forgotten to do certain jobs because they think it is beneath
them,” the elder Boshoff told delegates. “They sit in front of the TV while others do the jobs they don’t
want to do. In Orania, we believe in self-employment. We do not have the right to enslave anyone else.”
Just how far Orania is from its dream of a far-flung, populous Afrikaner state
is highlighted by the modesty of its current political programme -- and the fact that it has had to petition the ANC government
to achieve it. It wants its own independent municipality, instead of falling under a larger district council. And it is waiting
for a Cabinet ruling on the issue.
It boasts that it is that it is one of the Northern Cape’s few solvent towns.
“Our residents pay their bills,” proudly proclaims Prinsloo Potgieter, Orania’s elected mayor. “We
are truly self-sustaining.” - (Yolandi Groenewald, “Orania, White and Blue,” in Mail&Guardian, 1
Opposition to the establishment of a democratic government under
a predominantly black leadership was so strong among many Afrikaners that it was not inconceivable that some of them would
want to have their own independent homeland separate from the rest of South Africa which was ready to embrace the new dispensation.
And that's exactly what happened.
The result was Orania, the heart and soul of Afrikanerdom in the
new South Africa. It was an anachronism in the new dispensation but evoked feelings of nostalgia among many Afrikaners and
other whites who missed “the good old days” when the country was under apartheid.
And these are some of the elements who are a major stumbling block
towards racial reconciliation even today in the new South Africa.
It was a tragedy that the Truth Commission failed to achieve racial
reconciliation, mainly because of opposition to what many whites considered to be a witch hunt by the commission.
Resentment of the Truth Commission among many
whites and their refusal to accept and help build democracy in the new South Africa prompted President Thabo Mbeki to say
that whites are afflicted with -
carefully calibrated amnesia about what our society has inherited from the past....The hatreds and animosities of the past
will not go away unless the truth is told about what happened. - (Thabo Mbeki, quoted by Lynne Duke, “South Africa:
De Klerk's New War – The Former South African President Draws Fire for Battling the Country's Truth Commission,”
Washington Post, National Weekly Edition, 28 July 1997, p.18).
The refusal by the majority of whites to admit the evils of apartheid
and the wrongs perpetrated by them and by the government in the name of justice went all the way to the top of the nation's
leadership when the country was still under white-minority rule.
President de Klerk told the Truth Commission that the torture and
murder of apartheid opponents was not part of the regime's policy; and that during all his years in government, he never was
a party to any order to carry out or condone such abuses and atrocities. He went on to say that if they ever took place when
he was president, he was not aware of them.
It was a flat denial which was contradicted by the testimony of his
subordinates who said it was de Klerk himself who authorised the murders of anti-apartheid activists when he was president.
Yet de Klerk maintained that he was surprised just like anybody else
was when he learned the scope of the abuses. When the Truth Commission officials confronted him with a government document
showing that he was present at a cabinet meeting in 1986 at which a decision was made to create a security force that would
“eliminate” enemies of the state, he flatly denied that “eliminate” meant “kill.”
The chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Archbishop
Desmond Tutu, said de Klerk's testimony – his outright defence of apartheid and flat denial of all the murders and torture
of anti-apartheid opponents – made him want to cry.
Still, de Klerk remained unperturbed. Instead, he filed suit against
the commission saying it was biased against him and other whites in general, and insisted in his testimony:
telling the truth. If the truth doesn't suit some people's view, then surely I can not start telling an untruth to satisfy
demands of my opponents. - (de Klerk, ibid).
National Congress accused de Klerk of deliberately trying to undermine the reconciliation process in a country divided along
South African Anglican Bishop David Russell, who visited de Klerk
after his testimony before the Truth Commission, described the former president as having -
lack of insight into the inherent wickedness of apartheid. - (David Rusell, ibid).
But an even
bigger tragedy was that the majority of whites felt the same way he did. Therefore his denial, hence defence, of the atrocities
perpetrated under apartheid was a sentiment he expressed in his capacity as the collective conscience of most whites.
He made that clear in an interview in his response to Bishop Russell's
remarks, saying that what Russell and others require -
is that I must say the
National Party, with regard to all its policies, was inherently vicious. - (de Klerk, ibid).
In response to complaints by whites about the activities of the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission, Constitutional Court Justice Richard Goldstone (a white himself), who at different times headed
South African and Bosnian as well as Rwandan human rights investigations, had this to say:
a little bemused at how many white South Africans adopt the attitude in private conversation: 'Why are we opening all these
My first comment is that the wounds haven't closed. Most of
them are septic and have to be cleansed. - (Richard Godlstone, ibid).
Even a catalogue of the wounds inflicted on black people –
as well as on Coloureds and Indians – by apartheid is not enough to jolt the conscience of such whites. They want to
forget the past and even contend it wasn't that bad after all, forgetting that the past is very much the present and the future.
And as George Santayana reminds us: “Those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It is therefore worth remembering that the wounds inflicted by apartheid
run so deep that it will be a long, long time – probably generations – before they heal, if at all. This is analogous
to what happened in the United States where the wounds inflicted by slavery have not yet healed more than 140 years after
the slaves were freed following the Emancipation Proclamation.
The healing must take place. And whites must repent. They supported
apartheid, and they benefited from apartheid. And they still reap benefits from the legacy of apartheid....
At a funeral on August 3rd 1997
for five blacks killed in the village of Magoda in July (the victims were only among many others), Mandela said the deaths
proved the existence of a concerted effort to undermine South Africa's fledgling democracy. He told hundreds of villagers
who assembled on the side of a hill to bury the dead:
are not dealing with an individual or just a small group of criminals. We are dealing with experienced political criminals
in command of huge resources – finances, weaponry, communications networks and connections at key positions.
We are dealing with a highly coordinated network of people
deployed in state organs, such as the army and police.
They are driven by the desperate attempt to arrest the democratic
transformation of our country and turn back the clock of history....
We want to know why and who decided
to withdraw the security forces, especially the soldiers, from this area on the day of the massacre. - (Nelson Mandela, quoted
by Suzanne Daley, “Wave of Killings Revive Fears of 'Third Force' in South Africa,” in the International Herald Tribune, 13
August 1997, p. 1; The New York Times, 12 August 1997. See also “South
Africa After Mandela,” in The Economist, 2 August 1997, p. 28).
Testimony from court cases
and statements to the Truth Commission provided a picture of past Third-Force activities in KwaZulu Province in which the
former National Party government instigated black-on-black violence.
National Party officials
did, in fact, admit that there was a special fund authorised by the cabinet to support the African National Congress' arch-enemy
in the province, the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
And police officers testified
that when they supplied weapons and provided other assistance to Inkatha members bent on assassinating African National Congress
(ANC) activists, they were following orders from top government ministers.
Many experts believed
that remnants of such a force survived the end of apartheid. They pointed to gun-running operations and paramilitary training
which continued unhindered by the security forces which were still dominated by whites. As Mary De Hass, a social anthropologist
at the University of Natal and publisher of a bimonthly newsletter on political violence, stated:
they are grossly incompetent or key members of both the police and the army are continuing their well-established destabilisation
strategies. - (Mary De Hass, quoted by Suzanne Daley, "Wave of Killings Revives Fears of 'Third Force' in South Africa," in
the International Herald Tribune, 13 August
1997, p. 1; Suzanne Daley, in The New York Times, 12 August 1997).
She said she believed the latter.
"Third Force" probably extended beyond racist police and army officers who hoped that by fomenting black-on-black violence
to "prove" that blacks were too violent to be trusted with government, or too incompetent to combat crime and maintain law
and order, many South Africans would be persuaded to vote whites back into power.
for that proposition to be feasible, blacks themselves who constitute the majority would have to vote for a return to the
status quo ante; which was not only unlikely but out of the question.
of the blacks who had been victims of the violence instigated by the "Third Force" believed that they were caught up in that
vicious cycle of killings because white extremists and their black henchmen were behind it to destroy black majority rule.
victims included, of course, the people in the village of Magoda near Richmond, a town about 40 miles south of Pietermaritzburg
in KwaZulu-Natal Province where President Mandela attended the funeral.
the destabilisation campaign continued, mainly in subtle and sophisticated ways in the bureaucracy which was still dominated
by whites, in the white business community and in the media, to discredit and weaken South Africa's predominantly black government.
Yet that was the government which had been tolerant of the very same people who were trying to undermine it, despite
some misgivings by some whites about Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and his colleagues and some of the ANC policies which even
a number of critics conceded could not be roundly criticised because of the glaring inequalities between blacks and non-blacks.
As R.W. Johnson, a white South African and former anti-apartheid activist and director of the Helen Suzman Foundation in Johannesburg,
stated in The Wall Stree Journal:
Deputy President Thabo Mbeki chairs the cabinet and runs
the government; among the hundreds of officials, assistants and advisers who surround him is not a single white face.
nonblacks see the pressure for affirmative-action appointments within the state machine and the broader labor market as a
sort of reneging on the ANC's pledge of nonracism....(But) in a way this was all predictable....
to complain about what is happening can sound churlish, particularly when whites, Asians and mixed-race 'coloreds' enjoy an
average standard of living incomparably higher than that of blacks.
In fact, the black electorate, which the ANC promised 'jobs, jobs, jobs' in the last election campaign, is experiencing
an unemployment rate between 25 and 40 percent. - (R.W. Johnson, "South Africa's New Problems," in The
Wall Street Journal, 19 September 1997, p. A-14).
question is how long blacks can wait before they start getting their fair share of the economic pie.
can't eat the vote. They know when they are hungry and why their stomachs are empty. They know when they don't have decent
or affordable housing. And they know why.
of economic growth mean absolutely nothing to them when those figures don't translate into concrete benefits for them in their
everyday lives. And nothing is going to change without fundamental change.
many non-blacks don't want to make sacrifices to help uplift their fellow countrymen, blacks people, who collectively suffer
the most - in terms of economic disadvantages - even after the end of apartheid.
of them, especially whites, have chosen to leave South Africa instead of staying to help build the country. They should also
consider themselves to be very lucky there has been no backlash against them from many blacks in retaliation for the atrocities
it is also a fact that if blacks come down really hard on whites, they are going to speed up the brain drain they want to
avoid in order to keep white professionals whom they need to keep their country going.
are simply not enough blacks in South Africa who have the necessary skills to run such an industrialised country with a sophisticated
economy. They were denied education for too long, and it will be a long time before they catch up with whites, if at all.
that is the only weapon whites have in their hands pointed at blacks and which they have been dangling over their heads. They
can use it as a bargaining tool to extract meaningful concessions from the predominantly black government.
all skilled whites were to pull out of South Africa today, their departure would have a devastating impact on the country.
It would be a catastrophe. The economy, industry, and infrastructure would collapse overnight.
they have a moral duty to remain in South Africa and help blacks whom they exploited for more than 300 years. But they keep
on fleeing mainly because it is unthinkable for many of them to live under a black government. And they started fleeing soon
after apartheid ended and have continued to do so through the years. Statistics on white flight even back in the 1990s tell
It's apparently not enough for the country's 10 million
nonblacks to be told that they should feel lucky....They are disenchanted enough that large numbers are emigrating.
The figures are difficult to ascertain: Up to 40 per cent
of whites have foreign passports and therefore need not formally emigrate. But the South African press estimates that 50,000
to 80,000 whites have left each year since 1994 - a loss perhaps 5 to 6 per cent of the total white population.
For the moment, the economic effect is somewhat diminished,
because many skilled whites and Asians near retirement age are staying on.
as they leave the labour market, the full effects of the departure of so many of their younger colleagues will be evident.
Since almost all the country's professional and managerial skills are concentrated in the white and Asian populations, one
can expect a significant 'deskilling' of the economy. Such wholesale emigration was disastrous even in Mozambique and Angola,
primarily agricultural economies.
South Africa's first black majority government must set
out to make the white and Asian minorities feel more at home. It must ensure that the promise of national reconciliation is
kept. And it must seek to reverse the brain drain that threatens the livelihood of all South Africans. That miracle is clearly
within reach of this government - if only it would make the effort. - (Ibid).
miracle is also possible if whites and other non-blacks reciprocate the feelings of the black-majority government whose conciliatory
gestures have in many cases been rebuffed by whites....
It is true that blacks are making inroads into the economy, a bastion of white power for centuries, without which
political power is meaningless. But they still have a long way to go. As Mark Gevisser reported from Johannesburg in his article,
"Ending Economic Apartheid," in The Nation:
In South African politics and government, blacks now rule,
But despite the fact that blacks are more than 80 percent of South Africa's population, black companies control only
8 percent of the equities on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange - [while] Anglo-American alone controls 24 percent. - (Mark Gevisser,
"Ending Economic Apartheid: Is Labor Capitalism Risking the Legacy of South Africa's Liberation Struggle?," in The Nation, New York, 29 September 1997, p. 24).
was more than 10 years ago. And little has changed.
there are blacks who complain that such "economic empowerment" benefits only the black middle class, to the exclusion of the
masses who bore the brunt of the liberation struggle. As Sam Shilowa, the secretary-general of the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (COSATU), stated:
Black people are justified when they say that democracy
means more than just the right to vote; that it means economic empowerment. But there are those who believe it means self-enrichment
of a few. - (Sam Shilowa, quoted ibid., p. 25. See also "South Africa's Powerful Unions: Labour's Weight," in The Economist, 27 September 1997, pp. 48 - 49).
Still, black trade unions have the financial - and the
political - clout which can enable them to exercise some leverage, and in many cases a lot of leverage, in the economic arena.
the retirement funds of black workers amount to billions of dollars which the unions partly control....
Even after the end of apartheid - no one should expect a miracle overnight but things could move a little faster -
the income gap between blacks and whites is astounding. According to The Economist:
Black incomes are barely a sixth of white ones. - ("South
Africa - How Wrong Is It Going?: South Africa's Breezy Post-Apartheid Self-Confidence Has Crumbled," in The Economist, 12 October 1996, p. 23. See also "After
Mandela's Gone," ibid., pp. 17 - 18).
is just one of the remnants of apartheid. And, in the face of white intransigence, it partly explains why there are those
who would settle for nothing less than tit-for-tat.
is yet no groundswell for such feelings among blacks, the primary victims of legally sanctioned racism. But it can not be
entirely ruled out in the future, depending on the extent to which whites, however grudgingly, are going to meet justified
demands by blacks for meaningful concessions from their former oppressors:
Not all blacks are as forgiving as Mr. Mandela. Some still
seek vengeance for the crimes of apartheid, others merely want to press harder for black advancement.
no wonder: much power, especially in business, the civil service, the press and the universities, remains in white hands.
It needs to spread....Whites should be clear that their privileges can not endure. - (Ibid., pp. 17, and 18).
It is this perpetuation of white privilege by the white
oligarchy and bureaucracy in multiracial democratic South Africa which has been the main catalyst for "Africanbond," a phenomenon
of racial bonding among South African blacks - especially the elite - although in spirit and intent it is entirely different
from the virulently racist Afrikaner Broederbond which was formed to perpetuate white supremacy. As reported from Johannesburg
in October 1996, not long after apartheid officially ended, by The Economist:
It was revealed this month that [some members of the black
elite] had got together to hatch an 'Africanbond,' an informal black society that would promote the interests of black brotherhood.
The aim, declared the minutes of a meeting reported in South Africa's Sunday Times, was to combat 'the growing conspiracy against meaningful black participation in
extending and leveraging political democracy to facilitate economic and social democracy.'
guest list reads like a Who's Who of South Africa's top black business people, lawyers and media types.
The idea of an Africanbond sent a frisson through white South Africa. Many seized on the unfortunate choice of name, and its echo of the Afrikaner Broederbond,
a secret society that started out as an informal means of promoting Afrikaners in a world dominated by white English-speakers,
but ended up as a powerful, manipulative and corrupting network. - ("Bonding of South Africa's Blacks," in The Economist, 18 October 1996, p. 50).
It also ended up being the true embodiment of the soul
and spirit of Afrikanerdom and a hotbed of intrigue against blacks.
glaring contrast, Africanbond is not intended to be a fountainhead of racist ideas or an instrument of racial oppression to
be used against whites or other non-blacks; nor is it a team of black ideologues providing an ideological rationale for some
future race war against non-blacks as the Afrikaner Broederbond did against blacks during the apartheid era. It is the antithesis
of all that:
There is nothing sinister about the Africanbond, insists
Peter Vundla, who runs Herdbuoys, an advertising agency, and who was one of the hosts to the gathering: 'It's just a group
of people who have been bonded by our collective African experience.'
name, he says, was one of several suggested by the group. There are no plans to turn it into a formal organisation, with membership
rules, let alone vows and silly handshakes. A nearer parallel would be the Brenthurst group, a loose clan of top white businessmen
which from time to time meets members of the government.
its nature, the Africanbond venture exposes the discontent of the country's black elite. Political liberation has not delivered
instant access to other centres of power. Big business, most universities, the best-selling newspapers, remain firmly in white
hands....Blacks are frustrated at their relative lack of business and intellectual clout.
striking example of this was the row last year (1995) when William Makgoba, then deputy vice-chancellor at the University
of Witwatersrand, a stronghold of white liberalism, tried to 'Africanise' it....
white academics found Mr. Makgoba's tactics more than unpleasant. He was eventually moved to another post.
were indignant. He was 'the newest victim of the spontaneous white conspiracy against the black intelligentsia,' wroteThami
Mazwai, a black writer and Africanbond guest....
of the time, black and white muddle along together, by choice or circumstance. But then comes a sharp reminder of how readily
South Africans retreat into the racial laager. - (Ibid., pp. 50 - 51).
As they retreat into that sanctuary assuming a defensive
posture, they start to hurl charges and counter-charges, recriminations which, in order to be properly understood, must be
looked at in the context of apartheid South Africa which inflicted so much damage on its citizenry. The effects of this destruction
continue to reverberate and are felt in every nook and corner of the South African society.
blacks took over, whites right away started complaining about the "inefficiency" of the predominantly black government. Black
leaders were not surprised to hear that. And, as one former South African, John Chettle, pointed out:
[It is true that] there are inevitably parts of the bureaucracy
that now work less efficiently than before, although the South African bureaucracy under the previous regime was not famous
for its efficiency. - (John Chettle, "After the Miracle: Can South Africa Be A Normal State?," in The
National Interest, Washington, D.C., Spring 1997, p. 66).
apartheid regime was, in fact, inefficient and corrupt. It was also bloated. The only area in which is was highly efficient
was in the dispensation of injustice when it functioned as a notoriously repressive apparatus against blacks.
inefficiency was compounded by the fact that apartheid South Africa was nothing more than a welfare state for whites at the
expense of blacks; nor do whites who complained about bureaucratic inefficiency mention the fact that even with the black-majority
government in power, the civil service - hence the bureaucracy - is still mostly white.
also complained that the rate of crime soared astronomically after the multiracial democratic government of President Mandela
came to power. Yet they did not mention the fact that the police force, which should be fighting crime, was still dominated
by whites and was highly corrupt.
It was also behind much of the crime going on across the country. As Chettle, who for nearly two decades was director
of the South Africa Foundation for North and South America before he became an American citizen, stated in The National Interest:
The Financial Times of London
pointed to crime as the most significant factor inflicting damage on international views of the country. An average of 52
people were murdered each day in South Africa in 1995, proportionately nine times higher than in the United States (according
to the South African newspaper, The Citizen, 18 April 1996).
1995, according to the corporate-sponsored Project on Crime, Violence and Investment, there were 97,950 car thefts. That is
equivalent to nearly 47 percent of total sales in the year.
When one links that to the evidence that police are organising car thefts, that many of the stolen cars are exported,
and that 30 percent of all goods landed at Durban's port are disappearing, it suggests very extensive corruption among the
police, customs, harbor authority, and other officials. - (Ibid., pp. 66 - 67. See also Tony Leon, "Fumbling the Crime Issue,"
in the Sunday Times, South Africa,
10 December 1995; The Citizen, Johannesburg,
South Africa, 18 April 1996; Edward Osborn: "It's a devilish paradox, but crime is good for the economy; it's sustaining consumer
spending," in the Sunday Independent,
South Africa, 29 September 1996; The Mail & Guardian, South Africa, 4 October 1996).
was behind all that?....
already about 500 major crime syndicates operating in South Africa with international ties round the globe, using the country,
among several other criminal operations, as a transit point for drugs from Asia and Latin America going to Europe, North America
and other parts of the world. These syndicates are not controlled by black people in South Africa.
have strong ties to the South African business community, which is overwhelmingly white; to the banks laundering money for
them, which are also controlled by whites; and to the police and customs officials who are also mostly white.
small-time operator is going to export stolen cars or steal tons of goods landing at Durban and other South African ports:
This is not the work merely of young, nervous, trigger-happy
gunmen who confront the motorist. It may be the most serious remnant of the moral corruption of apartheid and, if it is not
defeated soon, the consequences could be profound.
contributes to what one political scientist called 'the negative halo effect.' It strengthens the notion that South Africa
is fast becoming just another lawless (black-ruled) African state. It fosters the impression of government incompetence (by
may be the biggest single reason for the exodus - still not statistically significant, but potentially so - of young professionals
whose are not easily replaceable.
It is not surprising, then, to find these factors - crime and consequent emigration - cited by Anton Rupert, chairman
of the worldwide Rembrandt Group, as the greatest threats facing the country. - (J. Chettle, ibid., p. 67; Sunday Independent, 29 September 1996).
the slow pace of change in bridging the economic gap between blacks and whites which may....
crime which - more than anything else including affirmative action for blacks - is forcing tens of thousands of whites
to flee South Africa every year and settle in other countries, especially in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
According to The Economist:
The emigration of skilled South Africans is hobbling the
economy. A way to staunch the outflow would be to tackle the crime that drives whites out....
falling rand and job-preferment for blacks are said to be minor annoyances compared with crime. A recent survey by FSA/Contact,
a market-research group, revealed that 96 per cent of South African emigrants cited fear of criminal violence as a reason
for packing their bags. They are fleeing, they say, because they want to live somewhere where speeding through red lights
at night is not safer than stopping....
is thought to be the main reason why every middle-class South African has friends who have left....
to the Central Statistical Service (CSS) in Pretoria, nearly 39,000 South Africans emigrated between 1994 and 1997. The true
total is certainly higher....
most emigrants are white, some less thoughtful South Africans bid them good riddance, imagining that every departing Caucasian
leaves a vacancy for a formerly oppressed black.
the government sees the haemorrhage of talent as hurting the economy....Almost all emigrants are managers, technicians or
professionals and their families....
According to FSA/Contact, 11 per cent of the top managers and 6 per cent of the middle managers who resigned last
year (in 1997) did so in order to emigrate. - ("White Flight from South Africa: White South Africa on the Wing - The Emigration
of Skilled South Africans is Hobbling the Economy," in The Economist, 6 June 1998, p. 43).
the trend has continued through the years, unabated.
problem of white flight also has multiplier effect, compounding the negative perception of South Africa, and the negative
impact of the brain drain on the black population, especially for those in the cities who depend on jobs provided by whites.
economy suffers, of course, from the impact of white flight. But in addition to that, several jobs are also lost when just
one professional emigrates - with devastating impact on black families who depend on him for a living:
South African bosses tend to be responsible for large numbers of staff - even electricians have assistants to pass them their
screwdrivers and maids to iron their socks - each lost brain swells the unemployment rate, already a teriffying 30 per cent
Mandela's regular pleas for whites to remain, and coercive policies, such as a proposal by the health minister, Dr. Nkosazana
Zuma (one of the few women in the cabinet), that doctors should have to repay the government for their medical training if
they refuse to work in South Africa, may stem the tide a little. A more permanent solution would be to cut violent crime.
That will not be easy.
Brazil, South Africa has the world's widest gap between rich and poor, meaning that there is a lot of stuff to steal and a
lot of people for whom stealing is the most lucrative career option....
criminals are caught or convicted, and few potential gangsters are deterred.
Shaw of the Institute for Security Studies in Johannesburg argues that it will be years before crime begins to decline. -
(Ibid., pp. 43 - 44).
All that helps to serve racist purposes: the higher the
crime rate, and the longer it takes to stem the tide, the better for the exponents of white supremacy....
economic arena is now the biggest theatre of combat between the two contending forces and will continue to be one probably
for many years to come until whites sacrifice their privileged position for the sake of racial equality and national unity,
and until blacks get their share of the economic pie. Statistics of the plight of the black masses are disturbing. They include
figures compiled by the World Bank:
real long-term threat to South African economic policy (and race relations) arises more from certain structural problems in
the economy....They center on poverty, productivity, and education. The worst problem is poverty.
comparable middle-income developing countries, South Africa has one of the worst records in terms of health, education, safe
water, fertility, and income inequality.
According to the World Bank, unemployment rates stand at 50 per cent among the poor. The lowest 40 per cent of households
(almost all black), equivalent to 53 per cent of the population, account for less than 10 per cent of total consumption. -
(J. Chettle, "After the Miracle: Can South Africa Be a Normal State?," op. cit., p. 69. See also The
Citizen, Johannesburg, 18 September 1996; Business
Day, Johannesburg, 17 September 1996).
Africa's future stability will very much depend on how successful the predominantly black government is in solving problems
of unemployment and in reducing poverty among blacks who constitute the vast majority of the population. But neither of these
can be solved without cooperation from whites who control the economy.
however realistic and sound economic policies formulated by the government may be, they can not be successfully implemented
unless whites make substantial sacrifices and give up the privileges they continue to enjoy at the expense of their fellow
countrymen, and also at the expense of domestic tranquility.
The privileged position of whites, thanks to centuries of exploitation of the black masses, is clearly demonstrated
by appalling statistics. As Antoinette Handley, director of studies at the South African Institute of International Affairs
in Johannesburg, and Jeffrey Herbst, an associate professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University
in the United States, stated in their article, "South Africa: The Perils of Normalcy," in Current
History: A Journal of Contemporary World Affairs:
The new government inherited an extraordinary set of economic
problems in 1994. Fifty-three percent of Africans live below the poverty line, compared to 2 per cent of all whites....
Especially in urban areas, poor black populations, often without adequate food, water, and shelter, coexist with a
white society whose lifestyle is modeled on Europe and the United States. - (Antoinette Handley and Jeffrey Herbst, "South
Africa: The Perils of Normalcy," in Current History: A Journal of Contemporary World Affairs, May 1997, pp. 224, and 226).
problems can not be solved overnight. But speed is critical. The pace of change will also be partly determined by the commitment
of the black leaders themselves, combined with sacrifices made by - and concessions extracted from - whites.
unconscionable economic gap not only exacerbates racial tensions but also fuels crime. As Nelson Mandela stated shortly before
the transition from white minority rule to the new dispensation:
The youths in the (black) townships have had over the
decades a visible enemy, the (white) government. Now that the enemy is no longer visible, because of the transformation that
is taking place.
enemy now is you and me, people who drive a car and have a house. It's order, anything that relates to order, and it is a
very grave situation. - (Nelson Mandela, quoted ibid., p. 226).
problem can be solved only through expanded economic opportunities, especially in the private sector, in order to not only
fight unemployment but also raise living standards of black people who constitute a disproportionately high percentage of
the poor and the unemployed in South Africa.
The question is how. As R. Stephen Brent, an officer in the US Agency for International Development (USAID) mission
in Pretoria, South Africa, stated in Foreign Affairs:
To make real progress in raising black living standards,
South Africa needs higher growth, at least five percent a year, and it must be more employment-intensive.
achieve this the new government will have to address South Africa's structural weaknesses and expand foreign investment and
It wants to spend more on black social needs, but taxes and government spending are already high. It wants to create
jobs for black South Africans, but it cannot hire more civil servants (the civil service is still dominated by whites) or
force the private sector to make labor-intensive investments. - (R. Stephen Brent, "South Africa: Tough Road to Prosperity,"
in Foreign Affairs, March/April 1996,
And it can not concentrate exclusively on promoting economic
growth and expanding the private sector at the expense of social services. Otherwise the government is going to alienate its
supporters and help erode its political base anchored in the black constituency.
maintain its legitimacy, it must provide more social services for blacks - health care, education, housing, clean water, electricity,
transport; pursue affirmative action policies; and introduce changes in the economy in order to create more employment opportunities
and increase black ownership.
those goals must be pursued at the same time, and must also, of necessity, entail elimination of white privilege. But such
erosion of white privilege, especially if it is done precipitately, will only lead to increased white flight, hence rapid
deterioration of the economy.
black demands for social equity, which are legitimate demands, must be tempered with realism in a world in which harsh economic
realities rarely conform to people's aspirations.
shouldn't expect miracles overnight - and they don't. And whites shouldn't insist on maintaining their privileged position
they acquired at the expense of blacks. They should also remember that their country needs them as much as it needs blacks.
And the government can not remove all whites from their jobs just to replace them with blacks. As Public Services Minister
Zola Skweyiya bluntly stated:
I had to tell them, 'We need your skills.'
deciding who goes and who remains, the interests of the state must prevail....
Whites have got skills, and we need those skills to run South Africa. - (Zola Skweyiya, quoted by Lynne Duke, "Affirmative
Action, South African Style: With Skilled White Workers Still in Demand, the Black Majority Government Moves Carefully," in
The Washington Post, National Weekly
Edition, 22 July 1996, p. 18).
is just one of the legacies of apartheid.
Although apartheid has ended as a legal monstrosity, its dead policies continue to haunt and have a devastating impact
on the living by keeping whites on top for many years to come, with dire consequences of a backlash from some blacks. And
it is impossible to undo the damage that has been inflicted on blacks for centuries by an oppressive white minority. As Lynne
Duke, reporting from Pretoria, South Africa, stated in The Washington Post:
Apartheid's legacy is devastating: Adult blacks today
have had half the educational years of whites; their salaries are barely a third of whites' salaries; and their unemployment
rate is eight times higher.
Although blacks run the nation's government, white still run the economy; whites are 13 percent of the population,
but own 90 percent of the nation's wealth, according to government statistics. - (Lynne Duke, "Affirmative Action, South African
Style," ibid. See also "South Africa's Wealth Gap: Even Less Equal in South Africa," in The
Economist, 25 October 1997, p. 46).
And because whites still control most of the jobs in both the private and public sectors, racial discrimination against
blacks remains a major problem, in spite of the fact that blacks control the government , as exemplified by this case:
Khosi Jiyane, 27, a black woman with a master's degree
in business from one of South Africa's premier universities, was told by her bosses at an insurance firm that her ambition
and assertiveness made her a threat to her white co-workers.
a human resources consultant with a black-advancement firm called Bridging the Gap, Jiyane resigned from the insurance firm
earlier this year (in 1996) after she was denied several promotions and her job as a junior personnel officer turned out to
be unchallenging. 'What I ended up doing was some secretarial job, taking minutes,' Jiyane said bitterly. - (Khosi Jiyane,
cited by Lynne Duke, ibid).
qualified blacks have encountered open hostility and resentment from their white employers and co-workers, now that the end
of apartheid has opened up opportunities for them in areas they would not even have dared to enter during the era of white-minority
demand for qualified blacks is great, nonetheless, but even more so for highly qualified black executives and managers. However,
there has been little progress in the corporate area. Blacks hold only about 10 per cent of the management positions in the
private sector. And that is considered to be an improvement.
blacks say the government should set numerical goals to promote black advancement in the private sector and other areas. As
Hazel Ralefeta, managing director of the Black Management Forum, an advancement advocacy group, stated:
We believe the government should have come out much clearer
with targets. If you do not set targets, how do you measure? - (Hazel Ralefeta, ibid).
And in spite of the need to retain skilled whites in their
positions, it is simply a matter of time before blacks become the dominant group in the educated labour force, including management.
As cabinet member Zola Skweyiya put it, considering the nation's demographics, whites will be ultimately swamped:
You can not run away from that. - (Zola Skweyiya, ibid).
And as Thabo Mbeki, who was then deputy president under
Nelson Mandela, also stated:
If, in time, the majority of the black population sees
that no change has occurred, one must expect that people will rebel. - (Thabo Mbeki, quoted in "South Africa: The End of a
Miracle?," in The Economist, 13 December
1997, p. 18).
But there is also the danger that the advancement of the
black elite, especially their rapid accumulation of wealth, will alienate the black masses from them, the very same people
who are supposed to end white bureaucratic control and domination of the economy and help open up more opportunities for blacks
at the same time, the logic behind such progress for the black elite has universal appeal even among the deprived black masses
because it is a continuation of the black liberation struggle blacks of all classes supported. As Nthato Motlana, Nelson Mandela's
former family doctor, bitterly remarked:
They say it's good for a white man to be rich, but it's
not good for a black man. If you're black and you succeed, there's something wrong. - (Nthato Motlana, quoted in "South Africa:
Black Can Be Rich: Black Capitalists in South Africa," in The Economist, 15 March 1997, p. 44).
In addition to being the product of apartheid which favoured
whites, the wealth accumulated by whites is further augmented by additional income from criminal syndicates all of which are
controlled and dominated by whites.
Mbeki explicitly stated that this criminal enterprise is part of a well-orchestrated attempt to undermine the black-majority
government. According to The Economist:
police last year (in 1996) knew of 481 criminal syndicates involved in smuggling drugs, guns, diamonds, rhino horn or luxury
still, some of these criminals work with ex-members (and current members) of South Africa's security forces, whose connections
can still secure false papers and get police dockets destroyed.
Mbeki believes that some of them may even have a political motive: 'I wouldn't rule out a more orchestrated attempt to undermine
the government by organised crime,' he says. - ("South Africa: The End of a Miracle?," op. cit., p. 18).
Some people, probably a significant number of whites,
may interpret that as an overreaction or may be even as an attack on whites. Yet there is reason for such concern as expressed
by Mbeki; for, there are still whites who would like to see the government fail and they will do anything they can to undermine
it. Far from being anti-white, Mbeki is guided not only by pragmatic instincts, but by a genuine desire for racial equality.
he also knows that it is impossible to achieve that goal by maintaining the status quo and without eliminating white privilege.
And that explains why he was viewed with apprehension, and trepidation, by some whites when he was vice president and when
he became president:
Mbeki is content. Whites wonder....Unlike Mr. Mandela,
he is less occupied with racial reconciliation than with racial transformation of South Africa's still-white institutions....White
South Africans have some reason to fear that the world will not be quite so comfortable or familiar to them when Nelson Mandela
is gone....A recent poll showed that only 6 per cent of whites wanted Mr. Mbeki to succeed him. - ("Who Would Run South Africa?:
Health of the Nation," in The Economist
9 March 1996, p. 41; "Mandela and Mbeki: South Africa - The Old Chief and the New One," in The
Economist, 5 April 1997, p. 43.
it was with apprehension that many white South Africans entered a new era under Mbeki's residency. Yet little changed in terms
of their privileged status contrasted with the predicament of the black masses who had suffered so much under apartheid when
whites enjoyed a high standard of living, one of the highest in the world, as they still do today.
it is clear that much as people may talk about racial reconciliation in the context of South Africa, they must also come to
grips with some harsh realities about the racial disparities which make such reconciliation virtually impossible. It is impossible
to have racial reconciliation without racial and institutional transformation to rebuild a new society from the ashes of apartheid.
were worried about Mbeki's presidency, not because he was going to punish them for the sins of apartheid; they were worried
because they did not want to make sacrifices to bring about fundamental change in the country, a change that would entail
structural transformation of a structurally flawed society.
Therefore apprehension about the future for whites under his presidency was clearly evident. And it was an assessment
that came from more than one source. According to a report from Johannesburg in The Washington
The notion of a Mbeki presidency is disquieting for some.
a bold and poetic speech he delivered in May (1996) in which he welcomed whites as Africans along with blacks, the white-run
media and other observers view him as less committed to racial reconciliation than Mandela.
Lodge a political scientist at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, notes that Mbeki does not have any close white
advisers. Rucky Naidoo (an Indian and), a Mbeki spokesman, counters that Mbeki has frequent contact with white businessmen
here and abroad.
also is concern over Mbeki's push to transform the white-dominated business and media sectors.
His special adviser, the Reverend Frank Chikane, says Mbeki really is 'an analytic and strategic thinker' and that
his long-term strategy for transforming the country will naturally step on the toes of those not yet accustomed to black-majority
rule. - ("South Africa Prepares for Life After the Messiah: Nelson Mandela's Designated Successor is Already Getting Ready
for the Transition," in The Washington Post, National Weekly Edition, 28 October 1996, p. 18).
Mbeki had on more than one occasion been asked whether
or not he was satisfied with the pace of change in post-apartheid South Africa. His response was that transformation was going
to take time, and it must be done. In one of his most definitive responses, he told The Economist:
The reality is that the legacy of apartheid still defines
present-day South Africa....The white population I don't think has quite understood the importance of this challenge....
you were speaking of national reconciliation based on the maintenance of the status quo, because you did not want to move
at a pace that frightens the whites, it means you wouldn't carry out the task of transformation.
would not produce reconciliation on that basis.
It might look so to the people who benefited from apartheid - everybody's forgiven us, nobody's after nationalising
our swimming pools. It isn't, because you have the anger that would be boiling among the black people. So, you've got to transform
the society. - (Thabo Mbeki, quoted in "White South Africa Awaits Mbeki: Who is Thabo Mbeki?," in The
Economist, 1 November 1997, p. 45).
In short, Mbeki was seen as a nemesis for whites, a leader
who was going to give them a harder time than they have had, if at all, since the end of legal apartheid.
not that he was going to nationalise their property or the country's large assets such as land and mines and industry, or
raise taxes; he was going to use the government, and its power, to open up opportunities for blacks across the spectrum including
the upper echelons of society. As he explained his policy of affirmative action:
Affirmative action isn't a philosophy, it's not an end
in itself. It's an instrument to get a more equal society, broadly representative of South African demography. - (Ibid).
His message was simple and direct, even if it scared whites.
But he was just as firm in pursuing privatisation and other free-market policies to promote economic growth in which whites
were expected to play a critical role since they controlled the economy. And he became business-friendly during his tenure
as president to a degree many people did not expect.
fact, many people in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and elsewhere said, besides being somewhat aloof and lacking
the common touch Mandela and other leaders including Jacob Zuma had, he was too business-friendly and they wanted the government
to do more for the poor. Yet he was also determined to bring about fundamental change:
He insists that whatever the pressure to go soft on economic
management, some aspects, such as the pledge to cut the budget deficit, are 'set in stone.'
less firm is his message to South Africa's whites, who still hold most of the country's economic power: if they do not change
things voluntarily, he will not hesitate to force them to do so. - ("White South Africa Awaits Mbeki," ibid).
And most of them don't want to change voluntarily. They
insist on maintaining white privilege, although they obtained those benefits with the help of a regime which brutalised and
would not have been able to acquire those benefits had it not been for the racist policies they themselves supported by deliberately
keeping in power racist leaders whom they continued to support, and vote for, election after election.
In fact, many whites, if not most including the country's leading businessmen, contend that they never benefited from
apartheid. Whom it benefit, instead? Its victims? According to The Wall Street Journal in its report from Johannesburg:
During the years of apartheid, many companies grew rich
and powerful. But rather than beg for forgiveness or apologize for any wrongdoings, most South African businessmen argued
that the economic abuses of South Africa's past weren't their fault....
(In) three days of hearings before the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission,...former bankers, heads of mining
groups and an ex-chairman of the South African Chamber of Commerce all denied that business supported or benefited from the
system of racial segregation and white minority rule known as apartheid. - (Robert Block, "South Africa's Corporate Elite
Says It Didn't Prop Up Apartheid," in The Wall Street Journal, 12 November 1997, p. A-18).
is such denial and racist attitudes which make racial reconciliation very difficult to achieve, convincing
many blacks that....
their testimony before the Truth Commission, only Eskom, the state-owned electric company, apologised unconditionally to black
South Africans for "entertaining and perpetuating apartheid." Eskom executive Willem Koch told the Commission on 11 November
1997 that his company did not conduct itself as a good corporate citizen and did little, if anything, to alleviate the plight
of black people.
He was quoted by The Wall Street Journal in a report just cited above. And as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the Truth Commission, said about the 55
submissions from companies and business groups which remained adamant in their refusal to apologise and in their position
No one today admits supporting apartheid.
He was also quoted in the same report by The Wall Street Journal when the hearings were going on before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in November
its testimony, the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the biggest and most powerful labour organisation
in the country, said business couldn't be trusted to fully disclose its role in suppressing black labour unions, in paying
black workers starvation wages, in employing child labour on white farms, and in making use of prison labour on public works
and white-owned businesses and farms.
during the same hearings, there was another voice of reason from the white side besides the apologetic testimony by Eskom
executive Willem Koch. It came from an economics professor at the leading Afrikaner institution of higher learning, Stellenbosch
University, who proposed paying some form of reparations to blacks:
Terreblanche, an economist at Stellenbosch University, proposed a restitution tax imposed on wealth accumulated under apartheid.
with net assets of more than two million rand - $414,200 - could be taxed an additional 0.5 percentage point annually over
10 or 20 years, he told the hearing, to achieve what Dr. Terreblanche termed 'systemic justice and social stability' for the
majority of South Africans.
Businessmen rejected the tax proposal. - (Sampie Terreblanche, cited by Robert Block in The
Wall Street Journal, ibid).
By rejecting the tax proposal for reparations, South Africa's
corporate elite were emphatically stating that they did nothing wrong to blacks during apartheid.
did not even believe that apartheid was wrong, a sentiment forcefully articulated in public by the hawkish and finger-wagging
former president and one of the last two leaders of the apartheid regime, P.W. Botha, who bluntly stated: "We did nothing
wrong." Therefore there was nothing to apologise for. And as Philip Krawitz, the former chairman of the South African Chamber
of Business, told the Truth Commission:
believe it is not factually correct to assign guilt on a collective basis to business in South Africa.
there were individual businesses who did prosper under apartheid, who did exploit the system, who were cozy with the government.
But we who were in the South African Chamber of Business and its forerunners....we stood resolutely against apartheid for
many decades. - (Philip Krawitz, quoted ibid).
the members of the South African Chamber of Business "stood resolutely against apartheid for many decades," as Philip Krawitz
executives admitted that exploiting racial and tribal divisions helped cut labour costs. Afrikaner executives admitted that
the Afrikaner-dominated apartheid regime helped them get contracts - in what amounted to an act of ethnic solidarity.
They were all solidly behind the white racist government even until the late 1980s when the edifice of apartheid began
to crack under mounting international pressure from economic sanctions. As Donald G. McNeil stated in a report from Johannesburg
in The New York Times:
Many companies helped the government evade trade sanctions,
thwart the oil embargo and the United Nations arms embargo so effectively that the country built a powerful arms industry
and even nuclear weapons. - (Donald G. McNeal, Jr., "Tycoons Voice Their Remorse for Profiting from Apartheid," in The New York Times, 14 November 1997, p. A-10).
One of the most blatant denials came from Armscor, the
government-owned armaments industry.
it supplied weapons to the police and the army, it still maintained that it never committed human rights violations and never
even imagined that the weapons it made would be used against fellow South Africans....
that was clearly the sentiment at the conference of the African National Congress at Polokwane when Jacob Zuma was
overwhelmingly elected as the leader of the ruling party on 18th December 2007. It was the party's 60th congress.
supporters never doubted that he had the popular touch, contrasted with President Thabo Mbeki who was seen as rather aloof.
According to a report by BBC Africa, “Zuma: South Africa's Comeback Kid”:
“He is a man who listens; he doesn't take the approach of an intellectual king,”
said one unnamed supporter, in an apparent swipe at Mr Mbeki....
Throughout his political
career, Mr Zuma has championed the rights of ordinary people.
His supporters believe
the man they call JZ will redistribute South Africa's wealth in favour of the poor.
They say Mr Mbeki has
been too business-friendly and presided over “jobless growth.”
ruling African National Congress (ANC) does not want to be left behind by its own supporters who may become increasingly radical
in their quest for fundamental structural changes in society in order to achieve economic equality.
That was clearly the position
of the ANC even back in the 1990s at its 50th caucus held in the small
town of Mafikeng near the border with Botswana in December 1997. As Kurt Shillinger reported from South Africa in The Boston Globe:
After more than three years of rhetoric about reconciliation,
black leaders voice increasing intolerance toward begrudged whites, who in turn feel increasingly alienated under majority
The working class, mired in static living conditions, feels forsaken. - (Kurt Shillinger, “ANC Convenes 50th Caucus, Readying
Torch to be Passed: Mandela Takes Party to Point of a New Era,” in The Boston Globe, December 16, 1997, p. A-12).
Critics said the ANC was more concerned about fiscal health than housing the poor and providing them with other services
such as clean water, medical care, and electricity. And that was a very strong message the leadership could not ignore if
the ANC was to stay in power well into the 21st century.
it is the same message today. As Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg, stated:
There is a sense among the grassroots that the government
is not being responsible or accountable. That alienation is based on legitimate expectations of how government is supposed
to work. - Steven Friedman, quoted, ibid).
The constant theme trumpeted by the militant wing of the
ANC which may radicalise the ruling party is not only that the government is not fulfilling its promises to address the needs
of the impoverished majority, but also that it is too lenient towards whites who are just as equally determined not to give
up their privileges or share control of the economy with blacks.
Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of Nelson Mandela and a stubborn populist, was the most forceful exponent of this collective
sentiment of the downtrodden masses and remained one through the years. As Sipho Maseko, a black political scientist at the
University of the Western Cape, stated:
A majority need someone like Winnie Mandela to articulate
their complaints. - (Sipho Maseko, ibid.).
In fact, that is what President Mandela himself did in his farewell speech as leader of the African National Congress at the ANC's 50th caucus in Mafikeng
on 16th December 1997.
speech will be remembered for its strident tone as much as for its potent message and was undoubtedly one of the most militant
he had ever given since he came out of prison and assumed stewardship of the nation.
accused apartheid-era leaders of waging a clandestine campaign to destabilise South Africa's multiracial government. “The
leopard has not changed its spots,” Mandela said of the National Party, which instituted apartheid and still represented
the Afrikaner minority of Dutch-French-German-descended white settlers and other whites as well as Coloureds and Indians.
He went on to say:
These elements find it difficult to redefine their role
in the setting of nonracial democracy. They continue to be imprisoned by notions of white supremacy. - (Nelson Mandela, quoted
in “A Militant Mandela Leaves ANC: While Remaining President, He Relinquishes Party Role,” in the International Herald Tribune, December 17, 1997, p. 6).
Mandela warned the African National Congress that some
whites wanted to maintain vestiges of apartheid to protect their privileges of the past.
went on to say that those “who have not accepted the reality of majority rule” were helping to instigate South
Africa's widespread crime, sabotaging the economy and using the mass media to spread anti-ANC propaganda. The goal, Mandela
said, was to make the country ungovernable, subvert the economy and erode confidence in the ANC's ability to govern.
also accused the mass media and some aid and development groups of working against his government. In the three-and-a-half
years the ANC had been in power, “the matter has become perfectly clear that the bulk of the mass media in our country
has set itself up as a force opposed to the ANC,” Mandela said.
went on to say some aid groups were in fact acting as the political ears and mouthpieces for local and foreign interests acting
against his government. He quoted, in particular, a United States Aid for International Development (USAID) document which
he said stated its goals as challenging his government on important issues, “in some respects making President Mandela's
task more difficult.”
Mandela also listed the ANC government's achievements, including a new constitution, a stable government and programmes to
provide electric power, running water and housing for millions of poor blacks ignored under apartheid.
in this country could do better than the ANC?,” he asked at one point in a booming voice, departing from his prepared
his last major speech as president of the ruling African National Congress, Mandela went on to say that transformation from
apartheid to racial equality was far from complete. Yet when any meaningful changes were attempted, such as the use of affirmative
action to end racial inequalities, whites “consistently demonstrated” their determination to maintain the status
quo, he said. He further stated:
The spokespersons of the advantaged have not hesitated
to cry foul, citing all manner of evil, such as racism, violation of the Constitution, nepotism, dictatorship, inducing a
brain drain and frightening the foreign investor. - (Mandela, quoted by Suzanne Daley, “Mandela Speech Attacks White
Economic Elite,” in The New York Times, December 17, 1997, p. A-1. See also “South Africa's New Leaders,” in The
Economist, 20 December 1997, pp. 55 – 56).
Mandela had always saved his fiercest oratory for ANC gatherings, the tone of his farewell address was surprising to many
people in its harshness....
President Mandela clearly intended his message to get out to the world, since more than 350 news agencies covered the event;
a fact he was not oblivious of.
political experts said Mandela's speech also probably reflected the views of the man succeeding him, Thabo Mbeki, and was
an attempt by Mandela to throw his weight behind Mbeki. As Allister Sparks, author of several books on South African politics,
It was a watershed speech in many ways. I think what you
saw is Mr. Mandela legitimising a tougher line for Mbeki. - (Allister Sparks, quoted by Suzanne Daley, “Mandela Speech
Attacks White Economic Elite,” op.cit.).
Others said the speech was also an attempt to focus on the general elections of 1999. By repeatedly characterising the struggle
to transform South Africa as being far from complete, Mandela once again defined the African National Congress as a liberation
movement which must stick together and mobilise forces in the on-going struggle against the vestiges of apartheid.
there were those who said the speech was, in fact, prepared by Mbeki and his team. As Michael Bratton, professor of political
science and African studies at Michigan State University in the United States, who once was a visiting Fulbright scholar at
the University of Natal and at the University of Durban in South Africa, stated:
When 3,000 ANC delegates gathered in Mafikeng for the
party's 50th congress in December 1997, Mandela gave a vituperative valedictory speech.
cataloguing the ANC's achievements, he lashed out at 'a counterrevolutionary network [of those] who have not accepted the
reality of majority rule.'
of subverting the government's program were apartheid holdovers in the bureaucracy, the main white opposition parties, foreign-funded
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and 'the bulk of the mass media.'
Although the text of the speech was reportedly prepared by Mbeki's office and is thought to reflect his views, it
was presented by Mandela, perhaps because his vast [moral] authority made a strident message more palatable, and because a
reversal of roles enabled Mbeki, whose supremacy is still being established, to rise above the fray. - (Michael Bratton, “After
Mandela's Miracle in South Africa,” in Current History: A Journal of Contemporary World Affairs, May 1998, p. 216).
reaction from white South Africans was swift and strong, although muted in some quarters. But international press coverage
was also negative....
is one of the most important things Mandela's critics, including much of the international press, ignored in their assessment
of his valedictory speech which was nonetheless well-received among blacks who remain magnanimous towards whites and even
elected a majority of non-blacks to the highest posts in the ruling African National Congress:
International press coverage of the speech was adverse...[But]
black domestic audiences reacted more favorably to a public rebuke of those white South Africans who insist on the preservation
of what are widely perceived as ill-gotten gains.
Mandela probably enhanced his status with core constituents who felt that he had gone too far to accommodate white interests....
also] to their credit, the 3,000 ANC delegates gathered in Mafikeng – who were overwhelmingly African – helped
the ANC reaffirm its well-established nonracial credentials by electing seven non-Africans to the party's ten top executive
positions. - (Ibid).
his withering attack on whites still sympathetic to the old apartheid regime and who are also opposed to black-majority rule,
President Mandela went on to say that an underground network of “the former ruling group” was poised “to
launch or intensify a campaign of destabilization” that would include subverting the economy and using crime to “render
the country ungovernable.”
also attacked the media for “exploiting the dominant position it achieved as a result of the apartheid system, to campaign
against both real change and the real agent of change, as represented by our movement.”
he mentioned both the largely white liberal Democratic Party, and the National Party which instituted apartheid, as parties
“engaged in a desperate struggle” to convince white voters that they are the most “reliable and best defenders
of white privilege.”
of Mandela's most vitriolic statements were directed against the newly formed United Democratic Movement which was attempting
to establish itself as a multiracial party and present itself as a credible alternative to the virtually unassailable multiracial
African National Congress.
the new party discredited itself right from the beginning with its dubious multiracial agenda and notorious leadership. As
Mandela pointed out, the United Democratic Movement had drawn “into its ranks some of the most backward and corrupt
elements in our society, which have no interest whatsoever in promoting the interests of the people. Thus the presence of
leaders of criminal gangs at its founding conference was no accident.”
Mandela was quoted by Suzanne Daley, a reporter of The Washington Post, in her report from South Africa cited earlier.
delegates praised Mandela's speech, saying it addressed issues most South Africans – that is, the vast majority of blacks
– really cared about; particularly the intransigence and lack of effort on the part of whites to reach across the great
racial divide and help end racial inequalities. As Vusi Chinga, a 25 year-old black delegate from Klerksdorp, bluntly stated:
That is the reality of the situation. We expected a lot
of changes in South Africa, but it seems like change is only expected from us. We are really the only ones reconciling. They just want to see an African fail. - (Quoted,
there is a lot of truth to that statement. The more blacks try to reach across the great racial divide, the further most whites
pull back or look the other way; and the more blacks try to heal the wounds of the past through constructive dialogue and
forgiveness, the more whites accuse them of conducting a witch hunt, instead of thanking them for being so forgiving.
have made a big joke out of the whole reconciliation process by the Truth Commission to try and bring the races together in
a spirit of brotherhood. As Professor Michael Bratton stated:
The most ambitious goal of the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, targeted through extensive radio and television coverage of its public hearings, is to change how white South
Africans think. In this it has so far failed. Few whites are willing to admit complicity in apartheid. - (Michael Bratton,
“After Mandela's Miracle in South Africa,” op.cit., p. 217).
Yet these are the very same people who....
as whites continue to insulate themselves from the truth, race relations continue to be polarised, a feeling eloquently expressed
by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in December 1997:
Tutu summed up the mood of the country by saying in late
December last year that whites begrudge being asked to carry a burden of guilt and blacks resent the failure of whites to
acknowledge how lucky they are. - (Desmond Tutu, cited ibid).
partly explains why Mandela gave such a vituperative speech in which he strongly condemned and accused the white opposition
and the white media of trying to thwart reforms in order to preserve and perpetuate white privilege at the expense of blacks.
also warned that security networks established in the era of white-minority rule were never dismantled and still posed a threat
to stability and democracy. He did not directly warn of an impending or a possible racial conflict but seemed to suggest such
a possibility when he said that his three-year-and-a-half government's efforts to transform society still were new:
[They have] not yet impacted seriously on the apartheid
paradigm which affects all aspects of our lives. This process has not yet tested the strength of the counteroffensive which
would seek to maintain the privileges of the white minority. - (Nelson Mandela, quoted in “Mandela Lambastes White Opposition
in ANC Farewell,” in The Boston Globe, December 17, 1997, p. A-1; and in The Washington Post, December 17, 1997).
He went on to say that his efforts at reconciliation had
been spurned by white political leaders. Specifically, he said the National Party's withdrawal in 1996 from a government of
national unity showed that the party viewed the ANC with “implacable enmity.” South Africa's white parties had
“decided against the pursuit of a national agenda” and had chosen instead to propagate “a reactionary, dangerous
and opportunistic” position against the ruling African National Congress.
also accused whites of invoking racist symbolism to gain political mileage from the nation's high crime rate and to suggest
that a black government is doomed to fail. In addition, Mandela said, “the bulk of the mass media in our country has
set itself up as a force of opposition to the ANC.”
That was one of the forces – racist white opposition – his successor Thabo Mbeki had to contend with after
he assumed the presidency of the African National Congress at the party's 50th caucus in Mafikeng in December 1997, and of the
country in June 1999.
taking control of the ANC, Mbeki pledged to eradicate the stubborn remains of apartheid and bring economic liberation to the
impoverished black masses:
We must pursue the objectives of high and sustained economic
growth and development to achieve a visible improvement in the standard of living of our people, with special emphasis on
the poor. - (Thabo Mbeki, quoted in “Mandela Passes ANC Torch: Successor Aims for Development,” in The Boston Globe, December 21, 1997, p. A-2).
But Mbeki's leadership also posed a dilemma. As Kurt Shillinger reported from South Africa in The Boston Globe:
An advocate of swifter social transformation, Mbeki has
in recent months (in 1997) led some whites to fear that he wants to push them farther to the sidelines.
unionists, meanwhile, worry that he is too conservative, focused more on economic growth than jobs for the masses. - (Ibid).
The trade unionists and their supporters had a point.
During a period of 18 months before the 50th ANC party conference in Mafikeng in December 1997, the government's economic policies
had cost the economy more jobs, through belt-tightening, than it had created. Labour Minister Toto Mboweni acknowledged this
failure and the need for a careful balance between economic growth and job creation:
Despite significant improvements in the rate of growth
of the economy, there has been no visible improvement on the jobs numbers, and therefore we need to more vigorously proceed
and implement some of the programs of economic transformation and development. - (Tito Mboweni, quoted ibid).
speech signalled a possible shift to more emphasis on addressing the needs of the black masses than had been the case before
among the ANC leaders whose focus on macroeconomic policy and fiscal austerity had often clashed with the need to tackle daily
problems faced by millions of poverty-stricken blacks; a dichotomy acknowledged by Deputy President Mbeki and Labour Minister
Mboweni as well as others in the ANC leadership.
he became president of South Africa in 1994, Mandela had pursued racial reconciliation diligently and was even able to establish
good relations with a right-wing racist general who launched a rebellion before the 1994 election in a desperate attempt to
reassert white supremacy.
also held regular meetings on economic policy with the white corporate elite. He did all this to reassure whites that South
Africa was their country too; and also to keep their economic and military power from being used against the new fragile multiracial
he did that for good reason. Whites still dominated the armed forces and the entire security apparatus as well as the economy
without which the government is nothing.
in his farewell speech as leader of the ruling African National Congress, he stunned whites when he told them in no uncertain
terms that they had not done enough in return:
[He also] accused whites of treating reconciliation cavalierly
and protecting their socioeconomic privilege by resisting efforts to uplift the nation's black majority. He singled out white
opposition parties and the white media for opposing reforms, suggesting that their reluctance to buy into a 'new patriotism'
being pushed by the ANC was tantamount to being an enemy of the state. - (“Mandela's Message: White Privilege Must Give
Way,” in the International Herald Tribune, December 22, 1997, p. 1).
His speech clearly showed that South Africa was entering
a new phase in which reconciliation would not necessarily be a top priority – unless whites reciprocate after deliberately
choosing to remain aloof from the healing process in spite of all the efforts by the ruling African National Congress to try
and reach out to them. As Lynne Duke reported from South Africa in the International Herald
Thabo Mbeki, Mandela's successor as ANC leader, has touched
on these themes many times before, causing suspicion among whites that he would take a harder line toward them than Mr. Mandela
did. - (Ibid.).
It was a perception shared by other
analysts, since transformation of post-apartheid South Africa is usually seen as the antithesis of reconciliation because
it entails elimination of white privilege whites are determined to maintain indefinitely, if not forever is possible. As Robert
Schrirer, a political scientist at the University of Cape Town, put it:
To some extent, the popular
perception was of Nelson Mandela as the reconciler and Thabo Mbeki the transformer. I think that one should really view the
speech as the opening shot of the Thabo presidency. - (Robert Shrirer, quoted , ibid).
reaching out to whites, Mbeki said he would hold personal meetings with whites, in a spirit of constructive engagement, to
allay their fears and at the same time let them know that it was imperative for all South Africans to face harsh realities
if the country was going to achieve genuine racial reconciliation and justice and equality for all its citizens.
But some people feared
that the Mandela-Mbeki team invoked racial group interests to an extent that is out of step with the new multiracial government's
espoused goal of a non-racial society. As Themba Sono, the black president of the South Africa Institute of Race Relations,
said about Mandela's speech:
was clearing the decks for Thabo Mbeki to come and focus no longer on reconciliation but on the primacy of the interests of
the black majaority.
Does this comport with
our constitutional prescriptions? - (Themba Sono, quoted ibid.).
does, of course, because the new South African constitution allows the government to correct past racial injustices....
Although Mandela's speech
was not well-received in the white community, and probably frightened the majority of them, one could still hear the voice
of reason coming from a few whites; in fact very few.
In the media, Patrick
Bulger, political editor of the Johannesburg Star newspaper, broke ranks with his colleagues – most of whom, because of their hostility, only vindicated Mandela's
position when he said in his speech that they were working to undermine his government – when he wrote a scathing analysis
of the white perception of the new dispensation, saying:
[The common but unspoken white view is] that blacks somehow
should be satisfied with less, that this is somehow in the natural God-given order of things.
The ANC, the conventional white wisdom would go, is welcome to bring about a better life for all South Africans, but
not at the cost of white privilege. - (Patrick Bulger, in an editorial in the Johannesburg Star, December 1997; also quoted by Lynne Duke, “Mandela: Putting Whites on Notice,”
International Herald Tribune, ibid.,
Without sacrificing their privileged position,....
But, in spite of their defiance, the transformation will go on, nonetheless, in order to correct past racial injustices
– they themselves were responsible for – and build a stable multiracial society. As The
Economist reported after the 50th ANC party conference –
which takes place every three years – in December 1997:
There is mounting pressure for what South Africans call
'transformation.' This means the shifting of power – whether in business, the media, universities or the use of municipal
resources – from white to black.
The two groups see this matter differently: whites seem to think they have done enough and it is time to get back
to business as usual; blacks believe that genuine change has barely begun. - (“South Africa's New leaders,” in
The Economist, 20 December 1997, p.
It was in this context that Mandela lashed out at white
intransigence in his militant speech which clearly showed that the struggle continues.
probably more than anybody else, it was Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who embodied the anger and frustration of the most downtrodden
black masses; a sentiment she had been able to articulate forcefully from a populist platform for years, sending a powerful
message to whites that they may not even have a place under the African sun – because of their own undoing – if
they didn't come to terms with the new realities of a free multiracial South Africa that was nonetheless predominantly black
made it clear that white control was over. In a rare public address in February 1998, the former wife of Nelson Mandela told
white business leaders at a conference in Johannesburg that newly democratic South Africa faces a second revolution to break
the white stranglehold on the economy. She went on to bluntly state:
The truth and reality is that South Africa today and into
the future is no longer European or white, but African and, more often, black. - (Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, “Madikizela-Mandela
Speaks Out: Says Whites' Control of Economy is Over in South Africa, in The Boston Globe, February 13, 1998, p. A-23).
leader of international stature in her own right with formidable populist credentials, the former Mrs. Mandela -whose ties
to Mandela and continued use of her former spousal name also invests her with an aura of moral authority - told an almost
white audience of businessmen and businesswomen that white dominance in the country's boardrooms was over, and also that following
the victory of the African National Congress in the country's first all-race elections in 1994, South Africa faced “a
second revolution that is focused on Africanism, African humanism, a clearer African identity. The second revolution will
lead among other things to the demise of Eurocentric liberalism; the disappearance of the white man as we have known him and
her in Africa; and the renaissance of African ubuntu.”
known for her fiery rhetoric, Madikizela-Mandela was viewed with apprehension by most whites because of her immense popularity
among the masses – at the grassroots level – especially in the townships, a hotbed of radical activism, and had
the potential to greatly influence the course of events in South Africa from behind the scenes even if she did not win any
public office in the future as a national leader.
the December 1997 ANC conference in Mafikeng, the 63-year-old former first lady shelved a bid for election as deputy president
of the African National Congress – which would have virtually assured her the vice-presidency of the country after the
1999 general election – when she failed to win enough support from the convention delegates who had been manipulated
by the party leadership to block her from winning because of her tarnished record in the final years of apartheid.
was alleged to have masterminded a violent campaign against her opponents in the black township of Soweto during that period,
but denied all the charges levelled against her.
analysts linked her to the radical left wing of the ANC which shifted from socialism to more moderate positions after the
party was unbanned in 1990 by the last apartheid rulers to prepare for a transition to black majority rule. She was also linked
to a faction within the African National Congress, which was virtually assured of a second victory in the 1999 general election,
that sought to limit the role of whites, Indians and Coloureds, and promote the influence of blacks.
the ANC's euphemism for the issue of race balances in government and business, the former Mrs. Mandela told the white businessmen
and women: “This second revolution will address the national question in a program that is both systemic and prioritized.”
directly to business for the first time, Madikizela-Mandela said blacks would not tolerate cosmetic changes in corporations:
Business, like all institutions of our society, should
be Africanized during the transformation process. In short, transform the corporate culture.
Unless the African is placed at the center of transformation and the national agenda, our country will not be stable,
productive, and competitive. - (Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, quoted in The Boston Globe, ibid).
On the same day his former wife addressed white businessmen
and women in Johannesburg, President Mandela appealed for unity to rebuild the country, returning to his more familiar theme
of reconciliation after a hard-hitting speech at the 50th ANC party conference in Mafikeng in December 1997. He stated on 12 February 1998:
What we need, as we approach the fifth year of freedom,
is to become a nation rich in the diversity of its culture and opinions, but united in its resolve to relieve the poverty
that still blights the lives of the majority. - (Nelson Mandela, quoted, ibid).
spite of President Mandela's noble sentiment of multi-racialism, an equally noble sentiment of black nationalism is on the
although Biko is dead, his legacy lives on and will continue to inspire and shape the future of the African National
Congress – as will, undoubtedly, the militant wing of the party whose most forceful and most articulate spokesperson
was Winine Madikizela-Mandela. As Peter Beinart stated in a dispatch from Johannesburg in The
In the past several months, the ANC has begun an ideological
transformation toward Biko-style black nationalism, a turn signaled most dramatically by Nelson Mandela's fiery, anti-white
speech in December (1997) at the ANC conference in Mafikeng.
shift is already prompting howls of fear and disapproval from white liberals in South Africa and the West.
the fear is misplaced. The ANC's growing Africanism is the flip side of its remarkable embrace of the free market.
It is best understood not as a move to the left, but to the right – part of a broader turn toward market authoritarianism
in black politics that is visible in phenomena as seemingly unrelated as the rise of IMF-approved autocrats like Uganda's
Yoweri Museveni and in Louis Farrakhan's support of black entrepreneurship. - (Peter Beinart, “Black Markets: Why Capitalism
is Trumping Multiracialism in South African Politics,” in The New Republic, Washington, D.C., February 16, 1998, p. 11).
affirmative-action policies pursued by President Mandela's government and by others after him are....
a media campaign launched in February 1998, coincidentally or not, the same month in which the former Mrs. Mandela also gave
her strongly pro-African speech, President Mandela's government announced a spate of affirmative-action policies in jobs and
other areas including sports, land, mineral, and water resources. As Mandela himself said during the opening of parliament
in the same month:
Affirmative action is a corrective action. We shall not
be discouraged by the sirens of self-interest that are being sounded in defense of privilege, and the insults that equate
women, Africans,...Coloureds, and the disabled with a lowering of standards. - (Nelson Mandela, quoted by Kate Dunn in “Mandela
Hits White Wealth: South Africa Turns to Affirmative Action,” in The Christian Science
Monitor, February 26, 1998, pp. 1, and 7).
imperative need for such corrective measures should be viewed in the context of the huge disparities which still exist today
and threaten to put blacks and whites on a collision course with dire consequences for the country even without the possibility
of a low-intensity race war.
The disparities are frightening. And they are being perpetuated by whites who control the economy. That should be
enough to jolt the conscience of white South Africans and make them give up some of their privileges, as a start, before it's
too late and they end up with nothing. As Kate Dunn reported from Cape Town in a despatch to The
Christian Science Monitor:
So far, the end of apartheid has yielded little change
in South Africa.
richest 20 percent of the population, mostly white, earn 65 percent of all income, while the poorest 20 percent, mostly black,
earn only 3 percent. - Kate Dunn, ibid., p. 7).
Khehla Shubane, a black political analyst at the Centre for Political Studies in Johannesburg, said the ANC's affirmative-action
policy was partly inspired by a need to “reassure blacks after three years of reassuring whites,” quoted by one
of South Africa's major business publications, Business Day, in February 1998.
one would, of course, expect major changes in the economic arena after only three years or so since the African National Congress
came to power in May 1994 after the general elections in April that year. But even more important, besides such reassurance
to blacks, Shubane said, was the need to use affirmative action to create a black middle class to replace whites who were
slowly leaving the country after the end of white minority rule.
was, however, fierce opposition to this policy. And that is still the case today.
South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), a libertarian think tank funded partly by the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID) – one of the foreign agencies President Mandela accused of trying to undermine his
government – was a persistent and vociferous critic of the ANC's affirmative-action initiatives and has remained one
through the years. It contends that such a policy would legalise reverse discrimination and spawn lawsuits by non-blacks against
businesses enforcing it.
also points out that affirmative action requires the categorisation of employers and employees on the basis of race, not very
much different from what was done under apartheid.
critics of the government's policy argue that apartheid itself started as a form of affirmative action through which jobs
and educational opportunities were reserved for poor whites, mostly Afrikaners.
post-apartheid South Africa should have a system of meritocracy under which people are judged purely on the basis of merit,
response to all that, President Mandela accused the Institute of Race relations and the predominantly white opposition Democratic
Party of “scaremongering” and defending white privilege.
Even Business Day, the voice
of the white business elite, took Mandela's side, stating in February 1998 that the proposed affirmative-action legislation
was “an unobtrusive bill to address historical inequities and contemporary political pressure which, if not remedied,
could lead to economic instability.”
to affirmative action in mining policy was more subdued, even though it involved the most powerful white interests in South
Minister Panuell Maduna proposed that, over time, mineral rights now held by individuals and corporations should revert to
the state. The government would then issue licences for their exploitation, preferably by blacks. Unexploited licences would
be revoked and reissued.
a black himself, did not give any details about his proposals to empower small-scale black mining concerns.
Water Minister Kader Asmal, a South African of Indian descent, proposed abolition of rights through which landowners own water
on their property. He wanted to free up water resources to be used by blacks, many of whom can't get water.
enough, frustrated white entrepreneurs applauded the water and mines initiatives because they would break the stranglehold
“old money” had on those resources, especially in the hands of monopolistic interests.
even those white entrepreneurs who were now seeking to end this monopoly had access to capital and other economic opportunities
blacks did not have under apartheid.
changes were also underway in the agricultural sector. Agriculture Minister Derek Hanekom, a white, said his ministry would
continue its policy of negotiating, at market price, land purchase from whites as restitution for blacks who lost property
under apartheid. He also added that the intransigence on the part of some white farmers may lead him to start expropriating
a white backlash is to be expected in the form of economic sabotage and abuse of black workers because of such expropriation
and what most whites consider to be an invasion of their domain: the economy over which they have a stranglehold and which
they could send flying into a tailspin at will if they chose to do so.
of the reasons they may not do so is that they are going to suffer as well, unless they leave South Africa. In addition to
their almost exclusive monopoly of the economy and other levers of power, for example in education and national security,
they are also determined to maintain exclusive control in certain areas of sports:
South Africa may have a tough time tackling affirmative
action in the sports arena, especially rugby. Whites consider rugby a last bastion of dominance. Every white boy plays it
at school, and it is linked to Afrikaners' sense of never-say-die toughness.
President Mandela tried to use the sport as an element of national reconciliation by attending the 1995 World Cup
won by a South African squad with only one black player. He did so on the promise that officials would encourage racial integration,
but they have not done so. - (K. Dunn, “Tackling Rugby's White-Only Image,” in The
Christian Science Monitor, ibid., p. 7).
It is such....
have been numerous cases of brutality against black farm workers through the years. And they continue to suffer even today.
example of such brutality and callousness involved the landless Phiri family in the winelands of the Cape Province not long
after apartheid ended and was probably intended to show that nothing has changed:
The only sign of the 'new' South Africa in their lives
is the calendar on their cardboard wall advertising the post-apartheid Constitution and Bill of Rights, neither of which has
helped them in heir plight. - (“South Africa's Landless Still Get the Boot,” in The
Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 1998, p. 6).
In July 1997, Listen Phiri and his wife, Dinah, were evicted
from the farm of P.J. Benade, where they had worked for 18 years. Yet the post-apartheid era law against such evictions guarantees
6 million tenant workers the right to housing on the farms they have worked on for 10 years or more. Most of the tenant workers,
including the Phiri family, are black.
4 July 1997, the local sheriff arrived at the Phiri's home and carted out all the family's belongings in spite of the fact
that it was raining outside.
The goods were loaded in two trucks and dumped outside the farm gate “which was behind us. We just stood there
in the rain, crying. We had nowhere to go,” Mr. Phiri explained, quoted by The Christian
Science Monitor, in March 1998.
insult to injury, the farm owner, P. J. Benade, billed them the equivalent of $400 - US dollars - for the cost of their eviction,
an astronomical amount for people of such low income, on top of everything that had been done to them.
The new post-apartheid law also gives elderly and disabled tenant farmers the right to live in their farmhouses until
they die. But even they are not safe
from eviction and abuse by the white farm owners.
for the Phiri family, they were able to move into a single-room cement brick house built with a $3,000-government-housing
subsidy, but almost a year after they were kicked off the land.
they were grateful, nonetheless, for the housing they got from the new democratic government of South Africa, something which
would have never been done for a black family during apartheid. As Dina Phiri said: “I'm just happy that President Mandela
has given us a place here where the white man can not tell us anything anymore.”
is this kind of treatment, or mistreatment, which fuels resentment among many blacks against whites who continue to treat
them as subhuman beings in their native land.
it could even lead to a populist uprising in which whites will be the biggest losers. But it would be a rebellion whites themselves
started because of their continued mistreatment of blacks even after the end of apartheid.
farmers have vehemently attacked the new land-reform laws protecting black tenant farmers in spite of the fact that they lose
nothing when blacks are protected by the new legislation from arbitrary evictions. And not all evictions are reported. As
Denzel van Zyl, an advocate with Lawyers for Human Rights, stated:
We hear about 8 to 10 evictions per month in the winelands
region alone, and that's only the cases we hear about. I'm sure there are many more. - (Quoted in “South Africa's Landless
Still Get the Boot,” in The Christian Science Monitor, ibid).
plight of Albertina Zulu is another such case. A former tenant farmer, Mrs. Zulu was evicted in 1995 after her husband died.
the new law passed after the end of apartheid, no eviction can be carried out without a court order. But that has not discouraged
or stopped white landowners from evicting black tenant workers. And the reason is simple. Like most landowners, most magistrates
are “white, middle-class, conservative males. Social [and racial] links...render it unthinkable that a magistrate would
act against his [white] friends on behalf of [black] farm workers,” said Denzel van Zyl....
government is supposed to partially fund the repurchase of stolen land, or similar land, if the owner is unwilling to sell
it has not mobilised enough funds to do so, since appropriations for the land acquisition and purchase programmes are hampered
or even entirely blocked by a number of obstacles including constitutional strictures. As opposition member of parliament
Patricia de Lille of the militant Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) stated:
The government needs more constitutional leeway to expropriate.
- (Patricia de Lille, quoted, ibid.).
One of the most tragic cases which demonstrated the powerlessness
of black farm workers and the depraved nature of the apartheid mentality involved the murder of a black infant by a white
black workers said he had a habit of shooting into the air in bursts of belligerence and were afraid of him.
11 April 1998, this farmer, Nicholas Steyn, shouted angrily at a 9-year-old black girl, Francina Dlamini, from the gate of
his rural homestead in Zesfontein, an obscure locale 25 miles east of Johannesburg. The girl did not stop:
[She was carrying] her 6-month-old cousin Angelina in
a traditional blanket pouch on her back, and was nearing the three-room hut where she lived with 10 relatives, who represented
two generations of rural workers for the Steyn family. She was almost home. (Lynne Duke, “Infant's Murder Shakes South
Africans,” in the International Herald Tribune, April 22, 1998, p. 6).
That was when tragedy struck.
fired his handgun – just one of several weapons he had in his gun collection – and hit Angelina in the head. The
bullet smashed through the infant's skull and also hit Francina in the back. The infant died.
was brutal white power at its worst, showing that apartheid may be legally dead but it is very much alive in many areas of
life and in the minds of most whites as has been clearly demonstrated by their stiff resistance to change under the new multiracial
white-minority rule, brutality against blacks was common. Many were savagely beaten and even murdered by whites at will. Those
killed were buried in unmarked graves or simply disposed of. Unfortunately, for many blacks, today is still yesterday.
The brutal murder of a 6-month-old black baby by a white farmer made headlines, such as “Infant Murder Shakes
South Africans,” in the International Herald Tribune; and “April 11 Killing of A Black Infant by a White Farmer Points to Still-Simmering Racial Strife,”
in The Christian Science Monitor in
its edition of 22 April 1998. And there was an uproar in South Africa itself:
The killing of Angelina and the critical wounding of Francina
have dominated headlines and radio talk shows across a shocked nation.
That such an incident could happen after four years of democracy and a sustained attempt by the new government to
foster racial tolerance and reconciliation 'has struck a chord because it appears stereotypical of the most brutal pre-1994
racism,' the newspaper Business Day
declared in an editorial last week. - (“Killing: South Africa Shaken by a Reminder of the Apartheid Era,” in the
International Herald Tribune, April
22, 1998, p. 7; Business Day, Johannesburg,
April 1998. See also The New York Times
and The Washington Post, April 22,
To make matters worse:
There are whites who have told reporters that Mr. Steyn,
as a farmer in fear of being victimised by rural workers, was justified in what he did. - (Ibid).
One wonders what kind of outlaws a 6-month-old baby and
a 9-year-old girl – both in clear view of the white farmer who shot them – would be.
Adding insult to injury, Angelina's mother was not even told which hospital her baby had been taken to. When the children
were rushed off in an ambulance, “that was the last time I saw them,” said the mother, 29-year-old Violet Dlamini,
a poor domestic servant, quoted in the International Herald Tribune, April 22, 1998.
the 42-year-old Steyn was not even arrested until the day after the shooting and his house was not searched until days after
blacks, infuriated, by the murder and having suffered so much racial injustice themselves, wanted to avenge the murder.
anger was fuelled even further when they heard that there were whites who told reporters that Steyn was justified in shooting
the two black children even though they were not, and could not have been, a threat to him or his family.
of black demonstrators converged in the court during his bail hearing. When he saw all that, he decided to stay in jail where
he felt he would be safer. Even his parents who lived on the farm with him moved away for their own safety.
As the victims' family members described the scene when they rushed to the children after they heard the screams of
11-year-old Vusi, Angelina's brother who had been walking with Francina, blood was everywhere. And as Ed O'Loughlin reported
from South Africa in The Christian Science Monitor:
Angelina Zwane was born more than three years after South
Africa's apartheid system was formally brought to an end. Yet many South Africans believe it was apartheid that killed her....
nine-year-old cousin, Francina Dlamini, who was carrying her on her back, was seriously wounded by the same bullet.
farmer, Nicholas Steyn, claimed the shooting was justified because the children were trespassing on his land.
killing has shocked the world, and left many South Africans wondering how much has really changed from the old days of white
Together with a number of other incidents, it has also led to worries of rising ethnic tensions in a country where
race is still the greatest single issue in political, social, and economic life. - (Ed O'Loughlin, “Old Issues of Black
and White Stir Up the New South Africa: April 11 Killing of a Black Infant by a White Farmer Points to Still Simmering Racial
Strife,” in The Christian Science Monitor, April 22, 1998, p. 6).
The shooting of the two black children was horrific enough.
And what intensified public outrage was the way the police handled the matter.
not only refused to arrest the shooter, Steyn, after the shooting; they manhandled the 9-year-old victim, Francina, in spite
of the fact that she was seriously injured, in bad condition, and in the hospital:
The police's initial failure to take Mr. Steyn into custody
because he was 'cooperative' and had a fixed address reminded many angry blacks of times not long ago when white farmers were
able to assault and even kill blacks with near impunity.
police have also been accused of gross insensitivity after reporters said they witnessed two detectives – one black,
one white – manhandling and aggressively interrogating Francina as she lay recuperating from her gunshot wound in the
hospital. - (Ibid).
And the mistreatment of Angelina's mother herself after
the shooting, and the abject poverty in which she lived and worked as a farm hand for slave wages, further inflamed passions
especially among blacks against whites many of whom continue to abuse and even brutalise them after the end of apartheid.
emerged as a powerful symbol of white supremacy, an embodiment of a system which refuses to die.
case also highlighted the great racial divide and the predicament – virtual slavery – in which millions of blacks
are still trapped and left at the mercy of cruel white masters mainly because whites still control the economy and the police
as well as the judicial system:
The revelation that Angelina's mother was working seven
days a week for Steyn's family in return for a mud hut and $40 a month has highlighted the fact that many poor blacks still
work as near-slave laborers for their employers.
to Mrs. Dlamini, Steyn's first action after shooting her daughter was to fire Dlamini and order her off his property.
Even more troubling was the reaction of other white farmers living near the Steyns. The Saturday Star newspaper in Johannesburg reported that several of
them felt Steyn – who often mounted lone vigilante patrols at night – must have had good reason to shoot the children.
murder of 6-month-old Angelina and the shooting of her 9-year-old cousin came at a time when racial violence was taking place
in other parts of the country, including an attack by white parents and white policemen on black children at a high school
which continued to practise racial segregation after apartheid was outlawed by the new multiracial government.
school was closed for more than three weeks in March and April 1998 following violent racial clashes in which black students
and black policemen who tried to protect them were overwhelmed by whites:
The killing comes fresh on the heels of recent racial
clashes at a high school in Vryburg, northwest of Johannesburg.
month (March 1998), white parents and policemen attacked black pupils who were demonstrating against continuing racial segregation
in what, until four years ago, was a whites-only school.
witnessed white adults assaulting black boys and girls with sjamboks (heavy leather whips). Black policemen were forced to
defend the pupils. - (Ibid).
and affirmative action are some of the major policy initiatives the first multiracial democratic government under President
Nelson Mandela launched to end racial injustices. As Joel Netshitenzhe, Mandela's spokesman, stated:
Racist paradigms often underlie criticism of government
policy. - (cited, ibid).
And in spite of all the evidence to....
That is what led the International Herald Tribune to ask this question: “Is 'Black Empowerment' Working in South Africa?: Critics Say Too Few Are Reaching the
Top.” It was the headline of a report, in that news paper, by Donald G. McNeil sent from Johannesburg:
When does a 'black empowerment deal' truly empower blacks?
And when is it just another example of what Jimmy Manye calls 'the Irish coffee problem' – blacks on the bottom, whites
on top, with a sprinkling of black faces like cinnamon on the foam to lend credibility?
These are some of the hardest questions in South African business today. - (Donald G. McNeil, “Is 'Black Empowerment'
Working in South Africa?: Critics Say Too Few Are Reaching the Top,” in the International
Herald Tribune, April 18, 1998, p. 1; The
New York Times, April 16, 1998).
reality, whatever major business deals are made between black businessmen and white businessmen, enabling black investors
to “buy” some white companies, they enrich only a few blacks. And in most cases, black “owners”
are no more than fronts for white owners, executives, bankers and other business tycoons.
situation is not very much different from what goes on in the United States where black “contractors” front for
white owners to get business contracts from the federal government under the affirmative-action programme. As Jimmy Manye,
head of the Black Management Forum in South Africa, bitterly remarked:
We're sick and tired of the companies who do what they
want and call it empowerment. We're going to make it our business to investigate these deals. - (Quoted, ibid).
And as Phinda Madi, author of a book, Black Empowerment in the New South Africa, published
in 1997, put it, some companies think that having a minority black stake and “a well-known black personality with (liberation)
credentials (as chairman will) serve as protection against the transformation barbarians at the gate.”
is an open secret, he said, that “some organizations with dreadful industrial-relations track records get into empowerment
deals as a labor-relations shield. The new chairman becomes the fire-eater, the magician to calm the marauding masses on the
He was quoted by Donald G. McNeil in the April 18, 1998 edition of the International
Herald Tribune. And he articulated a collective sentiment
shared by many blacks across the nation.
some whites don't question its rationale. As Jenny Cargill, director of Business Map, a consulting firm in Johannesburg that
tracks business trends, stated:
One can't belittle black ownership
– it's important. But it's usually been achieved with very high debt levels. All the dividends go back to the (white)
institutions that backed the deal.
the companies need to get scrutinised more on their internal policies – management training, affirmative action. There
are these enormous glass ceilings over black staff. - (Jenny Cargill, quoted in “Is 'Black Empowerment' Working in South
These enormous glass ceilings over
blacks are installed to block them from advancing farther into what most whites consider to be their domain, the economy –
around which everything else revolves – now that blacks dominate the political field but where power is meaningless
without economic clout.
such intransigence by whites is not only retarding black economic progress; it is pushing the country to the precipice:
A rural high school erupts in racial
clashes. Dozens (of blacks) die in detention or at the hands of the (white-controlled) police each month....
Africa, after its peaceful transition to majority rule, suddenly seems to be sliding back into the racism and intolerance
of its apartheid past.
series of incidents has shaken the confidence of the hopeful and confirmed the worst fears of the skeptical....
than isolated events, analysts said, the confrontations of the past several weeks reflect that the country is passing into
a more openly contentious stage of transformation that will test whether it can build an equitable multiracial society....
Many whites have ignored or resisted change from the outset, while most blacks say it has come too slowly. -
(Kurt Shillinger, reporting from South Africa, in his report, “South Africa's Growing Pains: Racial Clashes, Police
Violence Are Blows to Confidence,” in The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, May 24, 1998, p. A-11).
the shooting of two black children by a white farmer, the attack on black pupils by white parents at a former all-white school,
the death of many blacks at the hands of the white-dominated police every month, and the brutal treatment of black workers
on white farms and in other places where they are employed by whites, many other incidents have highlighted the racial tensions
which exist and continue to rise in the country....
are also angry at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for exposing the atrocities committed against blacks and others
under apartheid. And every racial incident has cumulative effect:
Two areas in particular have underscored
the fragility of South Africa's transition to democracy. One is the conservative rural outposts where racism remains the most
March (1998), the dusty cattle town of Vryburg erupted when white parents attacked black students and forced the local high
school to shut its doors temporarily.
few weeks later (in April), a white farmer shot at black children crossing his land outside this town, killing a baby. Police
did not immediately arrest the man, outraging blacks.
violence may be symptomatic of anger over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which in the past two years has probed
human rights violations of the apartheid era. 'It is a circus,' said a white woman in Sam Horne's sewing shop (in Vryburg).
Even more disturbing is the fact that
this kind of hostility towards blacks is being manifested by the nation's security forces almost in the same manner it was
whites, who still control the security apparatus and defence forces, are openly defiant and hostile towards blacks and continue
to subject them to humiliation and brutal treatment the same way they did before the end of white-minority rule:
The police, the military, and national
intelligence units are also under scrutiny.
report issued last week (May 1998) found that roughly 60 people (almost all black) die each month in police custody or as
a result of police actions.
government, meanwhile, was rattled in March when the outgoing chief of the military, an Afrikaner, delivered a report directly
to Mandela warning that prominent black soldiers and politicians were plotting a coup.
paper was quickly discredited.
reports, however, served as reminder that the old apartheid guard and old practices remain entrenched in the police and armed
forces. - (Ibid).
firmly entrenched in the minds of ....
Black South African writer Mark Mathabane, author of Kaffir Boy and Love in Black and White, raised some very important issues concerning the pardons granted by the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to the enforcers of apartheid who tortured, maimed, mutilated and killed blacks and other
apartheid opponents at will, but mostly blacks many of whom were not even political activists.
The victims included black women and children who were not only innocent but were not even remotely involved
in campaigns against the white-minority regime. As Mathabane stated in his article, “South Africa: Reconciliation Yes,
but Justice as Well,” in The New York Times:
Is it possible to forgive someone who
attaches a power generator to the chained hands and feet of other human beings, calmly turns on the switch and then watches
them writhe and foam blood at the mouth and ears as bursts of electricity fry every part of their bodies?....
listening to accounts of such atrocities, I found myself asking: What about the victims? What about the mothers who have lost
their sons and daughters and husbands? What about the orphaned children I recently saw wandering in my hometown, Alexandria,
dressed in rags, sleeping in shacks without heat, scavenging for food in garbage heaps?....
about the youths scarred for life by torture? How can they be expected to accept that torturers and murderers are being set
free, and that many sometimes return to their old jobs as policemen and receive pensions for 'honorable service to the country'?....
of these survivors and families feel that justice has not been served....Someone must be held responsible for these crimes....
Reconciliation is possible, provided the families of the victims do not believe that in pursuit of truth, they
are being denied justice. - (Mark Mathabane, “South Africa: Reconciliation Yes, but Justice as Well,” in The New York Times; and in the International Herald Tribune, December
15, 1997, p. 8. See also, Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy, an autobiographical work on growing up and living under apartheid. It is also a searing
indictment against that oppressive system).
might as well add an equally important question:....
In fact, this systematic oppression went on up to the very end of apartheid – with official sanction –
when blacks were about to assume power, as the tragic case of Albert Nkuna clearly shows. And there were countless others.
As Don L. Boroughs wrote from South Africa in the U.S. & World Report:
'When I regained consciousness, I felt
that my private parts were dead,' (Albert Nkuna testified before the Truth Commission, as he broke down, crying).
Free elections were only months away in 1994 when police searching for guns arrived at Albert Nkuna's shack
in Katlehong township to interrogate – and torture – him. (Don L. Boroughs, “Will the Truth Set Them Free?
Confronting Their Terrible Past, South Africans Seek Reconciliation,” in U.S.
News & World Report, April 28, 1997, p. 42).
The question is....
Coetzee, commander of a ruthless hit squad notorious for killing blacks during the era of white-minority rule, put it succinctly:
In those days, a black man's life meant
absolutely nothing. - (Quoted, ibid).
that's no reason for seeking pardon – or granting one. It is a compelling argument for punishment, severe punishment,
without mitigating factors or extenuating circumstances.
In its report from South Africa, the U.S. News & World Report had more spine-chilling stories to tell, besides Nkuna's, including Archbishop
Desmond Tutu's reactions. As Tutu himself put it after hearing for months and months harrowing testimony given by former security
policemen and their victims:
We even heard people say that after
killing some people, they burned their bodies and kept turning them over on the fire, while at the same time they were partying,
drinking beer, and having a barbecue.
really takes away your breath that people could be so callous and so inhumane. - (Desomond Tutu, quoted, ibid.).
is so remarkable, and even incomprehensible to outsiders, is that there has not been widespread demand among blacks for vengeance.
there are those who are vindictive, and they may be biding their time.
inflicted so much damage that it will take a nation of saints to let bygones be bygones in a spirit of forgiveness. It may
not be the right attitude, but it is easy to understand why:
At the heart of South Africa's darkness
lay a security apparatus run by men who saw their black victims as something other than human.
else could explain the agony of Maurice Nchabeleng who, as a schoolboy, was taken to the room where his activist father had
just been tortured and killed? There, Nchabeleng told the Truth Commission, policemen ordered him to wash his hands in his
else could soldiers have gathered around the bed of Kate Serekolo to laugh as she gave birth in detention?
other force could have so dulled the consciences of security police that they were able to shoot a shopkeeper's two sleeping
children just because their father operated an African National Congress safe house?
astounding than any of these revelations, however, is the fact that the suffering they recall has not stirred up widespread
demands for vengeance. - (Don L. Boroughs, ibid).
Another unanswered question is how
child victims of apartheid such as Maurice Nchabeleng who was ordered to wash his hands in his father's blood and many others
are going to react to all this when they grow up, especially when they see that whites are not only unrepentant but insist
on maintaining their privileged position.
are children who have been scarred for life, emotionally and physically. These are also children who sacrificed their lives
upon the altar of freedom. They include children such as Mxolisi Goboza, random target of security forces gone berserk at
the sight of a black skin:
'I didn't run away. They shot me and
I fell....The doctor said there is nothing that he can do because the pellets are right in my intestines.'
Goboza, the youngest person to testify before the Truth Commission, was just 11 years old in 1993 when he saw armored police
vehicles heading his way in a township near Venterstad.
municipal van had been burned in a student protest, and witnesses say that police responded the next day by randomly shooting
young people in the streets of the township. - (Mxolisi Goboza, cited ibid).
testimony by some of the apartheid enforcers was just as revolting, down to the scatological.
of them gave only the barest essentials,....
Most of the testimony was blood-curdling, nonetheless, as shown by one of those harrowing accounts in The New York Times:
Jeffrey Benzien was one of the many
minor but effective functionaries who made apartheid work for South Africa's white government....
was particularly adept at the use of the 'wet bag,' in which a cloth placed over victims' heads brought them to the terrifying
brink of asphyxiation, over and over again. Few withstood more than half an hour....
I say to Mr. Jacobs I put the electrodes on his nose I may be wrong,' he testified (before the Truth Commission). 'If I say
I attached them to his genitals, I may be wrong. If I say I put a probe in his rectum, I may be wrong. I could have used any
of those methods'....
victim said Mr. Benzien had shoved a broomstick up his rectum. There were beatings, too, and some people were hung for hours
by handcuffs attached to the window bars in their cells....
Benzien remains in the police force....
Benzien says he was an enthusiastic supporter of the National Party, which ran the government....
commanding officer also testified, acknowledging that he had known about Mr. Benzien's torture sessions and had once helped
pin a prisoner down....
describing his work, Mr. Benzien seemed at times to take pride in his accomplishments. 'I believe that due to my expeditious
and unorthodox conduct,' he said at one point, 'we made a big difference in combating terror'....
victim asked, 'do you remember saying that you are going to break my nose and then putting both your thumbs into my nostrils
and pulling it until the blood came out of my nose?'
'I know you had a nose bleed. I thought it was the result of a smack I gave you.' - (“Apartheid Torturer
Testifies, as Evil Shows Its Banal Face: Torturer's Testimony Gives South Africa a New Lesson in the Banality of Evil,”
in The New York Times,
November 9, 1997, pp. 1, and 8).
are the kind of people who applied for and were granted amnesty.
many of them, including Benzien himself, remained on the police force after the end of apartheid in spite of what they did
to their victims....
President P.W. Botha, a hardliner also known as “the Great Crocodile” and “Piet the Gun” during his
iron-fisted rule, was the very embodiment of such white defiance. His persistent refusal to apologise for the atrocities of
apartheid made him a hero to millions of South African whites and was seen as a symbol of white resistance to what was perceived
to be a black invasion of the bastions of white privilege:
The former president has said repeatedly
that he has nothing to explain or apologize for. - (P.W. Botha, cited in “Ex-South African President Is Ordered to Court,”
in The Boston Globe,
January 8, 1998, p. A-7).
as he defiantly stated:
I am not going to the Truth Commission.
I am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for favors.
I did, I did for my country, for my God, for my people, and for all the people of South Africa. - (P.W. Botha, quoted, ibid).
van Zyl Slabbert, former opposition member of parliament during Botha's leadership, saw a familiar quality in Botha's stance:
He likes to say he has many faults
but being wrong isn't one of them. He's an obstinant (sic), self-congratulating character. - (Frederick van Zyl Slabbert,
During a brief court appearance
on 23 January 1998 to answer contempt charges stemming from his failure in December 1997 to heed a subpoena requiring him
to testify before the Truth Commission, Botha, an Afrikaner, defended apartheid as a benign policy for separate racial development.
He addressed the media
in the court room and used the preliminary session as an occasion to exploit the public spotlight for the first time since
he left office in 1989. Wagging his finger, he told reporters – and the rest of the world – first in Afrikaans,
then in English:
will not stand our language (Afrikaans) being trampled upon and we will not stand our cultural values to be trampled upon.
The tiger...is going to
fight back. We are busy organizing. - (P.W. Botha, quoted in “Botha, In Court, Offers No Apologies for Apartheid,”
in The Boston Globe, January 24, 1998, p.
He was obviously talking about efforts by whites to undermine President Mandela's multiracial government by various means including
white-dominated police and security forces who continued to encourage and participate in crime. Botha called the press conference
after the court proceedings and went on to say:
I am not prepared to apologise for lawful actions of my
government in its struggle to curb the violent onslaught against our country. I also do not apologise for my views on peaceful
coexistence of all the people of our country. - (Botha, ibid).
startling candour, and defiance, not only endeared him to millions of whites who longed for “the good old days”
- many still do so even today; it earned him a place in the pantheon of white leaders who once ruled the entire continent
with imperial arrogance in defence of white supremacy.
the same meeting with the press in the court room, Botha went so far as to call for the resignation of President Nelson Mandela
whom he described as incompetent:
He said he has told President Nelson
Mandela to step down since the ANC-led government could not deliver services efficiently and had done nothing to stem violent
crime. - (Botha, cited in “Botha, In Court, Offers No Apologies for Apartheid,” ibid).
And from the other side, Archbishop
Tutu appealed to South African whites to embrace the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as their last chance of healing
divisions caused by apartheid.
said the commission, set up in 1995 to investigate human rights abuses during white-minority rule, had reached out to whites.
But it had been ignored by most of them. He told journalists in Cape Town:
They are being given the only opportunity
they are ever going to get of coming to terms with the awful things that they did to my people.
comes from my heart. I am praying that one day you white people will understand....
I have nearly been vilified in the black community because I have sought to reach out to you white people. -
(Desmond Tutu, quoted by Paul Harris, “Tutu Asks Whites to Support Work of His Reconciliation Panel,” in The Boston Globe, February 19, 1998,
But in spite of such magnanimity, the
symbol of white resistance to black people's quest for equality, P.W. Botha, remained defiant.
had his worst nightmare on 14 April 1998 when he appeared before a black judge – of all people – on charges of
refusing to cooperate with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
sat impassively as prosecutors presented a barrage of evidence that the State Security Council he created and headed may have
authorised the killing of anti-apartheid activists. But during a break in the proceedings, he spoke defiantly to reporters:
Even if they destroy me, they cannot
destroy my soul and my convictions. - (P.W. Botha, quoted in “Botha Shows Defiance at His Trial,” in The Boston Globe, April 16, 1998, p.
The case before the black magistrate, Victor Lugaju, highlighted racial divisions in South Africa after the
end of apartheid. As Paul Harris, of The Boston Globe, reported from the small town of George in the Eastern Cape Province where the trial was
Botha has called the Truth Commission
a circus and has vowed he would never testify before it in person.
intransigence has made him a rallying point for right-wingers who consider the commission biased against whites. - (Paul Harris,
It did, in fact, help to turn him into
an iconic figure of Afrikaner nationalism, and a rallying point for most whites who bitterly resent the end of white-minority
rule. As Archbishop Tutu said about the defiant Botha:
In his view we have done nothing but
humiliate his people. I don't think anything we try to say or do would move him from that position. - (Tutu, quoted , ibid).
intransigence also became a crucial test for the Truth Commission's credibility with many blacks who still believe that apartheid
leaders and members of the police and security forces who routinely tortured and killed blacks got off easy during their testimonies
before the commission; while black leaders such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had lengthy public hearings during which they
were subjected to gruelling questioning to extract confessions of the crimes they allegedly committed against their enemies
in the black townships during the struggle to end white-minority rule.
was overwhelming evidence linking Botha to the murder of black activists during his rule.
the former president was in court for ignoring a summons to appear before the Truth Commission, his trial, the first ever
for a former South African head of state, focused on his role as chairman of the State Security Council which coordinated
a security crackdown on black liberation groups.
commission's executive secretary, Paul van Zyl, said on 11 June 1998 that minutes from State Security Council meetings contained
words like “eliminate” and “neutralise” when referring to opponents of white-minority rule:
It is quite clear from these documents,
as we interpret it, the word 'eliminate' means 'kill.' - (Paul van Zyl, quoted in “Botha Linked at Trial to Killing
of Activists,” in the International Herald Tribune, June 3, 1996, p. 6).
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
– also known as the TRC – presented the court with dozens of documents implicating Botha in atrocities perpetrated
by his regime against blacks and other anti-apartheid opponents.
Zyl said the State Security Council, composed of members of the cabinet and military and security officials, had been briefed
in 1979 about plans to begin overseas operations against members of the African National Congress (ANC), including sending
them mail bombs. One of those bombs killed anti-apartheid activist Ruth First, wife of ANC leader Joe Slovo, in Maputo, Mozambique
ANC activists were eliminated in similar fashion in neighbouring countries.
assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 was also the work of the South African intelligence service, the
Bureau of State Security, also known by its acronym, BOSS.
Palme was a strong supporter of the African National Congress and his country, under his leadership, poured $400 million –
in nonmilitary assistance – into the liberation struggle in South Africa through the years, thus incurring the wrath
of the apartheid regime.
was gunned down by a lone gunman in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, as he was walking with his wife and son back home from
a movie theatre.
of the assassinations carried out by the South African security forces would have been done without the knowledge and approval
of President Botha.
de Kock, a former police colonel who headed a group of apartheid-era assassins, also testified against Botha during the trial.
to life in prison for apartheid-era crimes, one of the few apartheid operatives to be convicted in a criminal court, de Kock
carried out the bombing of the anti-apartheid South African Council of Churches building in Johannesburg in 1988. And a former
national police chief, Johan van der Merwe, told the Truth Commission that Botha authorised the attack.
former president pleaded not guilty to ignoring the summons to appear before the commission and insisted that the panel wanted
to humiliate him by forcing him to appear in person.
what the commission wanted from him was the truth about his role in the violence and other abuses perpetrated against the
opponents of white-minority rule:
Former President P.W. Botha not only
knew about, but ordered, the bombing in 1988 of the South African Council of Churches headquarters that injured 23 people,
a senior police commander testified....
Pretoria, former police commissioner Johan van der Merwe told the commission's amnesty committee that Botha had personally
ordered the destruction of Khotso House, the Johannesburg office building of the Council of Churches....
had information that Khotso House was being used by the underground movements,' van der Merwe testified. 'We received the
order from Botha, and arranged for members of Vlakpaas – a special unit of the Security Branch police – to blow
has denied consistently he knew about the incident....
And in Port Elizabeth, a former senior state official named Jaap van Jaarveld told the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission that Botha's inner security circle had advance knowledge of – and probably approved – the killing of
four black activists in 1985. - (“Botha Linked to Church Office Bombing: Ex-Police Aide Says He Ordered Attack; Hearing
Focuses on Abuses and Attacks,” in The Boston Globe, June 3, 1998, p. A-5).
Botha, who ruled from 1978 to 1989, the apartheid regime launched a vicious campaign of terror against the opponents of white-minority
government's response reached unprecedented levels of repression and involved the entire security apparatus including the
use of the South African Defence Forces for internal neutralisation of opponents, in addition to launching strikes against
neighbouring countries which supported the African National Congress.
ANC itself had intensified its campaign to render the country ungovernable in the face of brutal repression by the white-minority
responded viciously by cracking down on opponents at home, and by orchestrating a brutal war of destabilisation against neighbouring
countries which included the bombing of Harare and Lusaka, the capitals of Zimbabwe and Zambia, respectively, in 1986 by the
South African Air Force, as well as attacks on Mazambique's capital, Maputo, also during the 1980s.
apartheid regime also declared a state of emergency in 1986, giving police sweeping powers to neutralise opponents of the
government. More than 30,000 blacks were locked up without charge during that period. All that was approved by President Botha.
addition to van der Merwe, former Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok and convicted killer Eugene de Kock implicated Botha
in the Khotso House bombing and other atrocities.
Vlok presented his most damaging testimony before the Truth Commission in July 1998. He told the commission
on July 21st that Botha instructed him in June 1998 to render “unusable” the
Johannesburg offices of the South African Council of Churches which the government claimed was harbouring anti-apartheid insurgents.
Vlok also said the president had targeted other areas as well in the same city:
Mr. Botha gave the instruction. I had
no doubt that irregular action had to be taken if I was to comply with this order. - (Adriaan Vlok, quoted in “Ex-Police
Minister Implicates Botha in Bombings,” in The Boston Globe, July 22, 1998, p. A-2).
Adriaan Vlok applied for amnesty for
his role in the bombing of the church headquarters and other targets and was the only member of Botha's government to seek
testimony marked the first time in the course of the commission's hearings that a Cabinet-level official had established a
direct link between the security forces who committed apartheid-era atrocities and political leaders who authorised the vicious
building bombed was the downtown Johannesburg headquarters of the trade union movement COSATU (Congress of South African Trade
changed his earlier stand to save his skin.
a radio interview in 1995, he derisively dismissed the work of the Truth Commission as “repulsive.”
applied for amnesty just two months after an immediate subordinate, former police commssioner Johan van der Merwe, implicated
him in the Khotso House bombing during hearings before the Truth Commission in October 1996.
his testimony on 21 July 1998, Vlok went on to say:
We agreed there were no legal manners
in which the activities inside Khotso House could be stopped. Mr. Botha then said I must make the building unusable. - (Adriaan
He said he passed the order on to van
der Merwe, then chief of the Security Branch Police.
building was bombed on 31 August 1998. No-one was killed, but 23 people were injured in adjacent buildings.
South African Council of Churches leader Peter Storey, a Methodist bishop, said the Khotso House was never used for insurgency
operations. After the building was destroyed, Vlok said President Botha congratulated him for a job well done.
also sought amnesty for his role in the bombings of the trade union headquarters in May 1988 and cinemas that were showing
the film, “Cry Freedom,” based on the life and death – in police custody – of a prominent anti-apartheid
activist Steve Biko. The government said the movie was a threat to national security.
der Merwe, testifying in his amnesty hearings for the 1988 death-in-detention of activist Stanza Bopape who was tortured to
death by the police, said the following in implicating Botha in the apartheid-era atrocities:
During the state of emergency, it was
impossible to operate within the regulations.
said he was not prepared to apologize for the struggle against the forces trying to usurp the government.
It was an undeclared war, and the Security Branch Police were expected to stop the onslaught at any price –
even if it meant using illegitimate methods. - (Johan van der Merwe, quoted in “Botha Linked to Church Office Building,”
in The Boston Globe,
op.cit., p. A-5).
In his autobiography published in 1988,
de Kock, one of the apartheid state's most feared assassins whose ruthlessness earned him the nickname Prime Evil, called
himself a “sacrificial lamb” for the apartheid regime's human rights abuses and complained that “the guiltest
of all – the generals and politicians – have got off scot-free,” as quoted by The Boston Globe during the hearings
before the Truth Commission.
former death-squad boss was given two life sentences plus 212 years on six charges of murder and 83 other convictions.
in spite of all the accusations levelled against him by his former subordinates, Botha remained defiant and adamant in his
Mr. Botha has insisted that he has
nothing to apologize for and has described the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's work as a witch hunt against whites.
- (“Convicted Killer Expected to Testify Against Botha,” in the International
Herald Tribune, June 3, 1996, p. 6).
However, de Kock testified in court
against former President Botha and accused him of ordering terrorist attacks not only within South Africa but in foreign countries
as well. As a former police commander of the notorious secret police force known as Vlakpaas, he knew what he was talking
said his unit had acted on orders from the president when it carried out attacks against anti-apartheid targets including
the bombings of two office buildings in South Africa and one in London during the 1980s:
Covert activity is illegal by nature.
[But] the government of the day encouraged it. - (Eugene de Kock, in “Apartheid Figure Ties Ex-Leader Botha to Attacks,”
in The Boston Globe,
June 4, 1998, p. A-2).
Botha not only refused to admit that;
even pleas from President Mandela and Archbishop Tutu urging him to cooperate with the Truth Commission fell on deaf ears:
Despite repeated efforts by Tutu, President
Nelson Mandela and others to gain his cooperation, the former president adamantly refused to take part in a process he regards
with contempt. - (Botha, cited ibid).
However, evidence against him and other cabinet members as well as other subordinates including security forces
was overwhelming. According to The Economist:
Only in the past month (July 1998),
as the commission was about to complete its business, has the first apartheid-era cabinet minister admitted to authorising
Vlok, a former law-and-order minister, confessed to ordering the bombings of two buildings where ANC agents were thought to
meet, and of cinemas that were showing 'Cry Freedom,' an anti-apartheid movie....
cabinet ministers knew that the police were behind the blasts...and congratulated him.
Mr. Vlok's testimony hints at what most South Africans believe to be the truth: that Mr. Botha and his ministers
knew and approved of their subordinate's crimes. - (“South Africa's Hurtful Truth,” in The Economist, 1 August 1998, pp. 37
spite of his open contempt for the Truth Commission, the former president could not cover up the atrocities for which he was
responsible when he led the apartheid government; nor was the debate over the language used by the State Security Council
mere semantic quibbling, a point clarified by de Kock during his testimony in court against Botha when he said “neutralise
means to kill.”
he went on to implicate Botha in three separate bombings.
1981, de Kock blew up the London offices of the African National Congress (ANC), for which he received the Star of Excellence,
an award that only the president could confer; indisputable evidence that Botha knew and approved of the bombing.
years later in 1987, de Kock was called in by his superiors and told to bomb the Johannesburg headquarters of the Congress
of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
in 1988, he blew up the building which housed the South African Council of Churches. As he bitterly remarked in court in George
where Botha was ordered to appear:
I feel that myself and others in the
security forces have been sold out by the politicians in the National Party. They are cowards.
a lowly colonel, I will take the full responsibility for the actions of all police members whose actions occurred within the
framework of the incitement and goading of the politicians for faith and fatherland. - (Eugene de Kock, quoted in “Apartheid
Ties Ex-Leader Botha to Attacks,” op. cit., p. A-2).
also angrily accused Botha and his government of callously abandoning the men who carried out his brutal policies of terrorism
against the anti-apartheid opponents within South Africa and against neighbouring countries:
There was deliberate distancing between
the politicians and the operatives, so that if men on the ground went down, the politicians were in the clear (he said, casting
a quick glance at Botha). My operatives sit in jails. He does not. - (Eugene de Kock, quoted in “Ex-Assassin Rebukes
Ex-South African Leader,” in The Boston Globe, June 5, 1998, p. A-2).
Although the former president hardly
stirred throughout the court proceedings, de Kock pinned direct responsibility on him for specific bombings inside and outside
simultaneous hearings before the Truth Commission in other parts of the country, Botha's former commissioner of police, Johan
van der Merwe, made corroborative accusations. As Archbishop Tutu said in a hallway interview in the court in the small town
of George where Botha's trial was held, after de Kock's devastating testimony against the former president:
In a wonderful way, we have had our
hearing. We have heard his own people here and in Pretoria. We could not have planned it this way. - (Tutu, ibid).
Tutu had good reason to feel that way,
since Botha refused to talk about the violence and murders he sanctioned when he was president of apartheid South Africa.
testimony of his subordinates against him was damning evidence and left him no room to manoeuvre. All he could do was long
for “the good old days.”
even an exhaustive enquiry by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into the past could not have revealed the full extent
of what the apartheid regime did, and to which it was prepared to go, to maintain white supremacy at all costs.
response to mounting pressure from independent African countries to try and force it to end its racist policies, the white-minority
government of South Africa invested heavily in a massive military buildup. Included in its arsenal were nuclear weapons, later
abandoned by the democratically elected multiracial government of President Mandela.
to neutralise opposition at home as well as eliminate anti-apartheid activists outside the country, the government did a lot
more than what was acknowledged or reported. For example, the massacre of at least 600 teenage black students in the Soweto
uprising of June 1976 was bad enough, causing an international uproar. But the end of apartheid itself has shed more light
on an even much darker side of that diabolical regime. It included plots to make blacks infertile and destroy Mandela's brain
when he was still in prison:
The panel investigating South Africa's
human rights abuses during apartheid is revealing a twisted world of science gone mad.
the first hearings on the apartheid-era biological and chemical weapons program, scientists told the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission about concocting poisoned chocolates, plotting to induce brain damage in Nelson Mandela, and trying to find germ-warfare
agents and anti-fertility drugs that would target blacks....
testified that they were willing to do anything to defend white power.
was the psychosis that prevailed,' Daan Goosen, who led the converted biological research laboratory, recalled yesterday (June
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said this week's testimony was the most shocking he has heard as chairman of the commission....
are people of high intelligence, coldly and clinically in white laboratory coats, working on things meant to be instruments
of destroying people,' Tutu said.
overriding question for the Truth Commission is: Did white leaders of the apartheid governments sanction the killing of blacks?....
reports were shocking.
One witness testified that a shirt infused with poison – one of the tools developed by the scientists
– was given to a black activist, who then loaned it to a friend. The friend wore the shirt, and died. - (“South
African Rights Panel Hears of Deadly Science Plots,” in The Boston Globe, June 12, 1998, p. A-8).
of the intended targets of this kind of chemical warfare was Reverend Frank Chikane, a prominent anti-apartheid activist,
who narrowly escaped death and later became head of the office of the presidency under President Thabo Mbeki.
as the new government of South Africa under President Mandela renounced nuclear weapons, it also abandoned the apartheid-era
chemical and biological weapons programme which targeted blacks within and outside the country.
statement issued on 15 June 1998 by a senior government spokesman, Joel Netshitenzhe, said the programme had been terminated.
He also said:
The material for offensive purposes
in government storage has been destroyed. - (Quoted in “South Africa Asserts Apartheid-Era Chemical Weapons Are History,”
in The Boston Globe,
June 16, 1998, p. A-29).
said the statement was issued in response to media enquiries about the apartheid government's chemical and biological programme
after a week of hearings at the Truth Commission.
a week of hearings in Cape Town, the Truth Commission heard how scientists worked on bacteria to make blacks infertile and
produced an array of tailor-made poisons.
programme was code-named Project Coast. It was officially, though secretly, instituted in 1983 on the orders of the defence
minister. Dr. Niel Knobel, surgeon-general from 1988 to 1997, was technically responsible for the weapons programme, but day-to-day
management was left to Dr. Wouter Basson.
the wide range of offensive devices were cigarettes laced with anthrax; chocolates and drinks containing toxins including
botulism and salmonella; and untraceable poisons that could be applied to clothing and absorbed through the skin.
Coast also produced secret weapons such as screwdrivers armed with hypodermic syringes to deliver poisons, and vast quantities
of the drugs Mandrax and Ecstasy.
And they were all targeted against blacks. The report is corroborated by other sources. According to The Economist:
In defence of the apartheid state,
white scientists sought to create bacteria that would kill only blacks.
assistants masturbated baboons, to use their sperm for experiments to find a vaccine to make black women sterile.
researchers produced a tonne of Ecstasy, hoping to dope enraged demonstrators into feeling happy with their disfranchised
nothing else, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has made it impossible for white South Africans to pretend that the
old regime was anything but vile.
By offering amnesty to the perpetrators of politically motivated crimes in return for full confessions, the
commission has tempted hordes of brutes to come clean, and added a stack of gory pages to the history books. - (“South
Africa's Hurtful Truth,” in The Economist, op. cit., p. 37).
all these revelations – from torture and murder to poisons developed to destroy only blacks, and much more – have
been derisively dismissed by whites as a witch hunt against them. And enquiries by the Truth Commission into these abuses
and diabolical machinations were equally dismissed as no more than a circus.
are some of the very same people who sincerely believe that there was nothing wrong with apartheid. Therefore there is no
need for them to apologise....
Archbishop Tutu to urge whites to atone for their sins committed during the era of apartheid, victimising blacks and other
non-whites, but especially blacks.
asked them to do so for their own sake, and for the well-being of all South Africans and future generations. As he stated
in a commentary published on 4 August 1998 in South African newspapers after the Truth and Reconciliaton Commission finished
hearing testimony from witnesses, whites should apologise and take full responsibility for their actions during apartheid.
It was a plea as much as it was a warning:
My dear white compatriots, it is a
wake-up call to you.
you want us to degenerate into a Bosnia, a Rwanda, a Northern Ireland? Or do you want to contribute to reconciliation by doing
something about transformation?
there no leader of some stature and some integrity in the white community...who will say quite simply, 'We had a bad policy
that had evil consequences. We are sorry. Please forgive us'?....
They [the leaders of the National Party] have lied as a matter of course. - (Tutu, quoted in “Tutu Urges
to Atone for Apartheid,” in The Boston Globe, August 7, 1998, p. A-5).
is clear that although apartheid has legally ended, a deep racial chasm still exists....
Mwakikagile, South Africa in Contemporary Times