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South Africa in Contemporary Times

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Godfrey Mwakikagile, South Africa in Contemporary Times
ISBN-10: 0980258731
ISBN-13: 9870980258738
 
 

Acknowledgements


I wish to express my profound gratitude to the people of South Africa for inspiring this work.

Their 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 achieve something.

I 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.

But 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.

I 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 era.

The 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 an African.

Besides 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.

So, 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.

They 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.

Whenever 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.

I 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.

This 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.

The 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.

I may not have succeeded in doing so in any of the books I have written. But I have tried.

Last 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.

While 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.

And there is still so much beyond.

Introduction


THIS work looks at South Africa in contemporary times in historical terms. And it spans an entire generation since the sixties.

The work is also a telescopic survey of the country's history since its founding more than 300 years ago.

I 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.

I 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.

But 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.

What 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.

What they have gone through has shown the resiliency of the human spirit against overwhelming odds. And their achievements are the achievements of mankind.

Besides 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.

Therefore, in a way, this work is also a tribute to all those who suffered so much to free South Africa from bondage.

They transformed the country into a better society for all and, by so doing, helped to make this world a better place for all mankind.

And, as members of the human family, it is our hope that we will leave this world a better place than we found it.

Part III:


Post-Apartheid South Africa


BLACK PEOPLE in South Africa are now legally free. So are the Coloureds and the Indians.

Even the terms which were used by the apartheid regime to describe them are no longer much in use.

Black 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.

Coloureds 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.

But, 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.

The 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 racial equality.

Many 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.

Therefore, 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.

It 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.

It 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.

This 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.

He went on to say that whites should be more willing to seek racial reconciliation and demonstrate a commitment to building a just society.

Speaking 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.

He 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.

During 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'....

I 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 in 1948.

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 saints overnight.

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, p. 18).


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 Orania.

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 Verwoerd.

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.


Unwelcome publicity


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 to Orania.

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.


Escape


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".

Opposition


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 “cyber-government”.

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 lifetime.

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 development.

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 a house.

“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 November 2005).


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 -


(a) 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,” in The 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:


I am 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).


The African National Congress accused de Klerk of deliberately trying to undermine the reconciliation process in a country divided along racial lines.

South African Anglican Bishop David Russell, who visited de Klerk after his testimony before the Truth Commission, described the former president as having -


a tragic 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:


I get a little bemused at how many white South Africans adopt the attitude in private conversation: 'Why are we opening all these wounds'?

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:


We 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:


Either 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.

The "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.

But 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.

Most 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.

The 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.

And 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.

Many 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....

Even 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).


The question is how long blacks can wait before they start getting their fair share of the economic pie.

They 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.

Statistics 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.

But 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.

Many 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 of apartheid.

Yet, 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.

There 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.

And 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.

If 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.

Therefore 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 the story:


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.

But 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).


That 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, incontrovertibly.

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).


That was more than 10 years ago. And little has changed.

However, 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.

Collectively, 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).


That 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.

There 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.

And 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 pri