If Joe Slovo or Chris Hani were to suddenly reappear in South Africa what would their first impressions be? Similarly with Hendrik Verwoerd or D.F. Malan? Even for those who have lived through this tumultuous transition, is the current status quo what they envisioned?
Main picture: Cape Town in all its splendor
Memories are fickle. Most will recall their army training or Comrades run will unbridled affection rather that the gut wrenching slog that they actually were. After nearly half a century, I am barely able to recall certain vital details of a planned attack on a terr base in Namibia. I am so uncertain of certain facts that I wonder whether what I have recorded in a blog is 100% correct. Yet, on the other hand, I am still able to recall the exact words spoken in other situations such as an Christmas prank by an inebriated lieutenant.
One’s memory is distorted in other ways too. Many white South Africans fail to acknowledge that they personally treated blacks unfairly or were racist before 1994. Like the fall of Nazi Germany in May 1945, all German citizens developed amnesia about their pro Nazi sentiments or activities prior to that date.
A most egregious culprit in the current milieu in this regard is Gary Player. No Sundays Times in the Apartheid years ever carried a front page with Gary Player opposing some petty restriction on a black player or other racist action. Fordyce did, in the most visible way possible. He wore a black armband so that TV viewers were under no illusions about his views on the racist actions of the sports administrators. Yet today, Gary Player lives in a parallel universe applauded for his self-promoted anti racist actions! Are these figments of a fickle mind or are they lies of a great golfer in his waning years.
An interesting email was doing the rounds earlier this year. The author – F.W. de Klerk – was recalling his life from his earliest days growing up in Krugersdorp not far from where I live. Like his uncle J.G. Strydom, he was an ardent Afrikaner Nationalist but unlike his famous relative, he was unlikely to have been an unrepentant white supremacist given his later stance.
Strikingly F.W. makes this bold admission:
Like most ideologies, Separate Development was a delusion. Like most exercises in social engineering, it could not be achieved without disrupting the lives of millions of people and causing massive injustice.
Like all ideologies, it simply ignored any realities that did not fit in with the plan – however obvious they should have been. The realities were that South Africa’s economy was becoming more integrated with each year that passed; that whites would be a diminishing minority in the 86% of the country that they had reserved for themselves; and that the policy was vehemently rejected by the vast majority of the people involved.
One of the worst aspects of Separate Development was that for 20 years it gave the white leadership the delusion that they had a morally defensible solution to the problems of the country.
Unlike Gary Player, instead of pretending that he was on the side of the angels, he has avowed publically the error of the Nationalist Party’s ways and unequivocally decries its absurdities. Being intimately involved in implementing this policy, it is moot point whether this is a mea culpa or not.
Somewhat nonplussed, I recalled that for most of his career, de Klerk had a very conservative reputation. The NP’s Transvaal branch was historically the most staunchly conservative wing [Verkramptes] of the party, and he supported continued segregation of universities while Minister of National Education.
It thus came as a surprise when in 1989 he placed himself at the head of verligte (“enlightened”) forces within the governing party, which had come to believe that apartheid could not be maintained forever. For this reason, I always harboured some suspicions about his convictions.
Mandela too had crossed his own Rubicon. Instead of embittering him as it would a normal man, incarceration had mellowed him through introspection. From a position of fomenting an armed struggle in order to attain the ANC’s objectives, he too had ventured on an odyssey from extremist to reconciler. Instead of vindictiveness, he preached the message of reconciliation & forgiveness.
De Klerk notes to his chagrin that Social Engineering has once again come to the fore:
Now, once again, the ANC is trying to force the complex realities of South Africa into the narrow channels of the National Democratic Revolution. Its millenarian vision is the establishment of a National Democratic Society in which the economic and cultural space of each race would be pegged to the percentage of the population that it represents. It is leading to the racialisation of our society in which many aspects of people’s lives will once again be determined by the colour of their skin rather than the content of their character.
Whilst acknowledging the necessity for racial transformation, the focus on racial quota ignores a plethora of other realities. Instead, every aspect of South African life is judged through a number. Following this logic, in extremis on a worldwide scale, China with the largest population in the world would have to win the most medals in all sporting codes even in sports in which the Chinese have no interest or ability. Using the principle of reductio ad absurdum, one would have to disqualify the Caribbean sprinters in the Olympics otherwise they would be over represented in the medals’ table.
South Africa having experienced one flawed social engineering policy in Apartheid with all its negative economic and social consequences, now faces a determined ANC which is pressing ahead with its own ill-conceived, ill-considered and ill-informed policy.
This bodes ill for South Africa.
As might be predicted, the role of both these humble men are currently the butt of recriminations especially now that the fruits of freedom have turned sour. On the ANC’s left, the brash slogan sprouting members blame Mandela for “going easy” with the Whites. Within this coterie of cadres, they still envision that they should have driven from the external camps and overwhelmed the Apartheid security forces. This banal thought can never be dignified with a response. For over a quarter of a century, the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, had manifested a total lack of martial ability and competence, being rated the worst performing liberation army since the 1960s.
Mandela understood these realities better than most. What this viewpoint also exposes is a lack of understanding of the might of the Apartheid’s military & police forces.
Hermann Giliomee in this eponymous tome entitled simply, Hermann Giliomee, An Autobiography bemoans the fact that De Klerk could and should have obtained a better settlement.
As RW Johnson states, “Giliomee is, of course, an Afrikaner to the roots of his soul.” Furthermore he perhaps states the obvious, “he is at once proud of his people and ashamed of them, and that it is important to feel both emotions and hold them within one.”
As Giliomee opines, “On the other hand, De Klerk’s negotiating strategy was woeful. As Hernus Kriel noted “We had no plan, no strategy, no bottom line where we would refuse to yield any further. We had no clarity on the goal at which we wanted to arrive” and he details the times without number that Roelf Meyer brought news to the cabinet which led De Klerk to thump the table and say “never !” only to concede meekly a little later on.”
Whereas all of this may be true, but was 10% of the population able to impose their solution on the 90%? Would the ANC or the West have tolerated that?
Not a chance.
Why I opened with the name Joe Slovo in the opening paragraph was due to an enigmatic vignette that Giliomee relates in his opus magnum. As editor of the newspaper Die Suid Afrikaan, Giliomee managed to interview a wide range of characters, including the (still banned) Joe Slovo who opined of his black comrades “They are going to f*** things up. We know it”. He also spoke of the idiocy of simply handing over land to “Joe Tshabalala” and telling him to “start farming”.
Why would Slovo have berated the ANC’s abilities to Giliomee, an “enemy of the liberation movements,” an unguarded comment or genuine concern for the future of South Africa?
Whatever the reason, Slovo was more prescient than the majority of the ANC Cadres. For them it was nirvana. It would do well to remember that the ANC were handed a fully functioning country – albeit skewed racially – with vast mineral resources.
On the other hand, the whites were fearful. With their hands on the tiller, and oozing competence, their concerns were solidly based upon economic realities and obstacles required to manage a First World economy.
Sadly most Whites have concluded that they have no future in South Africa. Population statistics combined with school enrolment indicate a steady drift out of South Africa. For ardent Afrikaners such as Herman Giliomee, the concerns are almost visceral, especially the fate of his beloved Afrikaans. Already the signs are auspicious. The final bastion of Afrikaans intellectuals, the University of Stellenbosch is under siege, ultimately to transform itself into another English University.
The spotlights have dimmed and South Africa is no longer in the limelight. The supposed bastion of human rights on the African continent will now vacate its pledge to the ICC in order to support a cruel African despot, Omar al Bashir. Probably it is better that the spotlight shines elsewhere so that the world does not cry for South Africa.
How would Verwoerd and Dr Malan has reacted in they were awakened from the dead. Both would be apoplectic with rage, their dream of Afrikaner hegemony within the greater portion of South Africa long since slain. Furthermore with the future of Afrikaans uncertain within its borders, ironically they would probably poignantly emigrate to Perth, raising their offspring as English speakers and forever labelling de Klerk as a traitor.
If the truth be known, it would be recorded that none of the triumvirate of Mandela, Sisulu or Tambo would be pleased. Their displeasure would be vented on Zuma but that is a facile response. Attaining dreams requires more effort and heartache than one surmises and more honour.
Joe Slovo would surely sigh, a long exhalation more moan like in pain, “I TOLD YOU SO!”
Sources – Articles:
How we got here by RW Johnson
Thoughts on the eve of my 80th birthday by F.W. De Klerk