Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan has written a counterpoint to our earlier guest-essay from a white South African native.
South Africa is a lost cause
by H. Numan
Sorry, but I very much disagree with Afrikaner. With pain in my heart, as I have always seen them as strongly related to the Dutch. It began when South Africa dumped Rhodesia to curry favor with black African states: ‘We’re really one of you!’ That’s nonsense. No African will ever see a white man as one of them (unless there’s money in it). Least of all a white state on their continent.
Before I continue, let me say that I do not in any way approve of Apartheid. This system is wrong, no matter what arguments one might have to defend it. Defending South Africa effectively became very similar to defending slavery: impossible. No matter what arguments you present, defending slavery is impossible. Defending apartheid is exactly as impossible.
South Africa’s apartheid came in two flavors: Grote Apartheid (Major Apartheid) en Kleine Apartheid (Minor Apartheid). Grote Apartheid made black South Africans foreigners in their own country. All black citizens were relegated to small quasi independent states and allowed them to work as before but now with work permits and passports. As guest laborers. Kleine Apartheid is the one that most people — outside South Africa — protested against. These contained the racial laws, and ‘slegs vir blankes’ signs everywhere.
When South Africa began with this policy this was not uncommon elsewhere in the British Commonwealth. Or the United States, for that matter. However, where other nations gradually abolished it, South Africa began to enforce it more strongly. Very much swimming against the stream.
Rhodesia didn’t practice apartheid like South Africa on a religious base. In fact, it was a meritocracy where color came very much second place. There was of course apartheid, but that was money-based, not color-based. If you wanted to play golf on the Salisbury Club, you were welcome if you could pay the greens fee. The South African political leadership didn’t like that one little bit. Don’t forget that the leadership was strongly Nederduits Hervormd, a very strict offspring of the Calvinist church.
That was one of the reasons why South Africa always kept Rhodesia at a distance. Yes, they would work together sometimes to a very limited extent. Religion — or rather the lack of it on the Rhodesian side — kept the two apart.
South African Boers didn’t stop there. They alienated everyone. A lot of people were, under South Africa’s Apartheid laws, considered colored. Many Indians (Gandhi was one of them) live in South Africa, and were treated little better than black Africans. By making absolutely certain everybody not 100% pure white (whatever that might be) was treated as black, they stood with their backs firmly to the wall.
There was also envy involved. South Africa produced very good military hardware, science and technology, but Rhodesia had much better soldiers. Nothing wrong with the Boers, but the Rhodesian SAS, RLI and other units were much better than the average South African soldiers. The South African leadership didn’t look at what they were good at, but envied what they lacked.
Something Boers are not very strong in is strategy. They never were; that’s why they lost both Boer wars. Together, and more important: working very closely together, South Africa and Rhodesia could not have been defeated. Neither on the battlefield nor the ballot box. They would have been the regional super power of Africa. Something all African nations knew all too well. The only countries (questionably) capable of attacking South Africa and Rhodesia were Nigeria and Egypt. Questionably, as the logistics were simply impossible.
Outside the region only two nations were technically capable of attack: the USA and the UK. It’s highly doubtful if either would have launched an invasion ‘in the name of democracy’ or whatever. The cost in logistics, material and manpower would have been horrendous, if possible at all. Remember, this was during the ’70-’80s when Rhodesia still existed. When South Africa withdrew from Rhodesia they were alone. Still powerful, but alone.
Next we got the independence of Angola and Mozambique from Portugal. That made (now alone) South Africa vulnerable on both flanks. Angola became a Soviet satellite state and got mixed up in a civil war. The civil war extended to the Bush War between South Africa against Angola together with Cuba.
This war developed into a costly stalemate. The superpowers brokered a deal that broke South Africa’s back and will to fight. South Africa was led to believe that Apartheid was a dead end. (It was, as I explain in this article.) They themselves expected to be able to keep it going for 80-100 years (!), but eventually they would lose. They expected, with good reason, that it would end in a bloodbath. So they gave in, and handed over power. All power, including economic power. South Africa duly did.
That was the end. South Africa is now well on its way of becoming a truly black African nation with all the trimmings. The Rand is a forgotten currency. Industry is dead or dying. Education used to be excellent, also for poor black South Africans (something always forgotten), together with health care. Today it’s slightly better than other African nations, but they are catching up fast. South Africa’s doctor Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant in the world. Today it’s doubtful South African hospitals could do one, which is sort of a standard operation elsewhere.
Crime and corruption are through the roof. It used to be an oasis of civilization; today it’s highly dangerous, even for tourists. I’ve been there several times, also to Zimbabwe. Before and after (not to Rhodesia, I’m too young for that). We won’t go there ever again, as it is far too dangerous for tourists. That’s the reason I went there: we had tour groups. From a highly expensive market it fell to nothing. As far as I know, no Thai operators go there. Too dangerous. South African Airways used to have direct flights BKK-JHB. No longer; there’s no demand for it.
Boers are very brave men, but don’t look much further than tomorrow or next harvest at best. They are reaping now what they have sown. Something they could have foreseen easily.
Again, I don’t defend Apartheid. That was South Africa’s biggest mistake ever. No sane person can defend it. It doesn’t matter that most poor black South Africans had better standards of living, education and health care than any other nation in Africa and even much of the communist block. It doesn’t matter that South Africa had to keep out willing foreign volunteer workers eager to work there. It was a vile system justified on selective reading of the Bible. Even back in the ’70s, defending South Africa was next to impossible due to … yep. Apartheid.
It’s a bit like the US Confederacy: they assumed that the world ran on cotton. Therefore, the world needed the South. They discovered it didn’t. South Africa relied for a major part on their strategic position and on gold. They made the same discovery.
— H. Numan