Monday, August 3, 2015

South Africa

Ah, South Africa, beloved South Africa, resonating through history with so many glorious names: Cecil Rhodes, Paul Kruger, Daniel Malan, Hendrik Verwoerd, P.W. Botha... the British and Dutch founders of apartheid, that most glorious of all contributions to the betterment of nations, the advancement of humanity, and the harmonisation of ethnic groups within a society. 

It was Botha who famously told the South African Parliament, in 1964 when he was Minister for Coloured Affairs: "I am one of those who believe that there is no permanent home for even a section of the Bantu in the white area of South Africa, and the destiny of South Africa depends on this essential point. If the principle of permanent residence for the black man in the area of the white is accepted then it is the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it in this country." How charming! 

Later, when he was President, he clarified his position: "I am sick and tired of the hollow parrot-cry of Apartheid! I have said many times that the word Apartheid means good neighbourliness." 

Ah yes, good neighbourliness. We whites in our areas, which happen to be the ones with the arable land and the minerals underneath, you blacks in your bantustans which are predominantly mineral-free deserts, but still neighbours, and, why not, if you will serve us as we require, and go home to your shanty towns at night, and not raise any complaints about it, yes, why not, good neighbours.

Then do I mean, when I say beloved South Africa, when I echo Alan Paton in his wonderful novel "Cry The Beloved Country" do I mean Steve Biko, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Donald Woods, Helen Suzman, Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, and a hundred others who fought, from jail or from the partisan bases of Mozambique or the opposition benches in Parliament or even from the pulpit, to bring that down that vile calumny which had the audacity to claim it was inspired by God and faith?

Of today's South Africa I am going to say nothing, or only this: that after a hundred years of apartheid, it is a miracle that a rainbow nation (the phrase was coined by Bishop Desmond Tutu) of any sort emerged, rather than blood-letting and genocide. The place is riddled with crime and corruption and AIDS and HIV and poverty and everything else that you would expect given that it was only twenty years ago that minority rule finally ended, but it was only twenty years ago, and in most places in the world twenty-year-olds can't vote yet, let alone run their country.

Marks for: 1994 and still counting

Marks against: count temporarily suspended, awaiting review

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