by Dan Roodt
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Steven Friedman’s protestations about “apartheid denial” notwithstanding, it is true that many people are reassessing South Africa’s past in the light of the present, which is in various ways more brutal, more venal and more ugly than anything we experienced during the days of National Party (NP) rule.
The proof that apartheid public servants were far less corrupt than the current bunch of money-grabbing bureaucrats was that they drove distinctly cheaper cars and lived in middle-class and lower middle-class suburbs.
Today, state employees earn twice more than private-sector employees, on average, and openly ask for bribes and kickbacks during many transactions. Much of the conspicuous consumption, so vulgarly visible in South Africa’s major cities, is financed by corruption and profligacy with public funds, of which Nkandla is but the tip of the iceberg.
Ruminations on apartheid remind one of C Louis Leipoldt’s little poem, “Op my ou ramkiekie met nog net een snaar/ speel ek in die maanskyn deurmekaar.”
The apartheid “ramkiekie” with a single string normally ignores the many other ideologies and events that shaped South African history, including left-wing terrorism and the doctrine of so-called “people’s war” that destabilised our society to a far greater extent than mere segregation of institutions.
NP politicians were far less outspoken in their defence of segregation than many southern Americans. Alabama governor George Wallace, who ran for US president four times, famously said:
“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Are Americans also forever tainted by segregation, or does it only apply to South Africa?
Despite segregation, there was no hatred in the old South Africa and people generally got on well. Today, there exists real hatred between groups, as exemplified by xenophobic violence and farm murders. South Africa ’s sadistic culture of violence with its rampant crime, including child rape, was fostered by the lawlessness of people’s war and surely not by apartheid.
This piece also appeared in Business Day on 4 April 2014.