by Dan Roodt
South Africa is a land of great natural beauty. Its unique flora and fauna attract tourists from all over the world. Due to geological accident, we also have buried beneath our soil and rock the biggest or second biggest mineral bonanza of all time, including 80% of the world’s platinum. Since 1886 when gold was discovered, various fortunes have been made in mining those mineral deposits.
The weather, at least where I live in the north of Johannesburg, is more than ideal; it is perfect. We have three hundred days of sunshine per year or thereabouts and it is never too hot or too cold. Visitors from the northern hemisphere mistake our winters for summer as midday temperatures go above twenty Centigrade.
When the Voortrekkers, our nineteenth-century pioneers crossed the Drakensberg in their ox-wagons and arrived in the Transvaal, they stumbled upon a pristine land of sunshine, savannah and plentiful game, a true paradise.
South Africa could have been utopia, if it had not been for her people. Even using such a possessive pronoun in the feminine gender implies some kind of connection between the land and its inhabitants, if not patriotism. Now, patriotism and a sense of belonging would be the last thing the average interloper strutting and stomping about this fair land could be suspected of. Rather, he or she regards this bountiful place as the forty thieves did the cave of Ali Baba, simply a source of loot!
The turning point in South African history came in the nineteenth century when the gold rush drew like a magnet a horde of crazed would-be capitalists and criminals to these shores. For a few decades during the twentieth century we had managed to staunch the mayhem, the cold, unscrupulous greed venting itself upon us. Alas, for a variety of reasons – not least the utter cowardice and stupidity of the former Afrikaner leadership – that time of growth and hope for the future is long past. All that we may look forward to is more decadent dissolution, more crime and venality that will rage unabatedly. It is as if the land itself has been wounded, stung and, like a predator sensing its own demise, lashes out at every living being within the arc of its claws and fangs.
The floodgates of hell have been opened, in the name of “democracy”, that exalted term. It has become, in our context, comical, ironic and even absurd. It reminds me of the GDR, the German “Democratic” Republic which was equally lacking in real democracy. But let me not insult that erstwhile “farmers’ and workers’ state”, the GDR, by comparing contemporary South Africa to it. At least in the GDR there were still some principles held by a few people, communists at that, whereas South Africa has descended to the level of delinquent insouciance in which values or principles only exist to be mocked or sneered at.
Normally I would write these words in our noble local language, Afrikaans, which washed up on the shores of the Cape from Northern Europe. A spoken language, a patois of Dutch and Low German, we have lovingly preserved and standardised it to become one of the world’s great cultural languages. Yet, in recent times and under the influence of the ambient nihilism of South Africa, many of our people have discarded this age-old tongue, full of mysterious words and expressions that formed that “bridge between Europe and Africa” that NP van Wyk Louw, perhaps our greatest poet, spoke of.
South Africa has become a dump in every sense of the word. And I say that not only because garbage or litter is literally strewn all over, but because its inhabitants have no real sense of value. Money is proverbially “easy”, obtained through corruption or simple robbery and theft. So like all parvenus the “South Africans” do not know what it means to save, invest or work for money. However, in a more fundamental sense, things of great value – cultural, historical, linguistic, architectural, artistic – are simply thrown away, dumped. Some of our greatest buildings, monuments to a past of taste and a strong national identity, have been demolished without so much as a second thought.
Afrikaans too, has been dumped, with everything else, including by many Afrikaners who have become caught up in the general decay, the loss of societal moorings that have come to characterise this entity which we still mistakenly call a “republic”. To say that I feel alienated from South Africa represents an understatement. However, I feel almost equally alienated from my fellow Afrikaners, these new, obsequious, treacherous and venal people who are but a pale shadow of their patriotic and pioneering forebears. Apart from a tiny minority of proud and civilised Afrikaners who still honour their culture, language and traditions, the rest have become almost mimic men in the sense given to that term by V.S. Naipaul, a second-hand, quasi-British people and as rootless as the illegal African immigrants that wander over our borders on a daily basis.
Perhaps predictably, the Afrikaner has become ashamed of himself. Taunted and vilified by the invective and propaganda of his enemies, he has lacked the courage and the intelligence to respond in any meaningful way. The abjectness of the Afrikaner’s spiritual surrender is painful to behold. That is why this text would be simply lost on the vast majority of Afrikaners, milling about in their confusion, self-doubt and self-hatred. The glib clichés of their journalists and pundits, imitating American-liberal or politically correct discourse, are quite beyond any form of serious discussion or reflection. Like Captain Ahab confronting Moby Dick, I have to face up to this monstrous entity with the bland geographical name, South Africa, casting this message appositely to sea like a message in a bottle that might be read somewhere on the other side of the globe, or not read at all.
Apparently the first Roodt came to South Africa in the early 1700s, so despite what Afrocentric blacks proclaim to the contrary, that “Africa belongs to the Africans”, I may consider myself to some extent naturalised. I hold no other passport. Yet I am also very aware of the murderous xenophobia at the heart of contemporary South Africa which holds that both the white man and the foreign African are unwanted, “foreign”, fit only to be expelled or to be killed.
Like any sensible person of European descent has to admit, South Africa hates us. We are despised for many reasons, some more atavistic and preposterous than others, but in no other country has pure, unadulterated ethnic hatred been so mythologised and so obfuscated by largely spurious interpretations of history as here. Lest I be accused of lapsing into the commonplace black-white rhetoric representing analysis or thinking in South Africa, I am accutely aware that much of what passes for racial feeling in South Africa has always been stirred up from outside or been a handy way for the oligarchy currently looting us to justify its domination and ludicrously discriminatory policies, however much they may be clothed in US-style, politically correct jargon.
Sooner or later, one has to confront the salient fact: South Africa, or the gathering mob on the way to another necklace killing, that symbol of “liberation”, hates me. In turn, and increasingly so, I have come to hate South Africa. With a passion.
I may still love boerewors and biltong, and soaking up the winter sun through my window, but I have only contempt for this failed-state-in-the-making, this pseudo-democracy, this Little England, Little America and everything little, belittling and petty that one may imagine.
South Africa has no reason for existing. It is not the name of a country, but of a pathology. It possesses no identity to speak of. It is just a big parasite preying on the labours of the few who are still, against all odds, pursuing a normal existence under the Southern Cross.
I think I could write a book about why I hate South Africa. However, immediately I have to concede that writing books in South Africa is generally a waste of time. The few people who are still able to read, after umpteen educational experiments, the advent of cellphones and the ambient degeneracy, do not constitute a market for books. There is no literary society. Like everything else in South Africa, the book industry is controlled by a few colonial souls who make money out of importing British books. What is known as the local book, especially the so-called non-fiction book, is merely the endless repetition of baseless clichés and idées reçues. Otherwise there are various talking heads from radio and TV who somehow think that they should also bestow upon themselves the imprimatur of “author” by having their usual vacuous sayings coagulated into print.
The notion of “debate” and especially a debate by means of an argument that might span two or three hundred pages of a book, is so foreign to South Africa that it would make me even more of an outsider than I already am if I had to attempt anything like it. It would appear to be some foreign activity, like playing pétanque on a rugby field.
It remains therefore for me to sum up the very good and multifarious reasons why I hate South Africa.
(To be continued)