Not a day goes by without us here in South Africa being reminded of the “glorious revolution” of 1994, led by Nelson and Winnie Mandela, black fists held aloft. Perhaps “glorious revolution” is an apt term, borrowed from English history, although in our case an English king was not forced to abdicate. Rather, the “black Englishman” as Nelson Mandela once referred to himself, was crowned as a kind of global emperor of the politically correct.
The triumphalism of the once marginal South African Left, confined to the four English universities and a few fringe communist publications has been understandably boundless. A small band of exiled left-extremists managed to take over Africa’s only industrial state, immediately implementing their identity-destroying policies while pillaging the state coffers with a lust and zest also harking back to the days of Francis Drake and his merry band of pirates or “privateers”.
As I argue in my essay, Raiders of the lost Empire, Britain and especially the British media played a major role in the takeover of South Africa and re-imagining the country as a more extreme and politically correct version of the United Kingdom and the United States. The plan of turning South Africa into a de facto one-party state “ruled until Jesus comes” by the darling parties of the Anglo-Saxon media, the ANC and its Communist Party sibling, was prematurely fêted as a fait accompli. Through the manufactured consensus brought by an unfettered control of the mass media, the Left enjoyed an iron grip on the ANC/SACP and through that vehicle, over the majority-black voter. Voting districts were also drawn in such a way that the country’s ethnic minorities, especially whites and Afrikaners, were all but disenfranchised. One is allowed to vote for the opposition, as long as it does not really matter.
The plan was perfect, the spoils were rich. Entire state institutions, government departments and large municipalities were raided by the feasting socialist, anti-racist, “anti-apartheid” victors arriving in ostentatious German cars and Italian designer clothing, while flashing – like the infamous Julius Malema – one’s chunky Breitling watch.
Even muted criticism of the system, the much-vaunted “democracy” was met with guffaws of contempt and satisfied howls of Schadenfreude directed at the losers. Not to forget the usual blast of vilification about “apartheid nostalgia”, “white supremacism”, “fascism”, “Nazism”, “Hitlerism”, “racism”, “sexism” and all the other -isms that dumb left-wing ideologues have rattled off since time immemorial, from the camp commanders of Stalin’s gulag or Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge fanatics to Mao’s Red Guards or professors at the University of Cape Town.
However, the one thing that our masters of the universe had not foreseen, was that the ANC itself could change. Instead of being, like the SABC and the liberal media, a “toy telephone” for the thieving, venal oligarchy, Zuma’s ANC has become increasingly traditional, starting with the dancing, polygamous Zulu leader himself. The ANC is also shying away from full communism, including the confiscation of land in a remake of “death to the Kulaks”, as advocated by the Marxist crazies at Cape universities and various Johannesburg think-tanks funded by George Soros or the Ford Foundation. There is apparently some diffidence on the part of Zuma in hastening towards a full-on collectivisation programme à la Zimbabwe.
Among the effervescent, Marxist-jargon-spouting pundits lamenting that the revolution “has not gone far enough” or that “the whites are still in control” (even though they lack any form of power and are, in the words of Steve Hofmeyr, “being killed like flies”), there is horror at the return of some form of South Africanism. Not the imported, quasi-American, spanking “new South Africa”, but the hated South Africa of old, that combination of white industry, conservatism and black tribalism.
For the self-styled South African revolutionary, there is one thing worse than the present with its rampant crime, corruption and shortages of water and electricity, and that would be a return to tradition. Whites espousing heterosexual marriage and polite language without four-letter expletives, or singing Die Stem, on the one hand, and blacks embracing their African languages, customs and identity, on the other; that would be the ultimate horror, a “nightmare” come true.
Not for nothing did a certain Nomboniso Gasa of the University of Cape Town express her misgivings about the approach to the system of tribal chiefs or “traditional leadership” taken by the ANC. She writes in Business Day this week:
Thus, in December 2003, the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act was enacted. It reproduced apartheid spatial design down to the finest details of Bantustan boundaries and ascribed identities. It also entrenched those ascribed identities, based on spatial design and ethnic affiliation… Whatever the reasons, this does not augur well for common citizenship in SA. It is a mind-blowing departure from the approach of one nation, one law.
Elsewhere in her article she refers to “the smokescreen of ‘culture’ and ‘custom'” and a spurious sensitivity around “these issues”. What does she mean by that? As a black person and an African, surely it could not be sensitive for her to talk about her own culture? However, given the enthusiasm with which her article was subsequently tweeted and retweeted among the white-liberal and cultural-Marxist set, it looks as if the “sensitivity” she is referring to has more to do with the current predicament of the Great White (and English) Left in South Africa that sees control of the revolution slipping from its grasp… After all, to a mob whose intellectual mainstay is accusing other whites of being “racist” or “sexist”, it would hardly do to start denouncing black culture and traditions in the name of, as Jean-Paul Sartre defined the great Karl, “a German intellectual who lived in London during the nineteenth century”.
In short, despite the violence and mayhem plaguing us, South Africa is going through a “reality check”, with the country’s ethnic, cultural and ethnic diversity – mocked at, sneered at, and even denied for so long by the Left – finally emerging from the alcoholic haze of the mythical “one-beer nation” (for those who have read my essay referred to above).
For the Left, there would be one thing worse than whites clamouring for a return to “apartheid” or ethnic federation in South Africa and that would be blacks demanding the same! Any sign of blacks reasserting their tribal rights within defined geographical areas is therefore anathema, to say the least. In a final adieu to the system that it had created, apparently the former National Party in 1994 handed over control of the Ngonyama Trust to the Zulu nation. Currently the land holdings of the trust constitute three million hectares, controlled by a board chaired by the Zulu king.
According to Nomboniso Gasa, there are “16-million citizens who live in these former Bantustans”. That may be an underestimation, given that the population growth rate in those largely rural areas is so much higher than in metropolitan, urbanised South Africa.
At a more fundamental level, South African blacks are not embracing American-style multiculturalism and its ready-made racial identity and consciousness with as much alacrity as the cultural Marxists have hoped. It is highly significant that many TV soap operas in black languages, watched by millions of people, revolve around quintessentially tribal and ethnic issues, such as marrying outside one’s tribe, the influence of the ancestors in one’s life or being obedient to one’s rural chief even while living in the city.
In South Africa, the official dogma is that race, ethnicity and identity do not exist. At best they are “relics of our apartheid past”. The reality, however, is quite different. Leftist colonialism, the attempt to turn South African blacks into carbon copies of politically-correct, “non-racial”, “non-sexist” Anglo-Americans, has failed dismally.
The ironic comment that South Africa, given its many casinos and the proliferation of African kitsch, “has become a big Bantustan”, possesses another corollary in that more autocratic forms of tribal rule will increasingly assert themselves, as has been the case in most other African countries.
Whether that is good or bad depends on one’s point of view. The fact is that the imported clichés and petty socialist doctrines of the South African Left prevented it from predicting this development. Even the most lowly Afrikaner bureaucrat serving in the department of Bantu administration during the 1960s would have been able to predict the resurgence of ethnic identity and its geographic expression in South Africa, simply on the basis of his greater knowledge and understanding of the people inhabiting this land.
Liberals and Marxists are mostly indistinguishable in South Africa, having mostly the same opinions, and collectively constitute the all-conquering Left. They have also gluttonously fed at the trough of government corruption for the last twenty years, and will no doubt fight to regain control of the party and the masses voting for it. Despite ruling the roost in the media and the universities, our Left, to use an appositely proletarian idiom, “has its work cut out for it”.
If you liked this column, you will be completely ecstatic about this excerpt from Raiders of the lost Empire.