Thursday, 11 February 2010

The three ages of South Africa

There are three ages of South Africa that exist in my mind, the first of which was lived mostly before I was born. The first is of the post-war country, with the South African Division home fresh from a string of gallant battles in North Africa and Italy, South African Air Force Spitfires throwing the roar of supercharged Merlin engines across Table Bay, and the notes of 'Sunset' drifting across the bay at Simon's Town from the quarterdecks of taut-awninged warships. This was British South Africa; neat, well-ordered, a land of clipped lawns and social niceties.

Next comes Afrikaans South Africa, the land of Tom Sharpe's 'Riotous Assembly' and 'Indecent Exposure', of Sharpeville, of apartheid and Alan Paton. Not a nice place.

Then there is post-Mandela South Africa. A period of slow decline into tribalism and barbarism. Only one author has really captured the farce of decline; Nicholas Monserrat, in 'The tribe that lost its head' and 'Richer than all his tribe', written with real affection and a terrible sadness, both long out of print but recommended reading if you find copies.

There is little that is readable coming out of Africa now.

10 comments:

dickiebo said...

For many years now, I have been saying that South Africa will eventually implode - just like the other African countries when left to their own rule. As you say, it's slow, but......happening!

Anonymous said...

I think this post is pretty much on the money, although I might suggest that Afrikaaner South Africa was really just another aspect of Tribal South Africa rather than a wholly different entity.

The Afrikaaners, despite their white skin, are basically just another African tribe with all the usual paranoia, superstitition, brutality and misanthropy that we've come to expect from every other African tribe out there. Their white skin does give them a siege mentality which is comparatively unusual amongst black African tribes but, otherwise, I don't think you can fit a card between the Boers and the other tribes.

If you take a careful look at the policies of the first Afrikaaner Nationalist governments, you can see alarming similarities to the policies of other "post-colonial" governments.

BrianSJ said...

From Afrikasources twitter
SA's first liquor-free hotel:Coral International is the first Muslim hotel in the country http://ow.ly/15NZm

Henry Crun said...

Anon: There was a book written years ago called The White Tribe of Africa, which chronicled the rise of the Afrikaner in South Africa and how they used the trade unions to grab political power and create the ethnic socialist system that eventually became apartheid.

I lived in South Africa from the late 60's to the mid 90's through the Soweto riots, increasing guerilla warfare in Mocambique, Angola and Rhodesia until Mandela's release in 1990. And it was all downhill from there.

Mandela's legacy was to leave South Africa as he promised - and his then wife helped bring to fruition - ungovernable. I'll never forget the first time I saw a necklacing victim lying in the streets of Soweto, nor the time our office manager came to work in floods of tears frightened to leave her daughter at school because ANC thugs had threatened to come to the school and rape all the girls, or the time I saw a black policeman hacked to death by a gang of machete wielding ANC thugs while the policeman went to ask them not to march on a Zulu mine hostel. Or the village elder that had been stoned to death because an ANC agent provocateur had convinced the parents of a sick child that the elder was a witch.

The ANC were nothing but a gang of tsotses wreaking havoc in the townships, intimidating the populace into voting for the ANC.

When you saw those "jubilant" scenes in the stadia, just remember those people were there because attendance was a form of fire risk insurance.

Anonymous said...

@Henry Crun

You have obviously completely misread my post. Nowhere did I endorse the ANC and nowhere did I use the word "jubilant" (which you quote). In fact, no-one in the comments thread has used that word. Nor did anyone make any reference to crowds attending stadia. Thus, in the most literal sense possible, I have not the slightest clue why you think your remarks are in any way a response to anything that I have said.

I can appreciate that you are clearly eager to pick an argument but I suggest you don't use my comments as the basis for your Straw Man.

What I will say is this: all unbiased people can see that South Africa entered its terminal decline with the ascent of the Afrikaaner Nationalists in the 1950s. The Nationalists were simply a white Dutch-speaking version of Mugabe's thugs - bitter, tribalistic, full of hatred against Britain (and against English-speaking white South Africans) and soaked-through with a mixture of invented resentments and fantasy visions of a pre-British Boer past.

What you witnessed with the ANC's rise to power was not the end of South Africa. It was merely one ignorant tribe (which happened to black) superseding another ignorant tribe (which happened to be white).

Even the most superficial reading of South African history shows that the country only functioned when it was under British rule. Absent that, it lapsed into tribalism and corruption - whether that was the tribalism and corruption of the Afrikaaners or the tribalism and corruption of the Xhosa is neither here nor there.

With their loathing of Britain and love of a semi-socialist centralised state, you could paint an Afrikaaner Nationalist black and he'd fit in perfectly at any meeting of ZanuPF.

Henry Crun said...

" The Nationalists were simply a white Dutch-speaking version of Mugabe's thugs - bitter, tribalistic, full of hatred against Britain (and against English-speaking white South Africans) and soaked-through with a mixture of invented resentments and fantasy visions of a pre-British Boer past."

You'll get no argument from me on that score, Anon - and I received many a bloody nose from the Afrikaans lads in our street who lived just for picking fights with the "rooineks". In the US, the Afrikaner would be at the same social level as their "trailer trash".

And forgive me if you think I was picking a fight. I was merely trying to point out the difference between South Africa then and South Africa now is same circus, different clowns and the method of the power grab wasn't much different. Perhaps part of what kept the Afrikaner and the African at loggerheads was not so much the difference in skin colour but the realisation that ideologically they weren't so very far apart.

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