April 18, 2004


Majority misrule: This week’s elections in South Africa mark the tenth anniversary of the end of apartheid, but racism still governs the republic. (Andrew Kenny, 4/17/04, The Spectator)

Since 1994, South Africa has had political stability, with no threats whatsoever to the ruling party in government, but has suffered rampant crime, with a quarter of a million murders. Unemployment has increased from 31 per cent then to 41 per cent now. Economic growth, which the ANC promised would be 6 per cent (a reasonable hope), has been 2.8 per cent, far less than in equivalent emerging countries. The ANC’s great achievement has been in the national finances: debt has been reduced to European levels or lower, and inflation is under tight control. Tourism and motor-car manufacturing have done well, but industry in general has not. South Africa has seen the world’s most vigorous programme of bringing electricity to poor households. The rand has dropped from 3.6 to the dollar then to 6.5 now, and even at this rate it is much too strong for the economy to bear. There has been the greatest sustained period of skilled emigration in South African history. Foreign fixed investment in South Africa has been pitifully low. South Africa’s largest companies, such as Anglo-American, Old Mutual and Sasol, have listed abroad and are shipping their assets out of the country. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange has dropped from the 14th to the 17th largest stock exchange in the world. Aids, unemployment and violent crime are crushing millions of desperately poor people.

A tourist to South Africa now would get much the same impression as a tourist to Zimbabwe in 1990, ten years after Mugabe came to power: lovely weather, magnificent scenery, well-functioning amenities and friendly people. On the way from Cape Town airport to the city, though, he would glimpse huddled shantytowns and squatter camps on the side of the freeway. In Johannesburg, he would notice security fences around nearly every house. If he began to talk to local businessmen, he would find that most of them were looking for ways of getting their money out of the country. He would hear professional middle-aged people expecting their children to leave the country after their education. After a few beers, the mood of the locals in the pub might well turn into the sour resignation that characterises so much of South Africa today.

Looking back over the two eras, I see a horrible continuity between apartheid and ANC rule. Both the National party and the ANC had strong socialist instincts before coming to power, and a desire to nationalise the economy. Neither did so in government, both choosing instead a corporatist or fascist approach, in which the big corporations and trade unions were co-opted into arrangements with the state on the running of the economy. Both believe in an all-powerful state that must control every aspect of life. And of course both are obsessed with race, their all-consuming ideology.

This has been a bitter pill for liberals like me to swallow. The hopes in the dying days of apartheid that soon at last we would judge a man on his worth and not his race have been dashed completely. We are now forced by law, under pain of huge penalties, to judge men by their skin colour. It is now compulsory for employers to classify their employees by race, to state whether they are white, ‘African’, ‘coloured’ or ‘Indian’, and to submit a plan showing how they will change their racial proportions to match the ANC’s racial masterplan. These ANC laws are very similar to the 1933 German laws to bring about a correct balance between ‘Aryans’ and ‘non-Aryans’. At the universities, heads of departments must fill in lists giving even more racial details about their students. (Chinese students might or might not be classified as ‘Asian’, depending on whether they come from Hong Kong, Taiwan or mainland China.) Sports teams are disqualified if they do not have the correct racial quotas.

The centrepiece of the ANC’s racial ideology is ‘Black Economic Empower-ment’ (BEE). This gives jobs, promotion and contracts on the basis of black skin colour. Businesses must have BEE managers and must make their procurements with BEE companies, or else they will not get government contracts. White businessmen promote black men to high positions because of their political connections. This has produced an elite of black rentiers, who drive Mercedes and live in mansions, who become very rich not by producing wealth but by bestowing political patronage. At the same time, the economy is held in a strangling grip by the government, a few large corporations and the big trade unions. In true fascist style, the three have come together to draw up highly restrictive labour laws, which cripple small businesses and shut the poor out of the economy. The result is massive unemployment, grinding poverty for the masses and sumptuous wealth for the lucky few.

The reason for majority rule in colonial societies is not because the majority can or should run the country but because the effects on the minority from oppressing the majority are so morally and spiritually destructive. Once the natives make all the same mistakes we Westerners did they'll arrive at the same solutions, but it means they go backwards for quite some time before going forwards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2004 9:27 AM

Historical footnote: apartheid was originally pushed by Communist South African trade unions, who wanted to protect their jobs from competition by blacks. Somehow, the anti-apartheid types never mentioned that.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 18, 2004 2:39 PM

Hmmm, then how do you explain Mexico. When does Mexico's mistake period start to taper off?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 18, 2004 7:18 PM

There is an article on South Africa in a recent National Geographic. Most of the interviewees - rich, poor, black, white - bemoan the sky-high crime rate and the corruption and how it affects every aspect of life there. Pictures of guards with shotguns standing in front of laundromats, etc. Very depressing.

Posted by: Gideon at April 19, 2004 12:55 AM

But in the time "they go backwards before going forwards", how big a body count are they going to rack up?

Posted by: Ken at April 19, 2004 7:14 PM


A much lower body count than the West did.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2004 7:20 PM