Future of White South Africans?

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – As former South Africa President Nelson Mandela remains hospitalized and reportedly in serious condition, questions about the future of increasingly marginalized European-descent South Africans are edging into international headlines.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Recent developments on multiple fronts are striking fear into the hearts of many Afrikaners, descendants of primarily northern Europeans who began arriving in South Africa three to four centuries ago.

From legally mandated race-based economic discrimination against whites to the thousands of farm murders targeting Boers across the nation, the problems are only getting worse. Poverty and unrest are spreading quickly as well.


The world’s most prominent expert on genocide, President Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch, already warned last year that the Afrikaner population could be on the verge of a government-linked extermination campaign.

During a fact-finding mission to South Africa, Stanton, who helped fight against apartheid, found evidence implicating the ruling African National Congress (ANC)-South African Communist Party (SACP) government in a plot to eradicate whites as part of a scheme to foist Marxist tyranny on the nation.

In fact, after the investigation, WND reported that Genocide Watch raised its alert level on South Africa to stage 6 out of 8 – the planning and preparation phase of the extermination process.

“There is thus strong circumstantial evidence of government support for the campaign of forced displacement and atrocities against white farmers and their families,” Stanton said in the Genocide Watch report, adding that the end goal was communist tyranny. “There is direct evidence of [South African] government incitement to genocide.”

As WND also reported, South African President Jacob Zuma routinely sings racist songs calling for the murder of whites.

Former ANC Youth Leader Julius Malema, a virulently racist self-styled communist with a significant following, is now forming a new political party to “fight white males,” South African media reported this week.

Malema’s alliance will also seek to expropriate white-owned property without compensation, nationalize key industries and force whites to “behave in a manner that says they regret their conduct.”

Economic discrimination

Meanwhile, on the economic front, authorities are cracking down on the white minority as well.

Through a controversial program known as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), the government has instituted a race-based employment regime specifically targeting whites.

Critics, even among prominent blacks, say the results of BEE have been disastrous.

Among the myriad problems associated with the race-based employment system: mass emigration of skilled workers contributing to “brain drain,” soaring poverty rates among whites, chaos for businesses and more.

Hundreds of thousands of economically excluded Afrikaners now live in squalid squatter camps throughout South Africa without so much as running water or electricity.

Hundreds of thousands more have fled to Western nations seeking a better life.

“The advent of black rule has been devastating for whole groups of whites, even highly educated ones,” Dan Roodt of the Pro-Afrikaans Action Group, PRAAG, told WND.

Among those groups, he said, are European-descent South Africans from virtually every economic field – especially people with cultural skills, bank workers, and government employees.

“Some of these people have definitely ended up on skid row,” Roodt added, pointing to the racist affirmative action policies as the cause.

“I definitely blame the system of reverse discrimination or anti-white racism for white poverty,” the author and prominent activist continued.

“Almost all whites are educated, literate and generally hard-working, so they should not be poor,” he said. “The system makes them poor by denying them opportunities and expecting whites to be superhuman and to make money out of thin air.”

Roodt explained that once people are excluded from the economic life of a country, they “spiral downwards and lose everything,” making it increasingly difficult to re-enter society in the future.

“It makes me both sad and very angry to witness these scenes of whites living in third-world squalor while we have all the skills to employ them, but the system prevents us from doing so,” he added.

The corruption is out of control, too, Roodt explained, saying it was contributing to the growing economic problems facing the nation.

“South Africa’s ANC government is so corrupt that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the ruling party and organized crime,” he said.

Media attention

Since the fall of apartheid in 1994 – when the Western establishment and Soviet powers finally succeeded in forcing the anti-communist, white-dominated government to relinquish power – the international press, which played a key role in the process, has been largely silent.

After almost two decades of ignoring the issues, however, the world media is starting to take notice – albeit slowly.

The British state-funded BBC, for example, featured a recent article headlined “Do white people have a future in South Africa?”

“The answer, as with so many similar existential questions, is ‘Yes – but…’,” reported BBC News World Affairs Editor John Simpson after exploring the problems.

While acknowledging that whites still own much of the nation’s wealth, Simpson concluded that only certain segments of the European minority have a genuine future in South Africa.

“Working-class white people, most of them Afrikaans-speakers, are going through an intense crisis,” the BBC noted.

“Those who fit in and succeed will certainly have a future,” the report stated. “As for the rest, there are no guarantees whatsoever.”

ANC reaction

A spokesman for the ANC could not be reached for comment by WND despite repeated attempts.

However, even though many experts said the BBC article barely scratched the surface, the reaction from the ruling ANC was to demonize the reporter and his employer, saying the BBC was suffering from an “apartheid hangover.”

“South Africa has never been in a situation where whites have been singled out and persecuted,” ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza was quoted as saying in South African media reports.

He also pointed out that crime and poverty affect all South Africans, which is true, though few dispute the fact that white farmers have been victimized in numbers all out of proportion even when compared with the rest of South Africa’s crime-ridden society.

“The BBC is living in their own world with their racist tendencies where they wish to undermine the government of South Africa because it is largely a black government,” the spokesman claimed.

“This isn’t just an attack on the government of South Africa and the ANC, it’s an attack on South Africa as a whole,” he concluded.

Farm murders

In a development that was considered surprising by analysts and South African exiles who spoke with WND, the BBC also touched on the ongoing farm murders that have claimed as many as 10 percent of the nation’s European-descent farmers.

“Virtually every week the press here report the murders of white farmers, though you will not hear much about it in the media outside South Africa,” the report said. “In South Africa you are twice as likely to be murdered if you are a white farmer than if you are a police officer – and the police here have a particularly dangerous life. The killings of farmers are often particularly brutal.”

As WND also reported last year, authorities have done little about the problem other than try to conceal it from the world.

“The government has so far been unwilling to make solving and preventing these murders a priority,” the BBC report continued.

Indeed, even keeping an accurate count has been made all-but impossible by the ANC-SACP government, which regularly downplays the vicious farm murders and even stopped tracking useful statistics that would reveal the true scope of the problem.

Many of the victims, often children and babies, are brutally tortured before being killed.

The horrors have included drowning infants in boiling water, raping children, disemboweling whole families, dragging victims for miles behind a vehicle and other unimaginable atrocities.

Experts say the goal is to terrorize and eventually eliminate white farmers, with Genocide Watch’s Stanton and numerous other convinced that the ultimate aim is to establish communist tyranny.

With a population of around 5 million, whites today make up less than 10 percent of the population, down from above 20 percent a century ago.

Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, an estimated half-a-million have emigrated. Countless more would go if they could.

Land redistribution

In a separate BBC report, the state-funded news organization also documented the results of the South African government’s highly controversial land-redistribution policies.

The government admitted that 90 percent of farms it had “redistributed” from whites who farmed the land for generations to blacks with little knowledge of farming – almost 25,000 square miles of land so far – are now “failing.”

“The farms – which were active accruing revenue for the state – were handed over to people, and more than 90 percent of those are not functional,” Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti conceded.

“They are not productive, and therefore the state loses the revenue,” Nkwinti continued. “We cannot afford to go on like that… No country can afford that.”

While the government plan was to redistribute a full third of white-owned land to blacks by 2014, there are now discussions about potentially trying to return some of the farms to their former owners in a bid to keep the tax revenues flowing.

In neighboring Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, Marxist dictator and ANC ally Robert Mugabe violently expelled much of the population of white farmers. The land was then largely “redistributed” to cronies who knew nothing about farming.

Before that, the country was known as the “breadbasket” of Africa thanks to its massive agricultural export industry.

Today, Zimbabweans are starving as the nation increasingly depends on international food aid for survival.

Future in South Africa

Analysts on all sides of the issue seem to agree on at least one point: The eventual death of Mandela, 94, could make long-simmering problems explode to the forefront once again, potentially with deadly consequences.

The general public perception of Mandela, which tends to ignore or minimize his well-documented past involvement in terrorism and the international communist movement, considers the former president and ANC leader as something of a hero for his key role in the Western- and Soviet-backed takedown of apartheid.

When he dies, more than a few analysts say full-blown chaos could be unleashed in South Africa. One source with knowledge of the matter told WND that martial law may even be declared.

If the plight of significant segments of the Afrikaner population is bad now, however, the death of Mandela could mark a turning point toward total disaster – at least if current trends continue and the world remains silent.

What to do, though, remains unclear.

Afrikaners within South Africa and others exiled around the world have widely divergent views as to what route would be best for the European-descent minority.


A few exiles, citizens and experts who spoke with WND suggested that there was no longer a viable future for Afrikaners in South Africa.

Along with advocates like Stanton of Genocide Watch, they say it is time for the United States and Europe to start urgently accepting vulnerable whites as refugees.

Others say a war for self-defense might be the only real option if the situation gets out of control – a conflict that would undoubtedly have disastrous consequences for all South Africans, but especially the white minority.

Plenty of South Africans, especially in cities like Cape Town, still do not see what analysts say are storm clouds building on the horizon. Most would simply like to live in peace.

Incompatible cultures

For an increasingly significant segment of the population, it is becoming clearer that today’s South Africa is simply not sustainable in the long term.

“South Africa is a colonial construct, currently an incompatible, unsustainable mix,” International Afrikaner Society President Hannes Louw told WND.

The major fault-line in what is dubbed the “Rainbow nation,” Louw said, is between Afrikaners – descendants of Europeans, Khoi Africans as well as former slaves from Africa, Indonesia, and India – and Bantu, descendants of migrant groups from central and eastern Africa.

“The time has come to face the facts: oil and water does not mix,” he continued.

“The same principles that applied to other countries, like North and South Sudan, also applies to South Africa – the country needs to be divided in two countries, a Western South Africa where Afrikaners are the majority and an Eastern South Africa where Bantus are the majority,” Louw said.

“Despite the current regime’s efforts to culturally colonize Western South Africa, with racist Black Economic Empowerment and busing in homeless Xhosa, Afrikaners are still the majority in in this region and that’s the saving grace,” he continued.

“The time has come for Afrikaners living in Western South Africa to democratically take back their inheritance, the land that was paid for with the lives of our ancestors, fertilized with their blood and watered with their tears,” Louw added. “But as Christians, let us not forget to do so responsibly in line with Biblical principles, international law and the South African constitution.”

Afrikaner homeland

PRAAG leader Roodt, meanwhile, says the European minority in South Africa must achieve self-determination and self-governance if the Afrikaner people and culture are going to survive and thrive.

“The sooner whites realize that the only way out is an ethnic state or Israel of their own, the better,” he told WND. “I can only see the system deteriorating progressively, with anti-white discrimination becoming so pervasive and pernicious that no one will be able to survive.”

Experts say the idea of an independent homeland for Afrikaners is a non-starter with the South African ANC-SACP government, Western powers, and the United Nations.

Still, among certain segments of the white minority in South Africa, the idea is alluring and will likely become increasingly appealing going forward.


Henri Le Riche, a patriotic Afrikaner activist in exile in Australia who runs a website focused on many of issues affecting South Africa, told WND that there could still be a bright future for his people in their homeland.

“The Afrikaner is a small minority, and unlike the U.S. don’t have numbers in the population which will help in long term survival,” he explained.

That does not mean, though, that anyone should lose hope. There is potential, Le Riche continued.

“Whites do have a future in South Africa, but only if they embrace their own culture and stop feeling shame or embarrassed,” he said. “This, of course, is not easy in the current atmosphere, as morale is at its lowest due to affirmative action favoring black people, and discriminating against skilled white people.”

Revival and the West

However, Le Riche sees the problem as something that goes beyond his own nation and really affects the West more broadly – particularly Americans, who he says have a lot in common with the Afrikaner.

There are two primary forces holding Western culture together, Le Riche said: family and religion.

“This is the focus point of Marxism in to break down these two pillars of our society, with the final goal to break down Western culture,” he explained. “We can see the effects of this Marxist strategy all over the world with moral decay in society and the breakup of families.”

Quoting an American, Le Riche said that the West may have defeated Communism during the Cold War, but Marxism is still winning. Communism, he added, is the structured form of Marxism – government.

Afrikaners and Americans

Le Riche offered two suggested ways for Afrikaners as a people to survive, which he believes apply to patriotic Americans as well.

For one, “do not feel guilty or shy about who or what you are,” he said.

“As humans we have good and bad points, and that goes for every nation on this earth’s history. Marxism focus on breaking down identity by form of making you feel ashamed of who you are, and your history.”

Secondly, Le Riche added, Afrikaners should reach out to Americans, and vice versa.

“As Afrikaners and Americans we have a very similar history spanning over a period of nearly 400 years on two different continents,” he said. “The nearest you will get to an American is an Afrikaner. No other nation comes as close.”

“Sadly, many Americans don’t even know the Afrikaner,” Le Riche continued. “Americans need to help Afrikaners selling themselves, selling their identity. Fight the goal of Marxism.”

He says Americans should look beyond “Fortress America” and build new friendships and re-connect with old allies like the Afrikaners.

“When it comes to our way of life and survival of our values in the long run, we need friends, many friends, and friendships, like relationships, need work,” the exiled activist and commentator said. “Let’s start building those relationships.”

“Our biggest enemy is complacency,” Le Riche concluded.



‘ANC is most racist party’

One respondent told the researchers that “in the ANC racism is still very strong and it can be proven any day, anywhere.”

Grassroots members of South Africa’s ruling ANC believe that the famed anti-apartheid party is sidelining non-black supporters, according to a potentially politically explosive study published on Wednesday.

'ANC is most racist party'

Research by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation — formed by Nelson Mandela’s ex-prison mate and fellow anti-apartheid activist — showed that ANC members who are not black feel left out because of their race.

“Generally speaking, branch members have deep-seated concerns with non-racialism in the ANC and in society more broadly,” said the report posted on the foundation’s website.

One respondent told the researchers that “in the ANC racism is still very strong and it can be proven any day, anywhere.”

Another said “the ANC is more racist than any political party at the moment.”

The ANC “preaches about being non-racist… but is doing the opposite,” added another party member.

The impression that the party promotes the interests of blacks first has seen its support base eaten away in sections of the population, the report concluded.

“Indeed the perception (whether real or imagined) that the ANC is advancing only the interests of Africans has led to loss of electoral support in ‘minority areas’.”

The study was conducted in the country’s largest city and its economic hub, Johannesburg.

Respondents were sampled from South Africa’s four main racial groups — blacks, whites, people of Indian descent and those of mixed race, known colloquially as “coloureds”.

Branch members in the predominately coloured Eldorado Park neighbourhood and those in the highbrow and mainly white suburb of Sandton “are frustrated with the party and feel much anger about the way they are treated,” the report said.

“This has made the role of being an ANC branch member in these areas very challenging, and often thankless.”

The results of the study showed that the party, which prides itself as an example of democracy in Africa, has fewer members of the minority races occupying leadership positions at branch level.

“Many branch members are disillusioned about the manner in which members are awarded senior positions,” said the study, with many believing these are ‘only open to Africans’.”

“This raises significant questions about democracy in the party,” it added.

ANC officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

While acknowledging that race relations have significantly improved since the ANC took to office nearly two decades ago, the study noted that members also feared broader societal trends.

“Branch members feel not enough change has taken place and that racial tensions are impeding social cohesion and concomitant growth and progress in the country.”

ANC is most racist party

UK gives £19million aid to South Africa – its president spends £17.5million on his palace

It is a nation racked by poverty, where 13 million people survive on less than £1 a day, and two million have no access to a toilet.

Yet as his people struggle in squalor, South African president Jacob Zuma has sparked outrage by spending £17.5 million to upgrade his rural family home.

Lavish works – which include the construction of 31 new houses, an underground bunker accessed by lifts and a helipad – will cost almost as much as the £19 million British taxpayers send to South Africa in annual aid.

UK gives £19million aid to South Africa - its president spends £17.5million on his palace

Not quite right…South African president Jacob Zuma continues to have a lavish lifestyle despite many parts of his country struggling for survival

The costly upgrade to Zuma’s once-humble home in the village of Nkandla includes Astroturf sports fields and tennis courts, a gymnasium and state-of-the art security systems, including fingerprint-controlled access pads.
And nearby roads have benefited from a further £40 million of improvements.

When African journalists revealed the astronomical cost of the work, Zuma’s ministers turned on the whistle-blowers, saying that revealing the details of ‘top secret’ documents was illegal.

Originally the cost of the project, which began two years ago, was put at £500,000 – but it has since skyrocketed. South African taxpayers are footing most of the bill, although Zuma, a polygamist with four wives and at least 20 children, is said to be contributing £700,000 of his own money – a stretch on his annual £185,000 salary.

However, he also receives a controversial £1.2million in ‘spousal support’ for his wives – despite recently calling on fellow politicians to tighten their belts – and pays only a peppercorn rent of £560 on the tribally owned plot in the Zululand hills where his mansion sits.

Zuma has named his residence a ‘national key point’ – a status invented by the previous paranoid apartheid government – which means it is entitled to security measures ‘in the interests of the nation’.

Last week he was grilled in parliament about what he and his family were costing the nation, and struggled to answer, protesting that he was unaware of the scale of the work.

‘All the buildings and every room we use in that residence were built by ourselves as family and not by the government,’ he protested. He did not know the amount spent on bunkers, claiming: ‘I don’t know the figures; that’s not my job.’

Under pressure, Zuma has been forced to agree to two investigations: one to probe the spiralling costs at Nkandla, the other to see if there was a breach of parliamentary spending rules.

‘Nkandlagate’ – as the state-owned media have been banned from calling it – is just the latest scandal to engulf the 70-year-old African National Congress leader. In 2004 he faced trial with his financial adviser Schabir Shaik over racketeering and corruption claims for accepting tens of thousands of pounds in bribes from European arms firms.

Shaik was imprisoned for 15 years, but Zuma’s case was ‘discontinued’ after complicated legal wrangling – even though a judge said there was ‘overwhelming’ evidence of a corrupt relationship between the two men.The following year, a 31-year-old HIV-positive woman accused him of rape. Although he was acquitted, Zuma’s ludicrous claim that he took a shower after sex to prevent contracting HIV made him a laughing stock.

His personal life also came under scrutiny following the 2000 suicide of his first wife, who left a note describing ‘24 years of hell’ with him, and again after the illegitimate birth of another child in 2009. He accused the media of invading his privacy when revealing the scandal.

Meanwhile, South Africa is in an increasingly parlous state, having had its credit rating downgraded following industrial unrest. Workers at the Marikana platinum mine were mown down and killed by armed police last month when they dared to demand better pay. A truck-drivers’ strike later led to more deaths, and last week thousands of farmworkers downed tools in protest at their £4.85 day-rate.

Yet Zuma – who glories in his nickname ‘100 per cent Zulu boy’ – still has substantial support among the people, bolstered by his freedom-fighter credentials, having spent ten years imprisoned on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela.

Britain is committed to spending an average of £19 million a year in aid on South Africa until 2015, mainly aimed at reducing HIV. But the Department for International Development is examining how it spends the UK’s aid budget, and recently announced plans to slash the controversial £280 million a year it sends to India.

By BARBARA JONES – 24 November 2012

UK gives £19million aid to South Africa – its president spends £17.5million on his palace

Gun my ook ruimte

Die ANC se resep vir nasiebou werk nie. Jy kan nie van een sportbyeenkoms na die ander strompel en dit dan nasiebou noem nie, skryf Pieter Mulder, VF Plus-leier.

Gun my ook ruimte

Soveel verskillende identiteite in een land.

‘Praat jy Suid-Afrikaans?” het ’n Amerikaanse joernalis my onlangs in ’n onderhoud gevra. Hy het die oggend in Suid-Afrika aangekom en duidelik geen huiswerk oor die land gedoen nie.

Toe ek aan hom verduidelik dat Afrikaans my eerste taal is en dat my voorvaders in 1680 hier aangekom het, lank voordat die meeste Amerikaners in die VSA aangekom het, was sy volgende vraag: “Hoeveel mense in Suid-Afrika praat dan Suid-Afrikaans?”

Tydens die onderhandelinge in 1995 plaas die grondwetskrywende vergadering ’n koerantadvertensie wat lui: “Suid-Afrika: 20 miljoen vroue; 18 miljoen mans; 8 gelowe; 25 kerkgroepe; 31 kultuurgroepe; 14 tale; 9 rassegroepe; 1 land.”

Soveel verskillende identiteite in een land.

“Nasiebou” en “sosiale kohesie” word daarom in amper elke politieke toespraak gebruik. Hoe presies die nasie gebou moet word, verskil van spreker tot spreker.

Beskik ons in Suid-Afrika oor die regte resep vir nasiebou? Ek sê nee. Die ANC se huidige resep werk nie. Jy kan nie van een internasionale sportbyeenkoms na die volgende strompel en dit dan nasiebou noem nie.

Hoekom het nasiebou in Europa geslaag, maar in verskeie Afrika-lande misluk? In Europa was nasiebou makliker omdat die meeste mense in ’n land dieselfde taal praat en kultuur deel.

Toe die Europese lande Afrika onder hulle verdeel het, is mense van verskillende taalgroepe kunsmatig in een land saamgegooi.

In hierdie Afrika-state is daar nie een taal en kultuur om vir nasiebou te gebruik nie. As alternatief is die weerstand teen die Europese oorheersers as nasiebouresep gebruik.

Omdat die Europese “base” teruggegaan het Europa toe, het dit goed gewerk om mense so saam te snoer teen ’n gemeenskaplike afwesige vyand.

Hierdie Afrika-resep kan nie in Suid-Afrika werk nie. Oudpres. Nelson Mandela het dit besef. Daarom het hy uitgereik na Afrikaners en ander wit mense wat geen ander land het waarheen hulle kan terugkeer nie. Om hulle tot vyande te verklaar is die Malema-resep wat verdeel en polariseer. Telkens wanneer die ANC in die moeilikheid is, word die Malema-resep nader getrek deur sommige leiers. Dan word die wit mense, die Afrikaners of die boere as die oorsaak van die probleme en as vyand geïdentifiseer.

Wat is die ANC se huidige resep? Dit is ’n kombinasie van die Malema-resep en die ou Britse assimilasie­resep.

Met assimilasie probeer die meerderheid die minderhede insluk. Tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog skryf die Britse onderwysminister aan lord Milner oor die Afrikanerkinders in die konsentrasiekampe: “We must appeal to England, and ask the sisters and daughters of those who have been fighting for the Empire to come out and complete that part of the work which their male relatives are unable to accomplish?.?.?. I feel that the opportunity during the next year of getting them all to speak English and become Englishmen is golden.”

“Daar word van die minderheid verwag om deel van die meerderheid te word,” het dr. Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma verlede jaar op die beraad oor sosiale kohesie aan Afrikaanssprekendes gesê.

Alexis de Tocqueville het minder­hede se dilemma korrek opgesom: “?.?.?. hulle kan net deel van die meerderheid word as hulle die dinge laat vaar wat werklik vir hulle belangrik is” (soos hul taal en kultuur).

Die prys vir aanvaarding, volgens hierdie resep, is dat minderhede juis die sake wat vir hulle kosbaar is en wat hul identiteit bepaal, moet opoffer. Hierdie resep lei tot konflik en sweep groepe op teenoor mekaar.

Waar die groot verskeidenheid identiteite in Suid-Afrika ons ryker en sterker behoort te maak, word die verskille nou verdelende faktore.

So ’n verdelende faktor is die afdwing van een taal in Suid-Afrika.

Dr. Neville Alexander, voormalige Robbeneiland-gevangene en PAC-aktivis, het soos volg hierop gereageer:
“ ’n Engels-alleen-beleid vonnis die meeste mense tot permanente middelmatigheid omdat hulle nie spontaan, kreatief en selfversekerd kan wees as hulle nie hul eerste taal kan gebruik nie.”

Op Afrika-kongresse wat ek bywoon, praat hulle oor die slegte koloniale tyd, maar die bespreking is in die koloniale tale. Europa het ’n ander resep. Die Europese Unie en parlement het 23 werktale. As Europa die Afrika-patroon sou volg waar die oorspronklike koloniseerder se taal gebruik word, sou Latyn as die oorspronklike taal van die ou Romeinse Ryk die taal van die EU gewees het!

’n Tweede verdelende faktor is die benadering dat nasiebou afgedwing kan word.

Die titel van die fliek Invictus kom van ’n gedig wat Mandela in die tronk vir inspirasie gebruik het. Volgens die gedig kan jy enigiets met my doen, maar jy kan nie my denke met wette of geweld verander nie.

Dit lyk of die huidige ANC geen les daaruit geleer het nie.

Louis Botha was een van die helde ná die Anglo-Boereoorlog met sy pogings om Britse imperialisme in Suid-Afrika te keer. Die Britse owerhede het die Zoeloekoning Dinuzulu in 1908 in die tronk gegooi.

Een van die eerste goed wat Louis Botha in 1910 as nuwe eerste minister gedoen het, was om opdrag te gee dat hy vrygelaat word. Vandag staan Dinuzulu en Louis Botha se standbeelde ter erkenning hiervan langs mekaar in Durban.

Elke keer as ek in Pretoria verby die straatnaamveranderinge ry en sien hoe die ANC ’n rooi streep deur Louis Botha se naam getrek het, is ek opnuut kwaad. Ek beleef dit as die miskenning van my helde en geskiedenis. Nasiebou kan op geen manier op mense afgedwing word nie. As dit nie ’n vrywillige proses van alle deelnemers is nie, slaag dit nie.

Die regte nasiebouresep is om die verskillende identiteite as ’n bate te beskou en te erken. Daardeur skep jy ’n situasie waar almal soos wenners voel en daar geen verloorders is nie. “Ons kan lief wees vir wie en wat ons is sonder om te haat wie en wat ons nie is nie,” het Kofi Annan dit goed opgesom.

Ek vra ruimte om myself in Afrika te wees. Dat daar ook ’n plek vir my, my taal en erkenning aan my helde sal wees. Is dit te veel gevra?

Die voorwaarde is dat ons wat ná uhuru in Afrika agtergebly het, ons identiteit moet vind in ons verhouding met Afrika.

Prof. Doehring van die Max Planck-instituut in Duitsland het hul Europese navorsing hieroor soos volg opgesom: “Dit is duidelik dat die nasies en volke van Europa nie omgee om deel te word van die groter Europese vrugteslaai nie mits elkeen toegelaat word om sy identiteit te behou as of ’n piesang of ’n lemoen in die vrugteslaai.”

“Die stam moet sterf vir die nasie om te leef,” was die mislukte resep in baie Afrikastate. Vandag is baie van hierdie “nasies” dood, maar die stamme baie lewendig.

Ons keuses:
– Die Malema-verdeelresep of die Mandela-uitreikresep;
– Die mislukte Afrika-assimilasieresep of die suksesvolle Europese resep.

Ek kies die Europese resep waar alle identiteite met wedersydse respek waardeer word en deur wette, minderheidsregte en selfbeskikking geakkommodeer word.

– Dr. Mulder is ook adjunkminister van landbou, bosbou en visserye.

Gun my ook ruimte

The ANC after Mangaung

RW Johnson questions whether Cyril Ramaphosa can save the party from itself.

The ANC after Mangaung RW Johnson

RW Johnson – 21 January 2013

Since the Mangaung conference of the ANC there has been a good deal of comment suggesting that the re-appearance of Cyril Ramaphosa in the top leadership offers a major chance of renewal in the party, especially since Gwede Mantashe has said Ramaphosa will effectively become the new prime minister.

Already there is a good deal of speculation of Ramaphosa even taking over as President just four years from now, in 2017, or even sooner, thanks to Zuma‘s continuing legal difficulties. Such speculation, I would argue, is not only wishful and naïve but reveals a fundamental ignorance about the nature of ANC rule.

The folly of the “Good Guy-Bad Guy” theory

A great deal of popular commentary (including that by the DA) suggests that the first five years of ANC governance under Mandela was a golden age, something we should strive “to get back to”; indeed the DA appears to believe this so thoroughly that it continually tries to situate itself as Mandela’s true heirs. This golden age, again following popular commentary, was then followed by a silver age in which South Africa was led by a brilliant intellectual, Mbeki, with particular distinction in the foreign affairs field, but, sadly, with perplexing folly when it came to Aids and Zimbabwe.

When Mbeki was thrown out there followed an age of even baser metal in which the country was ruled by a corrupt and uneducated know-nothing who provided no leadership at all. Hence the drama of Ramaphosa’s return to the scene, a partial return to the golden age.

Such a perspective represents a complete misreading of our recent history. Mandela’s presidency was anything but a golden age. The old man had not the slightest idea of how to run a government and it was a mess, saved only by Mbeki’s frantic back-stopping. An early casualty was the rule of law. The Shell House shootings – murders carried out in public view in the middle of Johannesburg – were successfully covered up by Mandela’s bluster.

Mandela himself started out full of reconciliatory forgiveness but soon got fed up with whites who left and said “good riddance” to them. His speech at the ANC’s Mafikeng conference was the most reactionary and anti-democratic ever given by an ANC leader. In it he attacked opposition parties and NGOs as part of a “counter-revolutionary conspiracy” which was encouraging crime, stealing weapons, subverting the economy and building up “alternative structures including intelligence machineries as well as armed formations”. The speech only just stopped short of calling for the complete suppression of all opposition.

Meanwhile, at an early stage all cabinet co-ordination was lost. Ministers did much what they liked and they were certainly not going to tolerate an RDP Minister interfering in their departments, a major reason for the early demise of the RDP.

Policy was, inevitably, haphazard and blundering. The enforced retirement en masse of the country’s best schoolteachers was a blunder of historic proportions, permanently downgrading the whole education system. This was followed by continual hammer blows to the educational system, of which the imposition and then abandonment of Outcomes Based Education was the greatest. Aids was simply ignored, allowing the virus to spread like wildfire.

For the first few years the government had no economic policy at all. It then lurched into Gear but never had the guts to implement that policy fully. Mandela delighted in telling business audiences that he “hadn’t the first idea about economics”. They applauded his frankness but it hardly helped the credibility of his government’s policies.

Meanwhile, affirmative action boomed and the systematic ruination of the civil service, the parastatals and the entire state machine began. Corruption also really took off under Mandela, with the notorious arms deal a high point. Mandela more or less lost interest in being President after 1997 and needed continuous prodding to do his job for the two years after that.

What was really different about the Mandela period was that most whites and the media were so relieved to find that ANC rule meant a dear old man, full of generous instincts, firmly non-racist and eager for reconciliation and also with a nice sense of humour, that they were swept up into a sort of feel-good enthusiasm for the New South Africa. This was all very nice but as has been observed, “The operation was not a success and the patient was left in a much weakened state. But no one noticed because not only the patient but all the observers were under anaesthetic at the time.”

The Mbeki period which followed saw the continuation of all these disastrous policies and the generalisation of affirmative action to the private sector. Worse, BEE began – a form of licensed corruption and crony capitalism. Mbeki’s admirers continually emphasised his giant intellect, a praise-song Mbeki very much wanted to hear.

He liked to pontificate about colonialism in, for example, Haiti and Sudan, but any examination of his writings showed many gross historical inaccuracies. His intellectual ambitions far outran his real capacity. Mbeki attempted to centralise all power in his own hands and the media ran scared before him. Worst of all, of course, was his wilful Aids denialism, which cost an estimated 365,000 lives, and his persistent support of Mugabe.

The Zuma period has essentially been a further continuation. Corruption and factionalism have raged ever more openly, but all the seeds of this had been sown long before Zuma’s arrival in power. The two great gains were a noticeably tougher attitude towards Mugabe and a complete reversal of Mbeki’s Aids denialism. Credit for this last development is often given to the Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi. He doubtless deserves much of this praise, but it should be realised that the key decision was Zuma’s. He may be an uneducated man but on this subject he was simply far more sensible than the more educated Mbeki.

By simply reversing Mbeki’s policy and ensuring that anti-retroviral drugs get to those who are HIV+ Zuma has brought down Aids deaths in 2005 (under Mbeki) of 257,000 to 194,000 in 2011. In the same period life expectancy has risen from 54 to 60 and mother-to-child transmission of HIV has fallen from 8.5% to 2.7%.[1] This is, of course, just another way of measuring Mbeki’s genocidal policy. He is extremely fortunate not to be on trial either in Johannesburg or in the Hague. The demise of Mbeki’s folly has also seen the disappearance from the scene of the crazy international Aids denialists (as well as the local Traditional Healers Organization) who were subsidized by Mbeki, deeply disgracing South Africa in the eyes of the world.

Zuma will probably never again do such a fine thing: he has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and removed a great stain from South Africa’s international image.

The other great gain was mainly inadvertent. Under Mandela and Mbeki the press had been subservient and scared and it was extremely difficult for the Opposition to get its views heard. Once the Mbeki vs. Zuma battle opened up, however, the press seized its opportunity and became far more independent and critical. Having won power, Zuma inevitably wanted the press to retreat back inside its old kennel, but the deed has been done and, as Hillary Clinton observed of her husband, “that’s a very difficult dog to keep on the porch”.

Indeed, Zuma is criticized and ridiculed far more than any preceding South African President. Most to blame are his failure to lead on many policy areas and the persistent reports of corruption within his closest circles, together with the wider pandemic of corruption which envelops the ANC as a whole. The party now is merely a federation of corrupt warlords, all exacting money from their subjects like so many medieval barons.

It is only when they are unwise enough to oppose Zuma that any notice is taken of their corruption. Zuma’s triumph at the ANC’s Mangaung Conference was essentially the triumph of a Tammany boss, punishing foes by cutting them off from favours while distributing patronage to his own loyalists. A corrupt provincial congress here, a corrupt warlord there, a rigged election here and there, the careful packing of branch meetings and every other sort of shenanigan became merely routine.

A single garment, cut from whole cloth

The key point to realise is that African nationalism is a garment made from a single whole cloth – in the same way that Afrikaner nationalism was before it. There is in such parties a sort of bubble, a closed-off world of a national ethos perceived in one very particular way. It matters not that a Malan or Strijdom comes or goes (or an Mbeki or a Zuma): there is a single, confident guiding ethos and it is quite impervious of the fact that the rest of the world thinks it is wrong or mad. In that case, by definition, the rest of the world is wrong.

Inside that parochial bubble everything is always for the very best. Moreover, the changes which happen within that bubble – the gradual evolution of apartheid from a mere slogan into a fully philosophized and implemented religion – are always immanent. What the ratings agencies are really telling you – just as they told apartheid governments in the 1980s – is that your assumptions and those of the rest of the world are increasingly at variance. Sooner or later, one has to awake from that parochial dream.

But the ANC is not ready – yet – to do that. In that sense it really doesn’t make any difference whether Motlanthe or Zuma is President: nothing very much could or would change. Just as it is wrong to regard the Mandela period as a lost golden age – the downward slide began then in earnest – so much of the speculation about the elevation of Ramaphosa is unwarranted.

It is true that he is a competent and modern man, economically literate and, perhaps above all, part of the internal struggle, the democratic and multi-racial UDF, a very different pedigree than that of the Robben Islanders and exiles who have ruled South Africa since 1994. But a moment’s thought suggests that the idea of a Prime Minister Ramaphosa driving through the National Development Plan is highly unlikely.

Should he attempt this he would be following exactly in the shoes of the RDP Minister, Jay Naidoo. He would come up hard against the fact that implementing the NDP would mean interfering in almost every ministry and that the breakdown in cabinet co-ordination under Mandela has now had twenty years to dig in. Forcibly overcoming those resistances would mean offending many different interest groups and institutional interests. This is not something Zuma has ever been willing to do and Ramaphosa would have no hope if Zuma did not support him all the way.

Cyril Ramaphosa and the failure of ANC governance

Beyond that there is the simple fact that ANC policy has been fundamentally mistaken in many areas. Affirmative action has destroyed the state machine and the parastatals; BEE has encouraged corruption; labour legislation has helped hobble industry and lower productivity; land policy has seen the destruction of food production; and the legislation on mining threatens to kill the golden goose on which the entire country depends. What is needed is someone bold enough to roll back these mistakes in one area after another. This would require great determination and political strength. Would Ramaphosa really do that?

Perhaps the most dramatic sign of national decline has been the continuing fall in the country’s credit ratings. Listen to Ramaphosa on that: “If the rating agencies were to pause and look closely at the direction that the ANC is taking this country in….I am confident that the (recent) downgrading should be turned into an upgrade. We have great policies.” and “I would like the business community and the rating agencies to look closely at the policies, not just look at the reports and the headlines…study our policies.”[2] In other words, the same old ANC nonsense, a blithe confidence that the ANC has got it right and that we all just need to see things their way.

This sort of denialism is almost as absurd as Mbeki’s Aids denialism. The facts are that South Africa is running an increasing budget deficit and current account deficit, that both poverty and unemployment have increased vertiginously under ANC rule, that the government is in the ridiculous situation of having an economy which provides 80% of the world’s platinum and yet still can’t run profitable platinum mines, that the state machine has been destroyed, that the country’s armed forces, something like the 10th strongest in the world in 1990, are now as weak as a baby, that our once cheap and plentiful electricity has become rare and expensive, that local authorities throughout the land are being looted, that cadre deployment is crippling the parastatals. And so, on and on. ANC policies have been a complete disaster, inaugurating a period of unprecedented national decline. This is clear to almost everyone, including the rating agencies – but not, apparently, to Cyril Ramaphosa.

It is worth pointing out that the problems we are confronting today are not just what has happened to pop up as “events, dear boy, events”, as Harold Macmillan would say. They are the result of the cascading effects of ANC policy failures over nearly 20 years. True, Zuma’s selection of Ramaphosa as his deputy is a sign of a recognition within the ANC that some sort of turn-around is needed, not least in the ANC’s disastrous public image. But it is this cascading, cumulative effect of governance failure which makes our current problems so difficult.

Moreover, it is important to realise that the ANC and SACP never foresaw any of these problems – in a sense they weren’t meant to exist. Those who drew up the Freedom Charter spoke of how the doors of learning would be opened, for example: the assumption was that there would be good schools (and hospitals) and that all that was required was a splendid and sweeping removal of all restrictions on free access. There was absolutely no thought that the standards of educational and health provision would collapse under ANC governance, any more than there was any discussion as to how to control corruption.

Indeed, it was assumed that in the new, democratic and post-apartheid society, corruption would not exist. The naiveté of such thinking now seems breath-taking. There was similarly no thought of how policing and law and order would collapse under ANC rule. True, towards the end of the struggle there were claims that the ANC had witnessed the failures of many governments in Africa and would therefore know how to avoid their mistakes.

In fact the ANC has repeated virtually all the mistakes of African governments elsewhere – right down to the wrong-headed refusal to invest sufficiently in power stations so that South Africa has joined the long list of African countries to have problems over power supply. This was the one and only time that Thabo Mbeki apologised to the electorate, for he knew all too well how symbolic – and how representative of Africa – such a failure was.

That is to say, to reverse current trends would not only require the repeal of a great deal of the ANC’s legislation of the last nineteen years but it would also require a sharp alteration from the ANC’s historic mind-set. In ANC terms, what is required is nothing less than a South African Gorbachev who abandons the failed initiatives of decades past and consigns his own party to the scrap-heap. There is very little likelihood of such a figure emerging within the ANC leadership and, as he himself would be the first to declare, there is no reason to believe that Cyril Ramaphosa is such a person.

The ethnic dimension

It has often been observed that while the ANC has a numerical majority, it is still culturally a minority. The truth of this has seldom been more apparent, for the Zuma government has had to endure a torrent of criticism and mockery unprecedented in South African history. After all the facile talk of “high roads”, of being a “winning nation”, and foolish attempts to persuade Pretoria that South Africa should behave like an Asian Tiger, there is now open talk of the tipping point to failed state status.

The South African media can see that we are at present quite obviously a losing nation and they do not like it. Their particular bile is vented on the blundering, foot-in-mouth Zuma: even the Malema-ites mock him with gestures of a shower poised over his head – Zapiro’s mockery has sunk in even to the furthest left reaches of the ANC coalition.

Unsurprisingly, the KwaZulu-Natal ANC sees a media conspiracy of bias in such attacks. The barely coded message is “This is how you treat a Zulu President: when we had Xhosa Presidents you treated them with respect.” There is some truth to this. Among both black and white, and perhaps partly to offset the alarm occasioned by the Zulus’ warrior reputation, there has long been a tendency to dismiss the Zulus as “peasants” and “stupid”.

I remember all too well how Anthony Sampson, who spent much of his time in the company of ANC-supporting Xhosas, upbraiding me for attempting to give equal treatment to the ANC and IFP during their bitter war in Natal. I argued that each side deserved a fair crack of the whip. He was contemptuous: “let’s face it, the Zulus are just bloody stupid” (a ridiculous comment for both sides were Zulus). In all other matters Anthony would have been a pillar of political correctness but when it came to Zulus it was perfectly OK to indulge in tribal vilification.

This is a not an uncommon bias and so the fact that Zuma is a Zulu has licensed a far more unrestrained style of criticism. The pent-up frustration felt by so many at the follies of ANC rule now has an outlet. In fact, as above, ANC rule is cut from a single cloth, but it is “legitimate” to tear into Zuma as an uneducated Zulu peasant, in a way that would have been unthinkable under Mandela or Mbeki.

It is worth pausing to consider Ramaphosa’s ascent in the light of the ethnic factor. One Zulu former cabinet minister told me “We might have a Venda president (i.e. like Ramaphosa) one day, but not in this generation. It’s like America having a president who is a gay Jewish lesbian. It could happen one day, but no way can it happen now.” It is worth remembering that only in the 1950s did the ANC show signs of becoming a mass movement, of posing a genuine challenge to the government: hitherto it had not really mattered, which was why it was never banned.

Once it became significant an Nguni (Luthuli) took over as its President in 1952. Over the past sixty years the party’s president has changed five times but the one constant is that an Nguni has always held the presidency. Once the ANC returned home there was an inevitability about the leadership passing to a Zulu, for the Zulus are not merely the largest Nguni group but they are far more cohesive and self-confident than the Xhosas.

They have no doubt that they are a nation in their own right. They have two Zulu-language newspapers and Zulu is the lingua franca even of most Reef townships. The Xhosa Nostra seemed impressive only as long as Tambo, Mandela or Mbeki was in charge. Once the presidency was lost they seem disunited, at odds with one another and with no natural leader.

The glad assumption that Ramaphosa would immediately take over as Deputy President has been dispelled: Motlanthe will remain in office until May 2014. And it is too easily assumed that Ramaphosa will then take over. If Mangaung made one thing clear it was the complete dominance of KwaZulu-Natal. (Where will the BRICS summit be held? Pretoria? Jo’burg? Cape Town? No, Durban.) In the end the KZN slate was simply voted through intact to become the ANC slate. Ramaphosa owes his position to that – and to Zuma’s decision to deploy Ramaphosa’s credibility in his own cause. No wonder Ramaphosa has quickly set out on a charm offensive in KZN. But it is not difficult to imagine that, come the crunch, KZN will want one of its own to succeed Zuma.

Already there are mutterings that Zweli Mkhize may contest the Deputy Presidency in 2014 and one may be assured that when it comes to the actual succession to Zuma, to be decided in December 2017, there will be not one but quite possibly several Zulu hats in the ring – Mkhize, Jeff Radebe, perhaps even Blade Nzimande. Jeff Radebe has served in every government since 1994, is thus the most senior man in Cabinet, and was elected in first place to the National Working Committee. It would be a brave punter indeed who bet on Ramaphosa surmounting that obstacle.

There is, finally, age to consider. Zuma is already 70, Ramaphosa 60. Average African life expectancy is 60. In May 2014, when he takes office for his second term, Zuma will be 72. The risk that he will either die or no longer be making sense before his second term expires must be considerable. This may be Ramaphosa’s best chance for if the presidency fell vacant in mid-term, Ramaphosa would succeed automatically, Venda or not. If not, in 2019 Ramaphosa will be 67, surely rather old to be starting a presidential term? Mkhize would be 63. (Jeff Radebe would be 66.)

For, of course, the ANC is ever more clearly becoming a male gerontocracy. It should be recognised that authoritarian parties quite normally became gerontocratic and, ultimately, dynastic, with family members privileged to succeed. In the Soviet Union of the 1980s the old joke was “Why is the Politburo so full of octogenarians?” Answer: “Because the nonagenarians keep dying off.” Similarly, when Todor Zhivkov was finally overthrown in Bulgaria he was 78, and had been attempting to bring in his son to succeed him.

Mao died in office at 82 and his wife, Jiang Qing, attempted to succeed him. In Rumania, Nicolae Ceaucescu was 71 when he was overthrown and shot by a firing squad, along with his wife, Elena, whom he had made into a virtual co-ruler. The couple went to their death in comic opera style, singing the Internationale. In North Korea Kim Il Sung ruled until his death aged 82 and was succeeded first by his son and now his grandson – a perfectly monarchical succession.

In Cuba Fidel Castro ruled for 49 years when he retired, also aged 82 – and was succeeded by his brother, Raul, already aged 77. The pattern is too pronounced to be accidental. Already we have had rule by Thabo Mbeki, son of a movement aristocrat. Perhaps we had better steel ourselves for rule by Mandla Mandela, Lindiwe Sisulu or one of Zuma’s huge and still growing clan.

RW Johnson


  1. All figures from Mail and Guardian, January 4 2013
  2. Business Report, Sunday Independent, December 23 2012

The ANC after Mangaung

South Africa in ‘State of Anarchy’

South Africans should by now realize that the game is on…

South Africa in 'State of Anarchy'

Mines closing down, retrenchments are at the order of the day, the new CEO of Anglo-American being pushed to withdraw from SA, even Fitch now having downgraded the country and all the major banks, murders are increasing sharply. Huge industrial projects halted due to violent strike actions and even nursing colleges shutting down as a result of the the same. Strikes, riots, crime, murder, rape, corruption, are now all out of control and SA is in a state of anarchy. When a country’s police force is as corrupt and involved in murders and armed robberies as the criminals they are supposed to be fighting that country is in a state of anarchy.

Mining taxes will be driving mining companies from SA at an increased rate. More and more global companies are withdrawing, while most already have. In short SA is collapsing faster than ever before and we are now experiencing the prodromal effects of total collapse.

There is no doubt that Nelson Mandela‘s death is imminent, which is now known to be a serious concern at all levels as the trigger for revolution. It is the opportunity someone like Malema is waiting for. While Malema has been temporarily silenced by way of court actions, political marginalisation and financial strangulation it is an accepted fact that he still retains huge influence over the youth. The death of Mandela will see him rising to the fore in full force and we all know the consequences of the 1976 youth riots.

This country was stolen bankrupt five years ago already, the SA banks have been virtually bankrupt for the past four years plus. The inflation rate is at least ten times the “official” inflation rate. The Rand is under serious pressure, which is increasing by the day.

The PC game of the economists, called the JSE, would come crushing down like a stack of dominoes and we’ll see economists and brokers trying their hand at sky diving without parachutes from every skyscraper in every major centre.

Eskom is no longer able to keep up with the electricity demands of this country and once Eskom collapses African history will repeat itself in SA. The consequences being complete collapse of the currency followed by anarchy and that would be the end of SA for the next 30 to 40 years. If Eskom’s grid is to collapse both fuel and water supplies would be directly affected forcing transport to a halt.

While the actual violence would probably escalate to leak within the first six months, it should last no more than about two years before things simmer down, but the after effects of it would last decades as we have seen throughout Africa and South America over the years.

When this happens the first to close their doors are assurance and insurance companies and banks.

Armed gangs would pose a serious threat and people would be executed in public by the numbers. No street or suburb would be safe. It would be a fight for survival and a free for all. Hunger would drive the masses to the towns and cities and people would be killed for food and water.

The already collapsed health services would no longer exist. Medical supplies would grind to a halt. This is Africa, which means that churches and medical services would be prime targets. Gang rapes followed by ruthless death by torture would be the norm. The cities, and security complexes in particular, would be death traps.

The police and army would be useless and they would most probably partake rather than suppress the violence.

South Africa would turn into a blood bath making Syria and Iraq seem like a children’s playgrounds.

There is a good chance that Zuma maybe ousted in the very near future, but should Mandela die he would be toppled within days to a few weeks thereafter. No one would be able to stop this train from running away until it loses momentum and grinds to a halt by itself.

Doesn’t matter how we look at it and what who is trying to convince us otherwise, SA is heading this way and nothing and no one will stop or prevent it from happening.

South Africa has already stepped unto a pressure release landmine, someone just needs to lift their foot from the detonator.

Good luck, be safe, and be alert at all times.

South Africa in ‘State of Anarchy’

Does Pinotage Deserve Another Look?

Pinotage, for the uninitiated, is a grape created in South Africa in 1925 but currently grown—in a fairly limited fashion—in many other parts of the world.

Does Pinotage Deserve Another Look

Pinotage, for the uninitiated, is a grape created in South Africa in 1925 but currently grown—in a fairly limited fashion—in many other parts of the world.

THERE ARE VERY FEW wines I truly don’t like, and only one that I’ve ever declared I despise. Except that wine writers are not supposed to “despise” wines. While we can be disappointed, or crestfallen, or even seriously dismayed by certain bottlings, to “despise” a wine is unprofessional—or so I was told by a reader who wrote recently to upbraid me after reading of my professed enmity toward Pinotage.

Never mind that this particular reader also happened to be a Pinotage grower—I decided that he might have a point. Were my feelings about Pinotage really fair—or, for that matter, accurate? After all, it had been quite a few years since I tasted much Pinotage; perhaps there had been some changes in winemaking or viticulture. Perhaps there were even some overlooked gems?

Pinotage, for the uninitiated, is a grape created in South Africa in 1925 but currently grown—in a fairly limited fashion—in many other parts of the world. It was created in Stellenbosch by Abraham Izak Perold, a professor of viticulture at Stellenbosch University. A cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, the workhorse red grape of the Rhône (then also known in South Africa as Hermitage), Pinotage was also called Perold’s Hermitage x Pinot, but Prof. Perold preferred the Pinotage name. (The other instance in which “Hermitage” was appropriated in another country was Penfold’s Grange, of Australia—once known as Grange Hermitage until it was shortened to simply Grange at the behest of the European Union.)

According to the newly published 1,200-page compendium “Wine Grapes,” by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz, “Pinotage is either South Africa’s signature red variety or its worst vinous ambassador.” I’m assuming the latter assessment has mostly to do with the trademark Pinotage aromas, which typically can include spray paint and burnt tires (although bananas and smoke have been detected as well).

The spray-paint and burnt-tire aromas are the characteristics that I particularly hated (or, rather, objected to). Apparently, Pinotage growers aren’t too keen on them either, as “Wine Grapes” says that research is under way at Stellenbosch University to determine their cause. A definitive cause has yet to be found.

But this hasn’t kept Pinotage from spreading to other parts of the world. Pinotage is grown in many places outside of South Africa, including California, New Zealand, Australia and Washington state. It’s even planted in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. (Tim Martiniuk first planted Pinotage back in 1998 at his Stoneboat Vineyards and says it’s quite popular, though he admitted a sommelier once crossed himself before tasting the wine.)

Despite such incursions, Pinotage is still pretty hard to find on restaurant wine lists and retail-store shelves. Apparently I’m not the only one who needs to be convinced of its charms. Even an adventurous professional like Eamon Rockey of Aska in Brooklyn hasn’t got a Pinotage on his list. “My best experiences with South African wine have been Chenin Blanc and Vin de Constance,” he explained in an email.

John Gorman, the vice president of sales and marketing for Southern Starz, a California-based importer specializing in wines from the Southern Hemisphere, has his doubts about Pinotage serving as South Africa’s flagship. Or at least he believes that there are other grapes that are equally—if not more—valid representations of the country’s winemaking talents.

“My conflict with this grape is that it has been written and spoken about for way too long as a grape that helps to define the South African category, almost to the point of rendering the category a proverbial ‘one-trick pony,’ ” he wrote in an email, comparing it to Mendoza Malbec from Argentina and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Mr. Gorman suggests to retailers that they should not make Pinotage their “first port of call” for customers looking for the wine but focus on other South African varietals. Indeed, South Africa produces a wide range of notable wines from grapes such as Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and, of course, Chenin Blanc, aka Steen—once South Africa’s most important grape.

Mr. Gorman would be pleased to know that Pinotage represented but a small percentage of the South African wines at the two where I went shopping recently. At Astor Wines & Spirits there are seven Pinotage or Pinotage-based wines out of 46 South African selections, or 15% of the total wines, and about the same percentage at Union Square Wines. Jesse Salazar, wine director of Union Square, told me that most people who sought out Pinotage were “wine beginners” who had read about but never tried the grape, or people who had recently been to South Africa. It was, in that way, perceived as a sort of “tourist varietal,” not a serious wine.

And yet Pinotage incites undeniable passion among its producers. Linda and Lester Schwartz of Fort Ross Winery grow Pinotage in the unlikely location of California’s Sonoma Coast and are quite keen on the grape—although they also cultivate more “expected” varietals like Pinot Noir. Though the budwood for their Pinotage came from South Africa, Ms. Schwartz said the wine has none of the unpleasant aromas but “remarkable vibrancy and lively acidity.”

The Fort Ross Pinotage was one of 24 wines that I purchased, at prices ranging from $7 to $70 a bottle. Most of the wines were made in South Africa, though there were a few domestic examples as well, including the wine from Fort Ross and a wine from Virginia. (Alas, the Stoneboat Pinotage from Canada isn’t currently available in the U.S.)

The final result was mixed. Sure enough, there were aromatic clouds of rubber tire wafting from many of the wines. There were some wines marked by pleasingly smoky, earthy notes as well—altogether, seven didn’t announce themselves as “Pinotage” but simply as good wines made well. The wines I admired ranged from a polished Pinot Noir-style Pinotage from Aaldering to a big, rich, concentrated Pinotage from Beyerskloof, rather unfortunately called “Diesel Pinotage” after the late Beyerskloof family dog. The Warwick Three Ladies was a juicy, pleasurable Pinotage blend; the 2008 Steytler Kaapzicht Pinotage was well-balanced and modern; the Fort Ross was full of dark fruit notes and earth; and the Durbanville Hills Winery Pinotage was a smoky, earthy Rhône-style red. There was even an attractive Pinotage from the House of Mandela.

I was particularly relieved to have enjoyed the Pinotage from Mandela. How could I live with myself if I disliked a wine bearing the name of one of the world’s greatest leaders? In fact, I wondered if Nelson Mandela himself was a Pinotage fan. If anyone could make wine drinkers around the world (and skeptics like me) love the grape, it was him. Did Mr. Mandela drink Pinotage? I asked the winery’s press representative. She replied that while Mr. Mandela no longer drinks for health-related reasons, when he did drink wine he preferred the sweet wines from South Africa (such as Vin de Constance).


Does Much-Unloved Pinotage Deserve Another Look?

Nelson Mandela ‘proven’ to be a member of the Communist Party

50 Years after he was first accused of being a Communist, Nelson Mandela was a Communist party member after all, a new book claims.

For decades, it was one of the enduring disputes of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. Was Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress, really a secret Communist, as the white-only government of the time alleged? Or, as he claimed during the infamous 1963 trial that saw him jailed for life, was it simply a smear to discredit him in a world riven by Cold War tensions?

Now, nearly half a century after the court case that made him the world’s best-known prisoner of conscience, a new book claims that whatever the wider injustice perpetrated, the apartheid-era prosecutors were indeed right on one question: Mr Mandela was a Communist party member after all.

The former South African president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, has always denied being a member of the South African branch of the movement, which mounted an armed campaign of guerrilla resistance along with the ANC.

But research by a British historian, Professor Stephen Ellis, has unearthed fresh evidence that during his early years as an activist, Mr Mandela did hold senior rank in the South African Communist Party, or SACP. He says Mr Mandela joined the SACP to enlist the help of the Communist superpowers for the ANC’s campaign of armed resistance to white rule.

His book also provides fresh detail on how the ANC’s military wing had bomb-making lessons from the IRA, and intelligence training from the East German Stasi, which it used to carry out brutal interrogations of suspected “spies” at secret prison camps.

As evidence of Mr Mandela’s Communist party membership, Prof Ellis cites minutes from a secret 1982 SACP meeting, discovered in a collection of private papers at the University of Cape Town, in which a veteran former party member, the late John Pule Motshabi, talks about how Mr Mandela was a party member some two decades before.

In the minutes, Mr Motshabi, is quoted as saying: “There was an accusation that we opposed allowing Nelson [Mandela] and Walter (Sisulu, a fellow activist) into the Family (a code word for the party) … we were not informed because this was arising after the 1950 campaigns (a series of street protests). The recruitment of the two came after.”

While other SACP members have previously confirmed Mr Mandela’s party membership, many of their testimonies were given under duress in police interviews, where they might have sought to implicate him. However, the minutes from the 1982 SACP meeting, said Prof Ellis, offered more reliable proof. “This is written in a closed party meeting so nobody is trying to impress or mislead the public,” he said.

Although Mr Mandela appears to have joined the SACP more for their political connections than their ideas, his membership could have damaged his standing in the West had it been disclosed while he was still fighting to dismantle apartheid.

Africa was a Cold War proxy battleground until the end of the 1980s, and international support for his cause, which included the Free Nelson Mandela campaign in Britain, drew partly on his image as a compromise figure loyal neither to East nor West.

“Nelson Mandela’s reputation is based both on his ability to overcome personal animosities and to be magnanimous to all South Africans, white and black, and that is what impressed the world,” said Prof Ellis, a former Amnesty International researcher who is based at the Free University of Amsterdam. “But what this shows is that like any politician, he was prepared to make opportunistic alliances.

“I think most people who supported the anti-apartheid movement just didn’t want to know that much about his background. Apartheid was seen as a moral issue and that was that. But if real proof had been produced at the time, some might have thought differently.”

Mr Mandela made his denial of Communist Party membership in the opening statement of his Rivonia trial, when he and nine other ANC leaders were tried for 221 alleged acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system. The defendants were also accused of furthering the aims of Communism, a movement that was then illegal in South Africa.

Addressing the court, Mr Mandela declared that he had “never been a member of the Communist Party,” and that he disagreed with the movement’s contempt for Western-style parliamentary democracy. He added: “The suggestion made by the State that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said.”

Mr Mandela joined the ANC in 1944, when its leadership still opposed armed struggle against the apartheid state. However, by the early 1950s he become personally convinced that a guerrilla war was inevitable, a view confirmed by the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960, when police in a Transvaal township opened fire on black demonstrators, killing 69 people.

But while other ANC leaders also came round to his way of thinking after Sharpeville, the group still had no access to weaponry or financial support. Instead, says Prof Ellis, Mr Mandela looked for help from the Communists, with whom he already had close contacts due to their shared opposition to apartheid.

“He knew and trusted many Communist activists anyway, so it appears he was co-opted straight to the central committee with no probation required,” said Prof Ellis. “But it’s fair to say he wasn’t a real convert, it was just an opportunist thing.”

In the months after Sharpeville, Communist party members secretly visited Beijing and Moscow, where they got assurances of support for their own guerrilla campaign. In conjunction with a number of leading ANC members, they set up a new, nominally independent military organisation, known as Umkhonto we Sizwe or Spear of the Nation. With Mr Mandela as its commander, Umkhonto we Sizwe launched its first attacks on 16 December 1961.

Its campaign of “sabotage” and bombings over the subsequent three decades claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, and led to the organisation being classed as a terrorist group by the US.

In his book, Professor Ellis, who also authored a publication on the Liberian civil war, elaborates on other murky aspects of the ANC’s past. One is that bomb-making experts from the IRA trained the ANC at a secret base in Angola in the late 1970s, a link disclosed last year in the posthumous memoirs of Kader Asmal, a South African politician of Indian extraction who was exiled in Ireland.

He was a member of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, which, Prof Mr Ellis says, in turn had close links to the British and South African Communist parties.

The IRA tutoring, which was allegedly brokered partly through Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, led to the ANC fighters improving their bombing skills considerably, thanks to the expertise of what Mr Ellis describes as “the world’s most sophisticated urban guerrilla force”.

Angola was also the base for “Quatro”, a notorious ANC detention centre, where dozens of the movement’s own supporters were tortured and sometimes killed as suspected spies by agents from their internal security service, some of whom were “barely teenagers”. East German trainers taught the internal security agents that anyone who challenged official ANC dogma should be viewed as a potential spy or traitor.

On Friday night, a spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation said: “We do not believe that there is proof that Madiba (Mandela’s clan name) was a Party member … The evidence that has been identified is comparatively weak in relation to the evidence against, not least Madiba’s consistent denial of the fact over nearly 50 years. It is conceivable that Madiba might indulge in legalistic casuistry, but not that he would make an entirely false statement.

“Recruitment and induction into the Party was a process that happened in stages over a period of time. It is possible that Madiba started but never completed the process. What is clear is that at a certain moment in the struggle he was sufficiently trusted as an ANC leader to participate in Party CC meetings. And it is probable that people in attendance at such meetings may have thought of him as a member.”

Mr Mandela, now 94, retired from public life in 2004 and is now in poor health. He did, though, allude to a symbiotic relationship with the Communists in his bestselling biography, The Long Walk to Freedom. “There will always be those who say that the Communists were using us,” he wrote. “But who is to say that we were not using them?”

By Colin Freeman, and Jane Flanagan – 8 December 2012

SourceNelson Mandela ‘proven’ to be a member of the Communist Party after decades of denial

The Self Destruction of Africa’s ANC

South Africa’s legendary African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, is destroying itself. Corruption, cronyism, internal divisions and, more recently, the mine massacre in Marikana are draining support from the party’s base — and destroying the country’s economy.

He was still a child 18 years ago, when the white racists lost power and black South Africans liberated themselves from apartheid. Now Mhlangabezi Ndlelen is sitting in front of his corrugated metal shack in Wonderkop, a township about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Johannesburg. The tiny hut — all six square meters (65 square feet) of it — houses Ndlelen, his wife and their children. Ndlelen has a bed and a table, but no running water.

He pulls a pay slip from his jacket. The Lonmin mining company pays him the equivalent of €600 ($750) a month to operate winches 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) underground. “It simply isn’t enough,” he says. “I have to feed my wife and three children with the money.” Ndlelen was among the 3,000 workers who went on strike at the Marikana platinum mine more than two weeks ago.
The workers were demanding that Lonmin double their wages. They danced, sang songs and even waved spears and machetes. On Thursday, August 16, police officers finally lost their patience and fired into the crowd with automatic weapons. When it was over, 34 of Ndlelen’s fellow miners lay dead.

Black police officers had mowed down black workers, just as the apartheid police had once fired on black demonstrators. The bloodbath is a disaster for the African National Congress (ANC), which has governed the country since 1994. But the party of national hero Nelson Mandela has already been losing authority and credibility for years. Nowadays, it is primarily viewed as corrupt, incompetent and arrogant.

Like Ndlelen, a large share of the black majority still lives in corrugated metal huts. South Africa’s schools are just as miserable as the health care system, and youth unemployment exceeds 50 percent. The gap between rich and poor is now even wider than in the days of white rule.

Moreover, corruption is practically built into the structures of the ANC. “It’s eating up the nation,” says a union member. The South African economy is weakening as chaos, high crime rates and the arbitrary behavior of officials scare off investors. South Africa runs the risk of sliding into the status of a developing nation despite the fact that four of the world’s rising economic powers — Brazil, Russia, India and China — had just accepted the country into their club in 2011.

A Disintegrating Party

For many years, it has only been the legendary victory over the whites, the halo that surrounds Mandela’s successors, that has repeatedly saved the ANC in elections.

It was to Mandela’s credit that the revolution remained peaceful. He had spent more than 27 years in prison, and yet the man, now 94, urged his countrymen to exercise restraint. In doing so, he averted a bloody reprisal campaign by blacks against their white oppressors.

But now his party’s rivals are becoming stronger. The Democratic Alliance, led by white civil rights activist Helen Zille, sharply criticizes the ANC for corruption and waste. And the Congress of the People, an ANC spin-off, is snatching away votes from the governing party among members of the black middle class.

South Africa’s population of roughly 50 million will vote again in 2014. President Jacob Zuma, also the ANC leader, plans to run for re-election. But the Marikana massacre could dampen his prospects.

“Why didn’t he talk to us after the shootings?” asks Ndlelen. “And why did he talk instead to the management and a few of the wounded in the hospital?”

Like Ndlelen, many ordinary workers haven’t felt represented by the ANC in a long time. Its top officials live a life of obscene luxury. Embroiled in their intrigues and power struggles, they seem to have forgotten the well-being of ordinary ANC supporters long ago.

“The fight for power in South Africa doesn’t take place at elections. It is being waged within the ANC,” says Gareth Newman of the independent Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. This is because the ANC still functions like a combat organization.

As if it still had to protect itself from spies, the party’s meetings are closed to the public. Lists of candidates are drawn up behind closed doors, for example, and sometimes the meetings turn violent. At the last ANC convention, security officers had to use pepper spray to separate delegates who had come to blows.

The violent clashes come as no surprise because privileges and a lot of money are often at stake. Since it governs alone, the ANC is free to distribute government offices and other perks as it sees fit.

Many ANC officials are derided as “tenderpreneurs,” a word coined from the words “tender” and “entrepreneur.” A “tenderpreneur” is awarded government contracts and pays for them with his or her political loyalty. An investigative committee of the state court of audit concluded that, in 2009, three-quarters of all government contracts in Eastern Cape province were awarded to companies owned by government officials or their relatives.

Internal Challenges

Zuma faces a tough fight to be chosen as the ANC’s top candidate for the coming election. His strongest opponents are current Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale, a billionaire businessman. Zuma has been weakened since he had a falling out with Julius Malema, the former head of the ANC Youth League.

Malema, 31, cultivates a rapper-like image. He likes to wear T-shirts and large gold chains, and drive flashy cars. He has wealthy benefactors who prefer to keep a low profile, gives ostentatious parties and loves to drink Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

But the populist has captured the spirit of young blacks waiting to finally benefit from regime change in South Africa. Malema tries to channel their frustrations and hate against others, calling for the expropriation of white farmers and castigating “American imperialists” who are allegedly subjugating the country. In a rare move, the ANC ejected Malema from the party because of his diatribes.

Malema immediately went to Marikana after the mine massacre. “You no longer have a president,” he told the survivors. Malema sees himself as the voice of the lower class, the people who didn’t benefit from the end of apartheid. No one knows exactly what he plans to do next. South Africans speculate that he might establish his own party. It’s also possible that he intends to return to the ANC now that he has strengthened his position.

Moeletsi Mbeki, 66, the brother of former President Thabo Mbeki, a refined and charismatic man who prefers to speak rather than listen to others, is seen as the voice of the critical upper class within the ANC. He wears tailored suits and invests in logistics and media companies. People like Mbeki are known as “black diamonds” because they know how to make money.

“There is something very wrong with South Africa,” Mbeki says, “in particular with how the political elite are managing the country.” He wrote a book about the corrupt ruling class on his continent, as if he himself were not part of the caste of the powerful. He refers to many other black politicians as “architects of poverty” whose “main objective is to maximize their own consumption and the consumption of those who keep them in power.”

Mbeki fears that: “In the long run, the ANC will lose the power.” He predicts that new groups will develop alongside the old party, and that the people will begin to wake up.
One of these people is Mhlangabezi Ndlelen, the mine worker in Wonderkop. He has long complained about the miners’ union, which has ties to the ANC. “They do nothing for us, they’re in bed with management, they get the best jobs, and they go away — and we’re left behind,” he says. It wasn’t the miners’ union but, rather, an independent and radical union that organized the disastrous strike in Marikana.

“We were sitting around a group of rocks when they showed up and tried to surround us with barbed wire and tanks,” Ndlelen says. He ran faster than he’d ever run in his life. “There were helicopters circling above. And then we heard the gunshots.” He says that he will never vote for Zuma again.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

SourceThe Self Destruction of Africa’s ANC

Mandela & the Church Street Bombing

This is a story about Nelson Mandela, the world-famous “freedom fighter” and “democrat.” You’ll have to pardon those slightly sardonic quotes, because I’m afraid this is that kind of story: a bit iconoclastic, and likely to provoke howls of outrage from Western liberals who see Mandela as a benign black moderate who led an army of hymn-singing Uncle Toms to the promised land.

The technical term for those liberals is “useful idiot,” but even I must concede that their intervention was actually quite intelligent, back in the 1950s, when this all started. In those days, good men were weak, and their apartheid adversaries invincible on all but one score: propaganda. The war of perceptions thus became the most critical of all battlefields, with the African National Congress constantly seeking to exaggerate apartheid’s evils while portraying itself as “good” in a way that was universally appealing.

In the early sixties, Special Branch detectives came upon a piece of evidence that made this a bit tricky in Mandela’s case – a handwritten essay titled, “How To Be A Good Communist,” in which the leader of the ANC’s newly-formed military wing opined that South Africa would become “a land of milk and honey” under Communist rule. We were told that Mandela was innocently toying with Marxist ideas, trying to understand their appeal, but this made little sense. Almost all his co-conspirators were Communists, wedded to a Sovietist doctrine that envisaged a two-phase ending to the SA struggle – a “national democratic revolution,” followed by second revolution in which the Marxist-Leninist vanguard took power.

If Mandela wasn’t in on this plot, it would have been exceptionally stupid of him to participate in it, and Mandela was not stupid. On the other hand, he had to be very careful what he said on this score. The ANC needed the support of Western liberals, and by l964, those folks had come to realize that Communist revolutions inevitably led to the outcome satirized in George Orwell’s Animal Farm – a dictatorship of pigs who hogged the best things for themselves, impoverished the proletariat and murdered or imprisoned dissenters by the million.

In such a climate, one didn’t want to focus attention on that hand-written “milk and honey” essay. On the contrary: one wanted the world to see Mandela as a democrat, willing to die for values that Westerners held sacred. Toward this end, Mandela and his lawyers (with a bit of help from British journalist Anthony Sampson) crafted a masterful speech for Mandela to deliver from the dock during the Rivonia trial.

“The ideological creed of the ANC is, and always has been, the creed of African nationalism,” he said. “It is true that there has been close cooperation between the ANC and the Communist Party. But cooperation in this case is merely proof of a common goal – the removal of white supremacy.”

Mandela went to describe himself as a democrat in the classic Western sense, and a fervent admirer of the British and American systems of governance. “Africans just want a share in the whole of South Africa,” he said. “Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent…It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

These words rang out around the world, and still echo today. Type Mandela’s name into Google, and you come upon millions of essays, articles and book-length hagiographies depicting Madiba in exactly the way he presented himself in that speech: a black liberal, driven to take up arms by a white supremacist state that seemed utterly impermeable to calls for dialogue.

The Rivonia statement has become the foundational text of a semi-religious movement that seeks to canonize Mandela as the 20th century’s greatest proponent of freedom and democracy. Or perhaps I should say, “bourgeois democracy,” in order to distinguish between democracy of the sort practiced in Britain and America and the diseased parody encountered in Marxist-Leninist police states. Nelson Mandela never stood for that sort of democracy.

Or did he?

It takes a brave man to address that question, and lo, one such has emerged. Professor Stephen Ellis heads the African Studies Centre at the University of Leiden, and holds the Desmond Tutu chair of social sciences at the Vrije University of Amsterdam. He is also one of the great authorities on the ANC, author of Comrades Against Apartheid and a former editor of Africa Confidential, a magazine valued for its authoritative gossip about what was really going inside the anti-apartheid movement in the l980s.

Now Ellis has published a study that sheds startling new light on Mandela’s early political career and the circumstances under which he launched his armed struggle against apartheid. The study contains at least one revelation that can only be described as a bombshell — Mandela was, at least for a time, secretly a member of South Africa’s Communist Party.

The strange thing about Ellis’s bombshell is that South Africans appear to be deaf to its detonation. I know this because I started hyping it to fellow journalists the instant it appeared in print. To a man (or woman) they all shrugged and said, “So what? It’s not really a story.” This tells us something interesting about South Africans: we are at once riven with ideological obsessions and hopelessly ideologically naive.

The blame for this rests largely on our charming and literate Communists, who go to great pains in their memoirs to disguise the true nature of their beliefs. They tell us that they stood for fairness, justice, and racial equality, and against all forms of exploitation and oppression. They’d also like us to believe that their party was outlawed in l950 because they treated blacks as friends and wanted them to enjoy the franchise. Well, yes. I suppose this was a factor, but the overriding consideration that led to the SACP’s banning was something else entirely.

At the Yalta Conference of l945, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin assured the Western powers that all the countries his forces occupied at the end of World War 2 would be allowed to determine their own destinies via free elections. With his international image in mind, Stalin instructed commissars in the occupied territories to observe the outward forms of “bourgeois democracy.” Towards this end, liberals and social democrats were lured into broad fronts in which all key decisions were secretly made by tiny Communist minorities, with the backing of the Soviet’s secret police apparatus.

These Communist conspirators then staged spurious elections that brought Soviet puppet regimes to power throughout Eastern Europe, usually with majorities implausibly close to 100 percent. Historians concede that Tito of Yugoslavia was genuinely popular, but elsewhere, the rule of Soviet proxies was imposed by deceit and enforced by tyranny. Tens of thousands of class enemies were executed, millions imprisoned, all vestiges of freedom eradicated.

The problem with Communist parties, including the South African one, is that they blindly supported this Soviet outrage, and seemed intent on pulling similar moves everywhere. If Joe Slovo and Rusty Bernstein were still alive, they’d stoutly deny such charges, but they’d be lying. We know this because Rusty’s wife Hilda lived long enough to acquire a shrewd understanding of herself and the Communist movement of which she was a life-long part. “Joe and Rusty were hardline Stalinists,” she said in a 2004 interview. “Anything the Soviets did was right. They were very, very pro-Soviet.”

It is important to note that Mrs. Bernstein was by no means suggesting that her husband or Joe were evil men. On the contrary: they were religious zealots who genuinely believed that the Soviets had discovered the cure for all human misery.

“I’ve often thought about this,” she said. “They wanted something bigger than themselves, something to believe in. People are always seeking for the meaning of life and if you’re not religious, what is it? To us, working together in a movement that had rules and attitudes and comradeship gave important meaning to our lives.”

In short, being a Communist was much like being a Christian. One studied the sacred texts of Marx and Engels, engaged in polemics as a form of prayer and ruthlessly suppressed all doubts, including one’s own. Mrs. Bernstein says she was adept at this until l956, when Kruschev revealed the appalling extent of his predecessor Stalin’s atrocities (he murdered around 16 million people, either by having them shot for thought crimes or starving them to death with mad policies). Her husband dismissed these reports as “lies and capitalist propaganda,” but Hilda’s bones told her it was all true.

“We had a fight,” she said, “a battle that went on into the small hours of the morning. I wanted to leave, but we had three dependent children, and there wasn’t any possible way in which we could have separated economically and so on. So we stayed together, and I accommodated myself by refusing to talk about it any more.”
And so it came to pass that Hilda Bernstein, the secret doubter, had a ringside seat for the epochal events of the late fifties and early sixties, a time when her husband Rusty was one of South Africa’s most senior Communists, and one of Mandela’s closest allies moreover.

It was in this capacity that she learned of Madiba’s secret membership in the Communist sect. “Mandela denies that he was ever a member of the party,” she said, “but I can tell you that he was a member of the party for a period.”
When this interview appeared on the website of the O’Malley archive, it caused a brief frisson among old Cold Warriors, especially when former SACP central committee member Brian Bunting verified Hilda’s account. The interview also caught the eye of the aforementioned Professor Ellis, a lifelong student of the byzantine inner workings of SACP. He notes that the SACP of the early sixties was of necessity a pathologically secretive organization, a network of cells with little or no knowledge of each other and no official membership records.

“SACP members were formally required to keep their membership secret,” says Ellis. “In principle, only the members of each four or five-person cell knew each other. One person reported to the next higher level, and so on. But there was also a special category of ultra-secret members who were not required to join a cell and whom even very senior party members might not know about.” With this in mind, Ellis proceeded very cautiously before publishing anything about Mandela’s apparent role in the Communist conspiracy.

One item in his files was an old police report claiming that two arrested Communists had identified Mandela as an SACP member. A similar admission appeared in the minutes of a 1982 SACP meeting. The final breakthrough came when Russian researcher Irina Filitova interviewed veteran conspirator Joe Matthews, who confirmed that Mandela served on the party’s innermost central committee alongside him. “In the light of this evidence,” Ellis concludes, “it seems most likely that Nelson Mandela joined the party in the late l950s or in 1960, and that he was co-opted onto the Central Committee in the latter year, the same year as Joe Matthews.”

Even as I write this I sense that I am losing the average South African. I can almost see you shrugging and saying, “So? This still isn’t a story.” But it is a story, and here’s why: if Ellis’s evidence is correct, the fatal decision to launch a war against apartheid had nothing to do with the ANC. It was a decision taken unilaterally by the Communist Party, and then imposed on ANC president Albert Luthuli by a prominent African nationalist who was secretly a member of the Communist underground. His name: Nelson Mandela.

It seems fair to say that black South Africans have entertained thoughts of armed revolt since the day Jan van Riebeeck landed in Table Bay. It is therefore clear, as Ellis stresses in his landmark paper, that no political party held a patent on the term armed struggle. The Pan-Africanist Congress was dead keen on it, and elements in the ANC thought it was inevitable from the early fifties onwards.

The difference between those organizations and the Communist Party is that peaceful change via the ballot box was never really on the Communist agenda, because that sort of change invariably left the capitalist edifice standing. “Classes do not commit suicide,” said Joe Slovo, a dutiful acolyte of Vladimir Lenin. Enemies of the working class had to be undermined, subverted, and conclusively defeated before the socialist millennium could begin.

There was a time when this socialist millennium did not seem particularly attractive to South Africa’s so-called “bourgeois nationalists,” Marxist code for Africans who would have been perfectly happy to defeat the Boers in a bourgeois democratic election and then help themselves to a fairer share of the nation’s riches. Communists did not approve of “bourgeois nationalists,” and vice versa, which is one reason why Nelson Mandela spent the l940s breaking up Communist rallies with his fists.

In the early fifties, however, the SACP realized that cooperating with the nationalists was likely to hasten the fall of the Boers, thus creating conditions conducive to a more rapid advance towards true socialism. At more or less the same time, nationalists like Mandela realized that the Communists could bring several desirables to the party. Around half of them were white. They had cars, houses, telephones, organizational skills and access to funding. Soon, Communists were supporting the ANC’s legal campaigns and recruiting ANC members into their own underground party.
As Ellis observes, this strategy did not enjoy the approval of the high priests of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary science, who were located in Moscow. It was a home-grown initiative, devised as a means of amplifying the influence of a tiny body of true believers. (At the time, the SACP had barely 500 members.) The SACP was thus delighted to discover, at a 1960 conference in Moscow, that these high priests were now thinking along similar lines. The imperial powers were pulling out of Africa, and alliances with previously detestable nationalists provided a way for tiny bands of Communist intellectuals to stay in the game, and perhaps wind up in control of a few key ex-colonies.

Out of this emerged the SACP’s new revolutionary doctrine, which has always reminded me of the hoary old fable in which a scorpion convinces a frog to carry it across a river. The frog (or bourgeois nationalist) does all the work, staging a “democratic national revolution” that topples the imperial or colonial power. The scorpion (representing the Communist cause) goes along for the ride, only to sting the frog to death just as it reaches the far bank. The punchline of the original remains entirely apposite: scorpions do such things because that is their nature.

Something else happened in l960, something very important. The catalyst was the PAC, a movement of hardline African nationalists who’d broken away from the ANC the previous year on the grounds that it was “dominated by white Communists” whose ultimate loyalties were open to question (see above). In April, l960, the PAC staged a nationwide protest against the hated pass laws. In Sharpeville, police opened fire on a crowd of PAC supporters, killing an estimated 69. The resulting outburst of rage shook the apartheid government to its core, and led to the outright banning of both the PAC and ANC.

From afar, it seemed that the mood in South Africa had at last turned revolutionary, which is presumably why Joe Matthews and Michael Harmel of the SACP were given a stellar reception when they turned up in Beijing a few months later to canvass support for armed struggle.

According to Ellis, the Chinese had previously been sceptical of such plans, but now, the SACP delegates were considered so important that Chairman Mao himself took time to meet them. They were accorded a similar honour in Moscow, where they apparently stayed in Stalin’s former dacha while conducting top-secret talks with senior Soviet officials.

The precise outcome of these discussions remains uncertain, but Ellis presumes that Matthews and Harmel came away with pledges of support, because the SACP now moved swiftly forward, adopting a policy of armed struggle at a conference in Johannesburg “towards the end of 1960.”

It now became necessary for the SACP to convince the ANC to join its initiative. White Communists couldn’t act in this regard, because they weren’t allowed to join the racially exclusive ANC or take part in its deliberations. The task thus fell to black ANC leaders who wore two hats – which is to say, were members of both the ANC and the SACP. In some cases, this joint ANC-SACP affiliation was open and well-known, at least to those in the underground. In others, it was secret. The most important of these secret members was the charismatic Nelson Mandela.

On the day the SACP took its fateful decision, Mandela was a defendant in the Treason Trial, a marathon affair that had been dragging on since l956. The rest of South Africa was extremely tense, but inside Judge Rumpff’s courtroom, the atmosphere was oddly congenial, considering that Mandela and his co-accused were on trial for high treason, and that the three judges were officials of a white supremacist regime that Mandela frequently characterized as “Nazi.”
In theory, the gap between the white judges and the mostly black accused was unbridgeable, but these men had been staring at one another across the courtroom for years, sparring, joking, taking each other’s measure and acquiring a measure of mutual respect.

All the accused were out on bail, but when they were re-detained during the post-Sharpeville State of Emergency, Judge Bekker’s wife came to their aid, running errands on their behalf and carrying messages to their families. Judge Kennedy was so impressed by the pro-ANC testimony of Professor ZK Matthews that he came down from the bench and shook Matthews’ hand, saying, “I hope we meet again under better circumstances.” Judge Rumpff was a grumpy old Afrikaner and a reputed Broederbonder, but even he seemed to be softening.

On March 23, l961, Rumpff took the unprecedented step of interrupting the defence’s closing argument, saying, in effect, we don’t really need to hear this. Some of the accused took this to mean that the judges had decided to disregard the evidence and hang them – the predictable totalitarian outcome. They were wrong. A week later, Rumpff asked the accused to rise, and pronounced every one of them innocent.

This was a dumbfounding outcome, given the enormous resources the apartheid state had devoted to the treason case. Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was in the habit of telling the world that most blacks supported the principle of separate development, and that only a handful of misguided troublemakers opposed it. Rumpff’s judgement annihilated that argument. In rejecting the state’s case, he had in effect ruled that the ANC’s cause was just, its grievances legitimate, and its strategy of non-violent defiance acceptable in the eyes of reasonable men.

This outcome hugely strengthened the hand of ANC president Albert Luthuli, a devout Christian who continued to believe that peaceful change was possible in South Africa. After the Sharpeville shootings, his stance was bitterly criticized by ANC radicals, who thought the time for talking was over. Rumpff’s verdict suggested otherwise. It showed that South Africa was still a land of law, with judges willing to hand down decisions that infuriated the ruling party.

South Africa also had a relatively free press, a vigorous democracy (albeit for whites only) and, as Mandela acknowledges in Long Walk To Freedom, a police force that still conformed to British norms, with due process respected and torture at this stage unheard-of. Some observers saw Rumpff’s verdict as a watershed of sorts, a development that could easily have led to further liberalization.

Nelson Mandela was totally disinterested. In Long Walk To Freedom, he writes that he went underground within hours of Rumpff’s verdict. Officially, his mission was to organize popular support for a national convention, but Ellis thinks this unlikely. “A close analysis of the campaign for a national convention concludes that this initiative was primarily intended to provide proponents of armed struggle with a paper trail that would justify their forthcoming change of policy,” he writes.

In other words, the SACP was angling to regain the moral high ground. It knew that the verdict had come as a surprise to international observers, who were left wondering if Verwoerd’s regime was indeed as evil as it was held to be. But the SACP also knew that Verwoerd could be relied on to reject any call for a national convention, thus restoring his reputation as an intransigent racist. As Ellis notes, this would allow the party to present the coming declaration of war “in the best possible light for public and international consumption.”

The second leg of Mandela’s underground mission was of course to convince ANC president Albert Luthuli to follow the lead the Communists had taken. Luthuli was not a pacifist per se, but he believed that non-violent options remained viable. Like many others in the ANC and even the SACP, he also believed it would be folly of the highest order to take up arms at a point when the ANC was still struggling to organize effective protests.

Luthuli and Mandela had it out in June l961, at a tumultuous meeting of the ANC’s national executive in Tongaat, Natal. The debate raged through the night, but when the sun rose, Mandela was triumphant; the ANC had authorized him to launch Umkhonto we Sizwe, and to start making preparations for war against the apartheid state.

This is Mandela’s version – or more accurately, one of his versions. In Long Walk, he acknowledges that the outcome of his clash with Luthuli was actually very messy. “The policy of the ANC would still be that of non-violence,” he writes, and the new military organization was required to be “entirely separate from the ANC.” Luthuli himself remained committed to non-violence until his death six years later.

Reading between the lines, Mandela seems to be suggesting that Luthuli was willing to turn a blind eye to his military adventure, provided it did not damage the mother organization. Durban Communist Rowley Arenstein rejected this out hand. “Luthuli was simply brushed aside,” he said. “Adoption of armed struggle by the ANC was the act of a Johannesburg SACP clique, a hijacking.”

Arenstein was subsequently purged from the party. Mandela returned to Johannesburg to plan his sabotage campaign, heedless of the counsel of men with clearer heads. “If you throw a stone into the window of a man’s house,” said SACP general secretary Moses Kotane, “you must be prepared for him to come out and chase you. The backlash will be fantastic. The police will go mad.”

The first MK bombs went off on December 16, 1961. The rest is history.

– article by Rian, August 16, 2011

Source – Mandela & the Church Street Bombing

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