Context Matters: Nelson Mandela and ‘White Genocide’ in South Africa
This article is substituting my ordinary ‘The Chief’s Thoughts’ weekly column because I felt it necessary to clear up some of the controversy surrounding what is happening in South Africa. As many of you have no doubt seen, the libertarian movement in America has recently taken a keen interest in my country, with both Stefan Molyneux and Liberty Hangout having interviewed Simon Roche of the Suidlanders (Afrikaans for “South Landers”) on the question of a ‘white genocide’ against the 8% white minority in South Africa. Liberty Hangout also interviewed Brittany Pettibone who similarly spoke on the topic.
As I am a South African, a libertarian, and someone who works in South African public policy, I think I can offer a much-needed contextualization for what has already been heard. I also write this article because of what I consider to be the most-unfortunate emergence of a fear of individuals from the Third World among Americans, and especially among American libertarians.
Therefore, there is certainly an element of my own self-interest at play here, as I am both a South African and an active participant in the international libertarian movement. But my main motivation is ordinary, everyday honesty. And I believe that the ‘South African Question’ is not being approached honestly by those libertarians now engaging with it. South Africa and its circumstances are being used, in my view, as a tool in the arsenal of certain paleolibertarians who seek to further the ‘Western civilization is dying, look here!’ narrative. I will not engage on whether or not Western civilization is dying, which is a necessary, but separate discussion.
There are two questions I want to address: Nelson Mandela as a communist, and the question of a white genocide in South Africa.
Temba Nolutshungu, a director at the Free Market Foundation (FMF), said while addressing the Atlas Network-FMF Africa Liberty Forum this past week that he found it deeply troubling that Mandela was a communist who professed his support for the nationalization of private property.
Nolutshungu explained that, in response to Mandela’s apparent economic confusion, the acclaimed economist Milton Friedman reached out to the FMF and sent them one of his books with a personal note, which the FMF later hand-delivered to President Mandela. This was during a time when the FMF, my employer, was engaged in a nationwide campaign to ensure the new South African constitution would include a provision which explicitly protects private property – an endeavor it succeeded in and which the FMF to this day considers one of our most important achievements.
At the Rivonia Trial in the early 1960s, whereafter Mandela began his 27-year prison sentence, Mandela testified the following:
“The African Nationalism for which the ANC stands is the concept of freedom and fulfilment for the African people in their own land. The most important political document ever adopted by the ANC is the Freedom Charter. It is by no means a blueprint for a socialist state…
The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society…”
“The Communist Party’s main aim, on the other hand, was to remove the capitalists and to replace them with a working-class government. The Communist Party sought to emphasise class distinctions whilst the ANC seeks to harmonise them…”
“It is true that there has often been close co-operation between the ANC and the Communist Party. But co-operation is merely proof of a common goal – in this case the removal of white supremacy – and is not proof of a complete community of interests.”
“It is perhaps difficult for white South Africans, with an ingrained prejudice against communism, to understand why experienced African politicians so readily accept communists as their friends. But to us the reason is obvious. Theoretical differences, amongst those fighting against oppression, is a luxury which cannot be afforded. What is more, for many decades communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and as their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us, live with us, and work with us. They were the only political group which was prepared to work with the Africans for the attainment of political rights and a stake in society. Because of this, there are many Africans who today tend to equate freedom with communism.”
(The Nelson Mandela Foundation provides more extracts from Mandela’s biography, Long Walk to Freedom, on their website, on this topic.)
Today, around half of all South Africa’s senior government officials hold dual membership with the Communist Party (SACP) and the governing African National Congress (ANC), a fact which the FMF’s executive director, Leon Louw, often laments. This state of affairs, as Mandela attested to Louw personally, was repayment for the vast amounts of funding and support the Communists funneled to the anti-Apartheid struggle. According to Louw, however, and rightly so, this alliance should have been dissolved when Apartheid ended.
The relationship between the ANC and the SACP, and Mandela having or not having formally been a leading member in SACP, however, cannot be seen out of the context of, firstly, the anti-Apartheid struggle, and secondly, the Cold War. The West, quite simply, did not provide the forces which opposed nationalist-socialist Afrikaner domination over 80%+ of the black population, with the same kind of support which the Soviet Bloc did.
In 2003, four years after Mandela’s term ended, in a speech reflecting on his term of office (1994-1999), he said:
“It is not a question any longer about whether the world embraces a free market economy. The globalised world in which we live has made it imperative that we open our markets both internally and to the outside world. The free market is not merely an American export; it is the acknowledged route for economies all over the world. Closed markets and command economies are self-evidently inappropriate for our times.
When I was released from prison I announced my belief in nationalization as a cornerstone of our economic policy. As I moved around the world and heard the opinions of leading business people and economists about how to grow an economy, I was persuaded and convinced about the free market.”
There is racial violence in South Africa, and this reprehensible fact should never be under-emphasized nor, worse yet, overlooked. This violence has emanated from both black and white South Africans, with the most recent spate of attacks having taken place earlier this month in our North-West Province, around a town called Coligny.
The story goes that a wealthy white farmer in the area tasked two of his white employees to protect his sunflower fields from thieves from a nearby poor shanty town from stealing his crop. They caught one such youth, a black individual, and loaded him onto the back of their pickup truck to take him to the police station. According to them, the alleged thief jumped off the back of the moving pickup and broke his neck, dying.
The community wanted justice for this tragedy, and believed that the white inhabitants of the town were shielding the alleged perpetrators of the alleged murder, and the police were failing to act. Over the next several days, absolute chaos broke out, with what seemed to be action taken along racial lines. If you’re interested in reading more, have a look at Rian Malan’s controversial summary of the event.
There is, however, an unfortunate narrative of a white genocide presently occurring in South Africa. As a white male Afrikaner free marketeer civil libertarian South African whose whole family bar none lives in South Africa, I seem to be strangely unaware of apparent war crime happening all around me. Now, many will no doubt say I am being ignorant at best, or enabling the genocide at worst (it would not be the first time I am called a ‘cuck’ for not showing ‘solidarity’ with ‘my [muh] race’). But as someone who routinely speaks out against communism and social justice ideology, I am confident in my credentials as a conscious South African who doesn’t allow leftist ideology to cloud matters.
Genocide, as a concept has, unfortunately, been perverted by confused fear-mongers on what is considered to be the ‘right-wing’. Genocide is rightly understood to be a systematic killing of people who share a particular group characteristic; often race or ethnicity. However, these fear-mongers have started to, especially within the European context, talk about things like low birth rates among whites or increasing interracial marriages in the same breath as they do genocide. ‘Genocide’ is now often said to be occurring simply when the white group ceases to be a majority in a given area. Now there may or may not be an argument for why this is a good or a bad thing, but it is not genocide. And in South Africa, there is no white genocide.
As one of my fellow libertarian friends, who happens to be black, Mpiyakhe Dhlamini recently correctly pointed out, the Suidlanders would not exist had there been a real, systematic genocide against white South Africans. Surely, the first victim of a genocide are those who have the infrastructure to resist the genocide, or those who have been warning against the genocide, but the Suidlanders, after all these years, still exists and continues to do their work.
Stefan Molyneux introduced the Suidlanders as the biggest civil defense organization in the world, which is a terrible exaggeration. Virtually nobody in South Africa, including ordinary Afrikaners, knows about the Suidlanders. And I don’t say this to defame them, but it is a simple matter of fact. I also don’t want to dissuade them in their mission, as they are going about it in a perfectly voluntary way which might yield many benefits if in the unlikely event in our future some kind of civil strife erupts. And civil strife is more likely than a race conflict, as the biggest tensions in South Africa right now are between the ruling African National Congress, and virtually everyone else.
The fact of the matter is that black South Africans are being killed in the same violent way whites are, but they are being killed at far greater numbers. Violent crime in South Africa has made us the proud ‘Rape Capital of the World’, as well as a consistent contender for one of the top-5 spots in the highest per capita murder rate in the world. In 2015, for a population of around 55 million, we had 49 murders a day. If the majority of those murder victims were white South Africans, the white population would have ceased to exist years ago.
In the Liberty Hangout podcast with Brittany Pettibone, there were evident misconceptions about the purpose and ideology behind Apartheid, which I found to be unfortunate given the platform. In my view, Apartheid was self-evidently statocentric, however, I might have an unfair advantage in being a South African well schooled in the literature of ‘Separate Development.’
“We were dealing with a tribalistic people!” was one of the oversimplifications I could identify, given that by the time Apartheid was formally instituted, a substantial number of black South Africans have ‘westernized’ – something Apartheid intellectuals readily admitted. That South Africa was “the richest country in the world” under Apartheid is also self-evidently false. When Mandela was briefly discussed, his murderous wife Winnie Mandela was brought up, but in the very same breath as the killing of white people was being considered. What was not mentioned was that Winnie took particular pleasure in torturing and killing black people – not white people – who were seen as ‘sellouts’ to the anti-Apartheid cause.
Unfortunately, I could go on for pages on this particular incorrect and out-of-context account given of South Africa, white genocide, and Mandela’s interaction with communism. As with many other things, that will be the subject of a separate article. In the meantime, feel free to read some of my writing on South Africa, Apartheid, and socialism in South Africa’s context.
Had it not been for Nelson Mandela, South Africa would almost certainly have experienced a civil war. A civil war which the Apartheid government would, no doubt, have won, but which would have led to senseless killing of civilians. In the revolutionary fervor, as in the case of Rhodesia, many white civilians would have been killed in an attempt to force the Apartheid government to surrender. Robert Mugabe and his band of murderous thugs succeeded in doing this in Rhodesia, with the tiny white minority having been almost exclusively cornered in the two major cities of Salisbury and Bulawayo when the war was nearing its end. White Rhodesians had to travel with full military escort, and, when alone on their farms, had constructed makeshift bunkers which the families used as firing positions when the inevitable revolutionary patrol came marching by. This would have been repeated in South Africa had calmer minds, not the least of whom was Nelson Mandela and the last Apartheid President, F.W. de Klerk, not prevailed.
I consider myself a friend of Afrikaner institutions in South Africa. Not because they are ‘Afrikaner’ institutions, but because they are currently setting the standard for voluntary, community-based solutions to the problems facing South African society. These same institutions engage with other organizations, such as my employer, the Free Market Foundation, which is strictly non-racial, and share best practices; and they have done outreach to communities not considered to be part of the Afrikaner community. These Afrikaner institutions, however, for the most, part, do not buy into the same white genocide hysteria doing the rounds online. They are, rather, realistically, concerned about how the Afrikaner is being treated as a minority on political and economic grounds.
This article should not be seen as me saying white genocide in South Africa is impossible. If one looks at history’s most recent genocides, many of the same indicators are present in South Africa. The most obvious indicator is that essentially every major political figure from every major party in this country has in some way scapegoated white South Africans for the problems we face today. The Economic Freedom Fighters (South Africa’s other communist party), which is the third largest party, has a colorful history of calling for violence against whites, often using silly linguistic trickery like “We are not calling for the slaughter of whites… yet” to try and hide their prejudices. But genocide is not as of yet happening, and should such a thing begin, it will not be a broad-based action, given that millions of black, Indian, and colored (mixed race) South Africans are not insane national socialists.
South Africa should not be used as a convenient tool in the arsenal of those who think Western civilization is dying. In South Africa, at least, Western civilization continues to exist as it always has. The Apartheid regime thought itself to be Western, but it was Western in the same way Hitler and Mussolini were Western, not in the same way Coolidge or Thatcher were Western. Our current government enjoys speaking out against the West, and the social justice advocates on our campuses think they are anti-Western, but ordinary, level-headed South Africans continue to embrace the idea of civilization, an orderly society, and freedom. And South Africans, black and white, are engaged in building a small, but visibly-growing libertarian movement which has no interest in seeing either the national socialism of Apartheid return, not the African socialism of the left continue to assert itself.