Foreign Correspondent: South Africa

Dark Continent outlook


Pretoria. Events in Southern Africa have been brought to the attention of the whole world. This was caused by the recent riots here, as well as by the involvement of the United States through Henry Kissinger. Everybody seems to be worried about the local situation—and not without reason. As one of the few remaining bastions against communism, the demise of South Africa will indeed be a sad day for the West. As the producer of 71 percent of the world's gold, 85 percent of its diamonds and 50 percent of its uranium, South Africa is a prime target for Soviet intervention. It is estimated that 60 percent of the United States' oil imports will be routed round the southern tip of South Africa in the very near future. And with the U.S.S.R. already entrenched in some of our neighboring countries, this fact must have at least a few Americans worried. As James Dines recently put it in one of his newsletters: "The attacks on Angola, Rhodesia and South West Africa, are skirmishes preliminary to the final assault on the mineral base and industrial power house of that rich and strategic land.…"


These two neighboring states are now "independent." Whether the inhabitants consider such independence an advantage is an open question. In Mozambique, president Machel with his "scientific socialism" has all but ruined the country economically. Many of his former "freedom fighters" have been alienated and are on the point of rebelling against his rule. They are supported by many thousands of small farmers who have been forced into collectivized farming units.

In Angola, the civil war between the Cuban-Soviet backed MPLA and the UNITA movements is being waged unabatedly. The MPLA forces have recently started to execute all UNITA followers en masse, and thousands of the survivors are fleeing into South West Africa, where they are cared for by the Southern African forces. The world press has been strangely silent about this fact.


The people, black and white, of this region are in a very unenviable position. The so-called black "leaders," Mugabe, Muzorewa, Nkomo and Sithole, are all confirmed socialists with very little understanding of elementary economic issues. They make no secret of the fact that they get their financial aid from the Soviets, and they all want majority rule. Any political system in Rhodesia, or for that matter anywhere else, which is based on the principle of one man, one vote without a substantially libertarian constitution, is doomed to failure. It will turn out like most other African "democracies"—one man, one vote, once! Mr. Ian Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia, is by no means a libertarian. But he understands that any such system will mean suicide for both blacks and whites.


Representatives of the ethnic groups in South West Africa are at the moment working on a system of government which will accommodate the political aspirations of all of them. At this stage the delegates are trying to construct a constitution that will determine the distribution of power, while protecting minority rights. As in the case of Mr. Smith's proposed constitution for Rhodesia, this term does not imply the protection of individual rights, but it is simply a guarantee written into the constitution, that one ethnic group will not wield more power than any other group in parliament. Parliament may still pass oppressive legislation should the representatives be in favor of such. If the present negotiations succeed, the only advantage will be that change is occurring without violence.

The South West African People's Organization (SWAPO), an outspoken pro-socialist group, representing a relative small minority of the inhabitants of South West Africa, is in the meantime waging a terrorist war in the northern part of the territory. They are also trying to persuade western pressure groups to negotiate the handover of the region to their rule. Their spokesmen do not make any secret of their socialist attitudes and they consider the constitutional talks as a farce undertaken by South African puppets. If SWAPO should come to power, civil war will be a certainty.


The South African situation should be seen against the existing political system. As all libertarians should know, unlimited democracies tend towards totalitarian systems, with the rulers competing with each other to control the political machinery. As I have stressed in a previous report [December 1973], in South Africa the chickens of democracy have come home to roost. Some years ago, the whites realized that a democracy may deteriorate into a dictatorship in the "wrong" hands—especially when those hands have the wrong color to boot. They also realized that one cannot keep a people without a voice in their own affairs indefinitely. The system that was devised to "overcome" both these problems was the now infamous system of "apartheid" or, as the politicians prefer to call it, "separate development." Under "apartheid," each major black ethnic group (each with its own language and customs) was given a separate area where it would eventually develop towards self government and become a completely separate state. The blacks in the white areas were to be considered migrant workers similar to the laborers in certain European countries. To implement this policy and to prevent any dissidents from opposing it, the South African government introduced draconian security legislation. This, in turn, made it much more imperative that the vast machinery of coercion should not fall into the "wrong" hands.

For a while the majority of blacks seemed to be satisfied with their lot, but then more and more of the younger generation, living in or near the bigger cities, lost their ties with their erstwhile homelands and demanded more autonomy in the "white" areas. It is against this background that the recent riots should be seen. The younger blacks are no longer satisfied in being citizens of a faraway homeland that many of them have never seen. They want to share with the whites the riches of this country. The immediate problem is how to let them "share." Most whites, correctly in my view, are wary of any power sharing policy under our present type of democracy. That is the reason why no opposition party with such a policy has ever made the grade here. Not because the majority of the whites are bloodthirsty or "oppressive," but because they only have to look to their northern neighbors to see the results of these policies. The blacks on the other hand, are now demanding political representation in "white areas"—hence the riots.


Readers of this magazine may think me a racist because I seem to condone the actions of the white South African government. Far from it. I detest the harsh security laws where people are detained without trial—but I have to admit that most of these people who are eventually brought to trial have been conspiring to overthrow the existing system with violence and to replace it with a communist system. I pity those poor blacks who work for meagre wages and who live in poverty—but I have to admit reluctantly that there are quite a number of black millionaire businessmen here and that minimum wage laws and subsidized housing are aggravating the situation. I regret the fact that honest, law-abiding blacks cannot own property in or near white cities, but I realize that without this restriction separate development will fail—and with it the capitalist system in South Africa. I abhor the "petty apartheid" which is in some cases institutionalized and which is still practiced by some whites when they discriminate on the basis of color—but I have to admit that these practices are decried in a press that is the freest in Africa.

The fact is that most of the civilized Western countries (South Africa included), have democratic systems where "right" is determined by counting noses; where 51 percent of the voting population can determine the color of the clothes that the inhabitants may wear. South Africa, with one white for every five blacks, has opted for the idea of separate development to neutralize this tremendous power of the majority. Until such time that at least a few of these homelands are independent, it cannot afford to let the blacks have the franchise—cruel as it may sound. When the time comes that, say, 80 percent of the blacks are citizens of one or other homeland, 1 believe that the vote will be extended to the remaining blacks living in the cities. The proportion of blacks to whites will then be roughly equal.

It is clear that the outside world is not satisfied with this slow change towards an equitable society. Economic pressures from abroad have and will expedite concessions. Unfortunately the American and other foreign advisors who come here from time to time, are not always advocates of libertarianism.

What will the future bring? I feel that the West is forcing South Africa into a position where the whites will have to make more and more concessions to black demands. Within the next five to 10 years we will probably turn from a relatively capitalist system to a "socialist democracy." A meaningful libertarian opposition will not materialize for many years and by that time the harm will have been done. Our local Free Market Foundation is doing an admirable job and our monthly bulletin, "The Individualist," is enjoying a growing readership. But 1 am afraid we are shouting against the wind and that this tidal wave of change that is approaching us, cannot be stemmed. Oh liberty, what crimes will be committed in thy name!