Economics

This Is What Apartheid Looked Like

A South African libertarian remembers.

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Jim Peron, a libertarian who used to live in South Africa, has posted a thoughtful article on the late Nelson Mandela and the system that Mandela helped bring down. Here's an excerpt:

Azania will be free.

The vision of South Africa promoted by conservatives in the West was propaganda. Conservatives pretended the apartheid regime was some sort of Western island of freedom in a sea of "black dictatorships."

This is a lie, a legacy of Cold War propaganda, where "anti-communist" was falsely equated with being pro-freedom, and where the West turned a blind eye to tyrannical governments, no matter how vile they might be, provided they were "on our side." Among the worst was South Africa.

While South Africa was no North Korea, it wasn't free either. Even "free enterprise" didn't exist there. The apartheid era economy was one tightly controlled by the state to prevent markets from working—because markets didn't produce racist results desired by the architects of apartheid.

It was a country where the government assassinated critics.

I ran a libertarian-oriented newspaper for the LGBT community—two reasons to be disliked by the government….One day, I had police show up to investigate the mysterious slashing of all my car tires. When I refused to let them into my house, one went the police car and radioed in an "anonymous" tip that I had drugs. That was the pretense for searching my home without a warrant. Of course, there were no drugs, but they didn't expect any….

I was on the streets of Hillbrow, when some young white thug started harassing a black man. The police arrived and arrested the victim. I went to Hillbrow station to defend the man and to attest that the white man had attacked him, not the other way around. While I was there police questioned another suspect they had arrested and started beating him to force him to give them the answers they wanted. I started yelling and the police made it clear that I was to leave the police station immediately or I would face similar treatment.

This is just what I saw in apartheid's sunset years, and I never came close to seeing the worst of it, when the system was its height.

To read the rest, including Peron's explanation of why he is "mostly positive on Mandela, but negative on the African National Congress," go here.