by Hannes Wessels
With South Africa staring socio-economic collapse in the face, the press and political leadership is enraged and enraptured over former President FW de Klerk’s tentative denial in a TV interview that apartheid was ‘a crime against humanity’. In South African terms this is the stuff of heresy and calumny has been heaped on de Klerk by the ruling party, the press and Economic Freedom Front (EFF) leader Julius Malema who has called for the reopening of police files that may lead to prosecutions for crimes committed prior to the advent of ANC rule. Some are calling for the revocation of de Klerk’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Just to remind us how utterly outrageous and repugnant, de Klerk’s denial is, we are being repeatedly reminded, that no less august a body than the United Nations, certified that apartheid was unquestionably a ‘Crime Against Humanity’. This, incidentally, is the same United Nations that elected the Libyan representative, (with an overwhelming majority), appointed by Muammar Gaddafi, as Chairperson of its Commission on Human Rights.
If one accepts the UN/ANC position then we must assume that all those who governed during the years of National Party rule (1948-1994), and all those who voted to place these people in power, are ‘criminals’, in the view of the government of the day and of the international community. While accepting this fact, because who am I to fly in the face of such overwhelming and well-informed judgement, I am moved to offer a humble plea for merciful mitigation on behalf of the above accused and convicted and offer a few observations that might be helpful in ameliorating their place in a complicated history.
It might be worth noting that despite the horrors perpetrated during that lamentable time, they clearly were not heinous enough to stop migrants risking life, limb and possible incarceration to gain entry to the country. An expensive border-fence, patrolled by army and police, was not sufficient to stop the illegal flow of people from neighbouring countries like Mozambique and Malawi, fleeing newfound ‘freedom from colonialism’. So desperate were some to gain entry and become victims of this ‘crime’, they opted for the dangerous route through the Kruger National Park. Some were eaten by lions. They all wanted to have a chance of a decent wage, thereby acquiring a small slice of the wealth generated from Africa’s largest, most vibrant and diverse economy, which was growing rapidly on by far the best built and managed infrastructure on the continent.
At the time, the people in power, managed a national airline that made a profit, an electrical utility that provided an abundant supply of some of the cheapest energy in the world, the best road and rail system in Africa and ports that were exceptionally well run. The health facilities offered to all were without equal on the sub-continent and the world’s first heart transplant was conducted under the regime.
Crime was high, but most agree it is now far worse, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Since the end of apartheid, about 500 000 South Africans have been murdered and some one million women have been raped. Bheki Cele, the country’s Police Minister is on record saying that the number of murders has turned the country into, “… a place that borders on a war zone.”
While one must accept that ‘crimes against humanity’ must be judged more harshly, and the Afrikaner Nationalists have been found guilty of this, on the more trivial matter of fundamental probity, the politicians of the day, appear to have been less inclined to use high office for self-enrichment than their successors. In fact I’m not sure any of the prime-ministers or presidents serving the previous regime have been accused of stealing from the public purse, while Jacob Zuma has been accused of trying to steal the entire country following a plan of action now known as ‘state capture’.
In education, while facilities were separate and standards differed, everyone went to school. The best tertiary education facilities on the continent were on offer and indeed, many famous ‘freedom-fighters’ from beyond the country’s borders, including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Botswana’s Seretse Khama and Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda were educated at facilities funded by the apartheid criminals.
It is interesting to read, on inspection of the UN resolution, that apartheid has been determined to have been a ‘crime against humanity’ for a number of reasons including, ‘Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person. By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’
This leads me to believe that any serious analyses of the treatment meted out to the white farmers of Zimbabwe and their families, must surely conclude, all the aforementioned conditions are fulfilled for the definition of a ‘crime against humanity’ – this is, if white farmers are considered ‘humanity’ by the liberal fascists of the West.
While the initial assault in Zimbabwe was directed at people of European descent, and clearly racially motivated, the collateral damage caused was catastrophic; the economy was intentionally collapsed and millions of black people were thrust into permanent poverty and hopelessness. Today, an estimated 50% of the population is dependent on food aid. This man-made catastrophe attracted some criticism at the UN and from around the world, but little meaningful condemnation because it was seen as anti-white and therefore the normal political rules were not applicable. But we should not forget, this regional tragedy was defended and supported by the ANC under Thabo Mbeki, without whose commitment, it is doubtful, the campaign would have been launched or sustained. More importantly, Nelson Mandela, who had the real influence in the region and the world, was silent as an ethnic cleansing exercise unfolded nearby.
History tells us, the ‘apartheid criminals’ were busy growing an economy when they ceded power and they are reviled; Robert Mugabe destroyed one, with the help of those who ‘liberated’ South Africa, and he is revered. Something is not making sense here.
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