by Hannes Wessels
A year after I was born, in 1957, The Gold Coast became Ghana and the first country in Africa to acquire independence from Great Britain. Three years later, in February 1960, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan addressed the South African Parliament in Cape Town and famously declared:
“The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it.”
This ushered in the post-colonial era as most of the imperial powers abandoned their African territories, their colonial kin and went home. Looking back ruefully, Mr. Macmillan might well have substituted ‘destruction’ for the word ‘change. The prevailing view of the African nationalists who assumed power was, and remains, accumulation of vast personal wealth and the erasure of the colonial legacy, no matter the merits, leaving little other than the battered veneer of the European presence. This has led, to violent anarchy in some countries, coups, civil wars and chronic political instability throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Much of the turmoil that followed ‘The Wind of Change’ speech, happened while I grew up in Rhodesia and these troubling developments persuaded the country’s political leadership to resist calls to organise an immediate transfer to what was then known as ‘majority rule’. The government of the day felt such a course of action risked the same outcome they were witness to in independent Africa to the North. This refusal resulted in a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), sanctions and war that delayed this transition until 1980.
Twenty years after independence the ‘farm invasions’ commenced. Exactly why the Zimbabwe president ordered this has long perplexed me. I know there was certainly a political component; he blamed the British for reneging on their alleged commitments; he was livid having lost the referendum that was designed to entrench him as a virtual dictator and blamed the whites for the defeat. He also needed to reward his cronies and appease a disaffected populace increasingly impoverished by his misrule. But even taking all those factors into account it struck me then, as it does now, that the primary motivation was a racially motivated, almost psychotic obsession, with destroying a white run sector of the economy that so obviously indicated vitality and excellence in contrast to everything that had come under the management and control of him and his government; all of which was wrecked or rotten. This was embarrassing evidence of his own ineptitude and avarice which had to be removed from view, so he demanded commercial agriculture, in its entirety, be obliterated, no matter the consequences. The fact that there were peaceful, pragmatic solutions to the vexed ‘land question’ on the table helped little; Mugabe had an entirely race-based score to settle and he wanted to do it as brutally and violently as possible.
In South Africa today, against a backdrop of economic collapse, statues being desecrated, a slew of gruesome farm-murders and friends and associates announcing financial ruin as a result of the government response to the Corona virus, I have been feeling overwhelmed by a deeply troubling sense of déjà vu.
I dearly hope I’m wrong, but I sense the same psychosis may be motivating the ongoing decisions of the Corona Command Council, which effectively forms the government of the day. To her credit, Dr. Zuma has given us some warning, albeit subtle, by alluding to the term ‘class suicide’ as a possible means to a preferred end which sees the elimination of the ‘upper classes’ (with the obvious exception of the ruling ANC elite). This is almost certainly a reference to what she sees as a predominantly white section of South African society that she would like to see at least neutralised, if not, in some shape or form, eliminated.
As in Zimbabwe before 2000, the private sector, in the main, has managed to survive and indeed in many cases, prosper, despite an increasingly difficult, sometimes hostile public sector and thereby exhibit competence, resourcefulness and in some cases, amazing ingenuity in contrast to the evident corruption and incompetence of those in power. While, under the administration in which she takes centre-stage, a once vibrant, prosperous country is imploding as municipalities throughout the country collapse, a bloated, overpaid bureaucracy becomes increasingly dysfunctional, and mismanaged State Owned Enterprises, along with rampant corruption bankrupt the country. This sequence of events has created a visible dichotomy between the public and private sectors which is irritating, embarrassing, even infuriating to her and her colleagues, because it shines a contrasting light on the manifest ineptitude and malfeasance of her and her administration and must be destroyed. Loud warnings of the consequences for the country and the people, mostly black, who will inevitably suffer if the private sector is further undermined, fall on deaf ears. The record of black, independent governments in post-colonial Africa demonstrates time and again that the well-being of their peoples is not a consideration to those in power.
Sadly, this phenomenon does not end here. In the United States, and to a lesser extent, the UK, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in some ways, exhibits the same mindless mentality that demands the obliteration of all that appears to have a white provenance; whether it be a law, a facility, a building or a statue, it must be destroyed, almost as an end, in itself. In trying to better understand this phenomenon I appreciate that black people may hate white people and seek vengeance; but burning down their own neighbourhoods and destroying the systems and infrastructure constructed for the benefit of the apparently aggrieved, makes no sense as method of settling this conveniently perceived wrongdoing. Again, I’m left wondering if anti-white racism becomes so compulsive it cannot be contained no matter what remedial measures might be implemented.
Being one of the dwindling number of white Africans left in Africa I look back on the accession to power of Samora Machel in Mozambique with a measure of grudging respect. He immediately made it abundantly clear to the Portuguese citizenry that life in that country was going to become very tough for them if they remained and they were very welcome to leave. Most did, they left to start anew and saved themselves wasted years thinking they had a future in their homeland. This is the mistake many of us made in Zimbabwe, and I fear many of us are making again in South Africa.
Mrs. Zuma has given us a strong hint though and that should be appreciated.