by Hannes Wessels

My infatuation with Kenya goes back almost 50 years to my early teens when I first read Robert Ruark’s African classics; Something of Value and Uhuru. Enthralled by the people, the places, the savagery, the beauty, the tragedies, the triumphs; these pages were life-changers for me and I was left as a young boy, hankering hungrily for a life of adventure.

Much has changed in that lovely land since Ruark wrote so captivatingly about it. Post-independence it has followed a familiar African pattern; disputed elections, poor governance, inter-tribal conflict, rampant corruption, massive inequalities in the distribution of wealth, crime and endemic violence. Add to that one of the fastest growing populations, in the world, a deepening poverty cycle and an incipient Muslim insurgency and the picture is not a pretty one. Yet, despite all this, much of the magical appeal that Ruark brought so magnificently to life in his writings, remains.

On a recent visit I came away with mixed feelings; happy for the Kenyans and sorry for myself and my countrymen. Somehow, Kenyans, of all races, seem to be making a success of what is to all intents and purposes a mess but they appear to have the energy, entrepreneurial acumen and positive attitude to rise above the ever-present challenges and they do it with good cheer and a friendly vibrancy. A significant European population remains an important an important cog in most sectors of the economy and all the whites I spoke to were acutely aware of the challenges that persist but all were overwhelmingly optimistic about their future in the country and confident that they have a lifelong place in the east-African sun.

I tried to understand why they were so buoyant and we in the south are so bleak. Kenya seems to have got a few fundamentals right: They are unashamedly capitalist; they have never flirted with the Marxist philosophies and policies that were so loved by the ‘Liberation Movements’, they are secular and they are almost proudly pro-West which has attracted multi-faceted support from Britain, America and Europe. But most importantly, despite a history of bitter ethnic conflict, it seems the anti-white rhetoric beloved by African politicians, has largely disappeared from the public discourse and for me looking on, having a history in Zimbabwe and South Africa, this was refreshing but also saddening.

I was happy for the Kenyans to know they have moved into a better place and it was a relief to be in this world apart but sad to be reminded that my homeland was effectively destroyed by the destructive malevolence that follows state-sponsored persecution of people based on the colour of their skin. Zimbabwe was effectively wrecked by a racist by the name of Robert Mugabe, and while there were other motivating factors, he ethnically-cleansed the European farming community simply because he was possessed of a psychopathic hatred of white people and wanted the worst for them. He got his wish and crashed an economy.

Now I sense the same agenda in the air in South Africa where race is effectively the only political game in town and it’s being fuelled with ferocious determination by a reckless and vindictive media that seems to care less about the colossal collateral damage done in the process. Just recently, a white lady by the name of Elena Barkhuizen, a primary-school teacher in the small country-town of Schweizer-Reneke who by all accounts is devoted to her pupils and dedicated to her work, instantly became one of the most reviled people in the country. This because of a photograph innocently taken to illustrate the success of this multi-racial institution that showed black children sitting at a different table to their white classmates. The fact that these children were not actually in her class and that this was done largely because of language difficulties (the school is An Afrikaans medium facility) helped not a bit; she was immediately suspended and spotlighted as just another white ‘racist’ having her woeful way humiliating little black kids. The signal strongly sent here is if you white get out of the education game with all possible haste because it may only be a matter of time before you become the victim in what is a witch-hunt.

Dominating the political dialogue leading up to an election in May are tropes about the ‘theft of our land’ by the whites and ‘white ownership of the economy’ which are read and heard on almost a daily basis and the poor and under-privileged, many of whom are not terribly well educated, are largely convinced by their political leaders that their woes are the consequence of the selfishness and avarice of an undeservedly prosperous European minority. Thus the political stage is almost set for the purge that will be entirely mobilised on the basis of race and this will have catastrophic consequences but very few in power seem to care a damn.

If only we in South Africa could find the gumption to embrace the ‘Kenyan-way’ and give everyone a chance on the basis of who they are and not their ancestry this country would probably be on the cusp of greatness rather than on the brink of conflict but alas, it’s being ravaged by the politics of race; just what we were promised was a thing of the past.

7 thoughts on “Why Can’t We Be Like The Kenyans?”
  1. We used to visit Kenya on a regular basis ’97-2012. It was often remarked how the Kenyans, as you say, seemed to get something right. It was seen then, as being run by a kind of a tripartite arrangement – the Blacks ran the politics, the Asians the economy and the Whites, tourism and agriculture! Whether this arrangement was actively pursued as a power sharing arrangement or, it just worked out that way, we had no idea.
    Oh yes, and the other thing is the Judiciary is very independent. That said, tribalism is still very divisive, so they still have some work to do…

  2. I have often deliberated on the dynamics of change in countries, and ethnic groups of people after war situations, conflict and change in particular countries in Africa. As a Zimbabwean and someone who’s work has taken me to remote areas either in National Parks, Hunting areas, farms or tribal areas, I have always found it warming to see the open and natural friendliness of the black people in this country when not under political pressure to be otherwise. One would think after a seven year war there would have been a lot more hostility to whites by the black population in general, but not so, yet south of the border in South Africa where no guerilla war was fought, one finds a very different attitude. Why? Is it because of the way they have been treated by their past colonial masters? There seems to be no clear answer to this question other than the genetic make up and histories of the various populations concerned. I have an idea that perhaps the way people have been treated by their colonial masters in the past does not necessarily play as big a part as some would like to think in respect of their attitude and actions once they have taken over the reigns of power. The Jews, the most oppressed, hated, and enslaved ethnic group of people in history going back thousands of years have risen above all the hatred against against them against almost impossible odds and have made an incredible success of their homeland, Israel in every respect. Granted, they have been heavily supported by the U.S. but so has Africa in terms of aid. So back to the theme of the article and the hope that Zimbabwe and South Africa may have the gumption to embrace “the Kenyan way”, we all hope for just one small ray of hope that this may somehow happen but I will leave it up to the reader to decide what he or she may consider to be the most likely scenario and the reasons for it.

    Thanks Hannes for all these very interesting and thought provoking articles.

    1. Thanks Alistair, I’m afraid I struggle with the same questions and you right there does seem to be a lot more bad blood between the races in SA than up north and this, I fear, bodes ill for the future.

  3. I think the South African land issue is based on the past sins of the Afrikaaner Nationalist Party. They treated the blacks badly, appropriated land and moving boundaries to facilitate buying votes in elections. As a point of reference this occurred in Kwa-Zulu Natal where Afrikaans supporters of the NAT party were given farms on tribal after the 1947 election when they came to power. What few people in the west realise is that in South Africa the Afrikaaner considered himself superior and treated the coloureds and white English as second class citizens in a segregated society. This was my experience when I lived there as a white English speaking Rhodesian. I was introduced to an Afrikaans family as “‘n vol bloed se Engelsman”. My relatives did not participate in the Boer War.

    The wheel has now turned. Black politicians live in the past and use anti white vitriol to make all white a scape goat for the ills of the country. There is a skill and job shortage in South Africa. With high unemployment rates how do placate a dissatisfied unemployed black populace? You use the land issue to divert attention from your own governments corruption and weak governance while you the wiley politician milk the gravy train.

    The white youth of South Africa are similar to the Eastern Europeans who migrate in Europe. They end up working in the hotel industry and do very well. Many youngsters in Cape Town work in bars and restaurants. They cannot get other jobs as the old days. The railways and councils employed many unqualified white workers just out of school. That does not happen today.

    I have family in Zimbabwe who have secured jobs in business management and the televised sports industry. Their colleagues are young educated black kids and they all get on respecting each other and getting the job done. They have no memory of the civil war prior to independence. It is the politicians who beat the anti-white drum. They need a reality check with a paradigm shift in their thinking. Your point on the Kenyan attitude of positive engagement with the West rejecting communist socialist dogma is key to the revival of Southern Africa. The English got rid of the slave trade. Russia and China seek to re-enslave black Africa through taking out her resources and giving very little back to the majority

  4. As always Hannes you invoke emotion which is not entirely welcome but speaks to the truth of the situation. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

  5. You are correct in your assertion that one reason was that the independence struggle was not hijacked by cold war political ideologies, but to my mind there are a number of other reasons things worked out differently

    1. On independence the willing buyer willing seller concept seemed to work in Kenya. Many whites realised the farming game was up, and either left the country or moved into non-agricultural sectors of the economy.
    2. Whites in Kenya never involved themselves in politics to the same extent as those in Zimbabwe
    3. Zimbabwe had higher concentrations of Afrikaners (with their ideology of racial superiority) than Kenya

    There’s probably more, but these are the things that spring to mind right now

    1. I am an old white English ‘Natalian’ and know a lot about Rhodesia/Zim. During the 60s and 70s worked in Natal and JHb for the Progressive Party and can assure you that English SA Whites were/are just as and in many cases worse racists than Afrikaners. English whites were content to bask in the ‘benefits’ of Apartheid while letting the Afrikaner take all the blame.

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