Hannes Wessels,

In an article by RW Johnson in ‘Politicsweb,’ titled ‘Amidst the ruins of ANC rule,’ the author paints a grim picture of the man-made disaster that has befallen South Africa, but then goes on to refer somewhat critically, to ‘embittered whites’ who have a ‘tendency…to say these failures are true everywhere in Africa.’

In rebuttal of this sentiment he explains that ‘most African cities have survived OK, and many have grown. Few have been destroyed or collapsed.’ He cites economic growth in Kenya, the fact that ‘Nairobi is a budding tech-hub,’ the success of Ethiopian Airlines, the port of Maputo and rising literacy rates in Botswana, as proof that the South African example is an extreme one and not a fair reflection on Africa as a whole.

How I wish this were so, but unless I have been looking in all the wrong places, I see the ANC as fairly typical of the type of government most countries on the continent have endured since the end of the colonial era; in fact, not the worst at all. Examples of the gross incompetence and corrupt misrule that has swept the length and breadth of sub-Saharan Africa since ‘independence’ require a book, not a quick blog but it is obvious to all with their eyes open that the last six decades constitute one of the greatest politically motivated, socio-economic disasters in recorded history.

He mentions the port at Maputo, but he does not mention that the economy of Mozambique, which had been built up over hundreds of years, in a multi-racial society, through arduous work and considerable capital outlay, was wilfully destroyed in a matter of months by a zealot and his militant cohorts. Fixated on Stalinism, following a racial agenda that put to flight most of the Portuguese, who performed vital roles in both the public and private sector, the ’liberators’ wrecked their beautiful country. Etched in my memory is the sight of destitute Portuguese families crossing the border into my hometown with only what they could carry, having lost everything.

In the blink of an eye, millions were impoverished, subjected to totalitarian rule and their misery continues to this day. Mr’ Johnson, asks us to understand that the ANC is worse than most of them; ‘our particular lot of African nationalists seem to be particularly hopeless,’ he writes, well I suggest he have another look at what Frelimo managed to do and rethink that. To give him his due, Mr. Johnson, can rely on former British Foreign Secretary, Lord David Owen for support; he considers Samora Machel one of Africa’s greatest leaders and laments the fact more were not cut from the same cloth.

Bolstering his argument Mr. Johnson refers to the relative success of a national airline as another example of an African success. This is an underwhelming suggestion when one looks at the history and current state of Ethiopia. It is a miserable legacy of famine, war and awful misrule that included the ‘Red Terror’ under the murderous Mengistu regime, which has visited misery on millions of people. Conflict continues to consume the country to this day. In a recent article for The Spectator, Aidan Hartley points out, so lawless is the country, an estimated 500,000 people have died over the last 16 months in Tigray because relief cannot reach them. And one should bear in mind, while this country was briefly occupied by the Italians in WWII (later liberated by South African troops), it was never colonised, so difficult to blame the ‘usual suspects’ in this case.

While Nairobi might be a promising tech-hub, it is also a gigantic slum where millions of wretched people live in terrible poverty, condemned to live lives bereft of any chance of a living wage and a decent home. If population ‘growth’ alone, as the writer asserts, is an indicator of success, then I must beg to differ. Surely quality of life, not numbers of people, is the yardstick by which governance should be judged?

It certainly gives me no pleasure to report that in all my time working and travelling in southern and eastern Africa, I have seen an abundance of instances of state sponsored or supervised destruction and dereliction and little to indicate constructive intent aimed at improving the lot of the poor. An obsession with destroying all vestiges of the colonial era, no matter how well intentioned, those developments were, has retarded, if not wrecked, the chances of a progression towards a more prosperous future for the majority of Africans.

            Democratic Alliance leader, Helen Zille, a lady with whom Mr. Johnson, often disagrees, landed herself in trouble for asking why African countries could not have followed the Singapore model and embraced what suited them from the colonial structures and systems, while discarding that which did not. Singapore today, boasting paltry natural resources, is one of the most prosperous polities on the planet.

I can only dream what Africa would look like today had the leaderships conducted themselves with the same prudence and selflessness after having acquired power. Sadly, African leaders chose another course, and the results are there for all to see. Mr. Johnson might not be ‘embittered’ but I certainly am.

13 thoughts on “Embittered Whites”
  1. Hi Hannes,
    I believe the human species going back to the ancient Greeks struggled with the inequality of the human condition. We may all be equal before God and the law but we can never be equal amongst ourselves. The American founding fathers come closest to establishing a system that assumed equality. The US Constitution has been white anted ever since. The fundamental truth is that we are not equal even between ourselves and can never be equal. Societies that offer equal opportunity and advancement by way of merit, came as close to equity as it is possible to come. Africa, can face the reality and come to grips with it or it will hobble along and decline in despotism. I also dislike these facts of time but this is the reality of the human condition. South Africa has an average IQ of below 70. The low IQ will vote stupidly. A benevolent but humanly decent leader is the only answer in Africa.

  2. Who is this R W Johnson.
    The Koi & San are indigenous to South Africa.
    It has nothing to do with the truth.

  3. I disagree with the view that the pursuit of socialism and communism are to blame for Africa’s woes (more specifically, sub Saharan Africa.) The reason is straightforward – incompetence. If you put a dental nurse into the cockpit of a A380 and told him or her to fly the plane, it would crash. In short, it would be a disaster. And so it is with African governments. Worse still, once these leaders got to sit at the top table, they saw mouth watering opportunities for personal enrichment through plunder, and who would dare to hold them to account? Was it not retribution time for the evils of white minority rule? There’s a saying about the corrupting influence of power and it’s not anecdotal.

    I also disagree that Rwanda is the standout outlier, with regard to good governance. No, it has been Botswana that has been the shining light of Southern Africa and why? We need only look at the life of Seretse Khama and the choices he made many years ago, starting with his marriage (and therein lies the answer.) His was a country that prospered because there simply wasn’t a corruption problem. But he is now gone, and his legacy is looking increasingly threatened. Indeed, Ian Khama and his twin brothers have had to flee the country of their birth, to which they have given so much, because there is a witch-hunt in full swing. Yes, now even Botswana (A United Kingdom), is heading down the all too familiar African slippery slide, propped up by power hungry, unscrupulous, and incompetent leadership.

    Hey ho. Embittered whites? You bet we are.

  4. I wish i could say I didn’t support what you have said Hannes, but unfortunately it is all too true. Until Africa can hold up its head and get rid of the too comfortable ‘victim – of colonisation, and everything else’ stance, it cannot grow effectively. There has been a huge social media debate which you may well have been across, about the relative merits of Smith’s government compared with the now. Overwhelmingly the 40+ age group wonder what on earth they were doing fighting a system from which they benefitted as children (recurrent mentions: smart school uniforms, free milk at lunchtime, excellent teachers, strong discipline) mother and fathers who earned bonuses for good work particularly from big companies (like RISCO), and the provision of good housing. Critics have piled in – no painkillers in hospitals for over 6 months; no machinery which works, schools which have no classrooms or books, village schoolchildren learning under trees when it doesn’t rain etc. etc. etc. It has been absolutely fascinating. Today’s ZanuPF response (interestingly, one of the first) is – our grandfathers had to work for nothing as a fine for not paying hut tax; they had all the cattle stolen from them; etc. etc. etc. they are finding it increasingly difficult to find anything which stands up to the argument – as a result are feeling cornered – as a result are starting to use excessive violence against any opposition. 2023 is going to be very difficult in Zim.

  5. Very powerful piece. Having just travelled about 40 000 kms to visit family and friends in South Africa after a three year recess I have to support Hannes’ argument. For me the saddest part was my realisation that South Africa’s greatest resource is just so powerful, friendly and professional – it’s human resource. The issue in South Africa is in the leadership of the country just like Zimbabwe and Russia. There are more and more countries with the same issue both in the east and the west. Politicians seem to think that once elected – via rigged elections or not – they have the right to do as they please?

  6. It is much easier to corrupt (pay) a few than corrupt many. The essence of regime change the world over. Africa has been ravaged by the power and gread of those who have no alegemce to any moral code but themselves and the African is incapable to understand the consequences.

  7. Terrific riposte Hannes. Having regularly travelled much of Africa over the past 20 or so years whenever there is some glimmer of hope – try to be positively constructive by nature – it very quickly disappoints. Rwanda seems to be the odd one out, and Kagame does to some extent model himself on the late Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, however in this world of rampant wokeism and distorted liberal values Kagame is often derided as an unsavoury dictator and yet that is probably one of the only countries in Africa that is governed with any sense of competence largely due to the benevolent but iron hand of Kagame.

  8. Patrick Walsh.
    So true Hannes. The common denominator which applies to most, if not all the countries on the continent since the end of the colonial era, is that they are ruled by people whose goal was to enforce communism at any cost regardless of the consequences.

    We are now living with the results of that indoctrination, and many critics seem to be unable to recognise that the result can only be the same as all the other regimes that followed those policies. Where once power is gained the immense riches are their due and to hell with the common populace.

  9. RW is a great commentator. Nevertheless I agree with Hannes too. Bottom line Africa was destroyed by socialist policies and the same is happening in SA. The govt cannot leave the private sector alone. Sooner rather than later they’ll run out of other people’s money.

  10. Always look forward to your posts. Another good one, bang on. Thank you.

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