by Hannes Wessels
South African billionaire Johann Rupert is in terrible trouble with his countrymen over comments recently made in a television interview. Eschewing political correctness Rupert committed a cardinal crime by telling the truth, causing nation-wide outrage across racial divides, by suggesting all is not well in the ‘Rainbow Nation’ under the ANC rule so kindly bequeathed to the people by Nelson Mandela. Particularly incensed were the white liberals who remain in resolute denial. With the country facing long-term blackouts through gross mismanagement and calamitous corruption at Eskom, there is now talk of looming catastrophic economic collapse.
In a country fixated with ‘land reform’ (taking land from white farmers without compensation ‘because all white-owned land was stolen’) and the ruling party happy to comply, Rupert referred those clamouring for change to study Zimbabwe where an entire economy was destroyed and millions of poverty-stricken people streamed into South Africa to survive.
He has caused enormous anger and resentment among the rulers and the ruled whose entire raison d’être is premised on the belief that they and they alone have been victims of oppression. Rupert pointed out that some of his Afrikaner ancestors perished in the concentration camps constructed by the British in the Boer War, that his people also suffered under oppressive rule and he spoke of the economic hardships they endured that rendered most Afrikaners poor and alienated. “In a sense the Afrikaner was downtrodden,” he said. “They were driven, they studied. They studied like crazy and saved like crazy. They didn’t go and buy BMWs and hang around .. (nightclubs)..”.
This drew a furious reaction from Julius Malema’s EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) who Rupert referred to as the “red beret Vendas” who “buy their struggle uniform at ‘Pepkor’”. The party-supporters have recently been trashing and looting mobile-phone stores because a guest speaker at an awards ceremony said something critical about the EFF. And the EFF leadership is now accused of involvement in the looting of a bank that was supposed to provide a safe depository for the poor black people of the Limpopo Province. Unsurprisingly their leadership quickly condemned Rupert as “the ultimate face of white racism” and referred to him as an “arrogant white Afrikaner who sees nothing beyond his selfish white capitalist interests”.
But when talking about the Afrikaners, Rupert only gave his audience a glimpse at a past that is replete with facts and figures that are destined for the dustbin of history, because, in the twisted world of contemporary thought and learning, we mustn’t know anything the Afrikaners did right; we should only hear about the legends of the African Nationalist movements like Walter Sisulu, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo and of course Nelson Mandela. Little or no mention of men like Louis Botha and Jan Smuts who also struggled against injustice, saw their families incarcerated, risked violent death repeatedly and endured extreme hardship simply because they also believed in a cause.
Botha, as a teenager, fought alongside Zulu warriors in a common quest to secure the land on which his family would farm and eventually prosper but at great risk and against enormous odds. In return for the land in Natal the Afrikaners then struck a deal with tribal leaders which involved a trade of livestock for land; they ‘stole’ nothing. They then provided protection for their black neighbours.
Smuts only went to school aged 12 because the family could not afford to send him earlier. Until then he laboured on a farm in the Western Cape that was stolen from nobody and learned in his spare time.
Both these men then went on to fight gallantly and ferociously for their right to self-determination, against the English who they viewed as a hated oppressor. When the guns finally went silent at the end of the war in 1902, the country was wrecked and bitterness abounded, but these two soldiers exhorted their countrymen to forgive and forget, to embrace their former enemies and chart a new course based on magnanimity and nation-building.
Both men went on to fight on the side of their former arch-enemy in WW I with Botha running a brilliant campaign against the Germans in then German South-West Africa while Smuts led the Allied Forces in German East Africa. Smuts went on to become a Field Marshal who played a decisive role in WW II as one of Churchill’s closest confidantes. And at Versailles if the victors had bowed to the pleadings of Botha who preached forgiveness above vengeance there is every likelihood the world would have been spared the tragedy of another world war.
Thanks to them and Afrikaners like the Ruperts, the platform was laid for what was to become the Union of South Africa which would become the most powerful and prosperous country on the continent, providing the best schools, hospitals and communications-infrastructure in Africa and an economy that would make the country’s black people the wealthiest on the continent. But that’s a side of a story nobody wants to know and few are prepared to tell. That’s because they were white.