WHAT IS HAPPENING IN SOUTH AFRICA?
BY Vincent Lyn
“It’s Happening Now”
On February 1, 2019 I met with friend and colleague Debbie Els at the Consulate General of St Lucia’s Event “Night of the Caribbean Stars” film premiere held at the Taipei Cultural Center in NYC. It was a wonderful evening but was only a precursor for why we were brought together. In our many conversations she brought up the widespread scale of farm attacks that have precipitated throughout South Africa. And also having wrote a screenplay drama titled “It’s Happening Now”, a film based on a true story of a farm attack in South Africa her home country. Much to my surprise she wanted me to direct the film as she felt there would be no one else who would understand the issues better than me. I was extremely humbled but wanted to read it first before making any concrete decision. As soon as read it I was taken in by its powerful true to life story, viscerally emotionally charged, it’s a searing dramatic account of an unspeakable and nightmarish subject that has swept across the majesty of the South African heartland.
Debbie Els, Artist Circle CEO, International Film Festival Rep/Promoter, Radio Host and screenwriter but more importantly is an Activist and Leader of the Western Cape for the Africa Redemption Democracy. What strikes me most about Ms. Els is her passion and unwavering inner strength being very out spoken and advocating change into implementing new laws in government. As I started reading more and more about farm attacks in South Africa I started delving and researching this very alarming and horrendous problem that has incited horrific violence against the farmers. Some have gone so far to call it “White Genocide”. The idea of a — White Genocide has become a frequent talking point among white nationalists worldwide. Though there are no reliable figures that suggest that white farmers are being targeted in particular or that they are at a disproportionate risk of being killed. To call it a white genocide sounded somewhat extreme to me considering that there were nearly 20,000 murders committed in South Africa in 2018 and less than 100 farmers killed according to many reports. But that is where the current lack of viable information especially police statistics are available. As always there are two sides to a story and I needed to do my own research.
South African farm murders have long been written about on the Internet, though receiving very little international media attention. But the country has made headlines again due to a South African government plan to seize the land of white farmers under the guise of “South African land reform.”
News of these farm murders and land seizures have gained steam with the release of Lauren Southern’s documentary “Farmlands” and even United States President Donald Trump has brought even more attention to the plight of Afrikaners again on March 18, 2019 with his tweet asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to study South African “land and farm seizures” and ‘killing of farmers”, prompting Pretoria to accuse Mr. Trump of stoking racial division.
Before going any further, terms should be defined and the key players identified:
ANC: The African National Congress, the leading party in South Africa since the end of apartheid.
Afrikaners: Dutch- German- and French Huguenot-descended white South Africans who primarily speak a language called Afrikaans.
Bantu: A group of blackSouth Africans including the Xhosa (of which Nelson Mandela was a member) who originally lived in the northeast of the country.
Boers: A subset of Afrikaners who still lead a rural and agricultural existence.
Democratic Alliance: Currently the second-largest party in the South African parliament, the DemocraticAlliance is a broad-based centrist party that is comparatively economically liberal for South Africa. It enjoys broad, multiracial support, though it is most popular among all racial minorities — white, colored and Indian. Its black supporters are often derided as “clever blacks” by ANC supporters.
EFF: The Economic Freedom Fighters, a far-left political party in South Africa that has pushed the South African government to seize land from white farmers. Sometimes derisively called “Everything for Free,” the EFF is the third-largest party in South Africa, but is poised to become the second. Khoisan: A popular name for the original inhabitants of most of the territory now known as South Africa. This is not an ethnic designation, but a linguistic one. These are whom the Dutch settlers first encountered.
To understand the current situation in South Africa, it is important to first understand the country before, during and after apartheid.
South Africa’s modern history begins with the Dutch East India Company, which established trading posts for sailors along the coast. Dutchmen soon started settling the area, with little, if any, conflict with the native Khoisan population. Dutch settlers, however, quickly came into conflict with the Dutch East India Company’s authoritarian rule.
Freedom-seeking Dutch settlers moved north starting in the 17th Century. In 1852, Boers founded the South African Republic (known as the “Transvaal Republic”) and then the Orange Free State in 1854. These are called “Boer Republics” and they, in turn, came into conflict with both southward-expanding Bantu Tribes (most notably the Zulu) who were in the process of conquering other Bantu tribes) and the British Empire.
“White South Africans” are typically treated as a monolith, but there are two main, distinct groups: The Afrikaans-speaking Afrikaner and the English-speaking British. Indeed, there were intense hostilities between these two groups, especially after the Second Boer War when the Boer Republics were grouped as British colonies.
Telling the Afrikaners to “go home” is a nonsensical statement. They are not Dutch. They do not hold Dutch passports, nor would they at any point have been welcomed back by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In many regions of South Africa, the Afrikaners have been around longer than the Bantus and have a stronger claim on the land, having purchased it from Khoisans. On the other hand, traditionally Bantu land was conquered from other Bantu tribes or taken by the Bantus from the Khoisans“
The Boer Wars” refers to two wars between the Boer Republics and the British Empire, but mostly the second one. The first was a rout for the Boers and left the British Empire with egg on their face. They would not be embarrassed a second time. The first concentration camps were built for Boers. Not just any Boers, but primarily the wives and children of Boer Commandos (irregular guerilla troops) fighting the British Empire. The strategy was simple: Lock up their women and children, and they will lose their will to fight.
It worked. Adding insult to injury the most publicized photo of the concentration camps, a picture of seven year old Lizzie Van Zyl nearly starved to death, was touted in the British press as evidence of parental neglect by the Boers. There was great international outcry against the British during the Boer War, but it never amounted to much.
Boer Republics were reconstituted as British colonies. In 1910, three British colonies were unified as the Union of South Africa. After World War I, South West Africa, today known as Namibia, was administered effectively as a fifth province of South Africa, but for obscure reasons never integrated. South Rhodesia voted on membership, nearly joining, but the argument that it would become “the Ulster of Africa” proved too powerful. The history of South Africa is largely that of a rebellious and unhappy British Dominion until 1948.
“Apartheid” is an Afrikaans word meaning “separateness.” It was a series of laws drafted beginning in 1948, after the success of the Afrikaner-heavy National Party in the national elections. There was a split in the party between those who favored apartheid as it happened versus those who favored complete separation, including parallel governance. The former won out in no small part due to a thirst for cheap black labor.
Most people know the basics of apartheid, but they are worth going over briefly here: South Africans were classified into one of four racial categories: white, black, Colored (a non-pejorative term in South Africa, meaning roughly “mixed race”) and Asian or Indian. In 1949, mixed marriages were outlawed with cross-racial intercourse outlawed the following year. In 1953 amenities were segregated by law, increasingly, the blacks of South Africa were segregated into townships and Bantustans, the latter being nominally independent “homelands” for Africans. This meant that as foreign nationals, in the eyes of the Union of South Africa, they were required to carry documentation to work in South Africa and needed to leave after they were done.
Coloreds, who had the vote, were slowly disenfranchised. Indians and other Asians were never allowed to vote.
Between the end of World War II and the declaration of a republic in 1961 internal politics were dominated by the division between conservative republican Afrikaners, and liberal monarchist British whites. Apartheid enjoyed greater support among Afrikaners and less among British South Africans. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s “Wind of Change” speech increased support for apartheid among British South Africans because of a sense of abandonment by the homeland. Many were upset at being forced by the British government to choose between South African and British citizenship and passports.
Still, none of this amounted to what the National Party hoped to achieve — a cohesive and united white South African identity. Support for apartheid was always tepid among British South Africans.
It is certainly true that notions of racial superiority were a prime motivator for apartheid, but there was another factor in play: Communism. The Suppression of Communism Act, was passed by the first apartheid government banning any Communist organization. The Act took a broad view of what constituted “Communism.” However, given the infiltration of mass movements, particularly in the developing world at the beginning of the Cold War, this is perhaps less cynical than it is commonly made out to be. The Act was used to suppress the African National Congress, something we will talk about in detail later.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Afrikaner society is fundamentally and deeply conservative. Pornography and gambling were illegal in apartheid-era South Africa. Most businesses could not open on Sundays. Abortion, homosexuality and reproductive education were tightly regulated. There was no television until 1976, as this was believed to be immoral and a vehicle of Communism. English-language programming was seen as a threat to Afrikaans culture.
The Suppression of Communism Act was the instrument used to outlaw the African National Congress. While the ANC is typically thought of as a democratic-liberal organization, this is simply not true.
The ANC’s closest ally was the South African Communist Party. Indeed, Nelson Mandela, the face of anti-apartheid resistance, was not only a member of the SACP, he served on its Central Committee, something he denied for decades. The SACP has never to this day contested its own candidates in South Africa, instead fielding their people on ANC slates.
What’s more, the SACP partnered with the ANC in forming (“Spear of the Nation”), the paramilitary wing of the anti-apartheid movement.
The average person on the street likely thinks that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned simply for being black or opposing apartheid. In fact, he was imprisoned for a bombing campaign carried out by Spear of the Nation, of which he was the head. In fact, Nelson Mandela was convicted of 193 acts of terrorism. He was offered his freedom multiple times on the simple condition that he condemn the terrorist attacks against the apartheid regime. He refused every time.
The ANC was not the only organization in South Africa opposed to apartheid. Many white South Africans saw the system as unsustainable. However, outside of South Africa the situation was largely posed by the media as a question of “apartheid forever or the ANC.” Nor was the ANC the sole representative of South African blacks. Zulu nationalists, currently represented by the Inkatha Freedom Party, were often bitter enemies of the ANC by the 1980s. Many black South Africans served in the police force and other aspects of the government, leading to the rise of a barbaric form of retribution known as “necklacing.” This is filling a tire with gasoline, hanging it around the neck of a suspected collaborator or political opponent, and lighting the tire on fire. Death can take several hours.
Winnie Mandela, then-wife of Nelson Mandela, declared that, “With our boxes of matches, and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country.” This caused the ANC to create some distance between itself and her, but ultimately she was given further positions in the movement and the ANC government.
However, not everything was a bed of roses in the new Republic of South Africa. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was an attempt to lay bare the crimes of the apartheid regime. The tribunal, which did not dispense with sentences, but merely sought to find the truth, has been criticized for not dispensing any justice. Neither former National Party government members nor ANC partisans were punished by the Commission.
The elephant in the room at all times was an overwhelming increase in the crime rate. The term “rape gate” entered popular parlance as South Africans installed panic room doors on their bedrooms. Crime is the main reason for emigration from South Africa. The 2013 murder rate was seven times that of the United States, the 11th highest in the world. Between 2005 and 2015, over 200,000 South Africans were murdered — this in a country of about 50 million. There were over 17,000 murders in 2013 alone. Compare this to just over 14,000 in the United States during the same year, despite the fact that South Africa’s population is approximately equivalent to two states — California and Texas.
This is only the official murder rate. Many suspect that the rate is much higher, due to a disengagement from formal policing and a reliance upon private security firms. Quality of public services has likewise deteriorated, with rolling blackouts being the norm in South Africa.
The ANC presides over what is potentially the largest welfare state in the world, according to economist Mike Schussler in 2010. Six percent (3.3 million South Africans) of the population pays 99 percent of the taxes, while 31 percent (16.4 million) receive social grants. This means there are five South Africans receiving welfare for every one paying taxes. 71 percent of South African children live in houses where no adult is employed.
Finally, the specter of corruption has hung over the ANC regime. Scandals surrounding the ANC government have included bribery in arms deals, the abolition of a task force dedicated to organized crime and corruption, sexual misconduct including criminal charges, and using government and civil organizations to fight its political opponents, particularly those in the Democratic Alliance.
It is currently twice as dangerous to be a South African farmer than a South African police officer. The murder rate among South African farmers is three times that of the standard murder rate in South Africa, which is already one of the highest in the world.
The government claims the motives for the farm attacks are robbery. However, this does not pass muster. Farm attacks frequently include raping the female members of the household — including young children — while forcing the male members of the household to watch. The victims are often then tortured to death in front of each other. Farmers claim police response to these attacks is sluggish at best and nonexistent at worse. The government stopped collecting statistics about farm murders in 2008.
What’s more, the attacks on white farmers in South Africa tend to have horrific levels of brutality about them. It’s definitely worth mentioning some of the more grotesque attacks on farmers:
1. A 12-year-old boy was drowned in boiling water after watching his mother being raped and killed and father hacked to death.
2. A 56 old mother was gang raped during a robbery netting approximately $2,000.
3. Five men sexually assaulted a woman in front of her 5 year old son over the course of an hour and a half.
4. Over the course of six hours, a woman was tortured by having her skin cut off,raped and had her feet power drilled.
5. A 66-year-old man was beaten to death in front of his wife. She escaped being gang raped by saying that she had HIV.
6. Bedridden Alice Lotter, 76, and her daughter Helen, 57 was tortured to death over many hours, including by being stabbed in the genitals with a broken glass bottle. One had one of her breasts removed while still alive. “Kill the Boer” was painted on the wall in their blood.
7. Knowledge Mandlazi went on a killing spree in 2014, murdering five whites and stating that, “My hate for white people made me rob and kill.” He held up his middle finger to the surviving victims in the courtroom.
Another common form of attack is the land invasion. In one example,100 men began squatting land. The farmer did the sensible thing and left. Who could blame him in the kind of environment described above?
Anti-white racism is a popular current in mainstream South African politics. The song “Kill the Farmer, Kill the Boer” is still publicly sung, despite this being declared a hate crime. The traditional means of protecting rural South Africans, the commando units, were disbanded in 2003, leaving many South African farmers with no protection.
Anti-white rhetoric in South Africa is very real and very mainstream. Here are a few examples:
1. Velaphi Khumalo, a government official, stated on Facebook in 2016: “ I want to cleans this country of all white people. We must act as Hitler did to the Jews. I don’t believe any more that there are a large number of not so racist white people. I’m starting to be skeptical even of those within out Movement of the ANC. I will from today un-friend all white people I have as friends from today u must be put under the same blanket as any other racist white because secretly u all are a bunch of racist fuck heads. As we have already seen.”
He also typed: “Noo seriously though u oppressed us when you were a minority and then now u call us monkeys and we suppose to let it slide. White people in South Africa deserve to be hacked and killed like Jews. U have the same venom moss. Look at Palestine. Noo you must be bushed alive and skinned and your off springs used as garden fertilizer.”
2. Ekurhuleni EFF Leader Mampuru Mampuru posted on Facebook in 2018 “We need to unite as black People, there are less than 5 million whites in South Africa versus 45 million of us. We can kill all these white within two weeks.”
3. Major M.V Mohlala, a senior official in the South African National Defense Forces, said of murder of a 76 year old white professor “It is your turn now, white people… he should have had his eyes and tongue cut out so that the faces of his attackers would be the last thing he sees.” He received a mere warning of future disciplinary action.
4. The EFF’s national leader Julius Malema stated in 2018: “Go after the white man we are cutting the throats of whiteness”.
It’s not surprising that some South Africans have begun getting trained by Israeli commandos to protect themselves and their property. The South African Constitution has recently been amended to allow for Soviet-style expropriations of farms without compensation. Zulu lands are specifically exempted.
This is a bit nonsensical for two reasons. Many white South Africans have been in South Africa longer than most Americans have been in America. Second, the dominant black ethnic group, the Bantus, doesn’t have a strong claim to most of the land in South Africa — the Khoisans would, but they sold it to the Boers or had it conquered by the British. This is as if the U.S. government started seizing land from white families in upstate New York traditionally belonging to the Iroquois and giving it out to the Cherokee.
Still, despite the fact that farm seizures are precisely the means by which Zimbabwe ended up in such a failed state, there seems to be no stopping farm seizures in South Africa. Perhaps worst of all, there are rumors that South Africa’s banks intend to collect mortgage payments even after properties have been confiscated.
In the final analysis:
While President Trump’s sincerity about the apparent persecution of white farmers in South Africa might be open to question, particularly because of the sudden nature of his interest, the issue is a serious concern for many. Knowing his classic harangue might only be a deflection from more important political issues knocking at his door. Only a theory mind you for you to make up your own mind.
Post-Apartheid South Africa is still rife with racial tension and there is a popular view that the redistribution of land to those historically dispossessed; is an important step on the road to reconciliation, allowing the country to move on and heal the wounds of racist colonial rule. However one looks at the former and more importantly the current political situation and the future of South Africa, it surely seems to be a sign that they are heading into the abyss and going the way of its neighbor Zimbabwe. The facts are the facts and the farm attacks that continue to be directed at specifically white farmers are heinous and horrific. I’ve traveled all over the African continent and sadly the only continent that was completely colonized. The last country to gain its independence was Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980 and look at the disaster that has laid waste to it because of despotic leaders. So many countries throughout Africa since gaining their independence have gone the same way. I am sure of one thing and that is if you have corrupt leaders that go unchecked and political corruption by government officials for illegitimate private gain then the country will surely crumble and history has shown this to be true too many times.
South Africa’s infrastructure is surely crumbling. Eskom, the largest producer of electricity in Africa, is the largest of South Africa’s state owned enterprises. The company is divided into Generation, Transmission and Distribution divisions and together Eskom generates approximately 95% of electricity used in South Africa. In 2019, it was announced that Eskom was to be split up into three distinct nationally owned entities due to huge debts and poor reliability of supply. Only this week Debbie Els said:
“Eskom workers on site received free food parcels everyday. WHY? There was an agreement with Eskom, that after one year they would be receiving hot meals instead of food parcels. MPS-JV employees are now upset at not receiving hot meals as promised. And yesterday they protested by throwing their food parcels at management! Now you might get an idea why Eskom needed billions of dollars. Daily, thousands of employees at Medupi receive free food, on top of free accommodation, transport, etc. Considering 900,000 people lost their jobs last year and how many millions of people are living in poverty and don’t know where their next meal is coming from this photo here explain’s it all. Now you have a clear picture of the 35% increase by Eskom for the next 3 years. If these people can be so blatant about what they want from Eskom then why can’t we as a society stand up to Eskom and not just accept their increases eveytime they cry out that they don’t have funds. Why are they making their problem ours and squeezing the most out of us? We are working very hard for ourselves and our families, not for Eskom”.
With the economy at junk status. The ruling party now actively seeking to change the constitution to expropriate land without compensation. 200 farms have already been earmarked. The farmers are gathering arms along with groups that are also actively gaining members and firepower every day. Even though they are a minority group, they will not take this lying down. Their people are being brutally tortured, raped and murdered in the worst cases anyone has ever seen and the media does not report any of it. The government makes sure of that.
Infrastructure is being destroyed daily by rioting and angry protesters. Poverty has become such an enormous crisis with all the illegal immigrants that people are now just taking what they want and if anyone tries to stop them they break down, loot and burn things downs. Eskom the only electricity supplier is billions in debt but still pays their CEO millions in undeserved bonuses.
The education system is collapsing with over 60 students to a class and nowhere near enough teachers available. They keep lowering the pass rate to get more pupils to pass. There are not enough schools or resources. And still the masses are burning down schools. The state hospitals are dirty, under resourced and running out of doctors as they are all leaving the country and the ones left cannot shoulder the enormous burden. The hospitals put patients on the floor on dirty blankets and they are horrible filthy places.
The taxpayers who are keeping the country afloat are fast becoming a smaller and smaller group as people are flooding out of the country. The government is taxing every single thing they can think of and keeping increasing the price of fuel. Something has to give and it is becoming ever harder to survive.
The racial crisis is reaching a boiling point and people are now being sentenced to jail for things they say. A woman was thrown of an airplane and fired for a private text she sent to a friend. Another woman was sentenced to three months in jail for using the word “kaffir”. Social media is being blown up with all the horrifying racial hate posts going around.
All in all the country is a complete disaster waiting to dissolve into civil war. Adding to the global pandemic of COVID-19 the abuse of power by the government towards its citizens and removal of constitutionals rights together with the appalling farm attacks, illiteracy and ignorance, corruption and poor governance and seemingly utter chaos that continue to tear South Africa apart. Nelson Mandela’s dream of an “ideal” and “free” society, is far from reality in today’s South Africa. If a solution is not found and soon what is happening will continue to spiral out of control and another civil war will unfurl that surely will become a genocide.
Farmlands: A South African Documentary
“The Truth About South Africa and Apartheid”
Interview with John McDermott, the Africa bureau chief for the Economist who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Rescue & Recovery Security Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts