Wasted apartheid years

2008-01-07 00:00

South Africa was a place of alarming possibilities in the late eighties: overthrow of the state by mass demonstrations — the so-called Leipzig option; a protracted rearguard war by the security state against a revolutionary army; or a White right-wing guerrilla war against the Pretoria government, for instance. All seemed feasible. None of them happened. The people on the street were not confident enough; MK was never a match for a disciplined force; and modern South Africa was no place for Boer War-type commandos. Instead, the main protagonists embraced constitutionalism.

So the conservative F. W. de Klerk delivered liberal democracy to a country that had recently and briefly tasted fascism. Van der Westhuizen compares this with the deal between maize and gold producers at Union in 1910, labelling the outcome an arrangement between elites that preserved white economic power. She flirts with the idea that the constitutional preservation of property rights inhibits the redistribution of wealth.

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