The Terrible Price of Afrikaner Nationalism

2017-01-01 08:36

Some among South Africa’s current rulers have a grudging respect for the hard men of apartheid. Perhaps they admire the way ideology was used to galvanise a people and deliver on a dream. The thinking goes: “Apartheid helped Afrikaners solve their poor white problem, we must learn from them to solve our poor black problem”. It’s deluded. The poor white problem was solved by creating a poor black problem - robbing Peter to pay Paul; or rather robbing Peliswe to pay Paulus. The poor white problem was not about socio-economics, it was about politics.

By 1948 South Africa’s legislative edifice curtailed economic competition from Indians, coloureds and Africans. Despite this poor whites prevailed – evidence that whites were not inherently superior. Afrikaner Nationalism sought to eliminate evidence for this inconvenient truth.

The insidious idea that pops up in political discourse to this day is that Afrikaner Nationalism was bad politics, but good economics. Compared to an egregious example like Soviet Communism, apartheid wasn’t economically so bad. But if we compare ourselves to Australia, Britain, or America it was economically disastrous. Those countries grew peaceful and prosperous by following the rules of good capitalism. Capitalism works when it is underpinned by legitimate, inclusive institutions. Apartheid undermined the credibility and legitimacy of institutions by turning them into instruments of naked ideology. Our current government have missed the lesson, for them the sin of apartheid was not the manipulation of institutions, but the ideology behind it.

The story of ‘the wealth of nations’ is the story of increasing co-operation and trust. Greater co-operation increases the level of absolute wealth and allows governments room to reform and redistribute. Sectarian politics can deliver quick returns, but is ruinous in the long run – ask Zimbabweans or Venezuelans. Jan Smuts was non-sectarian in his desire to unite Afrikaner and English and find a reasonable solution to the so-called ‘native problem’. A moderate white government in 1948 would have continued to improve the living conditions and opportunities of black South Africans. And if a white government had taken a softer stance on racial domination, it would have grasped the economic potential of urbanised Africans. Marx pointed out that if you under-pay workers there’ll be no-one to buy the goods sold by capitalists. Capitalist economies can only grow by creating new consumers. Africans work-seekers flooding into cities was the perfect opportunity to do just that. By giving them reasonable living conditions and wages, South Africa could have created a dynamic internal market. It could also have enlarged the pool of skilled workers and entrepreneurs by allowing blacks to compete in the job market. This would have boosted overall productivity and government revenue. Instead the Apartheid Government held millions of Africans back, in turn radicalising the most aspirant and energetic among them. If South Africa had followed the winning formula of capitalism it could easily have paid for its poor white problem to go away, we’re only talking about a few hundred thousand people.

And what would this peaceful, prosperous and united South Africa have cost whites? The cost would have been to accept the terrifying truth that they’re not superior to blacks. It seems a small price to pay given our current reality: a politically empowered majority eager to rob Paulus to pay Peliswe.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.