Category Archives: South Africa

More victim than thou

Pocahontas

The one-drop rule

If, writes Dalrymple, Elizabeth Warren could prove that at some time in the past, however distant, one of her ancestors belonged to what the people of Hindustan—the real experts in human classification, having had millennia of practice at it—call the ‘scheduled castes’,

some extra moral authority would be added unto her.

There’s no racist as fanatical as an anti-racist

It demonstrates, Dalrymple says, how racialised liberal thinking—liberal in the US, not in the classical, sense—has remained in America. He observes that

once you start down the road of equality of outcome as the measure of justice, rather than equality under the law, you start dividing humans into groups, and one of the most obvious ways to do so is race. So, having spent years denying that there is any objective reality to racial classifications, liberals start sifting people into racial categories with an obsessiveness that puts South African policemen under the old régime to shame.

Race, among other classifications,

becomes a lens through which the whole of social life is examined.

South Africa takes the road to penury, tyranny, and famine

Dalrymple writes that farmers, however efficient,

tend to be heavily indebted, but their debts are performing so long as they produce profitably. Expropriation of their land leaves the banks holding huge unserviced debt, for the new owners, producing much less or nothing at all, have no means to service them. The only way to prevent the banks from collapsing is drastically to increase the money supply and to keep doing so.

One might have hoped that the example of Zimbabwe, with its long border with South Africa to the north and its long stream of refugees to the south,

would have been sufficient warning to South Africa not to embark on any similar policy. After all, the stakes are much greater than they were in Zimbabwe. The population is many times larger than Zimbabwe’s, and vastly more urbanised, so that any last resort to subsistence farming is impossible. There is no south for the population to flee to. South Africa’s is already a much more violent society than Zimbabwe’s ever was, with more severe social problems. A catastrophe could easily ensue.

A fifth of white land in South Africa has already been transferred on the basis of willing seller, willing buyer.

  • Why were the sellers willing to sell when they had been settled for so long? Because the longer-term prospects for them in South Africa are dim; many white farmers have been murdered and the rhetoric towards them has long been of a threatening kind which sooner or later would have to be acted on if the rhetoricians were not to lose face.
  • Have the persons to whom the transfers were made maintained former levels of production? It would be surprising if productivity were not changed for the worse. Large-scale commercial farming is not something that is learned in the twinkling of an eye.

From Marx, Capital, volume 1, chapter 32

Dalrymple notes that commercial farms in South Africa

are heavily indebted to the banks. If the farms were expropriated without compensation, the state, or to whomever the state passed on the farms, would be taking on the liabilities as well as the assets. State farming does not have a very good record anywhere in the world, to put it mildly; and it is unlikely that people could be found to continue farming the land profitably. Either the banks would be obliged to write off enormous debts, with the consequent possibility of collapse, or a Zimbabwe-type inflation would have to come to their rescue. This is without mention of the severe food shortages that would occur. The expropriators are expropriated. The problem is that those in whose name the expropriations take place starve to death afterwards.

The very possibility of expropriation without compensation

will have a devastating effect on production, for who will invest if it is only to be expropriated later? That is one of the reasons why security of property is so important, and the South African parliament has shown that it does not understand this. The spectre of expropriation will encourage more commercial farmers to leave and they will not easily be persuaded to return.

Dalrymple says that expropriation without compensation

is so obviously a bad idea that the wonder is that it has been voted as a possibility, all the more so as there is the experience of South Africa’s northern neighbour to draw upon.

Mere stupidity does not account for the proposal.  When Dalrymple was in South Africa he met prominent members of the African National Congress. He had the impression that they were

positioning themselves much as the Russian oligarchs positioned themselves. It was a question of the division of the spoils in a corporatist state. They would set about disproportionate self-enrichment under cover of the rhetoric of dramatic change after an oppressive past.

Rhetorician of resentment

The ANC’s task now

is to ensure the continued loyalty of the political class. There is no better way of doing this than by arrogating powers of patronage, both to confer and to confiscate property. This can all be done under cover of the rhetoric of resentment; and the policy will be disastrous only if its aim is the betterment of the lot of the population. If its aim is the consolidation of power, at least for a time, it makes perfect sense.

 

An EFFing catastrophe in the making

Dalrymple points out that the potential long-term, and even short-term, effects of the move to change the South African constitution to allow white-owned land to be expropriated without compensation are of course

catastrophic.

A crisis will be produced

to dwarf Zimbabwe’s, with starvation and famine avertable only if 10m or 15m South Africans succeed in finding somewhere to migrate to.

Julius Malema

The motion in parliament was proposed by Julius Malema, who leads the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). They dress entirely in red. The EFF

calls for radical redistribution of wealth, as if an economy were a stew or soup to be ladled out in portions.

The EFF leader,

who, if the large financial scandals connected with his person are anything to go by, excludes himself from his own economic egalitarianism, said in 2016 that he was not calling for the slaughter of whites — not yet.

Dalrymple explains that South Africa’s ruling party

does not consider the current ownership of land legitimate, for only illegitimacy could justify expropriation without compensation. Even without putting it into practice, therefore, the motion is likely to have a deleterious effect on South African farming and agricultural production, for who would invest in property that can be seized at the stroke of a pen, and is not regarded truly as his own?

As if a collapse of agricultural production were not bad enough, expropriation without compensation would also bring about

either the collapse of the South African banks, for South African farmers are deeply indebted, or confer huge debt obligations upon the government. And this is so even if (what is very unlikely) the redistribution of land were carried out in other than a grossly corrupt way, without political favouritism.

The Guardian’s four-legs-good, two-legs-bad worldview

The newspaper’s deafening silence on South Africa

Dalrymple writes that when the South African parliament passed a motion, by 241 votes to 83, to change the nation’s constitution to allow white-owned land to be expropriated without compensation, the Guardian

was coy about reporting it. Even now, it has not mentioned the measure on its website, except indirectly.

Dalrymple asks:

Why the silence on this important development? Perhaps because it is an embarrassment to the paper’s view of the world. How is one to report the near-genocidal and famine-promoting wishes of people whose rôle in life for so many years has been that of victims of injustice?

The shoe is on the other foot

The post-colonial looting of Africa (the kind that follows the outdated, colonial kind)

In South Africa, Dalrymple is invited to dinner at an industrialist’s house, in the kind of property that on its periphery resembles

an armed camp.

Among Dalrymple’s fellow invitees are important figures in the African National Congress. He speaks to one leader, a communist. The man wears

a sharp and expensive Italian suit.

The man sticks to the party line, but Dalrymple guesses that his thoughts and feelings are

more aligned with crony capitalism than with the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The man’s shoes are

of fine lizard skin, with gilded trimming — more for ornament than use, their soles paper-thin; beautifully made. They can be worn only in the most luxurious of environments; a gravel driveway would ruin them. They are the kind of shoes that Russian oligarchs buy at a cost of thousands in the most expensive shopping street in Zurich.

Postcards from Bradford

Caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt

Dalrymple writes that not since he lived and worked in South Africa

have I seen a city as racially segregated as Bradford.

There is no law to separate the races,

but stone walls do not a ghetto make.

An outpost of Islam

It is possible

in one part of Bradford to conclude that it is a typical northern British city, dominated almost completely by a white working class, and in another (reached by driving along a single major road that bisects the city) that it is an outpost of Islam, whose people have changed their hemisphere of residence, but not their culture or way of life.

Females excluded from this gathering

Rotten grandeur

Dalrymple explains that the city

reached an acme of prosperity in the second half of the 19th century, before its success evaporated, leaving behind a legacy of municipal pride and magnificence, of splendid public buildings in the Gothic and renaissance-revival styles. (It was on the head of a Bradford millionaire that Eliot sarcastically stuck a silk hat in The Waste Land.)

Even many of the terraced working-class homes

are elegantly and expensively faced in stone, so that large areas of the city resemble nothing so much as Bath with textile mills added.

Hanover Square

One part of Bradford, Hanover Square,

is a small masterpiece of Victorian town architecture: it was long the residence of Margaret McMillan, who some 90 years ago founded the British nursery-school movement and agitated for improvements in working-class education.

The streets of Bradford: strictly men only

Women prohibited from this march

Nowadays, Dalrymple notes,

there is not a white face to be seen in the square, nor that of any woman. It is strictly men only on the street, dressed as for the North-West Frontier (apart, incongruously, from their sneakers).

A group of them

perpetually mills around outside the house that functions as a madrassah.

‘Buckshot’ Forster, who represented Bradford in the House of Commons between 1861 and 1886, was among other things Gladstone’s chief secretary for Ireland

The Victoria Monument is today spoiled by the hideous modern building in the background

The W.E. Forster statue is today spoiled by a monstrosity of a shopping centre

Rhodesia is super

Rhodesia, writes Dalrymple, has been

condemned, loudly and insistently, as if it were the greatest threat to world peace and the security of the planet.

By the time he arrives, it has

no friends, only enemies. Even South Africa, the regional colossus with which Rhodesia shares a long border and which might be expected to be sympathetic, is highly ambivalent.

He expects to find, therefore, a country in crisis and decay. Instead he discovers one that is

thriving: its roads are well maintained, its transport system functioning, its towns and cities clean and manifesting a municipal pride long gone from England.

Miss Rhodesia

Confessions of a kafferboetie

Johannesburg

Johannesburg

At a hospital in the black township in which he works, Theodoor attends the black nurses’ graduation ceremony. He writes:

The graduation was an occasion of immense local pride, for a nursing qualification was highly regarded; and my presence was welcomed with a celerity and generosity which made me feel ashamed. I was the only white who turned up for the ceremony, though white doctors worked in the hospital, and I was at once accorded the place of honour though I knew that I had done nothing special to deserve it other than be white. Refusal of the place of honour would have offended, of course, and so I took it, instead of a black clergyman scheduled for it. What was so moving about this was that there was absolutely no resentment in it.

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Herstigte Nasionale Party

Fraternisation

On another occasion, he drives the black nurse in his clinic home to her house in the black township.

I asked her to sit beside me in the car, rather than in the rear, which she found remarkable: it would have been enough by itself to give me a local reputation as a kafferboetie. (‘And if you can’t call a kaffer a kaffer,’ the mother-in-law of the man who employed me wanted plaintively to know, ‘who can you call a kaffer?’) A white sitting in the back of a car driven by a black would have been a man with his chauffeur; but a black in the back of a car driven by a white would have been as good as chattel.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 22.40.52Gesture of equality

The nurse, who knows Dalrymple is British,

concluded en route that I must be a member of the British royal family to act in this fashion, for only someone of the highest social status would dare do such a thing or be sure enough of his position not to feel it endangered by such a gesture of equality.

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Dalrymple’s recollection of a brief conversation with Joe Slovo in 1992

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Joe Slovo: limos, banquets and  flattery in Moscow

DALRYMPLE: During your many visits to the Soviet Union, have you not noticed one or two facts about it — the absence of goods in the shops, the lack of freedom, that sort of thing?

SLOVO: What you have to understand is that the Soviet Union has always supported the freedom struggle in South Africa and I’ve always been the honoured guest of the Central Committee of the Communist Party; I’ve always been driven in limousines from the airport to excellent accommodation, where I’ve been very well fed and watered.

DALRYMPLE: Might it not be a little foolish to recommend an entire socioeconomic system for South Africa on the experiential basis of flattery of your person and consumption of banquets?

SLOVO (feebly): Yes, I suppose it might be.

Unctuous Western pseudo-grief

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 03.03.23It is, says Dalrymple,

nauseating….Britain’s two foremost liberal-left newspapers had between them approximately fifty broadsheet pages devoted to Mandela, many times more than the return and re-crucifixion of Christ would have received.

Mandela is neverthless an important figure meriting praise, Dalrymple writes.

His…achievement…was the avoidance of the interracial violence that had long been predicted as ‘inevitable’ in South Africa and the only way things would ever change there. He did this by his dignity and lack of rancour after his release from prison and during his presidency….For example, his enthusiasm for the South African team in the rugby World Cup, whether genuine or not, was a wise and shrewd way of trying to prove that South African patriotism should transcend racial divides….No better way of calming fears symbolically could well have been imagined; Mandela played the part to perfection, and all honor to him.