I thought of the lament “Out of the frying pan and into the fire” when I read about FW de Klerk’s recent speech. He had tried to avert an unsustainable future but he is now asking questions about the sustainability of a new form of Racism. Elsewhere called Black Supremacy.
In fact, The Economist has often pointed out that when Minority-rule dominates the majority, especially if that is by force, it is unsustainable. But when the affirmative action favours the Majority, then you are on the edge of something more sinister, going down the road to ethnic cleansing. The white Germans did it to the white Jews; and the black Hutus did it to the black Tutsis. It does not have to be across the colour bar.
Looking at a map of Israel with the Palestinian Authority inside it is not so very different from looking at an apartheid atlas of South Africa. Except that in Israel there are only two states, not many Bantustans within one large country. One operates inside the other, but that “Two State Solution” is not in vogue any more. For it does not sit well with a line of thinking that promotes inclusion, equality and harmonization.
But is South Africa really moving towards a melting-pot model like Brazil, where there is plenty of racial mixing even on the beach – not just on TV? There are still extremes in South Africa – like the deep rural areas of the Eastern Cape which remain very traditional. And on the opposite extreme – Orania in the Northern Cape.
Take one photo of a segregated classroom and you could lose your job! Although that teacher fought back and proved that she had every right to make that photo public. Because citizens have a right to know.
I just think that we are hiding what has really happened. South Africa is polarizing – as are many countries. But here, the proportions get scary. Whites almost need the wealth advantage – to counterbalance the fact that they are significantly outnumbered.
What will happen to the whites if that epicentre of wealth shifts suddenly? It would have the same effect that “load shift” has on cargo transport. It could up-end the equilibrium. Those boats crossing the Mediterranean might suddenly be filled with whites looking for a port of entry into Europe, instead of blacks.
This sounds a bit crazy, but within one week I have read a brilliant article in the Daily Maverick about the rising influence of the Alt Right in the world – including South Africa (by Miriame Thamm), and I also received a bulletin from Abahlali Press about the government’s recent deployment of a new generation of “Casspirs” to conduct military repression of the surge for land being guided by Abahlali baseMjondolo. Land and Dignity. Is this one and the same country?!
What about language? Tshwane University has just decided to adopt English as its medium of instruction. How does that make white voters feel about the future of their country? In the attempt to unify people, that will actually have a polarizing effect, alienating whites. I agree with Tito Mboweni that we will regret this 30 years from now.
What about land expropriation without compensation as a policy, heading towards legislation? Yes it will benefit blacks in terms of dignity and level the playing field in term of access to the means of production. But it will bend property rights to the breaking point, having a knock-on effect on the rule of law, and even on our baseline of nonracialism. What will it do to social cohesion?
In Israel, the Two State Solution basically divides one space into two zones. Just before the United Nations was established, the British adopted a similar Two State Solution for India. Move the Muslims to Pakistan (West and East, the latter became Bangladesh at a later date) and concentrate the Hindus in the middle. They called it “Partition”. It seems to have worked?
But when decades later, Burma tries a similar approach – ringfencing Muslims into an enclave – that has become anathema. Now it is called “Genocide” – for all the same reasons that so many champion the cause of the Palestinians. The Two State Solution is no longer regarded as a goal, just a stage of development as history evolves.
In that part of the world, policy has been changing for millennia. Xerxes was a centralizer who brought the elite of the nations he conquered back to his capital at Suza. But his son Art Xerxes reversed that, even helping his Minister of Security (Nehemiah) to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem – a security project. A wall. It created the conditions for the city’s economy to revive and flourish again.
Later the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a wall – across the northern frontier of his empire – to manage the incursions of Picts and Scots. The Chinese also built a wall along their border, to manage the raiding Mongols. But the Democrats are now calling Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall “a fifth century solution to a twenty-first century problem”. There goes the polarization again.
Those photos taken by drones are so graphic – nice suburbs on one side of the wall with their swimming pools. On the other side of the wall, townships of grinding poverty. We live in a de facto Two State Solution.
But as the rhetoric gets more radical, and the on-going job shrinkage continues because investors are scared away… as the crime rises because most of the police are intimate with the Majority and not inclined to risk their lives to protect a white minority… as the fear of gangsters begins to surpass the fear of law enforcement… the Two State Solution is taking hold. Here it is not just a stage, it is becoming a reality.
Yet the tectonic plates of world politics are shifting. America is more focused on patriotism than on policing the world. Bolsanaro is rocking Brazil and with it BRICS will be rocked, just like Trump rocked America. Brexit is rocking Europe. This trending is rocking Venezuela as never before. A lot of this, believe it or not, has to do with slowing down the migration flows. When Trump says “make America great again” he means in part applying the brakes on immigration and not letting Spanish challenge English.
With our voices we say we don’t like the Two State Solution. But with our policies and actions we are entrenching it by polarizing citizens. In a word, this is hypocrisy. We put the “quick wins” before a strategic commitment to social cohesion and nonracialism.
What the ANC calls “unity” is not that at all, it is a strategy to avert the decline of the radical Left in the context of a global boom in Conservatism. Neither faction of the ANC can possibly win an election any more – so they need one another and thus they awkwardly stick together. This is a kind of gridlock. South Africa takes sides with Maduro, risking further alienation from the North, whose economies are growing while Venezuela, Zimbabwe and North Korea are sinking.
This kind of thinking will not take us past the Two State Solution, because it probably cannot see that this is where we have ended up. Out of the frying pan, and into the fire.
Chuck Stephens is the Executive Director for the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership and writes in his personal capacity.