Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
14 November 2011

You strike a pig, you strike a Broederbonder

Die Afrikanerbond is an organisation who (much like Communist Parties in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism) opportuinistically changed its name – it used to be called the Broederbond – perhaps because during the apartheid years the Broederbond was a reviled secret organisation to which one had to belong in order to get ahead in politics (the National Party sort of politics, that is), the civil service or the education system. It also helped for a company to have a member of the Broederbond on its Board of Directors because that made it far easier to score tenders from the apartheid government.

It worked a bit like Black Economic Empowerment does these days, except it was all done in secret and people who belonged to the Broederbond were not allowed to tell anyone – even their wives (only men could join) – about their membership. They had to invent “Rapportreiers vergaderings” or Bible study classes or come up with other lies to keep their dirty little secret from their Vroue Landbou Unie and the Jong Dames Dinamiek wives. It was an organisation based on lies and deceit. I do not know whether they had a secret handshake or whether they were required to tickle each other in unspeakable places to demonstrate their allegiance to the cause, but I do know that the Broederbond was not a friend of open, transparent and accountable government.

The Broederbond was often seen as the group that provided the intellectual support for the apartheid policies of the National Party. This might sound like a misnomer – a bit like saying an organisation provided the Nazi’s with democratic credentials – but apparently the leaders of the Broederbond were slightly less dim-witted than the ordinary National Party faithful and the leaders who could make rousing speeches about the Rooi Gevaar and the Swart Gevaar but were seldom the sharpest tool in the shed.

Becoming a leader of the Broederbond bestowed on one untold political influence and prestige. If one were then also a leader in the Dutch Reform Church – which was widely known as the National Party at prayer – one had truly made it in the world of apartheid hit squads, a world of torture and murder and corruption. Come to think of it, it operated a bit like the Limpopo Government does under Premier Cassel Mathale: a secret organisation with political connections and influence that bestows prestige, untold wealth and influence over tenders and government policy on those who had been admitted to that august organisation.

The Afrikanerbond has fallen on hard times, what with their former patron the National Party long dead and a former leader, Marthinus van Schalwyk, now warming the ANC benches. But they emerged from their slumber to issue a statement about the Julius Malema disciplinary hearing in order to try and help revive Mr Malema’s political fortunes – by criticising him. (After all, being criticised by these guys is a bit like being savaged by a dead sheep. It’s like being criticised by former members of the Gestapo: can’t do one’s credibility too much harm amongst any reasonable, justice loving South Africans.)

They were very upset about the fact that the ANC disciplinary committee had not found Mr Malema guilty of the “very serious charge” of racism. Channelling PW Botha and Adriaan Vlok of the 1980ties the Broederbond… er … I mean Afrikanerbond fumed as follows:

With reference to the white population of South Africa, Mr Malema said: “We must take the land without paying. They took our land without paying. Once we agree they stole our land, we can agree they are criminals and must be treated as such,” he said to cheers from a crowd of about 3 000 people at the Galeshewe stadium, just outside Kimberley. IOL News – 9 May 2011….  Mr Malema’s inflammatory statements about minorities, calls for the nationalisation of land, banks and mines, and even subversive revolutionary talk are indicative of the momentum of the National Democratic Revolution, within certain factions in the ANC. Our concern is that Mr Malema propagates an anarchistic form of revolution. The ANC’s flirtation with revolution can have unintended consequences for a country such as South Africa.

Now, I do not believe that all land should be taken from white South Africans without paying for it. After all, the Constitution allows for an orderly land-redistribution plan (which does NOT require the implementation of the ridiculous willing-buyer willing-seller policy). Taking land that essentially belongs to the banks who had provided the mortgage to the buyer without paying for it will probably not be very good for the economy.

Most white South Africans who now own land bought the land (mostly with the assistance from a bank mortgage) from other white people who might or might not have stolen the land themselves. That is why our Constitution – in a delicate balancing act – requires orderly land redistribution but does not allow for expropriation without any compensation.

Although most white people did not steal anybody’s land and bought any land they might own on credit, this does not mean they did not benefit from the colonial and apartheid policies on land theft. Most white people – unlike most black South Africans – could obtain loans from banks, who would often not give credit to black South Africans in the past. They could buy land cheaply because fewer people (essentially only white South Africans) were chasing more land (essentially 80% of the land in the country), driving down prices in a system of supply and demand.

In any case, most black South Africans were not allowed to buy property in more than 80% of the country “owned” (or, putting it differently, “stolen”) by whites. And when a sweet deal came up which allowed Broederbond types to acquire land cheaply, black South Africans could not benefit from this. So thirty years ago when all those lovely cottages at Clifton (now selling for a cool R20 million) was sold for R25000 each, no black person benefited from that cosy arrangement.

Ok, the Oppenheimers and those who own De Beers might have stolen some land and some people might still own land which was originally stolen by their forefathers and mothers, but most of us living in cities never stole any land. This does not mean that many of us might not have acquired the land cheaply because we were members of the Broederbond and were tipped off about economic development plans or because we could exploit the apartheid policies of the state to our benefit (as many Broederbonders so handsomely did).

But if we interpret Mr Malema’s statement as meaning that much of the land now mostly in the hands of whites were originally stolen by (admittedly other) whites from the indigenous population of South Africa, Malema is not that far off the mark. Saying this does not make one a racist.  Although Mr Malema has made other remarks demonstrating racial prejudices that are not reconcilable with the values and rights enshrined in the Constitution, this statement – although provocative and over the top – is by far not the worst.

But one would understand why the Beroederbond types would become uncomfortable about such a statement: it contains a kernel of truth that exposes the lie that whites – even those who murdered and tortured and oppressed black South Africans – have always hogged the moral high ground and that the ANC is the real villain of past, present and future South Africa. Mr Malema, for all his terrible bombast and populism, has hit a nerve with this statement. He has thrown a rock into a bush and the pig hiding in that bush (our dear Afrikanerbond) is now squealing in pain. Let them squeal.

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