The Devil & Dr. Verwoerd

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This
year on April 6 marked the founding of Cape Town. On that day in
1652 Jan van Riebeeck led colonists to found what would become Cape
Town. For Afrikaners this was akin to our Pilgrim Father's establishing
a colony in 1620.

Remembering,
let alone celebrating, Dutch settlement in South Africa has been
tossed into the memory hole.

The
grand scheme of the Dutch East India Company was for Cape Town to
be a supply link to aid the main chance: trade with the Spice Islands
[today's Indonesia]. The role of citrus in preventing scurvy was
known and the farmers, the Cape Burghers, were there to make sure
Dutch sailors would be scurvy-free.

The
Cape Burghers were half-hearted imperialists. They resisted or evaded
the chosen instrument for Amsterdam's mercantilist actions, the
Dutch East India Company, whenever possible. Their dealings with
the Cape natives, the Bushmen and the Hottentots were to keep apart,
not subjugate. That pattern of keeping apart was how they dealt
with the Bantu 125 years later when they first contacted near the
Fish River.

There
was an independence movement inspired by the American Revolution
[the Cape Burgher movement]. That movement became the impetus for
the Voortrekkers. Instead of fighting a revolution they emigrated.

Let
me reiterate, when Afrikaners encountered the Bantu [Zulus, Xhosa,
Swazi, etc.] it was not the pattern of later European colonizers
who moved in on existing people. Voortrekkers were moving into the
same empty land at the same time. Neither Bantu nor Voortrekkers
had a better claim to the future Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal.

From
1777, the first encounter between the Bantu and the Afrikaners,
to the
eve of the Boer War, there emerged a mosaic of several regimes,
stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Limpopo River.

This
mosaic of separate regimes ignored boundaries on European maps,
but so what? The reality on the ground was some twelve regimes living
as neighbors as well as states can.

Then
came the Boer War [1899-1902] and England scrambled enough southern
African eggs to make their British South African omelet.

Little
noted is that a greater portion of Afrikaners died in British-run
concentration camps than did the Nazi's victims circa 1933-45. A
point that should give pause to the hotspurs for American Empire
is what subduing the Boers required. When the last remnants of the
"bitter-enders" concluded the Peace at Vereeninging the
British had in South Africa as many soldiers as there were Afrikaner
men, women and children. It took one British Tommy per Boer to get
surrender.

Surrender
was not unanimous. Orange Free State President Steyn only agreed
to a truce and wanted to repudiate surrender. The Afrikaners negotiating
came close to rejecting surrender; only the promise of self-government
by Kitchener persuaded Jan Smuts to agree.

Confronted
now with a "majority" of Bantu in this British New Order
the British played a race card in the formation of the new government.
They claimed a federal order would bring in Bantu participation.
Afrikaners agreed to a unitary state for British South Africa. For
Afrikaners to secure independence from England under this arrangement,
they would have to become masters of this new and powerful state.

The
Afrikaners had made their Faustian bargain. To achieve independence
they sought power. Their power quest in the Union of South Africa
regime transmogrified them from being resisters of British imperialism
to collaborators of the British regime. Afrikaners bargain with
British Imperialism eventually got them viewed as neo-Nazis.

Irony?
None that can be seen from here to the horizon.

Were
Afrikaners the embodied perfection of PC man, excuse me, PC primate?
No, unlike their critics who are perfect. Afrikaners fulfilled Lord
Acton's dicta that no class or group of men were fit for power:
all classes and groups of men are unfit for power.

Dr.
H. F. Verwoerd was South Africa’s Prime Minister from 1958 until
assassinated in 1966. He led South Africa from being a self-governing
imperial component ["Union of South Africa"] to a Republic outside
of the British Empire’s halfway house: the Commonwealth.

Afrikaners
triumph in ousting the British was not celebrated on the same par
as Kwame Nkrumah's transformation of the British Gold Coast into
Ghana. Nkrumah, the Congo's Lumumba, Senegal's Senghor et al were
celebrated as liberators around the world.

How
was Verwoerd's South Africa treated?

In
the Afrikaners march from the Union regime [1910] to the Republic
[1961] to apartheid's dismantling [1991] they walked from state
resistance to resisting only British-run states.

In
time Afrikaners grew weary of holding onto a despised, Afrikaner
imperium. So the Afrikaners yielded their hold on the Pretoria government
to the “majority.”

Apartheid’s
architects were the National Party. They had a conservative wing
know as the “verkrampte” who warned of a bleak future if the Nationalists
yielded power to the “majority.” They warned of intra-Bantu violence,
of anti-white violence, of rising crime generally, of financial
hard times, and civil strife leading to civil war. They also warned
that South Africa would become a Soviet colony. On the latter point
they were wrong. Not for lack of trying by Mandela, it is just that
the Soviet Union went out of business around the time he was setting
up his regime. The other warnings have come true, but being a Cassandra
is never rewarded.

From
a paleo’s perspective, Afrikaners would have been better served
in giving up on the unitary state, but the “one ring to rule them
all and in the darkness bind them” got them. So the civilization
they worked to build and keep for three hundred, thirty-nine years
is going with those “Winds of Change” a British politician blathered
about forty years back.

But
once on a happy day a hundred families started something nice in
a far away place and it is worth remembering and honoring.

August
21, 2002

Alan
Turin [send him mail]
writes from Hollywood, Florida.

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