Outgrowing apartheid: FW de Klerk

24 Comments

 

The passing of South Africa’s last apartheid president, FW de Klerk, raises pressing questions about a complex historical character who, according to his brother, Willem de Klerk, slowly outgrew apartheid.  In a critical sense, he was bound, understandably, by both time and context: race, the need to defend a racial hierarchy, the historical role of a segregationist system that saw his all-white National Party retain power for decades. Driven by an existential need, De Klerk found himself making uncomfortable decisions to accommodate sworn enemies. When he was sworn in as President in September 1989, he declared that white domination would have to, at some point, end, but it could hardly be replaced by black domination.

His announcement to South Africa’s parliament on 2 February, 1990 was vital to shaping a country that had known apartheid since 1948. Under this social and political system of organisation, races would follow separate paths of development. Ostensibly, such development was intended as equal; in practice, disparities and inequalities were viciously enforced. By the late 1980s, this model began to prove unsustainable.

Between 1984 and 1989, De Klerk served as education minister, overseeing the notorious Bantu education program.  On replacing the brutally defiant PW Botha, De Klerk initiated security reforms while also casting feelers for potential negotiations with his racial opponents. He took some encouragement from the weaking of the global Communist bloc, which had provided much support for the revolutionary African National Congress and other opponents of the apartheid regime. De Klerk had also heeded the Harare Declaration, adopted by the ANC as a promise to pursue a democratic transition to transform South Africa ‘into a non-racial democracy’.

This phase saw a set of discussions that eventually led to the February 1990 speech. There were talks between Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee, ANC figures and South Africa’s National Intelligence Service. Nelson Mandela was approached in prison. Dialogue was also opened between Afrikaner intellectuals and the ANC conducted on British soil. Such organisations as the ANC, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) and the South African Communist Party were unbanned. A moratorium on the death penalty was implemented. Within nine days, Mandela walked free. 

What followed in the transition phase proved messy. The Convention for a Democratic South Africa, presided over by both De Klerk and Mandela, imploded.  Neither man trusted each other. Mandela called De Klerk at the time the ‘head of an illegitimate, discredited minority regime … incapable of upholding moral standards’.   

The various racial groups were also fractious. The Inkatha Freedom Party preferred an early exit, claiming that their leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, had been hamstrung. Some ANC revolutionaries continued to burn with revolutionary ardour and were less than impressed with suggestions that they turn swords into ploughshares.

 

'He remained a creature of his racial and political background. His memoirs are filled with efforts to explain how he, and his NP colleagues, were ‘products of our time and circumstances’.' 

 

In April 1993 at Kempton Park, the ANC and National Party commenced the eventually successful Multi-Party Negotiation Process (MPNP) involving representatives from 24 other parties. The 1994 electoral victory for the ANC shored up its support, leading to the eventual December 1996 constitution. For two years, De Klerk served as Mandela’s deputy.

De Klerk was left to digest the changed circumstances, and the legacy of apartheid, which he preferred to call ‘separate development’ rather than a heinous crime condemned by the international community. Never a full-blooded reformer, he was an establishment pragmatist prone to apologias, never one who took up the banner of the anti-apartheid movement typified by such figures as Helen Suzman and Harry Schwarz. ‘I am not a gambler,’ he claimed in a radio interview in March 1992. ‘I am a democrat.’ The late Colin Eglin summed up this facet well in contrasting De Klerk and his sparring political partner, Mandela. A relatively conservative Afrikaner leader decided to negotiate before he had lost, and an imprisoned leader of a liberation movement decided to negotiate before he had won. 

He remained a creature of his racial and political background. His memoirs are filled with efforts to explain how he, and his NP colleagues, were ‘products of our time and circumstances’. But he did not leave it at that.

In his account is a nagging sense that the apartheid regime had not been ill-intentioned. The view is not unremarkable for a figure whose political life was spent, for the most part, as an establishment National Party figure. He came from an apartheid pedigree. JG Strijdom, the country’s second apartheid prime minister, had been an uncle. De Klerk’s father, Jan de Klerk, was in the cabinet of three apartheid administrations.

De Klerk’s statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee was filled with resentment at the commission’s alleged partiality. He also went at great lengths to discredit opponents of apartheid. Calling it a crime against humanity in international law was ‘little more than a mobilisation exercise by the ANC and its totalitarian and Third World supporters in the UN General Assembly.’ When he cast his mind to ‘crimes against humanity’, he thought of those mounds of carcasses caused by totalitarian states, not programs designed to ‘achieve sustained population growth rates of more than 3 per cent’.

In reflecting upon what he euphemistically termed ‘unconventional strategies’ used by the South African security forces against their opponents, De Klerk wished to have it both ways. Within his knowledge and experience, he claimed, such strategies ‘never included the authorisation of assassination, murder, torture, rape, assault or the like.’ He was also relentless in insisting that he had never been ‘part of any decision taken by Cabinet, the State Security Council or any Committee authorising or instructing the commission of such gross human rights.’

Given the cabinet positions he occupied, this position is a far from tenable one. Former TRC commissioner Yasmin Sooka was left shaking her head, subsequently claiming that De Klerk had ‘consistently refused to accept any responsibility for the gross human rights violations committed under his watch, or the crime of apartheid.’

In 2020, he found himself facing a storm of protest after reiterating claims in an interview with the national broadcaster, SABC, that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. When attending parliament to hear the State of the Nation address from President Cyril Ramaphosa, De Klerk faced calls for his removal from the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, Julius Malema. ‘We have a murder in the House,’ stated an indignant Malema.

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation, in less ill-tempered fashion, reminded De Klerk that the law had caught up, with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court declaring the racial policy to be very much a crime against humanity. De Klerk had to concede that it was ‘unacceptable’ to ‘quibble about the degrees of unacceptability of apartheid’. 

In a posthumous video, intended for release upon his death, De Klerk apologised for apartheid. ‘I, without qualification, apologise for the pain and the hurt and the indignity and the damage that apartheid has done to black, brown and Indians in South Africa,’ he states. But in his twilight, he could express worry that the work he had done was being scuttled. ‘I’m deeply concerned about the undermining of many aspects of the constitution, which we perceive almost day-to-day.’

By 1996, De Klerk got off at the terminus of history — in a fashion. He had been part of the very legacy he had tried to, not all too convincingly, exorcise. On receiving the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, there seemed to be a distinct disparity of position between the men. He may well have pulled a few levers along the way, but the end of apartheid remained a Mandela show, with De Klerk’s voice an echo of a much maligned, cruel experiment.

 

 

 

Binoy KampmarkDr Binoy Kampmark is a former Commonwealth Scholar who lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. 

Main image: Former South African President F.W. de Klerk arrives for the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium December 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Topic tags: Binoy Kampmark, de Klerk, South Africa, Apartheid

 

 

submit a comment

Existing comments

Perhaps there's a different way to look at a man, equally a product of their times. Apartheid commenced around 1949 lawfully but was an adaptation of existing socio-economic segregation of 4 groups, black, white, coloured and Indian. A reason was the African tradition of paying a "bride price" to marry; nobody was buying mixed race brides, nor welcoming diluted grooms; similarly, Zulu-Hutu-Tutsi blends were caused by employment migration to South Africa because of its strong mining economy. Try fitting 50 million people of more than 12 tribes into roughly the same land mass as the Northern Territory. Fiscally, post de Klerk has been a bad period for anyone with fixed or liquid assets; the Rand exchange rate is well below 10% of what it was; the bright side is you can buy a magnificent house today for next to nothing. Mandela brought in a minimum wage which meant that property owners could no longer afford live-in gardeners or maids to tend their palaces; a big empty house and employees out of work. I prefer to believe de Klerk exercised the lifting of apartheid responsibly as a progressive and am inclined to accept his interpretation it was not an intended crime against humanity any more than border control or religious segregation.


ray | 23 November 2021  
Show Responses

A novel attempt by the usual contrarian at a 'white-wash' in the aftermath of the Sharpeville Massacre which galvanised global opinion on the pernicious effects of a politico-economic system run by an unelected minority on the basis of its belief in a superiority constructed entirely upon the premise that the colour of one's skin should be the sole factor in determining its use (and abuse!) of power. Anti-democratic, illiberal, uneducated, horrendously violent and plainly unjust, it was the offence this caused in the eyes of a post-colonial, post-war world that galvanised so many of our generation into speaking up and making a stand on South Africa's participation in the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics, Rugby and Cricket. I well remember the ill-treatment of my compatriot, Basil D'Oliveira, incidentally of mixed Indian and Portuguese parentage and whose merit as a cricketer was disregarded in the MCC's attempt to placate the South African Cricket Board by dropping him from selection. The public outcry in Britain, Australia and NZ was deafening. In those societies where sportsmanship hallmarks the political culture and the odium of racism would not be tolerated, 'Dolly' was feted as a hero and the Springboks firmly shown they were not welcome.


Michael Furtado | 24 November 2021  

An excerpt from the Harare Declaration of 1990:
"16.1 South Africa shall become a united, democratic and non-racial state.
16.2 All its people shall enjoy common and equal citizenship and nationality regardless of race , colour sex, or creed.
16.3 All its people have the right to participate in the government and administration of the country on the basis of a universal suffrage, exercised through one person one vote, under a common voters' roll."

Just imagine our one eyed blind Bishops having a Damascene moment like that through the Plenary and our church finally coming of age.


Francis Armstrong | 24 November 2021  

Interesting, Ray, with his friend Wikipedia, seems, so far, to be the only commenter on your article. I found it fairly shallow and 'progressive' in a rather cliched 'Parkville lefty' sort of way. Academics seem to have this thing about Crimes Against Humanity. I call them atrocities pure and simple. The British Army has committed several of these in Northern Ireland and the higher command seems to have colluded in many. The majority of these perpetrators will never be tried anywhere. South Africa did have its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which did achieve the result of bringing some horrific things to light. People like Desmond Tutu thought it didn't go far enough. The situation in RSA was very similar to Germany after WW 2, which is interesting, because many of the leaders of the Nationalist Party were in gaol then as Nazi sympathisers and possible saboteurs of the war effort. Afrikaners are deeply religious and once The World Association of Reformed Churches declared Apartheid a Heresy that had a wide effect amongst them. The Defence Forces, particularly the Army, were multiracial and that had a profound effect. F W de Klerk was a pragmatist who saw the writing on the wall. He and Nelson Mandela together prevented a bloodbath. Thank God! RSA has real problems currently and these are the ones needing to be fixed.


Edward Fido | 25 November 2021  
Show Responses

Edward, I have been to Johannesburg and surrounds 4 times between 2000 to 2005 for a few weeks each visit and can assure you that the Rand value, apartheid and employment were frequent topics over the dinner table, so Wiki isn't my only friend here for understanding. The workplaces I visited were fairly egalitarian and the commentary I received was from various ethnicities usually deploring how the Mandela period reshaped the country but had some adverse effects for both "rich" and "poor". Crime was rampant; everybody there knows someone close who died from a car jack or kidnapped children; again, all ethnicities suffer this. Getting rid of apartheid changed the target of criminals from mainly white to anyone with money; while the criminals could be lauded for their apparent changed values adaptation to accommodate the wider community it could be conceivable that the time under Botha, de Klerk and others may have contributed to inequalities but that 30 years post Mandela Soweto remains testimony to failure of ideals and the empty Johannesburg city represents similar.


ray | 25 November 2021  

Ray, I accept your fairness and hands-on experience, but isn't your focus on the aftermath of apartheid's toppling not a corroboration of some of the dingy views on show here. Wasn't Australia in the days of White Settlement treated as a dumping ground for convicts, themselves sold a pup on the myth of Terra Nullius? Isn't it widely accepted these days that the authentic historical record shows that Indigenous Australians were disenfranchised of their land, herded into unwanted spaces and either poisoned, shot or bullied into missionary submission, even if with good intention? Does that not show that the rest of us, including myself, who came to this country to avail of the living we were unjustly denied elsewhere, are, in sum usurpers of a sort? If so, what license do we have, to pronounce opinions and judgments about a people who, on the basis of the colour of their skin, were also forcibly herded into homelands, introduced to only the most servile aspects of White culture, and that too under the yoke of apartheid? What entitlement do we have, whether we have the privilege of visiting Johannesburg or not, to pass judgment on a people colonised for 500 years?


Michael Furtado | 26 November 2021  

‘the myth of Terra Nullius?‘ Even 2000 years ago, there was unlikely to have been any place on Earth where somebody was not already living. What are we to say about Zion the Land of Milk and Honey? It doesn’t take 40 years to get from Egypt to Israel, even on foot. Obviously, there were other peoples to bargain or fight with to slow progress.


Obviously, God, in principle, allowed transmigrations into populated areas back in the day when social infrastructure was not as extensive as it is today and all that was entailed was for a new group to find a bit of room somewhere, fend for themselves, and not suck at the teat of systems devised for the safety and comfort of those already there.


Today, such is not the case. A migrant is a claimant on the hospitality of those already there. Migrants, asylum seekers, what-have-you don’t migrate to ‘Australia’: they migrate to Medicare, to the job-making potential of the Australian Economy, to free education for their children in the state schools, to various community services, to a general civilian atmosphere of live and let live.


What is the value of citizenship? To buy an equivalent standard of physical comfort and mental health would run into millions of dollars over the course of whatever’s left of your life when you get here. If you are allowed to arrive here legally to stay, you have just been awarded a lottery winnings of several millions of dollars. If you arrive unannounced, you’re asking to be given a lottery winnings of several millions of dollars. Even if you wish to look at it as a mortgage, it’s a principal for which repayment is only a moral obligation.


roy chen yee | 30 November 2021  

I don’t know if there is a lesson here except to say that while a pragmatist may change a point in his nation’s history, his nation will eventually regress to its mean.

Gorbachev overthrew the dictatorship of the Communist Party but in time, Russia reverted to the traditional Eastern European mean of a czarist-like autocracy. The African mean isn’t promising either.


Essentially, de Klerk changed when and how black South Africans would become accountable for the South African vision. He moved the inflection from a point in the future where black South Africans would take their country by force back to a point where a transition could be controlled with no bloodshed. But, regardless of when the inflection takes place, the mean still beckons like a siren on a rock which is why it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Western European mean, with its translocations in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and its charmed copies in Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the Republic of China (for the moment constrained to Taiwan), is sui generis.


roy chen yee | 25 November 2021  
Show Responses

A repeat of the by now 'wanting' argument of Samuel Huntington, Roy; and here's why I find it wanting. In 'The New Era in World Politics' (1996) he argued that there can be no true friends without true enemies, and that this 'unfortunate truth' means that enemies are essential to creating identity. That view of identity has been challenged by postmodern writers like Judith Butler on the grounds that because history changes so also do its cultural consequences in terms of changing identities. The Asian I was in the Calcutta of my youth is nothing like the Australian that I am in my adulthood. Similarly for you if you are overseas born. Indeed young Australian Asians are quite culturally different from their parents and grandparents, as indeed will be their children from them because culture isn't static. This also means that, while Crictical Race Theory has its cultural uses at this point in historical time, like Huntinton's theory it would be pernicious to employ it as any more than a cultural tool in the service of reparative/restorative justice. After all, isn't justice - at least as Jesus taught it - about love and conversion and not at all about revenge?


Michael Furtado | 04 December 2021  

Apartheid, along with Communism/Marxism and Nazism/Fascism, were 20th century disasters.
Martin Luther King Jr. longed for a world where his children, “will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” Much progress was made with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and subsequent actions.
But malevolent ideas continue to flourish, and it seems that the colour of one’s skin, one’s sex, one’s religion, or the choice of one’s sexual partners are the only things that matter in today’s popular left-wing culture.
The late Wyatt Tee Walker, a legend of the civil rights movement, and King’s one-time confidant, condemned “remedies” that are now deemed fashionable: “such as Critical Race Theory, the increasingly fashionable post-Marxist/postmodernist approach that analyses society as institutional group power structures rather than on a spiritual or one-to-one human level—are taking us in the wrong direction: separating even elementary school children into explicit racial groups, and emphasizing differences instead of similarities.”


Ross Howard | 25 November 2021  
Show Responses

Ross, objectivity is hardly the prerogative of the White Man. Critical Race Theory is no more than a response to decades of White Rage, built up and boiling over as in these columns, since decolonisation after the last World War. Australia became the favourite refuge of many suffering from this syndrome who, from experience, are out of place in modern Europe, the UK and Canada (itself too traumatised by the Trumpestani nightmare next door to shelter the remnant of has-been white settlers, like Edward, who tirelessly parade their jejune views in these columns). Jaundice is one thing - they say it lies dormant in one, forever threatening to return - but when it rears its comic head in expectation of being lauded, that calls for more than the mellow Jesuit radicalism that ES promotes and which, palpably on evidence in these columns, offers its dose of daily provocation to those whose life-support systems are put to healthy personal and spiritual renewal by the challenge that writers like Andy Hamilton and Binoy pose.


Michael Furtado | 26 November 2021  

‘decades of White Rage, built up and boiling over as in these columns’

Where is this ‘white rage’? The usual way that systemic racism is explained is that a society which has been majority white for generations tends to see everything through the same lenses to the extent that they are unaware there are others using different lenses to see the same thing. This phenomenon is named ‘white privilege’ and some time ago, on these pages, there was an ex-Singaporean Tamil woman writing articles about ‘Chinese’ privilege in Singapore where Chinese form much of the population.

I suppose an example of being oblivious would be being a generic Catholic and having your pork sandwich at lunch at work while a Muslim co-worker is fasting during Ramadan, or having the same pork sandwich on a Friday while a Latin Mass-frequenting colleague is abstaining or fasting. Or being an Anglo Canadian and assuming English is the norm in a Quebec office.

Oblivious is not the same as enraged. It’s not even the same as the caste system where the Brahmins were, like Sadducees, neither oblivious nor enraged but systemically and systematically indifferent.

And nonsensical but aggressive stuff like this isn’t helpful: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/29/migrants-earn-place-britain-people-channel


roy chen yee | 30 November 2021  

Michael, try to stay within the bounds of the topic which is de Klerck and apartheid; it wasn't de Klerck's "experiment" to concieve apartheid but it was his leadership to dissolve it in some manner. His values and morality were shaped living in a country where apartheid was law; those of us looking back from outside cannot condemn him for refusing to observe it to be a crime against humanity; the law had served the nation to prosperity whereas the rest of Africa was not successful. I'm not inclined to accept his memoirs or a dying mans recording are anything less than his honest beliefs, whether correct or not. Around 1700 the Boers (Dutch, French, German) were not a colonial force but a trading group later forced away from the Cape by the English in a few wars; this notion of dispossession of land you keep pedaling and pleading is no less lost on a person born in a disputed place than one with cultural links. De Klerck would have failed ALL his people if he relented to some popularist view that Sth Africans were inherently racist because they didn't breed with the various blacks; is that what you need to see? Capitulation of a nation?


ray | 30 November 2021  
Show Responses

Ray, I'd love to! However none of us comes to the discussion unconscious of the privilege or otherwise the colour of our skin confers. I accept the Afrikaners as Africans, primarily because their most essential characteristic is the premodernity of their initial historical culture and settlement conditions. (See Richard Rosecrance, 'The Founding of New Nations', HBJ, NY, 1964). Its exhilarating to engage with you precisely because it permits possibilities that others don't. They look at the world with eyes that are blind to the developments from that period towards modernism and indeed postmodernity. One doesn't have to be a 'Parkville Leftie', as you were accused of being, to recognise this but it does, in a sense, strip Jack naked when his only means of defining some from others is where they're placed on the Left-Right spectrum. To return to my point: light years ago the Dutch regarded the Boers as feudal, exiting Holland because their extreme Calvinism alienated everybody, being reinforced by equally extreme French Calvinists who found the Dutch too liberal and who, while unable to write their biblically-derived race theories into legislation, did so at first opportunity. deKlerk's concessions were plainly extracted, as a dentist might, under duress.


Michael Furtado | 01 December 2021  

Michael, while I don't particularly agree, in your saying the preceding you've perhaps inadvertantly (but very eloquently) justified the case for apartheid... at the very least in the minds of the Afrikaner, most particularly the Broederbond, which de Klerk was. Not unlike the Jewish attachment to Israel and the religious/racial segregation which occurs there the Calvinist belief that the Broederbond were "chosen people" elevates apartheid beyond a purely racial discrimination. It becomes a consideration that the protagonist is not discriminating on a basis of what colour the others are but the religious group of which they aren't. All this clarity while our own government debates a religious protections Bill. Well done, man.


ray | 02 December 2021  

A thoughtful response, Ray, and with which I partly agree, exccpt that the Zionists, whom I think are wrong, don't believe that gentiles are tainted with the 'mark of Cain'. Its one thing not to belong and quite another to be singled out as inferior because of a staunchly held theology that emphasizes descent from one who was accursed! Indeed, liberal unorthodox Israeli Jews themselves do not believe this and argue cogently for equal Palestinian rights, as did the Rev Beyers Naude, who broke ranks with the Calvinism of his upbringing. My own beef about Zionists is precisely about how the descendants of those who were so egregiously persecuted for their supposed racial inferiority should then turn around and visited the same indignities, in a manner of speaking, on innocent third parties. Its an ethical point, I'd like to think I address here, that resonates with my overall position on this topic, which is that race and religion often get in the way of the Love that Jesus - a reforming Jew! - taught should govern every aspect of our behaviour. But that's another story that has dramatic implications for the Synod, don't you think?


Michael Furtado | 04 December 2021  

I must say Ray's take on South African History is not bad, although incomplete. South Africa has always been a contested space. The original inhabitants were not Bantu but peoples related to what are called the Kalahari Bushmen. The Bantu tribes were driving south about the same time the Dutch were establishing their presence in the Cape. The Bantu either massacred or drove the original inhabitants of what was to become the territory of RSA into remote and less desirable regions, such as what is now Namibia. As the Great Trek away from British ruled territory started, what were to become the Afrikaners came into conflict with the Bantu. It should be borne in mind there were also armed, mixed race trekkers such as the Griqua. The British were uninterested in the Boer republics until gold was found at Kimbereley which led to the Anglo-Boer War. Religion of the Dutch Reformed Church variety was the cement of Afrikanerdom. Afrikaners saw themselves like the Children of Israel who had a right to the land. This was not shared by the British. South Africa is a bit of a racial and religious cocktail. I agree with Ray that F W de Klerk was a pragmatist who meant what he said. He prevented a bloodbath. Today's relatively peaceful multiracial South Africa (now dominated by the majority Bantu rather than whites) is his legacy. It is a pragmatic 'best outcome'.


Edward Fido | 01 December 2021  
Show Responses

I enjoy viewing your verbal calisthenics, Roy; but they would make more sense if more widely understood beyond expressing and overdoing a common denominating factor that seems to say: 'All majority oppression of minorities is wrong', and with which I, like J S Mill, happen to agree. What makes your post doubly confusing is that Afrikaners never were a majority, which for all the upheavals that bedevil post-apartheid South Africa, is what South African majoritarian government currently is and as it never used to be prior to Mandela. It is a democracy and we should be glad of that!


Michael Furtado | 01 December 2021  

‘Critical Race Theory is no more than a response to decades of White Rage…’ I was addressing this remark of yours to Ross. However, I’m pretty sure that CRT theorists would apply CRT or something like it to any situation in which a governing minority can’t see an oppressed majority as individuals, as might be the case for a Brahmin living down the road from the Calcutta cathedral, or even the self-esteeming descendants of returned black slaves in Liberia.


Allied with CRT is reparations theory, which some espouse in the newest independent nation, Barbados, a tiny island with a smallish majority-black population, less than 300,000, effective independence since 1966, rainfall of 1500 mm a year and residential areas without reticulated water.

Scripture records a man wanting to join the disciples for adventure in the service of God and Jesus telling him he was needed at home. Before spouting CRT or reparations, perhaps one can at least, over 55 years, find a way to attach a few pipes to a few taps in a land which receives a lot of rain, before declaring that independence is necessary for self-empowerment.


The Prince of Wales, as the Queen’s representative at the ceremony, was fed well, given the new nation’s highest honour and flew home no doubt thinking that any part of the realm that can’t reticulate water after 55 years is a blot on the imperial escutcheon and better off dismissed from the escutcheon.


roy chen yee | 02 December 2021  

While, like you, I rejoice that South Africa has avoided a blood-bath, its not just a pragmatic 'best outcome', Edward, its a democracy! And, as far as global opinion is concerned, the persons who brokered this were heroes like Mandela and Tutu. The writing was as plain to see 'on the wall', so to speak, as Macmillan remarked half a century earlier in his 'Winds of Change' speech. The real heroes always were and forever will be those who fought and intensely suffered for their freedom. The late Roman Catholic moral theologian and religious historian of the decolonisation process, Adrian Hastings, who spent many years documenting and analysing the slow and sorry history of Twentieth Century Southern Africa, had a lot to say about this in 'The Tablet' and CAFOD. de Klerk's memoirs are an 'extrinsic re-think', like so much else in conservative discourse that more properly deserves the pejorative soubriquet of a 'white-wash'. Without such acknowledgment, we make no progress at a human and developmental level, but end up simply licking our wounds.


Michael Furtado | 01 December 2021  

Michael, in response to your comments 4 Dec re: Zionists, Palestine and the Synod: mate, you're wandering a bit off topic. As a person of the Broederbond, de Klerk had every right to his beliefs; we (you) can dispute the nature of the belief or its relevance by its implications to/for others but I can see both why he refused to declare apartheid a crime against humanity yet would also progress to dismantle elements of the fabric of the law. Surprise yourself and investigate how traditional cultural "apartheid" between races and religious groups remains prevalent in the Africas today... and I don't mean just the white minority. Look up "lobolo" and understand that traditional, tribal marriages occur under the 1998 (post de Klerk) Marriages Act; brides are sold by families today. Nelson Mandela bought Graca Machel; apparently 60 cows worth in 1998, $30k adjusted...dunno how Winnie was negotiated.


ray | 06 December 2021  
Show Responses

Ray, No doubt a polite way of expressing, but covering up, the white privilege which entitles you to express this nonsense. The difference between the instances you cite and apartheid boils down to this. None of the other groups defines itself in terms of its race and colour. If the point you make is that women should never be subjugated to the humiliation of bride-price bartering, as if their value is to be measured purely in terms of sheep and cattle or even the dowry they bring with them, the point of such negotiation does not rest on the colour of their skin. I note that mine is an position with which you agree, as evidenced in your recent rail against Parkes' role in establishing the White Australia policy. Additionally, there is a power question that you ignore: none of the other groups exercise control over other groups in the way in which executive, legislative and judicial power in South Africa was the sole prerogative of White people. Whatever Mandela did in leaving Winnie was a personal matter and she's no wilting violet, by public reputation. His subsequent re-marriage to Graca was also legal, according to the rules of democracy.


Michael Furtado | 07 December 2021  

Michael, my "point" is that the tribes continue to carry on their own discrimination and segregation traditions to the point of war. The sophisticated world condemned and vilified Sth Africa for an apartheid policy then left them to self determination after the dissolution; the ANC opted to retain aspects of apartheid themselves. I must admit that I have struggled with the concept of white privilege but must credit you with your continued demonstrations of why this intangible can exist in your mind but not mine. The Western world suffered a 400+ year "Dark Ages" but other regions seemed to have just existed in some disorganized suspended animation state for aeons. I guess it must burn you up that when you need to plead established authority or literary integrity of the ages almost invariably you're stuck with a white or Western resource. Funny how a formal education can restrict one so. Riddle me this, my beleagured friend: if Sth Africa is in better shape post-Apartheid why are Africans seeking refuge in Europe, more particularly the UK? Kindly note I didn't rail against Parkes, just observed his prejudices and suggested a lack of suitability as a model for religious reform.


ray | 08 December 2021  
Show Responses

For the same reason, Ray, that thousands of Brits emigrate, and have done so for close on two centuries, to Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand and which has nothing to do with race but a better economic climate and generally better weather conditions than in the UK. Please note that in answering your question I do not, as you assert, appeal to race theory to enlighten those manifestly without a handle on a wide spectrum of complex explanations to satisfy themselves and others before recklessly posting on this Jesuit site. In case you are not to know, I am a Briton of colour and I came here for exactly the same reason as all my former compatriots as well as, I'm willing to bet, the majority of ancestors of those who participate in this conversation. You'll find that colour-blindness isn't just a matter of political correctness or politeness, but applies when some people choose to ignore a history of discrimination in favour of trumpeting their own confused and sometimes contradictory opinions. Incidentally, merit works: the elites in the aforesaid New Nations are almost exclusively Indian. That aside, the Church teaches that people may migrate to where they choose!


Michael Furtado | 08 December 2021  

Mate, with that response you've managed to confuse me royally; by your own admission "the weather" influences where people migrate but for some reason they're not choosing sunny, sub-tropical Johannesburg but electing Europe/UK, a region that (as you suggest) thousands escape. Those fleeing sub-Saharan Africa seem to be going out of their way for something other than the climate. Most likely it's for economic reasons and safety; ipso facto, my earlier point that Sth Africa 30 years post de Klerk isn't doing well fiscally any more. Your repeated departures to your race (and inferences of mine) are just distractions to the debate; it doesn't make you more qualified nor my opinions any less creditable. I make no assertion about CRT in relation to you; I simply observe you make allegations of "white privilege" which is something I don't see, can't touch, don't seem to have purchased, can't sell, but seems to annoy you I have it. Would you be equally resentful or envious if I was born diabetic? I suppose it's a bit like an empty shopping trolley left on your neighbors nature strip... it's just a problem to you if you don't like it.


ray | 09 December 2021  

Ray, let's disregard your admission about Parkes to Luciana (ES, 29/XI). Indeed, why should a 'riddler' like you be seen to be 'virtue-signaling' in case you're mistaken for an 'anti-racist'! Let's then agree, as I assert, that large numbers of sub-Saharans migrate to the UK, Australia and elsewhere post-apartheid. The reason that Southern Africans, Black & White, do is because of a loss of White Privilege, which is certainly the case for most Whites migrating after the fall of apartheid (as opposed to prior to that event, when their anti-racism precipitated their departure). Let us also truthfully acknowledge the drain on White-owned S.African capital resources and infrastructure investment, formerly exclusively intended for the privilege of White South Africans, and withdrawn to invest in longer-established overseas capital-markets in which all people, regardless of color, seek stability and equal access to merit-based employment, work conditions and housing that is as yet unavailable to them in their former colonially-impoverished lands. This explains why the Japanese do not emigrate in large numbers and why poor Whites emigrate in large numbers from impoverished White countries to developed economies, regardless of skin colour. This process undoubtedly alters the power-imbalance as imperial-exploitation emerges as a reparative-justice issue.


Michael Furtado | 10 December 2021  

PS. In case you hadn't noticed, Ray; Africa, Europe and Asia enjoy a land-bridge, which doesn't exist between Australia and these other continents. Similarly, the land-bridge between Latin and North America gives the world's dirt-poor Latinos a fighting chance as much as the rest of us got, regardless of colour, once we climbed out of the African birth-canal we all share in common and down the evolutionary tree. While, no doubt, this will give you another opportunity to riddle me another, you may also notice that, since a third of the globe was colonised by the English. and including Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the English language, in all its beauty and splendour, is now the world's lingua franca, which makes English-speaking economies the preferred destination of those who seek work, food and shelter. Indeed, our very own Australian economy, mired in depression because of Covid-19 lockdowns, is predicted to boom once borders are re-opened and immigration takes off again. A mate as ordinarily mellow as you might also notice that, because established Anglo-Australian populations, like the status quo throughout the developed world, fail to have children, it is migrants, invariably of colour, whom we rely upon to care for us.


Michael Furtado | 11 December 2021  

‘I am a…Briton’


You have to be descended from Britons to be a Briton, or be one by citizenship, like Priti Patel, unless they find Druid-era bones at Stonehenge with Sephardic Jew-Punjabi DNA.


But, these days, you can be whoever you want. Why not identify yourself into the lineage of those Romans who met secretly in the catacombs? I’m sure that’s a provenance worth commemorating on, let’s say, October 28, the date of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.


Nationality? Australian. Ethnicity? Catacombian. Where’s that from? Old Rome, outside the city gates.

Perhaps, soon, in NZ, they might allow you to put ‘Çatacombian, Old Rome, outside the city gates’ on your birth certificate, next to the line that allows you to define XY as female. Any identity should be OK in the land of the long, loose cloud if it doesn’t include that holding of a cigarette between thumb and forefinger like Humphrey Bogart (characteristic of man and transman) or the securing of one between two upright fingers on a forearm held at or close to the vertical by an elbow supported by the back of the other hand like … any number of starlets (characteristic of woman and transwoman).


roy chen yee | 10 December 2021  

Michael, I truly do not seek to be classified with the jingoistic (yes) term "anti-racist"; it springs from small minds that haven't thought about the implications of the term other than it seems to satisfy their desired end. There's the trendy dissatisfaction with non-racism, now not good enough...so some pea-brain decided to push the extreme case of "anti-racist"; let's examine the flaw in the premise. A racist is a person, similarly so the anti-racist, however the (perhaps intended) flaw in the latter is it becomes ill-defined; is the anti-racist "anti" racism? Answer: No. A non-racist is anti racism. In my thinking, an anti-racist is necessarily a term for a reactionary person against another person, the racist protagonist. This imputes that the anti-racist should have equal and opposite reactions to the racist. It seems to me little value to have the monochromatic negative of something one side deplores also being their escutcheon plate, particularly if those who feel the need to be anti-racist try to show just how anti-racist persons they are by violence - which they demonstrate. As for virtue signalling, I think I'm rarely guilty of that, known for my fence-sitting; there's a wide plateau between your imagined racist^anti-racist watershed. I see no need to choose either slope to outgrow apartheid.


ray | 11 December 2021  
Show Responses

...and just so your happy typing fingers don't suffer a carpal tunnel seizure let's try to work out what part(s) of a racist are objectionable and can be "opposite". We can dissect a dictionary definition (noun or adjective) but let's stick with the noun; Oxford will suffice: "a person who is prejudiced against or antagonistic towards people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized". The non-racist is not prejudiced against or antagonistic to, so what then must the "anti-racist" be other than prejudiced or antagonistic on behalf of the oppressed? There's not a lot of room to move except to further dissect "prejudiced" (preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience). So let's find that reason which allows for preferential treatment which avoids becoming racist itself in the process. Be reminded that this article is related to apartheid / Sth Africa and the ethnic group is not in minority; an "on topic" response would be appreciated, my friend.


ray | 13 December 2021  

Granting simplicity's importance, you apply Occam's Razor to insufficient effect by confusing a correlation with a cause. Two events are correlated if, whenever one occurs, the other occurs. Those events are causally-related if one event's occurrence is sufficient to trigger the other. Thus, if there's an increase in the number of June brides as well as an increase in flies, it hardly follows that flies trigger June marriages! I do no more than challenge your false analysis, e.g. I note that you make no reference to the waves of invasion into and, later, from Europe in your Eurocentric world view. I'm sure you've read Conrad (great writer!) on the 'Dark' continent and the enormous role it still plays in some aspects of the European psyche. Without, say, acknowledging the contribution of the Moors in Spain who introduced algebra, geometry, many mathematical applications and a rekindling of classical knowledge after a period when blue-eyed Goths had destroyed much of it, you stigmatise Africans. Thereafter, I will happily withdraw to my usual stance of admiring your fascinating, though hardly universally incontestable, perspectives. Incidentally, I'm blue-eyed and as multidimensional as I imagine you are; and, as a general rule, wouldn't clarity trump simplicity?


Michael Furtado | 13 December 2021  

It is interesting, in the face of what is now being seen as a recent attempted coup in South Africa, with widespread looting and destruction, how little relevant this particular piece is to current reality.


Edward Fido | 12 December 2021  

Amazing insights Michael. Thus we could argue (say) that Jukkan gorge caves destruction was not wholly the fault of Rio Tinto; their explosion blew it up but gravity brought it down shortly after... but no. If arguing matters of causal coincidence there's a responsibility for forseeable related instances during and after the event. If you suggest my proposition is that ending apartheid caused Sth Africa's crisis you're incorrect; my position is they've had 30+ years post-apartheid and it appears by normal, measurable social and fiscal markers it's going poorly. While there may have been civil unrest under de Klerk I doubt you'd have seen a coup attempt as we've seen this year. I don't follow your departure to the Moors in Iberia but would point out that Romans were once blond & blue-eyed as were the various Goths; just because there is immigration and assimilation it doesn't mean it has great outcomes for every aspect of a culture. The Moors invasion of Iberia ultimately failed, partly because of ethnic distrust between the Berbers and the Arabs... go figure, racial tensions bringing things unstuck.


ray | 14 December 2021  
Show Responses

'Racial tensions bringing things unstuck': perfect proof that the analysis you provide limits itself to the ethnic identities that, beyond the merely cultural, hallmark every aspect of your analysis. You do the same by attributing the blame for the Moors losing Iberia to the obscure ethnic differences between them and the Berbers. What next, one has to wonder? Severe runs on capital markets in Chile, now that the left have won power democratically, blamed on the prominently indigenous profile of those who voted them in? Not on an economic difference that hallmarks all policy difference in the modern word? How come Blacks contest the policy space in post-apartheid South Africa with other Blacks? Oh, sorry; I forgot! Its because they're Black! That, after all, is the convoluted logic of your posts on this and many other topics. It cannot be that religion was a conspicuous factor in the Reconquista! After all, didn't anybody notice that the Berbers and Moors, while ethnically different but also Muslim on both sides, still have their 'racial' differences! Your posts, Ray, reveal you to survive on this site because the editors always place a Jesuit imperative to educate and expose above shutting down race-conscious rubbish.


Michael Furtado | 21 December 2021  

Michael, I didn't follow your departure into Iberia; you introduced it as an advance that the Moors brought mathematics to the region... I think those armed with lances or scimitars outnumbered the small few with algebra. I could have countered similarly the Boers brought Afrikaans culture to Africa but that might be lost on you. It's a bit rough that you condemn me for observing the historic events and drawing my own conclusions on your excursion off topic, particularly that you're only too keen to express yours. I think you're too ready to pronounce a judgement of racist on the comments and fit the same charge to the person. The value of "go figure" is purely the unwritten (understood) proposition that racial/ethnic tensions were bringing things unstuck in the Middle Ages, same as happens today. Perhaps you figure differently, but I request you don't paraphrase a statement of historic fact into some contrived indicator of a belief of racial superiority; I am only to willing to admire the flaws of all races, equally. It's irrelevant to me if the moderator uses my posts for any purpose than ostensibly evident; I wish them well for having to read every comment whether they agree or not. If perchance I am the very model of their abhorrence I am honoured; Christmas greetings.


ray | 21 December 2021  
Show Responses

You misread me again in that the examples I offer subscribe to the overview that there is no such thing as race and that those who make a song and dance of it, are the ones that history has left behind. Apart from their melanin-inflected North African identity and the gypsies, the Moors brought an invigorating if zealous Islam to Spain, the engineering and artistic skills to make the Alhambra, itself second in effulgence only to the Taj Mahal, and indeed a lasting peace to Southern Spain from where they departed gracefully. Fortunately, splendid but obstinate Ray, there's One whose influence in these heavy but interesting discussions is more respectful of the free-will our Jesuitical editors always always place above didacticism and whose birth anniversary I delight in joining with you in celebrating. We bring, as it were, our stubborn disagreements, to His crib, for Him to mediate for us as we wend our way through the time and opportunity available to us and which lies ahead while, hopefully, we lend a less than deaf ear to His arresting but gentle witness as it unfolds over 2022. I hope that you and your loved ones have a Great New Year!


Michael Furtado | 28 December 2021  

Michael, I observe your misuse of the word obstinate. I, just like many, am not necessarily stubborn nor refusing a change of opinion; it's the persuasions which are ineffective, mostly because the technique employed (eristic) prolongs the argument rather than closes; mate, it might be the festive season but the good will extended is to the person, not their misdirections. If you take me on an intercontinental Cook's tour away from the topical Africa or divert to some obscure racial overviews it's not my obstinacy, it's your pernicious excursions. I encourage the use of dialectic rules and have previously cited Schopenhauer's work (the Art of being Right) for guidance; steer clear of the Ad Hominem and above all engineer the arguement to encourage the person to change their opinion, not change themselves. If I misread your comment it's also indicative that the miscommunication may belong to your keyboard; we've now arrived at the subcontinent with the Taj Mahal; perhaps you're not comfortable in Sth Africa but that's where Binoy introduced the topic and it'd be fair to stay within a few thousand kilometers of ground zero for apartheid. Hint: Observe the topic tags, you may not get me to agree with any position but you might get interlocutory acknowledgment.


ray | 31 December 2021  
Show Responses

Ray, Taking seriously your allegation of my straying off-topic, I shared our correspondence with a critical colleague. She (White, Catholic, socially liberal, an educator) thought it 'vigorous' and, more importantly, 'irresolvable'. I regret my failure to change your mind about your view that de Klerk, concommitant with the apartheid regime he was forced to bring to an end, was no hero but a pragmatist who realised that the writing was on the wall. That he should then write about it in terms that exculpated him and his tribe is also understandable but soaked in justification, notably among those who write here in support of him. That too is forgivable, especially in a conversation that appeals, at least on the part of its those who publish it, to the virtues of justice and forgiveness. I am sorry that you miss in my review of the vast territory of examples that I have covered the central point that race doesn't or shouldn't matter and that indeed it didn't until relatively recently in human evolution. I am committed to seeing its vicious influence removed from human affairs though not before those advantaged by it stop using it as an excuse for rewriting history.


Michael Furtado | 13 January 2022  

Michael, I appreciate your efforts but can only caution you on how it is fraught with difficulty to base arguments on cynicism; in the absence of admissions of motives the proof doesn't lie in what you think was their reason, more particularly if they have stated otherwise. With de Klerk we have a dying man's statements and I am reluctant to believe that he was reticent or untruthful. You can impute his (or others) motives all you wish but will have difficulties establishing them unless you stoop to something that you should normally deplore: racial stereotyping. Your post 21 Dec incorrectly infers my value judgments on your own "grab-bag" of racial scenarios, it appears that you are trying to appeal your point of white privilege but I can't be sure. You didn't close with acuity other than perhaps in your own head. Try being the plaintiff, not the lawyer or the beak. A complaint may be disadvantage but the victim must describe the acts/prejudices by others which constitute the disadvantage, not just say "I was disadvantaged" or imply cynicism. I look forward to your case that addresses those advantaged persons on a basis that race doesn't matter...but how will you identify them?


ray | 14 January 2022  

As to 'ad homs', a Loreto girl and therefore close to the Jesuit mind-set, she wrote: 'Yes and no', making the observation that 'while tolerance is a hallmark of ES, so also is justice and fairness.'

Asked to elaborate, she pointed to your 'method', which she thought 'clever but endangering: he drops a passage into a stream of questionable race-based opinionising and hopes the waters will mix. Almost every post of his attempts this guilt by immersion. No editor I know, let alone a Jesuit, would censor this, but the exercise of liberty at that level is open to challenge, so long as it doesn't get personal. And you haven't been, in my book. Thus, the boys I have known for a lifetime would undoubtedly publish it, hoping that a resolution eventuates.

'As for you, I like that you classify de Klerk as an African's struggle to come to terms with democracy and liberty - two facets of governance that are still new and therefore a challenge to contemporary post-colonial Africa, primarily in terms of the extent to which Ray also acknowledges the distinctly tribal and as yet evolving nature of African politics.'

Might we at least agree about this?


Michael Furtado | 17 January 2022  

Michael, I guess we can agree you've presented three (3) exerpts; other than that I have no idea how they have relevance other than for yourself. I have no problem with someone making assessment of what style or techniques are used in my posts but would suggest that the weaknesses in the critique are the assumptions that I "attempt guilt by immersion" or "hope waters will mix". Your friend may have powerful understandings of the written word but I doubt can read my mind sufficiently to pronounce my thoughts and motivations; I am unsure if she knew you'd post her musings in part or full. My understanding is ES operates to explore issues deeply but normally avoids satire: ‘You take your material seriously, you don't take yourself seriously at all, all the while treating people with dignity and respect.’ I suggest you've entered the realms of Menippean satire 21 Dec but it seems your literary colleague is prepared to let that slide... am I to plead a bias by her or perhaps you left that bit out? Maybe she's just not that perceptive? Michael, I don't take myself too seriously; satisfy yourself that you don't need to change the opinions of others every time.


ray | 18 January 2022  

*Footnote. Michael, I allude to your colleague's assertion of "irresolvable". We either have an unfair assumption that I cannot be moved or possibly a judgement by her that you can't do it; she knows you better than I. I have stated pretty clearly that I am not obstinate on this issue but am thus far not persuaded; I have even given you guidelines for how to make your case. It is evident you seek some "agreement" of sorts, I can tell you that I am unlikely to digest an eccentric summation from an undisclosed, anonymous authority, particularly that it misses the mark. You do yourself a disservice by using the word "hero" for de Klerk which was not my claim, I don't follow your escalation.
Let me propose this: that both de Klerk and Gandhi were equally exposed to traditional social systems of apartheid/caste/race which formed their respective views but each was able to progressively adopt apparently pragmatic ideals to advance their nations despite their remaining inner-held beliefs which ostensibly seemed racist or strataficationist but were enshrined in their id by their religious beliefs. Neither should be reviled but admired for their commitment to their nation. End proposition.


ray | 21 January 2022  

I apologise for coming to this late, having decided to call a halt to my lengthy exchange with Ray on the overall topic. To turn now to Roy's post of 30/XI.

That post may not be as helpful to Roy as he imagines, since it is he who injudiciously cites a web address within it, the content of which absolutely reflects the Magisterium, that he unceasingly claims to unreservedly uphold in almost every ES post of his.

The author of the article, Nesrine Malik, who has won the UK George Orwell Prize for Journalism and who is of Muslim origin, is widely feted in global Christian and social ethics circles for the extent to which her writing corresponds with Catholic Social Teaching on immigration and refugees.

To simply call her morally-compelling essay a nonsense is to demand clarification and explanation rather than the throwaway judgment and glib 'opinionising without evidence' that constitutes a rare slip-up for Roy who, it would not be an exaggeration to say, writes with a degree of passion akin to blood-lust and almost never within reach of charity or mercy in his argument.


Sharon Boyce | 21 January 2022  
Show Responses

‘the content of which absolutely reflects the Magisterium’

‘the throwaway judgment and glib 'opinionising without evidence'

Dear Sharon (from Loreto?), or Michael,


Your second quote imposes on yourself an obligation to provide evidence to support your first quote.


roy chen yee | 23 January 2022  

Similar Articles

The thawing of a frozen conflict

  • Justin Glyn
  • 30 November 2021

Global warming, much in the news of late, has been accompanied by another unwelcome thaw. The ‘frozen conflict’ in the East of Ukraine between a Western-backed, Ukrainian nationalist government and Russian-speaking rebels with cultural affinity with Moscow, has been heating up alarmingly.

READ MORE

x

Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up