A Brief History of Dictatorships, Part 4

When I first began to think on how previous South African regimes could be compared with fascist governments of Europe during the first fifty years of the twentieth century, I had to review current trends in post-apartheid South Africa. That was during 2013. Today, things have intensified since this country’s general elections earlier in May. Not much has changed, however.

Certainly, to my mind, the legacy left by apartheid remains as strong as ever, in spite of the glowing legacy left by the late Nelson R Mandela. What is also clear is that ideologies of “own-ness” and separate development have failed. Today, similar programmes continue to be perpetuated by the ruling party, yielding little for the country’s mostly poor citizens in return.

The Economic Freedom Fighter’s commander in chief, Julius Malema, has been widely criticised and compared to the dictators of the 1930’s, most notably the late Adolf Hitler. Without any doubt, Malema’s policies propose to radically overhaul all the country’s engines, both public and private, and are predisposed towards yet more racial ideologies, in spite of previous failures by other regimes in Africa and in light of the continuing inequality and precarious economic status of the country’s mostly ‘black’ population.

But. It is still too soon to measure Malema with Hitler, or Mussolini. The still-young ex-ANCYL leader has yet to achieve any institutional or constitutional power as both Hitler and Mussolini did in their rise to power.

But. The margin of support that Hitler’s National Socialists gained through electoral means was as miniscule as that of Julius Malema’s EFF in South Africa.

But. History shows us how Hitler’s radical Nazi’s overcame the previously highly regarded Reigstag to assume ultimate power.

Malema proposes to do a similar deed, pouring scorn on South Africa’s current institutions, widely regarded as the most progressive of its kind. So, perhaps philosophical and metaphorical comparisons by Gwede Mantashe and Dr Mamphela Ramphele are not as ludicrous as they may seem.

Nationalist rule after the 1948 general election in South Africa came about as a result of complacency amongst supporters of Jan Smut’s United Party and the British Empire and a sense of urgency amongst the Afrikaners who supported the National Party.

The urgent desire for self-determination and economic prosperity is similar to that of the German population whose resentment of prosperous and enterprising Jews mirrored that of the Afrikaners for the English-speaking population in South Africa.

The Nationalists’ apartheid ideology did not come about as a result of resentment and hatred for the majority ‘black’ population, but as a result of believing the threat that the rapid migration of Africans into urban areas as a result of economic progress posed on their ‘living space’.

Such resentment and hatred was explicitly expressed by Governor General Milner who can be labelled as the true architect of apartheid (rather than Verwoerd). Milner’s divisive policies were designed to separate the South African population groups to ensure Anglo superiority over both Afrikaners and Africans in all walks of life from education to business.

In The Rise, Fall and Legacy of Apartheid, Louw mentions that the foundation of a future segregated South Africa and, later still, Black Economic Empowerment in a democratically governed South Africa, has its roots in Milner’s post-Boer War reconstruction. Later, Louw mentions that, ultimately, South Africa was built upon Milner’s “concept of constructing a modern capitalist society ruled by a white oligarchy and dominated by Britons.”

Long after Milner’s laws are propagated and promulgated, and long before the National Party institutionalises apartheid, the United Party government continued with the programme initiated by Milner and his regime by passing the Asiatic Land Tenure Act in 1946.

The exercise of using explicit and derogatory forms of hate speech can be laid squarely at the door of Smuts’ United Party who labelled the future prime minister, HF Verwoerd, a kaffir boetie (nigger lover) at some point before the National Party’s election victory in 1948 because of his more moderate and innovative (for its time) policies of separate development.

Racial laws were characterised by banal forms of physical separation between the races, to the detriment of the ‘black’ African. In Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela describes the oppressive nature of these laws;

“When he grows up, he can hold Africans Only jobs, rent a house in Africans Only townships, ride Africans Only trains and be stopped at any time of the day or night and be ordered to produce a pass, without which he can be arrested and thrown in jail.”

Draconian laws such as these were not confined to the Union of South Africa. Such laws of segregation were already initiated in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy against Jews and in place in British Colonial territories such as India and later imposed on the USA’s ‘black’ minorities.

While Smuts actively supported Churchill in the war against the Nazis, a faction of the Nationalists were sympathetic to the Nazi cause and opposed fighting against the Reich.

Next week: DF Malan, HF Verwoerd, BJ Vorster and PW Botha.

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One thought on “A Brief History of Dictatorships, Part 4

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