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1989

The New Revolution: “Strategies for Change”

“Unlike apartheid and socialism, free enterprise would [allow people] to choose where to live…how to spend their money[, what to] read, and where to worship.”

Don Caldwell, South Africa:  The New Revolution, Saxonwold, South Africa:  The Free Market Foundation of Southern Africa, 1989, 10-27 (Excerpts).

Chapter 1:  White Fears, Black Hopes, and Africa’s Lessons

Just look at Africa!
Repression, slaughter, lawless dictatorships, and bankruptcy: that’s what white South Africans say they don’t want here.
Trouble is, that’s increasingly what they’re getting under their own rule.
For things to get better here, we’ve got to understand what’s really wrong with Africa: government abuse of power.
Then the solution is easy: limit government by instituting free enterprise.

South Africa’s whites, trying to break from a troubled past, are scared about the future.  They look vainly for signs that by giving up their power, they won’t give up their freedom.

All over the continent independence has ushered in the rule of dictators.  Can white South Africans expect anything different?

The neighbours don’t offer much hope.

Look across the Limpopo River to Zimbabwe, often held up as a model for post-apartheid South Africa.  There, in 1980, following negotiations brokered by Great Britain, a nationwide election turned a colonized Rhodesia into a free Zimbabwe.  Independence was widely hailed for ending a seven-year guerilla war and decades of brutal white rule.

Less hailed was the brutal black rule that followed.

In 1983, to stifle dissent, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe (now state president) had his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade slaughter at least 1,500 Ndebeles—“a very conservative estimate,” says the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in New York.  Thousands more were severely beaten.  And “several hundred thousand rural Ndebele civilians were systematically deprived of emergency drought relief.”

Says Mugabe:  “We have to ensure that our society is rid of those undesirable elements whose own attitudes militate against the attainment of unity.”

And how does one establish who the undesirables are?

“Where men and women provide food for the dissidents, when we get there we eradicate them,” Mugabe says.  “We don’t differentiate when we fight, because we can’t tell who is a dissident and who is not.”

Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade and his network of vigilante youth groups have entered villages and burnt the houses, crops, and residents they found in them.

Amnesty International says torture is rife in Zimbabwe’s jails:  “In a frequently described torture, the victim’s head was forced into a canvas bag full of water which was tied tightly around the neck.  When the victim lost consciousness the torturers sometimes kicked him or her in the stomach until the victim vomited the water.”

A state of emergency has been in effect since 1965, when it was introduced by Ian Smith.  Mugabe’s government has extended it like clockwork every six months since independence.  The police or the Ministry of Home Affairs must give permission for public political meetings, a law used in election year 1985 to override constitutional right assembly and association.

That year, supporters of opposition leader Joshua Nkomo began carrying membership cards of Mugabe’s ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union, so soldiers wouldn’t beat them up.

Also in 1985, according to a US State Department human-rights report, the police were instructed to stand aside during politically motivated violence, and ZANU youth killed between 150 and 200 people. Another 300 to 400 civilians in Matabeleland disappeared, most of them abducted and believed killed by government security forces.

“The facts point to a reign of terror caused by wanton killings, woundings, beatings, burnings, and rapes,” a March 1985 pastoral statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Zimbabwe said. “Many houses have been burned down.  People in rural areas are starving, not only because of the drought, but because in some cases supplies of food have been deliberately cut off.”

To what end this terror?  The constitution of the ruling party calls for a government in Zimbabwe “based on Marxist-Leninist principles.”  Mugabe calls for a one-party state because multiparty government is a “negation of democracy” and leads to “useless quibbling.”  In 1988, the ruling ZANU merged with Nkomo’s ZAPU in a unity pact as a step toward a one-party state.

Lest the press give Zimbabwe a conflicting view of the world, Mugabe’s government took control of the country’s daily newspapers by buying out a private South African company.  And, according to the World Press Freedom Committee, Mugabe has instructed the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation not to air unfriendly reports of North Korea and not to mention the internal conflict in Ethiopia or the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at all.

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is not the only neighbourhood dictator who makes South African whites worry about the future.

When Mazambican president Samora Machel died in a plane crash in October 1986, he was mourned around the world as a great statesman and peacemaker.  But his words and deeds show that he was just another post-independence African tyrant.

Here was Machel on revolution:  “When a class imposes its will, those who refuse to accept this imposition must be forced to conform.  Those who oppose this will be repressed.”

Machel made repression a mainstay of his rule.  He called in the East Germans to train his secret police.  Those convicted of political and economic crimes were publicly flogged; some were executed.  Suspected opponents of the government were held in jail without trial and tortured.

Political freedom?  Opposition to the one-party rule of Frelimo, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, is not allowed, and neither Machel, his successor, Joaquim Chissano, nor the ruling clique was elected by the people.

Freedom of thought?  Following independence in 1974, the government held thousands in re-education camps to teach them to love the new order.  They were bound and beaten, and many were killed.  The government controls all newspapers, radio, and television and tolerates no criticism.  The role of the press, Machel said, is to “liquidate individualism” and eliminate “all types of deviations from party policy by straightening out incorrect ideas.”

Religious freedom?  The government confiscated church property after independence and retains the right to close churches as it sees fit.

Freedom of movement?  Travel within the country is controlled by pass laws, and Mozambicans are required to carry identity cards, word cards, and residence permits.  In June 1983, the government began to forcibly move tens of thousands of unemployed city dwellers to state-run agricultural projects in the north under “Operation Production.”  Authorities went from house to house to hunt for the unemployed and encouraged people to inform anonymously on others they knew to be “unproductive.”

Later, Operation Production’s inspection brigades were used to collect rents in state-owned dwellings and evict those who hadn’t paid.

Economic freedom?  The only legal union is the government’s Mozambique Worker’s Organisation.  Businesses, industries, farms, and even people’s homes were seized by the revolutionary government.  Anaemic production resulted from corruption, mismanagement, price controls, exchange control, and shortages of trained personnel and spare parts.  Store shelves went empty as output collapsed.

Production of maize fell from 400,000 tons during Portuguese rule in 1972 to 200,000 tons in 1983; of bananas, from 280,000 tons to 65,000 tons; and of rice, from 111,000 tons to 30,000 tons.  The number of tourists dropped from 291,574 in 1972 to 1,000 in 1985.  “The 1980s are not a decade of consumption, but of sacrifice,” explained Marcelo de Andrade, national director of planning.

Shortly before Machel’s death, his government announced that nearly a third of the country’s 13 million people faced starvation—victims of misrule and a brutal rebellion once backed by Pretoria.

Asked for her reaction to Machel’s death, a Mozambican refugee who fled to Swaziland as a youth after being kidnapped by Machel’s soldiers and taken to a re-education camp, told me:  “I’m happy.  Maybe now the people will have something to eat.”

Across the continent in Luanda, the seaside capital of oil-rich Angola, food is rationed and residents spurn the worthless kwanza currency, instead bartering and demanding part of their wages in foreign exchange or consumer goods.  The streets are strewn with garbage and rubble, and shops that aren’t boarded up are generally empty.

“In Angola,” William Claiborne of The Washington Post wrote from Luanda in 1987, “patience isn’t just a virtue.  It’s a requisite…The bureaucracy is so stifled by underqualified employees that cashing a cheque at a state bank or paying a bill at the telephone company can consume hours.  For visitors, the frustration is compounded by the absence of taxis in the capital.  When the government nationalized all taxis, the drivers—as entrepreneurial here as anywhere—simply quit the business.”

The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, the MPLA, is the sole legal political party, and the country is run by an unelected clique, which refuses to hold elections or share power with the rebels fighting a devastating civil war against it.

Movement within Angola, as in Mozambique, is controlled by pass laws.  Freedom of assembly is denied to any political group or movement other than the MPLA.  Those who support alternative political systems may be arrested.

“People’s vigilance brigades and the martial-law climate throughout the country tend to further restrict freedom of assembly and association,” says a US State Department report.

Free speech?  The constitution guarantees freedom of expression “in the context of the achievement of the basic objectives of the People’s Republic of Angola.”  Which means that it doesn’t guarantee freedom of expression.  The government runs the media and does not tolerate opposition viewpoints.  Angolan writer Fernando Costa de Andrade Ndunduma, who wrote a play critical of the president, was arrested in late 1982 and held for two-and-a-half years without trial.

Economic opportunity?  Strikes are prohibited as a criminal threat to the security of the state.  The MPLA government initially took control of export-import businesses, breweries, sugar plantations, a cement plant, and a textile factory and subsequently nationalized most of the rest of the economy, including banking, oil, and diamonds.  The economy is a shambles.  Coffee production has plummeted, as has industrial output.

Like Angolans, Tanzanians know what it’s like to face empty store shelves.  The residents of Dar es Salaam, the shabby capital, had a saying:  “These days if you see a queue you join it and ask what it’s for later.”  Only recently have some basic goods reappeared in stores, as the government begins to ease its near total control of the economy.

The economy collapsed during the reign of President Julius Nyerere, whose greatest claim to fame was a scheme of forced removals, known as “villagisation,” or “familyhood.”

With promises of drilled wells, schools, and medical care, Nyerere lured some two-and-a-half million peasants into collectivized farms, disrupting the traditional pattern of scattered settlement.  Ten million more who could not be persuaded to relocate—more than half the population—were moved by brute force.

Many of the new villages offered none of the promised services.  To prevent unwilling peasants from returning to their former homes, the government burned old settlements and productive fields.  As a final touch, the government paid farmers only a fraction of the market price for the maize they grew.  Production fell, and the country became dependent on imported grain from foreign aid.

In the Arusha Declaration of 1967 implementing government control of the economy, Nyerere proclaimed:  “To maintain our independence and our people’s freedom we ought to be self-reliant in every possible way and avoid depending upon other countries for assistance…Because the economy of Tanzania depends and will continue to depend on agriculture and animal husbandry, Tanzanians can live well without depending on help from outside if they use their land properly.”

But the declaration was a sick joke.  Says Swedish economist Sven Rydenfelt:  “The truth is that no country has ever received more aid per capita than Tanzania.  In the economic bankruptcy brought on by socialism, national begging had to be substituted for national pride.”

Nyerere brought newspapers under government control, nationalized private property, detained thousands of political opponents, and (as black-ruled Angola and Mozambique would later do) instituted pass laws, under which those living in the city must show the police proof of employment or be banished to the countryside.

Nyerere turned over the presidency to hand-picked successor Ali Hassan Mwinyi in 1985.  In Tanzania’s sham version of free-and-fair elections, Mwinyi received 92.3% of the vote.  Nyerere remained head of the party.

Tanzania’s huge neighbor to the west, Zaire, is another one-party dictatorship—this one pro-West and US-backed.  The party is called the Popular Movement of the Revolution.  The courts and the only labour union are both organs of the party.  Only the party may hold public meetings.  All citizens must carry government-issued identity cards.

The president since 1965 is Mobutu Sese Seko, whom it is an offence to criticize.  Journalists must be members of the state-controlled press union.  Radio and TV are owned by the state, and the major newspapers depend on government subsidies to survive.  The ruling ideology is “Zairian authenticity,” or “Mobutuism.”  Men may not wear ties, and women may not wear pants or wigs.  When the government puts on parades or holds ceremonies to welcome visiting dignitaries, government employees and market vendors are required to participate.

Police and soldiers extort money from civilians, and Amnesty International maintains that torture is routine in Zairian jails.  Some dissidents, rather than being jailed, are placed under house arrest or exiled from cities to their native villages.  As the only presidential candidate in 1984, Mobutu was re-elected to a seven-year term with 99.64% of the vote.

Next door in Zambia, it is illegal to criticize President Kenneth Kaunda, the concept of the one-party state, or the national philosophy, “Humanism.”  The government owns one national daily newspaper, and the party—the United National Independence Party—owns the other.  Kaunda is allowed to jail anyone without charge under the state-of-emergency regulations, in effect since independence in 1964.  Lately he has locked up foreign tourists as alleged spies, and they have complained of torture and sexual abuse.

Associated Press correspondent John Edlin, who went to Zambia in December 1986 to cover food riots, was held for five nights in Kamwala prison—“because you are a foreign journalist,” some wardens suggested to him.  He shared a small cell block with 110 others, and he found inmates as young as seven years old in appalling conditions.

The riots, which swept the Zambian copper belt, saw hundreds of thousands protest the government’s doubling of the maize price.

“Only when army troops joined paramilitary police in confronting the rioters with live bullets after teargas failed did the angry men, women and children evacuate the rubble-strewn streets, Edlin writes.  “But not before at least 15 people were killed, most cut down by security force gunfire.”

You won’t remember seeing television footage of the riots and killings, because Kaunda banned foreign film crews from the scene.

The unrest reflects frustration with the economy, which Kaunda has crippled through nationalization, a debased currency, price controls, interest-rate controls, import controls, foreign-exchange restrictions, subsidies, and high government spending.  The result:  the average Zambian was poorer in 1982 than in 1962.

The peasant farmers, who are exploited by a national marketing board and by provincial cooperatives beset by mismanagement and embezzlement, have borne the brunt of Kaunda’s policies.  The government is in charge of purchasing, transporting, and storing crops.  To counteract the low prices Kaunda’s government pays them, peasants smuggle produce into neighbouring states.

Now the government has turned to police sweeps in major towns to try to stop black-marketeering.

The Associated Press says that in February 1988, “the Zambian government was empowered to confiscate businesses guilty of shady practice, notably the illegal importation of luxury goods such as whisky, wine, and clothing.”  Within three months of the new legislation, hundreds of businessmen, mostly of Asian origin, had lost their trading licences, and their shops and property were nationalised.  In a May 1988 raid in Lusaka, authorities arrested hundreds of people, took their money, and tore down market stalls, seizing sugar, detergents, salt, maize meal, soft drinks, candles, flour, and clothing.

In the sham October 1988 presidential election, nobody was allowed to run against Kuanda, who received a “yes” vote of 95.5%.  The ballot papers were numbered so those voting “no” could be traced.  Defence Secretary Alex Shapi told a rally before the election:  “Those who will not vote, or vote ‘no,’ don’t cheat yourselves that you will not be known.  You will be known.  How shall we regard you…as a citizen?  For me you will be regarded as an enemy.”

As for Kuanda’s personal vision of human liberty, he recently defended Ethiopia’s revolution of terror and famine, which has uprooted millions of peasants in a collectivization scheme, led tens of thousands to death by starvation, and made cows the property of the state.  Dismissing critics of Ethiopia’s barbarism, Kaunda said:  “In every revolution, there are defectors…”

Strategies for Change

Pretoria has said it will abandon apartheid.  What this means and at what pace it will happen are not clear.  And no official has announced what will replace today’s system.

Those who want to bring about a free, Western-style South Africa face practical questions:  What’s the best way to persuade the government to change?  How can whites be convinced there is a place for them after apartheid?  And what should be done today?

There are three popular causes:  negotiations, democracy, and free enterprise.  All are desirable, but a critical look suggests the latter is the most practical for bringing about positive, peaceful change immediately.  Consider each:

  • Negotiations.  What’s there to talk about?  How to divide the loot?  The problem with bringing “leaders” to the negotiating table (besides the obvious problem of determining who the leaders are) is that they might forget about freedom and focus on power.  Who gets to run the security police?  Who gets the army?  Who gets the airline?

    And suppose no agreement is reached.  Does everybody at the table then go home and start fighting again?

    For nervous whites, there’s nothing necessarily reassuring about the prospect of a negotiated settlement.  They know Zimbabwe’s independence was the product of negotiations overseen by Britain.  Those pushing for negotiation must guarantee that a South African settlement would deliver something better; they must spell out what is not negotiable.  Otherwise, calls for talks won’t lead anywhere, because whites will assume they’re being asked to negotiate their own demise.

  • Democracy.  Here we face the problem mentioned above:  It means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Often the language of democracy is hijacked by those with an unacceptable agenda:  those who would use “democracy” to gain power, then dismantle it—as the South African Communist Party would do.

    “There is both a distinction and a continuity between the national democratic and socialist revolutions,” the SACP told the journal Work in Progress.  “We have never made a secret of our belief that the shortest route to socialism is via a democratic republic.”

    Is that what other people pushing for democracy have in mind?  If not, they should say so.  Justifiably or not, when whites picture democracy they see a mob of leftist blacks taking over the country and expropriating their property.

    Even more worrying than mob rule by a majority is “vanguard” rule, in which a clique, using democratic language, decides what the masses supposedly want—a particularly bizarre interpretation of democracy seen in places like Mozambique and Tanzania.

    If they want Pretoria to listen to them, those pushing for democracy will have to say what limits will be placed on the democratic government they envision and what rights are nonvotables.  They must stress that democracy is a vehicle to prevent authoritarianism, limit abuse of power, and extend freedoms of movement, association, and speech.  They should promote a culture of democratic values, based on individual liberty, among South Africa’s tyrants and tyrants-in-waiting.

    A final warning:  calls for democracy imply that South Africa’s problems are strictly political.  They suggest that repression and poverty will disappear following a democratic election, while ignoring South Africa’s interventionist economic policies.  All the attention on political change might pressure Pretoria to come up with a multiracial power-sharing plan that changes the colour of the government but not its destructive economic policies.

  • Free Enterprise.  Pushing for economic freedom holds the most hope for peaceful, rapid change.  Most South Africans simply want to be left alone to get on with living.  They don’t want power over others; they want power over their own lives.  They want freedom—which free enterprise delivers.

    We must assume Pretoria is looking for a way out of its troubles, or talk of peaceful change is a waste of time.  But it’s not going to grant blacks full political rights any time soon, because its white supporters won’t stand for it.  It could, however, be persuaded to grant economic freedom, mainly because free enterprise allows black advancement and improves the prospects of white survival.   The government cannot claim that free enterprise contains a hidden agenda for crushing whites.

    Boldly instituted, free enterprise would strip away the regulations, controls, permits, licences, and high taxes that keep South African spoor and frustrated today.

    Unlike apartheid and socialism, free enterprise would give people the opportunity to choose where to live, what trades to engage in, how to spend their money, what schools to attend, what books and newspapers to read, and where to worship.

    It would let blacks enjoy the social and economic freedoms they’ve long been denied.  And it would make whites feel secure, knowing that their own tools of repression will be scrapped, not turned against them.

    Free enterprise is also a crucial step toward establishing a just government.  It would allow for the massive generation of wealth that apartheid’s socialist regulations have prevented.  And it would get the government out of people’s lives.  Together, these would give people a stake in private property and individual liberty.  It’s on that base that a limited, democratic government can be built.

We should learn from our neighbours to the north.  “This is still a good country, but it is running down,” Ian Smith, the iron-fisted ruler of what was then Rhodesia, said forlornly from his ranch several years after independence.  “We have already lost freedom of the press and politics.  I’m afraid soon Zimbabwe will join all the other totalitarian states.”  He added:  “It was Marxism I fought, not blacks.”

But Smith lost for the same reason conservative white South Africans could lose:  he tried to fight socialism with socialism, authoritarianism with authoritarianism.  Exchange control, press gages, detention:  they were all used in Rhodesia.  Though pretending to be a civilized capitalist, Smith restricted blacks’ property rights and kept them out of business and out of work through rules and regulations.  He relied on arrest and torture to keep people in line.  If that’s capitalism, blacks decided, we’ll take anything else but it.  What they got was a different shade of tyranny.

Smith made it easy for the new government by providing them with a dreaded internal security force, which Mugabe uses today to squelch dissent, and a huge public sector, which Mugabe has used as a springboard for even greater state control.  (There are some 32 cabinet ministers and 18 deputy ministers in Zimbabwe’s ever-growing government.)  Pretoria should learn from Smith’s mistake—not by digging in harder to defend an unjust system, but by replacing apartheid with something better.

Most of Africa shows that unchecked state control inexorably leads to poverty and repression.  As South Africa seeks its post-apartheid future, there’s no excuse for going down that same miserable road.

 

This is part of a series