South African Winter

South African Winter

South African Winter

South African Winter

Excerpt

As a man is sometimes marked by the panoply of his profession, and a woman by the radiance of affection, so the States of the earth have their auras too: golden for Greece, garden-like for Italy, bear-skinned for Britain, jazzy but bespectacled (like a Kiwanis) for the United States of America. The darkest and most universally disliked of these miasmas surrounds the Union of South Africa, the strongest country of the African continent, and proclaims her something special among the nations: an outcast, a pariah, a skeleton in the upstairs cupboard.

In the African winter of 1957 I spent some months trying to penetrate this particular lamina, to delineate the national features that lay beneath and determine whether poor South Africa was as evil as her reputation. The country was then doubly disunited. The three million whites were bitterly divided among themselves, Afrikaner against English, with the Afrikaner Nationalist Government rampantly in control; and the Europeans as a whole were in desperate conflict with their ten million black and brown cohabitants. While the squabbling whites tried hard to maintain their positions and privileges, the voteless blacks were pressing ever more angrily for political rights and equal opportunities. Things seemed to be approaching a climax. The Nationalist policy of apartheid, or racial separateness, was being heartlessly enforced, and step by step the country was forcibly split into watertight compartments of colour. Slegs Blankes -- 'whites only' -- was the text of the South African sermon in 1957; and its sacraments were the racial laws which, clause by clause, lash by lash, relentlessly forced the peoples apart and alienated them one from another. Elsewhere in the . . .

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