Magazine article The Spectator

Black People Aren't Animals

Magazine article The Spectator

Black People Aren't Animals

Article excerpt

Cape Town

IN South Africa the news is so terrible and the response of our leaders so contemptuous and inept that something close to despair is seeping through the land. Every day there are on average 59 murders, 145 rapes and 752 serious assaults, and now a new crime is being reported: the rape of babies. This month a five-month-old baby was raped by two men; afterwards the surgeon had to remove her bowels. Women and children are being abused and killed in high numbers within the family, and the response of our minister of safety and security, Steve Tshwete, has been to declare airily, `We cannot police this; there is nothing more we can do.' Mrs Marike de Klerk, the ex-wife of the former president, has been murdered in her flat. The rand, which was at five to the pound in 1994 when the ANC took over, now stands at 17 to the pound. Unemployment is at 33 per cent. The Actuarial Society of South Africa estimates that 12 per cent of the population is HIV-positive, but this is of little concern to the government because President Mbeki says that HIV cannot cause Aids. This month, at a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting, the South African government gave its unqualified support to President Mugabe's reign of terror and lawlessness in Zimbabwe. Emigration from South Africa (mainly of skilled people) is at its highest level ever.

So is South Africa doomed to follow the rest of Africa into oblivion? No. There is a remedy, but it is a radical remedy. There is no way forward except by liberal democracy; that is, the rule of the law and a government elected on a universal franchise. It is true that black Africans were better off under colonial rule than they are now. It is also true that South Africa has the strongest economy in Africa simply because it had the most white people who ruled for the longest time. However, bringing back any form of white-minority rule is morally and politically untenable - and anyway no whites would want the job.

For liberal democracy to work in Africa it is essential that two principles should be put into effect. First, we must tell the truth in public. Second, we must treat black peopie as human beings. I realise that these are shocking and radical departures, but without them there is no hope.

The fundamental moral difference between a human and an animal is that the human can be blamed when he does wrong. When a dog behaves badly, we blame the human owner for not bringing it up properly. In Africa, when blacks behave badly, we blame the colonialists (or the imperialists or apartheid or globalisation or something) for not bringing them up properly. When panic-stricken policemen of the apartheid regime shot dead 69 black people at Sharpeville in 1960, the world rose up in outrage. When the minority Tutsi regime in Burundi set about the cold-blooded slaughter of more than 100,000 Hutus in 1972, there was utter silence. This is because the killers at Sharpeville were whites and so morally culpable, while in Burundi they were black and so not morally culpable. In both cases nobody cared a row of beans about the black victims.

In the 1980s President Mugabe, who regards ordinary black Africans with a degree of contempt unmatched by the worst white thugs of apartheid, systematically butchered some 10,000 black people in Zimbabwe without any objection from the world. Today the ANC, which screamed for sanctions against Ian Smith and apartheid, has issued not a single statement condemning the massive violation of human rights - far worse than under Smith - under Mugabe. Again, the reason is that Smith, being white, is a human who can be blamed, while Mugabe, being black, is a subhuman who cannot be blamed. This belief is the fundamental reason for the disintegration of sub-Saharan Africa.

In South Africa we do not tell the truth in public (what we say in private is entirely different). This is because Thabo Mbeki, like Robert Mugabe, has perfected the technique of silencing all criticism by declaring all critics to be racists. …

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