Things are very bad in South Africa. When the scourge of apartheid was finally smashed to pieces in 1994, the country seemed to have a bright future ahead of it. Eight years later, in 2002, 60 percent of South Africans said life had been better under apartheid. Hard to believe — but that’s how bad things were in 2002. And now they’re even worse.
When apartheid ended, the life expectancy in South Africa was 64 — the same as in Turkey and Russia. Now it’s 56, the same as in Somalia. There are 132.4 rapes per 100,000 people per year, which is by far the highest in the world: Botswana is in second with 93, Sweden in third with 64; no other country exceeds 32.
Before the end of apartheid, South African writer Ilana Mercer moved, with her family, to Israel; her father was a vocal opponent of apartheid, and was being harassed by South African security forces. A 2013 piece on World Net Daily quotes Mercer as saying, with all her anti-apartheid chops, that “more people are murdered in one week under African rule than died under detention of the Afrikaner government over the course of roughly four decades.” The South African government estimates that there are 31 murders per 100,000 people per year. Or about 50 a day. That would make South Africa the tenth most murderous country in the world, outpacing Rwanda, Mexico, and both Sudans. And that’s using South Africa’s official estimates — outside groups put the murder rate 100 percent higher. Choosing not to trust the South African authorities is a safe bet — South Africa’s government, which has been led by Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress since the end of apartheid, is outstandingly incompetent and corrupt.
Of course, de facto one-party rule doesn’t promote integrity. Unemployment is 25 percent, but President Jacob Zuma, of the ANC, recently spent $24 million of public money to add a pool and amphitheater to his private home. Not long after the story broke, he was elected to a second five-year term. Think-tank theorist Leon Louw, who helped defeat apartheid, calls the crime and corruption “a simple manifestation of the breakdown of the state. The government is just appallingly bad at everything it does: education, healthcare, infrastructure, security, everything that is a government function is in shambles.”
He adds — citing “anecdotal data” — that “most people don’t bother to report crimes.”
It appears that South Africa is about the most dangerous place you can be outside a war zone. What’s more worrying is the chance that it might become a war zone. Nelson Mandela was able to hold the “rainbow nation” together, but he’s passed on. Now, according to the human-rights organization Genocide Watch, South Africa is at pre-genocide stage 6 of 8: “Preparation.”
With the country skidding toward anarchy, naturally, the people want to know whom they should blame. In 2010, a prominent member of the African National Congress named Julius Malema revived an old anti-apartheid song whose lyrics — says Genocide Watch — call for genocide: “Shoot the Boer, shoot, shoot.” “Boer” means “farmer” in Afrikaans; colloquially, it means “white South African.” Malema was ejected from the ANC and convicted of hate speech; he has since formed a new opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which is currently the third largest party in parliament. Seven months after Malema’s conviction, President Zuma sang the genocide song himself, leading a crowd in a musical chant: “We are going to shoot them with machine guns, they are going to run . . . The cabinet will shoot them, with the machine gun . . . Shoot the Boer, we are going to hit them, they are going to run.” Watch the video on YouTube — it is surreal. Nelson Mandela’s successor, the president of South Africa, addresses a crowd of — according to the Guardian — tens of thousands, in a giant stadium, and calls for the murder of what amounts to about 10 percent of his constituents. Among the audience, uniformed members of the military dance.
According to Genocide Watch, the murder rate among South African white farmers is four times higher than among South Africans en masse. That rate increased every month after President Zuma sang his song, for as long as accurate records are available: The police have been ordered to stop reporting murders by race. The police have also disarmed and disbanded groups of farmer-minutemen, organized to provide mutual security. Consequently, says Genocide Watch, “their families” have been “subjected to murder, rape, mutilation and torture.” Meanwhile, “high-ranking ANC government officials . . . continuously refer to Whites as ‘settlers.’”
White South Africans have been native for more than 350 years; whites were farming South Africa before Newton discovered gravity. If, however, no length of time erases the stain of colonization, it should be noted that the dominant Bantu peoples of today’s South Africa displaced the Khoisan peoples who lived in South Africa before them. The archaeological record, evidently, is unclear — but it seems that the first Bantu appeared in what is now South Africa about 400 years before the first European. A long time, but not time immemorial.
Obviously, this weekend, there are other groups at greater risk of genocide than white South Africans — the Yazidis, for instance, who are in the direst conceivable circumstance, surrounded by ISIS. Who, without Western help, may not survive the month. As disinclined as the West is to help the Yazidis, imagine how uninterested it will be in helping white South Africans, a group still suffused with the stench of apartheid. Four thousand white farmers have already been killed, according to The Times of London. Maybe the British will help, or the Dutch. In the meantime, endangered South Africans might try this:
They could take advantage of their geography and set up a Singapore-style city-state. With foreign investment, they could purchase a city-sized portion of coastal land and assert independence from the national government. First they’ll want to hire some sympathetic military as a temporary security force. They can set up a low-tax, low-interference economic zone that can compete with Durban for its tremendously large volume of shipping traffic. As South Africa has fallen apart, Durban has slipped off the list of the world’s 50 largest container ports. But whatever happens to South Africa, the south of Africa will remain a vital point in world shipping. In fact, it’s only going to become vital-er, as trade between Brazil and Asia increases. Singapore, at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, built itself as a site of entrepôt trade — exporting imports. It has parlayed that into one of the world’s most advanced economies, a global center of innovation and free enterprise.
A new South African city-state could join Singapore and Hong Kong as centers of trade and investment — starting with the investment that would be necessary to build a brand new city-state out of thin air. But one has only to look at Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or any number of Chinese cities to see how fast a city can be built with some will and capital. A South African enclave could attempt its own “Taiwan miracle.”
And as this new city-state developed, it would necessarily boost the surrounding economy, and provide jobs for tens of thousands. It might be a fantastical idea. But it might be able to help South Africa back from the brink.
And, like Singapore, it could develop a serious self-defense force, modeled, like Singapore’s, on the Israel Defense Forces. So, if necessary, it could help prevent a genocide. As a bonus.
— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard.