A Visit to South Africa

by John Hospers

John Hospers is a professor of philosophy at the  University of Southern California. Los Angeles. He is the author of numerous  books, several anthologies, and more than one hundred essays in journals and  encyclopedias.

This article recounts experiences from Professor  Hospers’ six-week stay in South Africa last summer.

The media create a misleading impression of life in South Africa. It’s not  that what they report is untrue; it is what they decline to report that distorts  the picture.

I spent part of July and all of August 1986 in South Africa, under the  auspices of the Free Market Foundation of South Africa, giving lectures and  seminars at a dozen universities in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town,  Stellen-bosch, Durban, and Pietermaritzburg, as well as Namibia (Southwest  Africa) and Umtata (in the “independent republic” of Transkei). I spoke with  many people of various races and walks of life, and visited numerous areas, from  rural black school districts to the private palace of the Anglo-American Oil  Company. I walked the streets of cities for hours, meeting people and talking  with them, trying to capture the ambience of each place and to sort out what  were the sources of strife as well as of harmony, who was to blame for what, and  how the problems could be solved or ameliorated.

Economic Inequality

To the outside world, the key word to describe what is wrong in South Africa  is apartheid, which means simply that the races live apart. But apartheid  by itself has very little to do with the current unrest in South Africa. If  members of various races live apart by choice, little can be said against it; it  is forcibly living apart that is objectionable. This still occurs in  South Africa, notably in suburban enclaves like Soweto near Johannesburg: blacks  work in Johannesburg by day but must return to their dwellings in Soweto at  night. Yet a great deal of apartheid has been changed since my earlier visit in  1983.

• A few years ago, theaters, some shops, and all restaurants were segregated.  Now they are integrated, and few people seem to think anything of it.

• The mixed-marriage laws and pass laws have been repealed.

• Black families live in apartments in Johannesburg and other cities  alongside whites, going to the same shopping places and films and living their  lives much as whites do. When you walk the streets of the posh northern suburbs  of Johannesburg, you see almost as many blacks as whites, going to work and  entering and leaving their homes. This is strictly illegal, but nothing is done  about it.

• Formerly the government built tract-housing for black settlements and  rented them to black families. Now those families for the most part have 99-year leases, and for all practical purposes the homes belong to them.  The result is a great increase in beautification—lawns, gardens, trees and  shrubbery, newly painted houses—which always accompanies private ownership.

Yet the legalization of mixed marriages, integration of public places, and the abolition of the pass laws have had a much less positive effect than the white population assumed they would. This, I think, is because the basic cause of unrest has not been touched by these measures. Blacks do not give first priority to social relations with whites. What affects them most is the unfairness of the laws and regulations which do not permit them to compete economically on an equal basis with whites or even with Indians. The desire to rise in life, and to provide adequate support for one’s family, is constantly frustrated by the legal system. If apartheid were continued but economic opportunities for the races were equal, the current unrest would largely subside. But blacks are held back by government controls:

“If a white person wants to open a fish and chip shop in a white  area, all he has to do is fill in a form, find a zoned business site, and sign a  lease with the landlord. If he complies with health regulations, he is entitled  to sell fish and chips. No one must approve of him as a person; no questions are  asked about his nationality, competence, resources, or language. No bureaucrat  decides if there is adequate ‘need and desirability’ for such a shop. Simply  because he is a white in a white area, he is entitled as a right to run a fish  and chip shop or almost any other business or industry.

“For a black, the situation is very different. Before he can open a fish and  chip shop in Soweto, he has to ask an official for a site. The official may or  may not grant his request, for reasons which he need not disclose. He may say “yes” because he likes the applicant, or is related to him, or because he has  received a sufficiently generous bribe. He may say “no” for equally subjective  reasons. Once the site has been granted, the potential entrepreneur has to apply  to another official for a license. This may or may not be issued, for similar  reasons. Then on to the health officials. And the building inspectors . . .  until, many months and hundreds of rands later, he might be turned down for  unspecified reasons.

“South African blacks today have no experience with laws which are equally  applicable to all regardless of sex, creed, or color. What they experience now,  from day to day, is arbitrary rule by men, a system which by its nature is rife  with both real and suspected corruption. No self- respecting human being can be  subjected to such a system without feeling frustrated or angry.” (Leon Louw and  Frances Kendall, South Africa: The Solution, pp. 61-62. Amagi  Publications Ltd., 1986).

An end to such discriminatory legislation would solve a large part of South  Africa’s problems in one stroke. Whether the government is at the moment  prepared to do this is doubtful; but circumstances may yet force its hand.

The result would be beneficial to whites as well, for it would remove the  enormous tax burden of caring for blacks at government expense. Six million  taxpayers in a total population of 32 million sustain the entire remainder in a  huge welfare state. South Africa is a ¾ socialist state, providing (however  inadequately) for the daily needs of black housing, health, and education, at an  enormous and ever-increasing cost. The facilities are far from equal, of course:  black education is markedly inferior to white, in spite of vast increases of  money spent on it—an increase of 2600 per cent for next year alone, I was told  in Pretoria, enough to bankrupt the national treasury in a few years. (There  are, of course, some black taxpayers as well, and the 12 per cent sales tax, up  from 6 per cent three years ago, is imposed equally on everyone who buys goods.)  Many urban blacks, however, are tired of being “cared for”—they want to make it  on their own. What they suffer from is black socialism—being treated like  children who cannot take care of themselves.

The irony is that blacks tend to associate the present system with  capitalism, and therefore condemn it, often embracing socialism as the system  that will cure their ills—little realizing that it is socialism that they have  been suffering from all along, and that capitalism is their only means of rising  out of their present situation, creating industries and jobs and allowing  persons to rise to the limit of their abilities.

The government educational system is enormously frustrating to both whites  and blacks. A school building is built in a black development; soon the windows  are broken and the building vandalized. The government rebuilds it, and the same  thing happens again. How often are the taxpayers of South Africa supposed to  repeat this procedure? Whites are inclined to argue, “If that’s what they want  to do, let them stay in their own mess.”

But why do blacks do this? Because they see education as largely irrelevant  to their needs. If at the end of schooling you can’t get a decent job, the  argument seems to be what’s the use of education? Then one might as well destroy  the buildings which are the symbols of what is being forced upon them. These  actions are a response to black socialism, to which they have been subjected by  the white government; but socialism is not the way they identify it. They  identify it as a manifestation of white capitalism. Therein lies the tragedy.

The Clash of Cultures

The outside world pictures the blacks of South Africa as one unified force,  opposed to whites and Indians. In fact, however, blacks are deeply divided along  tribal lines. The Zulu dislikes and is suspicious of the Xhosa, the Xhosa  dislikes the bushman, and so on, far more than any of them fears or dislikes the  whites. Were it not for police intervention, there would be tribal wars and  massacres as there have been for thousands of years.

Most blacks are quite non-political; they are much more interested in meeting  their daily needs than in political action. They will not rise up against the  whites unless they can be whipped into a frenzy by outside agitators. They are  inclined to be easy-going, fairly passive, “mellow”—quite unlike the “edginess” experienced between the races in America. Violence is usually initiated by  teenagers and children, whose parents are ashamed for them and apologize in the  strongest terms for their behavior.

Most blacks who work for whites tend to be content with their lot. They are  employed, and at much higher wages than they could obtain elsewhere. They will  defend the whites against blacks of other tribes, toward whom they are openly  hostile.

I was a guest at a dinner at which a black man was seated, and the black  cook, after inquiring where he was from and what tribe he belonged to, refused  to serve him at table. She continued in this refusal even though her job was on  the line. She considered serving whites to be her proper place, but she would  have no truck with blacks of other tribes. She was somewhat reminiscent of the  housekeepers in the old American South, as in Gone With the Wind.

One might say, of course, that blacks should not be in such a servile  position. But economic non-discrimination would be the cure for that: as  opportunities increased, fewer would accept servile jobs. But at present, with  limited training and job opportunities (thanks to black socialism), the  arrangement appears to be quite acceptable, indeed advantageous, to both blacks  and whites.

Most rural blacks live much as they have lived for centuries, their tribal  customs unchanged, the principal change in their lives being white medicine,  modern homes, and the sale of their crops and wares to white customers. At the  other extreme, a small percentage of blacks have become quite Westernized; these  are the ones we see on American television. Between these extremes are the  semi-urbanized blacks, with one foot in each culture—a background of tribal  customs which goes with them constantly even while they are attempting to  compete with white laborers in the job market. The lot of this third group is  the most painful and trying—somewhat Westernized, yet unable to compete  successfully in the white man’s world.

Given a free enterprise economy, many of them would become able  entrepreneurs. Some of them already are, in spite of the system: 1 met black  landscapers and construction men who hired other blacks to lay tile and build  swimming pools and maintain lawns and gardens, and these were affluent by any  standard. These, of course, were the rare excep-tions-and they had no use for  political agitation. Most blacks, however, are still victims of the system,  unable to make a good life for themselves. They care about their own chances of  achieving a decent living much more than having a vote: When I asked “What would  you rather have, the right to vote or an extra thousand rand a year?” the answer  was always the same, and perfectly obvious.

The degree of tribalism, and the strength of tribal customs, are quite  unfathomed in the West, and are never shown on American television, although  tribalism is the most potent force in Africa. The following are only a few  examples of many (purposely diverse in character), told to me by white  university professors, white missionaries and social workers, as well as by  urban blacks.

• A man disappears from his home in a black settlement. The opposing  tribesman who has killed him conceals his body in the refrigerator and each day  he cuts off a piece and eats it. (Often he eats only the heart and the liver.)  This is a common practice called “muti.”

• A man comes home to find himself suddenly accused by other tribesmen of  theft or adultery (whether truly or falsely). He is pummeled to death or fatally  stabbed on the spot, while others dance over his corpse. Life is very cheap in  Africa.

• A girl has had two sons, strong healthy children. A third son is born, but  is dead within a few days. “What happened?” asks a white missionary. “He just  died.” The next year another son is born. “This time I will take care of him,” says the missionary, and does so till the child is six months old, at which time  the missionary has to leave, and places the child carefully in his mother’s  hands. When the missionary returns a few days later the new son is dead, again  without explanation. The reason turns out to be that a third son is a liability  to a family, and is killed. The first son takes over from his father; the second  son is there to do so if something happens to the first son; but the third son  if he later marries must present a dowry (unlike India, the dowry is contributed  by the husband’s family), and this often breaks the family financially. It is  easier just to kill him.

• Most black education is performed by rote: a teacher simply reads out of a  textbook. One geography teacher decides to explain the text instead of just  reading it. But his pupils still fail the matriculation test at the end of the  term. The students get together and decide that it’s the teacher’s fault for not  going strictly by the text. They take the teacher out and kill him.

• At the home where I stayed in Johannesburg, the black caretaker was quietly  reliable, like most African blacks more interested in tending the house than in  the future of South Africa. His predecessor in the job, however, had not been so  fortunate: blacks from another tribe had seen him crossing a bridge one night,  tied him up, lit a fire under him, and burned him to death.

White vs. Black?

Hundreds of tales like this are well known to both whites and blacks. They  make many whites fear integration in the cities: with such tribal savagery so  close to the surface, how could we but fear for our children going out at night? “Of course there has to be apartheid.” Yet the victims of these brutalities are  almost always blacks, not whites. And people with a long oral tradition do not  part in a few years with the thousand-year-old habits and customs of their  ancestors.

The white man’s world is still strange and alien to those who live in the  bush. “Let me take you to any black village,” one lady said to me, “and I  guarantee you will be a hero—as long as you can keep telling them stories about  the world outside. They will revere you and defend you, and for years afterward  they will tell tales about their great honor in having a white visitor from  another land.”

There is, indeed, a great reservoir of good will between the races in South  Africa—much more than in the United States. I sensed this in the stories, on the  streets, in endless conversations. Most blacks do not consider the white man  their enemy. Some whites consider blacks to be slow and lazy—and of course some  are; but a much more plausible conclusion is that the black is more deliberate,  with less of a sense of urgency. He can remember incredibly detailed  instructions without writing them down (the long oral tradition facilitates  this).

Ten years ago all truck drivers in South Africa were white; today they are  virtually all black, and doing a better job of it. There are many black trade  unions, black mining engineers, black doctors and dentists. More South African  blacks own cars than there are privately owned cars in the Soviet Union. Even  so, the African black is still new to the technological civilization that the  whites have built around him: South Africa’s incomparable roads and skyscrapers,  its mining and processing technology, its system of distribution and supply, are  the equal of anything in the West. Blacks have been the beneficiaries of  this civilization in the form of a higher standard of living and medical care  than they would have had otherwise, but thus far they have not been sufficiently  permitted to participate in it.

What of those who do not want to participate in it, but to remain with their  tribal customs in the bush? One is surely inclined to say, “Then they should not  be forced to be a part of the white man’s civilization.” They should not be  forced to adapt to the white man’ s world if they choose not to. But there is  one touchy problem here: what part should the white man’s law, derived from  Europe, play in the black man’s culture? To a large extent the white man’s law  lets tribal custom go its way without interference. Yet in known cases of ritual  murder or human sacrifice, shouldn’t the perpetrators of such acts be arrested  and charged with murder?

If the law does not intervene, the world will say that white law enforcers do  not care about human lives as long as they are the lives of blacks. If the law  does intervene, headlines will scream round the world, “White policemen molest  blacks in South Africa.” Whether the law takes the attitude of “let it be” to  tribal customs, or whether it attempts to intervene at least in the clearest  cases of tribal savagery, either way it will be the loser in world opinion.

The Solution?

Perhaps the greatest mistake in South African history was the creation of one  nation, the Union of South Africa. With such deep cultural and moral divisions,  how could one nation ever be generated from such a mix? Those who came to  America came largely from Europe, and shared a European culture and morality.  But those who came together in Africa had no such common bond.

What then is the solution? A very plausible one has been proposed by Leon  Louw and his wife Frances Kendall in their book South, Africa: The  Solution, which is now the No. 1 best seller in South Africa and has been  read by cabinet ministers and referred to by the Prime Minister himself, and is  creating a great ferment in the entire country. Many whites who had planned to  leave South Africa have stayed because of the book. They now see hope in the  book’s proposed canton system, like the one Switzerland has had for eight  centuries.

The nation would be subdivided into semi-autonomous states or provinces,  divided along roughly tribal boundaries. There would be a very limited central  government concerned only with a few matters such as currency and national  defense, but the laws would vary from province to province. Some whites, of  course, would have to move if they didn’t like the laws of the largely black  province they were in, and the same with blacks. But moving about is preferable  to civil war.

Provinces with a free enterprise economy would soon be more prosperous than  socialist provinces that might exist nearby, and would attract more people  toward them. Meanwhile a national constitution would prohibit discrimination on  grounds of race, color, gender, or religion, would ensure a universal franchise,  would protect property rights and civil liberties, and guarantee freedom of  movement and association.

“One person, one vote” is chanted by many Westerners who know little about  South Africa. Those in the bush do not know what a vote is. For those who do, it  means going along with what the chief says: a black lady I spoke with had been  wronged by her chief, but kept insisting “You can’t go against your chief,” indicating that I simply did not understand. Many whites fear that with a  five-to-one majority blacks will vote for anyone who promises them the  advantages that white civilization has achieved, without knowing yet how to  sustain it. They fear a future of “one man, one vote, once.”

What most whites fear is that, given unlimited and centralised political  power of the kind that whites have held and abused, blacks will evict whites  from their homes, nationalise their businesses and loot their property in an  orgy of redistribution and revenge. But there is a good deal of evidence to  suggest that this fear is more imagined than real.

True, there are many articulate political leaders who speak openly about the  day of reckoning when AZAPO would restore the land to its “original owners,” and  the ANC to “those who work it” in terms of the Freedom Charter. A handful would  like to see a fully-fledged Marxist dictatorship with no private property at  all. But the majority of blacks seem to want no more than the removal of all  barriers to black advancement and enfranchisement. . . .

None of the four independent homelands have adopted the policies whites most  fear. They have all repealed all race laws, but none have espoused Marxism.  Bophutha-tswana and Ciskei have recently taken major steps to free their  economies. . . . (Louw and Kendall, South Africa: The Solution, pp.  168-9.)

One advantage of Louw and Kendall’s solution is that economic freedom would  come first—hopefully at once; and then, when there are a number of prosperous  black entrepreneurs, they will not vote to Sovietize South Africa, for by that  time they will have a stake in their country and will have too much to lose.

Threats from the Outside

White South Africans have watched closely the fate of the “developing  nations” of Africa. They have seen one nation after another turned into a  one-party state—dictatorships in which the fruits of white civilization were  promised to all, property confiscated, billions going into the dictator’s Swiss  bank account, the rest redistributed in a vast welfare scheme in which there was  no “welfare” because without incentives there soon was nothing left to  distribute.

Successive dictatorships in Uganda, Tan-zania, and other central African  nations have killed millions of people. Mozambique, once a prosperous nation  under Portuguese rule, is now an economic basket case. In the midst of rich  natural resources and good soil, hunger and starvation are now rampant, the  economy totally destroyed, and hordes of starving families cross the border into  South Africa to find food and sanctuary.

Zimbabwe is already in effect a one-party state, whose dictator, Mugabe, is  systematically exterminating the minority tribe, the Matabeles. In Zimbabwe  today there are no jobs to be had: I talked with several illegal aliens from  Zimbabwe who worked as gardeners and small tradesmen in Johannesburg, sending  their wages back to Zimbabwe to support a dozen or more family members and  relatives.

Refugees from other nations continue to pour into South Africa; even with  racial discrimination they can earn many times ‘what they can in their home  countries, when they find employment there at all. Without South Africa many of  these people literally would starve.

South Africans wonder why the world has a special animosity towards them.  Every time there is even a small amount of violence—often genuine but sometimes  staged for the benefit of cameramen who have placed themselves in a convenient  location—it is highlighted that night on the world’s television screens.

When thousands are slaughtered in Uganda or Zaire, no cameramen are there to  record it, and it passes almost unnoticed. “If there are no pictures, there’s no  news”—and thus America knows nothing of Soviet labor camps or Vietnamese “re-education centers,” for no one is permitted to come close enough to  photograph them.

Yet it is South Africa, still a relatively open society in spite of  censorship, that comes in for selective indignation. Perhaps it is because “more  is expected” of white people than of black. But is that not itself a form of  racism?

Why should nations in the Soviet orbit receive preferential trading  conditions while South Africa is punished? Why does Zimbabwe, a police state in  which a single comment against the government can result in imprisonment  incommunicado for six months or more (we were warned before entering Zimbabwe to  think what we wished, but to say nothing), still receive American aid, while  sanctions are imposed on South Africa? Racial problems in the United States took  centuries to resolve, and are not entirely resolved to this day, yet South  Africa is expected to solve its problems by tomorrow morning.

A professor from the Netherlands gave a series of lectures at the University  of the Witwatersrand when I was also lecturing there, and was notified by his  home university that because he had spoken in South Africa his academic tenure  would be broken. South Africans cannot get passports to many European nations  because of its “racist policies,” but dignitaries from other nations which are  slaughterhouses have no troubles in this regard. “If you impose sanctions,” I  was asked, “why don’t you do it across the board, first to countries that  systematically kill all dissidents?”

I spent a week in Namibia, where everyone is officially in favor of  independence from South Africa. (Namibia has had no apartheid for ten years, but  this has made little difference: only economic opportunity can offer  advancement.) Yet more than half the Namibian economy is sustained by  transfusions from South Africa.

The Namibian Minister of Transport in Windhoek showed me a huge map  projecting his favorite dream: a railroad going from Walvis Bay on the west  coast, east through Namibia and Botswana, ending in Zimbabwe: “then we could be  independent of South Africa.” Unfortunately the building costs of this project  would amount to well over a billion rand, and where would such an infusion of  capital come from but South Africa, whose G.N.P. is more than that of all the  other nations of Africa combined? Similarly, the impressive University of Umtata  in the black republic of Transkei, where I gave three lectures, was built  entirely courtesy of the South African taxpayers.

Yet South Africans are well aware of international threats. Armed insurgents  from Angola continue to harass the residents of northern Namibia, though the  influence of SWAPO seems to be on the decline: the Ovambi tribesmen (over 60 per  cent of the population of Namibia) don’t want their property nationalized, and  the word has finally got through that that’s what SWAPO is all about. Today an  Angolan infiltrator into their midst can figure on a life-expectancy of no more  than a week (So I was told in a military briefing in Windhoek to which I was  invited, along with French and German diplomats.)

But conditions along the border with Mozambique have not similarly improved.  Soviet-financed terrorists continue to make armed raids into South Africa. In  the northern province of Venda, the chief fear of native families is not from  South Africa but from Mozambique: terrorists capture children in school or on  the way home, kidnap them and take them back into Mozambique, and they never are  seen again. When the South African army retaliates by raiding terrorist bases in  Mozambique, it is excoriated in the international press for venturing outside  its borders.

South Africans follow closely the progress of Soviet trouble-making in  Africa—the killing of dissidents and minorities (to fan racial hatreds), the  slaughter and systematic starvation of innocents, the random imprisonments, and  the kidnaping of children, taking them through Dares-Salaam to Siberia or North  Korea to give them training in terrorist tactics against South Africa.

The African National Congress (ANC) is a divided organization. Some of its  members desire only racial equality in South Africa. But the majority—so believe  most of those with whom I spoke—do not want any improvement of conditions in  South Africa: They want things to get worse, so that the entire social fabric of  South Africa will be destroyed in a civil war and a new communist nation founded  on the ashes of the present one. As for Nelson Mandela, the usual view was “if  he is released he won’t last a week unless he turns to Butholezi” (the moderate  Zulu chief, who may be the main hope for South Africa, but is seldom mentioned  on American television)—because Tambo (head of the ANC) would not tolerate any  competition for his leadership.

If civil war should come, it will be instigated by outsiders bent on the  destruction of the entire society (including all races), not from within—this  was the verdict of virtually everyone with whom I spoke.

As one surveys the thousands of people walking the streets of Cape Town and  Durban and Johannesburg, one finds it difficult to imagine how a black take-over  would ever be attempted, or how it could succeed if it were. Here are thousands  of black faces expressing no hatred or resentment or malevolence; these are  people going about the daily business of life, under conditions which in spite  of world headlines are gradually improving. Further improvements, such as  deregulation and the abolition of discriminatory legislation, could be initiated  tomorrow by act of Parliament. Others, such as satisfactory education for black  youths, would take many years to achieve, and probably cannot be achieved at all  through the public school system.

Reflecting on all this, I thought of the black shopkeeper in nearby Randburg,  with whom I talked often, helpful to a fault, who bore no ill will toward  anyone: ten years ago a white customer would have been unlikely to shop at a  store serviced by blacks, but no more. I thought of the white plumber I spoke  with, who still goes alone to Soweto every working day to install pipes and  bathrooms, with no fears for his safety. I thought of the white South African  soldiers on leave entering a bar in Durban, not joining other white soldiers  from the Transvaal for a drink because they preferred to drink with their black  Durban friends.

The world underestimates the residual good will between the races in South  Africa, which makes the streets of South Africa safer than those of any large  American city. The very existence of this benevolent attitude is difficult to  believe by those who are the victims of selective reporting by the American  media, but theawareness of it is inescapable once one has tasted everyday life  in South Africa as it is actually lived, not as it is contrived by reporters who  report only the outbreaks of violence.

The Effects of Sanctions

Many nations have imposed sanctions against South Africa in a show of moral  indignation against apartheid. The sanctions are an attempt to punish South  African whites; in fact, however, it will punish principally South African  blacks. As one foreign company after another pulls out of South Africa, there  will be massive unemployment—and who will be the first to be unemployed? The  unskilled laborers, of course—and at the moment these are mostly blacks. They  are the ones who will suffer the brunt of the foreigners’ indignation.

Many foreigners know this, of course, but they appeal to what they think is  the will of their constituencies (fanned by selective media coverage). Talk is  cheap, and the foreigners will be no worse off because of black poverty in South  Africa which their actions will cause. They may even feel a pleasing tinge of  moral righteousness for doing what they do—they have spoken their piece, and the  consequences will not fall on them. The very persons they officially wish  to help are the ones who will suffer the most. Many people will starve because  of the imposition of sanctions.

Sanctions will also seal the fate of the thousands of blacks who pour into  South Africa from the economically depressed nations to the north. They will be  sent back to their native countries, since there will be no more jobs for them  in South Africa. What will happen to the starving hordes pouring in from  Mozambique, who now flee into South Africa for food and sanctuary’? After  sanctions, they will no longer be able to be absorbed into the South African  labor force, and will be forced to return to the nations from which they have  fled.

Dr. Christian Barnard of Cape Town, the originator of heart transplant  surgery, recently wrote in the Sunday Times (Johannesburg, August 3):

Starvation means more than just pangs in the belly. It is the terrible agony  of a body literally cannibalizing its own tissues as it fights off death.  Perhaps you think you’ve seen it all on television documentaries of famine. Be  assured that the reality cannot be captured on film. There is a stink to  starvation that doesn’t show on a television screen, it assaults the nostrils  and revolts the stomach—a smell you can never forget: the stench of obscenity.  Never mind all the other uses of the word. Once you see a starving child you  know the real meaning of obscenity—a condition which is an affront to all  humanity.

It is then that another emotion takes over—anger; a kind of white-hot fury at  the conditions which allowed this to happen. There is a need to look for a  target—to find something to smash, someone to blame. . . . I feel that anger  when I read of churchmen who call for economic sanctions. I try to believe that,  like the Roman soldiers who crucified Christ, they know not what they  do.

But belief comes hard when you consider that those who ask for the bread to  be taken out of the mouths of other people’s children know their own will never  suffer. No churchman’s salary will stop when trade comes to a halt. Priests and  prelates, like the lilies of the field, toil not for their cash. It comes to  them on a silver plate. And it keeps coming whether the stock market rises or  falls. When the sanctions bite, no one will knock on the door to repossess the  furniture. The cars in the garage will be safe and the church will not call in  the mortgage on the rectory, the manse or the deanery. Bishops will be safe,  too. Princes of the church live in palaces where sanctions don’t apply. Church  walls are thick. Especially high church where they build monuments of dead stone  to a living God. It’s hard to hear the cries of the unfed when you’re  inside.

Southern Africa is home to more than 60 million people. A quarter of the  population are below the age of 14. Let me spell it out. Sanctions, which is  just another word for starvation, will place 15 million children under the  threat of famine. Politicians throughout the world have voted for this appalling  project, but nobody asked the children . . .

I can offer sanctions-loving churchmen a thought. It is a short step from  being the Lord’s Anointed to believing oneself God’s Mouthpiece, but would the  Almighty really risk the life of a single child—just to replace a white Caesar  with a black one?

What is needed, of course, is an increase in the number of available jobs;  but as long as sanctions are in effect, any such increase will be impossible.  Without capitalism (including free trade) a nation cannot enjoy the fruits of  capitalism—prosperity. “The fruits we require,” wrote Barlow Rand chairman Mike  Rosholt in the Pretoria News (July 11), “will have to be in the form of a  very much larger cake than we have ever been able to produce, even in relatively  good economic times, because it will have to fund the reforms already announced  to produce a considerable backlog of jobs and to satisfy black demands for a  more equitable distribution of national income. All this without permanently  damaging the private sector and killing all individual initiative. We shall  certainly not produce that larger cake in the recessionary conditions we now  face.”

The Prospects

What South Africa now needs is economic prosperity, a prosperity that will be  impossible as long as sanctions continue. With growing prosperity, an  improvement in the lot of the blacks would come, particularly in the wake of  deregulation and decentralization—something the government has not proceeded  with fast enough, but which the necessities of peaceful survival will  increasingly force upon it.

Meanwhile, the future is clouded. With foreign backing, the ANC will be  strong enough to plant bombs in the cities and create conditions of terror which  will bring all improvements to a halt. With enough foreign assistance, such  organizations will in time be able to make South Africa at least as  uncomfortable as Northern Ireland. Then there may be enough violence to satisfy  even the international media—and the billion or so dollars per year that the  Soviet Union spends on the disruption of South Africa may prove to have been  well worth the price they have paid to bring it about.