About “The Emergency Bouzouki Player.”
Imagine its the sixties. You are the government. You have won an election in a landslide vote in which 16% of the population were entitled to vote. Your population is around 20 million. Your life expectancy is 53. Almost all of your cabinet members in your new Republic speak Afrikaans. The vast majority still carry the scars of the first genocide of the 20th century, the British concentration camps in 1900, where some 80% of the Boer women and children died horribly to punish the Boer Resistance fighters in the second Anglo Boer war.
The majority of your cabinet cannot get over their deep, justifiable, hatred for their colonial masters and exploiters, the British, which has insulated them from advances to the very Government model they have inherited when you leave the Commonwealth in 1961.
In 1939 many of those cabinet members chose to support the Nazi party. Some spent time in prison camps for the duration of the war as Nazi sympathizers. They formed their own political group hoping to have South Africa join with Germany in WW2. The Ossewabrandwag. For a time in 1939, if they had had their way South Africa would have entered the war on Germany’s side.
Now, after all those years of struggle to establish one white nation under God, as the ruling elite, you control the 3rd richest economy in the world. (South Africa’s gold reserves are huge and the free Black labor means you can extract it for nothing.)
But over 60% of your population are illiterate. Almost completely disenfranchised politically and economically. This is both why you were able to seize absolute power and also the statistic that cannot change if you are to maintain absolute power.
You consider, because you have some smart thinkers in your party, that these Black folk might eventually learn how to read and write. And they will figure out they want some of that wealth for themselves. Slave wages and slave lifestyle will be revealed to them by education. Next thing you know, they will be wanting some of that mineral wealth.
What to do? You have options starting with B.
Ban stuff. (Suppress knowledge. Starting with that Karl Marx book.)
Bomb stuff. (Blitzkrieg any dissent. The iron fist.)
Build stuff. (Like schools and colleges and places for everyone to become literate and compassionate.)
It is a little bit like a political forerunner of our current process. Do we build Walls or Bridges?
Crucially, with all these options to look at, you know you have the Bible to explain how Blacks are born to till the soil. So you have this opportunity to use religious belief to progress a self-serving decision that is a crime against humanity. You know its wrong, but, hey, Jesus said its OK. And you have a Dutch reformed Church Bible to pin it on him. (Thank you Scotland for giving Andrew Murray to Graaf Reinett. Explaining the Bible your way is crucial.)
After all, all of your your great former leaders like Paul Kruger, carried an NGK pocket bible. And spent a lot of time thanking God. They spent so much time praying, they made Islams 5 times a day requirement look light weight. (Lighties.) Everything was about God. Andrew Murray’s version.
Paul Kruger died in 1904 believing two things. God was one. The other that the Earth was flat.
From this rich legacy of political leadership based on Biblical values and the constant reminders of that bitter ‘scorched Earth’ defeat by the genocidal Brits in 1901, now you finally have everything.
Post WW2, things have fallen in place. In no small measure because of a remarkable South African mind, Jan Smuts. But he has been shafted (for his pro British position alienating the base) and the Nationalists have won and now they have consolidated absolute power. The British are gone from Government. Here you are, you have the ‘Republic of South Africa’ and you have 100% of political power. You have control. You have the left over British Army stuff to arm your own army. The South African Defense Force. Forming the SADF is the first thing you do when you achieve independence from the Crown. Verwoerd knows what he is doing.
You have huge mineral reserves. Some 85% of the world gold at a time when Gold is really valuable in the world markets. And now, with all these points to consider, you have a decision to make. It is essentially a fork in the road.
Right is a lager, defended with an Iron fist.
Left is fiscal responsibility based on compassionate education and equal opportunity for all on merit.
Of course, as you are a small minority numerically, (16% and declining) you take the defensive selfish choice, in two words, White Supremacy.
And with that decision made, now, what about those pesky non-whites. What to do about the 84%?
Do you you educate them, as some including myself suggested, or do you confine them to separate areas, give them some good religion to choke on, label complainers terrorists, arrest their leaders and lock them up for life on Robben island?
It was a Bullets or Books decision. And they never gave much though to the books option. That is my very firm first hand impression.
This was my life in the seventies, as a young teenager in South Africa. Saying, repeatedly;
“What is the matter with you people. Education works. Knowledge is strength. Information is everything. You can’t ban information spreading for ever. Killing poor people for complaining makes their children pissed off. This is a no brainer.”
Sadly, I was wrong. As some continue to remind me even to this day. They, the National Party leadership, made the right decision. They still blame that turncoat De Klerk for ‘giving it all away.’
‘Listen soutpiel. If you don’t like it you should leave‘. I heard maybe 100 times before I was able to emigrate to England. A typical go-to position for any right wing nationalist anywhere. “Don’t like our right wing nationalism, then leave.”
Even at that time, 1978, when I was at Wits Medical school, 80% of the Medicine graduates were in fact leaving South Africa. That was a bit of a clue I thought. Do you really want your best and brightest minds to leave, leaving your gene pool populated increasingly by the dimwits?
It seemed clear as mud to me. Smart people understand that left wing compassion is why we have evolved as a species. Right wing haters simply shoot themselves in the foot, reassured that they will enjoy both forgiveness and reward in an imaginary heaven.
Left = smart. Right = dumb.
But again, in South African terms, I was wrong. Afrikaner leaders and their right wing Rubgy clan knew better.
A brain drain?
How could that possibly impact on a society in 25 years time?
They lived in ‘Paradise’. And they had church every Sunday. Banning the spread of information was their choice. That was their solution. Ban everything and accept only what we tell you and what we tell you is; read the Bible.
Porn was illegal. Playboy magazine was illegal. If you were caught with a Playboy magazine you faced a felony offense. Retailers were not allowed to sell anything with any sexual content. Not even sexy literature. By law.
Consider this ironically amusing factual consequence of their banning law and a nations masturbation habits.
For young boys growing up in this Apartheid era, if you wanted a ‘porn mag’ for the reasons porn mags exist, the only legal option was magazines showing pictures of Black women. Because in some tribal cultures the women went topless, so topless black women photos in Geography magazines were the only legal option for boys growing up in a religious society where porn was banned.
I thought at the time, this was tremendously ironic. It was illegal for any sex across the color divide, but someone slipped up in the banning department and it became a fact that, if you wanted to see women’s breasts in a magazine, you were only legally allowed to see Black women.
On how many levels is that weird in a racist society where kids are mostly raised by Black maids, but cannot even date a girl who is not pure white, while their porn opportunities are limited exclusively to Black women.
The Government banned opening any business on a Sunday. Sunday was Gods day. Says so in the Bible. The day of rest. For prayer. And Church.
You could read the Bible but you could not read Anna Sewell’s child book ‘Black Beauty’. That too was on the ‘banned’ list.
You name it, if it wasn’t rugby or religion or right wing racism, it was illegal. Pink Floyds ‘Another Brick in the wall‘ was illegal.
They blocked the flow of all cultural and social and educational information at source. They even kept TV secret. There was no such thing as TV in South Africa until 1976. And even then, their state channel, the SABC, broadcast only a few hours of the most basic propaganda. I remember it as irrelevant until the first screening of anything real (which was a BBC documentary ‘The World at War‘) in 1978. They simply banned anything that challenged a right wing conformist religious view. Religion was not a choice. Only your denomination was.
They did all this because they knew the bigger picture. I believed then, as now, that they knew what they were doing was wrong. Excluding almost 90% of the population from any share in the Paradise they intended keeping for their entitled race. The Whites. Religion was just a convenient excuse for lazy thinkers.
The worst offense you could commit in those days was to not be born pure white. Even a touch of the tar brush meant you had to go to the allocated area for your racial group. For people of marginal color living in Whites only areas, married to White women with white children, this would present a considerable problem.
Mahatma Ghandi, was an early civil rights campaigner against the racist policies of the emerging Afrikaner government, employed in 1914 with his English law degree in defending nonviolent civil disobedience in the Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. He was classified as Indian. And that meant he was subject to the set of rules informing Indians on rights to live and work and move to and from. I was pleased to learn Ghandi stayed only one year before realizing what a waste of time fighting the iron will of the Afrikaners was. Another ‘If you don’t like it here, leave‘ moment.
The right wing christian racists won the Republic referendum in 1960. Along came the South African Constituion of 1961. And South Africa left the Commonwealth. The National Party, came up with their fantastic set of new laws, collectively known as Apartheid.
Blacks were now disenfranchised in every conceivable way. Slaves in all but name.
The Apartheid laws were passed over a period of some years, like a tightening noose around the neck of freedom. Apartheid was adopted as a formal policy by the South African government after the election of the National Party (NP) at the 1948 general election. Insidious laws were passed, one after another, placing all political power in the hands of the NP. The first landmark apartheid law was the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949, followed closely by the Immorality Amendment Act of 1950, which made it illegal for most South African citizens to marry or pursue sexual relationships across racial lines.
Along came the worst of the Afrikaner leaders. Born in Amsterdam, Henrik Verwoerd was the 6th Prime Minister, from 1958 up until 1966, when a pissed off half-Greek named Dimitri Tsafendas, 48, annoyed that Apartheid was flowering unchecked, chose to get a job as a messenger in the Cape Town Parliament, where he took his opportunity to gut Verwoerd with a knife. An effective knife assassination ending that sorry chapter of Apartheid leadership.
Tsafendas was the son of a Cretan father, like me. Unlike my Greek mother, his mother was a mixed race Mozambican. Hence, he was, by South African classifications ‘colored’. His nickname was Darky. He was a Communist party member.
After he successfully killed the Apartheid leader, he was taken into police custody, where he was severely beaten, and then moved to a hospital where he was treated for his injuries and interviewed by a psychiatrist. Throughout his time in custody Tsafendas was subjected to severe torture from beatings, electric shocks, mock hangings and pretended defenestrations. He was housed in a cell next to the hanging block, hearing the sounds of the regular executions of that time. They sure got their evil on his ass. If he was not insane before his arrest, he sure was after that treatment.
During interrogation Tsafendas gave incontestable political reasons for killing Verwoerd. He said: “I did believe that with the disappearance of the South African prime minister a change of policy would take place. I did set myself the task of destroying the prime minister. It was my own idea to kill him. No one offered me any reward for doing so. I did not care about the consequences, for what would happen to me afterwards. I was so disgusted with the racial policy that I went through with my plans to kill the prime minister… I wanted to see a government representing all the South African people. I do not think the Nationalist government is representative of the people and I wanted to see a different government.”
Ultimately, Verwoerd’s death did little to temper white support for the NP and Apartheid.
What did happen though, that same year, was the start of the resistance. Led, as was so common in WW2 Resistance groups in occupied countries, by Communist ideals. With a Marxist goal to guide them, and a few Russian armaments to empower them, the first revolutionaries began attacks against South African Government buildings. Protesting their inferior status. Their social disenfranchisement which denied them education and forced them to receive even the awful, dumbed down miss-education they were given by the Governments education department, in the Language of Afrikaans. The language of the oppressor. An ugly language to those familiar with the type of people who generally spoke it. Forcing Blacks to learn in the language of their oppressors proved to be another poor decision with consequences. Which began with the image of Hector Pietersen in 1976. I was 15 that day, and remember it clearly. “The Blacks are rising up.”
While I was growing up in Bryanston, the White supremacists had triumphed completely and Black folk were starting to understand that dialogue was not an option. As Tutu would later remark “when they came, we had the land and they had religion. Now we have religion and they have the land.”
Thanks to the Group Areas act, people not of pure white racial origin could not even live in the same areas.
Sophiatown, a cool part of Johannesburg, was purged of its Black occupants. On 9 February 1955, 2 000 policemen, armed with handguns, rifles and knobkierries, forcefully moved the black families of Sophiatown to Meadowlands, Soweto.
After the forced removals and demolition, carried out under the Natives Resettlement Act of 1954, the area was rezoned for whites only and renamed ‘Triomf’. Afrikaans for Triumph. An inspiration for future Israeli settlers on the West Bank.
Things would get worse for the blacks. For the Whites, the only way to keep the Black folk down was to build a crushing military. To do Gods work. A Christian army. With a common enemy – the heathen Communists. They would be offering a lot of ‘Thank you for your service‘.
For good measure, in the wider context, the whole world at that time was caught up in the ‘Cold War’, where Communism was terrorism and capitalism was A OK. The only way.
The USA supported the South African racists because they were against a common enemy. The Communists, who were supporting the Black Liberation groups. Like the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress. Initially legal political groups, who became banned by the Nats (The Nationalist Party). And in turn, increasingly took to the armed struggle. Many a young man from Soweto would, ‘cross the border to take up the fight‘. Some, with leadership potential, would be transported to Moscow for military training.
I remember, as a Greek child, with an olive complexion, the reaction to my observations of common sense, like, Black people should have an education for an equal opportunity. My ‘chommies’ at school, and I was (mostly) at an Afrikaner syllabus state school, “You better be careful what you say or you might be reclassified as a coloured.”
These sons of right-wing fathers and barefoot pregnant kitchen tied mothers did not take kindly to any criticism of their right wing white superiority. They were conditioned from the get go to attack any version of compassion for Blacks. The worst threat they could invoke was to have you reclassified as non-white.
Oh, and Rugby was a real thing. They did not accept anyone who did not love Rugby as they did. Not loving South African rugby was one sure give away. Only a homo Commie would not love the Bokke.
Talk about human rights and equal opportunity and you were a communist. Darn tootin. A leftie commie. One door knock away from a visit to the 11th floor of John Vorster square.
How did I cope with that pressure? The answer is here.
These were not nice people then, the majority in my South African upbringing, where Afrikaans in school was compulsory. They were essentially, Nazis; by the estimation of a 12 year old with basic reading skills.
Of course, as I learned later, the pure Afrikaners are of mixed race themselves. Whereas my Greek ancestors are white for many thousand years. That is called irony.
(The first boat of Dutch settlers who landed at the Cape of Good Hope, had no women on board. The first group of real ethnic South Africans who became the Boers, were of mixed race for this reason. Read the book – ‘The Super Afrikaners’ for source, or read my Bouzouki book for more on this curious point of racial purity.)
Sharpeville in 1960 was a landmark, with the remarkable Robert Sobukwe. (Another Graaf Reinett resident of great influence in South Africa.) But it would take until 1966 before what would become known as the Border War began.
It began in SWA, a former German colony awarded, eventually, to South Africa as a fifth province after Germany’s defeat in 1945.
There the first resistance took the form of small scale attacks by SWAPO against South African police stations. The symbols of Apartheid.
SWAPO was led by Sam Nujoma, who would eventually prevail and become the first president of Namibia. Armed and trained, increasingly, by communist Russia. Soon South Africa’s standing army, armed with WW2 relics was incapable of containing the growing threat and conscription was introduced.
From 1963, South Africa had been placed under a United Nations sponsored anti-apartheid arms embargo that led to the creation of the indigenous Armscor military-industrial company to circumvent the arms embargo and to produce weapons systems uniquely tailored to South Africa’s needs.
That was 1968, as arms sanctions threatened the supply of Bullets as surely as banning orders threatened sales of ‘Another Brick in the Wall.” Armscor would provide the weapons for the Apartheid war. And in fact, became such a successful arms manufacturer, they went on to sell armaments to the same world markets they were banned from buying weapons from. (The G5 cannon, a 155mm howitzer, was a particular success.)
I would go on to be court-martialed by the SADF in 1979 for losing an Armscor product. My R1 Automatic rifle. Identical to this one pictured.
For South Africa’s white male school leavers 9 Months conscription soon became two years as the attacks, the terrorist insurgency, increased. Almost every 18 year old was off to be thanked for their service. National service it was called.
And the government started spending the millions on defense. Retooling for a long drawn out war. No way were they going to give into the fact that over 90% of the population were the ‘enemy.’
Mathematics and numbers and logic simply existed at odds with biblical scripture. That was their choice.
These were not smart people. And I was very aware of that from the age of 12. Not because I was that smart at 12. But because they were that stupid.
Around that time I learned about the terrorist Mandela. A communist leader of the Military arm of the ANC. He was locked up on Robben Island. A place nobody spoke of. I read about the Rivonia trials, especially interested because a Greek lawyer, George Bizos, acted for Mandela. His son, Damon, would be a classmate of mine at Wits. I once met George Bizos. I also met Alan Paton, another shining liberal. And of course, after my own conscription, where I got to meet the Prime Minister of Apartheid, I met many of the leading minds in liberal thought in South Africa in the course of being an inquisitive thinker. John Oakley Smith was a remarkable and insightful personality at that time. Years later, he agreed to edit ‘The Bouzouki Book‘, which was an enormous privilege for me.
I learned the value difference between hearing and learning from informed people rather than from reading the words of misinformed people.
I look back with some amazement at the number of people I actually met in person, who were significant players in the South African thing.
Neil Aggett? Wow. I met him when I was 17, at Wits. I wish everyone could have met Neil Aggett. But of course, because of right-wing christian conservatives, no one ever can.
Ever wonder how the Black Pimpernel, Nelson Mandela, was caught?
I learned that it was the CIA who provided the South African intelligence with Mandela’s location leading to his arrest. The US Government did not want commies running around the world. Funny to think that the US not only had Mandela arrested and jailed, but also, when he was released and traveled to the US to address the UN, in 1990, shortly after his release from 27 years as a terrorist leader, he did so as a name on the US terrorist watch list. Really, homeland security should not have allowed him into the US. They broke their own rules there. (George Bush senior was president in 1990, so he had a word, and the Terrorist was allowed to talk to the UN.)
US influence on South Africa is remembered mostly for their contribution to helping the Apartheid government defeat its enemies
but, to be fair, the USA did leave a legacy of lasting good in Africa. None more so than the Nobel winning writer, Robert Allen Zimmerman, born in Duluth, Minnesota, and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, whose messages like ‘A hard rains a gonna fall’ and ‘With God on our side’ slipped through the banning ways of the regime. My memory cannot overstate how significant the songwriters like Dylan were in spreading humanist ideals into a totalitarian state with iron fist thought police patrolling every entry point to free thought. I knew every word to every Dylan song. Masters of war could have been written by a South African as a local commentary for my generation.
Meanwhile, in South Africa an entire generation, those born between 1956 and 1970, were called on to serve in the military. Every white teenage male was sent to spend two years training and doing their best to kill and maim Black teenagers in Gods name.
The Red peril. (Die Rooi Gevaar.) Blacks with Communist weapons coming to rape the motherland. The symbol was the AK-47.
200,000 Cubans were sent, with Russian money, to Angola, to assist in the Border war against SA. This was not some little tiff between neighbors. It was in many ways a Vietnam scale conflict.
At its height, the SADF were maybe the most effective Army in the world at that time. The spent staggering amounts on Defense. As I never tire of pointing out, the same money they didn’t spend on education.
As the war raged on and insurgencies increased in both number and intensity, the SADF staged counter insurgency operations into Angola, at one point whuppin the MPLA completely, (with some help from Savimbi’s UNITA) getting close to capturing Luanda, the Capitol. Which was within their military reach, even though MPLA requests for urgent aid from Castro meant planes with trained Cubans were arriving in numbers to reinforce the vanquished MPLA. When US support for South Africa was withdrawn, the occupation of Angola, Operation Savannah ended.
South Africa came that close to having total control over Angola. Whose defenses were simply no match for the might of the over-funded SADF and the super efficient SAAF. With their Mirage fighters from France. And their super trained, army of superfit Afrikaans Christian teenagers who knew “A soldier in the field with faith is worth ten without.”
SADF super units, like 32 Battalion (A camp I visited on the border) and 1 Reconnaissance Commando scored sensational successes, in military terms, against their less well funded less well trained opponents. Both sides committing ever increasing atrocities in this conflict as time wore on.
Lucky me, I got to tour the border. And meet many of the participants. I was even offered a smoke from a troop, an 18 year old English speaker from Rivonia, whose tobacco (Dagga) pouch was a curious black container, tied with a shoelace though the top part. “Terrorists balls” he explained. A trophy of war. Nothing to see here. PTSD was not a thing then.
An 18 year old boy shot dead another 18 year old boy, neatly sliced off his testicles with a knife, which he then fashioned into a tobacco pouch by drying over the end of a broomstick, and sewing a shoelace through the top section. A trophy of war. I wonder if that fellow still has his souvenir of National Service?
At the time, curious behavior like this was explained as ‘Boss bevok’. Bush Crazy. Of course, this is only one of many examples in my book of how war dehumanizes young men causing PTSD in the process.
And then, long after I had left South Africa for good in 1984, the wheels on the bus came off the South African white supremacists.
F.W De Klerk did much the same as possibly the greatest South African mind, Jan Smuts, did in 1901 in choosing to not be a ‘bitter ender’ in a lost cause and surrender to the reality of his hopeless position. Mandela was released, and in 1994 became the first democratically elected leader in South Africa’s political history.
Funny enough, in 1994, F.W De Klerk followed my departure a decade before, ending up resident in Hampton Court, living just a few minutes walk away from myself. This was after he left his wife in Cape Town for a Greek woman, Elita Georgiades. (Whose wealthy Greek tycoon husband was a donor to De Klerk’s National Party.)
De Klerk’s abandoned wife Marike, whom he divorced in 1996, would soon after be murdered by a Black intruder. Kind of a triple irony when he then won the Nobel peace prize.
What a small world. For more trivia still on ‘Andrew and famous Southern Africa leaders’, Ian Smith, the former leader of Rhodesia, who like De Klerk, saw his power taken by a Black former terrorist, in this case Mugabe, lived just around the corner from my Surrey home as well. (I learned from having the same hairdresser at that time.)
Ian Smith was a former Spitfire pilot, which was cool, but his racist ways were not. His racist regime, Rhodesia, was the escape destination for the American racist James Earl Ray after he killed Martin Luther King in his famous hate crime of 1968. Of course it is unsurprising that Ray would aim for a country where killing uppity Blacks was the opposite of a criminal offense. But that is a story-line transgression too far – best reserved for a different story about White Supremacists creating wealth by slave racism……..
Why is any of this interesting in 2019? Apart from the fact Martin Luther King has a national holiday in his memory.
What prompted me to write today was another in a long list of similar comments from South African readers of my blog.
“Why do you write this rubbish about Trump. He knows what he is doing. Trump is a lot smarter than you.”
Why would any South Africa have such strong views on Trump? Or even, compare my word smarts with Mr Trump?
They have their own president to support and their own political divisions to learn about. In what way does Trump warrant their interest?
Why would a South African White, with no vote in an American election, praise Trump for all his openly racist choices and express harsh words against me for not being a Trump admirer?
I know the answer to that all too well because. Racism is real. And at the heart of all things Trump. Especially his support.
I grew up seeing this racist nonsense bloom like flowers in the fields of ignorance that is right wing choice. Jesus and racism. White Christians of the world are united in a common hope. That they are superior to any other color, and entitled, by God, to the rewards Trump assures will follow for the White man. For white women, not so much. For women, it is still as the Bible puts forward, a mans world.
Not all right wingers are racist. But every racist is a right winger.
There is a lesson in my own modest experience meeting leaders of White Supremacist clans, for Trump supporters. White superiority as a premise for leadership policy does not always end with white superiority. The contrary is inevitable. The South was defeated.
In our case, the North will rise again.
My very firm recommendation if you want to know more about South Africa, white supremacy, fascism, Republican Party politics and the consequences of religious belief, is to buy my book ‘The Emergency Bouzouki Player’ from Amazon.
It includes the full narrative of my personal exchange with one of the great South African Apartheid leaders, Prime Minister, P.W Botha, the Great Krokodil himself.