An Uneasy Truce

On my article Freedom of Speech, ANC and Media, I touched briefly on the relationship between white & black South Africans and also on the David Bullard issue and the Media. Just read makisto’s response and thought I’d elaborate further.

White South Africans have every right to voice their grievances as are black south Africans. However not every negative thought that comes from a white person in Mzansi is about race as some of our leaders would love us to believe. 

Yes David Bullard’s article was emotive and may have rub many blacks the wrong way. Race, especially given our history is a sensitive issue and politicians and the media should tread very carefully when dealing with such if we are to live peacefully in a racially neutral South Africa. 

You only have to look at Zimbabwe to see what happens when the truce between black & white is fractured- everyone loses.

My view (and I’m not an expert on the matter just drawing from personal observation and reading of western influence on Africa) is that the widely differing rates of socio and economic development between different racial societies is not due to any major inherent human strengths and/or weakness, but rather the result of a fundamental environmental differences. 

Simply put: the difference lies mainly in environmental factors as Henry Thomas Buckle argued in the 1850s and more recently Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs & Steel (which I just finished reading). What I have gathered in the information given by this two men is that; 

Those societies that developed and prospered hastily were those which enjoyed superior access to domestic-able plants and animals in favourable climate conditions, thus creating food surpluses which allowed a part of the population to free themselves from food productions and specialize in developing advanced academic, technical and social capabilities.

Example of this is still evident in rural south Africa were families base more value in their kids’ abilities to be productive in the home like tend to the fields, man the house etc than education. 

Mothers are proud of how their daughters can cook and take care of the household and fathers are proud that their sons can look after the family animals. 

What happens in this situation is that children grow up aspiring to be nothing better than the world they know. Their dreams are limited to the realities of their existence. These kids will never want to be astronauts because they don’t know what an astronaut is. 

This however doesn’t mean their intelligence is lesser than that of urban kids. I say this based on the fact that intelligence is subjective.

European countries were privileged in this regard thus historically able to create rich and complex societies, while the unfortunate lottery losers (essentially Americas, Africa and Australasia) were condemned to remain pre-occupied with hunting game and subsistence agriculture which limited their social development. 

When European nations entered into the phase of colonial expansion, they were in an advantage thus making it easy to subjugate the native populations of America and Australasia, whose numbers were being decimated by their vulnerability to diseases brought in by newcomers to their worlds. 

Yes people, sometimes nature is not your friend and can kill you. The colonizers populated these territories, importing their own animals and crops together with their academic, technical and social skills, and successfully created European-style societies in North America (now USA, CANADA and etc), Australasia and some parts of South America.

Most Asian societies were sufficiently mature to be able to resist European colonial attempts and were able to create successful independent economies in post colonial world. 

However with in sub-Saharan Africa the colonizers were only partially successful in creating European-style societies, achieving temporary political and economic domination BUT co-existing with large numbers of indigenous inhabitants whose aspirations would eventually threaten their supremacy. 

Tropical Africa was in any case climatically unfavourable to settle in and its native societies were subjugated solely for their trading opportunities and were eventually peacefully relinquished to their independence in the mid 20th century.

In the more hospitable climates like Eastern and Southern Africa where there was a significant European settlement, the indigenous people as a whole were not decimated by imported diseases as they been in Americas and Australasia. 

These diseases originated form domesticated animals and native herdsmen of Southern Africa, like Europeans, had developed immunity from constant contact with these animals unlike in American Indians and Australian Aborogines who had no domesticated animals and therefore had no immunity.

 Southern Africa was self sustainable but because of it favourable living climate they colonizers sort after it but could only assert domination only by force of arms or by economic superiority.

Native Americans


As with everything else that is rooted in exploitation and malicious intent, the domination of the colonizers became untenable in the face of opposition from the oppressed. The colonizers have been forced to embrace democracy and cede political powers to the African majority in the hope of preserving the economic and social structure which they created. 

Now this is an uneasy truce that can easily be fractured as in the case of Zimbabwe with dire consequences. In Mzansi this reconciliation has worked but with the scales of power and economic prosperity still unbalanced this calls for tactful approach in dealing with such matters. 

The underlying insinuation in some white South Africans’ criticism of black governance is that South Africa is what it is (in prosperity) because white people made it and now black people will run it to the ground. In essence, though there is some truth in it, it's dangerous and destructive.

The arrival of whites in our shore did bring some development that we today enjoy BUT on hindsight it could easily be construed to mean black have no intellectual capacity to have made such development without a white man’s aide (that to me is insulting.). 

However, the notion by some of our black leaders that we don’t need any white people is not helping either. A truce and tolerance of each other’s cultures will benefit everybody.

Black resentment of white economic success could easily destroy this fragile truce. A successful future for us black south Africans depend on our ability and confidence to create our own prosperity and not expropriate wealth from the whites. 

We need to start realizing that self enriching endeavours that benefits the few elite and not the hungry majority does nothing but fan an already volatile fire. Failure to heed this will see the townships burn and crime escalate because unfortunately our people will not use their votes to correct errors of this nation instead they will cause anarchy. 

As a young black south African, I hope we never come to that but irresponsible utterances by those in power will not help in avoiding this catastrophe. We need to restore faith in our leadership, embrace all who live in this nation and be tolerant of our differences.

Julius in Orania

White South Africans’ taunting of the black leaders with the reminder of our historical disadvantages, as was the case with David Bullard’s article, does nothing to help this process either. Yes, complain when things aren’t done right but referring to colonial times to make your point is ill-advised and dangerous. The economic prosperity of white is not about intelligence it’s also about environmental factors. Remember that.

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