Retired journalist John Patten correctly points out in his latest ‘editorial’ that
“The greatest challenge in these circumstances is to find ways to combine the rich and the poor in one united nation. The country needs the rich for their ability to grow new industries and bring new capital into the country. The poor need jobs and higher wages to give them a base on which to build for themselves.”
This is the latest ‘editorial’
“The rapid collapse of the Afghan government once the Americans had withdrawn during this month gives reason for wide reflection on the remaining influence of colonial or Western-orientated countries in other parts of the world.
Western democratic and human rights values are not universal, as ex-colonial minorities have found to their cost in the past 60 or 70 years.
Why were the Americans in Afghanistan in the first place – a far-flung outpost of minimal value to the United States? The real reason, as with the Russian involvement in Afghanistan before them because of Chechen terrorism, was the attack on the New York twin towers by Muslim militants based in Afghanistan 20 years ago.
The Americans tried to eliminate extreme Muslim terrorism and stabilise a viable government in Afghanistan that was not hostile to Western interests. They failed to do so and have now withdrawn, but it was a big surprise how little resistance the official Afghan government could put up against Taliban advances once the Americans had withdrawn. Perhaps the populace of Afghanistan is not as opposed to the Taliban as the West would like it to be?
The United States government (and other Western states) will now have to concentrate on intelligence work to keep track of Muslim militants who plan aggression and still have territorial aspirations. While common human rights values and ideas on democracy would go far to ease the path to world peace, there are powerful other influences that divide the world communities in bubbles of power.
In the early 1960s, I was sent to Birmingham as a news reporter based in England to assess the problems of Indian and Pakistani families in integrating into British society. I was told that, at schools, Indian and Pakistani children integrated easily into their study classes provided they represented less than 20% of any class they were assigned to. A larger percentage led to Indian and Pakistani children forming their own separate groups.
Of course, that was just one of the problems for colonists settling in other parts of the world that had been claimed by European powers. Cultural differences were too big and economic practices too different. It was, in the end, why Britain as not prepared to support colonists in Kenya and the Central African Federation and Rhodesia when African populations demanded their independence. The white populations in those colonies were too small to sustain their domination, and the colonial power was not willing to support them indefinitely if they couldn’t make a deal with the majorities.
It is almost the same situation the United States met in Afghanistan, and where President Biden took resolute action. It is easier to withdraw and let things take their course without big-power interference. Some would like to see it as a defeat for the United States, but Afghanistan was not actually America’s war. Fighting terrorism against America was America’s war.
There are, not surprisingly, complications to the idea that dominant populations eventually overrun minorities which have different values. South Africa is one such.
Dutch and then British colonists brought their own values and systems with them to South Africa, and came in such numbers after the discovery of diamonds and gold that they represented about a quarter of the overall population of the country.
Time has seen that percentage wane until whites represent only about 8% of the overall population, but South Africa had meanwhile demanded and been granted independence from colonial rule, with whites left in charge. It took a further 80 years before a full democracy could be established, replacing apartheid’s white domination.
The South African constitution is an important document, thrashed out over several years in the 1990s, which leaves the country firmly in the sphere of Western democratic values, but it is still threatened by strong populist groups which reflect the huge gulf between the affluent educated (mostly white) group and the masses of poorly educated, often unemployed, rapidly urbanising black masses,
The greatest challenge in these circumstances is to find ways to combine the rich and the poor in one united nation. The country needs the rich for their ability to grow new industries and bring new capital into the country. The poor need jobs and higher wages to give them a base on which to build for themselves.
With this demographic make-up, South Africa can easily be split into the “them” and “us” categories which can lead to hostile power groups. Blacks control government. Whites control business.
The ruling ANC party aspires to honour all sections of the population regardless of colour, religion or economic status, but has chosen to advance this policy by introducing black empowerment conditions which favour other racial groups over whites.
The result is of uncertain benefit, helping in some areas and retarding progress in others. It is made infinitely more difficult by government policy to favour members of the ANC in top jobs in the civil service and state-owned enterprises. Effectively it means pressing black South Africans into high-powered jobs many are not qualified to fill. It is probably the main cause of the wave of corruption that has riddled government in the country in the past 20 years.
The government has interfered in the selection of sport teams at international level, at first causing a serious drop in the country’s performances in major sports such as rugby and cricket, but black sporting standards have at last caught up with the competition and some outstanding performances have been achieved which show South Africa as a united multi-racial nation.
The revival of the South African national cricket team in recent performances has yet to get the country back to the top of the international tree, but the rugby team won the 2019 world championship with all players selected on merit.
We could for the first time to talk of our national teams in these sports as representing “us”, not “them and “us”.
There are some big businesses which are making good progress in raising competent black people into top executive positions.
These may be encouraging signs of progress, but in the sphere of politics, the atmosphere of “them” and “us” has a strong racial flavour, making conciliation incredibly difficult.
The ANC is still seen as the party for blacks and the Democratic Alliance as the party for whites. To get voters to vote outside those characterisations is very difficult, so the only movement depends on whether the Indian and coloured voters are swayed by events.
The economy is down, and Covid19 makes it worse. Municipal elections loom, with many municipalities bankrupt and the government’s reputation very poor, yet opposition voters are not confident of even holding the gains they made five years ago.
While racial divisions are unfortunately alive and well in South Africa, it is a country in which the Western nations still hold a substantial interest they are willing to add to if the government will only give them a chance to use the opportunities.
The West has bailed out of Afghanistan as a country not part of its culture, but South Africa chose a constitution affirming its place in Western culture. It just has difficult living up to that dream. “Them” and “us” are still too much a factor for unobstructed progress.”