Verwoerd's final triumph

A 2001 analysis of how the ANC succeeded where the 'architect of apartheid' failed

“No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”[1]


Earlier this year [2001] Education Minister Kader Asmal stated that schools named after apartheid leaders like Hendrik Verwoerd should be changed. This followed a cabinet directive ordering the “renaming of institutions bearing apartheid-era names that may be offensive and fail to reflect the spirit of our new democracy”. There is a certain irony in this decision, for there are certain policies being pursued by the ANC—as part of their “transformatory” agenda—not entirely dissimilar to those once advocated by Verwoerd himself.

According to its constitution, the “historic aim” of the ANC is to transform South Africa into “a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa”. In an interview with the Times of London in May 2001, Mbeki said that if he was awoken in the middle of the night, and asked what worried him most, it would be this “failure to create a non-racial society”. If that could not be created, it would “threaten everything else”.[2]

At the centrepiece of the transformation project is the principle of “demographic representivity”. The idea is that South Africa’s racial problems can only be solved, the legacy of apartheid overcome, and a non-racial society created, when all institutions, at all levels, have been made to reflect the “racial demographics” of the society. Constitutional and legal protections against “unfair discrimination” are withheld from minorities until (at least in theory) the correct proportions have been achieved.

Yet this is not the first time that a nationalist movement has confronted a privileged minority—one with a disproportionate share in the economy, and disproportionate influence over the media—in South Africa.

Verwoerd on the “Jewish Question”

In the 1930s, as an academic in Stellenbosch and then as editor of Die Transvaler, Hendrik Verwoerd was seized by a very similar question. Indeed, in the first edition of Die Transvaler (1 October 1937) Verwoerd devoted a 4000 word essay entitled, “The Jewish Question as seen from the National Party viewpoint” to the topic.[3]

The essay was an analysis of, and “possible solution” to, the Jewish problem in South Africa. Verwoerd’s unauthorised biographer, Henry Kenney, wrote that in “fairness to Verwoerd” he made no attempt as Prime Minister to implement the “astounding proposal” contained in the essay.[4] However, this article is of more than passing historical interest.

For Verwoerd the “Jewish question” rested upon the botsing van belange (clash of interests) within the white community between a disadvantaged Afrikaner majority and a privileged Jewish minority.

The first half of the essay is devoted to documenting the background to the “National Party policy concerning the Jew”.

For Verwoerd, this clash of interests had its origins in the arrival of vreemdelinge (outsiders) to manage the commercial and mining activities in the towns, following the discovery of diamonds and gold. At that time Afrikaners were mainly plattelanders, and they chose to remain on the land. Many of these vreemdelinge had no capital, little learning, and they often lacked any real knowledge of commerce and industry. In those days of klein begin (small beginnings) people lacking in capital or knowledge could gain both by incrementally growing their businesses.

There was much to be regretted, Verwoerd wrote, that the migration of Afrikaners to the cities had not occurred as the urban development in our country was beginning to take off. “If this had been the case, the Afrikaner would have gained their rightful share of the urban occupations, at the same time as the other groups were entrenching themselves in them.”

At around the time of the Second Anglo-Boer war, a new development occurred. As the entire agricultural system shifted from subsistence to commercial farming an ever larger section of the rural population was forced to find work in the cities. Afrikaners who tried to establish a foothold in the semi-skilled and skilled trades found their way blocked by English dominated trade unions. But the doors to professional careers such as minister of religion, doctor, lawyer, teacher and civil servant, lay open.

Up until this point, any clash of interests had been between the Afrikaans and English speakers. The Jews, while siding as city-dwellers with the latter, were not viewed as a separate group.

This began to change during and after the First World War, as (once again) a new wave of Afrikaner migrants were forced to seek work in the cities. These new arrivals found the commercial enterprises and industries in the hands of vreemdelinge—English-speakers, and latterly mostly Jews. “The Afrikaner was compelled to become a handlanger or subordinate (ondergeskikte) often at a meagre wage.”

The situation would not have been so serious, Verwoerd wrote, if the entrants had been able to find work in businesses with an Afrikaans orientation. If this had been the case their chances of promotion would have depended solely on their ability.

As it was, Afrikaners found themselves working in an alien atmosphere and under foreign masters. In many cases they found that the Jewish owners filled the most important positions with racial compatriots, either out of nepotism or racial preference, or simply because their business acumen was more trusted.

Some Afrikaners were promoted to high positions, but these people were either sell-outs (required by the English “to swear off his ties to his people”) or tokens (“a good way of encouraging Afrikaans-speaking clients to patronise the business”).

Verwoerd writes that the Afrikaner volk began to regard the Jews as the group standing in the way of their economic prosperity. The Jewish community had a tight grip on the most lucrative business concerns and Afrikaner “sons and daughters could only attain subordinate positions in them”.

For Verwoerd there were two further elements exacerbating the botsing van belange between Afrikaner and Jew.

Firstly, because they held such a disproportionate share of commerce and industry the younger generation of Jews were increasingly able to crowd out Afrikaners from the professions. “For example, the increase in the number of Jewish attorneys and advocates is largely the result of their compatriots’ controlling the business concerns that pass on most of a lawyer’s day to day work.”

Secondly, the Jews (a group indifferent or hostile to “the national aspirations of Afrikanerdom”) were, backed by capital accumulated from the exploitation of the country’s resources, using the “English press and political parties” as vehicles to exert a disproportionate influence on government. For Verwoerd, “no Afrikaner dare underestimate their political activities, which are aimed at hindering the cause of nationalism”.

A “moontlike oplossing”

“Is it any wonder” Verwoerd asked “that Afrikaners are beginning to feel that Jews have a chokehold on their continued existence?”

This then was the botsing van belange “responsible for the National Party’s policy on the Jewish Question”. The basic aim of the policy was to ensure that their own population group, the Afrikaner “will share, proportionally, in all the opportunities and privileges the country has to offer. It does not begrudge any other population group its fair share, proportionate to its size”.

For Verwoerd the first, and most immediate, step that needed to be taken was to put a halt to any further Jewish immigration.

During 1936 many Jewish refugees had arrived in the country from Nazi Germany, and Verwoerd had been one of the leaders of the agitation against this influx. In his essay Verwoerd wrote that this protest had not been registered on the basis of the immigrants’ Jewish religion, or race, but “because their presence threatened to make the effort by the Afrikaner to maintain his position in the professions, and to gain access to leadership positions in commerce and industry, even more of a struggle”. After all, Verwoerd commented, “Jews would easily be able to find positions for these compatriots in professions over which they exercised control”.

The immediate priority of the National Party was to “ensure that the Jewish Question, and the resultant tension between the various population groups, is not exacerbated by immigration”.

But what was to be done about the Jews already in the country, and the existing botsing van belange?

For Verwoerd the Jewish question would only disappear “when the Afrikaners gain voldoende beheer (sufficient control) of commerce and industry. Voldoende must be understood as a share proportional to its percentage of the white population. National Party policy must therefore aim at bringing the Afrikaner to leadership in these areas of economic life.”

As a responsible party, Verwoerd wrote, “which will take the reigns of Government within the foreseeable future, the National Party does not make wild promises it cannot fulfil [such as expelling Jews from the country; or revoking large numbers of Jewish trading licences.]” It did however, have a clear intention of removing the cause of the problem. This lay not in the presence of Jews in the country “but rather in the inequitable dominant position they have achieved in the economy, particularly in commerce and industry, which in turn results in a disproportionate influence on the country’s political and social life.”

Verwoerd then proceeded to set out the possible ways in which the state could help Afrikaners gain their necessary share of commerce and industry:

Since the country’s commerce and industry were still busy developing, it was important that this expansion should be placed at the disposal of English and Afrikaans speakers presently “being disadvantaged in these fields”.

“Legislation must gradually but purposefully ensure that each white section of the population should, as far as practicable, enjoy a share of the major occupations, according to its proportion of the white population.”

Verwoerd described this situation as ewewigtige verspreiding (balanced distribution), “but it has also been called a ‘quota system’”.

Verwoerd’s first proposal was that, “as Jews presently enjoy a disproportionate share of the wholesale and retail trade, such a balanced distribution can be achieved only by refusing them further trading licences, until such a time... as English- and Afrikaans-speakers have gained a proportion which (as far as practicable) corresponds to their percentage of the white population”.

If trading licences held by Jews lapsed for any reason they should not be allocated to other Jews until all other population groups in the white population had achieved “equal privileges in this regard”.

In much the same way “an appropriate balance between the various [white] population groups may also be sought among the other professions”.

Secondly, an industrial bank should be established which could give Afrikaners—who lack capital but have the requisite expertise—“the chance to achieve leadership in various industries”.

“In the allocation of capital and top management posts this banking institution would discriminate against the Jew, until a stage is reached where the Jew, and the English- and Afrikaans- speakers, enjoy a share of industry proportional to their percentage of the population. Of course, the discrimination must disappear as soon as the correct balance has been achieved.”

In these ways, Verwoerd wrote, “one could deliberately strive for a healthy situation” without suddenly depriving people of their livelihood.

In the transitional period Jews would be allowed to maintain a certain level of economic privilege. If, of course, this consideration was abused, and a National Party government discovered that Jews were misusing their privileged position to undermine certain laws, “they would bring down a much harsher approach on their shoulders”.

Mbeki on the “National Question”

There is an unnerving similarity between Verwoerd’s approach to the Jewish Question and Thabo Mbeki’s approach to the “National Question” in South Africa.

In 1995 Mbeki framed the “National Question” in South Africa in terms of the over-representation of whites in the upper-echelons of the economy, the public service, and the professions; and as the under-representation of the black majority.

In a speech to the Black Editors Forum Thabo Mbeki asked “What is this South Africa which we have to transform?” His answer:

“It is one that is characterised by the continued ownership of the bulk of its productive wealth by that section of our population that is white. This includes the land. Furthermore, the management of this economy again remains predominantly in white hands, representative of the fact that our white compatriots predominate in many of the professions.

The management echelons of the public service also continue to be predominantly white....The newspapers and magazines are, despite protestations to the contrary, predominantly white owned, edited by whites and largely written by people drawn from the same sector of the population. Our universities and technikons still do not reflect the demographic composition of our population, in both race and gender terms, indicating that the new output of professionals and managers will continue to reflect our past.”[5]

For Mbeki the objectives of “affirmative action, representivity and the deracialisation of our society” would be central to the activities of government. Failure to take such action would allow the white minority to continue to enjoy the “privileges bestowed on them by the apartheid system” and relegate “the majority which that system sought to marginalise” to continuing subservience.[6]

For the ANC, the solution to the National Question lay in enforcing “broad” or “equitable” representation (more accurately “demographic representivity”). This principle is very similar to Verwoerd’s idea of “ewewigtige verspreiding” or balanced distribution. Essentially, the state would intervene to ensure that the racial composition of every institution, profession and occupation would mirror the racial make-up of the society as a whole.

Unlike Verwoerd—who was never able to implement this “astounding proposal”—the ANC have enshrined this principle in law, and aggressively pursued it in practice.

At their 50th National Conference in November 1997 the ANC passed a resolution on the National Question calling for a more “rapid implementation” of Affirmative Action policies focused on Africans. The resolution also called for Ministries and government departments to be made to “reflect the demographic aspects of our population” (thereby enshrining “demographic representivity” as official party policy.)

The following year, the ANC government adopted legislation and policy to gradually but purposefully ensure that each section of the South African population should enjoy a share of the major occupations, determined by its proportion of the population. This principle has steadily been extended from one area of South African life to another.

The first institution to which the ANC applied this principle was the public service.

The White Paper on Affirmative Action in the Public Service (1998) defined “broad representation” to mean the “achievement of a Public Service that... represents the make-up of the population [75% African, 13% white, 9% coloured, 3% Indian] within all occupational classes and at all post levels of the Public Service”. According to the White Paper the “Public Service will strive to reflect these proportions in its staffing in order for it to be representative”.[7]

This principle was extended to the private sector (and enshrined in law) by the Employment Equity Act passed the same year. The Act was designed to ensure “equitable representation” of all population groups “in all occupational categories and levels of the workforce”.

The Education Department enshrined the goal of demographic representivity in the White Paper on Transforming Higher Education (September 1997). The White Paper stated that the “composition of the student body must progressively reflect the demographic realities of the broader society”. [8]

Since then there has been a radical change in the racial composition of the student body.[9] There has, however, been no softening of governments demands. The National Plan on Higher Education (2001) states that ensuring that the “student and staff profiles progressively reflect the demographic realities of South African society”—in both admissions and graduations—remain strategic objectives of the government.

The National Plan states that if institutions do not put in place “equity targets” to address black under-representation “or put in place clear strategies for achieving them, the Ministry will have no hesitation in introducing quotas in the future”. The ANC government has also recently begun pushing for “demographic representivity” in the teaching staffs, and governing bodies, of former Model-C schools.[10]

The over-representation of whites in the media has long been a concern of Thabo Mbeki. Despite the fact that much of the media has pursued aggressive affirmative action policies, the ANC government has been pushing for (without quite seeing the way to enforcing) demographic representivity in the media.

One of the reasons given for the establishment of the new Media Development and Diversity Agency is that it is needed to promote the “required transformation”: “Representivity is still inadequate at management, editorial and general staffing levels.”[11]

Essop Pahad, Minister in the Office of the President, has stated that “it is the responsibility of the media to strive, jointly with government and civil society, for the establishment of norms that accord with our population make-up. And representivity does not just apply to editorships. It applies to all departments - management, editorial, circulation, advertising, promotions etc.”[12]

Recently the government has begun moving towards the adoption of legislation to change the “imbalances” in the ownership of productive resources of the country. The draft Minerals Development Bill seeks to nationalise mineral rights in the country; and centralise control over the granting of mineral and prospecting rights in the hands of the department.

One of the objectives of the Bill (probably the overriding one) is to ensure “equitable access to all South Africa’s mineral resources”. According to the Bill, “when considering the granting of a prospecting or mining right, preference must be given to historically disadvantaged persons”.[13]

The Black Economic Empowerment Commission (BEEC) recently released a report calling for aggressive state intervention in the economy to ensure greater black ownership and control. The Report calls for the government to pass a Black Economic Empowerment Act aimed at “redressing the imbalances of the past by seeking to substantially and equitably transfer and confer the ownership, management and control of South Africa’s financial and economic resources to the majority of its citizens.”[14]

The government is, in accordance with the BEEC recommendations, to set up a new structure within the President’s Office to drive the “empowerment” process.[15]

Two racial nationalists divided by a shared ideology

The purpose of both Verwoerd’s proposal and ANC policy has been to bring the majority to leadership in different areas of economic and social life. The ANC discussion document (1997) which signalled the shift to this policy[16] called for a “continuing battle to assert African hegemony”. It also endorsed the view that the principle of “African leadership” should “find expression in the leadership structures of the ANC, and indeed of the country as a whole”.[17]

The usefulness of “demographic representivity” (as opposed to a more blatant form of Afrikaner- or Africanisation) is that it allows an enormously discriminatory policy to be pursued without (initially at least) having to resort to an overtly racist justification. In his essay Verwoerd is very careful to steer away from any explicit anti-Semitism. Indeed, he claims that the National Party policy was driven by “the love its members hold for their volk” not by “any negative feelings of hate” towards the Jew.

Indeed, the whole programme can be justified, in the abstract, as being aimed at attaining gelyke bevoorregting (equal privileges) or equality of outcomes. The fact that the minority is permitted “its fair share, proportional to its size”—despite all the injustices it has committed against the majority—is produced as evidence of great moderation and “non-racialism”.[18]

There is no need to resort to explicitly racist arguments against a minority when you can quarantine them in the ghetto of their demographic inferiority.

For both Mbeki and Verwoerd discrimination against racial minorities is allowed (and indeed should be mandatory) until “equitable representation” has been achieved. As the Employment Equity Act puts it; “It is not unfair discrimination” to take “affirmative action” measures—such as “preferential treatment and numerical goals”—to advance under-represented groups. In theory, the distinction between fair and unfair discrimination should fall away once these goals have been attained. President Mbeki told one interviewer that these laws would “fall into disuse” when no longer needed.[19] In practice, the racial demands of the government have proven both mutable and insatiable.

The pretence behind the principle of “demographic representivity” is that it is a universal principle applying to both majority and minority. As Verwoerd put it, “In some areas, where the absorption of Afrikaners into commerce and industry is being favoured, they may even have to face barriers. In other words, a redistribution of labour is what is envisaged.” The truth though is that in the hands of a nationalist government these principles operate only on behalf of the majority. For example, although the ANC has demanded that the teaching staff of formerly white schools “conform to demographics” there is no concomitant demand on black schools.


Two basic arguments are used by the racial nationalist to justify the pursuit of such a policy.

The first is that of the botsing van belange (the clash of interests) between minority and majority. The argument is that the privileged position of the minority has been attained at the expense of the majority; and is now an obstacle to majority advancement. Verwoerd’s claim that the Jews created a foreign atmosphere in which Afrikaners had to work, and conspired against majority advancement by only appointing their own, is echoed today in ANC claims that black advancement is being held back by continued white racism.

In this discourse, the minority-majority relationship is a zero-sum game. Whatever the minority has attained has been at the expense of the majority. The deep interdependency that exists, even in a society as divided as South Africa, is completely ignored, at least in the public sphere. In the private sphere, the same politicians who rail against white “privilege” (over-representation) will send their children to schools to be taught by white teachers, and if they fall ill, will take them to white doctors to be treated.

The second justification is a counter-factual one. The argument is that if it wasn’t for a historical accident (late urbanisation) or a historical crime (apartheid) the majority would have attained their rightful (demographic) share of these urban occupations. These sort of claims cannot be subjected to any empirical verification and are therefore placed beyond refutation. For Verwoerd the Afrikaners would have “gained their rightful share of the urban occupations” if they had only arrived in the cities a generation or so earlier. For the ANC “racial imbalances” are entirely a consequence of the legacy of apartheid and colonialism.

For both Verwoerd and the ANC the disadvantage and discrimination suffered by the majority in the past provide a sufficient moral basis for the government to pursue such policies in the present. For Verwoerd the fact that Jews had discriminated against Afrikaners justified government intervention, and abrogated any moral claim the Jew might have had to equal treatment. And as the BEE Commission states: “the legacies of Colonialism and Apartheid and deliberate disempowerment provide a sufficient moral and political basis” for such action today.

A concern shared by both Verwoerd and Mbeki is over the disproportionate influence the minority is able to exercise politically—particularly through its control over the press.[20] Verwoerd complained of how the “inequitable dominant position” of Jews in the economy “results in a disproportionate influence on the country’s political and social life”. Verwoerd ascribed much of the criticism he had been subjected to on this issue (he had been accused of racial hatred—the word “racism” not being in use at the time) to “Jewish influence” over the English press.

Mbeki too complains of how white minority “control” of the press distorts the national agenda; “what masquerades as ‘public opinion’, as reflected in the bulk of our media, is in fact minority opinion informed by the historic social and political position occupied by this minority. By projecting itself as ‘public opinion’ communicated by an ‘objective press’ this minority seeks to get itself accepted by the majority as the latter’s own opinion.”[21]

Difficulties of implementation

There are two dilemmas that face the nationalist politician in implementing this sort of programme. The first is to avoid causing too much economic dislocation and disruption. As a “responsible body”, Verwoerd wrote, the National Party would not strip the Jews of their trading licences or positions, but instead ensure that all new licences or loans should go to Afrikaans or English speakers. Similarly, the ANC has not purged the public service of whites, but as they leave they are generally replaced with black appointments. Thus, in an ANC controlled institution, the ‘over-represented’ are not expelled—although they may be pensioned off—merely deprived of any hope of future promotion or advancement. As this principle is extended to the granting of government loans or mining licences the same principle will apply, at least initially.

The second dilemma is how do you pursue such a policy, without provoking the affected minority into using its powerful position to block change? How do you persuade minority controlled institutions to implement such policies against themselves? Verwoerd touches on this issue by threatening the Jews with “harsher measures” if they use their privileged position to “undermine” such laws. Mbeki has used a mixture of vague assurances and menacing threats to diffuse minority opposition.

During the ANC’s first term of office Mbeki tried to use the idea of a “national consensus” or a “national agenda” in an attempt to place these racial policies above debate. Those who did criticise them were demonised as “racists”—an accusation which, at the time, had enormous moral force. He has also claimed that these policies are a constitutional imperative.[22]

While Mbeki acknowledged that such a policy could not “be carried out without pain to some” he warned that, in the long run, it was in the interests of the white minority to acquiesce. For both Mbeki and Verwoerd the “inequitable dominant position” of the minority in the economic and social life of the country was a source of tension and conflict. As Mbeki put it in one speech in 1995 “if we do not attend to this challenge... it is inevitable that we would condemn our country to conflict, instability and insecurity.”[23] On other occasions he argued that the absence of such change would, inevitably, lead to a “destructive explosion” of black rage against the white minority.

The essential message to minorities (employed by both protaganists) is that “if you do not agree to these reasonable measures you will bring down something much harder upon your heads”.


Mbeki has not merely relied on this mixture of mollification and menace to advance his goals. The implementation of ‘demographic representivity’ has progressed in lockstep with the centralisation of ANC power and the erosion of South Africa’s constitutional democracy. The Mafikeng conference, which made demographic representivity official party policy, also re-affirmed democratic centralism as the guiding organisational principle of the movement.[24]

At the time the ANC justified this concentration of power on the basis that, in fundamentally transforming the extant social order they would inevitably provoke a “counter-offensive which would seek to maintain the privileges of the white minority”.[25] Therefore, in order to defend the new order from white reaction, the ANC needed a tight grip over the levers of power.

Thus, as the ANC has sought to extend the principle of ‘demographic representivity’ across South African society, it has also centralised control. In 1998 the ANC began a programme of deploying cadres to head up previously independent state institutions. When challenged on this policy Kgalema Motlanthe, ANC Secretary General, responded by stating: “What value is the independence of the judiciary” or the Office of the Attorney-General, the Reserve Bank, and the Auditor-General, when the incumbents were appointed by the previous government “and represent only a small fraction of the population?”[26]

ANC cadres, once deployed, were required to “transform” these institutions both by deepening party control and by making them “representative of South African society”.[27] Although ‘transformation’ may aspire to something more than racial bean shifting and counting, it usually diminishes into demographic representivity. A cadre deployed to ‘transform’ an institution but lacking in skills, experience, qualifications or sympathy, can achieve little else.

At other levels the pattern is no different: The government plans to centralise control over the allocation of mining licences so that these can be re-allocated on the basis of race. The Ministry of Education plans to establish a centralised admission and application service by 2003 to “facilitate race and gender access” and “enable the Ministry and institutions to monitor progress in achieving equity in race and gender access”.[28] (By the time this structure is established the first generation of pupils to enter the school system after the dismantling of apartheid will be matriculating.) The “snail-paced transformation” at Model C schools is seen as justifying the Gauteng Education department taking over the power to appoint teachers from School Governing Bodies. [29]


One of the important differences between Verwoerd and the ANC was that the former was unable to implement his solution to the Jewish Question. By 1948 the world had changed and what was politically correct in the 1930s was no longer so after the Holocaust.

But while Verwoerd may have discarded this particular policy his mindset remained the same as he single-mindedly implemented grand apartheid. One commentator noted in the 1950s that “there exists in the present government an ugly and sinister self-righteousness which seems prepared to sacrifice the liberty and comity of a democratic society in order to attain the harsh ends of an imperious racial nationalism”.[30]

There is a similar self-righteousness evident in the ANC government of today. For the ruling party nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of racial ‘transformation’: not the independence of the judiciary or watchdog bodies; nor individual merit; nor the national interest; nor the racial innocence of the first post-apartheid generation. The ANC government even seeks, as the apartheid government once did, to dictate the correct racial composition of the universities.[31]

The reason for this is that the ANC shares with the architects of apartheid the “conviction that in racial affairs there is only one correct policy. The party which upholds such a policy has a moral and historic right to prevail over all the others”.[32]

For Mbeki this “one correct policy” is that of “demographic representivity”. The State must intervene to bring the majority to leadership in all spheres of economic and social life. Minorities must be discriminated against until each population group has attained a share of the economy and the professions in proportion to their share of the population.

Thus for the ANC, a ‘non-racial’ society can only be created by following Verwoerd’s prescriptions on the Jewish Question. It seems that the legacy of apartheid can only be dismantled by implementing the forgotten ideology of the architect of apartheid.


These policies are slowly encroaching on and corrupting the texture of our country’s life. All reports by government departments to Parliament now give intricate details of the changing racial composition of their decaying institutions. Once again “countless bureaucratic forms and documents demand ‘race’, or euphemisms for race, to be indicated”.[33] As the Employment Equity Act comes into effect many job advertisements now set out the required race of the applicant.

It is not only State institutions which have aggressively implemented these policies. Within civil society, as a whole, there has been a broader moral collapse, and at best, these policies go unquestioned and unopposed. At worst, they are mindlessly implemented by some of our supposedly watchdog institutions. For instance, Idasa has placed a “moratorium on the employment of white staff members” in order to make their “staff profile reflect the racial and gender composition of South African society at large”[34]

An implicit promise made by both Mbeki and Verwoerd is that racial agitation will cease once the minority has surrendered its power and privilege. The lessons of the past few years teach the opposite lesson.

As these policies are implemented and the minority is politically marginalised, so to has the ANC’s racial rhetoric intensified. The white minority has never been more resented by the ANC, than after giving up their power and statutory privileges (perhaps because their “rapid loss of real power” has not been accompanied by “any considerable decline in their fortunes”.[35])

The claim that critics of the ANC were racially inspired[36] has now mutated into the claim that all whites are “racist”—that they are enemies of the black majority. The crimes of “whites” and against “blacks” over the past 300 years are the grist to the ANC’s propaganda mill, and isolated incidents of white on black violence are seized upon by the party’s ideologues as evidence of the continuing, pervasive and eternal nature of “white racism”. When the ANC is criticised over its racial policies it responds by claiming that there is an important moral difference between white “beneficiaries of racism” and the “black oppressed” and that this provides sufficient basis for differential treatment.[37] Thus, what began as a crude attempt to silence dissent, has evolved into a justification for blanket racial discrimination.


[1] George Orwell, Animal Farm (London: Penguin Books), 1951, 1984: pg. 120

[2][2] The Times 31 May 2001

[3] Dr. H.F. Verwoerd “Die Joodse Vraagstuk Besien vanuit Die Nasionale Standpunt: ‘n Moontlike Oplossing” Die Transvaler Vrydag 1 Oktober 1937. All quotes of Verwoerd are from this article.

[4] Henry Kenney Architect of Apartheid: H.F. Verwoerd—An Appraisal (Jonathan Ball Publishers) pg 31

[5] Speech at the Black Editors Forum: Johannesburg, 9th September, 1995

[6] Ibid

[7] See sections 1.8 and 1.10

[8] This principle was affirmed by the Minister of Health who told Parliament in 1998 that medical schools would be obliged to implement a quota system to ensure demographic representivity in their 1999 intake of first year medical students (Reply to question by Mike Ellis 20 May 1998). According to the Director General of Health funding to medical schools would be proportional to the number of black medical students enrolled. (Business Day 21 May 1998)

[9] The enrolments of black (African) students increased from increased from 191 000 to 343 000 (59%) of total admissions from 1993 to 1999. (National Plan for Higher Education in South Africa, February 2001)

[10] In June this year The Star published a draft document from the Gauteng Education Department which stated that it expected schools and GDE offices to have 75 percent blacks, 9 percent coloureds, 3 percent Indians and 50 percent women in their "management echelons in line with the demographics of the country." Kader Asmal has also threatened schools with legislation if, in the next three to four years, their teaching staffs are not made representative. (Sapa July 6th 2001) In January he also announced: “I intend changing the law... to say that there should be representivity in governing bodies.” (Sapa January 19th 2001)

[11] Sapa 29 November 2000

[12] Speech on the State of the Media in South Africa, Johannesburg, 1 June 2001

[13] Section 3 (4) Draft Minerals Development Bill

[14] Ibid Section 7(3)

[15] Sunday Independent 5 August 2001

[16] In the mid-1990s the ANC combined calls for “representivity” and affirmative action with assurances to minorities. What level of “representivity” would be sufficient, and the lengths the ANC would go to in pursuit of this policy, were left undefined and ambiguous. For instance, under the heading Eliminating discrimination—Affirmative Action, the ANC’s 1994 election manifesto states that such policies were needed to open up opportunities “to all who were discriminated against as Africans, Coloureds and Indians, as women, the disabled and as people staying in rural areas.” However, the assurance was made that, “This will not be done at the expense of others; nor lead to a lowering of standards. Special emphasis will be placed on their training and upgrading so they can rise to higher levels in business, civil service, skilled jobs and other areas.” A 1994 ANC policy document states that while Affirmative Action was absolutely necessary, the ANC would not “keep these odious [apartheid-era] statutes alive and reverse perpetrator and target. We do not wish to replace one form of injustice with another. Our task, rather, is to deal with the divisions and inequalities created by the past in a new, effective and principled way.” (Affirmative Action and the new Constitution 1994) By 1997 this relatively moderate form of Affirmative Action promised by the ANC had hardened into the demand for demographic representivity and African Leadership.

[17] Joel Netshitenzhe, “Nation Formation and Nation Building: The National Question in South Africa” Umrabulo No. 3 July 1997, see theses 7 & 8

[18] What the racial nationalist cannot take is presented as evidence of non-racialism. For instance in his interview with the Guardian’s Hugo Young Mbeki states: “18 months ago there was a lot of talk about the negative impact in the public service of affirmative action. "If you are white, male and Afrikaner in particular, you're bound not to get the job": that was the argument. So we said, let's check this. We found that more than 60% of senior management in the public service was white. In the private sector, management is 97%, 98% white. The fear of what's going to happen tends to translate into something that's actually happening - when it isn't. The affirmative action process is not displacing white people. It's helping us to change the racial patterns in this society faster than would otherwise happen. The market won't - certainly not at the speed required.” (1 June 2001)

[19] The Economist 15 July 2000

[20] Mbeki’s attacks on the “white press” should not be taken as an indication of any independence or courage on the part of the press; it is merely an expression of Mbeki’s boundless intolerance of dissent.

[21] Letter from the President ANC Today Vol 1 No 1 26 January 2001. At the National Conference on Racism Mbeki stated that “It has been argued that those who point to the persistence of racism in our country are themselves racist. Those who propagate affirmative action are accused of seeking to introduce reverse racism, or, more directly, of resort to anti-white racism.” His response to such charges that “the privileged [whites] do not want this discussion [on white racism] because they want to maintain their privileged positions at all costs. It is also said that in order to achieve this result, the privileged work hard to convince both themselves as well as the rest of society, that what is being complained of does not, in fact, exist, except for isolated incidents. This is categorised as the denial mode, in terms of which the dominant instruments of propaganda, which, by definition, are at the disposal of the privileged, are used to obstruct recognition of reality.” (3rd August 200) Verwoerd had a very similar complaint: “Now suddenly, the same accusations of racial hatred are being made against the Nationalists, where a new conflict of material interests is occurring. However, in this case the hatred is supposedly directed at another population group, namely the Jews. There is a striking similarity between the two cases. Once again, one must assume that some of the accusers mistakenly, but quite honestly believe that the Nationalist standpoint is derived solely from racial hatred. It is also certain that others make the accusation in a deliberate attempt to draw attention away from a debate on the merits of the case.” (Die Transvaler 1 October, 1937)

[22] In a speech in early 1999 Mbeki set out three justifications for the ANC’ racial policies. 1.) that these racial policies were mandated by “Our national Constitution” which “clearly states our objective is to create a non-racial society.” 2.) They were driven by a desire to “continuously uproot the legacy of apartheid in all its manifestations.” 3.) That these “racial imbalances that are so deeply entrenched in our society remain the greatest source of social tension” in South African society, and could be “ignited with disastrous consequences.” (Speech to the Union of Orthodox Synagogues January 17, 1999)

The argument that demographic representivity is mandated by the constitution is disingenuous. The constitution is essentially permissive, neither placing major constraints on affirmative action nor spelling out what form it should take. The relevant section of the constitution states that “to promote the achievement of equality, legislative measures and other measures designed to protect and advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken” (Section 9.2). To claim, as Mbeki does, that government’s policies will create a ‘non-racial’ society is through the looking glass logic. The whole doctrine of demographic representivity has not yet been challenged in the Constitutional Court.

[23] University of Port Elizabeth Prestige Lecture 17 March 1995

[24] As one ANC document put it: “Transformation of the state entails, first and foremost, extending the power of the NLM over all levers of power.” “Control by the democratic forces” means that state institutions should (inter alia) “reflect in their composition the demographics of the country.” (“The State, Property Relations and Social Transformation A Discussion Paper towards the Alliance Summit” Umrabulo No.6 September 1998)

[25] Report by the President of the ANC to the 50th National Conference of the ANC, Mafikeng, 16 December 1997. Although delivered by Mandela the speech was a fairly comprehensive exposition of Thabo Mbeki’s political thought. The evidence produced by the ANC of the counter-revolutionary tendencies within the white population included: opposing “real progress through affirmative action”; and the desire of white civil servants “to remain in dominant positions” in the civil service.

[26] “The Struggle for Democracy is Not Over” (May 1998)

[27] Ibid. In the piece he defends his earlier statement that the ANC would use a two-thirds majority to revist the independence of certain statutory bodies. The full quote is as follows: “What value is the independence of the judiciary, for example, when the vast majority of judges and magistrates sitting today were appointed by the National Party and represent only a small fraction of the population? Certainly they might be independent of the present government, but are they independent of other political interests? The evidence suggests not. The same could be said to varying degrees of other independent institutions inherited from the old order, including, but not limited to, the office of the attorney general, the auditor general and the Reserve Bank.”

[28] The proposal is contained in the National Plan for Higher Education February 2001

[29] The Star 24 June 2001

[30] C.W. De Kiewiet The Anatomy of South African Misery (London: Oxford University Press), 1956: pg 41

[31] The National Plan on Higher Education states “The Ministry will not... allow institutional autonomy to be used as a weapon to prevent change and transformation.” For a country to have acquired one such government may be regarded as a misfortune, to have acquired a second seems like carelessness.

[32] Ibid pg 56

[33] Gerhard Mare, “Race, Democracy and Opposition in South Africa Politics: As Other a Way as Possible,Opposition in South Africa’s New Democracy, 28-30 June 2000

[34] “Employment Equity Report” Idasa Annual Report 1999

[35] Hannah Arendt writing on De Tocqueville’s “great discovery” The Origins of Totalitarianism (London: Andre Deutsch), 1973: pg 4

[36] It is true that some of the people accused of racism might actually be racist, just as a stopped clock will give the right time twice a day.

[37] See for instance Pallo Jordan’s article in the Sunday Independent 30 April 2001. Jordan described the white minority as essentially parasitic, "perched atop the unearned rewards of racial privilege" and continuing to appropriate goods and services rightfully belonging to the black majority.