Into The Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa by Ilana Mercer, Seattle, Stairway Press, 2011, 319 pages, $24.95
In Jean Raspail’s prophetic novel The Camp of the Saints an armada of decrepit ships containing a million invaders armed only with their own wretchedness slowly makes its way on a long trek from Calcutta around Africa to the coast of France. The eyes of the world are upon France, to see how she will respond. Will she muster up the spirit to defend herself against an invasion of the weak or will she succumb to liberal guilt and offer no resistance? As the armada approaches the Cape of Good Hope the thought arises that perhaps the ships would land in South Africa instead. South Africa is depicted as it was in 1973 when Raspail’s novel was first published – a pariah state, condemned by the world for its racism and apartheid. Her president calls a press conference in which he announces that “not a single refugee from the Ganges will set foot alive on South African soil”. Then a few days later, as the fleet rounds the Cape it is intercepted by the South African navy, which loads the ships up with food, water and medical supplies. All of these are promptly thrown overboard into the ocean and the leftist media is left to debate the Afrikaners motives and to praise the refugees for not compromising their principles and accepting help from the evil racists.
In the course of this episode, Raspail places a very interesting sentence in the mouth of the President of South Africa. In his address to the hostile reporters he says “Just let me make one thing clear: the Republic of South Africa is a white nation with eighty percent blacks, and not—as the world would like to think of us, in the name of some mythical equality—a black nation with twenty percent whites”. The President took it for granted that those hearing his words would never understand them. It is unlikely that many people would. Most people today have never viewed South Africa other than through the tinted lenses of left-wing propaganda which demonized the Republic prior to 1994 and has flattered and praised it ever since.
1994 was the year in which Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa in the first democratic election open to all South Africans of all races. The election was held on the 27th of April, less than a month after my eighteenth birthday and I remember well the huge fuss everybody made over it. I also remember the indignant, self-righteous tones in which South Africa was spoken of by teachers, clergymen, and journalists in the years leading up to that election. This was particularly the case with those who describe themselves as liberals. The term “liberal” is supposed to mean generous and broad-minded but is curiously applied to those who least display these characteristics. William F. Buckley Jr. once said that “liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” This is certainly the case with regards to South Africa and apartheid.
Although liberals may not like it, there is another side to the story of South Africa and apartheid. Occasionally, in the years before the triumph of Nelson Mandela, a courageous conservative writer would present that side in his columns. Charley Reese of the Orlando Sentinel and Patrick Buchanan and Sam Francis of the Washington Times were examples in the United States. The much-maligned Doug Collins of the North Shore News was a Canadian example. The best treatment of the subject from that era that I have encountered was the article “The Race for South Africa” by British historian Paul Johnson which was published in the September 1985 issue of Commentary. Johnson, argued against the economic pressure being placed on South Africa by the United States on the grounds that South Africa was being singled out for condemnation over things which were in fact (and still are) typical of all African nations when she should be praised for those things which at the time set her apart – its wealth, modern economy, rising real incomes for blacks, and its relative freedom compared to other countries on the African continent.
It has been much harder to find voices questioning the left-wing orthodoxy on South Africa since 1994. A myth has developed about how justice, freedom, and equality have triumphed in the “Rainbow Nation” under the wise leadership of Nelson Mandela. This myth was recently translated into film by director Clint Eastwood in Invictus. It is very seldom challenged.
This is most unfortunate because it is now, more than ever, that the progressive orthodoxy on South Africa needs to be challenged. In the 1994 general election, South Africa transitioned from being a classical republic, with working institutions and the rule of law, to a mass democracy, perpetually governed by a corrupt socialist party, that has brought about cultural decline, economic disaster, and the collapse of the rule of law. Worse, South Africa has changed from being a country in which people were excluded from social equality and full participation in the political process on the basis of their race to being a country where people are targeted for extermination on the basis of their skin color.
One of the very few writers to faithfully report on this transformation for the worse has been Ilana Mercer. Mrs. Mercer’s concern over the state of affairs in South Africa is understandable. It is the country of her birth and the country to which she returned after being raised in Israel. She and her family left South Africa in 1995, moving first to British Columbia here in Canada and then to the United States. It was during her years in Canada that I first encountered her writings in the pages of the Report Newsmagazine. She is now a columnist with WorldNewsDaily and has over the years told the story the rest of the media is not telling in her Friday column there.
Now, after a long struggle to find a publisher, her book Into the Cannibal’s Pot has finally been released. She describes her book, in the final sentence of the introduction, as “a labor of love to my homelands, old and new”, and throughout this fascinating volume she takes her reader back and forth from South Africa to the United States, drawing parallels and contrasts, and uttering warnings which, for the Americans sake, one hopes will not fall like Cassandra’s on deaf ears. The warnings are timely for non-American Westerners as well, for most of the trends she describes can be found – and indeed, have often progressed further – in other Western countries as well.
Into the Cannibal’s Pot is largely the story of a people, the Afrikaners. After describing the epidemic of violent crime that has swept South Africa since 1994 in her first chapter, in her second chapter Mrs. Mercer tells us about the genocide that is being perpetrated against the Afrikaners. It is in this context that she gives us the background and history of this fascinating, widely reviled, and universally misunderstood people.
The Afrikaners are a people, of European stock (primarily Dutch, with some French and German mixed in) who evolved an ethnic identity of their own over centuries in Africa. A hard-working farming people, with a strict Calvinist Protestant faith, they speak a language of their own, Afrikaans.
It is vital that we understand this, because the biggest mistake the rest of the world made concerning South Africa in the 20th Century, was to try and force the South African situation into a pre-made framework of white vs. black. It was never that simple.
The Afrikaners were conquered by the British Empire in the Boer Wars of the 19th Century. Under British Imperial rule, a program of Anglicization was attempted, to try and make the Afrikaners give up their language and culture. This program failed, and it sparked a nationalist fervor among the Afrikaners that gave birth to the National Party which was elected into office in 1948, withdrew South Africa from the British Commonwealth and declared her a Republic in 1961, and which governed until 1994. Although some of the elements of the system had been put into place under British rule it was the National Party that introduced full-blown apartheid to South Africa.
The rest of the world saw apartheid in terms of racial oppression and injustice. All we could see was a country in which a white minority had all the power from which the black majority was excluded. We saw this as being unfair and demanded that the country change to suit our (very recently formed) notions of racial justice. When they refused we put economic pressure upon them and forced them to change.
What we did not see was that for the Afrikaners, who had survived an attempt to erase their ethnicity, and were in the process of securing their independence, the one-person, one-vote, majoritarian democracy the rest of the world demanded that South Africa adapt, would mean their subjugation and eventual eradication.
Unfortunately for the Afrikaners the moment in which they chose to assert their national independence occurred at the same time the anti-colonialist cause was triumphing. Great Britain, France, and the other great colonial powers of Europe, were withdrawing abandoning their colonies, giving up their empires, withdrawing their nationals, and handing power over to governments elected in democratic votes in the newly formed countries that were their former colonies. This did not work out well for these new “countries”. In her fourth chapter Ilana Mercer discusses how the rest of Africa has fared in the post-colonial era and in her fifth chapter, masterfully explodes what she calls “the colonialism canard”, i.e., the myth promoted by celebrity do-gooders and other progressive twits, that all of the suffering and poverty and tribal warfare in present day Africa is the fault of European colonialism.
The world, however, was convinced of the righteousness of anti-colonialism and the South African situation smacked of colonialism to the progressives, even though the Afrikaners were not colonial nationals of any European power, and had no home country in Europe to return to. South Africa was their home country. They had, in fact, been there longer than many of the black tribes. This meant nothing to anti-colonialist, progressives, who smugly and self-righteously condemned the Afrikaners and demanded that South Africa kowtow to world opinion and reorganize itself according to the majority-rule ideal.
William F. Buckley Jr. once said “Some day, when you have nothing else to do, come up with a solution for South Africa, won’t you? But remember the rules of the game. All the marbles have to end up each in a cavity—you can’t just throw a few of them away, to make the game simpler.”
No such solution appeared to be possible. Majority rule in South Africa would have been an injustice to the Afrikaners. Apartheid was an injustice to South African blacks. It was not intended to be such. The word “apartheid” refers to the condition of being separate. The National Party used this term in the sense of “separate development”. The Republic, would be a representative government elected by the Afrikaner nation and other white South Africans. The blacks would be assigned to tribal homelands where they could develop their own forms of self-government. That way the Afrikaners would not be subjected to the injustice of being permanently dominated by the black majority, and the blacks would be able to develop on their own in their own homelands.
While that might sound reasonable on paper there was no way of justly putting it into practice. It required a strict and petty system of racial classification backed up by racial hygiene laws, and, since the white South Africans did not wish to ban blacks from working on their farms and in their factories, curfews and pass-laws that were strictly, and sometimes brutally, enforced by the police.
This is what the world saw in apartheid.
This is what countless people, including Ilana Mercer’s father Rabbi Ben Isaacson protested against.
That is was unjust is undeniable. This reviewer does not deny that and Mrs. Mercer states it frequently throughout her book.
It is a question of which is the greater injustice – apartheid, or the injustice that has resulted from the rise of the ANC to power as a result of the introduction of majoritarian democracy to South Africa. Most people avoid this question. Mrs. Mercer tackles it head on and does not hesitate to give the honest answer.
Which is the greater injustice, being barred from voting in an election or being denied the rule of law and subjected to an onslaught of violent crime?
The ANC has proven unable – or unwilling – to maintain law and order in South Africa and a massive outbreak of violent crime has been the result. In her first chapter, Mrs. Mercer provides illustrations of the brutality of this crime, then provides us with an analysis of crime statistics from South Africa that show how it has become one of the most violent countries in the world and how the South African government and the South Africa Police Service try to disguise this fact. She shows how, even using the ANCs doctored statistics, the rate of victimization for blacks and whites alike is at least three times higher under democracy than under the old regime. She talks about how the ANC has passed and is passing laws that make it harder for people to legally defend themselves against home invasions and other violent crimes that are on the rise. She also takes a look at the racial statistics of crime in both South Africa and the United States which show that the perpetration of violent crime is not close to being equally divided between the races and that while there certainly is a lot of racially motivated crime, it is not, for the most part, committed by whites against blacks, a fact one would never know from the news media.
In her second chapter Mrs. Mercer shows how violence against the Afrikaners, especially the Boer farmers, since 1994 can only be described as a genocide. Over 3000 white farmers have been killed in South Africa since the ANC came to power. The number of Afrikaners murdered each year in South Africa exceeds the total number of blacks killed by the police in the entire history of apartheid. Mrs. Mercer quotes from genocide experts like Dr. Gregory Stanton of “Genocide Watch” who say that the rates and manner in which the farmers are being killed points to systematic extermination. She also shows the genocidal intentions of the ANC from their chants and slogans, and from the words of their leaders.
After the revelations of the second chapter, the third chapter might seem rather moderate. It is about the BEE program. BEE stands for “Black Economic Empowerment” and is an affirmative action program taken to the nth degree. Mrs. Mercer describes it as a “phased process” that “requires that all enterprises, public and private, make their workforce demographically representative of the country’s racial profile” (p. 94) If this sounds reasonable to you, Mrs. Mercer shows how this corrupt policy, under which whites have been forced to sell large parts of their companies to blacks (and lend the blacks the money to buy them) fits in to the ANC’s overall policy towards private property. Private property and the rule of law are two essential components of the kind of productive, civilized economy the Republic of South Africa had prior to 1994. The country can now no longer feed itself, the average standard of living for black South Africans as well as whites, has declined under ANC rule, and a large class of unemployed, poor, whites has developed.
If all of this sounds like South Africa is heading rapidly in the direction in which the former Rhodesia went after Western governments (including, ironically, that of apartheid South Africa) forced Ian Smith’s government to hand over power to a democratically elected government that was soon thereafter be taken over by Robert Mugabe, then turn to chapter four. As bad as Mugabe is, Mr. Mercer argues, the problems his country faces are deeper than just himself and so will survive him. They are problems that can be found all across Africa – including the South Africa of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki who remain saints in the eyes of the Western media long after “Comrade Bob” fell into disgrace.
The person of Nelson Mandela is not a major focus of the book overall but it does come up briefly in this chapter. Here we see the real Nelson Mandela – the head of the MK, the incompetent terrorist wing of the African National Congress, the anthem of which calls for genocide against whites. No prisoner of conscience, he was arrested for attempted sabotage and sentenced to prison for conspiracy against the government. He later turned down that government’s offer to let him out if he would give up violence. Unsuccessful in their attempts to unseat the Nationalist government – it took economic pressure from the rest of the world to do that – his organization was much more successful in terrorizing other blacks who they brutalized with methods like the notorious “necklacing”, involving gas-soaked tires being thrown around people and then set on fire.
Why on earth did Western countries insist that a man like this be released from prison and applaud when he was elected into power?
In her seventh chapter, Mrs. Mercer discusses the betrayal of South Africa by the major English-speaking countries. Although she describes herself as a “classical liberal”, her arguments in this chapter are the arguments of a classical conservative. Liberty requires order, democracy is not the same thing as freedom, can be tyrannical if the proper cultural institutions are not in place to make it compatible with liberty, and is best practiced on a small-scale in say, a city. She draws parallels between the crusade to force majoritarianism on South Africa with the more recent American military campaign to bring democracy to Iraq. Both democratization campaigns worked out badly for the countries involved.
At the same time that the United States has embarked upon a crusade to bring democracy to the world she has opened her doors to mass immigration from the Third World. Mrs. Mercer explains the follies of the American immigration system which is unnecessarily leading to the kind of ethnic strife in America that is killing the land of her birth. What she says of America’s immigration system is also true of Canada’s, and virtually every other Western countries. There are lessons we all can learn from this book.
My only criticism of this book is that in the chapter where she discussed Israel, Israel’s friendship with the Old South Africa and betrayal by the New South Africa, and related subjects, she seemed to send a contradictory message, by pointing to the obvious parallels between the two countries on the one hand, and displaying indignation over the Left’s pro-Palestinian references to “Israeli apartheid” on the other. Unless she wishes to argue absurdly that everything Israel does is intrinsically just, a far better response to the leftists on this point, is to turn their own argument against them. At their insistence, Western countries boycotted South Africa and forced her to change her policies. Those policies were not the most just policies in the world, but the changes we forced upon South Africa have led to chaos, violence, and the death of a civilized country. That is exactly the same thing that will happen in Israel if we force her to give in to the Left’s demands. The parallels between Israel and pre-1994 South Africa make for a strong pro-Israeli, rather than anti-Israeli, argument if used properly.
In addition to recommending this book for personal reading, I would recommend that you talk to your local bookstores and encourage them to stock it on their shelves. Its message needs to be spread more widely than is possible when it is only available for special order.
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