Saturday, July 9, 2011

Into the Cannibal’s Pot. Extracts from Ilana Mercer’s latest book (Part 7)

-- This is the final posting in this series --

TAKE NOTE: These extracts were sourced from the Smashwords edition of the book, where approximately 20 percent of the content can be viewed for free. Because Smashwords does not deliver the content in print form, but in various digital formats – the extracts published here will thus not reference any page numbers. Reference numbers, which indicate the author’s sources have also been omitted… (there are numerous!) I thus urge readers, who are interested in this topic, to purchase a copy of this book in print form. Links are supplied at the end of this posting.


Continued from here

“Methods of Barbarism”

With the discovery of gold and diamonds in the late nineteenth century, dreams of Anglo-Saxon empire made a British-versus- Afrikaner conflict inevitable. In the 1899-1902 Boer War, a guerrilla-dominated force of no more than 87,000 Afrikaners - who had been perfecting guerrilla strategies for decades - held at bay, for nearly three years, no fewer than 447,000 troops from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well as Britain. Through sheer frustration, British commander-in-chief Lord Kitchener established concentration camps in which approximately 26,000 Afrikaners, mostly women and children, perished.

The outrage which these camps inspired burned itself into the Afrikaner soul, and remains vivid there even now. (see note ‡) Surviving photographs from the camps can still give today’s beholders - however desensitized they might be by the legacy of two world wars and countless other massacres -a salutary shock. They suggest nothing so much as emaciated Jewish victims of Nazi atrocities. During the early twentieth century nothing like these pictures had ever been imagined in the West before. As a result, the condemnation which the camps provoked in Europe and America was fully matched by British censure of them. Britain’s future Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman called them “methods of barbarism.” Boer commander Louis Botha subsequently paid tribute to Campbell-Bannerman’s outspokenness: “Three words made peace and union in South Africa: ‘methods of barbarism’.” It deeply impressed Botha that “the leader of one of the great English parties had had the courage to say this thing, and to brave the obloquy which it brought upon him. So far from encouraging them [the Boers] to a hopeless resistance, it touched their hearts and made them think seriously of the possibility of reconciliation.”

Which has not stopped Andrew Roberts, veteran apologist for British governmental crimes, from attempting (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, London, 2007) to deny the camps’ horrors: “The ‘war crime’ [Roberts wrote] for which the British have been most commonly held responsible during the Boer War was the supposed [sic!] ill-treatment of Afrikaans women and children in camps there. In fact, these ‘concentration’ camps – the term had no pejorative implication until the Nazi era – were set up for the Boers’ protection off the veldt, and were run as efficiently and humanely as possible … A civilian surgeon Dr Alec Kay, writing in 1901, gave a further reason why the death rates were so high: ‘The Boers in the camps often depend on home remedies, with deplorable results’” (p. 31). Further details of (and quotations from) Roberts’s propaganda can be found in R. J. Stove, “Court Historian,” The American Conservative, September 22, 2008.

By the Treaty of Vereeniging (May 1902) Afrikanerdom finally surrendered. Representatives at the surrender ceremony included three future South African Prime Ministers: Louis Botha, Jan Smuts, and J. B. M. Hertzog. Nevertheless, reconciliation proved superficial. Conan Doyle saluted the Afrikaners as valiant opponents; such generosity of spirit was all too rare among the British elsewhere. Britain’s High Commissioner in South Africa, Lord Milner, announced his intention to “knock the bottom out of the great Afrikaner nation.” The preferred method took the form not of violence, but of petty slights. South African schools thereafter had to conduct instruction in English, save for three hours a week in Dutch, with severe and humiliating punishment for any schoolchild caught speaking Dutch outside those hours. “I am a donkey—I speak Dutch,” was the sort of sign a refractory Dutch- speaking schoolchild would be compelled to wear in public.

Admittedly, during World War I both Botha and Smuts favored Britain; but beneath the Anglophile surface an increasing Afrikaner linguistic consciousness simmered, particularly after Afrikaans became an official tongue in 1924. There occurred a new emphasis on Afrikaans in literary and academic contexts. As one leading recent historian puts it: “Afrikaans became one of four languages in the world—Hebrew, Hindi and Indonesian are the others—which, in the course of the twentieth century, were standardized and used in all branches of life and learning.”

With World War II’s outbreak, Prime Minister Hertzog, openly neutralist, lost office; Smuts (espousing a renewed alliance with Britain) took his place; and many who found both men insufficiently radical formed their own movement, the Ossewabrandwag (OB), which—while clandestine—succeeded in pulling Afrikaner opinion toward the political right. Smuts, more popular abroad than at home, fatally underestimated his opponents, telling the Rand Daily Mail newspaper in 1948: “I anticipate victory in the election.” That year Smuts’ United Party lost easily to the rurally-oriented Nationalist Party, led by hard-liner Daniel Malan.

Smuts’s defeat infuriated King George VI, who conferred on him the Order of Merit at Cape Town the following year. Nationalist leaders boycotted the ritual, and “the King burst out characteristically, ‘I’d like to shoot them all!’ to which the Queen [Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother] replied in her voice of gentle remonstrance, half-smiling, ‘But Bertie, you can’t shoot everybody’ - as though he could at least shoot some.” (Elizabeth Longford, The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes [Oxford,1991], p. 483.)

Going For Gold

Under Malan (Prime Minister till his retirement in 1954), apartheid in the true sense began. His government outlawed mixed marriages, banned sexual relations between races, and set up the Group Areas Act to regulate internal migration. J. G. Strijdom, Malan’s successor as Prime Minister, continued such policies from 1954 to 1958 (he died in office). So did Strijdom’s own successor, the more charismatic and intellectual Hendrik Verwoerd, who had a philosophy doctorate from Stellenbosch University. Once Verwoerd assured an interviewer that he always slept well, however demanding the circumstances, since “one does not have the problem of worrying whether one perhaps could be wrong.” Confirming his enviable self- confidence is his portrait - published August 26, 1966 - on the cover of Time magazine: a publication which, it is fair to suggest, would not dream of even attempting to discuss such a figure disinterestedly these days.

“South Africa,” Time conceded in its accompanying article, “is in the middle of a massive boom. Attracted by cheap labor, a gold-backed currency and high profits, investors from all over the world have plowed money into the country, and the new industries that they have started have sent production, consumption—and the demand for labor—soaring.” Again, from the same article: “Verwoerd often boasts that the blacks of South Africa are better off than anywhere else on the continent. Economically he is right. What with decent paychecks (minimum daily wage for an unskilled laborer is $2.80) and easy credit, many an urban African can afford to buy … wood furniture for his dining room, neat school uniforms for his children, and in some cases even a car for himself. Every year countless thousands of blacks from nearby countries flood into the republic looking for work.” Despite or because of these facts, Verwoerd became personally detested overseas, as his predecessors had not been: particularly after the 1960 Sharpeville shootings (in which sixty- nine blacks perished), South Africa’s withdrawal from the British Commonwealth, its move to republicanism, and the 1964 sentencing of Nelson Mandela to life behind bars for terrorism. (Who would have guessed back in 1964 that Mandela would, in little more than a generation, be regarded as everyone’s favorite cuddly role-model?)

Yet Demitrio Tsafendas, a parliamentary messenger who stabbed Verwoerd to death in Cape Town (September 1966), had no political agenda. He blamed his action, instead, on “a huge tapeworm with serrated edges, which tormented his body.”

This being surely the most surreal alibi any killer had hitherto provided (though California’s 1979 “Twinkie Defense” subsequently rivaled it), a bemused court spared Tsafendas the supreme penalty; and he eventually died of natural causes in a mental home.

From Muldergate to Mandela

Upon Verwoerd’s murder, former Police Minister J. B. Vorster - whose ultra-rightist background and OB membership had sent him to prison during the war - became head of government. In foreign affairs he modified his predecessor’s policy by doing what to Verwoerd would have seemed unthinkable: abandoning support for white Rhodesia. Since 1965 Rhodesia’s Prime Minister Ian Smith had defied Western elite opinion by refusing to countenance black majority rule for his country; and for the decade after 1965 he had been able to count on South African support for his policy. Then Vorster altered course, deciding that in order to get black African nations on side, it would be needful to abandon South Africa’s support for the Smith government. Some might see—certainly Smith, when writing his memoirs, saw—in the subsequent fate of Vorster’s party a lesson on the theme “What goes around, comes around.”**

** Ian Smith, Bitter Harvest: Zimbabwe and the Aftermath of Independence (London, 2001), quotes acidly (p. 194) a South African politician who “had worked with all four National Party prime ministers - Malan, Strijdom, Verwoerd and Vorster - since 1948. With the first three, when they gave an undertaking they kept it, he said; but Vorster would tell you one thing today, and do the opposite tomorrow…too cunning by half!”

In home affairs, nonetheless, Vorster kept his promise “to walk further along the road set by … Verwoerd.” It is now known that under Vorster, South Africa covertly began a nuclear weapons project. What drove Vorster from power was a domestic scandal which quickly became known as “Muldergate,” after Vorster’s Information Minister Connie Mulder. Three of the cabinet’s most powerful men - Vorster himself, Mulder, and Mulder’s deputy Eschel Roodie - were using, it turned out, funds secretly siphoned off from the Defense Department, in order to subsidize ostensibly “independent” English-language pro-government newspapers. Nowadays, when terms such as “spin-doctors,” “astroturf” and “sock puppets” have entered common discourse, such media tactics by a beleaguered political party would surprise nobody; but in 1978 even those who most detested white rule in South Africa assumed that it was run by personally incorruptible individuals. All the greater was the public outrage at the discovery that this personal honesty no longer prevailed. 

(Americans in 2010 scarcely have the right to complain about the methods of “Muldergate,” since Iraq’s Radio Sawa - controlled by the U.S. government - has always operated on much the same principle, while still being considered perfectly legitimate by neoconservatives. As part of “exporting democracy,” conquered Iraqi youngsters were flooded with the sounds of J.Lo’s caterwauling and Jay-Z’s gutter grunts, piped through American-controlled airwaves.)
Suitably disgraced, Vorster resigned from the Prime Ministry in 1978 to make way for P. W. Botha, yet another wartime OB member (and, incidentally, someone who had opposed the Muldergate chicanery from the start). Although Botha modified apartheid legislation, sometimes softening it, the international campaign against white rule - involving shrill demands for disinvestment - intensified. In 1984 Botha (made President under a new constitution) declared a state of emergency; but the domestic situation grew worse and worse, while the practice— particularly among the Xhosa - of “necklacing” suspected police informers attained international ill repute. (This has already been alluded to in Chapter One of the present book.) According to a 1997 statement by the South African Press Association, the first-ever necklacing was of a girl named Maki Skosana, who in July 1985 was necklaced after being accused baselessly of involvement in the killing of several youths. “With our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country,” proclaimed Mandela’s increasingly deranged wife Winnie to The New York Times on February 20, 1989. Between September 1984 and December 1993 the death toll from civil strife amounted to 18,997, including approximately 600 white deaths.

A severe stroke forced Botha from power in 1989. Nothing in the background of his successor, President, F. W. de Klerk, indicated the revolutionary policies he would pursue. Among much else, De Klerk scrapped the ban on the ANC and other opposition parties; freed Mandela from incarceration; acceded to Namibia’s independence; and junked the nuclear weapons. As is mentioned in Chapter Seven, a 1992 referendum, asking white voters if they favored de Klerk’s reforms, resulted in sixty eight percent of respondents saying “yes.” And for good reason: de Klerk had made his views clear to constituents: “negotiations would only be about power-sharing.” At the time, these respondents generally trusted de Klerk, who had specifically condemned majority rule. “While quite prepared to abolish apartheid and remove obstacles to negotiations, de Klerk did not envisage competitive elections and a system that could reduce the NP to a perpetual opposition party.” By the time the average “yes” voter discerned the fact that de Klerk had no intention of maintaining this opposition when push came to shove, it was too late. With Mandela, de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize the following year; and a Transitional Executive Council was set up, to oversee the forthcoming general election. This event, occurring on April 27, 1994, brought Mandela to power with over sixty percent of the vote.

Of course, the election was scarcely the peace-and-love-fest you might have gathered from Jimmy Carter or his fellow Western pundits. Even the election report issued by the Library of Congress, hardly a hotbed of Afrikaner sentiment, admitted that “in ANC-controlled areas, some of that party’s activists intimidated IFP, NP, and even liberal Democratic Party (DP) organizers and disrupted their campaign rallies, despite ANC leaders’ pleas for tolerance.” The harsh truth is that “large-scale intimidation made it nearly impossible for rival parties to campaign in the African townships.” (More about the racial aspects of the 1994 poll can be found in Chapter Seven.) Severe class divisions also marked the poll, and would go on to mark subsequent polls in 1999 and 2004. No such considerations have been allowed to impinge upon the typical cosseted Western journalist, for whom dreams about the “Rainbow Nation” continue as a substitute for reality. So much about modern South Africa is reminiscent of the famous line in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”


How paradoxical, then, that a people, “who are widely credited with having fought Africa’s first anticolonial struggles, who are native to the land and not colonist in any normal sense, came to establish [what came to be considered] one of the world’s most retrogressive colonial systems.” But so the Afrikaner leadership did. The honing of apartheid by the Afrikaner National Party started in 1948 after Daniel Malan assumed the Prime Minister’s post, although elements of the program were part of the policy first established in 1923 by the British-controlled government. There was certainly nothing Mosaic about the maze of racial laws that formed the edifice of apartheid. The Population Registration Act required that all South Africans be classified by bureaucrats in accordance with race. The Group Areas Act “guaranteed absolute residential segregation.” Pass laws regulated the comings-and-goings of blacks (though not them alone), and ensured that black workers left white residential areas by nightfall.

Easily the most egregious aspect of flushing blacks out of white areas was the manner in which entire communities were uprooted and dumped in bleak, remote, officially designated settlement sites—“vast rural slums with urban population densities, but no urban amenities beyond the buses that represented their slender lifelines to the cities.” Still, apartheid South Africa sustained far more critical scrutiny for its non- violent (if unjust) resettlement policies than did the U.S. for its equally unjust but actively violent mass resettlement agenda in South Vietnam. Between 1964 and 1969, the American army uprooted 3.5 million South Vietnamese, the process including massacres and the razing of numerous villages.

Nor should we forget previous American military misdeeds. There was, for instance, the 1890 Wounded Knee bloodbath in South Dakota (where a U.S. cavalry regiment wiped out, within an hour, between 150 and 300 Native Americans, women and children included). A decade later occurred the war in the Philippines, where a million Filipinos perished at American hands. The 1990 book In Our Image, written by historian Stanley Kurnow, reports that at least 200,000 of the dead Filipinos in that war were civilians. Many of the civilians breathed their last in disease-ridden concentration camps which were known as reconcentrados. Conservative writer Michelle Malkin credits herself with shattering the “liberal” libel of equivalence between America’s World War II internment camps and Germany’s World War II death camps. Other than Holocaust deniers who claim the gas chambers were really Jacuzzis, no one thinks Manzanar or Minidoka matched the horror of Majdanek. The fact is, however, that between 1942 and 1945, the FDR administration dispensed with habeas corpus in order to relocate en masse, and confine in camps, some 112,000 Japanese aliens and American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry. That the Japanese internees were not gassed, starved or shot does not justify penning them in camps, often for years, without charging them with any crime, and while freezing their bank accounts. Nothing in Afrikaner rule, even at its least enlightened, can match such episodes in American history.

The offending Nats, as they were known, began to dismantle apartheid almost a decade before the transition to democracy; by 1986, the party had already brought down apartheid’s pillars. “Beginning in the early 1980s, the South African government expanded democracy by drawing colored people and Indians into Parliament” By the end of the 1980s, the pernicious influx control laws had been scrapped, public facilities desegregated, and racial sex laws repealed. “Blacks were allowed full freehold rights to property,” and admission to historically white universities.

As the vignette following the next will attest, I was still doing battle with what remained of apartheid in 1995.

A Strategy for Survival

America, being a rib from the British ribcage, was built on liberal individualism; Afrikaner culture was first and foremost grounded in the survival of the Volk. This is not to say that Afrikaners were not fiercely individualistic; they were, even more so than early Americans. However, to perceive the fundamental way in which the Afrikaner and American creeds differed early on we must first examine the former’s ideas of what a nation and a state were, respectively. For the Boers, the nation encompassed “the land, the culture, the terrain, the people.” The state, on the other hand, had no such prestige for the Boers, who regarded it as just “the coercive apparatus of bureaucrats and politicians.”

Against this apparatus, above all, the Boer rebelled. The nineteenth century found him still resisting majority rule, by which time Americans had thoroughly submitted to it. Although the Boer’s outlook remained passionately political, his preference was for a parochial self-rule. It might be said, then, that if in the Americans the vagaries of the frontier bred an atomistic individualism, those same vagaries bred in the Afrikaner a very different attitude, namely, a keen sense of the collective and the need to preserve it. “The worth of the nation is even higher than the worth of the individual,” exclaimed one Volk philosopher.

To the existential threat which they faced on the Dark Continent, Afrikaners responded by circling the wagons metaphorically (much as, during the 1830s, they had done literally) and devising the corpus of racial laws known as apartheid. Monomaniacal Westerners have come to think and speak of apartheid as a theory of white supremacy. It was not. The policy of “separate development,” as it was euphemized, was not a theory of racial supremacy, but a strategy for survival. “We shall fight for our existence and the world must know it. We are not fighting for money or possessions. We are fighting for the life of our people,” thundered Verwoerd. Malan had already used different words for the same sentiment, announcing his devotion to “My God, my people, my country.” Strijdom believed unswervingly that if they were to survive as a group, whites would need to retain a position of guardianship, and that ultimately, white hegemony was indispensable for the good of all. Those intellectuals who heralded from the University of Stellenbosch phrased the issue thus:

The granting of political rights to the Bantu, of the kind which would satisfy their political aspirations, was altogether impossible in a mixed community, since such a step would endanger the present position and survival of the European population. If this danger was to be avoided, and at the same time the Europeans were not to violate their own conscience and moral standards, a policy of separate development would prove the only alternative.

To that end, a “tortuous social structure” was erected to keep blacks from forming a political majority in South Africa proper. Africans were assigned to homelands in accordance with tribal affiliation, still a central organizing principle across Africa. These “black satrapies” were to function as “national and political homes for the different Bantu communities”; in the “Bantustans,” blacks were to exercise political rights. Hermann Giliomee—whose grand historical synthesis, The Afrikaners: Biography of a People, is referenced extensively in this work—agrees that Afrikaner anxieties were overwhelmingly existential, rather than racial. Giliomee is adamant that the apartheid policy did not spring from “racist convictions or antiquated religious doctrines” (even if these convictions were at times present in specific Afrikaners themselves), but from an overriding need for security.

For leading thinkers in the NP such arguments almost completely missed the point because the security of the Afrikaners as a dominant minority, and not as a race per se, was what concerned them. The Cape Town- Stellenbosch axis of the nationalist intelligentsia, which was the most influential lobby in Malan’s NP, almost without exception defended apartheid not as an expression of white superiority but on the grounds of its assumed capacity to reduce conflict by curtailing points of interracial contact.

Giliomee contends that “apartheid was not uniquely abhorrent and had much in common with Western colonialism and American segregation.” Another of the historian’s apparent heresies has it that “attempts to depict the nationalist leaders as proto-fascists showed a poor understanding of both the Nazi and the Afrikaner nationalist movement.” Giliomee’s deviationism has prompted a critical mauling, courtesy of Patrick J. Furlong— another liberal historian, an expatriate safely ensconced in the U.S. since 1983. Furlong accused Giliomee of coming close to “perilously defending the system that he so long opposed”—even growling at Giliomee for becoming an “outspoken champion of the Afrikaans language and culture” (as if these were intrinsically bad).

In retrospect, it is easy for me to see the merits of Giliomee’s argument for “the essential moderation of Afrikaner nationalism.” Anybody who lived, as I lived, among Afrikaners during the apartheid era can testify that crime and communism were foremost on their minds. To rationalize the cruel, Kafkaesque laws of apartheid, Afrikaners spoke of the Swart Gevaar (which meant the “Black Threat”), and of the Rooi Gevaar (the “Red Threat”). My Afrikaner neighbor would regularly admonish me for my incipient liberalism: “You want Black rule so badly, look around you at the rest of Africa! Anglos like you simply don’t understand what’s at stake.”

We didn’t. But when the going got tough, the Afrikaners, stayed behind; we upped and left, leaving those we loved. One beloved person was Ethel, whose Xhosa name was Nomasomi.

Up Close and Personal

I was on time; Ethel, my longtime housekeeper, was early. That was her habit; her work ethic. She and I had arranged to meet at the equivalent of what is today the Department of Home Affairs in Cape Town. Before departing for Canada (and then the U.S.), I had paid Ethel a lump sum in lieu of a pension. However, I wanted to see about getting government retirement benefits for her. Ethel doesn’t know this book is dedicated to her, among others. We corresponded for years. I’d send self-addressed envelopes and bank drafts; she, brief, achingly beautiful letters. Ethel was near illiterate, but the power of her idiom was enough to punch a hole in my heart. She addressed me as “My Dear Eyes.”

Dressed to the nines, Jim (Ethel’s husband) and the children sat on the bench waiting. To claim welfare benefits one had to be in The System. Although this was 1995, by which time apartheid was all but dismantled, these were early days still. The laws on the books had not caught up with de facto law. At this stage, most blacks remained assigned to a specific Bantustan, and as a result, they were officially considered to be aliens in South Africa proper. This would explain why Ethel and her family did not appear on the lists of South African citizens. The lady clerk raised an eyebrow; our little group must have made quite an impressive spectacle. I knew we were in for a tussle when said clerk told me that there was no trace of the family in “The System”—and certainly no birth certificates. If the family wished to claim benefits, they’d have to “go home” to their designated “homeland,” Transkei. It was going to be a long day.

“The Cape is their home,” I told the clerk. They have been here for a generation. I introduced each child to the clerk by name, and suggested that she bring them all into official existence by issuing them with birth certificates. “Start with the youngest, Peliwe, please.” We would not be budging without these items. The clerk left and reappeared with the requested certificates.

Ethel’s children were now in The System and eligible for a variety of assistance programs. I persisted: “What about Mr. and Mrs. Khala?” Jim had a debilitating, work-related lung ailment and would need disability benefits. He could hardly walk more than five feet. The clerk was coy: “Mrs. Mercer, the two are not married. They must have had a tribal ceremony.” “Well then, let’s have us a wedding,” I smiled, as it appeared, winningly. For I won. The woman was beginning to understand what it would take to be rid of me. She departed and returned accompanied by the in-house magistrate. With me as their witness, Jim and Ethel solemnized their twenty-five-year-old union.


To the orgiastic killing spree that threatens the “Teutonic folk who have burrowed so deeply into Africa,” recent years have added the horrors of a Stalinist land grab. The ANC regime is preoccupied with redistributing white-owned land to poor blacks. By 2015 (so the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights has promised), thirty percent of all agricultural land will have been handed over to blacks. It looks as if, in the ANC leaders’ eyes, the fewer farmers there are to negotiate with, the better.

Eminent Domain or Domination?

Simon Barber, “the United States representative of the International Marketing Council of South Africa,” categorically rejects the common perception that South Africa “looks set to sail the same course as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe in pursuing a policy of ‘uncompensated expropriation of land held by whites for black resettlement.’” Barber wants there to be no misunderstanding about the “South African government’s land restitution and redistribution policies”. He’d like Americans to think of the process—which has seen thousands of white citizens turned out of homesteads which their black compatriots covet— as no different to the eminent domain process in the United States.

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338 pages
ISBN-10: 0982773439
Publisher: Bytech Services (May 10, 2011)

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