Friday, July 8, 2011

Into the Cannibal’s Pot. Extracts from Ilana Mercer’s latest book (Part 4)

TAKE NOTE: The following extracts of this book were sourced from the Smashwords edition, 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 I’ve published here will thus not reference any page numbers. Reference numbers used to indicate the author’s sources, have also been omitted. 


Continued from here


To most Western observers, the new dispensation in this writer’s old home engenders unconditional praise the world over. For them, not knowing whether you’ll survive the day is but a spot of bother. Conservative columnists are as prone as anyone else to be nonchalant about the present situation. One of them described South Africa as “the greatest triumph of chatter over machine-gun clatter. It’s not perfect, and crime is at an all-time high in South African cities, but at least the massacres are a thing of the past and life goes on much better than before.” If by “massacres” our correspondent meant Sharpeville, where in 1960, panic-stricken policemen of the apartheid regime shot dead sixty-nine black demonstrators, why, in democratic South Africa that’s the daily carnage quota.

Few realize that during the decades of the apartheid regime a few hundred Africans in total perished as a direct and indirect consequence of police brutality. A horrible injustice, indubitably, but nothing approximating the death toll in “free” South Africa, where hundreds of Africans, white and black, perish weekly. Nor did apartheid’s casualties come close to the ANC’s during “the armed struggle.” Freedom’s forebears “necklaced” 400 non- combatants, and murdered hundreds more - Zulu opposition, state informers and witnesses, rural headmen, urban councilors, “and others perceived to be collaborators of the system or enemies of the ANC.”

 “Between 1976 and 1994,” writes Giliomee, “state agents deliberately killed between two hundred and three hundred people active in the struggle against the state.” It takes the free agents of democratic Azania only five days to deliberately kill as many of their fellow citizens.

Still fewer realize that during the decades of the repressive - and reprehensible -  apartheid regime, which ended officially in 1994, crime rates in South Africa were overall much lower; in whites-only areas they were not dissimilar to those in other Western countries. McCafferty, whose brief it was to compare “the number of murders in the ‘Old South Africa’ (under apartheid) … to the ‘New South Africa’ (post 1994),” counted 309,583 murders over the forty-four years spanning 1950 to 1993. In the first eight years of the “new democratic dispensation,” 193,649 people were murdered. In other words, under apartheid, on average, 7,036 people were murdered each year, a small number compared to the carnage under the ANCniks: 24,206 annually. The latter is the South Africa Police Service’s low-ball estimation, which both Interpol and the South African Medical Research Council have disputed.

The ANC government now claims that matters have improved and that it is winning the war on violent crime. The Democratic Alliance disputes this. The tiny, tokenistic, opposition to the “all-powerful black majority party” puts the ostensible drop in crime down to the fact that fifty-one percent of victims no longer bothers to report crime, given that corruption is rife, arrests rare, and prosecutions and convictions still rarer. Recent findings suggest that the SAPS’s optimistic, homicide statistics are not to be believed. As reported by The Economist, the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation has confirmed the existence of a “pervasive pattern of (police) manipulation of statistic.” By an amazing coincidence, the reported decline in violent crime and the government’s 2004 announcement of its intention to cut such crime have dovetailed.

Doctored or diminished, the SAPS’s statistics spanning 2006 to 2007 reveal that 19,20229 South African lives were lost (population 43,786,11530) compared to the United States 16,57431 (population 303,824,64632). A yearly average of 19,202 murders (under democracy) still constitutes almost three times as many as 7,036 annual murders (under apartheid). Clearly, the era of apartheid remains a Golden Age with respect to the sanctity of life, for blacks and whites alike.


McCafferty’s numbers notwithstanding, such an unsettling claim is usually met with this brittle argument: Murders are not more numerous under majority rule, but merely more evenly spread. Let us celebrate, for democracy has desegregated crime! In his searing 1986 critique of apartheid, Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black And White, Joseph Lelyveld (a former New York Times editor) surmised: “Apartheid [ensured] that the victims of most black violence [were] black and the victims of most white violence white.” At the time, Lelyveld avoided further damaging deductions, such as that apartheid separated the high-crime from the low-crime communities. The Group Areas Act of 1950, the basic statute that had guaranteed absolute residential segregation under apartheid, served to confine crime to the black townships. Ditto influx control laws: “Africans who had not established a claim to be in urban areas were given only seventy-two hours in towns and cities to find work and were compelled to register at a government labor bureau for this purpose.” Let us not beat about the bush; violent crime in the New South Africa is predominantly black on black and black on white. Since the demise of apartheid, it has both increased and spread from slum to suburb. However, even assuming that violent crime has not increased but is only more “equitably” distributed, why is that good or even tolerable? Does parity in the probability of being victimized constitute progress? Does the fact that whites are now as likely as data (Ref omitted) suggest more likely than - blacks to be slain herald a more just dispensation? An answer in the affirmative evinces a quest for vengeance, not fairness.

While it is true that “there is nothing new about hideous, sadistic, violent crime in SA,” the Afrikaner National Party, for all its faults, kept the lid on the cauldron of depravity now bubbling over. At the time, Lelyveld, and left-liberals like him, inveighed against the heavily armed “plainclothes white security cops who cruise[d] around the major black townships in big Fords and Datsuns.” But, among the many demonstrators forever punching the air, most distinguished between “ordinary (good) police and riot (bad) police.” Or so wrote the late Fredrik van Zyl Slabbert, leader of the former anti-apartheid opposition, the Progressive Federal Party (PFP). In The Last White Parliament, Slabbert attests that “Without exception, [blacks wanted] ordinary police to remain in the townships and help with [much needed] crime prevention.”

Dubbed the father of apartheid, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd was certainly “[k]eenly interested in urban security.” To that end, “township streets were purposely wide so police could control movement easily.” Indubitably, law and order in the townships of Old South Africa was less a function of the Boer’s brotherly love for the Bantu than of his orderly habits. But it was subject to investigation by a relatively independent judiciary; reports tabled often finding against the police. For example, Justice Kannemeyer’s report (which was debated in parliament) of the response to the riots that erupted in 1985 was, to quote the headline in the Johannesburg-based Star, at the time, a “‘devastating indictment’ of police.” The only “devastating indictment” of Jacob Zuma’s police force issued these days emanates from outside the government and well beyond its vengeful reach. (Try as I did, I was unable to get white policemen and women - old hands working deep in the guts of the reconstructed SAPS - to talk about the “workplace”: they were afraid.) The ANC’s response to a police force shot through with corruption has been the dissolution of the crack, anti-corruption unit known as the “Scorpions.”

The Afrikaner’s quaint and quintessentially Western practices are etched vividly in journalist Keith Richburg’s Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa. Just before Afrikaners “surrendered without defeat,” Richburg, Africa bureau chief for The Washington Post from 1991 to 1994, journeyed to South Africa from the killing fields to the north, on assignment. In the course of his duties, he filed a report from the scene of a tribally motivated killing near Johannesburg. Zulu and Xhosa were embroiled in pre-elections strife. Twelve people had been gunned down. A small massacre by African standards - at least, so thought Richburg, who has described Africa as a continent where everywhere black bodies are stacked up like firewood. Imagine his astonishment when “the police, mostly officious-looking white officers with ruddy complexions—came and did what you might expect police to do in any Midwestern American city where a crime has occurred. They cordoned off the area with police tape. They marked the spots on the ground where the victims had fallen.” Topping this CSI-worthy protocol was a statement to the press “promising a ‘full investigation.’” This civilized routine Richburg characterized as utterly misplaced on a continent where nobody counts the bodies; and where chasing down and charging a man with murder is like “handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.”

The Old South Africa was the odd man out in Africa. Maligned by Joseph Lelyveld, the Afrikaner’s presence in high crime localities was why a semblance of law and order was maintained and common criminals pursued and prosecuted to the benefit of all.

Little wonder then that “pollsters note a small but growing number of blacks experiencing ‘apartheid nostalgia.’ ‘It’s not that they want to return to apartheid, but in retrospect it was a time when things worked better,’” says Robert Mattes, co-director of the Afrobarometer poll. That’s an understatement. Certainly back then soccer moms and dads were never shaken down during a match - a common occurrence these days. Back then The Christian Science Monitor’s South African correspondent did not compose his dispatches from behind “ ten-foot walls, electric fencing, burglar bars,” and within reach of “at least one panic button wired directly to an armed-response team.” Back then shopkeepers were not compelled to cower behind iron bars, as they do now. Gun battles were unheard of on the streets of South Africa’s major metropolises, some of which have come to resemble Mogadishu, pavements strewn with garbage, skyscrapers overrun by squatters, and landmarks vandalized beyond recognition. To wit, the Impala Stampede, a “giant bronze statue that used to adorn the entrance to Anglo American’s offices, was torn down and destroyed by the rampaging gangs.”

In the New South Africa, rising prices at the pump corresponded to a rising body count, as petrol attendants are targeted for crude. An attendant trend did not accompany the steep gas prices during the 1987 oil embargo against South Africa. This writer would safely fill the tank and travel to Hillbrow to lunch with her late grandfather. Hillbrow was then a hip, cosmopolitan, Johannesburg suburb. Today it is South Africa’s Harlem, before gentrification. Equally uneventful for this writer was the walk to work from the Eloff street bus terminal in Johannesburg’s city center, where the magnificent five-star Carlton Hotel was open for business. It closed in 1997; the safety of the guests could no longer be guaranteed. The green glass Garden Court Hotel and the Great Synagogue have suffered the same fate. Fearing for its safety, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, once “the tenth largest in the world,” joined the exodus from the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD) to the suburb of Sandton.

Defiantly and heroically, a consortium called “Business Against Crime” (BAC) has undertaken to beat back the dirt and decay that had blanketed Johannesburg’s CBD. These intrepid entrepreneurs aim to restore the “mothballed” monuments, reopen boarded-up buildings, and replace brothels and shebeens with legitimate businesses. These are not guys with guns: The BAC’s frontal assault on crime relies on a system of closed-circuit TV cameras! The Economist has proclaimed this “public-private partnership” a success. At the same time, the magazine has conceded that conviction rates in South Africa still hover at a “dismal” eight percent and have only just begun to inch upward.

Optimism aside, it is hard to see how the prospects of being caught on camera would deter a hardcore criminal for long since he has a ninety percent chance of getting away with murder. Considering that the country now has one of the world’s highest murder rates and lowest conviction rates, a South Africa thug can safely pursue his vocation without fearing the consequences, confirms criminologist Neels Moolman.” Since freedom, the SAPS, a reconstructed, racially “representative” force, has relaxed the pursuit of criminals. Besides, the democratic South Africa’s criminal class is unlikely to flee before the regiments of an ill- trained, illiterate and corrupt outfit, torn apart by feuds, fetishes, and factional loyalties. If anything, evidence abounds of cooperation between criminals and cops, starting at the top. Jackie Selebi, the SAPS’s national police commissioner is a bent and brutal man who’s been linked to the mob (and was eventually dismissed by President Zuma).


The swirl of statistics tends to conceal the casualties of crime. One such casualty is Baby Tshepang. “Tshepang” means “have hope.” If Tshepang has hope it is against all odds, for she was raped and sodomized, in 2001, when nine months old. The culprit was a twenty-three-year-old man -Tshepang’s sixteen-year-old mother’s former lover. Rape of infants in South Africa has reached “epidemic proportions,” writes Linda M. Richler in the Child Abuse Review, and “occurs with unacceptably high frequency.” Roughly ten percent of all rapes in the country - 52,425 a year - are committed against children under three years of age. In the span of the two months following Baby Tshepang’s rape, another five children under twelve months of age were raped. In two of the cases, media reports suggested the child’s caregivers might have accepted money for making the child available to the perpetrator.

Sexperts and sociologists have a habit of sanitizing savagery with odd-ball pseudoscientific assertions: “To penetrate the vagina of a small child,” writes Richler ponderously, “the perpetrator must first create a common channel between the vagina and anal canal by forced insertion of an implement.” In the gaping wound that was Baby Tshepang before she was sewn back together, Richler has detected a technique where there was only brute, libidinal force. She offers no forensic evidence for her claim. Richler’s less iffy inference has it that this nauseating crime wave may well be rooted in the “virgin cleansing myth” - the idea that sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS and offers protection against acquiring the virus. (Seen in the context of the late Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msiming’s espousal of beetroot, garlic and lemon as antidotes for AIDS, this makes perfect sense.) Oddly enough, when epidemiologists speak of mapping the spread of the epidemic in a country in which one in five adults is infected, they are somehow parted from their critical faculties, rarely mentioning epidemic sexual violence as a vector of transmission.

Thankfully, for the victims, political correctness doesn’t plague the private, entrepreneurial sector. “The connection between violent crime and AIDS in South Africa was underscored by ‘rape insurance’ policies launched in November 1999,” write Dave Kopel and Drs. Paul Gallant and Joanne Eisen of the Independence Institute. LifeSense, a medical benefits organization underwritten by Lloyds of London, has been offering a “Rape Care” package to rape victims which “provides a top-up policy should the rape survivor become HIV-positive as a result of rape. Dr. Angus Rowe, a spokesperson from LifeSense, stated that ‘in an environment where rape is so pervasive we need to extend protections to rape survivors in the families.’ Rape Care policy holders will have access to counseling and medical treatment, ‘an anti-retroviral starter pack, the home delivery of the full 28-day anti-retroviral treatment, and HIV testing for one year.’” Had the private sector not similarly—and speedily—moved to palliate the South African people’s desperate need for protection against criminals, who knows how many more would be ravished or killed? There are now 400,000 “guardian angels” in private security toiling to make up for the state’s failure to protect its citizens.

One doesn’t have to be an HIV/AIDS counselor to conclude that endemic sexual violence increases the spread of the disease. It so happens that this writer was such a counselor at the Cape Town chapter of ATIC, the AIDS Training, Information and Counseling Centre. The African women I counseled there were educated and well turned out, yet they giggled like girls when prophylactics were mentioned. African patriarchs disdain protection, they told me, coyly cupping their mouths and laughing - at me. They were, however, deadly serious. For these women, insisting on your, “like, reproductive freedoms” - uttered in staccato, tart tones, indigenous to North America - meant risking the wrath of quick- fisted husbands. At the time, the counseling model used at ATIC was developed for gay American men. Based on my experience with these urban, urbane women, I recommended - and was commended for - changing the laughable, gay-centric guidelines. If sophisticated African women were afraid to suggest sheaths to their men, all the more so their rural, uneducated sisters.

One tenet of the gay-centric counseling model applies to Africa in spades: the reality of rutting, rampant sex. When the puritanical apartheid government “finally stirred into action, launching AIDS education and prevention programs, it met considerable resistance,” attests historian Martin Meredith. Anti- apartheid activists accused the government of wanting to prevent Africans from having promiscuous sex so as to retard population growth and “check the advance of African liberation.” AIDS, they joked, stood for “Afrikaner Invention to Deprive us of Sex.”

Although Mbeki persisted in the belief that AIDS is a conspiracy - Big Pharma having replaced the Afrikaner as culprit - there isn’t a corner in post-apartheid South Africa that has not been missionized by AIDS educators. Still, infection rates remain, for the most, unaffected. Rocker Bono, the warbling modern father of foreign aid, has praised Africans for being a “rare and spirited people.” Sadly, if the spirit didn’t move them in so many wild ways, rates of infection in Southern Africa might not have reached twenty to 33.7 percent of the adult population. Africans are having unprotected sex irrespective of the mortal dangers of AIDS, a phenomenon which Austrian economists might explain with reference to time preference rates. In this case, time preference rates signify the degree to which different people will discount the future in favor of immediate gratification. Time orientation, agrees Lawrence E. Harrison, an associate at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, is a central value in progressive as opposed to static cultures. Educational efforts aside, the number of people infected in Southern Africa bespeaks a high time preference: the habit of consistently risking the future for fleeting fun. Put it this way: The Catholic Church’s consecration of condoms will likely have the same overall effect on African AIDS infection rates as its condemnation of sex outside marriage.

Let us not forget these child victims. Certainly Breyten Breytenbach does not. Breytenbach, the exiled Afrikaner poet “who served seven years in South African prisons for his anti- apartheid activities,” invokes for our remembrance South Africa’s children at large, and Meisi Majola’s two-year-old boy in particular. The tot was snatched from his home and his genitals mutilated. “To be used as muti...a potency potion.” Little Courtney Ellerbeck’s broken body mirrors the unremitting violence inflicted on the most innocent members of South African society. The child hobbles about cheerfully with the aid of calipers with lockable knee joints, metal hips, and a walker. She is the country’s youngest crime victim. Courtney was born a paraplegic after being shot in utero by a hijacker.

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