Saving lives. One word at a time.
By Nicholas Woode-Smith
When one thinks of dictatorship, there are some common examples that spring to mind. The most common of these would most probably be Nazi Germany, a regime characterized by their imperialism and mass genocide of racially different and religious groups. Another runner-up would, in all likelihood, be the Soviet Union – a state which based its entire existence on the abolishment of property and in doing so, hurting many.
When it comes to modern dictatorship, very few think to look further than Zimbabwe, an impoverished nation destroyed by one mad leader’s desire to break his economy through the theft of farms and property to try and ‘mend the sins of the past’. If they did so, they would arrive in the country which I call home – South Africa.
South Africa has, undoubtedly, had a dark past, but many do not realize how dark its present may actually be. In 1994, people of all political ideals and race groups rejoiced as an oppressive regime was brought to an end. Not only would all race groups now be given a fair chance at choosing where to live and being actively involved in the economy and the upliftment thereof, but the jingoist policies of the Nationalist Party would finally be brought to an end.
It seems that only the latter was truly fulfilled, as like all revolutions, the end of Apartheid heralded a rotation in power, and not true change in society. Non-whites now had freedom, but as populism often works, opportunistic leaders used this to snatch power: this power, they abused.
Present-day South Africa is not an open dictatorship. We do not experience the blatant propaganda of socialist regimes or the military shows of jingoist junta, but for the oppression we do receive, we may very well be classified as a dictatorship. The traits of dictatorship can be summed up as the violation of liberty. This can be in the form of stifling free speech, interfering with the economy or using military force to accomplish insidious political goals.
Let us take a look at SA. After the fall of the Nationalist Party, the new ruling party, the African National Congress, sought economic reform which would redress the previous dispensation’s crimes. This first came to be seen in the affirmative action policy, Black Economic Empowerment. This policy gave certain races privilege over others in finding employment as well as gaining tenders and spaces in universities and other establishments of higher learning.
There are many things wrong with this policy, but a full analysis would need an article all of its own. All that needs to be known here is that BEE does not only stop those that it supposedly benefits from growing, but dishonors those it claims to be helping. It is a system which assumes the worst of everyone.
BEE is one of the main contributing factors to our economy’s demise, but not the only one. Milton Friedman said, ‘Economic freedom is an essential requisite for political freedom’. South Africa may have free enterprises but we are far from experiencing economic freedom.
Unemployment is rife in this country and the cause of this is the government’s solution to that problem. Ill-thought out economic legislation makes starting a business and maintaining one hell on Earth, and that is not to mention the employment legislation which removes all incentive to recruit employees to a business.
Until we can mend the economic oppression in South Africa, we will continue to descend into dictatorship. Many might say that economic oppression alone does not warrant the claim that SA is truly oppressed, but I am far from finished. One bill which our ruling party so thoughtfully proposed received a lot of limelight about a year ago, and the ability for this bill to be drafted, much less approved, is truly worrying. This law was termed the Protection of Information Bill, nicknamed the ‘Secrecy Bill’ and was designed to stop government accountability and hide corruption. It censors the press and destroys transparency. If this is not the mark of a dictatorship, I don’t know what is. Last but not least, we come to one of the more controversial reasons why SA is on the brink of autocracy, and how the revolution was just that, a revolution. Circles and revolutions are not change, but merely a change of oppressor. The populist government of today uses its power to oppress whites and coloreds through their economic policy, but its actions are way darker than that.
One cannot say that the government is to blame for the mass killings of white farmers across South Africa, but it can be said that they are provoking them. The actions and hate speech of ANC members are nothing but racism and may very well be fanning the flames of hatred against farmers. The violence has gone far enough that factions in Australia are calling for sanctions on SA similar to those set in place during Apartheid. One might not be able to call it genocide, but the fact is that SA is not a happy place at the moment. Mass-murder or not, something has to change. South Africa needs a change not only in government, but how the government works.