Anti-Globalization, Race, and Populism in South Africa Today

southafricaSouth Africa is a land of contradictions, divisions, and beauty. Its ancient hills may have been home to some of the earliest settlements of Man. Its position at the tip of the African continent has also conferred upon it vast wealth, as it has benefited mightily from maritime trade traversing between Europe and Asia. Given this fact, beginning in the 17th century, European settlers (mostly from the Netherlands) began settling in this land.

By the 19th century, the British Empire had laid claim to the land and administered the territory as a colonial holding of the British Empire. The British had arrived there for gold and other natural resources. Plus, the British used South Africa as a starting point for greater colonization efforts of the interior of the continent. However, the harsh conditions of the continent made British colonization attempts of the land tenuous at best. South Africa became Britain’s stronghold in that part of the world. In fact, the British valued South Africa for its position at the hub of the maritime trading routes heading in and out of Britain’s “crown jewel” of India.

Boers during the Second Boer War against the British. The Boers engaged in insurgent-like tactics against the British, which added to the brutality of the conflict.

Eventually, South Africa regained its full independence (after having fought the First and Second Boer Wars at the end of the 19th century) once the British Empire decolonized following the end of the Second World War. However, the land was not to be truly free for the majority of black Africans who lived in South Africa until the 1990’s. Apartheid was the official policy of the white Afrikaners. This was strictly enforced segregation, which saw the black Africans of South Africa living as second-class citizens compared to the Afrikaners. For decades this arrangement dominated the country.

Although beginning his political life as an avowed Left-wing terrorist, Mandela moderated over the years. His time as a prisoner of conscience facilitated this nonviolence. Nonetheless, his ANC party has been a continual letdown for South Africa. It has never been able to shed its origins as a radical Communist revolutionary movement.

Until, as you may know, the rise of Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) party. With his roots as a Leftist terrorist-turned-man-of-peace, Mandela ultimately led the movement that ended Apartheid and established the black population in South Africa as the dominant group, with the ANC reigning since 1994. Democratic reforms were implemented that saw the equalizing of the majority population of black Africans in the country with their white Afrikaner countrymen. During the end of Apartheid and the years after that, despite the horrors that black Africans experienced for years during Apartheid, the resulting chaos that ensued from the destruction of the previous order was nearly as bad as anything that occurred during Apartheid.


Although South Africa has become an economic dynamo in the global economy, a great contributor to the budding “Knowledge-based economy,” this has masked the reality in the country. For, as with the rest of the West, this open, cosmopolitan economy is only benefiting a handful of (mostly white, which is a huge problem in South Africa) elites.

“The economy will be lucky to limp in with growth about 0.5% this year and will not do very much more than 1.5-2% over the next few years. This is a percentage point or two below the long-run trend rate of 3%.” – Taken from The Economist.

20161126_MAC315.pngBut, as  anti-globalization fervor continues its march through the global institutions unabated, South Africa is now the next place to be hardest hit. Whereas the country in the last decade or so has stabilized and become economically vibrant, the brutal racial and economic divisions that previously defined the country have begun to manifest themselves once more.

And, this time, there may be no preventing the ensuing chaos. For, you see, the politics of severe demographic change is fueling much of the anti-globalist nationalism that The Weichert Report has been tracking since its inception in 2016. Right now, racial divisions between the majority black African population and the white minority are reaching a boiling point.

In a strange reversal of fortunes, it is the white Afrikaners who are demanding legal protections that are usually reserved for minority populations. These white South Africans claim that their culture is under siege from the predominantly black African population who, they perceive, as being hostile to the Afrikaner way of life.

To be fair, there is some truth to this. But, that is another story entirely. The most vocal group pushing this political and cultural view for the minority white population is AfriForum. Founded in 2006, the AfriForum is more akin to America’s NAACP than it is a political party. In fact, AfriForum specifically eschews direct involvement in politics, focusing instead on preserving the minority rights of the white Afrikaners and protecting the unique subculture of the white South Africa population.


This group spends its time performing public events at major universities in the country and resisting what they view as totalitarian moves of the ruling ANC party (such as changing streets named after Afrikaner words). The AfriForum fears that the ANC party, which has ruled since South Africa’s first all-race election in 1994, is attempting to excise any and all references to the existence of the once-dominant minority white population.

“According to Genocide Watch, the murder rate among South African white farmers is four times higher than among South Africans en masse. That rate increased every month after President Zuma sang his song, for as long as accurate records are available: The police have been ordered to stop reporting murders by race. The police have also disarmed and disbanded groups of farmer-minutemen, organized to provide mutual security. Consequently, says Genocide Watch, ‘their families’ have been ‘subjected to murder, rape, mutilation and torture.’ Meanwhile, ‘high-ranking ANC government officials . . . continuously refer to Whites as ‘settlers.’” – Josh Gelernter, writing for the National Review  in 2015

They may be right. However, AfriForum cannot help but to face charges of racism from its detractors on the Left and from the ruling ANC. And, on the other hand, there is little doubt that the white South Africans have had a terrible history of repressing the local black populations for decades before the 1994 elections. But, the ruling black ANC party should not be attempting to eradicate all traces of Afrikaner language, culture, and historical impact on South Africa. This is the domestic political battle plaguing South Africa today. The wave of nationalism and anti-globalization fervor is merely exacerbating these trends heading into the 2019 presidential elections.

Indeed, much like the rest of the world, the politics of isolation and division seem to be dominating the AfriForum’s members (despite AfriForum’s insistence that its members engage in the politics of South Africa). While the organization may not seek the dissolution of the South African political union, given the fact that the population density of the country will mean the persistent relegation of the Afrikaner population to a permanent minority status, it would seem that this would be a likelier result than any actual political dominance for those who believe as the AfriForum does. This was what some members who were interviewed for a recently released Foreign Policy piece insinuated.

“This thing [integration] isn’t going to work.” – Flip Buys, one of the founders of the AfriForum

Although the AfriForum specifically avoids electoral politics (in order to keep as a wider array of popular support–which it does not have outside of the white minority), it has aligned with the center-Right political party known as the Democratic Alliance (DA). As a brief aside, AfriForum can dispel claims of racism, as they are most associated with the DA political party, which is led by a black South African named Mmusi Maimane, a promising, bright young South African leader and pastor.

Mums Maimane, the leader of the center-right DA. Unfortunately, neither he nor his party stand much of a chance of winning in 2019.
One of the founders of AfriForum, Flip Buys. He insists that he does not want to see the Afrikaners break away from the larger South African political union. However, I suspect that this is the only viable solution for the minority whites in South Africa, if they are seeking to maintain equality in the country’s political system. After all, two of the three major political parties desire to enact a radical black nationalist agenda.

Meanwhile, complicating the political situation for the ruling ANC party has been a spate of political killings that the ANC is believed to have perpetrated against a handful of its political opponents. Also, the ANC President Jacob Zuma was ordered to make restitution to the South African government, as it was proven in court that he had misappropriated funds to pay for the construction of his house. As well, Zuma faces a litany of other corruption charges going back years.

Radical Leftist and black nationalist, Julius Malema, founder of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is likely the next president of South Africa.

In response to these charges of corruption, former ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema–a rabid Left-wing populist and former protégé of President Zuma–created his own political party to challenge the ANC, called the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Despite having been written off by the ANC, the EFF gained 25 parliamentary seats in 2014. Malema assumed his role in parliament that year, but was shortly dismissed for refusing to retract controversial statements accusing the ANC of having murdered miners. (In South Africa, like Canada and many Western European states, one can be criminally charged with “hate speech.”)



Nevertheless, Malema continues to lead the EFF. He will be its nominee for president in 2019 as well. And, since the ANC’s Jacob Zuma is term-limited, it is unlikely that a viable alternative candidate to Malema will arise to effectively challenge the EFF in 2019. Plus, the spate of improbable political victories that the EFF has been most likened to the Brexit vote: most South Africans were simply tired of the corrupt (and inept) politics-as-usual of the ruling ANC party.

According to the Times Live, the 4 points that can predict whether a populist backlash will place anti-globalists in charge of a country are:

  1. Increased immigration into the country,
  2. People perceiving corruption of the elites and political class,
  3. Growing inequality in a country,
  4. Economic shocks and recession

Malema is described as populist firebrand by his opponents. Indeed, his two convictions for “hate speech” in South Africa gives us great insight into his politics. In 2011, he was convicted of “hate speech” for singing the heinous “Shoot the Boer” song in public. As noted above, he was also charged with “hate speech” for accusing that the ANC party murdered a group of miners.

Previously, in 2010, Malema was suspended from the ANC party that he had served most of his adult life because he was attempting to “sow divisions” within the ANC with his extreme populist rhetoric. This is to say nothing of the various accusations of fraud and money laundering that he has endured since 2012. So, we can extrapolate from these things that not only is Mr. Malema a rabid Left-wing populist, but that he is also fiercely anti-white African and he will likely embrace economic nationalist policies favoring the predominantly black working-class.

Malema and his party are on the ascendancy today in South Africa, for much the same reasons that both Left-wing populist Bernie Sanders and Right-wing populist Donald Trump were so popular in the United States during the 2016 presidential election. At this point, it seems highly probable that the Economic Freedom Fighters will win the South African presidency. All the meanwhile, the predominantly white AfriForum and their attendant Democratic Alliance political party are also on the rise.

So, in South Africa, it would seem that the battle between Left and Right-wing populists will be waged in 2019 along ethno-nationalist lines. It is funny that these two parties are likely to be at loggerheads. After all, both parties despise the ruling ANC and they want to overturn the established order. In fact, in the most recent municipal elections, there were instances of the EFF and DA aligning to triangulate votes away from the ANC. But, of course, these two populist forces could never be aligned in the long-run. Their adherence to ethnic supremacy for their two ethnic groups will ultimately be the thing that pits them against one another.

Malema, leader of the EFF and Maimane, leader of the DA, share a rare light-hearted moment. Photo courtesy of The Southern Daily.

And, unlike the battles between Democrats and Republicans in the United States, I suspect that such a battle between these two populist forces will likely spill over outside of the political domain. It will undoubtedly encourage racial violence. What’s more, the likely result (since the Afrikaners simply do not have the numbers in South Africa) will be the rise of a radical, Left-wing populist like Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighter party in 2019. Under Malema, we could see the reimposition of apartheid–but in reverse: with the white minority being relegated to a second-class status in South Africa.

Since the Great Recession of 2008, South Africa has been among the hardest hit national economies in the world. Add in severe demographic shifts, on top of the already divisive racial divisions within South Africa, and we could be looking at quite the powder keg exploding in South Africa in 2019.

Regardless of what happens, radical politics will dominate South Africa from hereon out. The ANC will be reduced to a minority party as time goes on, given that so many South Africans are universally opposed to their continued political dominance. The population density favors the radical Leftists in Malema’s EFF party in 2019 far more than they do the reactionary Rightists in the AfriForum and the centrists of the Democratic Alliance.

Still, though, since 2006, the white minority Afrikaners in South Africa are galvanized as never before. Between the AfriForum and the centrist DA, we could be witnessing the breakup of the South African state as we know it, as the Afrikaners will simply refuse to remain in a political union run by what they perceive as the racism of the EFF.

In effect, the Afrikaners could be moving toward the creation of an all-white state, not unlike what a handful of white South Africans have been trying to do in the desolate North Cape town of Orania since 1991 (of course, those advocating for Orania have been unabashedly racist toward black South Africans in the past, but the presence of white South African liberals in the larger AfriForum movement would likely moderate any racist agitations in the long-run).

One way or another, South Africa as we’ve come to know it is likely to change and never return–much like the European Union, Germany, France, and the entire post-Cold War international order.


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