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Believe me, Helen, apartheid and those Broederbond cadres were the alternative that was too ghastly to contemplate

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By Joe Kitchen
24 Jan 2022 25

Joe Kitchen is a South African musician, singer, songwriter and writer who sometimes goes by the name of Koos Kombuis, André Letoit and/or André le Roux du Toit.

The National Party might have been efficient, but their so-called efficiency came at a ghastly price. Not just the resettlements, the murders, the apartheid laws, the unspeakable cruelty the Bothas visited on black South Africans, but also the cruelty they visited on their own people, their own children. I myself was a victim of that intolerable mindset.

It’s happened again. Helen Zille has tweeted. This time, not about colonialism or ubuntu, but about cadre deployment. 

This is what she said a week or two ago:

“The old NP ‘cadre deployment’ usually managed to build strong state-owned entities, a capable state, and led to significant industrialisation and economic growth. Quite the opposite under the ANC…” 

Most people respond to Zille’s tweets in an emotional way. People who disagree with her, do so vehemently. Many agree with her, even if they do so secretly. 

Lindiwe Sisulu also had this effect on people. As, in the more distant past, Steve Hofmeyr. 

Let’s not waste our time with Hofmeyr and Sisulu here. They have been quoted a billion times. Their remarks have sparked a litany of responses, many of them so derogatory that they seem almost like personal attacks. It is not my intention to attack anyone personally. 

That’s why it took me a while to figure out why I was irked by Zille’s latest tweet. 

I think I finally figured it out, and I am now responding to her (better late than never). 

We need to understand exactly what she is saying, but also what she is implying, because, as is almost always the case with Zille, it is the hidden implications, rather than the first-level meaning, that conceals the really poisonous part of her message.

This is the question: did the NP’s Broederbond cadres build up our country, or did they cause systemic collapse, like the cadre deployment of the ANC did? 

Well, okay, under the NP we had fewer potholes, fewer power failures, a better rail system, better hospitals, et cetera, et cetera

But what is she implying? Is, or is she not, implying that, under apartheid, there was no corruption? Or that their corruption was somehow less important than the corruption under the ANC, just because they managed to keep most of the lights on and at least some of the roads tarred? 

What about The Citizen? What about Eschel Rhoodie? Oh, and let’s not forget, those were the things we knew about, because, believe it or not, we had less media freedom — much less media freedom — under the Bothas than we have now. 

This is the flipside of the coin: the NP might have been efficient, but their so-called efficiency came at a ghastly price.  

I am not just talking about the resettlements, the murders, the apartheid laws, the unspeakable cruelty the Bothas visited on black South Africans. I am referring to the cruelty they visited on their own people, their own children. I myself was a victim of that intolerable mindset. 

I recently read Damon Galgut’s book The Promise. It helped me remember how dark and desperate those years of white domination had been, how absolutely evil, how mind-numbingly depressing and bland. 

Calvinism, at least the brand of Calvinism that was preached by the Dutch Reformed Church of those times, was a particularly brutal and sadistic form of child abuse. What audacity they had, those dominees, to tell us, their own children, who they were supposed to love and cherish and encourage to live lives of self-respect, that we had been “conceived and born in sin”? That we had to strive to “kill” the “old self”? That there was somehow something wrong with us, something that would only be fixed if we believed in the God of white Nationalism?   

I have always felt extremely uncomfortable with the popular narrative that states that all white people benefited from apartheid. I am white, and many of my friends are white, and, believe me, many of us were traumatised, and are still traumatised by experiences in the “border” war. We were psychologically maimed and tormented on so many levels. It was usually the ‘intelligent’ ones who suffered the most, those of us who questioned the status quo. We were not allowed to listen to the music of our choice, we were pressurised into conforming to their barbaric values and to pay homage to the ideology of apartheid. Not to mention the utterly unnecessary guilt complexes about ridiculously unimportant things like masturbation, interracial love, and, in fact, all sex out of wedlock! 

Apartheid was the political ideology of the National Party regime, sure, just as the absurd leaning towards communism and socialism is the political ideology of the modern-day ANC government. Yet both these ideologies were somehow more than just political ideologies. They impacted us not just economically or even culturally. As with the socialist tendencies of today, the apartheid way of thinking was a stench that permeated all of society and left nothing untouched. Today, mainly because of the ANC’s old-fashioned policies, there is hardly a single state-owned enterprise that works the way it was designed to work. And I am not sure if, back in the old days, there was a single Afrikaner family that was not, to some extent, dysfunctional. 

Sure, I detest the inefficiency and the ineptitude of the modern-day ANC, but, for me, my feeling of antipathy towards them — and, make no mistake, this feeling is extremely strong — does not even begin to compare to the absolute contempt I, as a youngster, felt towards the National Party. 

Under the National Party, we may have had a better Eskom, we might have had Sanlam and Die Huisgenoot, but we were a nation of sleep-walkers, alienated from ourselves and from other South Africans, uninformed and oblivious. 

This is why I believe Zille’s latest tweet is dangerously skewed and can be easily taken out of context. 

If by tweeting statements like these she inadvertently encourages people to idealise our apartheid past, it would lead to ghastly mistakes in our thinking; mistakes almost as terrible as the ANC’s inability to grasp the fundamental principles of a modern market economy.  

So, to sum up: were the Broeder cadres better than the ANC cadres? Such a statement might indeed not be an outright lie but it surely is a very dangerous half-truth. I am afraid that Zille’s tweets might have the potential of destabilising our social cohesion. 

Helen Zille, of all people, as a seasoned and experienced politician and public figure, should have realised that. DM

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All Comments 25

    • Just to add a bit on the “efficiency” argument, I have to pose a question on whether this so-called “efficiency” was based on delivery for a small white minority, or for the entire population of South Africa, which this current government is tasked with?
      I guess this needs no answer.
      Joe Kitchen, thanks for a good article.

      • I think you’ve answered you own question, partly. To avoid any long explanation let’s just say that we have to be careful of what we wish for.

  • I find it difficult to understand how multiple clever DM Opinionistas can get this so wrong.

    I am no fan of Helen Zille’s, but to me it clear that these controversial statements of hers are her crass and inept attempt at shaming the ANC. In effect she is saying: “Even the despicable, corrupt, racist, National Party Government from the dark days of Apartheid governed better than you lot.”

    How these writers can draw the conclusion that Zille’s statements mean that she has now abandoned democratic, humanitarian, and liberal politics in favour of the Nats’ racist politics is beyond me. In my view it is lazy and juvenile reasoning. Or maybe it’s just opportunistic, but I think that’s giving the writers too much credit. They seem to actually believe their own drivel.

  • Anybody worth his/her lefty salt will remember those dark days with dread. I hated that government so much I abandoned my mother tongue, and only found it again long after ‘94. These days Helen irritates me as much as the ANC, so I have decided to ignore her. However, let’s remind ourselves that the ANC are also nationalists, and that they have a lot in common with the Afrikaner nationalists, including the notion to govern only for themselves.

  • Wel Koos, om so ‘n briljante kunstenaar soos jyself te sien met so ‘n sterk, enstige artikel, met ‘n boodskap wat deur my leef, is so ongelooflik welkom.
    This women is starting to make an absolute fool of herself, and how the DA could have elected her as federal chairperson (or de-facto leader) is simply beyond me. Especially after she was in sort-of semi-retirement. At times like this, with the ANC messing up big time, it would have been very good for the opposition party to be a party that reflects the racial, language, and cultural breakdown of the country. But no, they are now simply an White, English equivalent of the FF+ (whom in effect have started to broaden their wings). Whilst the DA had some growth during the Zuma years, reality is that the DA of today is not much different of the old Nationalist party. And just wonder what Helen Suzman, and even van Zyl Slabbert, would have thought of this lot.
    Welgedaan Koos Kombuis, of Joe Kitchen, jy is so ryk in kennis as jy is in feitlik alle fasette van jou kuns.

  • Were the South African SOE’s under the Nationalists government better run or not than currently under ANC control. Simple YES or NO not Well, okay, under the NP we had fewer potholes, fewer power failures, a better rail system, better hospitals, et cetera, et cetera.
    Think about it Mr. Kitchen, most of the issues in South Africa stem from the multitude of broken promises made by the ANC and their corruption, you conveniently make light of the plight of so many South Africans for your own agenda.
    Stick to the basics.

  • Yes, I thought Zille’s point was really simple: things worked better then.
    She was neither denying that corruption occurred, not was she denying the horrors of apartheid.
    It seems to me that she might have implied that a degree of corruption goes with the political territory, but if it is so rife that public institutions are incapacitated it has gone too far.

  • Amen, Koos! Stem 100% saam…meeste Suid-Afrikaners, ongeag rassegroepe, het geen idee wat “ondergronds” aan die gang was in die ou Suid-Afrika nie. Ek verkies miljoen keer eerder die huidige situasie, en sit met opgehoue asem en bekyk wat hierdie jaar gaan gebeur.

    Waarskynlikheid dat kommunisme gaan seëvier, is groter as níé, in my opinie, maar nou ja…het klaar voor die gong 50 geslaan het, die geleenthede vir oorsese werk laat wegseil op die horison…

  • Very easy to ” be efficient ” when you serve 10% of the population. Helen Zille – please retire, go away, you are a hindrance and a distraction. You are just as power hungry and arrogant as Gwede Mantashe and his cohorts. Give a new generation a chance. People are forced to retire at 60 or 65 – what a quick way to clean up politics! A long response to an excellent article.

    • The Afrikaners were almost entirely impoverished farmers and urban laborers in the early years of the 20th century.

      After the Boer Wars it’s hardly surprising that they looked after their own.

      It is impressive that they became a nuclear power within about four generations, after building their own educational infrastructure including translation of even tertiary educational technical text books into Afrikaans.

      Of course the white Afrikaners looked after themselves. They had no choice. They were more like 5% of the population btw. The souties were not included.

      The tragedy of current SA is that the ANC have proved utterly incapable of the societal upliftment that the Afrikaners achieved.

      Koos Kombuis is exactly the fruit of the first generation of broadly wealthy Afrikaners. Joe/Koos could rebel exactly because his societal wealth allowed that privilege for the first time.

    • silly response – it’s a fact that state organisations were run better then than now, irrespective for whom. Eskom, SAA, Denel, etc etc, or are you totally blind – because it suits you? Zille didn’t praise apartheid, she stated a fact – the current government technically runs the country far worse than the Nats did. With the exception of (maybe) SARS, F-all works properly. not for the white minority, nor for anyone else.

  • “It was a new day yesterday, but it is an old day now…” I am sure Koos will remember Ian Anderson but Zille definitely not. She was brought up on the straight and narrow like most pale faces in the old days. Come on black and white South Africans, especially politicians, let’s get on with it. Apartheid is an evil of the past. Don’t blame it and don’t long for it. Stop being “kakmakers”, such a descriptive word in my mother tongue. I hope DM and my fellow commentators will allow me the word. If not, I will take you to the constitutional court and I will ask Lindiwe to defend me. Such a prim and proper lady!!!

  • My ancestors were from all walks of life, from “Bloedsappe” to AWB, right past the Broederbond. Sensitive as I am that didn’t help me one bit. Everybody have to climb their own mountain. The N G Kerk, of which I am a member, is, unfortunately, also not your ticket to heaven. What I’m trying to say is stop moaning and get on with your live. Looking back all the time will any help you fall into a pothole.
    To Koos Kombuis: Word groot man!

  • Lets also look at the damage done by the ANC government: the trauma experienced by the hundreds of thousands of people who have emigrated from their home country; the extreme poverty experienced by the majority, the lawlessness, the extreme corruption, the incompetent service delivery, the economic destruction, etc etc, and the despondency that all this creates.

    What is worse, what apartheid did, or what the ANC is doing? Koos, you can evaluate. Remember, two wrongs do not make a right

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