Why Americans Should Know and Care About South Africa

One former resident's incredible firsthand account.

Front Page Magazine recently published a particularly important article, Arnold Ahlert’s, “The Gruesome Reality of Racist South Africa.”  In painstaking detail, Ahlert goes where angels fear to tread in exposing the murderous, borderline genocidal, conditions under which white South Africans are systematically forced to labor.

The very same Western media that campaigned tirelessly against the apartheid of the old South Africa now refuse to utter a syllable about the cruelty and injustices that plague the new.  In light of the ubiquity of this cowardice, Ahlert’s courage is that much more salient—and that much more commendable.

Yet while they are few, there are other voices in the wilderness.  One such voice belongs to that of former South African resident Ilana Mercer.

If you find Ahlert’s analysis engaging, then you are guaranteed to be riveted by Mercer’s, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa. The latter supplies readers with an intimate account of daily existence in South Africa that at once confirms and deepens Ahlert’s analysis.  Upon reading Mercer’s work, what one discovers is that life in South Africa isn’t as bad as Ahlert says. It is dramatically worse.

The author is blunt: “If the sanctity of life is the highest value in a civilized society, then the New South Africa has little to recommend it…Democratic South Africa is now preponderantly overrun by elements, both within and without government, which make a safe and thriving civil society impossible to sustain.”

Mercer meticulously documents crime data.  Yet she is also well aware—painfully aware—that statistical abstractions threaten to conceal and depersonalize the flesh and blood human beings who have been victimized by the predators who have taken over “the Rainbow Nation.”

In chapter one, “Crime, the Beloved Country,” we are introduced to twelve-year-old Emily Williams.  At 7:00 one school day morning, Emily and her mother went to Emily’s friend’s home to pick her up for school.  But they didn’t expect to stumble into the middle of an armed robbery in progress.  As a result, little Emily was murdered.  Not unlike many others, her family subsequently fled the country.

Then there is twenty year-old Rene Burger, a medical student who was abducted from the parking lot of the hospital where she was attending classes. The three men who kidnapped her would soon take turns raping her at the point of a knife.

We are also told about Noah Cohen, a boy whose father, Sheldon, had been waiting in his car for his son to finish soccer practice.  The younger Cohen left practice just in time to witness the elder get shot to death in cold blood by three thugs.

Perhaps the most disturbing of victims with whom Mercer acquaints us is “Baby Tshepang.”  “Tshepang,” she explains, “means ‘have hope.’” In 2001, when she was just nine months old, Tshepang was raped and sodomized by a twenty-three year old man.   Whether it is the elderly or infants, children or adults, Jews or Christians, professionals or students or farmers, attacks against whites defy age and class in post-apartheid South Africa.

Mercer concedes that while “case studies do not a rule make,” she is quick to note that “you’d be hard pressed to find a family in democratic South Africa whose members have not been brutalized.”  This includes her family.

The author reveals that her sister’s partner now finds herself “suffering permanent neurological damage after being brutally assaulted by five Africans.”  Her brother was “burglarized and beaten in his suburban fortress at two in the morning by an African gang.” Her father’s neighbor was gunned down at “point-blank” range in front of his little daughters as he opened his own garage gates.  Her spouse’s colleagues had been murdered, a former professor of his beaten to death with an umbrella by a disgruntled African student, and his aunt raped and pummeled to “within an inch of her life.”

Yet in addition to having lived—and loved—in South Africa for much of her life, Mercer’s reflections have the added advantage of being shaped by the concern to prevent her adopted homeland—America—from making the same catastrophic mistakes that placed her native homeland in such dire straights.

Namely, Mercer identifies “politically dictated egalitarianism” and “affirmative action” as the culprits that have ruined South Africa and that could very well spell the same fate for America. She writes that the former is “a microcosm” of what the latter could one day become if it continues to “subordinate” the traditional reason for its “institutions” to “politically dictated egalitarianism [.]”  Unless it does this, “reclaiming them from the deforming clutches of affirmative action will become harder and harder.”  Affirmative action “flouts justice in every respect,” for it is “preferential treatment, enforced by legal fiat and rooted in the characteristics of a group (race) rather than the value of the individual[.]”

Mercer thinks that her old homeland has probably already reached the point of no return.  As for America, however, it “must once again embrace merit and individualism” if it is to head off the plight of South Africa.

Decent people everywhere should be aware of the suffering and death that are part of everyday life in South Africa. But as Ilana Mercer’s Into the Cannibal’s Pot makes clear, those of us in the United States have another reason to pay attention to events there: from post-apartheid South Africa, there are lessons for America to be gotten.

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