The author was born in South Africa, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Benzion Isaacson, a leader among the Jewish community in the struggle against apartheid. Due to her father’s activism, the family, forced to leave the country, emigrated to Israel, where the author grew up. In the 1980s, she moved back to South Africa, where she married, had a daughter, and completed her university education. In 1995, following the first elections with universal adult suffrage which resulted in the African National Congress (ANC) taking power, she and her family emigrated to Canada with the proceeds of the sale of her apartment hidden in the soles of her shoes. (South Africa had adopted strict controls to prevent capital flight in the aftermath of the election of a black majority government.) After initially settling in British Columbia, her family subsequently emigrated to the United States where they reside today.
From the standpoint of a member of a small minority (the Jewish community) of a minority (whites) in a black majority country, Mercer has reason to be dubious of the much-vaunted benefits of “majority rule”. Describing herself as a “paleolibertarian”, her outlook is shaped not by theory but the experience of living in South Africa and the accounts of those who remained after her departure. For many in the West, South Africa scrolled off the screen as soon as a black majority government took power, but that was the beginning of the country’s descent into violence, injustice, endemic corruption, expropriation of those who built the country and whose ancestors lived there since before the founding of the United States, and what can only be called a slow-motion genocide against the white farmers who were the backbone of the society.
Between 1994 and 2005, the white population of South Africa fell from 5.22 million to 4.37 million. Two of the chief motivations for emigration have been an explosion of violent crime, often racially motivated and directed against whites, a policy of affirmative action which amounts to overt racial discrimination against whites, endemic corruption, and expropriation of businesses in the interest of “fairness”.
In the forty-four years of apartheid in South Africa from 1950 to 1993, there were a total of 309,583 murders in the country: an average of 7,036 per year. In the first eight years after the end of apartheid (1994—2001), under one-party black majority rule, 193,649 murders were reported, or 24,206 per year. And the latter figure is according to the statistics of the ANC-controlled South Africa Police Force, which both Interpol and the South African Medical Research Council say may be understated by as much as a factor of two. The United States is considered to be a violent country, with around 4.88 homicides per 100,000 people (by comparison, the rate in the United Kingdom is 0.92 and in Switzerland is 0.69). In South Africa, the figure is 34.27 (all estimates are 2015 figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). And it isn’t just murder: in South Africa,where 65 people are murdered every day, around 200 are raped and 300 are victims of assault and violent robbery.
White farmers, mostly Afrikaner, have frequently been targets of violence. In the periods 1996–2007 and 2010–2016 (no data were published for the years 2008 and 2009), according to statistics from the South African Police Service (which may be understated), there were 11,424 violent attacks on farms in South Africa, with a total of 1609 homicides, in some cases killing entire farm families and some of their black workers. The motives for these attacks remain a mystery according to the government, whose leaders have been known to sing the stirring anthem “Kill the Boer” at party rallies. Farm attacks follow the pattern in Zimbabwe, where such attacks, condoned by the Mugabe regime, resulted in the emigration of almost all white farmers and the collapse of the country’s agricultural sector (only 200 white farmers remain in the country, 5% of the number before black majority rule). In South Africa, white farmers who have not already emigrated find themselves trapped: they cannot sell to other whites who fear they would become targets of attacks and/or eventual expropriation without compensation, nor to blacks who expect they will eventually receive the land for free when it is expropriated.
What is called affirmative action in the U.S. is implemented in South Africa under the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme, a set of explicitly racial preferences and requirements which cover most aspects of business operation including ownership, management, employment, training, supplier selection, and internal investment. Mining companies must cede co-ownership to blacks in order to obtain permits for exploration. Not surprisingly, in many cases the front men for these “joint ventures” are senior officials of the ruling ANC and their family members. So corrupt is the entire system that Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the most eloquent opponents of apartheid, warned that BEE has created a “powder keg”, where benefits accrue only to a small, politically-connected, black elite, leaving others in “dehumanising poverty”.
Writing from the perspective of one who got out of South Africa just at the point where everything started to go wrong (having anticipated in advance the consequences of pure majority rule) and settled in the U.S., Mercer then turns to the disturbing parallels between the two countries. Their histories are very different, and yet there are similarities and trends which are worrying. One fundamental problem with democracy is that people who would otherwise have to work for a living discover that they can vote for a living instead, and are encouraged in this by politicians who realise that a dependent electorate is a reliable electorate as long as the benefits continue to flow. Back in 2008, I wrote about the U.S. approaching a tipping point where nearly half of those who file income tax returns owe no income tax. At that point, among those who participate in the economy, there is a near-majority who pay no price for voting for increased government benefits paid for by others. It’s easy to see how this can set off a positive feedback loop where the dependent population burgeons, the productive minority shrinks, the administrative state which extracts the revenue from that minority becomes ever more coercive, and those who channel the money from the producers to the dependent grow in numbers and power.
Another way to look at the tipping point is to compare the number of voters to taxpayers (those with income tax liability). In the U.S., this number is around two to one, which is dangerously unstable to the calamity described above. Now consider that in South Africa, this ratio is eleven to one. Is it any wonder that under universal adult suffrage the economy of that country is in a down-spiral?
South Africa prior to 1994 was in an essentially intractable position. By encouraging black and later Asian immigration over its long history (most of the ancestors of black South Africans arrived after the first white settlers), it arrived at a situation where a small white population (less than 10%) controlled the overwhelming majority of the land and wealth, and retained almost all of the political power. This situation, and the apartheid system which sustained it (which the author and her family vehemently opposed) was unjust and rightly was denounced and sanctioned by countries around the globe. But what was to replace it? The experience of post-colonial Africa was that democracy almost always leads to “One man, one vote, one time”: a leader of the dominant ethnic group wins the election, consolidates power, and begins to eliminate rival groups, often harking back to the days of tribal warfare which preceded the colonial era, but with modern weapons and a corresponding death toll. At the same time, all sources of wealth are plundered and “redistributed”, not to the general population, but to the generals and cronies of the Great Man. As the country sinks into savagery and destitution, whites and educated blacks outside the ruling clique flee. (Indeed, South Africa has a large black illegal immigrant population made of those who fled the Mugabe tyranny in Zimbabwe.)
Many expected this down-spiral to begin in South Africa soon after the ANC took power in 1994. The joke went, “What’s the difference between Zimbabwe and South Africa? Ten years.” That it didn’t happen immediately and catastrophically is a tribute to Nelson Mandela’s respect for the rule of law and for his white partners in ending apartheid. But now he is gone, and a new generation of more radical leaders has replaced him. Increasingly, it seems like the punch line might be revised to be “Twenty-five years.”
The immediate priority one takes away from this book is the need to address the humanitarian crisis faced by the Afrikaner farmers who are being brutally murdered and face expropriation of their land without compensation as the regime becomes ever more radical. Civilised countries need to open immigration to this small, highly-productive, population. Due to persecution and denial of property rights, they may arrive penniless, but are certain to quickly become the backbone of the communities they join.
In the longer term, the U.S. and the rest of the Anglosphere and civilised world should be cautious and never indulge in the fantasy “it can’t happen here”. None of these countries started out with the initial conditions of South Africa, but it seems like, over the last fifty years, much of their ruling class seems to have been bent on importing masses of third world immigrants with no tradition of consensual government, rule of law, or respect for property rights, concentrating them in communities where they can preserve the culture and language of the old country, and ensnaring them in a web of dependency which keeps them from climbing the ladder of assimilation and economic progress by which previous immigrant populations entered the mainstream of their adopted countries. With some politicians bent on throwing the borders open to savage, medieval, inbred “refugees” who breed much more rapidly than the native population, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how the tragedy now occurring in South Africa could foreshadow the history of the latter part of this century in countries foolish enough to lay the groundwork for it now.
- This book was published in 2011, but the trends it describes have only accelerated in subsequent years. It’s an eye-opener to the risks of democracy without constraints or protection of the rights of minorities, and a warning to other nations of the grave risks they face should they allow opportunistic politicians to recreate the dire situation of South Africa in their own lands.