Monday, August 17, 2009

Dreams of a White Africa: South Africa versus Rhodesia

For the most part the European colonization of Africa was not a demographic colonization but merely the occupation of land. The primary goal of most European countries was to seize mineral resources while having a permanent yet very small European immigrant population to run things locally. European colonization of Africa for the most part therefore deviated quite differently from that of America, Canada, and Australia which all saw massive waves of immigrants.

When decolonization much of the White, European-descended populations left Africa and the former colonies became Black African-ruled "republics." Two exceptions existed though: South Africa and Rhodesia. These two states had very different cultural pasts yet shared a dream of an independent, White state. They also had a key difference concerning their outlook which affected their outcomes, not only on a state level but also demographic. South African Whites were Africans while Rhodesians stayed European.


The origins of both White African states plays a big role in their eventual paths. South Africa was first colonized by Dutch and other Calvinistic groups. The various groups merged into the Dutch-offshoot group known as Boers which translates as "farmers" who in turn became known as Afrikaners meaning "African". Many South Africans of Dutch and related descent used the term Afrikaner to identify themselves as being natives of their land and not belonging to their ancestor's homeland. When the British took over the Cape of Good Hope many Afrikaners left in the Great Trek to the interior of present-day South Africa. It was here where the Afrikaners truly became Africans. They formed their own republics and interacted with the various native kingdoms and tribes. Afrikaners became their own native tribe, albeit one with guns and advanced technology.

Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) has a very different origin. Originally it was a dream of the Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company. Various political bodies were formed and dissolved but the basis of Rhodes' idea lived on in Rhodesia: Black Africans did their thing leaving the British alone while the British developed and mined Rhodesia. There was never any big immigration of Whites but those who did move in ran the national politics like in all other European colonies in Africa.

Formation of White Statehood

For a while the Afrikaners managed to hold off the British even defeating them in the First Boer War. However, the Second Boer War was a huge setback. The British and European-minded English colonists once again moved into Afrikaner territory but this time there was no where else to move to. It was with the end of the Second Boer War that something happened to eastern Afrikaners (the ones who lost their independence). Their Calvinistic beliefs were radicalized and they began to form a serious inferiority/superiority complex. British were viewed as weak settlers who stayed in the city while Afrikaners conquered the wasteland and Black Africans were viewed as savages. When the Union of South Africa, the government establish by the United Kingdom, implemented White Democracy the Afrikaners became the ruling group. Afrikaners slowly broke with the British Empire more and more until a republic was declared in 1961.

Meanwhile Rhodesia was watching the United Kingdom grant independence to Black Africans with horror. Many White Rhodesians wanted to remain well within the European sphere. Majority-rule (giving Blacks democratic control) was horrifying because it meant an end to the European lifestyle of European music, European-affiliated churches, and most importantly governance. When Rhodesia's colonial government and the United Kingdom reached the impasse over majority-rule, Rhodesia declared independence in 1965 (the only other United Kingdom colony to declare independence without having it peacefully given was the United States).

Ruling Leads to Downfall

Both countries White rulers lead to their own downfalls. South Africa's ruling Afrikaners did not rule like their Boer ancestors, as a tribe that dealt with native Black African nations on a relatively equal level. Instead, while playing equality with homelands, Afrikaners instituted apartheid. The policy became ever more radical with the eventual effort to have Coloureds (mixed White, Black, and sometimes Asian) stop speaking Afrikaans out of the belief that the language should only be spoken by "pure" Afrikaners. The radical policies of apartheid lead to a civil war which was only solved with the peaceful change over to democracy: today's Republic of South Africa.

While a little less than ten percent of South Africans were Afrikaner, only four percent of Rhodesia was White. The Bush War broke out in the heavily anti-colonial environment of southern Africa right after independence was declared. The Rhodesian government began population removal programs which only alienated any Blacks not against the government while the entire White population was militarized. Even apartheid South Africa eventually opposed Rhodesia and its goal of a White, European African state. A peace treaty was signed allowing for majority rule in 1980. Many people were relieved when the seemingly moderate Robert Mugabe became prime minister promising peacefully relations between White and Black Zimbabweans.


There was a mass migration of Afrikaners out of South Africa after majority-rule was established. Those who stayed see themselves as an important, integral part of South Africa. President Jacob Zuma has praised Afrikaners for being African and his chief opponent in the 2009 election was an Afrikaner who was popular with Afrikaners, English South Africans, and some Coloureds. The radicalism has been defeated, for the most part, as church attendance has collapsed by half (down to 45%) and Afrikaners live next to all races. There are some groups that still seek a small Afrikaner state but these have only succeeded in making two small towns of radicals who receive media coverage.

White Rhodesians/Zimbabweans received a much worse blow. Mugabe turned out to be a racist dictator who authorized the seizure of White-owned farms. Most Whites fled back to the United Kingdom while some became farmers in Zambia at the request of the government. Today less than one percent of Zimbabwe's population is white.


While Afrikaners became Africans and Rhodesians tried to stay European their states ended in the same way: military defeated blunted by a political agreement. However, the Afrikaner spirit of becoming one with Africa has allowed most to stay in South Africa while most Rhodesians have been spread about by the geographical wind.

No comments: