13 DECEMBER 1963, Page 9

Old Man Granite



WHITE South Africans have been following the proceedings at the United Nations, but with diminishing interest. The truth is that they do not take the UN seriously. Since 1946, the UN has passed no fewer than eighty resolutions deal- ing with South Africa—fifty-six on South West Africa, fourteen on the treatment of Indians in South Africa, and another ten or so on apartheid —and while this has engendered both heat and light, it has not caused South Africa any direct physical damage. Admittedly, the Afro-Asian trade boycott has gained some adherents, but there are backsliders even among the Asians; and, anyway, as existing, and comparatively minor, markets fall away, new ones take their place, like Japan (with whom there is a flourish- ing trade) and Red China (which for the past two years has been buying the vast maize surplus produced by intensely pro-Verwoerd farmers). That the Afro-Asians, through the medium of the UN, have succeeded pretty well in isolating South Africa from respectable human contact, is un- deniable, but even the Verwoerd Government's own newspapers admit that South Africa is the 'polecat' of the world, and they are reconciled to living with this image. The Verwoerd Govern- ment's philosophy, briefly, is that while sticks and stones may break its hones, words will never hurt it.

It is from this uncomfortably strong position that Dr. Verwoerd has been stating his reply to the international campaign against apartheid. He has described his own policy as being 'granite- like.' The cartoonists portray him as Old Man Granite. Regularly, monotonously, he intones that apartheid will not yield an inch. The African States have 'grown too big for their boots,' His Government believes in its policy 'and is not prepared to give away anything.' South Africa will not be 'intimidated.' There will be no con- cessions.

In all this, Dr. Verwoerd is not being purely negative. He believes the Western world has been temporarily engulfed by—to use the current phrase—'sickly sentimental, post-war humanism and liberalism,' and that if only it would take a lead from South Africa, and stick to its principles, it would get back on to the right course again. 'On South Africa,' declares Dr. Verwoerd, 'might . rest the responsibility of preserving Western civilisation and Christendom.'

This line of thought is not new in South Africa. Other Nationalist Government leaders ,have plugged it in the past fifteen years of rule. A prominent Nationalist, Dr. T. E. W. Schumann (who believes in the inherent inferiority of the

Black race and who clashed with Sir Julian Hux- ley on this point in 1960), has now written a book, The Abdication of the White Man, to carry the line of thought further. He says Nationalist Afrikaners have a 'no surrender' outlook, and that history has shown that a small nation may at times exert an influence on world affairs dis- proportionate to its size—like Athens. Dr. Schumann's view, briefly, is that the West must cease to allow itself to be pushed around by Afro-Asians, humanists, liberals, leftists, etc. 'South Africa's resolute example is bound ulti- mately to make its influence felt and to halt the widespread spirit of defeatism. . . . A person not blinded by appearances or deafened by the cacophony of the world's popular chorus will be able to detect a change in the tide. There are unmistakable signs of an increasing feeling of nausea at the indiscriminate flood of propaganda

poured out by liberals and leftists. . . All over the world sober voices are inquiring about the fount and origin of the equalitarian mania which seems to have afflicted the Western nations.'

This phenomenon of a small nation, plunged into isolation, seeing itself as the salvation of the White world, has started to intrigue the social psychologists here. They have pointed out that what the West has to deal with in South Africa is not Merely a stubborn Government, refusing to make concessions, but a • messianic Govern- ment, convinced of its ability to reform the world. In the light of this situation, the solid proposals made by, say, the Nordic Ministers, for South Africa's gradual return to the human fraternity. become the sheerest wishful thinking.

It might be easier to shake the Nationalist argument if one could fault it on its basic premises, which are that (a) the English-speaking Opposition in South Africa has thrown in the towel, (b) the non-White Opposition is under lock and key, (c) the independent African States are just babbling when they talk about raising an army of liberation, and (d) the Anti-South African bloc at the UN will never be able to move over to positive action because the West, while it may deplore the apartheid situation with all sincerity, will never support boycotts or oil embargoes or remedies like that.

It is worth examining these four points indivi- dually. In the first place, the English-speaking Opposition, its umbilical cord severed by the declaration of a Republic, is floundering. Such enlightened and liberal thinking as exists in South Africa still comes largely from its ranks, but its men of influence, its predominantly business- minded upper crust, have virtually opted out of

politics, or at least anti-Government politics. Dr. Verwoerd has struck a bargain with them: You attend to your business, and I will attend to my politics! It works. Dr. Verwoerd has manoeuvred this top layer of English-speaking South Africans into a position where they are practically an alien entrustment on the national life. The chances of an Opposition victory at the polls, in any case, are nil at the moment. Nationalist Afrikaners are numerically superior, and the delimitation also cuts it their way. This combination of Afrikaner fertility and Nationalist ingenuity is unassailable.

The non-White Opposition is no better off. In the past three years, 900 South Africans, mostly non-Whites, have fled the country, including prominent leaders. They are scattered in Dar-es- Salaam, London, New York, Cairo, Algiers, in the Communist countries, and heaven knows where else. The only African organisations, the African National Congress and the Pan- Africanist Congress, are both banned. There is hardly a leader, major or minor, who is not in exile, gaol or under banning orders. More than 500 Whites and non-Whites, again mostly Africans, have passed through the police cells, under the ninety-day detention law, in the past nine months. No fewer than seventy-eight political trials have been held this year, resulting in 700 persons being sentenced, some to death, others to imprisonment ranging down from twenty-five years. At present 300 more South Africans of all races face political charges in courts throughout the country. The Pan- Africanist Congress, meanwhile, shows no signs of- recovering from the shock of the raid on Potlako Leballo's office in Maseru, Basutoland, when a full membership list was found by the police; and the African National Congress whose leaders are at this moment on trial is in a similar state of disarray, following the police coup at the Rivonia home of Goldreich.

The 'bird point, the proposed 'liberation' of Africa by the independent African States, requires no detailed assessment at this stage. South Africa has a powerful army, the best-equipped in Africa, and in any case it has buffer States in Angola, Southern Rhodesia and Mozambique.

Finally, there is the question of international pressure. To be effective, it must pass from diplomatic pressure to boycotts, or to an oil embargo, supported by the Western nations, which are South Africa's main trading partners. Clearly, the West does not lik.1 the idea one bit. For the work, to gang up and break a powerful Government, like Dr. Verwoerd's, would be a spectacular achievement, and probably a rather messy one, too. The West would want a Western- orientated Government to succeed the Nationalist Government : what guarantee is there of this?

What guarantee is there that t non-White rank and file. smouldering in gaols, will accept what their colleagues in exile map out for them?

This is the background against which Dr. Verwoerd bases his defiance of international opinion. He has heard all the arguments —that historically he must lose, that the UN will probe until it rinds an opening, that somehow, some- where, some day, apartheid will be brought to fall Yes, says Dr. Verwoerd, but just how, and just where, and just when? He has listened, too, to the contention that South-West Africa is his Achilles heel, but it is seized by the UN obviously he will not swim or sink with it. He will lop it oil, like a gangrenous limb. just as, in the last resort, he will lop oil the Fnmsket, or the other Bantustans. .1-his, of COUIS,C, would mean that he is doomed, but when—in three years, or thirteen years, or thirty years'?