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A Modest Proposal On Reparations In South Africa—and Beyond
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Both apartheid and the atlantic slave trade have generated an endless spectacle of remorse, or at least a media-generated pretense of remorse, especially in America and Great Britain.

Spectacle aside, the real motive is to define, and therefore control, the past by reading it as an aspect of present political aims. “[R]itual apologies,” argues Jeremy Black, author of “The Slave Trade,” “are moves in a political game that relies on “fatuous arguments about ‘closure’ [and] ‘resolution,’” but fails to reach closure, since the purpose of such policies is to keep the imagined wounds suppurating.

Plainly put, racial-grievance politics are levelled, in general, by Africans who were never enslaved or who were not born into apartheid, against Europeans who did not enslave or segregate them.

Only in the West could such a vicarious cult of self-flagellation thrive. As I wrote in my book, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa, “White South Africans are told to give up ancestral lands they are alleged to have stolen. Should not the relatives of cannibals who gobbled up their black brethren be held to the same standards?”

Part of the problem is our ignorance of southern African history. There was bitter blood on Bantu lands well before white settlers arrived. The Bantu were not indigenous to South Africa. They migrated there out of central Africa and, like the European settlers, used their military might to displace Hottentots, Bushmen and one another through internecine warfare.

Westerners have committed the little San people of Southern Africa, the “Bushmen,” to folkloric memory for their unequalled tracking skills and for their delicate drawings on rock outcroppings. The San were hunters, but they were also among the hunted. Mercilessly so. As late as the early 20th century, the Boers, Hottentots, and Bantu made frequent sport of tracking and killing the San.

In “The Washing of the Spears: The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation,” historian Donald R. Morris places Cape Town’s founder and Dutch East India Company official J. A. Van Riebeeck, on landing at the Cape in 1652, 500 miles to the south and 1,000 miles to the west of the nearest Bantu. Joined by other Protestants from Europe, Dutch farmers, as we know, homesteaded the Cape Colony.

Doubtlessly, the question of land ownership deeply concerned the 19th century trek Boers, as they decamped from the British-ruled Cape Colony and ventured north. Accordingly, they sent out exploration parties tasked with negotiating the purchase of land from the black chieftains, who very often acted magnanimously, allowing Europeans to settle certain areas. Trek Boers, it must be said, were as rough as the natives and negotiated with as much finesse.

Still, the received narrative about the pastoral, indigenous, semi-nomadic natives, dispossessed of their lands in the 17th century, is as simplistic as it is sentimental.

When Boer and Bantu finally clashed on South Africa’s Great Fish River it was a clash of civilizations. The Bantu regarded their traditional lands as clan possessions in perpetuity. A chieftain could grant temporary rights, but could not permanently alienate the land. The European mind in general could not grasp the concept of collective ownership and thought of land purchases as part of a binding contract on the individuals involved. As Morris observes in his matter-of-fact way, “The Bantu view insured European encroachment and the European view insured future strife.”

South Africa has since reverted to the “Bantu view.” It is perhaps inevitable that 21st-century claims for “restitution” in South Africa are not dominated by individual freehold owners reclaiming expropriated land on the basis of title deeds kept on record. Rather, a group of blacks scheming on a property will band together as a “tribe,” pooling the taxpayer grants, which its members have received gratis, for the purpose of purchasing occupied land.

No sooner does this newly constituted “tribe” launch a claim with the South African Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, than related squatters—sometimes in the thousands—move to colonize the land. They defile its grounds and groundwater by using these as one vast latrine, and terrorize, even kill, its occupants and their livestock in the hope of “nudging” them off the land.

Back in the day, Shaka Zulu himself considered the European clansmen to be the proper proprietors of the Cape frontier, with whom he would need to liaise diplomatically if he wished to subjugate his black brethren, the Xhosa-Nguni peoples, on the southern reaches of his empire, abutting the Cape.

And boy, did Shaka subjugate his brethren!

The white civilization which formed south of the Orange River did not encounter the black civilization in the interior for some time. But during that time, the black coastal clans warred against one another, continually raiding other kraals, driving off the cattle and exterminating the victims.

Before the consolidation of the Zulu empire, some eight hundred Nguni Bantu clans vied for a place in the sun in the Natal region between the mountains and the coast.

Where are these lineages today?

Particularly brutal was the period from 1815 – 1840 known as the Mfecane, “the Crushing.” Up to two million natives died, depopulating what is today the Orange Free State. This death toll was not entirely the fault of Shaka. Other causes included rising populations and vicious competition for land among tribal groups. Nonetheless, Shaka—who once sated his psychopathic scientific curiosity by dissecting 700 pregnant women—destroyed the clan structure in Natal.

Again, as noted in my Into the Cannibal’s Pot, during the mass migration caused by tribal warfare, “not a single clan remained in a belt a hundred miles wide south of the Tugela River; in an area that teemed with bustling clans only thousands of deserted kraals remained, most of them in ashes.” A few thousand terrified inhabitants found refuge in the bush or forest in pitiful bands, while cannibalism ran rampant, as it did whenever the kraal economy was demolished in ongoing warfare.


Lest one imagine that cannibalism was a common practice at the time, it “was fully repugnant to Bantu civilization as it is to our own, [but a point was reached] … where entire clans depended on it to feed themselves.” Mobs on the move marked their aimless tracks with (DNA-rich) human bones. Was there never a duty to employ these bones for purposes other than soothsaying—say, to do the devoured justice?

To repeat the opening salvo: Should not the descendants of cannibals who gobbled up their black brethren be petitioned for reparations? What about the descendants of Shaka Zulu? Don’t they owe reparation to the remnants of the Nguni Bantu clans they hounded in the course of consolidating the Zulu Empire?

The Bushmen are, indubitably, the First Nations of Southern Africa. These long-suffering people have been barred by the Botswana Bantu from claiming their ancestral lands in the Central Kalahari. Where’s the international uproar?

In the 1899-1902 Boer War, the British established concentration camps in which approximately 26,000 Afrikaners, mostly women and children, perished. Surviving photographs from the camps can still give today’s beholders—however desensitized they might be by the legacy of two world wars and countless other massacres—a salutary shock. They suggest nothing so much as starving Jewish victims of Nazi atrocities.

So, don’t the British authorities owe reparations to the relatives of, say, little Lizzie van Zyl, who perished in a Bloemfontein camp set up by the British for her people?

By logical extension, how about requiring Gangland Chicago, a generational enterprise, to pay reparations to victims and their families?

Charity begins at home. Intra-racial reparations would be my own Swiftian modest proposal to counter the Democrats’ reparations drumbeat.

Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She’s the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & Gab. Latest on YouTube

• Category: History • Tags: Boers, South Africa 
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  1. Exile says:

    Reparations are simply a Danegeld at this point – no one who is pushing this “remedy” cares about facts or history – only the dynamics of power – who, whom?

    The strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must. In the West’s infantile conception of democracy, raw numbers = strength, augmented by the will to constantly escalate your group’s demands and turn out their voters.

    As Dan Roodt noted in his great piece “An African Planet,”

    Given the West’s simplistic notion of “democracy” as counting votes, it is hard to see what will stop the Africans. Every African born on the continent is a potential voter, and as South Africans say: “Vote for a living, don’t work for a living!”

    In terms of realizing the childish dreams of Western neoliberal democracy shills, we had a better chance of “democratizing” Iraq or Afghanistan than South Africa.

    Which is to say, none at all.

  2. Afrikaners speak a variety of the Dutch language, and easily adapt to modern Dutch

    Belgium is roughly about two elections away from Dutch-speaking Flanders – currently about 60% of Belgians – declaring independence and leaving, given that they are finally willing to write off Brussels and leave it for the French speakers or as an international city-state

    Flanders is amongst the most prosperous and also right-wing areas of Western Europe

    It is quietly understood that after Flemish independence, citizenship and re-settlement will be offered to Afrikaners of South Africa, as shared-heritage people, fellow descendants of Dutch-speaking Europeans

    There has been a European petition seeking to allow white South Africans to reclaim residence and citizenship rights in Europe … but the Flemish are poised to make that a practical reality for the Afrikaners

    • Thanks: Miro23,
    • Replies: @Pheasant
  3. Realist says:

    Both apartheid and the atlantic slave trade have generated an endless spectacle of remorse, or at least a media-generated pretense of remorse, especially in America and Great Britain.

    I have remorse about the atlantic slave trade. It was a stupid mistake to bring a low IQ race into a colony in the process of being populated by a race of significantly higher IQ…it has cost this country trillions of dollars.

    The luckiest blacks on this planet are the descendants of black slaves.

    • Agree:
    • Replies:
  4. Deza says:

    i have never read such rubbish in my life.

  5. Pheasant says:

    ‘It is quietly understood that after Flemish independence, citizenship and re-settlement will be offered to Afrikaners of South Africa, as shared-heritage people, fellow descendants of Dutch-speaking Europeans’

    How will that work when the Afrikaners are protestant?

    Also is there any truth to a thing I read which said Afrikans is similar to medieval high German?

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  6. Tor597 says:

    How bout we start with reparations for Palestinians paid for by the Jews?

    • Agree: Trinity
    • Replies: @Thicket
    , @Reg Cæsar
  7. Thicket says:

    How about we start with reparations for Jews paid for by Arabs? “Palestinians” have UNRWA, a multi billion dollar a year program that pays them to be thorn in the side of everyone. Maybe they should repair to Egypt and Arabia and Syria, from whence they came circa 1950 onwards.

    • Replies: @SchmuelTheSchmuck
  8. startnow says:

    How about we start with making Israel reimburse the U.S. for Gulf War II – pushed relentlessly by their lobby, but fought and paid for by American citizens (as always)?

    How about we build a museum on the Mall dedicated to the losses incurred by actual Americans at the hands of lobbyists for a foreign, alien and apartheid state in the Middle East?

    How about we deport the president to Israel for betraying his country to a foreign, alien nation. He’ll be much happier there – it’s all he ever talks about?

    • Agree: Exile
  9. Clarification of History. Maybe. The future in Africa is Chinese. If the Chinese can control the sense of alienation living in a place other than China will bring, and develop their expansionist desires, they can make Africa into the land of New China.

    The western world today speaks English in many places because of the English criminal class from earlier centuries. For a while, stealing a chicken to feed your family could get you sentenced to exile in Australia. The sentence might be for seven years but the likelihood of you ever returning to Merry Old England was small.

  10. @Thicket

    You fell for Golda Meier’s “- A land without a people for a people without a land” Busllsh!t?

    It too is a double-edged sword. If Jews had no land prior to coming to Palestine, why should they have Palestine as their land? If Palestine was uninhabited before the 1950’s, who accounted for the million odd residents of that land as per British census prior to 1947?

    “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries – all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.” Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department in 1940. From “A Solution to the Refugee Problem” Joseph Weitz, Davar, September 29, 1967, cited in Uri Davis and Norton Mevinsky, eds., Documents from Israel, 1967-1973, p.21.

    “Zionist colonization must either be terminated or carried out against the wishes of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, be continued and make progress only under the protection of a power independent of the native population – an iron wall, which will be in a position to resist the pressure to the native population. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs…” Vladimir Jabotinsky, The Iron Wall, 1923.

    If no Palestinians existed in Palestine, why expel them?

    Don’t forget to switch on your brain when you post to this reply you Fkin Monkey

  11. anudda says:

    if you’re talking about reparations in South Africa you should probably mention the diamond and gold mines but of course those are owned by (((mercer’s))) tribe so dont hold your breath

  12. It will never be resolved while Jews are actors in the white countries of the West.

  13. Totally new aspects. Very creative article.
    Of course, the Muslims have to pay a lot of reparations. What about entire countries turned 100% Muslim? Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria. Who would get reparations if they are already completely genocided? Oh, Muslims are an oppressed group and thus cannot be bothered with reparations.
    And US Indian tribes have to pay to each other? Is there a cutoff date?
    Add to that the reparations to be paid by the African slave raiders and sellers. Barrack Obama, son of a white possibly slave holder and a probably black slave seller, would he have to pay to whom?
    And what about trillions in affirmative action cost, in white taxes paid to black schools, health care, and, unfortunately, courts and prisons?

  14. @Realist

    Had you told the slave owners that the slaves will gain full citizenship, plus additional rights and privileges over Whites, they would, voluntarily have given up importing slaves.
    It is more difficult in South Africa, where Blacks were present, and Whites gave them attractive jobs for mutual benefit. Had they known that a terrorist will get a peace Nobel prize and become president, they would have kept Blacks out of their area, out of their work force, and toiled by themselves and allowed Blacks to remain in the stone age with total independence.

  15. “Sincerity”? More like “sincerely” running interference for some one.

    You doth protest too much.

    Israel has stolen and continues to steal and destroy Palestinian land and property in defiance of international law and also in stark contrast to the treatment they demand for what they say was done to them in WWII.

    Palestinians should get their land back – just like folk got their artwork back from the nazis (with interest).

    Case closed. Do stop trying to throw up dust with all this “but, but the…”/equating nonsense.

    Your website whines about PC bullies. However, it appears that it’s the Israel-first lobby that has you wetting yourself.

    Get some stomach – like you advise others to do.

  16. @Pheasant

    Also is there any truth to a thing I read which said Afrikans is similar to medieval high German?

    Flemish is, and Afrikaans is almost, Dutch, and Dutch is essentially Low German with embassies and a navy.

    As with English, Afrikaans has discarded gender. Like the old English, the Boers were isolated from their linguistic brethren and surrounded by alien speakers, some of which ruled them. (Celts, Norsemen, and French in England; French–Huguenots– Portuguese, and Britons in South Africa).

    Old High German would be moving in the opposite direction linguistically.

  17. @Tor597

    How bout we start with reparations for Palestinians paid for by the Jews?

    Along with reparations paid by Arabs to Copts, Kurds, Chaldeans, Tuaregs, Berbers, etc. Yeah, right. When sphinges fly.

    Taking other people’s land is like writing backwards, a Semitic racial trait.

  18. onerule says:

    Why is it that when any one makes an actual “modest proposal” that Palestinians receive exactly the same justice as European Jews demand (which is ongoing and quite successful), the swift reply is that their claims are somehow stale and impractical?

    I guess “exceptional” victims don’t want any one else muscling in on their gig – be they Palestinians, Armenians etc, etc, etc.

  19. Ilana Mercer makes some good points re internal reparations- beginning with the Zulu and other native hegemons. But there is one fatal weakness in her argument.

    None of the fragmented native hegemons had ownership of 80-90% of the land in South Africa, which was reserved for whites, including the best land. From what was left over, whites doled out laughable, paltry percentages for unviable and fragmented “Bantusans” to the blacks. Bantusans like Transkei for example, were doled out trivial land and other resources. Even if they wanted to give “reparations” they had little to give with to start. Other Bantusans were such a joke they existed on separate, scattered patches of territory, with whites carving out the best land and facilities for themselves, and not even bothering to at least create unitary on continuous jurisdictions for the blacks. WHite SOuth Africa’s “separate development” “solution” was a cynical fraud, much like America’s “separate but equal” version embodied in Jim Crow.

    Furthermore, whites seized as much land as possible, relegating many blacks to landless, poverty-stricken tenants, strangers on their own ancestral soil. Not content, whites then enacted things like the Native Land Act AND other coercive measures to force those blacks that did have some land into the position of working for whites. These measures were also designed to, and did, suppress the growth of an independent black peasantry in many areas, so whites could control their land and labor resources.

    A labor “colour bar” was also piled on top of the blacks, reserving most of the best jobs for whites, and made hiring blacks outside menial jobs so onerous or penalty ridden, that white employers had an incentive not to hire blacks for these slots even though many were as capable and cheaper. This is the same game plan used by whites in the US South. Demonize blacks or erect so many Jim Crow restrictions like the need for duplicate separate facilities etc, that employers were discouraged from hiring blacks outside the menial drudgery. It was a deliberate setup, that while not 100% effective everywhere, worked well enough to severely blockade black economic progress and advance,

    To add insult to injury, when the Boers were defeated by Britain, they not only got all the land they commandeered restored to them, but the white British supplied them with tools, seed, materials and millions of pounds sterling in financial support. Meanwhile those blacks that had helped the British got little. (Roger Beck 2013. The History of South Africa: 2nd ed. p106)

    In short, whites rigged the game so that they hogged almost all the resources and benefits. Therefore when “reparations” come into view, advocates really have no option but to go to the people who rigged the game, and who have hogged most of the resources.


    Fast forward to post-Mandela South Africa and the same pattern repeats. While there has been a modest opening up of previously “white reserved” resources,, most of the best most productive land is in the hands of whites, as are most of the key industries, key businesses and financial institutions. Much talk was made of black “empowerment” in the 1990s, but as credible scholars show, whites were able to unload or palm off many of their most unproductive or low/unprofitable enterprises on blacks “empowerees” with the end of apartheid, allowing white capital to be freed up to remove from the country or invest in more lucrative areas. (See: Padraig Carmody. 2002. Between Globalisation and Post Apartheid: the Political Economy of Restructuring in South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies, Volume 28, Number 2, June 2002}

    Today’s “tribes” in South Africa or even the current national regime do not have the resources to pay any reparations even if they wanted to. Who has the money, land etc to pay reparations? Whites. But of course, the “modest proposal” will not make any demands on them.

    Mercer’s final error is to make it seem as if the land was just a-sitting nice and empty, with “white civilization” chugging nicely along until the late-coming “Bantu” showed up.
    She says:

    “The white civilization which formed south of the Orange River did not encounter the black civilization in the interior for some time.”

    But BEFORE any “Bantu”, whites had already encountered and ruthlessly dispossessed native civilizations or cultures (pick your term) -of peoples already in place- namely the “Hottentot” or Khosians, and the Bushmen or San. Strangely but not surprisingly, Mercer does not suggest whites pay them reparations.

    And small Bantu groups were in place far south before any mass waves of Bantu arrivals, and indeed co-existed peacefully for the most part with the Khosian peoples. In some cases groups and individuals intermarried with some “Bantu” languages incorporating “click” sounds typical of Khosian and San languages. See “The Myth of Empty Land” scholarship like: Crais, Clifton. (1991). ‘The Vacant Land: They Mythology of British Expansion in the Eastern Cape, South Africa’, in Journal of Social History, Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 225-275.|Marks, Shula. 1980. Soin South Africa- ‘The Myth of the Empty Land, History Today Volume 30, Available at:

    In short, there was no “empty land” waiting for “civilisations” to show up.

  20. Anon[428] • Disclaimer says:

    As late as the early 20th century, the Boers, Hottentots, and Bantu made frequent sport of tracking and killing the San.

    Any references or evidence to back this statement up? (especially about the Boers)

    Also shouldn’t the British or Dutch “authorities” be included in this statement? .. or are we simply taking for granted their “civilized” nature.

    Then when talking reparations, shouldn’t we look at who benefited throughout these times to the detriment of all the different groups living in this region collectively? For instance those internationalists not rooted in this region, and those staying only temporarily who aided and abetted the aforementioned.

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