While the multiracial democracy of Zimbabwe is experiencing a virtual breakdown because black mobs, with government encouragement, are seizing white-owned farm lands without compensation to their legal owners, the African continent’s other multiracial democracy in South Africa is sporting its own crisis over the supposed “racism” of the country’s newspapers. Now the black-controlled government is hauling white newspaper editors before a commission to explain themselves, and freedom of the press in South Africa may soon go the way of private property of land in Zimbabwe.
In South Africa, where multiracial elections were held in 1994 and the racial segregation that kept the white minority in power for decades was dismantled, the government has launched an investigation of the news industry for the “racism” that supposedly still lurks in its pages, photographs, editorials, cartoons and broadcasts. Newspaper editors, broadcasters and television producers have been threatened with subpoenas if they don’t “voluntarily” testify before a government agency, the “Human Rights Commission.” If they don’t cooperate, they face a fine.
The witch hunt began a few years ago when black watchdogs began complaining that two newspapers had run no fewer than 14 stories about the corruption of black public officials but only two about crooked white public officials. The inquiry soon came up with some major conclusions — such as the one claiming that a photograph showing two blackbirds sitting on the rim of a garbage can was “racist” because it suggested the decay of the country’s inner cities. So far, the investigation seems not to have turned up any more serious thought-crimes than that, which simply won ridicule.
But, thought crimes or not, the real purpose of the hearings is not to excise real “racism,” whatever that might be, but to clobber the news business into a state of docility more appropriate to multiracialism. As one black reporter who testified before the commission put it, “We cannot begin to talk about freedom of the press as long as there is no real diversity of thought in our media.” Apparently, the way to instigate “diversity of thought” is to have the state intimidate anyone who criticizes the ruling party and its leaders.
Thus, one charge is that a leading newspaper ran an article questioning the capacity of President Nelson Mandela’s successor, Thebo Mbeki, to lead the country. The accuser, an official of the ruling African National Congress, claims the story was really written by a white editor but was published under the name of a black reporter. Both editor and reporter deny it.
The investigation concluded its research last week and will soon issue a report as to whether “racism” — which apparently includes only the white variety and none of the non-white — is sufficiently serious in the South African media to warrant legislative remedies. Observers needn’t be too surprised if the report finds legislation is desperately needed.
Nor should anyone be too surprised if the crackdown on “racism” is merely the government’s opening shot against whatever bastions of white power remain. In Zimbabwe, the government is aiming at white farm lands, but the pattern is the same in both countries. Having been stripped of formal political power with the end of apartheid, whites are now being targeted for outright persecution by the non-white majorities now in power.
Freedom of expression is not the only casualty of the transition away from white control. Both rape and murder have skyrocketed in the new South Africa, as has AIDS, which the old government successfully controlled but now is spreading faster in South Africa than anywhere else in the world. Whites, who possess the bulk of technical and managerial skills, are quickly but slyly leaving the country — and not coming back. As of 1997, despite strict currency controls, some 11,000 whites fled the country. The number is probably considerably larger today.
News reporting on black murders, rapes, AIDS and political corruption could plausibly be blamed on “racism” in the media, and silencing such reporting would be one way for the government to make South Africans shut up about the problems democracy has brought and discourage the exodus of whites and the loss of revenues and skills they would take with them.
But the word is already out, and for all its commissions, reports, investigations and legislative repression, there’s probably not much the South African government can now do to muzzle the truth or the journalists who speak and write it. The larger question that Westerners in both Europe and the United States need to start thinking and talking about is whether what’s happening under the multiracial experiments in Zimbabwe and South Africa will also happen elsewhere when the mass immigration Western nations welcome makes their populations even more multiracial than those of these African democracies on the edge of chaos and tyranny.