Courtesy Reuters

Inside the Laager: White Power in South Africa

Southern Africa these days is like a Chinese puzzle. Rhodesia is the first box, exposed on all sides, its lacquer chipped and lusterless. Lift the lid and there is Namibia, waiting its turn. Open up Namibia and South Africa comes into view. Prise the top off South Africa and, a non-Chinese surprise, two boxes lie side by side, one black and the other white. The black box is sealed tight but its shape has been distorted by a series of internal explosions and it no longer rests passively beside its neighbor. The white box also fails to open but that's because it's solid. On it there is an inscription: Afrikaner Nationalism. Therein the muscle and sinew, the visions and the nightmares of Africa's only white tribe are compounded.


If it is accepted that the central problem in the region is the immutability of South Africa's racial policies, around which all other problems ultimately turn, then the men who shape them deserve close attention. That a widespread challenge has arisen from the very people whose future is the main concern of South Africa's leaders, notably the new generation of blacks, only underscores the pivotal importance of the Afrikaners. The nature of white power in the southern part of the continent has undergone considerable change since the Lisbon coup in April 1974. The last of the metropolitans, the Portuguese, have gone. A new phase involving white settlers of relatively recent origin and untested nationalism in Rhodesia and Namibia has opened. The length of that phase is debatable; analysts talk in terms ranging from six months to five years. But the outcome-black governments, militant or moderate, stable or unstable-does not seem to be in doubt. By then the friendly white buffers may have been partially replaced by pliant black homelands but the chances of South Africa having to face what Rhodesia is confronted with today will have immeasurably increased.

South Africa's friends and foes alike acknowledge that the country is in a different category

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