Mhambi has been redeployed.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The British invaded to save 'Africans' from Boer explotation

Some times the international media makes Mhambi's blood boil. Some of you may have read what I thought of His Big White Self, Nick Broomfield's gloriously entertaining and misconceived documentary.

This week I read this ill informed posting on the blog of a respected US publication, Foreign Policy, titled Thursday Video: Rock song rekindles ethnic tensions in South Africa .

Lord Milner
Originally uploaded by Wildebeast1.

I just could not let this ignorance - arrogantly posted without a secound thought - go. So I wrote a letter to the editor in reply, and I post parts of it below.:

Dear sir, in your Thursday Video: Rock song rekindles ethnic tensions in South Africa ( Michael H. Cognato says:

"Sure, the Boers were resisting British imperialism, but it was for the sake of their own right to marginalize and exploit the African population without British interference."

Based on what facts does Mr. Cognato make this statement? Does he assert that the Boer War was fought because the British wanted to interfere in Boer exploitation of what he calls Africans?

Does he assert that Afrikaners are not African? With this statement Mr. Cognato shows that he is blissfully unaware of the current debate in South Africa. The ruling ANC proclaims that there are Asians, whites, coloureds and Africans in South Africa, ie that that only black is African and the others not. What the eminent South African sociologist Van Zyl Slabbert, calls a "racially exclusive Africanism".

As for the reasons for this war. Thomas Packenham, the British historian, sets out in two books – The Scramble for Africa and The Boer War why this war happened. He pins the responsibility partly on the British as a war over resources (gold was discovered), but points out that Lord Alfred Milner was the primary instigator over far more sinister reasons.

Here are qoutes by Milner:
"I am a Nationalist and not a cosmopolitan.... I am a British (indeed primarily an English) Nationalist. If I am also an Imperialist, it is because the destiny of the English race, owing to its insular position and long supremacy at sea, has been to strike roots in different parts of the world. I am an Imperialist and not a Little Englander because I am a British Race Patriot ...

The British State must follow the race, must comprehand it, wherever it settles in appreciable numbers as an independent community."

Liberal Scotish journalist Neal Ascherson wrote that as a racist politician, Milner is the only British politician that "deserves a comparison with Hitler. He believed in the superioriy of his own race, and was preprared to instigate war to asure their dominance."

Acherson made this comment in direct reference to Milner's actions and pronouncements in instigating the Boer War.

Mr. Cognato remarks: "Chanting a general's name is a strange habit in a democracy." If he bothered to consult a history book or even the internet he would have learned that the general in question was a vociferous campaigner against the Boer war.

One of the conditions Milner set for the Transvaal Republic not to be invaded is to afford the franchise to (white) foreigners that had rushed to South Africa when gold was discovered. Milner also insisted that if elected these foreigners should be allowed to speak English in the Volksraad (parlaiment).

General De la Rey argued that these concessions should be allowed to avoid the war. Hardly bad for a politician in 1898, especially when measured against the anti-immigration and anti-Spanish discourse in the USA of today.

As for your comments about exploitation. Bar the vote, South African and the US legislation only started showing a marked difference in respect to discriminating against blacks in the 1950's.

The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Packenham (Abacus, 1992).

N. Ascherson, 'The War That Made South Africa', New York Review of Books, 6 December 1979, p.12.

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safa10 said...

the English came for the same reason we as Boer's did, gold and nothing else. fortunately in that process we fell in love with a continent we now call our own, together with Africans.

Wessel said...

safa10, obviously you were not paying attention in your history classes? When was gold discovered? When did the Dutch East India company arrive at the Cape? Did they intend to have a colony or was it just supposed to be a pitstop for its ships? Does a 240 year gap mean anything to you?

Wessel said...

To his credit Mike Cognato responded to my letter via email. This was his response.

Dear Ms. van Rensburg,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write regarding my post on Passport about South Africa. I do stand by my characterizations, but I also appreciate the points that you made and your differing perspective. Obviously, the debates now ongoing in South Africa about history, identity, and culture are lively and unsettled.

It seems that we do agree, though, on the troubling aspects of the treatment of black Africans, both in Africa and abroad, by American, British, and South African governments of years past. Highlighting one by no means should detract from the others. Each of our societies are struggling to come to terms with the legacies of that history, and will undoubtedly find different routes.

Again, thanks for writing. If you see another post that piques your interest or your ire, we definitely hope to hear from you again.


Mike Cognato

Christo said...

Michael Cognato's expression of the "cause they fought for" may be an unconscious slight of the America and Canadian causes which motivated self-government in those countries. A mimetic desire to defer guilt or at the very least, a sense of responsibility, for our American and Canadian past upon the Boers is a curious, but I believe real phenomenon in North America. The Boers/Afrikaners are so well known by their critics here on this continent, because they are a vivid image of themselves.

But there is great cause for self-doubt, but in the language which we decide to frame the past of South Africa and in assuming that the Boers do not share a common history with their Canadian and American counterparts: Milnerism is one, but another interesting historical phenomenon to be wrestled with is the "race conciliation" discourse of Louis Botha's first government of the Transvaal and subsequently of the Union. That discourse, albeit referring to white - white race relations, ought to jar our ability to wholesale blame the past - for there is something there that sounds very similar to the most progressive or perhaps simply the conscientious of us.

Wessel said...

Right Christo, would you care to elaborate and get to the nub of what your saying. I'm not entirely sure I get it.