[This is an extended version of an unpublished 1989 article entitled Apartheid Has Fallen. Then it hadn’t, but it did come to an end in fiction on a number of occasions before 1994].
The first of these - When Smuts Goes - was published by our own Left Book Club in 1947 and written by South African Professor Arthur Keppel-Jones. It was a work of prophecy, written as a “future history” with a touch of satire - characters included diplomat F.O. Wallah, ex-schoolmaster Rodwield, Professor Knowall, Mampara (Zulu for fool), Nietskenner (nothing-knower) and Cringe (flexible politician). A history of South Africa from 1952 to 2015, it featured a Nationalist Government under General Jukskei (an Afrikaner game) coming to power in 1952 - followed by the consequences, Apartheid (a word that’s never used) but a lot worse. Racism plus anti-Semitism, rigid job reservation, a crackdown on British immigration, banning of opposition parties starting with the Communists, the end of non-White representation, deliberate electoral gerrymandering, the unions crippled, release of men jailed for treason in World War Two, wartime detainees coming to power, mass emigration by the Government’s opponents, segregated and state-dominated White education, the United Party too divided to offer any effective opposition - most of this sounds only too familiar.
This culminates in a split in the Nationalist Party, with an extreme right-wing breakaway group, the Christian National Republican Party, coming to power and imposing press censorship, subordinating the courts and instituting a totalitarian Afrikaner Republic. The world’s attention to South Africa grows, sanctions make things worse, a native revolt is brutally suppressed - although the Zulus succeed in breaking away with British and US support. South Africa is eventually goaded into declaring war on Britain in 1977 and crushed by British and US forces after heavy fighting. After a period of military occupation, too short it seems, a succession of Black rulers follow - the moderate Mfundisi (teacher), the corrupt Funamali (want-money), and the military dictator Bulalazonke (kill-all), culminating in a plague sweeping South Africa - a country in an awful state, with no “work ethic”, plagued by inefficiency and illiteracy in contrast to its well-governed neighbours (the prophet wasn’t entirely right). The Afrikaners are blamed for degrading and keeping down the non-Whites and dragging themselves down with them. There’s an interesting vignette at the end, with exiled Afrikaners in Argentina urging their new President to invade the Falklands! The book has become a legend in South African progressive circles - the author was indeed a friend of Smuts’ liberal deputy Hofmeyr. As a work of prophecy it turned out to be more accurate than most. In his new book, R.W.Johnson mentions it - apparently Zuma is a not well-educated Zulu populist like Funamali. Also - the plague in the book sees many Africans turning to witchdoctors. In real life they’ve been given official status, and the late Health Minister favoured treating AIDS with beetroot!
The Day Natal Took Off, written in 1960 by Anthony Delius, was a highly relevant satire - there was much talk of Natal declaring UDI if South Africa did become a Republic. Set in the mid-seventies, it deals humourously with Natal’s secession and the aftermath - how to control the pace of change and maintain order with serious shortages of civil servants, police and armed forces. First the Zulus, then the Afrikaners of Northern Natal, then Durban declare their own UDIs - then South Africa breaks up into a “White Congo”, with an independent “Transvaal National Socialist Republic” allied with Russia and ruled by Prime Minister “Granite” and a projected South African Federation, including the Orange Free State as an “Afrikaner Israel”, Black states the Sotho South Nguni Republic, Zululand-Swaziland, Bechuana-Ovambo, and the multi-racial Good Hope and East Cape Republics. Something like that could have happened, I suppose.
Verwoerd - the End by ex-Labour MP Gary Allighan in 1961 could be termed the one in which sanctions worked. Covering the years 1962 to 1987, a trade boycott of South Africa, met by an attempted counter-boycott, results in economic catastrophe and Verwoerd’s replacement by Johannes Van Wyk, an independent economist and “authoritarian democrat”, a kind of civilian de Gaulle, whose coalition government partitions South Africa, forming a Federal Government with separate White and Black States, a system best described as “Apartheid with justice”. The Bantu state (sanctions hadn’t been accompanied by any Black uprising), described as a “rough horseshoe shape” running from Northern Natal through Transvaal into the Orange Free State to the frontiers of South West Africa (I wish he’d included a map!), intriguingly rejects “one man one vote” in favour of a qualified franchise and takes some 15 years to “get going” in a gradual transition; the ANC and PAC are only mentioned as Communist-backed infiltrators being fought off. White South Africa on the other hand, pursues policies of compulsory bilingualiasm, permanent consensus government, mass White immigration, and full voting rights for Coloureds and, it seems, for Indians. Van Wyk sweeps aside Apartheid laws, concludes a permanent electoral pact between the two main parties and rules until 1987, presiding over a golden age for a South Africa devoid of racial problems, with a non-socialist Labour Party as the main opposition, an overwhelming White majority in 1987, and the Bantu State and SWA formed into the United South African Republics (USAR). It was obviously a case of wish-fulfillment on the part of the author - hence the over-optimistic tone of the book, e.g. sanctions not being accompanied by any Black uprising. As for the proposals - they might have worked and would have been worth trying.
In 1978, Australian author Iain Findlay brought out his only book, The Azanian Assignment - a political/action thriller undoubtedly written with Hollywood in mind. Set in 1981, it features a South Africa under President Botha, who’d succeeded in 1979 rather than in 1978. The loss of Namibia (SWA) and gradually deteriorating situation had polarised South Africa; the HNP had won 45 seats, the Nats only 68, the United and Progressive Parties 72 between them, forcing the Nats into a coalition with the HNP. The Black revolution in 1981 - trained commandos springing Mandele (sic), Sobukwe, and five others from Robben Island, a Black General Strike, attacks from outside by an Azanian People’s Revolutionary Army accompanied by armies from all South Africa’s neighbours - is preceded by a series of spectacular commando raids and followed by an HNP takeover; the novel ends with the new government, unable to both expel all Blacks to the homelands and fight off the invasion, opting for withdrawal to the Cape and holding it as a “White homeland”. R.W.Johnson described it as “bloodcurdling” but unrealistic; I would concur. The idea of South Africa collapsing like that - or even standing by while revolutionary armies prepared to invade - can best be described as a revolutionary’s fantasy; ironically, the revolutionaries seem to reject the ANC as too moderate. I doubt if a secret service like BOSS would have psychotic racists rather than calm analytical types in its higher echelons and the HNP was certainly not financed by womanising millionaire mine owners. Nor do terrorist leaders tend to lead dangerous operations themselves. Findlay should have written a sequel; it would be interesting to see how the two states got on.
1978 also saw The Emancipation Of Wakefield Clay by Randall Robinson, a Black American radical from the Trans-Africa organisation. It’s too short and frustrating - American troops are deployed to South Africa, ostensibly to protect fellow Americans after an attack on an American-owned copper mine. The eponymous hero, a Black American terrorist-sympathiser, is kidnapped along with his racist CO and liberal buddy; frustratingly he’s killed rather than defecting to the terrorists. The author wrote in his foreword that “War in South Africa is perilously imminent” - this books includes reports of its growth in South Africa, with an African Liberation Front launching guerilla warfare.
1979 saw The Insurrectionist by Andrew McCoy, a writer of bloodcurdling thrillers; his first book, Atrocity Week, was banned in South Africa and he prophesied that this one would be too. I believe that it was studied by South African security forces. McCoy’s view was that “No revolution will succeed where the defending forces take an active interest and are well motivated in the defence of the existing order. Black revolution in South Africa is doomed to bloody failure without foreign intervention”. As a prophet, he was wrong to say that “democratic sharing of power in South Africa is unlikely”. As a history graduate, I don’t think his view on revolution was that far out. The title refers to the leading character, Jomo Iningwe, a Tanzanian Black passing for White under the name Oliveira and a terrorist for hire, paid a million dollars by South African revolutionaries to start a revolution there. His view is that it can only succeed if one of the great powers intervenes - so he’ll produce a million dead. He starts with the death of one of the conspirators, an Afrikaner doctor near the Gold Train. Things take off from there - for instance, a White family are trapped, their 2 year old boy beheaded, and Iningwe makes sure there’s plenty of publicity. General revolt and unrest provokes the desired White backlash, vigilantes even fighting the security forces trying to hold them back. Blacks slaughter each other while the security forces stand by and also slaughter Indians. The revolt eventually fails for the above reasons, but after hundreds of thousands have been killed with a lot more undoubtedly to come. Ironically Ininghwe, who can pass for White, is himself slaughtered by a Black mob. Perhaps I’m over-optimistic but I don’t think things would have reached that scale in real life. There are at least two real-life characters featured - Prime Minister Pee Wee (Botha) and verkrampte Minister Dries (Treurnicht).
African Chess, by South African-born Frank Graves in 1990, was badly written and sank without trace. It’s the story of Michael Roberts, his cousin and lover Sgharon, and Robert Molefe, the boys were brought up together, educated at the same school and University - surely illegal in South Africa back then? It’s full of intrigue - Robert joins the ANC, there’s war between them and Buthelezi’s Inkatha - which there was to some extent. It also features secret agents working with Black hit-men to wipe out ANC men. There’s even a scene with “Nelson Mandela, the supreme commander” giving approval to a planned operation-from Robben Island? Ironically, Robbie the ANC man winds up joint head of an international corporation. He also winds up leading the Zulus against the ANC and a South Africa divided between five tribes - Whites, Zulu, Tswana, Xhosa, Matabele (wrong country, surely?) - which didn’t happen!
Finally, there was Vortex by Larry Bond, published in 1981. Frederick de Klerk is renamed Haymanns, Gatsha Buthelezi renamed Gideon Mantizima. A raid on the ANC HQ in Zimbabwe reveals a planned attack on the official Blue Train, which carries the Cabinet. The Director of Military Intelligence passes the information to the verkrampte Minister of Law and Order. The President, faced with international pressure terrorism, and an economic crisis, agrees to major concessions to the ANC. By some coincidence, the Law and Order Minister can’t make the train. All its occupants are wiped out by the terrorists and hard-line Minister Vorster become President - beginning a crackdown involving the reversal of reforms and the restoration of strict apartheid, combined with the round-up and repression of opposition. This is accompanied by more support for Renamo - and, to top it all, a full-blooded invasion of Namibia (SWA) with a view to re-conquest. This, naturally, results in unrest and resistance at home - to put it mildly. The invasion gets bogged down - it’s not the fighting but the logistics involved in the re-conquest. The Cubans come in on the Namibian side - and, with South Africa divided even among Whites as the facts about Vorster’s ascent to power are revealed, the Cubans invade South Africa and fight the South African Government forces at the same time - after the South Africans hace used an atomic bomb and the Cubans chemical warfare. The book ends with a Federal Republic of South Africa - separate White and Black-only homelands and a weak federal government with strong provinces and decentralisation of power brought in under the auspices of an American military occupation. Ironically Bond’s settlement was basically the policy of the Federal Party, which I’d have voted for in 1994. To sum up - Keppel-Jones, Allighan, Robinson and perhaps Delius and Graves had political axes to grind; the rest were simply writers, in my view.
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