The New Apartheid Book Forum: Call for a Critical Reading : The Hand Grenade

The New Apartheid Book Forum: Call for a Critical Reading

by W. Bernell Brooks lll on 08/12/21


The July 2021, publication of 'The New Apartheid' by Dr. Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh hit South Africa's streets as mass uprisings by supporters of imprisoned former President Jacob Zuma forced  President Cyril Ramaphosa to call out the South African National Defence Force. 

When the tear gas cleared and the steel tipped bayonets were sheathed, 337 South Africans lay dead. Over R3.5 billion in property losses were reported in Gauteng Province alone.          

The primal screams that echoed amid the tumult visited on Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, condemning the African National Congress-led government cried out for an explanation. 

How could the party of Mandela, that guided South Africa's iconic national liberation struggle to power in 1994, over the white-minority's barbarous rule, disintegrate into such chaos, comprehensive corruption, and despair?  

The New Apartheid answers that question. 

"Apartheid did not die:"  said Mpofu-Walsh, "It was privatized. In this book,  I pursue this single, simple thesis."  

Mpofu-Walsh's analysis will unsettle those who proclaimed apartheid's deathIt will be resisted by others whose political and business fortunes rest on sustaining the mythThe honest will feel  embarrassment and shame that 27 years of Black-majority rule not only fell short of fulfilling its promise but betrayed the national trust paid for in the blood of the fallen.     

Nevertheless, the scholarship of Mpofu- Walsh's critique, inveighing against apartheid's particularisms and transformation into a matrix of capital appropriation and wealth creation  for South Africa's white-minority, foreign corporations, and corrupt ANC officials is unimpeachable. Its voluminous references and footnotes alone constitute a second narrative. 

Unless South Africans embrace a Trumpian post-factual reality,  The New Apartheid's bitter truths offers them a portal to exit a stage-managed kleptocracy that is ultimately not sustainable.   

The genius of TNA is also how its text simultaneously addresses a larger suite of dilemmas that have vexed national liberation movements seeking to eradicate imperialist domination--from the short lived Burkina Faso Sankarist revolution to the island of Grenada's New Jewell republic.  

Transforming imperialist-based economies, instituting real land reform, redefining the state's role in the economy and its relationship to its citizens, liberating women, confronting gender challenges, re-aligning tribal and traditional institutions with  political and economic imperatives are problematics Mpofu-Walsh grapples with in The New Apartheid writ large.  

In April 2021, New Black Nationalists' Fanon Global section initiated its South Africa Study Project [SASP] to open a dialogue with South African activists and support South Africa' continuing revolutionary project. 

From our perspective, the ANC's 110 year history defined case studies of national liberation movements. The ANC deployed  peaceful and armed tactics, existed as a legal and banned organization, operated both inside and outside South Africa's borders. More than a political party, the ANC was a way of life that flowed in South Africa's bloodstream. 

Beyond the ANC, few if any countries have battlefield-tested activists that match the diversity of South Africa's radical Feminists, Afropessimists, Nationalists, Pan-Africanists, Marxist-Leninists-Maoists, Social-Democrats, Communists, Black Consciousness and Fanonists adherents.

Not only did New Black Nationalists hold that the length, scale, nuance, complexity, and strategic depth of the South African experience is without peer in Black liberation movements, we sensed the country was on the precipice of a major social upsurge.  

The confluence of events in South Africa that erupted this year confirmed our belief that the global Black Lives Matter 2.0 Lavender Revolution that began last summer is metastasizing and gathering momentum. 

So too, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh's novel analysis that bolts from the conventions of contemporary Decolonial Theoryaffirms our hope that new theories are emerging to match the moment and the new realities.  

Accordingly, for the next five months, the South Africa Study Project [SASP] will host a critical reading, review, and open forum on The New Apartheid's thesis.  

What follows is an abbreviated introduction of what we consider to be the heart of Dr. Mpofu-Walsh's argument. We offer the following passages from the book in his words to help frame our reading.  

First, in describing the components of apartheid Walsh says the following,

"In this book, I understand apartheid along five interlocking dimensions, as ideology, state project, economic order, technology, and emotional landscape.

“As ideology, apartheid was a set of beliefs and creeds which combined in a particularly Afrikaner-centric, White supremacist world view. This mingled with an Anglo-Saxon White supremacist foundation built in the colonial period. Like other ideologies of racial superiority of the period--in Britain, Australia, Germany, and the United States-apartheid was consumed with White purity and total dominance. Unlike these other ideologies, however, apartheid was an ideology of minority supremacy. In this way, apartheid balanced White supremacy against the numerical supremacy....

As a state project, apartheid was a system of legally defined and governmentally enforced binary categorizations emphasizing, but not limited to, racial oppression. As an economic order, it was a system of economic production, distribution and exchange which benefitted from, and reinforced, these oppressive binaries. As a technology, apartheid was a method of governance in the public and private spheres that controlled everyday life.”

... I refer to apartheid ‘binaries,’ I do not refer only to racial binaries, but also to binaries in sexual orientation, gender, ability, religion, culture and political belief. These other binaries were not always legislatively inscribed, but they nonetheless rooted apartheid, as they do the new apartheid. "

The other half of Mpofu-Walsh's theoretical condominium of The New Apartheid  is privatization. On privatization," he thus asserts, 

"Privatization occurs when state assets or functions are transferred into private hands for private purposes... I extend this idea to the system of apartheid itself—and not just its assets or functions. I claim that apartheid has retreated into the private sphere, despite the inauguration of a democratic republic. While the burdensome management of the South African state remains public, power itself has increasingly devolved to the private realm, exempt from democratic control.... For apartheid to be privatized it also has to be marketized, de-legislated, denationalized, digitized, fractalized, deracialized, and de-territorialized."

Further, Walsh avers, "When the liberation movement was nationalized, it assumed apartheid's debts. These debts further constrained ANC policy choices and limited fundamental reform. The ANC became financially responsible for land reform, the welfare state, and the provision of basic services like water, electricity and housing. Theses initiatives would at worst bankrupt the new state or at best fundamentally constrain it. "

Of the ANC, Mpofu-Walsh writes, "Wittingly or unwittingly, the ANC assumed sole and simultaneous financial responsibility for apartheid's failures and its own extravagant promises. Each was a tall order, and it failed at achieving both. Quite apart, then, from the ANC governments considerable self-inflicted defeats in governance, its options were bounded from the outset. When institutions are nationalized within a market context, the discipline of the market often prevails over ambitions for social gain. And this is the paradoxical story of the ANC since 1994: it was nationalized to serve private interests. 

Having provided a brief overview of Mpofu-Walsh's main argument on the existence and features of the new apartheid and  manifestations of privatization, we will outline a few major outcomes noted in the introduction that resulted from the new apartheid. 

*"Whereas the state imposed legal barriers under apartheid, private actors increasingly enforce, or influence, the new apartheid's financial barriers."

*"The exchange of racial barriers for financial barriers benefitted apartheid interests. The policing of racial statutes is a costly business, morally and financially. By contrast, the erection of financial barriers carries neither moral shame nor financial costs."

*"As the economy became increasingly financialized and digitalized, so power was increasingly sucked from the new democratic government, and placed in international corporate hand. Apartheid thus became encrypted in new digitized forms. "

*"Unlike the Bantustans, the democratic dispensation freed White South Africans from economic sanction or moral condemnation after apartheid. White business was free to trade on international markets once more, and generous profits soon flowed. Thus, what White South Africans lost in centralized control, they gained in international legitimacy."

*"As oppression has morphed, so new precarities have emerged, and citizens' relationship to the state has altered. Whereas the state was once active in oppression, it is now merely unable to secure liberation. The state-citizen relationship has become ambiguous: the state promises solidarity with the oppressed while being complicit in their victimization."

On Bantustans and Neo-Liberation;

Mpofu-Walsh's introduction takes on one of apartheid's most dehumanizing inventions, first instituted in the 1960: the Bantustans.  Mpofu-Walsh inveighed against Bantustans in the following passages,

"First, as apartheid was privatised, the new republic which replaced it became Bantustanised; second, the national liberation movement was nationalized; third, the neoliberal consensus solidified. As political independence swept Africa in the 1960s, Pretoria faced pressure to relax apartheid. "

In response, the Verwoerd administration inaugurated 'separate development' a devilish form of reverse decolonization. Instead of enfranchising Black people in "White South Africa" Verwoerd invented jumbled, ethnically exclusive and semi-autonomous 'Bantu homeland' (dubbed, Bantustans by their critics) within South Africa's Borders....Pretoria then stripped Black South Africans of their citizenship of South Africa. 

Mpofu-Walsh further observed that, "Bantustans served a double purpose: on the one hand, they further concentrated, subjugated and divided Black people under the pretext of 'self-determination'; on the other, they temporarily deflected international attention from the draconian evil of apartheid."

The conclusion that Mpofu-Walsh reached about Bantunisation under the ANC was truly damning: ..."The new republic achieved all that was intended by the original Bantustans, only more effectively. It preserved White economic privilege by conceding Black political rights--just like the Bantustans. It reduced international condemnation of racial inequality in South Africa--just like the Bantustans. It pacified Black anger through the conferral of political rights--just like the Bantustans. And it assumed the administrative burdens of governance, without real economic control--just like the Bantustans."   

Finally on Bantustanisation, Mpofu-Walsh notes that "Whereas White privilege was nationalised under apartheid, it became wholly privatised and geographically fragmented in the new dispensation. White South Africans receded into increasingly elaborate and decentralized Bantustans of privilege, spread throughout South Africa. Afrikaner nationalism itself became enclaved, now driven by private institutions with private aims.   

On Women

We conclude this section on some of the consequences of the emergence of The New Apartheid , with Mpofu-Walsh's remarks on women and the workless class. "New forms of oppression" he said, "disproportionately affect certain people. Three groups illustrate this: Black women, the 'Black workless class', and poor African migrants. The position of Black women in the new apartheid is tragic. While wealthy Black men can benefit from the relaxation of racial laws and the poisonous fruits of patriarch, Black women still suffer under the yoke of White supremacy, on the one hand, and multiple patriarchies, on the other. South Africa is a society where the everyday experience of sexism is ubiquitous, and triple scourges of domestic violence, sexual violence and femicide (the large-scale murder of women) have reached unconscionable and epochal proportions."  

Concluding Remarks by Mpofu-Walsh's On Competing Visions From the Introduction

"Two competing, and intertwining, visions clash in South Africa today: one, a democratic, egalitarian vision called the ' new South Africa'; the other, an oppressive and conservative vision, hidden in plain sight, that I call 'the new apartheid'. These clashing but entangled projects produce a society in contradiction, undergoing at once extraordinary change and frustrating stagnancy. "

"These two 'directions' can be traced back to the democratic negotiations which birthed the new republic. These negotiations occurred on two parallel tracks; one concerning its economic trajectory. While constitutional negotiations dominated local and international headlines, economic negotiations-which predated political talks--would profoundly influence the path of new apartheid. If the ANC won the constitutional talks, it lost the economics talks decisively."

"This is not simply to say that the ANC 'sold out' at the negotiations. Such a view unduly centres the ANC in a complex historical moment. Rather, I suggest that apartheid interests arrived at the negotiating table with priorities, and succeeded in achieving some of them. This means dispensing with the myth that the ANC outmaneuvered its apartheid counterparts at the negotiations."

"South Africa's democratic transition, and the mythology which surrounds it, may well be a rare example of history being written by the losers, at least on the economic front.  The celebritisation of ANC leaders in the 1990s reinforces, rather than refutes, this point. South Africa's contemporary malaise is rooted in tis founding bargains."

The terminus of Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh's introduction to The New Apartheid is permeated by a poeticism that captures at once the a supreme irony and tragedy: the ANC were the rare losers who chronicled the history of their own demise. 

Apartheid's inversion from the most vile and conspicuous system of white-minority racial domination to a system of racial subterfuge masking the continued oppression of South Africa's majority Black population by its own people conjures visions of a journey through a hall of mirrors. 

But Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh's master work, The New Apartheid, assures us that mirrors are glass that can be shattered, and that South Africa's history will not be lies agreed upon by scholars. Nor will its history be viewed as an exercise of political ironies--a study of how men's action produce results other than those they intended.   

New Black Nationalists in America's settler state are animated by the opportunity to share insights, analysis and viewpoints with our readership on the The New Apartheid and the future of South Africa's unfinished revolutionary project. We look forward to hearing from you.  

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