What Kallie taught me: the Boer War was just a kerfuffle
By talking out of his poephol about apartheid, AfriForum's chief changed my view on that small skirmish of 1900
Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, says that apartheid was not a crime against humanity because crimes against humanity require millions of people to be killed.
People are angry with Kallie, but I must say that he has helped me to change my view on another piece of South African history: the Anglo-Boer War.
I believe that a proper war is one in which many millions of people die, but it turns out that only 75,000 people died in the Anglo-Boer War. I mean, that’s not even a minor battle in World War 1.
So was it really a war? Kallie has convinced me that it wasn’t. He’s helped me understand that the so-called Anglo-Boer “war” was really little more than a small skirmish, a minor scuffle, if you will, and certainly not worth memorialising.Thanks to Kallie, I am now going to campaign for this nonentity of a “war” to be renamed something like The Very Small Kerfuffle of 1900. You’re welcome, Kallie.
When Twitter came at him on Monday, Kallie delved deep into the Big White Playbook, circa 1956, and tweeted that “the ANC’s alternative to Apartheid was communism, a system that killed 100 million people”.
Now I’m open to correction but I was under the impression that Nelson Mandela was released from prison precisely because he wasn’t a communist. As I understood it, the apartheid state spent a lot of time and money trying to establish whether Mandela was a communist or an African nationalist willing to use Moscow to help his fight. If he was a commie, red in tooth and claw, he would rot in jail. If he was not, he was someone they could talk to. In the end they decided he was the latter, and the rest is history.
In other words, Kallie’s claim that the ANC wanted to unleash a Stalinist holocaust on South Africa seems to have been debunked by the same people who gave him his Rooi Gevaar weasel-argument to start with.But enough history. Perhaps it’s more useful to look at the present, and to ask why Kallie is talking out of his poephol about apartheid.When people seek to underplay the ravages of a historic crime, we often brand them as insensitive or tone-deaf or deliberately provocative. We assign emotive terms to them, and try to understand their denialism as reflecting some sort of stunted emotional state.
In the case of AfriForum, that would be a mistake. Because in this instance, the decision to deny that apartheid was a crime against humanity is not an emotional outburst. Instead, it is a political act: calculated, deliberate, and with a clear outcome in mind.If you can convince people that a terrible crime was a minor crime, you will, over time, be able to convince people that a minor crime was a small infringement, and, in the end, that no crime was committed at all.
And if you can convince enough people that no crime was committed, then two things happen.
The first is that you remove the idea of culpability or a debt owed. After all, if there was no crime, how can there be perpetrators? How can anybody expect you to pay for – or even acknowledge – a crime that didn’t happen?Secondly, by dismissing the crime, you dismiss its victims. There are no victims, just citizens. That is, no victims except for you. Because now that those so-called victims are gone, everyone can see that you are the real victim here: besieged, persecuted, ridiculed and misunderstood.The world can finally see that you are under attack. And if you’re under attack all the time, then literally every single thing you do and say is self-defence, and your goal, however anachronistic or backward, is a noble act of self-preservation.
Of course, it’s possible that Kallie wasn’t thinking that far. It’s possible he wasn’t thinking at all. Perhaps he was just feeling a bit deflated about the fact that, on its best day with all membership fees paid, AfriForum doesn’t even represent one in 20 white people. I don’t know.
But I do know that apartheid was a crime against humanity. It was a crime against our humanity. And to deny it requires either a supreme denial of humanity, or none at all in the first place.