by Shaun Willcock
South Africa’s black Marxist or Marxist-sympathising leaders, with their arrogant assumption that the whole world owes them a cushy living and their hatred of the two white South African nations, the Afrikaners and the English, would do well to study some basic points about South African history: how these groups won their place in the sun. These groups understood, as the ANC and its alliance partner, the SA Communist party, do not, that moving from poverty to prosperity involves massive effort on their part. There were no government handouts for the Voortrekkers or their descendants; no free perks for the early British settlers. To survive at all, these groups – and others – had to struggle and sacrifice like supermen; and SA is immeasurably the richer for it. How many similar supermen are there in the ANC? Thus far, we have seen none; nor will we, for Marxism and black African nationalism cannot produce them.
If Britain was seldom a good neighbour to the Afrikaners, she was often very little kinder to her own. Few groups have been so woefully misled as were the 1820 Settlers, the first British population of any size to appear in South Africa.
In 1819 Britain was in a mess. The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 was followed by the usual aftermath of poverty and unemployment. Peace has its problems, no less than war. Huge military contracts had been cancelled; some 300 000 demobilised soldiers and sailors thrown onto an already saturated unemployment market. Many of these men, including officers of quite high rank, now found themselves totally without means of livelihood, their wives and children facing starvation.
Britain’s population had doubled itself in 60 years, to almost 14 million people. The country could not adapt to so many people – especially now that the Industrial Revolution, with its transition from hand industries to power-driven machinery, was playing havoc in the traditional work place. Adding vastly to the misery was a series of the worst winters and wet summers in living memory, with a succession of bad harvests.
Emigration was seen as the only effective remedy. Reduce the pressure! Get rid of people! Send them overseas! Now, suddenly, the thinly populated Cape Colony emerged as the new El Dorado, as a particularly attractive destination. In 1817 Benjamin Moodie, a Scots settler, had himself financed the immigration of 200 unmarried Scots artisans to the Cape from Edinburgh. It proved hugely successful, and was followed by several similar schemes with equal success.
All this suited the plans of the immensely influential Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of the Cape and second son of the Duke of Beaufort, very well indeed. In London on private business, he called on the Secretary of State to discuss Cape affairs and urged upon him that British settlers be sent out to occupy the long, troubled Eastern Frontier.
Somerset was certainly not inspired by philanthropic considerations. His concern was that the sadly-strapped Imperial Government (rather like South Africa today) was economising with heavy cuts in military expenditure, especially in the colonies. The scattered Boer and British colonials living along the Great Fish River frontier were having an increasingly difficult time in protecting themselves, their lives, their homes and their stock from Ama-Xhosa raiding parties. Indeed, so bad had the attacks become that more and more settlers were deserting their homesteads.
The only alternative, as he saw it, to the maintenance of a strong, but expensive, garrison force was to settle a large European population there. In short, the unsuspecting British settlers were to be placed first and foremost where they would provide an effective barrier, a human wall, against the Ama-Xhosa. Urgently wanting these people, Somerset himself eulogised the Eastern Cape as producing abundantly the same kind of foodstuffs as were raised in Britain, plus the profitable cultivation of cotton and tobacco.