Luthuli House, the ANC's headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: SOWETAN
Luthuli House, the ANC's headquarters in Johannesburg. Picture: SOWETAN

I didn’t realise my well-thumbed copy of Paul Johnson’s A History of the Modern World is now a collectors’ item. I’ve often wondered if they have a copy in Luthuli House, and if so how much of chapter 15  dealing with pre- and post-colonial Africa has been redacted. It’s entitled “Caliban’s Kingdoms”, which leaves little doubt as to what it contains.

Johnson is scathing about both Afrikaner and African nationalism. He is particularly critical of the so-called frontline states and their cynical condemnation of apartheid SA while steadily increasing their exports of labour to the Witwatersrand. In 1972 the SA Chamber of Mines employed 381,000 blacks, one-third of whom came from north of 22° south and one-third from Mozambique.

Johnson compares the policies of Pretoria with other African states and concludes they were more theoretical than real. “All African states practised racist policies. In the 1950s and 1960s Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia expelled more than a quarter of a million Jews and ghettoed those who remained. In the 1960s Tanzania expelled its Arabs and deprived them of equal rights. In the 1970s Asians were expelled from the Horn and East Central Africa and from Uganda in 1972.”

From independence onwards most black states practised anti-white discrimination as a matter of government policy, one of the exceptions being the Ivory Coast. Then president Felix Houphouet-Boigny famously told the OAU: “It is true dear colleagues that there are 40,000 Frenchmen in my country and that this is more than at independence. But in 10 years I hope there will be 100,000 Frenchmen here and that at that time we can compare the economic strength of your country with mine. But I fear dear colleagues few of you will be in a position to attend.”

Bernard Benson