Excerpt from an essay in “Le Monde Diplomatique” (you need a password) on postelections South Africa by Achille Mbembe, Johannesburg-based professor of social science and history–and public intellectual (Mbembe also made a star-turn in Jihan Al-Tahri’s excellent documentary “Behind the Rainbow“:
The recent elections highlighted three long-running trends that look like making a major impact on the future of South Africa. The ANC has been deserted by progressive white liberal voters who had overcome racial prejudices and voted with the black majority since 1994. Also, the small regional parties are in disarray and the electorate has polarised around two relatively distinct groups with racial connotations: the black majority, whose constituency is the poor, and a coalition of minorities drawn from relatively well-off white, mixed-race and Indian voters. In addition, there is the republic’s creeping partition. Another phase of internal and external migration is under way.
The white population is on the move, producing further imbalance between coastal areas (the whites’ “new world”) and the interior (the “black lands”). In retreat from cities engulfed by a tide of poor blacks (some from nearby countries), two-stage white emigration is taking place. A move towards the coast and, in particular, to Western Cape Province, precedes departure for Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or Canada.
The arrival of white voters on the coast plus a political compact with black people living there allowed the Democratic Alliance (DA) – comprised of what’s left of former white liberal and racist parties – to win the Western Cape at the general elections, making it the only part of the country where the ANC does not enjoy a majority.
But, far from turning the province into an experiment in post-racial democracy, a proving-ground for political change, every indication is that the DA, under its leader Helen Zille, is intent on creating the continent’s last white colony. This isn’t so much a question of stripping blacks of their political rights, but of trying to install, behind ragbag liberalism and a veil of technological expertise, a version of the same colonial reformism that the apartheid regime proved unable to sustain because it was so hardened by prejudice.