From 1991 to 1994, the practice of institutionalized racial segregation of South Africa known as Apartheid was abolished, first by official legislation, then by extending suffrage to blacks, and culminating in the election of Nelson Mandela to presidency. Years of oppression, inequality, and suffering at the hands of the white Afrikaner minority in South Africa had finally come to an end. With the brutal and ugly past behind them, the South African peoples could at last come together under Mandela and stride forward into a bright future, becoming a shining example for sub-Saharan African countries to follow. And surely, that is exactly what happened, right?
Well, not so fast. Ilana Mercer’s book Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa brings the reports, the statistics, and the facts to a table that has hitherto been left largely undiscussed in the West.
Mercer spent part of her childhood in South Africa, leaving not long after the 1994 elections. She’s watched from across an ocean as the country has since embarked upon a socialist-fueled program attempting wealth redistribution, collective land management, and centralized planning, dispensing with the rule of law, accountability, and equal protection in the process. In her book, she explains how all of these things are directly attributed to the foreign influences at work in both the past revolutionary anti-Apartheid movement as well as the present South African government.
She begins her book with a preface briefly describing the trouble she had trying to get it published. Given that the book details the utter disaster South Africa has become in the years since Apartheid ended, in addition to depicting the Left’s patron saint of race-baiting, Nelson Mandela, in a significantly less-than-positive light, it isn’t surprising that major publishing houses didn’t want anything to do with it. Nonetheless, she eventually got it released through Stairway.
Mercer spends the first two chapters of the book detailing the degeneration of law and order in both the social and the political spheres of the post-Apartheid era. Citing criminal statistics, murder rates, and reports on violent crime, South Africa is revealed to be a country more riddled with violence and criminality than even the worst of the major US cities. She points out that just two and a half decades before, during Apartheid, South Africa ranked among one of the least dangerous countries of the developed world. Now it’s almost as dangerous as its neighbor, Zimbabwe. Her vivid descriptions of wanton violence, routine break-ins, rapes, and murders, and the experiences of the victims left alive are harrowing and more at home in a horror movie than an analysis of what once used to pass for a first-world nation.
In the political sphere, she describes how the democratically elected politicians of the South African government increasingly followed dangerous, redistributive policies of land, labor, and wealth, largely targeting the white Afrikaans farmers in the rural areas. Following its neighbor, Zimbabwe, South Africa pursued collective farming policies that converted land that once functioned as the breadbasket of southern Africa into small pockets of subsistence farmers—the portions that weren’t simply left to rot, that is. Although not in as dire straits as Zimbabwe, South Africa’s post-Apartheid regime has both actively penalized the white farmers through bad economic policies while simultaneously done nothing as crime gangs have terrorized the frontier.
This continues through her third chapter, which outlines the ways in which affirmative action programs have been instituted across every level of South African society from the central bureaucracy, goaded on by an intellectual elite that live overseas in Europe and America. She continues, in the fourth chapter, to expand upon the comparisons between South Africa’s and Zimbabwe’s regimes, going into the histories of both in the following chapter and addressing specifically their relationships with colonial powers. Mercer makes it clear in no uncertain terms that whatever experiment was tried with South Africa, the logical conclusion of that experiment will be Zimbabwe—a nearly-failed state with a starving population that sits on some of the most fertile land on the continent.
It is in her last two chapters where she puts together the evidence she’d presented in the rest of the book to present her main thesis: that affirmative action programs cannot work, that they are incompatible with the Western framework of liberty from which they ironically sprung from, and that the United States should be paying attention to how catastrophic the system’s failure has been in South Africa. While she makes it clear that the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States is of a different category altogether from the Apartheid system that existed in South Africa, the tools the Left uses to ‘overcome’ these histories remain the same.
Her concluding epilogue discusses the hostile reaction of Western nations to the concerns of white Afrikaans. Blowing open the myths of the peaceful conversion from Apartheid to the post-Apartheid era, the mass-murdering of whites, the rampant crime rate, the dispossession of land, and the regime’s targeting of wealth held by whites are all facts that the Left has tried to bury. Afrikaans seeking to leave are not granted the refugee status that other immigrants from the more politically acceptable corners of the world have qualified for, despite being on the receiving end of comparable levels of hardship and suffering. Today, Afrikaans experience difficulty immigrating to the West at all. Likewise, despite meeting the qualifications for being classified as human rights abuses and violations, neither the regime nor the privately-run groups of South Africa have ever been held accountable for the institutionalized reign of terror.
But high crime, rampant murder, and wanton ignorance of its own laws by the ruling party are mainstays of socialist regimes. Coupled with the glowing supportive rhetoric of Western officials and academics, South Africa can look forward to further decline and descent into the socialist hell-hole that the Progressive Left seeks to inflict upon all of us. Mercer hopes, as all of us who are right-of-center hope, that Americans can take a hint before the cycle is irreversible here. But this book was published in 2011, before Obama’s reelection and before his administration’s race-baiting became quite as visceral as it is today, and years before the Leftist groups under the Black Lives Matter slogan machine began turning our cities into bonfires.
As a result, this book is even more relevant today than it was in 2011. It’s a quick read, tantalizing and shocking in just the right amounts to maintain interest, but heavy enough on the statistics and research that it doesn’t read like some propaganda piece. Sprinkled throughout are Mercer’s own libertarian theories on proper governing principle that I have some disagreements over, but none of my disagreements have much to do with Mercer’s fundamental thesis. In any case, it’s very well-written and well-researched. I highly recommend you go out and find yourself a copy.