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This last is a great drama, for African nationalism seems incompatible with wildlife. Already African wildlife has been exterminated throughout north and west Africa and most of what remains is in the formerly white-ruled states — Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. Yet everywhere those remaining animals are under threat from poaching and explosive demographic growth. Although black politicians recognise in principle that wildlife preservation is vital to the tourist industry, it is noticeable that all the passionate wildlife activists — like the former South African cricketer, Mark Boucher — are white. For many whites the richness of Africa’s flora and fauna constitutes a principal reason for continuing to live there, though one cannot but suspect that some of this activism is a displacement activity.

It has, though, its larger significance. As Asia and Latin America (and some parts of the Middle East) climb out of poverty, Africa will soon no longer be able to console itself that it is part of the Third World: it will be the Third World. This is not just about being poor but about the persistence of pre-modern political structures and behaviour, with countries ravaged by war and tribalism, by terrorism and ruthless elites, often still imbued with antique ideologies as well as relentless cynicism. This is a continent where for every dollar of aid received, 63 cents finds its way back into (private) foreign bank accounts, and which holds the all-time record for the number of UN peace-keeping missions, all of which have to be funded from outside Africa. The great hope of Mandela’s South Africa was that it would be able to provide the continent with a model of humane politics and successful development. This promise has been almost completely squandered. The rest of the world could be forgiven if it simply walked away — as witness Barclays’ decision to exit Africa to concentrate better on the US.

But there is a sense in which the world can’t walk away. For a start, Africa is just so big — its area could encompass Western Europe, Britain, the US, China, Japan and New Zealand. This is also the continent which gave birth to the human race and where the world’s oldest people, the San, still live. All our DNA is traceable to here. This is, too, where all human language began. It is also the fastest-growing continent. Much of Europe, Russia and Japan are in steep demographic decline but Africa will add another billion people to its population by 2050 — making it the world’s fastest-growing market. Africa contains most of the world’s uncultivated arable land — which will all have to be cultivated by the time the world population peaks in 2055 at around 11 billion. It also contains a large proportion of all the Earth’s key raw materials. And, finally, it is Earth’s last remaining repository of some of the largest, most important and utterly magnificent life-forms: lions and a large number of other wild cats, elephants, rhinos, hippos, large gorillas and apes, giraffes, zebra, enormous numbers of buck and a huge variety of insect and reptile life. Humans everywhere tend to see these life-forms as connecting us back to a far earlier age when men lived as simple hunter-gatherers.

So, despite all the frustrations and false starts, the world’s engagement with Africa will continue. And while it does, South Africa will, inescapably, continue to play a key role as the continent’s most developed state. And it is this, finally, which gives Ramaphosa’s election its significance. South Africa’s early promise has certainly failed — but the worst has been avoided.
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April 16th, 2018
9:04 PM
While Thabo Mbeki deprived black South Africans of retroviral drugs the Apartheid regime caused a much greater genocide. Its rule resulted in millions of black South Africans, mainly infants and children, dying of starvation because they were deprived of food.

April 13th, 2018
3:04 PM
There is much truth in this piece but it gives white South Africans a free pass.They have white Messiah Syndrome deeply embedded—most senior positions in companies are held by whites not because they are more competent but because most whites have refused to change and embrace meritocracy. The decisions are made in secret white laager committees—so nothing has changed from Johan Anthoniszoon "Jan" van Riebeeck’s days.

April 9th, 2018
5:04 AM
This article did not cover the other aspects in all this. Julius Malema...he is the greatest danger to peace.

Eddie Goldschagg
April 8th, 2018
8:04 AM
R W Johnson.There are a lot of people who certainly will not like what you said, but you hit the nail on the head. Thank you. I will follow you with interest.

April 8th, 2018
7:04 AM
As a South African I ask. What is the next step?

Craig Schweitzer
April 6th, 2018
5:04 AM
Att: R.W. Johnson I am a South African, am a third generation citizen and spent my entire life living in Johannesburg. We get bombarded with political opinions from numerous sources. People comment of current affairs from various perspectives, and often with differing agenda's. I read your article with interest, and was captivated from your first sentence. You have so succinctly documented exactly what is happening in South Africa (and Africa) right now, that I feel your article should be used as a reference point in understanding the political and economical situation of this country before continuing with a political direction. I feel that the reality, which you have described, should be understood, and the course of our future altered to fix our future outcome, not for the benefit of the quarter million only. Thank you for writing this article, I will certainly share it far and wide, and intend following your future commentaries.

Johann Fourie
April 6th, 2018
2:04 AM
A most interesting summary of events of the past 20 + years, albeit alarming at times.Full marks to the authour.

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