Ivo Vegter
Ivo Vegter

In defence of colonialism

Prompted by the debate that David Bullard tried — but probably failed — to stir (as I argued on my own blog), I wrote a short opinion on colonialism, which I reckon is worth posting separately. Thanks to Dawn for the comment that prompted this thought.

Global trade routes (source unknown, click for large version)My own view on colonialism is that it was a logical development in a world that had until then been isolationist and mercantilist. At the time, trade with enemies or foreign countries was often embargoed, subject to high tariffs and duties, or simply forbidden. Establishing friendly trading colonies was a necessary step on the way to building global trade.

Though deeply marred by illiberal practices such as corruption, annexation, slavery and war, such practices do not negate the mutual benefits of trade expansion, which was the primary purpose of colonial expansion by the major economic powers. One could argue that some (though far from all) colonial trade was involuntary, and that some colonialists did not respect the property or political rights of indigenous peoples. As much as this was the case, I’d agree that an honest case for “mutual benefit” cannot be made, but then, as much as this was the case, the trade wasn’t free at the time.

Global trade, post-colonial (links to source)These are among the reasons that colonialism would always have to be superseded, and why it couldn’t be anything other than a step towards a freer, more modern world in which the benefits of trade can be enjoyed by all its citizens.

However, that it did expand the world’s horizons and build the world’s institutions to a level at which capital could be more efficiently deployed and resources more efficiently harnessed is hard to dispute. Without the expanded production base created by growing trade, I doubt we could have supported the unprecedented population growth of the 20th century. In fact, I doubt that growth — and the concomitant growth in global prosperity and quality of life indicators — would even have been possible without growing global trade.

That we’re in a better world now than under a colonial trading system is indisputable. The advance of liberty is always an improvement in society, as is the growing sophistication of governments, markets and the institutional structures that support it.

That a colonial trading system was a useful step on the way to today’s increasingly free and prosperous world is perhaps more controversial, and whether its benefits exceeded its obvious costs is less immediately clear. But it’s a debate worth having, if only so that in focusing our efforts on an increasingly free and prosperous future, we can learn valid lessons from our less free and prosperous past.

(First published on my own blog.)

  • http://www.handzonradio.fm/tbplayer.html J. Napo Mokoetle

    Thanks for the education Oldfox.

  • Cool Down

    Old Fox
    And Pol Pot put all your examples to shame
    and so did Stalin.

  • Oldfox

    Cool Down,

    Wikipedia entry on Pol Pot: “The combined effect of slave labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions had an estimated death toll of 750,000 to 1.7 million(approximately 26% of the population at that time)”

    Pecentage wise, Cambodia’s deaths were lower than Herero/Nama genocides (>50% died). In absolute number, less than deaths in Leopold’s Congo (at least 5 million) or deaths in Potosi silver mines (although these deaths were spread over 3 centuries).

    About 3/4 million up to around 1 million Algerians died during the Algerian War of Independence which was during (I think) 1958 – 1962. The French routinely used torture against the Algerians, less than two decades after the French complained to the world about the use of torture by Germans against them.

    The Wikipedia entry on Algeria puts matters more bluntly:
    “conquest of Algeria by the French was long and particularly violent and resulted in the disappearance of about a third of the Algerian population. France was responsible for the extermination of 1.5 million Algerians. According to Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, the French pursued a policy of extermination against the Algerians.”

    If colonialism was a genuine attempt to bring the “benefits of Western civilization” to backward nations unable to progress without being ruled by the gun under European control, and the intentions were entirely noble and were done to help these natives to help themselves, then there could still be a case for arguing that colonization caused more good than harm.

    Colonization was however mainly about enriching the mother country, via access to minerals, agricultural products (e.g. timer, cotton,…)and to provide a market for industry in the mother country. Britain destroyed the economic base of India, which accounted for about one third of the world’s manufactured goods prior to colonization.
    Indians were no longer allowed to spin and weave and make garments, but had to buy finished goods from Britain. Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs and livelyhoods. Millions starved to death.

    Forced labour was brutal – 25 000 out of 50 000 workers from Chad died building a railway in Africa for the French. I can’t find a reference on Internet, but I think 100 000 Vietnamese workers died building a railway for the French in French Indochina, during the 1920s or 1930s if I recall correctly.

    Germany actually did not make profits out of its colonial empire, as the period was too short – after WW1 Germany had to cede all its colonies.
    In one of the African colonies (Togo I think) the Germans using forced labour of course built more km of railway line in 5 years than British colonists achieved in 50 years.

  • Oldfox

    With all the emphasis on colonialsim bring benefits which justified the killings, brutality, destruction of family life (labourers forced to work far from their families) Westerners saw (and many still do, judging from postings on these blogs) that indigenous and native peoples had nothing to contribute to the world other than their labour and minerals under the ground.

    Picasso’s work was greatly influenced by his exposure to African art and sculpture. Renowned architects like Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff, Louis Kahn drew inspiration from African architecture, Native American, Meso American, and East Indian architecture, but despite their transforming these ideas, the architecture from this region still remain unacknowledged.
    Western pharmaceutical firms are working with many doctors and researchers in Africa to exploit traditional African medicines. Hoodia discovered by the San, will earn many billions of dollars for the pharmaceutical firm that got the right, under controversial circumstances from the CSIR, to exploit this indigenous knowledge.
    India as about 100 000 known herbal treatments, and China also has a large number.

    I don’t know what is the standard treatment for a constricted prostrate gland in Western countries today, but around a decade ago, the standard treatment was both primitive and excruciatingly painful. Six progressively thicker metal rods were inserted into the urethra, without any anesthetic.
    This primitive treatment used to be repeated about every 3 months.
    In two countries in Southern Africa (I know which two, but won’t say) certain tribes know of a treatment that is painless, and 100% effective.
    It involves drinking a liquid containing material of a specific natural plant, about once or twice a month. Elderly men who take this natural treatment, need never visit a urologist for the rest of their lives. This liquid has however many other uses, such as warding of certain kinds of cancer, and it also gives energy to persons who have just had a chemotherapy session which invariably leaves a patient weak and drained.

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  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    Just one correction: the argument I posted never claimed that the benefits of colonialism justified the evils; merely that both existed. A reasonable man can denounce the latter while recognising the former. Also, that argument does not claim, and does not depend on, the notion that the colonised peoples had nothing to contribute to the world.

  • Oldfox


    “Just one correction: the argument I posted never claimed that the benefits of colonialism justified the evils.”

    My comment was definitely not directed against you (whom I do not think had tried to justify the evils of colonialism) but against those persons in various posts/comments who do try to justify the means, directly or indirectly.

    While I would much prefer to spend time writing comments about how we, as South Africans and friends of South Africa can help adressing our immediate and future concerns/problems inastead of historical matters, I think this debate about colonialism was a good TL topic, as I had to think quite hard to come up with my responses (I did not have old views/ideas that I could simply recall from memory).
    So I’m glad you posted the TL “In defence of colonialism”.

    This matter of colonialism pros and cons has now been quite thoroughly discussed, from all angles, although we have not touched the important topic of Neo-colonialism, e.g. how France set up Francophone African countries so that they would be dependant upon France long after independence.(one example from SA, although we are not of course Francophone: Eskom engineers NEVER did maintenence of the nuclear reactors & associated control eqipment at Koeberg – French teams fly in to do this, even at a time when Koeberg had 200 SA maintenance engineers permanently on site).

    A good new (?) topic for a TL blog is, I think the role of China and India in Sub-saharan Africa. Many South Africans believe China is a new colonizer, aleady busy colonizing some African countries.

  • http://ivo.co.za/ Ivo Vegter

    That is indeed a good topic, OldFox. Thanks for suggesting it.

  • Cool Down

    Old Fox

    Colonialism in general was never meant to uplift
    the indigenous people on the contrary it was used
    to supply the ‘mother’ country with resources
    which were in short supply.

    Nor had the Barbarians who swept across Europe
    the welfare of the conquered nations at heart.

    WE must not confuse the issue and say that what
    happened elsewhere in Africa happened ipso facto
    in South Africa.

    I have in other blogs clearly shown that South
    Africa did not have the dense populations other
    areas had.To date nobody has responded and submitted facts to the contrary.

    In South America the Spaniards had
    rich pickings, here the issue is about land
    occupation and it was only after the discovery
    of diamonds and gold that a real population
    explosion took place and that one major power
    namely England took possession and control
    over South Africa major resources.It is not
    for nothing for English is still the major commercial language in South Africa.

    The Afrikaners controlled this country for a short
    period from 1948 to 1994.

  • Oldfox

    @Cool Down,

    As I first wrote on an earlier post (and others wrote about this subsequently) it was maize – introduced into East Africa in the 17th century by the Portuguese in Mozambique) that enabled populations in Southern Africa to grow substantially. In SA, the Zulus were definitely growing maize by the late 18th century, and it was maize that enabled the Zulus to maintain a large standing army. (prior to maize cultivation, men had to help with agriculture and could not be full time soldiers).

    That was quite some time before the large scale exploitation of gold (which was not discovered by the Europeans) and diamonds in the late 19th century.

    I have NEVER claimed that there were huge populations (e.g. many millions of people) by the early to mid 19th century, when the Xhosa and Zulus fought wars with the Boers and the British.
    If there were many millions of e.g. Zulus, in the early 19th century, they would not have agreed to give (sell?) some land to the Boers. People never give away or sell fertile land unless there is much more land than they are able to utilize.

    I have also stated several times in various posts, first about 2 months ago, that the known deaths during the colonial area in SA prior to 1948 were very small compared to other countries in Africa (e.g. 200,000+ in Tanganyika) and that there was far more brutality under colonial rule in other African countries than in SA.

    During the 1970s there were however large scale deaths of children from malnutrition and starvation, around 30 000 per year, mostly in the Eastern Cape. There were so many deaths of this type in Dimbaza that a movie – Last grave at Dimbaza – was made about it at the time (filmed clandestinely). This last bit of info I did not get from history books, it was often in newspapers during the early 1970s.

  • Cool Down

    In 1969 a small group of South African exiles
    and British film stdents formed Morena films in
    London to produce films about apartheid.

    In 1974 they produced clandestinely ‘Last Grave
    at Dimbaza’ to showcase the inequalities between whites and blacks.

    Now 1974 is 26 years after the Adrikaners came
    to power and were left to sort out the mess
    by the colonial masters and 1948 is 45 years
    after the Boer wars, during which period there was a stockmarket collapse, drought and miners uprising
    and two world wars took place in that time,1914-1918 and 1939-1945,during which a heavy price in
    manpower was paid and over and above the British during the Boer wars sought the total extermination of the Afrikaners.

    And yet you and the world expected miracles
    and expected the Afrikaners to put South Africa
    back on its feet again.

    Perhaps those film makers should come back make
    documentary about conditions in Zim and here
    about the aids pandemic.

    I was unable to check your facts about the
    Child death and would be pleased if you could
    furnish a better source instead of newspapers.

  • Cool Down

    I must say that what I admire must about you is
    that you do not get hysterical as many of your
    fellow bloggers do but get historical ( my wife
    falls in the same category, so you are in good company,she reminds me often about things I
    promised to do but never got to).

    As far as maize (corn) is concerned you are
    correct but may I add that Jan Van Riebeeck
    had a recipe diarised in 1658 and that some
    of the early pioneers took seeds inland and so
    furthered its spread.

  • Oldfox

    Cool Down

    The publication downloadable from URL:
    http://www.ukzn.ac.za/cae/caepubs/AFRAhis.pdf deals with land issues from 1913 until 1979.
    It covers the forced removals to places like Limehill and Dimbaza during the 1960s, among the worst crimes of the Nat govt. These removals cannot be blamed upon the British, or the aftermath of the Boer war, WW1, WW2 etc.

  • Oldfox

    A West African view on the pros and cons of colonialism and its aftermath.
    The author is Nigerian(?) Tunde Obadina

    I disagree with one of his concluding remarks:
    “In the move to the new way of life modern nations left behind pre-industrial institutions, customs and beliefs.”
    Most Chinese and Japanese have not left behind pre-industrial institutions, customs and beliefs (some yes, but they retain many), and most people in the “West” are Christian.

  • Cool Down

    Thank you I have waded through 8MB of human
    misery all started on British rule and approved
    by the King. Some attempt to rectify situation in
    1936 by adding more land.

    Your conclusion that the British occupation,
    Boer wars,WW1 and WW2 had no influence is not
    historical correct,because al of them required
    huge inputs in terms of resources and manpower
    that the early Boer republics and later Union
    could not afford.

    I am not discounting the positive spin-off but
    in my opinion they do not weigh up against the
    losses of human life.

    If you had followed my postings carefully you would
    have observed that a massive population explosion
    took place between 1860 1 134M to 1913 6 188M
    and 9 587,9M 1936.
    This explosion required more land and the forerunner of the ANC were correct in stating that
    it was unfair that whites held the majority of
    land 7M 13% and 2M 87%, but they like you never
    pointed out that that was not the position then
    the Voortrekkers first entered Natal.

    So any careful observer will see that by the time
    the NP took control their policy was doomed to
    fail because the population explosion which
    had swollen numbers to 11 957M in 1948 made
    their policy of separate development an impossible

    From 1860 to 1948 the population had gone from
    1 134M to 11 957M,thus by 10 823M in 88 years.
    Given the state of development and technology
    you can see this for any Government was an
    impossible task,the fact that the NP still succeeded
    to leave a fairly modern state in which the
    population had swollen to 38 631M in 1994 albeit
    many might argue to the detriment of other
    population groups is in my opinion something
    to be admired and let us hope the current regime
    will do better.
    You will also have to conceed that although
    black farmers could adequately cater for their
    own needs and communities they were in no position
    to to feed the nation given the population explosian and that commercial farming prevented
    mass starvation if the masses of people had to
    rely on subsistence farmers and imports.

    As always it remains my opinion that it we rely
    on historical facts we should present in the
    full context of our history which you regrettably
    often fail to do.

  • Oldfox

    @Cool Down

    I have seen your population figures many times.

    I was not debating whether commercial farming could produce more e.g. crops per unit area than subsistence farming, or support a higher population, I was trying to point out the inhuman aspect of the removals – people being forced to abandon their cattle (or sell very cheaply), people being given tents, but not shown how to erect them, people moved long distances from previous places of employment, and of course, people being forced at gunpoint into the army trucks etc.

    The Tomlinson Commission recommended that whites be permitted to invest in the “Reserves” but the Nat.. govt. would not allow it.
    So capital intensive commercial farming could not develop in the reserves/homelands during the 1950s – 1960s. The low wages earned by black workers in the mines and on white farms did not permit them to make significant investments in the reserves.
    Many economists have argued that the Nat govt. deliberately wanted the reserves to be nothing but sources of cheap labour for mines and white owned commercial farms. Its hard for apartheid apologists to argue to the contrary.

    Nowhere was I arguing for an either-or situation, i.e. all white commercial farmers, or all black commercial/subsistence farmers and no white farmers at all.
    The percentage of land cleared under the black spot removal programmes was relatively small. But the misery was great – large numbers of children suffering malnutrition, diseases or dying of starvation.

    I do not know enough about large scale population growth in other countries, to be able to compare against the governments from 1910-1994. So I will not yet concede that the agricultural performance in SA was something to be admired (in the sense that a non discriminatory socio-economic policy could not have received similar results), especially taking into account the very low wages earned by blacks in agriculture.
    According to the article I posted on AA in 4 different countries, it is claimed that white farmers preferred to use black labour for skilled and even managerial work on farms, thereby reducing employment opportunities for whites in agriculture. ( skilled white labour was relatively expense, skilled black labour relatively cheap.)

    I know China’s population grew from 100 million to 300 million during the 17th century. I don’t know the productivity per farmer , total land under cultivation, total land under irrigation etc at the beginning and end of this period. One thing is certain though – they did not in the 17th century use tractors, or even horse drawn combines.

  • Cool Down

    In context of your reply how then would you
    rate the 19th century upheavals caused by the
    Mfecane ‘the crushing’ and Difagane ‘the scattering
    of the tribes’ which left by 1825 two and half million starving,homeless people wandering about
    Southern Africa looking for respite?

    You are so biased in your outlook that you simply
    are not capable to put an unbiased view forward
    and like I said before you dip your hand into
    history and select only those parts that support
    your arguments, which to many uninformed
    especially international readers portrays the Whites as the reincarnation of the Devil here
    on earth and Black people as Angels who happened
    to be victims of a regime hell bent on their
    total extermination.

    I gather from your writings that you are an Engineer so perhaps you’ll admit at least that
    you would not have been an Engineer if the
    whites had never settled here or do you think
    the Black tribes would have caught up with their
    European counter parts on their own?

  • Oldfox

    @Cool Down,

    “.. by 1825 two and half million starving,homeless people wandering about
    Southern Africa..”

    These figures are the estimates of one historian, and some historians were known to have deliberately inflated the numbers, as you yourself claim elsewhere. So we don’t know the true figures.
    Clearly though, the upheavals in SA in the 1820s were devastating for the communities affected. My view on this, is in the next post.

  • Oldfox

    @Cool Down

    I first did a mini study of the Mfecane a few months ago. I posted my views on another TL blog.
    And it seem as though you read my post!

    re: Shaka and Mfecane

    I read several articles on Shaka, including the Wikipedia entry and an article on Shaka by Truman R. Strobridge and originally published in Military History Magazine in October 2002 at http://www.historynet.com/wars_conflicts/19_century/3032216.html?showAll=y&c=y
    Here is a quote from the latter reference.
    “At his death, Shaka ruled over 250,000 people and could muster more than 50,000 warriors, whose iron discipline equaled that of the Roman legions in their prime. His 10-year-long kingship had resulted in more than 2 million deaths by warfare alone, not counting the deaths during mass tribal migrations to escape his armies. ……establishing Shaka, king of the Zulus, among the great commanders of all time”

    The word Mfecane, describing a set of wars or a period, had first been used in a work of history by E.A. Walker in his History of South Africa (1st edn. 1928).
    The Mfecane has long been used to justify occupation by whites of lands that supposedly became vacant during the period of dislocation from around 1820-1840.

    There are Zulucentric and Eurocentric perspectives of the Mfecane
    Both are mentioned in e.g. State Formation in Nineteenth-century South Africa http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/library-resources/online%20books/turningpoints/bk3/chapter1.htm
    The Zulucentric view holds that the Zulus alone were entirely to blame for initiating the Mfecane. The Eurocentric holds that the British, Boers and slave traders in Mozambique also played a role.

    Wikipedia entry on Mfecane is Zulucentric. Here is a short extract:
    “Populations had increased greatly in Zululand. The introduction of maize (corn) from the Americas through the Portuguese in Mozambique was a factor. Maize produced more food than indigenous grasses on the same land, and thus could sustain the larger population, at the price of greater water usage. It also allowed Shaka to raise a standing army, growing crops not being a part of their duties. By the end of the 1700s much of the arable land was now occupied. Declining rainfall, and ten-year drought in the early 1800s meant that a battle for land and water resources began in earnest.”

    Shaka formed a Zulu nation out of many clans and tribes. Those who fled the embryonic Zulu nation caused much death and destruction other tribes in their paths, but this too resulted in some smaller tribes being assimilated into larger ones. The Basotho nation being one of these. Shaka by most accounts became a tyrant during his last few years, but so were many rulers in history.

    Congo DRC has seven hundred local languages and dialects, Nigeria has 510 living languages. Having many tribes and languages in a single country is of interest to , for example, linguists, anthropologists and tourists. The downside is more difficult administration and governance, more political divisions, and increased risk of civil war, as occurred in Nigeria and DRC, or major civil strife, as in occurred Kenya.
    So, while the so called Mfecane was undeniably terrible for those caught up in it, maybe this contributed to stability and economic development generations later.
    Of course, historians from various nations and tribes affected by this Mfecane should themselves research the topic, and write their own histories.

    Wars to unite e.g. Italy or Germany during the same century as Shaka’s reign were not bloodless. Several wars were fought to unite Germany in the 19th century, the largest of which was the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, also called the Seven Weeks War, the Unification War, or the German Civil War which cost over 100 000 casualties i.e. dead, wounded and missing. (actually a relatively low figure considering there were 1.4 million combatants).
    Were it not for Bismark’s great diplomatic skill, the number of casualties in Germany’s unification could have been far higher, maybe in the millions.

    China’s unification took place in two stages, first regional warlords annexed smaller states around them and consolidated their rule, forming 7 major states. Each had different laws, sets of weights and measures, different writing etc. Then in about 17 years, with with great brutality and at an enormous cost of lives, the first emperor unified China. After just one major battle, he reportedly had 400 0000 defeated enemy troops buried alive. He is reported to have buried 460 Confucian scholars alive too. Chinese today have mixed feelings about their tyrannical first emperor – many say if he had not been so brutal, he would not have managed to unite such a vast and diverse country. And they say if he did not, maybe no one after him would have managed to unite China.

    Is it fair to use the moral standards of the late 20th century/early 21st century, to judge the means Shaka used to unify the Zulu nation about 190 years ago?

    oldfox on March 20th, 2008 at 11:47 pm
    Old Fox
    Time does not diminish the atrocities.I am
    grateful that you made this post because it
    it puts South African history in perspective.

    cool down. on March 22nd, 2008 at 2:23 pm

  • Oldfox

    @Cool Down,

    >”or do you think the Black tribes would have caught up with their European counter parts on their own?”

    Now we’re back to the e-mails circulating around months ago (and newspaper letters to the editor I first saw 20 years ago) and the David Bullard article in the Sunday Times.

    Africa WOULD have progressed had European colonists not arrived. Humans around the world have always progressed (not necessarily i.t.o. morals though) for millenia, although sometimes there were setbacks, like the Dark Ages lasting 5 centuries in Europe.
    How much and how fast the process would have been in Africa is impossible to estimate. West Africa had yams in ancient times (good source of food that can grow in a forest) and some precolonial populations there were large. Nigeria’s culture/civilization goes back 8000 – 9000 years.
    The rest of Sub Saharan Africa would not have supported large populations without 3 crops brought from the New world – maize, cassava and potatoes, unless of course African had developed new crops or other farming techniques.
    An advanced civilization normally required a large population (ancient Greece was an exception) which in turn required adequate water, fertile soil and suitable crops.
    Alternatively, an advanced ancient empire would get its knowledge (and much of its food) from across the empire, e.g. Roman Empire which ruled the conquered peoples mainly by force, or the Persian empire founded by Cyrus the Great, which respected the religions and traditions of the conquered peoples.

    In the rest of the world (i.e. outside Africa), people were formed into large nations by military conquest, e.g. Aztec empire in 14th century, Germany in 19th century.
    Sub Saharan Africa consisted of some 10 000 tribes. A subcontinent of 10 000 tribes would have been economically disadvantaged when it came to foreign trade, or building vast projects requiring enormous numbers of people. Shaka was the first African ruler that I know of, who formed a larger, more powerful nation out of force.
    So how Africa would have progressed without colonization, would have depended so some extent upon how many other Africa rulers would have arisen, and formed larger nations out of conquest.

    Black Africans DID have some knowledge of some things much earlier than the Europeans, it would seem (but in future, archaeologists may of course discover even older evidence in Europe) see article below:

    Africa’s Storied Past
    Archaeological Institute of America
    Volume 52 Number 3, May/June 1999
    “…But 50 years of archeology have shown that the continent has pottery thousands of years older than that of the Near East and Europe, true steel two and a half millenia before its nineteenth-century European “invention,” and urban civilizations without despots and wars….”

    But I think its silly to to ask “what would Africa be, had it not been colonized or had contact with Europeans” if one does not ask” what would Europe have been, without the knowledge, innovations and philosophies from other “non European” nations, e.g.
    India: Zero and decimal number system, and many surgical techniques (cataract removal and plastic surgery 2700 years ago)
    Arabs & Muslims: universities, chemistry, algebra
    China: paper, iron plough, public examination system and meritocracy, gunpowder, crossbow with trigger guard & safety catch and of course many more.
    Persia: first universal declaration of human rights, over 2500 years ago,

    How long would it have taken the Europeans to discover the above by itself? Could have been centuries.
    In the 1960s, German surgeons rediscovered a plastic surgery technique known to have been used in India 2700 years ago, namely to pull a flap of skin from the forehead onto the nose to let the nose heal.

    And for China’s contribution to education of primary school children, and more on the public examination system, see my post at
    dated May 17th, 2008 at 12:40 am

  • Oldfox

    @Cool Down,

    Your posting of May 20th, 2008 at 11:53 am
    “..Black people as Angels who happened to be victims of a regime hell bent on their total extermination.”

    I never implied any such thing!

    The SA agricultural sector grew very big, even by world standards. Much of the growth relied on cheap black labour, including cheap skilled labour.
    Large scale mechanization on maize farms only began in the 1970s.
    Mining too grew on the back of cheap labour.
    The governments from 1910-1994 did some silly and stupid things, but extermination (let alone “total extermination”) of blacks was never ever under consideration, as farming and mining was heavily dependant upon black labour.

    My views only appear one sided because I respond to a point in someone’s post, and I try to keep on topic. (I get mauled when I deviate from the topic)
    Everyone is biased to some extent. I try to be even handed.

    The following is off topic. Concerns the only two good things I can think of, about apartheid policies – promotion of African languages, and promotion of indigenous music.
    Interest in African languages at universities declined after the demise of apartheid, as these were not promoted to the same extent as under the Nat govt.

    As for indigenous music, some of the only musical recordings of indigenous music of certain types are in the SABC archives – some of the music forms are now extinct, and there seems to be no interest of the present govt. to preserve this important aspect of Africa culture. [ a music dept. at a university could revive an extinct musical form, but this requires funding ]

    The following is en extract from an article.
    The indigenous music of South Africa …..was ridiculed to the extent that very few Africans wanted anything to do with what was called “mampara music”. However, like the spirit of the people, the music thrived in rural areas and on the mines. SABC radio fortunately encouraged the (indigenous) music in its programming – even if it was for reasons other than noble ones. For them it was one way of perpetuating the tribal story as part of grand apartheid. They went to the extent of going to musicians in remote places with their sophisticated recording equipment. There is a wealth of traditional music in the archives of the SABC. [ for full article see http://www.mg.co.za/articledirect.aspx?articleid=206986&area=%2farchives%2farchives__print_edition%2f ]

  • Cool Down

    You do because you concentrate on one very
    short time period of our history.You say blacks
    were here long before whites arrived.

    Now let us assume that you are correct and they
    were here let us say 500 years before 1652
    and put them here in the year 1100.

    Why then would you elect to concentrate on a
    very short period in our history. 48 years
    would represent about 5% of that period,a hundred
    years 10%.

    Any international reader following your postings
    especially the Americans who cannot even find Africa on a map and think like my American penfriend says ‘Africa is a place where black people die of aids and has no whites’ would conclude that all the calamities this continent
    has suffered are the results a colonialism and
    that Africa before the Whites came was a
    undiscovered paradise destroyed by greedy
    whites who could not keep their greedy paws
    at home as far as the continents treasures were
    concerned and that included the female species as

    By the time you are finished reading this and
    are ready to admit that the African continent
    has produced it own share of dictators and
    that African tribes have been and are still
    causing as much mayhem as their colonial masters
    are accused of, this debate might still prove
    to be a fruitful on.

    But let us end it right here and in terms of
    our foreign minister and president once again
    blame the foreign media, observers and ask
    ourselves .

    “What crisis,what arms,what ship’ Zimbawe in crisis! no the situation is grossly overstated and Chinese soldiers are just once again a figment of western observers imagination.

    All these people want to do is to portray us
    inept people unable to solve our own problems.”

    This is the curse of the African continent and its
    leaders, no one is ever prepared to accept responsibility and acknowledge their own turbulent
    past and mistakes.

    It is far easier to point fingers,sit back
    and think about the next bosberaad,meeting,indaba
    whatever your fancy is.

    Whites and the West are easy scapegoats as you’ll discover by reading the thought leaders postings.

    So go in peace and remain in one piece because
    xenophobia is not imagined but real.

  • Oldfox

    @Cool Down,

    The TL topic here is about colonialism, and whether blacks were advantaged or disadvantaged by it.
    I have covered all sorts of subtopics/subthemes (call it what you like) about colonialism around the world, the extreme brutality of colonialsm in some other countries (i.e. NOT in South Africa), some South African history from 1910-1994, a little of 19th century history, brief mention of archaeological evidence of occupation of SA by Bantu tribes around 500 AD, the introduction of crops from the New World by Europeans that enabled people in Africa to support higher population densities. I have disputed the view that most of what we call civilization originates in Europe, particularly Western Europe, as such a view disregards the major contrbutions by particularly Asia and the Middle East.

    Now you say I have focussed on the 48 years of Nationalist Party govt. rule.

    I have used the word Apartheid only 5 times (one of these in a quoted article on music), in all my posts on this particular TL thread. Only twice have I used the period “1910-1994″ on this particular TL thread.

    There are several other threads deling with failings of the current government. Recently, several new TL threads have appeared on Xenophobia.
    This thread dealt with “In defence of colonialism” and I covered material related to that thread.

    I can’t see the linkage between xenophobia (which first surfaced in SA lets say in the last 12 years) and either the topic of this thread or my posts on this thread.

    Once again, I am being vilified for reading up on history and posting some historial information here.

    I could have written sme really ugly stuff from the 48 years in question, but there was no point in focussing on the exceptions. The Dimbaza and Limehill relocations were govt. policy, and not spur-of-the-moment racist actions, so I mentioned these two places as they are of historical significance.

    On some other TL thread, I think I have written that the problem in modern (or post colonial)Africa has been poor leadership by the top policial leaders, but this subtopic is unrelated to the thread here, In defence of colonialism.

    As for your comments about (by implication, ignorant) people overseas, I can’t tailor my writing to suit such people (who may well misinterpret what I write anyway, no matter how I word my responses)

  • Cool Down

    I have been informed by the moderators that
    Afrikaans is not preferred as a language of
    communications on these blogs as it is read
    by international readers.

    It is for this very reason that I try to make
    my responses as short and precise as possible.
    What you do is to portray the Afrikaner as less
    than sub-human species.

    I try to correct that misconception by admitting
    that we have made mistakes in the past that
    some of our security forces have been guilty
    of gross human violations.

    You on the other hand and you are not alone in
    your approach try to sugarcoat the African tribes
    violent past which in some cases led to cannibalism
    East coast tribes tahr willingly participated in
    the slave trade.

    That the Zulus were equally responsible for the
    disappearance of the San peple.

    That the famous MK committed terrible crimes in
    their concentration camps and you appear to have
    no quarrel that people that have blown up innocent
    citizens and now are about to have street named
    after them.

    You have been moaning about the high number of
    graduates what were unemployed during the Apartheid
    years and simulteouneosly complain about
    the lack of education.

    Now any international reader would be left totally
    confused and bewildered by this because you
    left them under the impression that no higher
    education for Blacks was available under the
    Apartheid regime.

    If you want to enter into an honest and straight-forward debate you should start by acknowledging
    your own interest groups shortcommings before
    you start attacking the regime under which it
    appears to me you got your qualifications.

  • Oldfox

    @Cool Down

    >What you do is to portray the Afrikaner as less
    than sub-human species

    Please quote a posting of mine, with time and date and a few consecutive words (sufficient to do a search). I will apologise in the unlikely event that I portrayed Afrikaners as such.

    >your approach try to sugarcoat the African tribes
    violent past

    I’m only aware of the violent past of the Zulus during a very short period in history (a period far shorter than say the 300 years that the Vikings spread terror, pillaging and destruction in Western Europe).
    I do not know enough about the history of the other black tribes in SA to comment on their past, in terms of violence prior to 1960.

    >That the famous MK committed terrible crimes in
    their concentration camps and you appear to have
    no quarrel that people that have blown up innocent
    citizens and now are about to have street named
    after them.

    I never ever supported or condoned such actions, whether in real life or on blogs.

    About the San, I even acknowledged that large numbers of them were killed by Nguni tribes.
    I merely stated that disease may (and I emphasize “may”)have killed more of them, both proportionally and in absolute numbers, than fights with more powerful foes, black and white.

    >complain about the lack of education.

    I never claimed that there was a lack of education under the Nationalist govt – I complained about Bantu education, designed to educate blacks for no more than semi skilled jobs, and I complained about discriminatory salaries for black, coloured, Indian school teachers. govt.
    Significant percentages of very good black and coloured school teachers left teaching in SA, and this had a serious effect on the quality of education in the schools they left.
    Many black and coloured teachers lost confidence in the educational system, and where possible sent their own children to previously all white schools, knowing that the educational system in those schools was better than in township schools. This process began during the 1980s. (and continues today because the present govt. did not fix the inherited problems in education in township schools).

    >you left them under the impression that no higher
    education for Blacks was available under the
    Apartheid regime.

    Only a fool would try to learn about a country’s history purely by reading a solitary blog/discussion thread.

    On other blogs, I quoted references and commented upon those, where it was mentioned that special universities were set up for blacks and (one each) for coloureds and Indians during the late 1950s.

    A foreigner wishing to learn SA history via internet would either read easy to find articles such as found on Wikipedia or search for academic articles or read both types of article.
    Verwoed’s ideas on education of Bantu is a topic by the way which is extensively quoted – almost 9000 hits on google.

  • Oldfox

    While my focus in posts on this blog was the brutality of colonialism, I had ignored the brutality of Neocolonialsm.

    Cameroon, which gained independence in 1960, is a country in which its former colonial masters have inflicted much death and destruction after “independence”.

    As many as 1 million people, mostly of the Bassa and Bamileke tribes, were killed during the periods 1955-1960 and 1960-1970 respectively. Some have called this a “silent genocide”.

    “we have decided to learn from these mistakes by sending not a fax message but a carefully researched comprehensive complaint file, over 270 pages, (prepared by ourselves) to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to the UN Secretary General and to the international community at large, calling for the indictment of President Paul Biya and some other political and military leaders of French Cameroun for genocide and other crimes against humanity which we know they have already committed but have carefully concealed.”

    The 279 page Report is viewable on-line at

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