Ever since Remembrance Day this year, I have had what my mother used to call “the blues” — much of it on account of what has become of the country of my birth. A country for which so many of my ancestors made the most incredible sacrifices. A country now 'ruled' by a man described as a “degenerate with five wives!” A country where, in many places, witchcraft is rampant. A country of unsurpassed violence.
What Few Remember
Before men like Hendrik Verwoerd came on the scene, South Africa was one of the most respected countries in the world. Now I’m reduced to tears by the contemplation of how the rest of the world has forgotten its contribution to the field of medicine, etc., and the prominent role it played in two world wars. (How quick Britain and the West were to isolate one of their greatest former allies! ) I cannot help blaming outside interference for actually providing a Dutch-born Prime Minster, Verwoerd, with an opportunity to leave the British Commonwealth.
Then came a nightmarish time when, while having to deal with the shock of imposed sanctions, and suddenly impoverished by the unexpected overnight withdrawal of all funds by the Chase Manhattan Bank—a procedure very quickly follower by all other leading banks—when South Africa was certainly not in a position to acquire the weaponry etc. required to fight the Cubans and other forces against which it did not have a grudge, South Africa was drawn into the Angolan War by President Ford. I shed tears whenever I think of how, as the principal of the school, I had to call a boy to my office the moment he turned 16 to sign the document for conscription — that in a country where, in every previous conflict, its people had been volunteers.
During the thirty-plus years since I have happily and gratefully lived in Canada, I have often pondered a conundrum: How often is a country ruined by a leader who was not born in it? Napoleon, born in Corsica, was not French, Hitler was Austrian-born, not German, and the notorious Hendrik Verwoerd was born in Holland and not in South Africa.
Most people in the rest of the world seem to know that the world’s first heart transplant was performed in South Africa, but very few are aware of the fact that in the years before Mandela and the imposition of sanctions, South Africa provided some of the best Battle of Britain pilots. It was a country, one of whose prime ministers, Jan Christiaan Smuts, was among the architects of the League Of Nations, an association of countries established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles to promote international cooperation and achieve international peace and security.