Monday, March 24, 2008

Greater and better-off South Africa

A couple of months ago, I read Andrew Roberts’ book “A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900”. There, I intended to get additional insight into the AWW parallel universe where Argentina and Uruguay have been much more British than they have been in this universe. I did, but I also got to know from there, as well as subsequently from the soc.history.what-if group (in Google Groups) and others, about a South Africa without formal apartheid. Roberts, at one point, was talking about how South Africa would have avoided the full blow of apartheid along with its negative ramifications if the English-speaking whites had been in charge of the police, armed forces, and politics, or if Jan Smuts (an Afrikaner [=Afrikaans-speaking white] moderate) had won the election of 1948 instead of the National Party (a radical Afrikaner party).

In the various newsgroups, I realized that the best way to ensure both scenarios was with the whites in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) voting in a 1922 referendum for joining the Union of South Africa. (In our world, the majority of Southern Rhodesian whites voted to become a self-governing colony.)

In the parallel universe where Southern Rhodesia joined South Africa (which I will call Greater South Africa World or GSAW), the proportion of the white population of South Africa that was English-speaking increased automatically, since Southern Rhodesia’s whites were overwhelmingly Anglophone. That way, Southern Rhodesia (officially the Province of Rhodesia, and usually called just Rhodesia) became South Africa’s fifth province. (Until 1922, the Union of South Africa had consisted of just Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal.) This meant a lesser proportion of Afrikaners than in our universe’s South Africa. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zambia and Malawi, respectively) became British protectorates in 1924, just like in this world. Also the same as in our world, South West Africa (now Namibia) became a mandated territory of South Africa but was treated as a province of South Africa. As for Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland, they eventually became tribal territories within the Union of South Africa, and remain so today.

Despite not as high a percentage of Afrikaners as in our own universe, James B.M. Hertzog won the elections in 1924, given that Jan Smuts (the previous prime minister) suffered in the polls due to a miners’ strike a couple of years earlier. Hertzog was able to designate Afrikaans as an official language alongside English, and to make a new, Dutch-type flag (the Prinsvlag). Whereas in our universe the Prinsvlag’s centre consists of a small British flag that is sideways in between the flags of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, in GSAW, the British Union Jack is more prominent in the centre and is right side up. A decade later, in 1933, Hertzog formed a coalition with Smuts and Smuts became the Prime Minister, with Hertzog becoming the Deputy Prime Minister. Hertzog stepped down as prime minister a couple of years after that (versus 1939 in this universe).

During World War II, South Africa in GSAW was an Ally even more than here, and participated more in the battles in Africa and elsewhere alongside the British, Australians, etc. This led to earlier victories against the Axis, and freed up forces from India, Australia, and New Zealand to fight against the Japanese in the Pacific Front more effectively.

In the crucial 1948 elections in South Africa, thanks in large part to the English-speaking and pro-British populations in Rhodesia as well as Natal and elsewhere, Jan Smuts (of the United Party) won the vote, against the National Party. Since Smuts was not a draconian racist, he did not lead South Africa to apartheid the way the National Party did in this world. Even so, he and his successors maintained the racial segregation that had always existed between the blacks and whites, even while gradually lessening it over the years (just like in the American South). Radical Afrikaner racism (i.e. apartheid) became more and more of a fringe movement. Because of the more liberal politics under Smuts and his ilk, South Africa admitted more European immigrants after World War II in GSAW than in our universe; these same immigrants in our universe went to Australia, Canada, or the United States. Due to all this, the protests by the non-whites (e.g. Sharpesville), along with the reactions of the security forces, were not as violent as the apartheid we have known of here, and the process of racial integration was quicker. From the 1950s to the 1970s, blacks gained more and more civil rights along with the franchise. The tribal territories of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, as well as black reserves (cf. “bantustans” in our world) won the right for their blacks to get control over local affairs in the 1960s.

After Jan Smuts died in 1950, Jacobus G.N. Strauss (also of the United Party) took over as Prime Minister. In 1956, yet another United Party member, David P. de Villiers Graaff, became Prime Minister; ten years later, also on a United Party ticket, Ian Smith from Rhodesia took over that post. In 1974, Colin Eglin from the more liberal Progressive Party became Prime Minister, and was instrumental in ending white minority rule six years later. Democracy was also quicker to making inroads in South Africa and neighbouring countries, and the various black African nationalist movements have been gentler than in our world.

A giant step towards majority rule in South Africa was taken in 1980, when Nelson Mandela was elected to be the first black Prime Minister of South Africa. After a couple of years of negotiations in the late 1970s, the white minority government was ready to hand over power to blacks, especially since they were clamouring for it for the previous 2-3 decades. This was the first time that non-whites could vote in South Africa without restrictions. At the same time, South Africa became a republic with a non-executive President as head of state and a Prime Minister as head of government. (South Africa, in GSAW, had still been a Commonwealth realm right up until the end of white rule.) Nelson Mandela remained Prime Minister until Robert Mugabe took over in 1985, who in turn reigned until Thabo Mbeki was elected in 1995. South Africa switched to an executive presidency on January 1, 1988.

South Africa in GSAW had a population of 51, 584,000 as of January 1, 1993, making it the 24th most populous country in the world. Its area is 2,240,496 square kilometers (or 865,098 square miles); that makes South Africa the 13th biggest country or dependency in the world, and the 4th biggest in Africa. In 1998, South Africa’s per capita income was $5600 US in real exchange terms, and $12,000 US in terms of purchasing power parity (versus half of each of these figures in this universe). That makes South Africa far and away the wealthiest country on the African continent. The crime rate is pretty high, but not as high as in our universe; even a place like Johannesburg isn’t so dangerous in GSAW like it is here. Basic demographic indicators like birth rates, infant mortality, and life expectancy are better off in GSAW than here. Also, there is not quite as much corruption and clinging to power in South Africa as in its neighbours or in the South Africa we know of. For example, in GSAW, there is none of the hyperinflation, famine, or repression that Zimbabwe has been famous for in our universe since the year 2000, because it is a part of a greater and wealthier South Africa in the GSAW universe. Thus concludes an abbreviated tour of the South(ern) Africa of the parallel universe where Southern Rhodesia’s white voters in 1922 decided to join South Africa!

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