Is South Africa Approaching a Civil War?


Alarmism shouldn’t be scoffed at in South Africa. More often than not, the alarmists are the realists in this dreadful country characterised by corruption and violence. But despite all the bad things that have happened, and all the times alarmists have been validated, they are still laughed at and condemned – until the hecklers are killed in the first volley.

An alarmist theory which has been making the rounds is the idea that South Africa may erupt in civil war. This is not new. South Africa has been teetering on the edge of civil war since the 1980s. Probably even before. Even during the late 90s, people were toying with the idea that there was an inevitable civil war.

The state of the nation is much direr now than back in the late 90s, so why is it apparently more ludicrous to think that we are closer to war now?

In the early 90s, we basically faced a civil war between the African National Congress and Inkatha. Throughout South Africa’s history, this region has been faced with turmoil. The Boer War, the Anglo-Zulu wars, the Frontier Wars, the Rand Revolt… the list goes on.

And even forgetting the history – our violent crime rate puts us on the level of a small civil war already. The nature of the violent crime makes it even more terrifying, as our criminals more and more seem to kill for mere sport.

This is not a country known for its peace and prosperity. So why, then, is the idea of a civil war so laughable to many? Blind optimism, probably.

South Africa teeters on the brink of three possibilities: civil war, unrivalled dictatorship or some sort of miracle of reason.

In the face of unrivalled dictatorship, I would rather have a civil war. But is it likely? Civil wars aren’t waged by disparate and spontaneous mobs. They are started and persisted by organised groups. In South Africa, there are two possible groups that could stand up the state. These are Afrikaner and Zulu ethnic groups.

Both of these ethnicities have a strong cultural identity, a sense of unity, a desire for independence and a militaristic background. The Zulu king has already threatened civil war in the wake of threats to expropriate the Zulu homeland (even though there should be no Zulu homeland). The Afrikaner minority is already forming separatist movements and identities in a country that doesn’t want them to exist.

The Zulu nation does seem mobilizable, and so does the Afrikaner minority. With the proliferation of military grade firearms in this country, they are no doubt able to arm themselves.

Would the state be able to put down their insurrection? The South African military is, by and large, useless, but do still have access to arms and a military structure funded by taxpayers. If the military can remain stable and loyal to the state (which isn’t guaranteed) it could put up a good fight. But if the military splinters, the civil war will persist.

But a civil war is not guaranteed. The Afrikaner minority seems tired and more likely to leave for greener pastures, and I don’t blame them. The Zulu nation also may not be as radicalised as their king would want us to believe.

But this unlikelihood of a civil war may not be a good thing. South Africa is starting to reach the end of the road to serfdom. The government is close to embracing full socialism, and seizing all land in the country. The Hate Speech Bill promises to make free speech illegal. And the state is moving to censor the internet.

South Africa is at another precipice, like so many times before it. I doubt there will be a miracle of reason and liberty. I’ve lost all faith in South Africans to do what they need to do. South Africa will burn under civil war or rot under Soviet-style dictatorship.

I only hope it is the former.

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