Allister Sparks
Allister Sparks
The Mind of South Africa
ISBN: 0394581083
The Mind of South Africa
Allister Sparks discussed his book, "The Mind of South Africa," on the history of the divided nation's politics and people. Sparks, a fifth-generation South African,chronicled Africaaner nationalism and apartheid and discussed the social and political forces in the country.
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TRANSCRIPT
The Mind of South Africa
Program Air Date: May 20, 1990

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Allister Sparks, author of the new book, "The Mind of South Africa," in your author's note you say that ever since reading W.J. Cash's "The Mind of the South" while you were a Neiman fellow at Harvard in 1962, you always wanted to write this book. What impact did that book have on you?
ALLISTER SPARKS, AUTHOR, "THE MIND OF SOUTH AFRICA": It gave me an insight into the South. I was at Harvard in 1962-63. That was at the beginning of your civil rights campaign down there. It was a very exciting time of transition. And I was particularly interested, as a South African, into getting to understand what was happening in the South. I took a course at Harvard, and Professor Thomas Pettigrew and this book was prescribed. And I found it absolutely illuminating.

The South had simply been a parallel -- another segregation of society. But I didn't really understand it in any anatomical sense. As I read this book, it was illuminated for me. I felt that I really got a good insight into the mentality, into the attitude formation that had taken place over a long period. I then traveled through the South and took the book with me, but it opened doors or understanding.

And from that moment on, I felt that there ought to be a book like that about South Africa that could do for Americans, particularly, but other foreigners as well and perhaps for South Africans, too, what "The Mind of the South" had done for me in bringing me to an empathetic understanding of the people involved in a complex crisis with lots of history -- people caught up in the vortex of their own history, if you like.
LAMB: Is there any similarity between the American Southerner and the South African white about race?
SPARKS: Yes, there are a lot of similarities. Of course, there are also very important differences, the major difference being a matter of numbers. Because the struggle in South Africa is not simply over integrating schools, lunch counters and the like. It is also, and primarily, about whose country it is and who's going to run it and who's going to be adapting to whose culture.
LAMB: Where were you born?
SPARKS: I was born in South Africa. I'm a fifth-generation South African. I was born on a farm on the borders of the eastern Cape Province, black tribal homeland of Transkei, and I grew up among black people. Of course, their language was the first language that I learned to speak before my own mother tongue, so I think I grew up with an empathy for black people.

And this brings one to a point of important difference between my book and Cash's, because Cash only wrote about the white Southerners. You cannot do that about South Africa, and I think anybody writing today wouldn't dream of doing that about the South. I have had to try and weave together into a single book and into a single story the mind of the white South Africans divided between the English and the Afrikaners in the way the US is divided between Northerners and Southerners. Then to look at black South Africa, the mixed race -- colored people, as we call them -- the Indians and a lot else besides, and most important of all, of course, the effect of the interaction each upon the other. So it became a very complex structure, seen ultimately through the eyes of a reporter. I'm a journalist. I'm not an academic; I'm not an historian. So it's written with a journalist's eye and in a journalist's style.
LAMB: Tell us a little bit about South Africa. How big is it? How many people are there?
SPARKS: If you ask a white South African, he will tell you four and a half million. There are, in fact, over 30 million, but it is still a habit from our past not to count the blacks. That is an aspect of the sort of mindset that still exists. Of course, South Africans tend to regard South Africa as a white country and have this attitude that the blacks belong someplace else -- in homelands removed somehow. But the population is about, I guess, 33,000 at the moment -- growing fast. : 33 million.
SPARKS: Thirty -- 33 million -- growing fast: five million of them white; about three million of mixed-race ancestry; about one million Indians, imported from India as indentured laborers in the 19th century. The white population is itself divided between about 2.6 million people of Dutch descent, Dutch and French Huguenot descent, Afrikaners. The rest are a catch-all group who's -- are collectively known as the English-speaking South Africans, but that includes many people of Greek, Italian and East European ancestry -- substantial Jewish community. And, of course, the core element in that, as in the US, is of Anglo-Saxon origin emanating from the United Kingdom.
LAMB: What is an Afrikan?
SPARKS: An Afrikaner is a descendent of the very first settlers who arrived in the middle of the 17th century, who landed in 1652 primarily of -- well, the first settlers were from Holland. There were a number of people of German origin among them. Holland, at that stage, was not a properly-formed nation. They went there to found a refreshment settlement for ships of the Dutch East India Company, plying their trade to the Spicelands of the Far East. They settled there, formed their refreshment station for the ships and then drifted inland. Evolved -- in this extreme isolation, evolved their own language, their own ethos, their own variant of the Dutch-reformed church.

The language they called Afrikaans. It was derived from the Dutch language. But there were a number of Germans among them, so it was an amalgam of that. And then slaves were introduced. This was interesting to Americans that any part of Africa should have imported slaves. But a substantial slave population was imported, mostly from the Dutch colonies of the Far East. So there was an influx of Oriental people there, bringing with them the Indonesian language, Malaya -- Malaysian. And that became interwoven with this Dutch patois that had developed on the veld. And the language became the talisman, the symbol really of Afrikaner nationalism and its spirit of independence. And they called the language Afrikaans to distinguish it from Europe, to distinguish it from Holland, to distinguish it from any kind of colonial connotation. So it became a symbol of an independent spirit. And they built a monument to the language. I don't know of anywhere else in the world where there is a monument to a language, but the language itself is extremely important.
LAMB: And you said there are 2.6 million Africans -- Afrikaners.
SPARKS: Afrikaners, yes.
LAMB: How is the government structured?
SPARKS: The government -- well, until fairly recently, only whites had the vote and Afrikaners dominate the white electorate by a ratio of about 6:4.
LAMB: And when you say whites, by the way, does that mean only pure Caucasians or ...?
SPARKS: Yes.
LAMB: No coloreds could vote, no Indians could vote?
SPARKS: No, not at that point. The five million whites were the only people who had the franchise and they elected the Parliament, which formed the government, the winning party, as in the British system formed the government. In 1948, the Nationalist Party representing Afrikaner nationalism, fired up at that time by a powerful spirit of nationalism, came to power and has dominated the government for the four decades since then.

In 1983, an amendment to the Constitution was introduced to give some token representation to the coloreds -- that is the people of mixed blood, roughly the same number as there are Afrikaners, about two and a half million -- and a House also for the one million Indians. That was a token gesture to introduce some element of non-whiteism into the political structure, but it was done in a very, very complicated way.

In a tricameral parliamentary system in which these other races sat in separate houses of Parliament and were ostensibly supposed to rule themselves over what were called "own affairs," on matters of general affairs, like the budget, like foreign affairs, there was supposed to be consensus between the three houses of Parliament. But, again, it was a trick because there was a president's council dominated by the governing party which broke deadlocks. So it was pure tokenism all the way, and the country is effectively still ruled by the dominant party in the white chamber of Parliament, which is a National Party.
LAMB: There are three different chambers of the Parliament.
SPARKS: Three different chambers of Parliament.
LAMB: Rough idea as how many are in each chamber?
SPARKS: Yes. 177 in the white chamber; I think it is 80 in the colored chamber; 40 in the Indian chamber. The numbers, of course, don't matter. Each is supposed to run itself. And then on general affairs, regardless of numbers, they're supposed to reach consensus agreement.
LAMB: Do the coloreds or the Indians ever go to the white chamber?
SPARKS: For special debates. When the president is addressing the whole House on a national issue they will all sit there.
LAMB: Do the coloreds or the Indians have anything to say about who is the person in power in the party in the main white chamber?
SPARKS: Yes, they could nominate their own representative in the certainty that he would be defeated. It is indisputable that the nominee of the dominant party in the white chamber becomes the president. The leader of the National Party becomes the president of South Africa, as long as the National Party can continue winning the white elections.
LAMB: By the way, what determines that you're a colored?
SPARKS: There is a race classification act, and ultimately if there is any question about your ancestry that will determine by a race classification board, which in the past has performed some rather remarkable feats, like examining the cuticles of nails and running pencils through people's hair to test it for kinkiness, all addition to the family tree, of course.

Some very hurtful, painful, appalling investigations into family ancestry because a lot of people across the color line played white, as it was called. The privileges, of course, are enormous, so palpable that this led to a great deal of witch-hunting and it was a very, very painful time for lots of people. Eventually, it all became set in concrete, as it were, when every family had been classified. So I'm talking about the 1950s. About the time your country was doing a similar thing in a different forum with the McCarthyist's investigations.
LAMB: By the way, you currently write for The Washington Post and the ...
SPARKS: I write for The Washington Post and The London Observer, yes.
LAMB: And are you a reporter or a commentator?
SPARKS: I'm a reporter.
LAMB: The size of South Africa, is there any way we can relate it to an American state?
SPARKS: I don't know that I've ever looked at that. It doesn't really leap to mind, but ...
LAMB: What's the farthest point -- say from Cape Town's down ...
SPARKS: We're talking about 1,500 miles from the southern-most tip to the northern-most tip. And I guess about the same around its waist.
LAMB: And the capital city?
SPARKS: There are two. There's an executive capital in Pretoria and a parliamentary capital -- a legislative capital -- in Cape Town, 1,000 miles away. A very inconvenient arrangement, but part of the compromise after the Boer War when Britain went to war against the Afrikaners, who had declared two republics in South Africa. And they were defeated, just as your Southerners were defeated, but they won the peace afterwards.
LAMB: If you are black and live in South Africa today, what kind of rights do you have?
SPARKS: Political rights?
LAMB: Just any -- related to the whites. I mean, what rights do the whites have that the blacks don't have?
SPARKS: Oh, my goodness. We could spend an hour just drawing up a list.
LAMB: For instance, voting.
SPARKS: Well, you cannot vote at a national level. You can vote for community councils that run your segregated township. In practice, you probably won't because these are boycotted by the black political movements.
LAMB: Can you work for the government?
SPARKS: You can work for the government. You are unlikely to get anything more than a menial job in the government. One or two token positions are being opened up now in the civil service. But, yes, you can be a policeman, but you're never going to run the police force. You, until very recently, couldn't own property of any description outside of the reserve areas reserved for tribes which together constituted 13 percent of the land for 80-odd percent of the people.
LAMB: You say in your book that a lot of things are changing. You cite some statistics. For instance, that 40 percent of the people -- or the students in colleges -- are now black.
SPARKS: Yes. That's not true of every university, but the major universities now have 20 percent to 30 percent that are black. And then, of course, there were colleges that were started primarily for blacks and are still overwhelmingly black. And a lot of the private schools have been open. They've been allowed to take in black pupils. The state schools are still segregated.
LAMB: Who pays for a black's education or, for that matter, a white's education?
SPARKS: If you go to a state school, it's free and compulsory if you're white. It is neither free nor compulsory if you're black. So blacks, who are on the poorest end of the community, have to pay for their own education even in the state schools.
LAMB: Is it expensive?
SPARKS: No. It is expensive in terms of what they earn. Earnings are very low compared with what whites earn. So that a great many blacks simply cannot go to school and do not go to school, although more are going to school now than ever before so the country is in a process of transition.
LAMB: Your book, "The Mind of South Africa" -- when did you finish writing it?
SPARKS: I finished it in October last year.
LAMB: In the book you predict that it's just a matter of a short time before Nelson Mandela is released. How did you know that?
SPARKS: It was a fairly obvious deduction because they had released Walter Sisulu, his sidekick, his number two and lifelong friend. And they'd also released eight other African National Congress prisoners at that time. And I think anybody who's been involved in the politics of South Africa for that length of time was able to see that this was a trial balloon and that before long Mandela, himself, would be released and the African National Congress would be unbanned and some kind of negotiating process would begin.
LAMB: What percentage of whites, do you think, in South Africa feel the way you do? And I want you to tell us the way you feel. You obviously suggested earlier that you were sensitive to the black community early in your life. And if you could have it the way you want it in South Africa, what would happen? What would happen to the government? What would happen to the black participation? Would they be allowed to vote?
SPARKS: There is only one future for a country like South Africa. It's an African country. The whites living there have to come to terms with the fact that it is an African country. The Afrikaners have to be true to the name that they gave themselves and they have to become Africans. We are not colonialists who have some metropole that we can withdraw to, like the British who left India or the Dutch who left Indochina or the French who left the Far East and West Africa. We have no metropolitan home. The country has been in existence in its present form for 350 years. That's the same length of time as whites have been in America. There is only one future and that is to come to terms with our fellow Africans. And the majority has got to rule. This is purely logical and inevitable.

Our role as white Africans -- white South Africans -- is simply to come to terms with the inevitable. There will be a majority government, and I believe that it is now coming quite rapidly. In the book I suggest that it will take place in the course of this decade, and that by the end of the '90s it will be all over. It won't be an easy transition. It's going to be extremely difficult because the whites regard this as their country and the blacks as aliens who belong elsewhere, and that is not a true position and it's not a sustainable position. And this is gradually being realized.

So there is only one future and that is a majority-ruled country, which will hopefully be a democracy and which will hopefully be prosperous and which will hopefully provide -- as I suggest in the book that it could do and I hope it will -- become the engine for the rest of Africa. South Africa is a well-developed country and it could do for this poverty-stricken continent what Japan has done for the Pacific Basin. It could be the engine that pulls the rest of Africa out of its mire and can hopefully bring development to the continent and save it from the desperate plight of poverty that much of the continent is now sinking into.
LAMB: How many of the five million whites in South Africa feel the way you do about this?
SPARKS: I am less optimistic on that front. I would have said a few years ago maybe 5 percent, I think. There's a continuum. You know, there's not a clear cutoff point. Twenty percent of white South Africans voted for what is now called the Democratic Party, a liberal party which believed to some extent in integration, but I don't think properly contemplated black majority rule. So you've got to look down that continuum. I would appear at the left end of it, I guess, but that end is growing quite quickly. And I would suggest that in a few years time we are going to find 30 percent, 40 percent of whites coming to terms with -- not easily and not comfortably, but coming to terms with what they realize they have to come to terms with.

It's like the man who's going to be hanged in the morning, you know? This kind of inevitability concentrates the mind. And when you look at a country like Ian Smith's Rhodesia you see a society much like Alabama used to be where, you know, people were saying, "Over my dead body, I throw my gauntlet in the dust. This will never happen." And then it does happen. And within a space of a very few years they come to terms with it and discover it's not half as bad as they thought it might be and actually get accepted by the rest of the world.
LAMB: Just for a second you mentioned Ian Smith and Rhodesia.
SPARKS: Yes.
LAMB: Is that a model in your opinion? And tell us who you mentioned -- that, of course, Ian Smith is in the Parliament today.
SPARKS: He's not at the moment. He was until fairly recently, but he's still living in Rhodesia in affluent comfort on his farm. The white Rhodesians have not been pushed around.
LAMB: Where was he originally? I mean, he was the prime minister or ...
SPARKS: He was the prime minister. He was in the position that President de Klerk is in South Africa today. But he resisted bitterly, right to the end, in a very bitter and hostile fashion. A bitter, agonizing war was fought there, a civil war that was filled with lots of atrocities and brutalities on both sides. Something like 45,000 people killed in a population of 10 million. That's ...
LAMB: How many of those were white out of 10 million?
SPARKS: Oh, no more than 250,000. So it's a model with qualifications. It's a much smaller model, but the whites are the same kind of people -- most of them South Africans. And they have come to terms with it. A good many left. A lot of people pulled out. A lot came to South Africa. To that extent, the country purged itself of its worst race problem. We, unfortunately, have to digest folk like that now. But then the whole of Africa has become independent since 1957 when Ghana began it.

Nowhere, despite its enormous number of problems, tremendous problems -- authoritarian governments in a lot of these places, power struggles between black groups -- but in not one single country was there a vendetta or a campaign of vengeance against the whites afterwards. The whites remained throughout an unmolested and largely privileged minority. They lost their political power; they ceased to run the show. To the extent that they suffered, they suffered from economic decline that inefficiency brought afterwards, but there was no night of the long knives, not even where there have been bitter wars, as in Zimbabwe -- Rhodesia or Zimbabwe. And there will not be in South Africa.
LAMB: Where do you live today?
SPARKS: I live in Johannesburg.
LAMB: And you still write for the three different publications?
SPARKS: Yes.
LAMB: You wrote for 23 years for the Economist, the magazine. Is that all you did during -- I mean that was a ...
SPARKS: No, no. I was working part-time while I was working within South African journalism. But I enjoyed the outlet -- a fine publication. I liked the people I was working for, so I kept on writing for them even after I became editor of my own newspaper.
LAMB: The Rand Daily Mail.
SPARKS: The Rand Daily Mail. Yes.
LAMB: What happened to that?
SPARKS: It was closed. It was closed by its own proprietors. It had been in the target -- a primary target by the government for many, many years. It was a very difficult newspaper to edit. And one went through a lot of fire through those years. I worked for the paper for 23 years and became its editor. I was then dismissed as its editor because it was felt that the proprietors, who were rather conservative businessmen, believed that it was leaning too far towards the black community. And their argument was that that was bad for business because blacks had no money. And, finally, three years after I left, they closed it down. There's an interesting sequel to that, however.

The young staff -- the youngest reporters on the staff -- pooled their redundancy pay. They believed the paper should not have been closed. They believed it was closed for political rather than economic reasons. So they put their own redundancy pay together, took a hat around town to those few businessmen who were favorably disposed towards the paper, collected a bit of money and launched a small weekly, which then slowly proceeded to flourish and is now prospering. And in June they will open a daily. I think this is one of the more remarkable publicity stories out of the publication business that I know of. It's a great phoenix -- the rising again of a phoenix. So The Daily Mail will reappear on the streets of South Africa in June. And I'm very flattered; they've invited me to write a column for the paper.
LAMB: What kind of restrictions does the government put on press?
SPARKS: Complex. There are lots -- we don't have censors sitting in our newsrooms cutting stuff out. What we do have is an array of more than 120 laws for which you can be prosecuted for violating any of them. Many of them are vaguely phrased, but it does mean -- in the phrase of an old colleague of mine -- that editing a newspaper in South Africa is like walking through a mine field blindfolded. You can tread on a mine at any moment, then you wind up in court.

I was pulled before the court six times in the course of my editorship. As it happened, I won all the cases, but I was fortunate and I had very good lawyers. But it is a harassment and a deterrent and an intimidatory factor. There is an additional factor that is, if anything, even more serious. And that is laws granting the police arbitrary powers to clear areas and to keep the press out of key areas, where major news is taking place, so that it can become very difficult in times of conflict to get to the source of news -- actually, to get the news and to be sure that what you've got is correct. There are other laws the two overlap because we have a law, for which my paper was prosecuted, that says it is a crime to publish false information about conditions in prisons. And unless you have taken, the law says, "appropriate steps" to ensure that what you're publishing is true, the onus is on you to prove that the steps you have taken are adequate.
LAMB: Is the judiciary in South Africa independent?
SPARKS: Yes, it's independent to adjudicate this kind of lopsided law, which is one of the many, many paradoxes that one has in this situation. The upshot of that law, incidentally, that I was talking of a moment ago is that it becomes very risky, indeed, to publish anything about prisoners, and the law has now been applied to the police. If you publish anything about police action of any sort and you cannot prove that it is true, you will be prosecuted and possibly imprisoned. So the onus is on the journalist to prove that what he has published, even if he's quite certain it's true -- he cannot produce that proof in court, he will be found guilty of violating the law. And the independent judge will find him guilty.
LAMB: Allister Sparks is our guest. This is the book, "The Mind of South Africa." How does the United States look from South Africa in its relationship with your country?
SPARKS: My country is, of course, many things, as the book says. You cannot generalize because there is such deep conflict and such deep divisions within the country. Blacks see it one way, whites see it another way. Whites identify with the United States as the mother culture of the West, I guess -- the great free enterprise society. It's an acquisitive consumer society, like yours. However, whites have been very bitter towards the United States because of its long criticism of apartheid and particularly because of the application of sanctions. It became a very emotional issue.

Blacks used to identify way back very strongly with the US because it was the one place where they saw black people doing extraordinarily things -- like Jesse Owens and Joe Louis, winning boxing titles, becoming famous musicians, winning races at the Olympic Games. It seemed, until they knew more about what was happening here, to be the place where blacks could triumph. A disillusionment followed that. In latter -- more recent years -- the United States has been seen as part of an oppressive white system. Many blacks have felt that it didn't do enough, that it kind of stood by and allowed apartheid to proceed without speaking about it. Beyond the words, little was done. They tolerated it and took little action and was seen as being a closet supporter of the white regime in South Africa. Whites were seen -- capitalist whites were seen standing together exploiting blacks. The blacks at that point started to become strongly socialist.

More recently, the United States has redeemed itself somewhat because of the sanctions moved -- at last it was seen to be doing something. And I think that that gesture was tremendously important in breaking the stereotype.
LAMB: When people like Jesse Jackson and a lot of movie stars and others in politics went to the South African Embassy here in Washington and picketed and got arrested, did the blacks of South Africa know that was happening?
SPARKS: Yes. And they responded very positively to it. That was ...
LAMB: First of all, how'd they know that it was happening? How did ...
SPARKS: Oh, they read about it in newspapers. They heard about it on radio, television and so on -- word of mouth.
LAMB: So that kind of thing got through the ...
SPARKS: Oh, that kind of thing got through, yes. The censorship has been on violent conflict within South Africa: to be able to report a riot accurately -- to be able to report police brutality accurately. That is where you have difficulty with censorship laws. Stuff coming in -- no.
LAMB: Who would be one or two or three heroes to the -- and I don't know, maybe hero is a strong word -- in the black community of South Africa -- which Americans?
SPARKS: Well, Jesse Jackson is certainly very popular. People like Randall Robinson of TransAfrica are well-known because of their role here in getting the sanctions campaign under way. They are very highly thought of. Of course, going back, Robert Kennedy visited South Africa and was seen in very high regard. Martin Luther King -- names like that still resonate within the society.
LAMB: Recently, when Nelson Mandela was let go from prison, we saw a lot of publicity on Jesse Jackson being there. And they kept telling us in the news, and maybe you wrote some of these stories back here, that the government of South Africa wanted to avoid letting Jesse Jackson near Nelson Mandela. Well, did they -- would they really do something like that?
SPARKS: I think they were afraid that Jesse Jackson would somehow claim credit for releasing Nelson Mandela, and they didn't want to be seen to be buckling before a foreign government. I think they were quite paranoid about that. I don't think there was any realism in the fears, but they certainly did have that kind of fear and reacted in a paranoid fashion.
LAMB: When you grew up when did you first know that there were coloreds and Indians and blacks and people unlike yourself?
SPARKS: Well, I grew up among blacks.
LAMB: In what way?
SPARKS: I was born on a farm. I was an only child. I grew up during the war. My father had gone off to the army and my mother and I lived, when I was very small, alone on a farm. Our nearest village was 20 miles away. I went to a farm school on a -- a nearby farm, but my only playmates were black kids. The other adults on the farm, other than my mother, were all black. And I mingled and spent my whole days with -- all my days with them, until I was about 11 years old. Then I went to boarding school. Then a different process begins.
LAMB: What happened then?
SPARKS: Well, then you get caught up in the white society. I went to a whites-only school. I only had white teachers. And by an insidious process -- but I think Southerners understand -- you gradually find yourself distanced from the black community. Nobody actually comes along and tells you things. You absorb them almost through your skin and you began to you begin to perceive a difference. They live over there; you live here. They don't go to your school; they go to other schools that you never see. You don't play a sport with them. And your whole life gradually drifts off in a different direction.
LAMB: Did you find yourself changing your attitude toward blacks after you went to the boarding school?
SPARKS: I guess so, but I became a journalist very early on and that pitched me right back into them. So journalism was my schooling in all of this. The moment I became a journalist I was back in the courts. I was back on the police beat. I was seeing police folk beat up black folk. And it horrified me. And, you know, I had an empathy with the black people that enabled me to go in and speak with them and find out what was happening. And, I mean, that I guess was the major transformation. I don't think that anybody could go through a lifetime as a journalist in South Africa without ending up pretty well where I am.
LAMB: Can a black in South Africa move into your white neighborhood?
SPARKS: Not legally, but more and more are doing it illegally. We've got an interesting process taking place in South Africa now where blacks are just doing things off their own bat. They go in and do it. They set up house. They will find a landlord who is well-disposed. They will be able to rent the house. Sometimes a company may buy it for them if they're if he's a rising young black chap, the company may buy the house for him. He's not allowed to buy the house himself if he's black in what we call a white group area. So it becomes possible for me to have a black neighbor. There was a time, not all that long ago, where it would have been looked upon as scandalous if I had had a black guest, certainly one who stayed the night. Now that's fairly commonplace.
LAMB: What about coloreds and Indians? Are they restricted from doing some things that ...
SPARKS: Each race group has its own area. Each race -- it's a honeycomb society so that you will get a colored township, an Indian township, a black township and the white city -- it's normally white because most of the people working in it are black --and then the white suburbs of the city. And the government went even further than that and tried to segregate the black Africans into separate tribal units. So that within a big township like Soweto, they tried to set aside zones or suburbs of the township for Xhosas, Zulus, Tswanas, North Zutu, South Zutu, Kwandebele, that sort of thing. That never really worked. And now blacks are surging into the city. They're starting to colonize in the suburbs.
LAMB: For a moment, take -- if you can do this -- the seat of someone who is a white separatist and explain what goes on in their mind as to why they think they should be separate and not equal and be in power and a majority shouldn't rule.
SPARKS: Yes. I do this at some length in the book. A major part of the book is to try to explain the mind of the Afrikaner; to really understand this sort of behavior. It is an ethos that I call a civil religion. There are deep theological origins to it that I try to explain in some detail in the book. The upshot is that the Afrikaner volk, as they call themselves, same as the German word, perceive themselves to be a nation. Not only that, they believe that that nation has a divine right to exist. The nation itself has a divine right to exist. It has a divine right to its own territory, as a nation. And that can only be sustained in a situation where you are in a minority by carving out a piece of the country -- in this case, the vast majority of the country -- and telling the other volk that their homeland is somewhere else; that this is your God-given country and without it you cannot exist as a nation. And if you do not exist as a nation, that will be in defiance of the divine plan because God created nations.
LAMB: Is there a learned hatred for the blacks?
SPARKS: The Afrikaner ideal or the idealist that I've just tried to portray would say, "No, we do not hate them. They are different. They're entitled to their own patch of earth. They're entitled to their own homelands." In practice, yes. In practice, this kind of upbringing does produce virulent race prejudice and, especially, when it's threatened, as is happening now. Many retreat into vigilante activity. They believe that because the government is starting to negotiate, they're losing faith in it; they're losing trust in it. And they are retreating to sort of Ku Klux Klan type of action -- vigilante action -- if you can't trust the state, you've got to do the job yourself in the name of protecting the sacred volk. And that is why there is an upsurge of violence at the moment in South Africa as we enter the period of transition. So it's a very complex mentality.
LAMB: Is your book being sold in South Africa?
SPARKS: It will be, yes.
LAMB: How do you think it will be received?
SPARKS: I'm waiting to see. It's going to be very interesting.
LAMB: Who will publish it?
SPARKS: It's being published by the British publisher. The American edition is published by Knopf. The British edition is being published by Heinemann, and they are bringing it out in South Africa.
LAMB: If you had your best wish on this book, what would come true? I mean, did you write this because you're a journalist? Or did you write it because you have a message you want people to hear?
SPARKS: I guess I wrote it with a bit of both. Certainly, I'm a journalist and I've written about this for 40 years. I believe I understand my country and I thought it was time to write it down. And I think it's going through a thunderous and, indeed, an exciting period. The message in it is to say that this country, which has been a pariah among nations, which has been a symbol of racism, is in a process of transition that I believe could lead to it becoming a symbol of triumph over that because, after all, what South Africa faces is what the world faces.

Three-fourths of the world's population is black. Three-fourths of the world's population are among the have-nots. The white world is -- they are the haves. I think the world, as a whole, has got to come to terms with the have-not people who are black of one shade or another. And until that happens, we're going to be a in a very volatile condition, particularly in a nuclear world and a world with chemical weapons now. And I think that this sort of problem that has arisen in South Africa is not unique. There is a lot of racism in the world. South Africa has a lot of closet supporters. Nobody will stand up in the world today and say, "I am an ally of South Africa."

But, my goodness, it has plenty of closet supporters. There is a tendency on the part of the white haves to be racist. And I think that given a majority of four times your own numbers -- in the United States or in Britain or anywhere else -- given a requirement as a consequence of integration that you no longer run the country -- it's going to be another country, with another flag, another anthem and another state of principles and ideals to which the whites would have to adapt as the minority group. I don't think any white community anywhere would find that easy. South Africa has found it very difficult. The world has screamed at South Africa and rightly so. But once you surmount that, once you actually become the the first community that has to bust through that and do it, I think you become a symbol of something else that is important for the world.
LAMB: Stop me and take over the story when you've heard enough. But there was an interesting scenario that you painted in here. First of all, you say that the change will be piecemeal. It will not happen overnight. But then you write about the possibility that the blacks would rise up and do damage to the whites, and you talk about the fact that in every white home there's a black person -- as a servant. But you don't think that they would ever systematically try to do in the whites. Is that an accurate portrayal of what you said and, if not ...
SPARKS: Yes. It has been a source of astonishment to me that the African National Congress, which is the primary movement among the black South Africans, has never mobilized on a basis of counterracism. It seems to me this would have been the easy way to do it, looked at from a purely expedient point of view. If you are the victim of oppression, if you are the victim of racism, to whip up your people on the basis of a counterracism, "They hate us; let's hate them, and we're the majority and we're going to win" -- I think that would have been the easy way to do it. They have never done that. There is, in many parts of the world, a cult of vengeance; indeed, a cult of violence.

Frantz Fanon, the philosopher who was a key figure in the Algerian revolution, believed that violence was actually a necessary part of the catharsis of any revolution and that people could not be free unless they'd washed their freedom in blood, as it were, and cleansed themselves in the symbolic fashion. And he wrote about this. He wrote many books about it. The most vivid presentation of it is in a book called the "Wretched of the Earth," and he suggests that this is an essential ingredient of any revolution. You must have your guillotines. The South Africans have never shown any such manifestation.

The African National Congress that formed in 1912 -- it is the oldest political party in the whole of Africa, and from its inception it has pursued a policy of non-racialism and of pan-tribalism. There are very, very few parties -- political parties in Africa that are not rooted in one tribe. The African National Congress, from day one, was pan-tribal and has cleaved to this idea of non-racialism. In 1955, at what they called the Congress of the People, they drafted a charter called the Freedom Charter, which begins with the words, "South Africa belongs to all its people, black and white." And that has molded opinion and it has been the Holy Grail of the movement all the way through. But looking at it even in a broader context of the rest of Africa, as I said earlier, there has been no rampage of vengeance anywhere in this continent where 30-odd countries -- 37 I think it is -- have become independent since 1957.

Nowhere have the former colonialists or oppressors been persecuted or suffered a campaign of vengeance. And I think the fact that it hasn"t happened anywhere -- anywhere else, plus this very remarkable ideal that the African National Congress has stuck to for 80 years -- I certainly, as a South African, have no such fears, and I look forward eagerly to the day when we have majority rule and we shut of this neo-Nazi thing that we"ve called apartheid.
LAMB: By the way, how many South Africans are there under arms in the military?
SPARKS: I can't, offhand, give you a figure. We have a relatively small permanent force, but we have a citizen force that can be summoned, called to arms pretty rapidly. Most of them are white. The police force is more integrated. I would think that we could -- we could whip together at very short notice a quarter of a million men. It's a substantial army; by far the biggest and best equipped in the whole of Africa and almost certainly with nuclear capability.
LAMB: If you live in South Africa, do you carry a card of identification with you telling you what you class you belong in?
SPARKS: You carry an ID card, yes, and it tells you that you're white, it tells you that you're black, whatever your racial classification is. The moment you are born you have that classification and that defines your political rights, where you live, the kind of work you can do and so on for the rest of your life -- which school you can go to. And for a long time, who you could marry.
LAMB: What now? What goes on now?
SPARKS: The Immorality Act, as it was called -- we've got a great touch with euphemisms -- made it illegal to have sexual intercourse or to marry across the color line, very like Hitler's Nuremberg was.
LAMB: They still exist or they've changed?
SPARKS: No, it was scrubbed.
LAMB: When it comes to the current environment, you suggest that and you give credit to Mikhail Gorbachev having had an effect even on what goes on in South Africa.
SPARKS: Yes, he did.
LAMB: How?
SPARKS: Well, quite extraordinary. I mean, he seems to have had an effect on so many things. First of all, by making it clear that the Soviet Union was intent on settling regional conflicts, from Afghanistan to Angola. South Africa was deeply involved in the Angolan war. Up to that point a major plank of the South African government's platform was that it was fighting a holy war for the preservation of the nation against the Soviet monster, the anti-Christ, and that really justified the call to arms, putting the country under arms. It helped -- as the philosophy and the ideology of apartheid ran into trouble -- this helped substitute an ideology of survival, even among people who were beginning to have doubts about the validity of the ideology as such. The Communist threat loomed large.

Well, once Mikhail Gorbachev began to defuse that, the devil lost his horns -- it became much more difficult to sustain this kind of ideology. With the change of president, when we got President de Klerk, who embarked on his own form of perestroika, who began emulating some of the things Mikhail Gorbachev was doing in his own environment, it also became the excuse. After all, de Klerk has had to be able to explain, to some extent, why he's able to do this and he's able to say, "Well, it's because the great monster's not quite as ominous as it used to be. Now we can afford to do this kind of thing. We can relax our guard. We can start to make changes." It has helped, but the changes in Angola and the independence of Namibia and the negotiations that South Africa got involved in, in that process, have been extremely important. And they have made white South Africans realize that you can sit down with people you were calling terrorists yesterday -- Communists, terrorists, monsters -- you can sit down and you can strike deals with them.
LAMB: Why should Americans care about South Africa at all?
SPARKS: To the extent that you have to care about the whole world, first of all. But more important, I think South Africa represents an enormous moral challenge and particularly to the white world, as I was saying earlier. Racism is a social disease to which white folks seem particularly prone, and it's reached its most virulent manifestation in modern times in Nazi Germany and in South Africa. You had to do something about Hitler, and you have to do something about South Africa.
LAMB: Are you someone that is convinced that sanctions -- economic sanctions against South Africa -- have had a positive effect?
SPARKS: They certainly have. There's no question about that. A government like the South African government doesn't go in for the kind of changes that it's now heading into out of the goodness of its heart or because it's suddenly listening to sweet reason. It does it because it has to because there are not many -- the alternatives have been narrowed, and they have been narrowed by the growth of sanctions, the growth of pressures.

The greatest pressures have been internally generated: the pressures that have come from the black majority: the clamor that they've put up; the strikes they've mounted; the political mobilization they've been able to undertake; the moral challenge they've been able to confront white South Africans with. So I'm not saying that sanctions is the only thing, but it has played into that not only in the financial impact. I mean, that has been very important. But in addition to that, the gnawing realization from a part of white South Africans that what they're doing is morally unacceptable to their peers in the Western world.
LAMB: We've got a very short time left. And we need you to give us a quick thumbnail sketch on some personalities that we see all the time: Bishop Tutu.
SPARKS: Bishop Tutu is a very remarkable church leader, as you know -- a personal friend of mine. I find him a vivid personality who, during the years when the black political leadership was imprisoned, stepped forward and played a major role so that whites were still able to hear a confident, outspoken, authentic black voice.
LAMB: Who is he the bishop of?
SPARKS: He's the archbishop of the Anglican church, which you call the Episcopalian church in your country. And he is the head of that in the whole of Southern Africa -- beyond South Africa.
LAMB: And his churchgoers are mostly white?
SPARKS: No, they're mostly black. Blacks are deeply religious, and just about every major denomination has got an enormous black majority, not only in their membership but in the people who actually turn up at church on Sunday. Eighty percent of Catholics are black, 80 percent of all the Protestant religions are black and even the new modern Pentecostal sects are overwhelmingly black. There is nothing in South Africa, except the government, that has a white majority.
LAMB: F.W. de Klerk.
SPARKS: F.W. de Klerk is still something of an enigma. We, in the journalists corps and other political analysts, for a long time regarded him as the leader of the right-wing in the government, and he's turned out to be otherwise. Power does strange things to people, and he's embarked on a course not unlike President Gorbachev's -- although he has not de-Stalinized. He has not said yet -- and this is very important -- he has not said yet that what we did in the past was wrong. No mea culpa. And that is serious because if you don't say that, you don't acknowledge that you've done wrong to the blacks.
LAMB: Who elected him?
SPARKS: He was elected by his own party caucus.
LAMB: So the people didn't have a direct election?
SPARKS: No.
LAMB: And final personality: Nelson Mandela.
SPARKS: Well, Nelson Mandela is a fantastic mythological figure who was in prison for 28 years. More than half of the country didn't even know what he looked like, but his image was enormous. One would have thought it would have been impossible for anybody even to begin to live up to that kind of image, but I have watched him closely since he came out of prison on the 11th of February and I think that he has performed remarkably as a man of stature, of balance and of great strategic sense.
LAMB: Our guest for the last hour has been the author of the book "The Mind of South Africa," Allister Sparks. Thank you, sir, for joining us.
SPARKS: Thank you, Brian.
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