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ISSN 2227-6017 (ONLINE), ISSN 2303-9868 (PRINT), DOI: 10.18454/IRJ.2227-6017
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Zdanevich A.S. , "THE IDENTITY CRISIS OF SOUTH AFRICAN WHITE COMMUNITY". Meždunarodnyj naučno-issledovatel’skij žurnal (International Research Journal) № 3 (81), (2019): 132. Mon. 22. Apr. 2019.
Zdanevich A. S. THE IDENTITY CRISIS OF SOUTH AFRICAN WHITE COMMUNITY / A. S. Zdanevich // Mezhdunarodnyj nauchno-issledovatel'skij zhurnal. — 2019. — № 3 (81). — С. 132—134. doi: 10.23670/IRJ.2019.81.3.025




Научная статья

Зданевич А.С. *

Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, Санкт-Петербург, Россия

* Корреспондирующий автор (azdanevich78[at]


В статье делается попытка разобраться в истоках и следствиях кризиса идентичности белой общины Южно-Африканской республики на современном этапе. Сложный внутриполитический контекст в ЮАР обусловлен целым рядом проблем, среди которых необходимо выделить: нестабильную социально-политическую ситуацию, проблему преодоления социально-политических барьеров, созданных в недавнем прошлом, перенаселенность крупных городов, неспособность «новых» политических элит к принятию решений. Все вышеперечисленное и многое другое создает сложно преодолимые препоны для успешного развития страны, влияет на уровень жизни различных слоев населения, препятствует созидательной деятельности на международной арене. Опираясь на опыт и мнение зарубежных специалистов, прежде всего, южноафриканцев, а также учитывая перспективы взаимовыгодного сотрудничества между Россией и ЮАР, автор в рамках исследования дает актуальную экспертную оценку современного состояния южноафриканского общества методом анализа зарубежных сетевых и научных источников по выбранной теме.

Ключевые слова: Южная Африка, белая община, кризис идентичности. 


Research article

Zdanevich A.S. *

Saint-Petersburg State University, Saint-Petersburg, Russia

* Corresponding author (azdanevich78[at]


The article attempts to define the origins and consequences of the identity crisis of the white community of the Republic of South Africa at the present stage. The complex internal political context in South Africa is caused by a number of problems, among which it is necessary to highlight: the unstable socio-political situation, the problem of overcoming the socio-political barriers created in the recent past, the overcrowding of large cities, the inability of the “new” political elites to make decisions. All of the above-mentioned creates difficult to overcome obstacles for the successful development of the country, affect the standard of living of various segments of the population and prevent creative activities in the international arena. Based on the experience and opinion of foreign experts, primarily South Africans, and also taking into account the prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and South Africa, the author gives an expert assessment of the current state of South African society by analyzing foreign scientific and web sources on the topic chosen.

Keywords South Africa, white community, identity crisis.

Until recently, the population of modern South Africa inevitably faced with a phenomenon that continues to be discussed and be described a lot. This is a crisis of identity, which has captured one of the smallest, and at the same time, the most vulnerable part of the population of the South African Republic (the SAR) – the white community of South Africa.

Scholars and writers still return to the long list of problems of the white community, trying to rethink the past and predict the future of the multinational society of modern South Africa, which seems unenviable for most experts. Moreover, and that is quite important to be mentioned here, problems of this kind are not something new for the African continent at the present historical stage. But as Chris Bateman highlights, “South African decision makers have not faced this degree of uncertainty since the late 1980s when domestic uncertainty was amplified by that of the final stages of the Cold War” [1].

In this regard, there is a certain sense in trying to figure out whether everything is hopeless for the African continent in general and South Africa in particular? It is also substantial to reflect on the nature of the phenomenon, the possible causes (sources) of its occurrence, as well as the fate of the peoples of the long-suffering African land.

The main task that we have to solve is an attempt to find an answer to a number of questions that arise when, somewhat receding from the progressive model of the development of the World of the “West”, we reflect on the fate of the World of the “East”, i.e. we do concern emerging (developing) economies. However, it will be not only and not so much about the economy and, for obvious reasons, we will limit the research field to one, but rather a vast region. We will mainly talk about the SAR – a region that is in a state of permanent political, economic and socio-cultural crisis. Let us try to describe the situation in a country that has experienced ups and downs over the past 60 years, trying to find its own way of embedding into the global economic process.

How do we see the future of South Africa? This seemingly simple question is not so easy to be answered. It is addressed to modern researchers from the recent past of this blessed land, filled with contradictory tragic events, hopes, attempts to correct mistakes that led to the set of problems of today South Africa.

The apartheid period, which has covered almost half of the 20th century, is well-known. It occupied a prominent place in the Soviet period historiography. The reasons and the courses of this process are well studied. However, the consequences of this pernicious phenomenon, which has become the past of the SAR in April 1994, remain not fully understood in our country and abroad. This period formed the basis of the discussion that unfolded on the pages of monographs and publications in the periodical press, both in Southern Africa and beyond. Here is K.Wale suggestion: “When South Africans are asked whether they agree that many black South Africans are still poor today because of the lasting effects of apartheid, almost 70% agree that the poverty of the present is linked to the injustice of the past” [10, P.37].

The discussion mentioned affected broad strata of the population of the SAR. Here are some questions that inevitably arise before South African society at the present historical stage. What to do with the unenviable legacy of the past closely related to the period of oppression of the black majority? Are modern African elites able to bring the country out of the impasse? Will there be a place for the white minority in multinational society?

Social & political scientists, writers, publicists, even ordinary people are trying to find ways of convergence, ways to solve common problems. The situation today is a stalemate. People are ready for dialogue. The government is not.

Let us also try to reflect as far as possible the spectrum of contradictions that marked the crisis of social, political & economic development of one of the richest and most promising countries on the African continent.

Over the past 50 years of independent development the population of sub-Saharan African countries spent on adapting management models borrowed from former parent states, which has led to a partial and in some places complete destruction of traditional values. The principle of sufficiency – the basis of a traditional African society – has disappeared from everyday life. The avalanche-like character of embedding developing countries in the political-economic and cultural paradigm of the “Western type” led to unidirectional, centrifugal processes of an endless “search for unique way”, overcoming the point of no return.

In this context, absolutely any data can be substituted into the success equation. Ultimately, the goal remains inevitable – the youth (the most dynamic and vulnerable cluster) is ready for everything, so that to bridge the gap in income and living standards in one leap. People want to live in modern society, to feel like up-to-date persons. They are ready for decisive action, including the use of radical models for changing the situation. The consequence of all mentioned above is a range of problems of modern African society – urbanization, corruption, forced migration within the continent and beyond, the spread of infectious diseases, the long-lasting local conflicts of different types. But still, for the SAR the main problem remains is inequality. Here is the opinion expressed by Chris Waldburger: “The poor’s problems need to take precedence over the wealthy. Massive inequality is like cancer. It will destroy our society. Taking care of the poor is the best way to take care of ourselves” [11]. Moreover, this author is not the only one, F.Hendriks takes up the idea: “Even the privileged would love to sleep a little safer at night, but until they see that a poor, hungry person’s battles are theirs too, South Africa will continue to be a deeply divided and unequal country” [5].

So, let us ask ourselves, is the choice of a modern African justified? There is still no definite answer to this question.

As for the SAR, the stumbling block of modern South African society is apartheid. Has this system added privileges to the white minority? Did it benefit the whites? Here is Leow & Kendall`s answer to this question “<…> almost every apartheid law passed prior to 1948 aimed at protecting whites from competition. In the short term, these laws did keep some whites employed who would otherwise not have been<…>in the long term they benefited no one, and they stopped South Africa from becoming one of the richest countries on earth.” [6, P.64].

Consider a more common situation for us and take city-dwellers as an example. Getting into the megalopolis, the young African is constantly under the influence of a dense information stream, and the information in this regard already ceases to play the role of a commodity, it acquires the characteristics of a tool of influence. A person faces the information field, which in its power and density surpasses all imaginable limits of our existing mechanisms of perception and assimilation. Then everything depends on the adaptive characteristics of the psyche of each individual. The qualitative component of such a change in life circumstances varies.

The rigid stratification inherent in traditional African society disappears, the support of the patriarchal family is lost. The support of peer groups or, broadly speaking, the support of diaspora of locals that is customary for an internal migrant all over the World, changes in a large city to a division according to a different principle. As one of the key factors appears an attempt to adapt to new circumstances. The search for livelihood comes to the fore. Lack of livelihoods, in turn, develops a resource of adaptation to difficult living conditions. Theoretically, the poorest part of the population remains the most viable if only no one tries to suppress it. But, it is unlikely to have any future at all.

Partly, the situation is the same for the white minority groups, especially farmers. BBC staff-writer John Simpson has figured out the basics of the core social contest. He compared the past and modern conditions of living of the white farmers` society and found out the scary reality: “There used to be 60,000 white farmers in South Africa. In 20 years that number has halved. In the old days, the apartheid system looked after whites and did very little for anyone else. Nowadays white people here are on their own. Those who fit in and succeed will certainly have a future. As for the rest, there are no guarantees whatsoever.” [8].

He almost reached the very top level of those well-known new “elites” to ask the hard questions, but, unfortunately, there was just quite restrained official reaction to his investigation: “After my report an ANC spokesman said: “The BBC is living in their own world with their racist tendencies where they wish to undermine the government of South Africa because it is largely a black government.”[9].

Besides, and we should take it into consideration also, there is an opposite point of view on the problem of the white community. E.Fairbanks highlights: “The transition hasn’t been painless for white South Africans. In certain sectors—academia, the government—it is harder for young white people <…> to gain employment<…> the country’s new president did speak recently of amending the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land. Even so, such calls have been made by leading political lights for a decade, and there’s no real plan, which —<…> has led most South Africans, white and black, by now, just not to believe it will ever happen. Family capital and residual pro-white prejudice still works in whites’ favor.” [2].

Going back to the problems of young black South Africans, it should be noted that the lion’s share of those who rush to the cities in search of a “better life” replenishes the sections of society that occupy the most unenviable position in the population structure of modern cities. Part of these people becomes forced or economic migrants, moving to the cities in the off-season of agricultural work in order to obtain additional livelihoods. The division into rich and poor inevitably exacerbates the problems of very different properties.

      Other questions emerged are: Will the recovery of modern South African society help if racial categories are eliminated? Is it worth the white minority to claim a new identity – the African one? Here is Sally Matthews` answer.

“<…>eschewing whiteness and claiming another identity<…>while enjoying and defending privileges obtained through racist conquest and domination, is disingenuous. <…> Addressing continuing racism is not so much a matter of changing the ways in which people identify, but rather about changing the way in which society is structured and the way in which people behave towards each other.” [7, PP.123-124].

In modern Africa, the stratum of “new” African elites seems to form a serious problem. This “political reserve” or “cluster of possessors” is craving for super-profits and power, significantly slows down the process of embedding the richest countries of the continent, with its enormous development potential, into the global economic and historical process. Paradoxically, the elites broadcast the concept of independent, alternative development, self-reliance and regional associations, concern for the future of citizens, support for social projects, opposition to corruption, and other election rhetoric samples that are familiar to all of us.

Is there any hope for a progressive development at the present stage? Most researchers agree that it is time to make decisions for new African elites. This applies not only to South Africa and affects all spheres of public life: education, medical care, youth unemployment, forced migration of various categories of people, etc. Here is the opinion of H. Giliomee:

“<…> South Africans had it right in the late 1986 when large majorities in a sample of people living in<…>the Witwatersrand preferred a joint government in which no groups dominated. Black support was as high as 75%. The idea that South Africa could evolve into a liberal democracy and remain stable was a pipe dream that only some academics can believe in. <…> a government of national unity is the only system that can get us out of the mess <…>” [4].

The crisis in this above-mentioned context, apparently, is manifested in the absence of adequate compensatory mechanisms in society that can counteract the rapidly developing and changing architecture of international relations. Desperate times require desperate action.

Finally, E.Fairbanks opinion should also be taken into consideration: ” If a consensus builds on the South African street around the idea that most blacks didn’t profit substantially from their liberation—if the belief hardens that the country is due for a belated revolution—then the national understanding of Nelson Mandela’s era may shift.” [3].

Coming through these quite comprehensive answers, we are to define the most prominent scenarios of the might be future of South Africa, until it is too late.

Конфликт интересов

Не указан.

Conflict of Interest

None declared.

Список литературы / References

  1. Bateman, Chris Frans Cronje: A time traveler’s guide to South Africa in 2030 //URL: (accessed: 12.01.2019).
  2. Fairbanks, E. Trust me, Donald Trump, white South Africans are doing fine //URL: (accessed: 19.02.2019).
  3. Fairbanks, E. Nelson Mandela’s Less Attractive Legacy// URL: (accessed: 25.01.2019).
  4. Giliomee H. What future for South Africa? // URL: (accessed: 19.01.2019).
  5. Hendricks, Faatimah South Africans Should Stop Whining and Take Action//URL: (accessed: 16.01.2019).
  6. Leon Louw & Frances Kendall South Africa The Solution // Amagi Publications (PVT) Ltd. 1989.
  7. Matthews S. Shifting White identities in South Africa: White Africanness and the struggle for racial justice // UNISA Phronimon Vol.16, Number 2, 2015.
  8. Simpson, John Do white people have a future in South Africa?// URL: (accessed: 20.01.2019).
  9. Simpson, John Reactions to BBC South Africa report// URL: (accessed: 20.01.2019).
  10. Wale, K. Confronting exclusion: Time for radical reconciliation. SA Reconciliation Barometer Survey: 2013 Report. Cape Town: Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. 2013. URL: (accessed: 20.01.2019).
  11. Waldburger, Chris 6 Things White South Africans Need to Know //URL: (accessed: 15.01.2019).

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