International Papers

A “Boer al-Qaida”?

Eight years after the arrival of multiracial democracy in South Africa, a recent spate of bombings suggests that disgruntled whites have formed a “Boer al-Qaida” to agitate for an Afrikaner homeland. In the early hours of Oct. 30, nine bombs exploded in the sprawling township of Soweto, killing one person; damaging buildings, including a mosque; and disrupting rail traffic. An explosion at a Buddhist temple near Pretoria early the next morning, which left three more people injured, is thought to be the work of the same group.

South Africa’s Mail and Guardian linked the bombings to Sept. 11, which taught extremist groups that dramatic acts of destruction with no direct political purpose can be effective propaganda tools. “The blasts in Soweto and Bronkhorstspruit—on the face of it targeted to disrupt rather than cause extensive loss of life—are not necessarily the last desperate blows of a crumbling movement. Instead they seem designed to advertise discipline and power: a warning of a capacity to escalate violence.” Cape Town’s Cape Argus agreed with this analysis: “Anyone who thinks a tiny minority can take control of a government elected by the majority by creating instability is seriously misguided. But extremists are not known for clear thinking. And while their objectives may be completely unachievable, they are capable of causing immense harm.”

South Africa’s Sunday Times discounted the bombers’ motivations: “[W]havever paranoid fantasies they may have conjured up, the perpetrators of these acts have no legitimate grievances … only by a psychotic indifference to the humanity of black South Africans.” The Mail and Guardian said South Africans should not dismiss the white supremacists as a lunatic fringe incapable of changing the system: “It is the very fact that these people are a fringe minority with no capacity to overthrow the government that makes them all the more dangerous. Their impotence frustrates them and makes them want to carry out the type of attacks that rocked [Soweto] last week.” The editorial encouraged the ruling African National Congress to “keep explaining some obvious facts to the worried Afrikaners: they are not an endangered species.”