December 19-20, 2022 -- The apartheid South Africa of Elon Musk's pampered existence

publication date: Dec 17, 2022
Print Send a summary of this page to someone via email.
December 19-20, 2022 -- The apartheid South Africa of Elon Musk's pampered existence

Elon Musk's predilection for censoring and banning journalists on his Twitter platform makes sense when his pampered youth in apartheid Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Durban is fully taken into consideration. This apartheid-era South Africa was Jim Crow on steroids. Strict racial segregation of blacks, those of Indian subcontinent descent, and mixed race mulattoes (called "Coloureds") from white society was strictly enforced by the police and other authorities. Musk obviously gets his ideas on restricting freedom of expression from a major apartheid censorship contrivance, the Publications Control Board, which had been empowered by the 1963 Publications and Entertainments Act.

Consider that "banning orders" were applied by the apartheid regime to its opponents. Banned individuals were told where they could live and with whom they could have contact. Those banned were required to report to a police station weekly and they were prohibited from traveling outside a specific area. Moreover, those banned could not meet with more than one person, contact with journalists was particularly prohibited, and violations of banning orders carried a five-year prison sentence. The press was barred from reporting statements made by banned individuals. Musk can call his Twitter suspensions anything he wants -- permanent or temporary -- but they, in addition to his censorship of content, amounts to resurrecting South Africa's banning orders for Twitter. One thing that is certain about most Afrikaners is that they are too politically and culturally inbred to change their ways. Elon Musk is but one example of such political and social inbreeding among his people.

Errol Musk brags about being anti-apartheid and being a voice against the racial segregation system as a Progressive Party member of the Pretoria city council. Yet the only source of this history seems to be Errol Musk. If the elder Musk was as anti-apartheid as he claims, he would have been subjected, like so many blacks, mixed race, Indians, and whites to a banning order. There is no record of such an order ever having been issued on Musk, who was free to fly his own plane around South Africa and to neighboring countries. The same cannot be said about all those who were subject to banning orders. They include the founder of the
South African News Agency (SANA) Eric Abraham, black nationalist leader Steve Biko (died in police custody), Liberal Party co-founder Peter Brown, National Union of South African Students activist Neville Curtis, artist and speaker Lionel Davis, Franciscan priest and author Cosmas Desmond, disability rights activist Vic Finkelstein, Ruth First (assassinated by a regime letter bomb in Mozambique), Ela Gandhi (granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi), Liberal Party official Adelaine Hain, attorney Ruth Hayman, African National Congress (ANC) president Albert Lutuli, United Democratic Front official Trevor Manuel, Secretary of the South African Congress of Trade Unions Rita Ndzanga, Ravan Press publisher Peter Randall, South African Congress of Democrats official Louis Schoon, ANC official Dulcie September (assassinated by regime agents in Paris), ANC official Walter Sisulu, ANC official Oliver Tambo, academician Rick Turner (assassinated by regime agents outside of Durban), educator Dorothy Williams, and journalist Donald Woods.

Nowhere will the name Errol Musk be found on the list of those banned or otherwise sanctioned as a result of their anti-apartheid activism. If Elon Musk has his way, he would re-write Wikipedia, which he has indicated might on his list of future acquisitions. Quite falsely, the name Musk would outshine those of Mandela, Alan Paton, Joe Slovo, Lutuli, and Biko in the annals of anti-apartheid activism.

During the apartheid era, what movie theaters were permitted to show to separate audiences -- whites, "Coloureds," Indians, and blacks -- was strictly controlled by the PCB. This was the South Africa where Musk's father, Errol Musk, became a wealthy man on the backs of black Africans who worked in his emerald mine in Zambia, formerly Northern Rhodesia. He sent his son Elon to the elite Bryanston High School in the suburbs of Johannesburg. When it came to electing a foreign language course, Elon chose German.

One of the first films to be banned by the PCB for all audiences was 1963's "Lilies of The Field." The South African censors could not stomach an articulate black character portrayed by Sidney Poitier. In 1965, the PCB would ban another Poitier film, "A Patch of Blue."

Other films banned for all audiences, white and otherwise, were "The Pawnbroker," "The Battle of Algiers," "To Sir - With Love" (also starring Poitier in the lead role), "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (starring Poitier, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn), "Belle De Jour," "Bonnie and Clyde," "The Graduate," "In The Heat of The Night," "Finian's Rainbow," "The Killing of Sister George," "
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," "Easy Rider," "The Great White Hope," "The Landlord," "The Boys in the Band," "Bloody Mama," "The Liberation of L. B. Jones," "Soldier Blue," "Carnal Knowledge," "A Clockwork Orange," "Joe Bullit" (banned after two screenings in Soweto), "Billy Jack," "The Dunwich Horror," "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask," "The Exorcist," "Shaft in Africa," "The Klansman," "Blazing Saddles," "The Wilby Conspiracy" (also starring Poitier), "Mandingo," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "1900," "Looking For Mr Goodbar," "Up in Smoke," "Pretty Baby," "Last Tango in Paris," "Monty Python's Life of Brian," "Friday The 13th," "Porky's," "Cry Freedom," and "The Last Temptation of Christ." Banned musicals for all audiences included "Hair," "Godspell," and "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Even the 1964 movie "Zulu," which depicted a unit of 80 British soldiers battling an overwhelming force of Zulu impis (battle divisions) in the 1879 Battle of Rorke's Drift and was shot on location in South Africa's
Drakensberg Mountains in the Royal Natal National Park using 240 actual Zulus as extras, was banned for black theater audiences. Not even the Zulu extras who appeared in the film were permitted to later watch it in theaters. That included the extra who played Zulu King Cetshwayo, the king's direct descendant, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Today, the prince serves as a member of Parliament and is the traditional prime minister of the Zulu nation.

"Zulu" star Michael Caine witnessed physical abuse of a Zulu extra by a white South African foreman hired for film production. Caine promised the apartheid authorities that he would never make another film in South Africa under their segregated system. It was a promise that he would keep.

Zulu was not the only film banned for non-white audiences by the PCB. Others included "The Incident," "West Side Story," "Sweet Charity," "The Detective," "The Boston Strangler," "Prudence and the Pill," "Rosemary's Baby," "Valley of the Dolls," "Africa Addio," "The Mercenaries," and "Che!"

While "Coloureds" and Indians were permitted to see "Tom Jones," "The Dirty Dozen," "The Magnificent Seven" "Darling," "From Russia With Love," "Spartacus," "A Farewell to Arms," and "One Hundred Rifles." However, blacks were banned from seeing the films.

In fact, the only films black South Africans were permitted to see in theaters in squalid suburbs like Soweto, outside of Johannesburg, were B-rated fare such as the Japanese "Booted Baby, Busted Boss," the oater "The Glory Guys," the spaghetti Western "A Long Ride from Hell," 1958's "Stage Struck," "Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die," and "Tarzan and the Huntress." Needless to say, the 93 percent of black South Africans who had never even seen a movie were not missing much.

The PCB also censored what white audiences could see. The PCB issued the following restrictions on one film: "No Bantu. No persons 4-12. Excisions: eliminate shot of white man kissing colored girl. Eliminate whole of bed scene."

It was not merely movies that fell prey to the apartheid censors. In 1966, the apartheid regime and its "literature police" had used the 1963 censorship act to ban the works of 46 South African writers living overseas. These included Ezekiel Mphahlele, Lewis Nkosi, Alex La Guma, Dennis Brutus, Can Themba, and Bloke Modisane. Under the 1963 act, 11,000 book titles were banned for being "undesirable." Nadine Gordimer's works were banned even though she continued to live in Johannesburg. For the most part, Afrikaners were exempted from the bans. On October 19, 1977, the apartheid regime conducted a nationwide ban of newspapers and journalists. The incident became known as "Black Wednesday." Falling victim to bans were The World and the Weekend World newspapers. Their editor, Percy Qoboza, and deputy editor, Aggrey Klaaste, were arrested. The Weekly Mail was forced to self-censor its article on one of the apartheid regime's states of emergency declarations in the 1980s. A report on the declaration read as follows: “Three journalists and photographers who regularly contribute to The Weekly Mail are among those [black line] under Emergency regulations. They are [black line] a Port Elizabeth reporter, [black line] and [black line] both Afrapix photographers from Johannesburg. Also [black line] are two people who have been responsible for Weekly Mail distribution. They are [black line] of East London and [black line] of Oudtshoorn.” Elon Musk's wholesale banning of journalists on Twitter on December 15, an act that has been dubbed the "Thursday Night Massacre," was his way of paying homage to the apartheid regime's censorship practiced during his youth. 

Thousands of banned books and magazines confiscated at airports and train stations were burned weekly in furnaces, such as one located in the Kaserne rail depot in Johannesburg. [left] On the banned list and burned in the ovens were books by William Faulkner, Jean-Paul Sartre, Langston Hughes, Shirley Jackson Short, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Lenin, Edward Albee, Mary Shelley, Nelson Mandela, and Louis L'Amour. Ironically, one of the banned books burned by the apartheid regime was Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," 451 being the temperature at which paper burns. Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty" was banned merely because it had the word "black" in its title. For the likes of Elon Musk, "Black Beauty" is a horse.

Recalling the censorship of the PCB is instructive for those who are trying to figure out Musk's true intentions with Twitter. In effect, Musk, who grew up in a country addicted to bans and censorship and where newspapers and magazines were delivered to homes with entire pages redacted, is setting up an apartheid system of content control for his social media platform. So-called "Blue Check" users who pay a fee for that distinction are the South African whites of Twitter. Those who are suspended, permanently or otherwise, by Musk, are the South African blacks. Others, who are not Blue Checked or viewed with favor by Musk are somewhere in the middle as the "Coloureds" or Indians of Twitter.

Why is the land of Musk's youth important in the present discussion over his Twitter bans? The answer is both simple and worrying. Musk has re-platformed on Twitter a number of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and others on the far-right who support the current wave of book bans and other forms of expression in the United States. And what are they using as their template for such actions? In addition to Nazi Germany, they look to the very systematic censorship controls applied by apartheid South Africa.

Elon Musk is as undesirable a naturalized citizen as an American could possibly be. As such, he should be shown America's exit door. Musk would not be the first Nazi sympathizer who became a citizen under false pretenses to be shown the door. And he should not be the last.


Generally, readers are solely responsible for the content of the comments they post on this web site. Comments are subject to the site's terms and conditions of use and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or approval of Wayne Madsen Readers whose comments violate the terms of use may have their comments removed without notification. Please do not post hate messages as this is a violation of British laws against racist and xenophobic messages. WMR's web service is based in Wales, UK and is subject to UK law.

Search the site
«  »