I prefer Johnson. He grew up in South Africa and was an opponent of apartheid, so his access and insight are deeper. Carefully and unflinchingly, he tells (for example) of the poor qualifications of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), member by insider member, and his account of their activities takes apart even the compulsory, Mandela-like "inspiration" most of the press touted when they couldn't detect any pragmatic help from the TRC in building a more humane society.
As a linguist, I was impressed by Johnson's account of South African language politics and the way that 11 official languages have effectively become a single language: since English is stronger in every practical sense, it competes with, and defeats, the others. It does so in defiance of much Africanist rhetoric, and it does so more rapidly in that the African languages have not put up a fight at the grassroots. Johnson implicitly extends the analogy to African culture as a whole: political correctness — which lies about the strength and adaptability of the oppressed in isolation — is a means of further oppression.
Johnson's main argument is boldly persuasive: that the tragedy of modern Africa is not colonialism but the loss of colonialism and all the skills and investment it brought. The facts support him. In most regions of Africa, the white presence has been recent and slight. South Africa, with the oldest and most active white settlements, is the country to which northerners flee. It has the best infrastructure, the greatest variety and solidity in its economy and the most concern for human rights. This heritage is no less firmly related to European colonialism than it is in Canada. Nor is the nature of South Africa's most pressing needs any less obvious. The most casual tourist and the angriest Marxist can both see that the main needs are technical and managerial skills and integration with the industrialised world. It wasn't the whites in Zimbabwe who caused that country's catastrophe — it was the shortage of them.
That kind of reality has necessarily been hard for Africans to cope with. They have tried to make their own leadership a counterbalance, a salient political and cultural force. It doesn't work.
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