When Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971, the racially-segregated nation was firmly in the grasp of Musk’s fellow white Afrikaaners. Unlike most of the British colonialists, the Dutch Afrikaaners stridently believed in their racial superiority over the non-white population of South Africa. Under the apartheid system, South Africa’s population was classified as being part of four groups: African, White, Indian, and Coloured. Apartheid was marked by a system of racial classification that defied logic to most people, but would have found favor by the Nazi German racial purity enforcers. In South Africa, those of mixed white and black lineage were considered “Coloured.” But that designation also applied to Malays and Indonesians. Filipinos, however, were designated as black. Chinese were deemed as Coloured, while Japanese and South Koreans were bestowed with the title of “honorary whites.” The Old Testament-fearing Afrikaaner Calvinists also considered Jews, Lebanese, and Syrians as the children of Canaan, and they were thus branded as whites.
Whites comprised only 19 percent of the population but were the only group entitled to vote for the government, which in 1971 was controlled by the right-wing National Party. The National Party resorted to brutal methods in enforcing apartheid and that included a strict ban on opposition black-led political parties. In 1971, the opposition African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela was serving his eighth year of a life sentence in the notorious Victor Verster prison on Robben Island.
Musk’s father, Errol Musk, had reaped the benefits of South Africa’s notorious mining industry, which placed profits far ahead of miners’ safety, whether the mines, which employed blacks in the most dangerous jobs, were located in South Africa, Southwest Africa, or Botswana. In the case of Errol, he bought an emerald mine near Lake Tanganyika in Zambia in the 1980s and made a fortune for his family. The Musks, including Elon, lived in Waterkloof, a well-heeled suburb of Pretoria. The Pretoria home was one of several possessed by Errol, who also owned a yacht, thoroughbred horses, and a Cessna airplane.
In the South Africa of Elon Musk’s youth, the apartheid government had banned homosexuality, abortion, prostitution, gambling, pornography, sex education, and blacks in the major cities and towns after sunset. Television was not available until 1976, when Elon was 5 years old. The government strictly enforced Sunday “blue laws,” especially when it came to the selling of alcohol or movie theaters, which were closed. What was plentiful in Elon’s youth were guns and plenty of them. The gun was considered a part of Afrikaaner culture, which saw any others as a threat: blacks and Englishmen to the predatory animals of the Veldt grasslands of the country.
Elon Musk’s friendship and partnership with Peter Thiel, the notorious Donald Trump-supporting co-developer along with Musk of PayPal, does not bode well for democracy or racial justice. Thiel, born in Frankfurt, Germany, founded Palantir, one of the most intrusive deep data mining operations in the world today. Thiel, like Musk, is an ardent right-wing libertarian. Thiel is also heavily invested in Facebook. Thiel, who is openly gay, resigned in February from the board of Meta, Facebook’s corporate parent, to assist pro-Trump candidates win in 2022 Republican primaries and the November mid-term election. There is a belief among some Wall Street experts a sizable chunk of Musk’s $44 billion for Twitter came from Thiel’s venture capital network and that Thiel, a former derivatives trader for Credit Suisse will have “silent partner” influence over Twitter after Musk takes it private. That is believed to include restoring Twitter rights to those who were previously permanently banned, including Donald Trump.
Thiel also has a significant South Africa connection. During the 1970s, he and his German parents lived in South Africa and the former South West Africa, now Namibia, but which was also subject to apartheid as a South African colony when Thiel lived there. The Thiels lived in the former German colonial town of Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast of South West Africa. The area is known for a large uranium mine, which Thiel’s father, Klaus Thiel, helped build. It is likely that the mine was the source for the uranium used for the joint nuclear bomb test by South Africa, Israel, and Taiwan on September 22, 1979, in the South Atlantic. The Swakopmund area is also known for the presence of loose alluvial diamonds in beach sand. The right-wing politics of Thiel and Musk serve as an indication that both pine for the days of apartheid southern Africa, where blacks “knew their place” and regional governments were intolerant of communism, socialism, and liberalism.
According to a 2021 book, “The Contrarian,” authored by Bloomberg’s Max Chafkin, Thiel’s education at the elite Pridwin Preparatory School in Johannesburg and, later at a German Grundschule — elementary school — in Swakopmund, primed him to later defend the apartheid system while a student at Stanford University. According to the book, Thiel defended the economics of the apartheid system to another student, opining in a paraphrased quote about the racist system of control that “South Africa was much more developed than its neighbors, and life there, even for those denied their rights, was better than in places like Ethiopia and Burundi.”
That attitude was certainly present in Thiel’s friend and partner Musk’s Tesla factory in Fremont, California, where racism and anti-Semitism were pervasive among the work force. Swastikas and racist graffiti were commonplace at the plant, according to former employees and contractors who were appalled at the company for tolerating such behavior. Tesla was subject to several formal civil rights complaints about racial discrimination and harassment. Several former Tesla employees stated that the word “nigger” was commonly heard by them at the factory. Musk responded to the racial harassment charges by stating that black employees should have been more “thick-skinned” after being subjected to racial insults. That sort of response could be expected from an Afrikaaner, a group that has developed several slurs for blacks over the past few centuries, including “kaffir,” “hottentot,” “roetmop,” as well as “nikker,” which was modified and borrowed from the English language.
With their billions of dollars, Musk and Thiel, two sons of the apartheid regime, stand ready to bankroll the transformation of the United States into a purely fascist society, where corporations and government jointly rule and where there is no room for political opposition or even the full franchise being extended to all eligible voters. Thiel is even on record opposing the extension of voting rights to women, which occurred in the United States with the signing of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
Musk’s buy-out of Twitter represents yet another frontal assault by libertarian billionaires on the very essence of what built America: democratic government, the labor movement, the notion of the commonwealth for the public good, proper stewardship of public lands, and an adherence to the First Amendment. We have already seen how the efforts of fascist libertarian billionaires like Thiel, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, Rupert Murdoch, and others effectuated Donald Trump’s election to the presidency in 2016, Trump’s attempted January 2021 coup d’état, and current efforts to place far-right Republicans into office up and down the ballot in every state in the union. These anti-democratic fat cats are determined to destroy the American system and no one appears to be manning the ramparts.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
Copyright © 2022 WayneMadenReport.com
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).