Animal Farm by George Orwell

My second reading of Animal Farm after a great many years was prompted by a critic of the South African government who like many people living here now, have eventually become disgusted with their [SA government’s] behaviour. The parallels between the book’s plot and characters and the political dispensation and rulers of present-day South Africa are quite remarkable.

An advocate of Socialism, Orwell was prompted to write Animal Farm to expose the false notion that the 1917 Russian Revolution was a progressive development for the millions of poor and oppressed Russians. However, the book eventually came to symbolise any form of political, social or economic oppression of ordinary people in the real world. To that effect, I’ll make some comparisons with South Africa after I’ve dealt with the plot.

The Plot

Inspired by Major, an ageing boar, a group of barn animals on Manor Farm, rebel against the oppressive and neglectful owner, Mr. Jones. After ejecting him and the other humans from the farm, the animals rename it Animal Farm, formulate an ideology called Animalism based on the philosophy proposed by Major, and draw up a charter called the Seven Commandments of Animalism which is painted on the barn wall.

The pigs gravitate into leadership positions, with Napoleon and Snowball being the early candidates. Napoleon however display his hunger for power quite early in the plot, and enlists the help of Squealer [can you think of a better name for a pig?], a pig with natural persuasive qualities, who develops into a propagandist of note. After the owner unsuccessfully tries to take back the farm, in which Snowball demonstrates both bravery and a skill for battle, he has a falling out with Napoleon over the building of a windmill. Napoleon with the help of some vicious dogs whose training he personally supervised, manage to chase Snowball off the farm, and appropriates the main leadership role.

Snowball becomes a convenient scapegoat through the rest of the novel for Napoleon who through Squealer find it quite easy to convince the other animals that he [Snowball] was to be blamed for all the mishaps and setbacks that occurred on the farm.

Napoleon organises and supervises various work details on the farm. Boxer, a horse proves to be a very willing worker, while the sheep [no surprises there] display a remarkable talent for gullibility.

Over the course of the years, Napoleon degenerates into a true despot, who hungers for material possessions as well. He moves into the main farmhouse and uses possessions of the human owners for his own comfort, while these remain forbidden to the other animals. We also notice how the Seven Commandments of Animalism slowly change into something else suiting the dictatorial style of Napoleon, or disappear altogether, amazingly with the approval and agreement of the other animals. Such is the depravity of Napoleon, that he forces false confessions out of some of the animals for imaginary misdeeds, and has them murdered by the dogs in the presence of the other animals.

As time passes, Napoleon collaborates with neighbouring farmers like Pilkington, in violation of the original Seven Commandments, to build a successful farming empire, and eventually the pigs begin to walk upright on their hind legs to mimic their former human oppressors. All this while as the pigs grew fatter, the other animals led a very stark and oppressed existence. The Seven Commandments are reduced to a single one: “All Animals Are Equal / But Some Are More Equal Than Others.”

The book closes on a scene with the animals looking in through the window of the farmhouse where a party is in progress, with the pigs as hosts and human guests drinking and arguing over a card game. We are told that the pigs had become indistinguishable from the humans.

Parallels in the South African Political Dispensation to Animal Farm

Mr. Jones Apartheid or former political dispensation
Manor Farm/Animal Farm South Africa
Major Old [respected] ANC leaders
Napoleon ANC [current leadership]
Snowball White folk, White business, capitalism
Squealer Mac Maharaj, any other ANC spin-doctor
Animalism Freedom Charter, Social Democracy
Seven Commandments New SA Constitution
Boxer Willing, skilled workforce
Sheep Gullible South Africans who continue to vote ANC
Vicious dogs Blue light convoys and personal protection of the ANC leaders
Napoleon’s materialism ANC’s penchant for self-enrichment and bling
Pilkington China as a trading partner
Pigs SA Government


I believe that the South African government believes that the people believe that the hateful system of Apartheid was replaced with democracy.

Off course, a people who had never known democracy, were bound to accept whatever replaced white minority rule, as good; and even accept that it could be called democracy, given that they were largely denied the education to understand its nuances in the first instance. However, with education apparently being more freely available under this new political dispensation, it’s evident that the masses still have no clue whether they have democracy, or whether it is still being denied to them.

I started thinking about all of this when I read an article titled Which dog is winning? by a young South African women, Vuvu Vena. Vuvu declares that she was spared being born under the system of Apartheid, but has only now started questioning what kind of political system she was lucky enough to be born into. Vuvu may be one of only a handful who is trying to come to terms with what is really going on in the country she has been lead to believe is democratic and free – the vast majority of South Africans however still live in ignorance.

I’m writing this essay in the hope that it will help Vuvu understand what the boastful politician she questioned, is denying her. Traditionally democracy is referred to as being off the people, for the people, by the people. But is this the case in South Africa? Certainly South Africa’s political system is off the people, but can it also be described as being for the people and by the people?

The so-called democracy in its current form in South Africa, is all about majority rule. And I’m afraid that’s all it’s ever going to be about. The ANC government’s paranoia over the previous Apartheid system has seen to it that this new system will be all about majority rule; and little else. They have managed to convince the overwhelming Black majority population that majority rule must be the essence of the new non-racial (?) dispensation; fuck democracy.

As long as an ignorant majority can be coerced through the fear of a return to minority rule, to keep the majority race in power, South Africa will never have a free or fair system of government. It gets worse; the majority do not even benefit more under this skewed system, as should be normal, but their enforced state of ignorance ensures that the fat-cat politicians who created this disturbing situation, will forever be in power, to do as they please with resources that rightfully belong to the people.

True representative democracy will not work in South Africa, until the people become educated enough to understand what it really means. The truth is that the vast majority of voting South Africans are politically naive, and vote like guided sheep, rather than with intelligence and consideration. The only hope is to either educate enough people about representative democracy, or wait for the situation to normalise when the traditionally ignorant are removed from the process through natural attrition. The latter is going to take a long time, which means that even those who think they so-called “born-frees”, will never experience true democracy in their lifetimes. Quite sad really…