As the world dissects the statements, gestures and past ofElon Musk searching for clues to figure out what he plans to do with Twitter, his latest $44 billion acquisition, the New York Times reflected on his early years in South Africa. The American daily found relatives and former comrades of the billionaire in order to understand how a youth under the racist regime of apartheid was able to shape his conception of privileges and freedom of expression.
Because yes, even if he hardly ever talks about it, the creator of Tesla and SpaceX was born in Pretoria, in 1971, that is to say under apartheid and at a time when freedom of expression was locked. His parents divorced when he was ten years old and he grew up between the political capital, the economic lung of Johannesburg and the beaches of Durban, on the east coast. Interviewees describe an upbringing in a white, privileged community that was awash in propaganda against black African liberation movements. An example: the newspapers arrived on the doorstep, with pages missing and the evening news concluded with an image of the waving flag, the national anthem and the names of the white victims of the liberation movements.
Asked by the New York Timesthe father of Elon Musk, Errol Musk, assures, however, that his children grew up with a certain awareness of the inequalities and violence perpetrated by the racist regime. Elected to the Pretoria City Council in 1972, Errol Musk belonged to the progressive anti-apartheid party. “To say that they were safe from all that is absurd,” he said. They faced it every day. They didn’t like it. »
the New York Times then returns to the billionaire’s high school years. The future billionaire was educated at Pretoria Boys, a white and progressive school whose director was said to have participated in the struggle for liberation and where John Stuart Mill and other apostles of liberal thought were taught. According to a former comrade, the absolutist conception of freedom of expression of Elon Musk would reflect the state of mind of the Pretoria Boys. Stanley Netshituka, the school’s first black student, however, qualifies: “I would say that the majority of the students were blissfully ignorant and very happy to be blissfully ignorant. »
On the spot, Elon Musk would however have befriended a cousin of Netshituka, a certain Asher Mashudu. When Mashudu died in a car crash in 1987, only a handful of white people attended his funeral. Among them, the future boss of Twitter.
The American daily does not forget to recall that Tesla was sentenced by the State of California to a fine of 15 million dollars for having failed to resolve its internal racism problems.