Southern Africa is the most acute and dramatic example of the worldwide struggle of white resistance against dispossession. What does the future hold for white South Africans, specifically for the Afrikaners? Their ancestors built South Africa; they are rooted to the land, and cannot easily leave it as the British and other whites do. In this extraordinary two-part essay, an Afrikaner weeps for the land and people he loves.
Who are the Afrikaners, or Boers as they are often called? A hundred years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the popular British writer of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, asked much the same question in his book The Great Boer War:
“Look at the map of South Africa, and there, in the very centre of the British possessions, like the stone in a peach, lies the great stretch of the two republics, a mighty domain for so small a people. How came they there? Who are these Teutonic folk who have burrowed so deeply into Africa?”
Elsewhere in the same book he answered his own question:
“Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive, place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider. Then, finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual, and you have the modern Boer — the most formidable antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain.”
A hundred years later, there is still a grain of truth in this description. Afrikaners still hunt; many accountants, lawyers and businessmen would rather buy a game farm than a yacht. They may collect antiques or rare books, but also rhinoceri, African buffalo and other game. They still go on treks to tame large stretches of African bush single-handedly.
It was these qualities that gave rise to a multifaceted agriculture in one of the driest countries in the world, where only six percent of the land is arable. In the Karoo, for example, which is similar to the Arizona desert, Afrikaners raise sheep on land most people would consider worthless. Blacks have never settled in the Karoo because they would not survive.
Afrikaners are a strong people, physically as large as most Dutch or North Germans, and resilient in the face of many hardships, such as the periodic droughts that wrack the country and ruin their crops. During the Angolan war in the 1980s, a force of never more than 3,000 white South African soldiers commanded by a few stern but charismatic Afrikaner generals stopped an army of 45,000 Angolans, Russians and Cubans at the Namibian border. Because of the Western arms boycott against South Africa, the Russians even had air superiority, but a small Boer force held them off through sheer courage and creative battle plans. Casualty figures now emerging from that war, cross-checked against numbers from Havana and Moscow, show an almost unbelievable number of enemy killed for every South African who fell. It is with the same grim determination that they now bury the dead in what amounts to an undeclared race war waged against them on farms, street corners, and in their suburban homes, where they are robbed, raped and killed.
The English South African novelist and 1991 Nobel prize winner Nadine Gordimer made a career out of caricaturing Afrikaners as oafish racists living out on farms, where they drink brandy, torture natives, and practice incest. In at least one respect she was right. Like the patricians of republican Rome or the peasant famers of Western Europe from whom they sprang, the Boers derive their strength from the land. The word “Boer” means farmer. The stoic values praised by Vergil in his so-called bucolic poetry are much the same as Afrikaner values, a sort of pious conservatism that obeys God, respects work, and embraces nature.
A number of Afrikaners have made their mark outside Africa: Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Charlize Theron, international models like Minki van der Westhuizen, whose pin-ups graced the US tanks in Iraq, and opera singer Mimi Coertse, who was the lead soprano for the Viennese State Opera for 20 years in the 1950s and ‘60s. Johan Botha, the current male lead of the Viennese Opera, is booked out years in advance in all the major operatic centers. The physical beauty of many Afrikaner women is a constant source of wonder to many. Even Miss Gordimer has admitted as much.
Back in South Africa, President Thabo Mbeki once famously referred to the country as “two nations — the one rich and white, and the other black and poor.” He was not entirely correct. There is no such thing as a white nation in South Africa, only the Afrikaner nation, along with a motley collection of English-speakers, Portuguese, Greeks, Jews, Germans, Italians, and the like. Under the old, so-called apartheid government, all young white men did military service, during which they were trained not only to be soldiers, but also in Afrikaans and patriotism; there was then a kind of white nation in the making. Now, the dominant blacks have adopted English, and are actively trying to undermine Afrikaans and the nation it represents.
The Afrikaner Nation
The sense of community one experiences among Afrikaners, at their schools, churches, cultural societies, arts festivals and concerts, is completely different from that among the English whites. The English South African, apart from the sizeable number who have intermarried with Afrikaners or been integrated to the point of becoming Afrikaners themselves, is an atomised individual, linked by his language and outlook not to Africa but to that powerful Anglo-American civilization that still radiates its influence from across the oceans. As such, he is fascinated by the model of the sovereign individual who wants to get rich quickly, and buy a better house with better security in a more lavish gated community. He is essentially apolitical and adapts to circumstances. He thinks he can outwit the black government in a double game in which he pretends to be in favor of affirmative action. He will play the game, get a black partner to stay in business, and mouth the multicultural clichés of his English newspaper that already has a black editor, while privately voicing his misgivings and making sure his passport is ready for a quick exit in case things go wrong.
In the rest of Africa, including the ex-Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), which once had a white community of 300,000, the sovereign individual model has not worked. One has only to read V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River, set in the Congo, to get a feel for the vulnerability of atomized expatriots to the radical caprice of African politics.
Afrikaners are not sovereign individuals, generally speaking. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they went through a great Romantic movement, a flowering of literature, translations, music and historical reflection that bound them into a nation of the European type, a cultural nation or kultuurvolk as they like to call themselves.
This explains the extraordinary level of Afrikaner cohesion in the face of intense official hostility. In South Africa today, it is virtually illegal to maintain or run any institution except a private family without it being, in official parlance, “demographically representative.” The ANC hires thousands of inspectors to harass schools, universities, businesses — even family businesses — sports clubs, trade unions, newspapers, radio stations, hospitals and clinics about their racial composition. Strictly speaking, it is illegal to employ whites unless they make up less than 10 percent of the payroll. An Afrikaans-language radio station, Radio Pretoria, lost its license because it employed only whites, and is now in a major legal battle to survive.
Yet one should not underestimate the thousand little resistances carried out every day, in schools, companies, hospitals and elsewhere. Whole suburbs in Pretoria are policed not by the South African Police Department — completely black, with corrupt cops and hardened criminals in its ranks — but by an all-white private security company consisting, as one satisfied female resident put it, of “handsome young Boers.” Their patrols ensure a level of security unheard-of in crime-ridden South Africa.
Despite the laws and harassment, many people get away with running ethnic Afrikaner or white businesses. Suburban houses often shelter thriving companies employing up to a dozen white people who ply their trades, unbeknown to inspectors. Every remaining Afrikaans school outside the Cape Province with its large Afrikaans-speaking Coloured population is still 99 percent white, as are the Afrikaans classes at bilingual schools. Government incompetence, predictable in most African countries, makes for a less than perfect system. To police a white population of six million people actively going about their daily business is an arduous task, especially when two thirds of them enjoy a distinct culture the government can penetrate only with difficulty.
There are other bastions of Afrikanerdom. On Easter Friday last year, I took my children to a church service, accompanied by a classical music program. The Reformed Church on the outskirts of Pretoria was packed to capacity with about 1,500 people — not a single black face among them. According to the mores of the new South Africa, where mixing is de rigeur and legally enforced, this gathering was scandalous. Afterwards people drank tea or coffee and had melktert [milk tarts] and koeksisters [a fried dough dessert], Boer delicacies found everywhere in South Africa.
My children’s school still bears some of the marks of nationhood. It used to be known as a laerskool, the equivalent of grade school, and instruction was exclusively in Afrikaans. Under official threat, it has now become a “parallel medium” school, and a third of the children take classes in English. During the prize-giving ceremony, the names are called from the Afrikaans-speaking class, with the children standing on stage in a neat row in their school uniforms. The surnames are all familiar Afrikaner ones, deriving from our Dutch, French Huguenot, German and Scottish forebears. Further examination of the fresh young faces and healthy bodies shows that at least half if not more of the children are blond. An extraordinarily high number have sparkling blue eyes. In fact, standing next to the English-medium class in the same age group, they seem almost like a caricature of the Aryan ideal.
When the “English” names are called out, a multicultural array of children saunters onto the stage, some of them white English-speakers, others Africans with names that are difficult for their white teacher to pronounce, a few Indians and mixed-race Coloreds, a Portuguese or a Greek, as well as a few Afrikaner children whose parents have put them in the English-speaking class because they have succumbed to the fallacy that “the future is English.” The ceremony is punctuated by performances provided almost exclusively by the Afrikaner children, including a piece by Bach for piano and cello, played faultlessly by further caricatures of the Aryan ideal.
It is hard not to smile at some of the South African realities known only to the Afrikaner. The results of the matric examination, our equivalent of the high school diploma, were published at the end of December 2003. On the front pages of the English-language newspapers there were photographs of smiling black students celebrating their successes. One African girl in Gauteng province, which surrounds Johannesburg, received distinction — meaning marks of above 80 percent — in five subjects. In fact, standards have been lowered to the point that it is almost impossible for anyone who takes the trouble to write the examination to fail the matric, and getting a “distinction” is not what it used to be. Still, reading the Johannesburg Star, one would think the province teems with black geniuses, all personally congratulated by the provincial Minister of Education. One wonders what happened to all those Afrikaner children.
Then you buy the Afrikaans-language Beeld, and the truth emerges. Here there are rankings and statistics, and more pictures, this time of a youngster named Riaan Swanepoel from the Menlopark Hoërskool in Pretoria who got not five, not 10, but 19 distinctions. Of the 10 children in Gauteng province who got the highest overall marks in the matric exam, seven are Afrikaners from Afrikaans-language schools. Afrikaners probably represent 10 percent or fewer of the children in the province, yet won 70 percent of the top academic honors.
One discovers that the government’s game of subverting education so that just about everyone can pass, has started a new game among the highly competitive Afrikaans high schools of Pretoria: making the bright children take not just the six mandatory subjects, but 10, 15 or even 20 to see if they can shoot the lights out by getting more than 80 percent in all of them.
Of course, eventually the South African government will abolish exams and grades entirely, as they have already done for younger children. Afrikaans schools are now developing an underground system of traditional teaching methods, including grades, while keeping the official paperwork for “outcomes-based education” and “continuous assessment,” as if the schools were really following official edicts. At one major high school in Pretoria, the teachers recently had to work through the night to prepare phony paperwork for a government inspection. The officials left none the wiser, unaware that the infernal system that produces straight-A students who play chess, the piano, and that “aggressive, white male-dominated, racist sport, rugby” continues unabated.
But can this game of hide-and-seek continue? At the start of the 2004 academic year, there were more attempts to swamp the remaining Afrikaans-language schools with black students demanding instruction in English, even at schools with no space for them. It may be that in a few years’ time, Afrikaners will have to take their children out of school altogether; many already prefer home schooling or private microschools where technology is used to teach in innovative ways.
Like so many nations, Afrikaners are bound together by their language, Afrikaans. The old South Africa was a bilingual country with English dominant in business, and Afrikaans used in government, in parliament, the military, the police and the education system. Afrikaners had firmly-established Afrikaans-speaking institutions at all levels. Now, because race-mixing and the Africanisation of the national culture — if such a thing exists — are official policy, breaking down the Afrikaner identity is a top priority. Government spokesmen rage that Afrikaans “is a barrier,” and they are right.
Although English is spoken as a mother tongue by only three million people (including more than one million Indians) out of 46 million, it is the official medium of “nation-building,” that forlorn dream of every African government since the 1950s. Afrikaans is widely spoken as a lingua franca by about 15 million people in South Africa and Namibia, especially outside the major cities, but it does not attract Africans, who see English as the instrument of power and prestige. Most South African blacks are so bewitched by the alleged power of English that when they visit Europe for the first time they are surprised to find that the people of France, Germany or Italy speak their own languages, not English.
The presence of an imperial language like English, with its global Hollywood culture appealing to the multicultural masses, sets the Afrikaners apart. Blacks avoid Afrikaans institutions, which they see as ethnically exclusive. Most of the black elite that rule in Pretoria prefer to commute from houses in Johannesburg 25 miles away, since they still think of the capital as an unwelcoming, Afrikaner city. The black attraction to English is driving some English-speaking whites to Afrikaans. In some towns on the East Rand, where middle class English-speaking whites cannot afford private schools, they have started sending their children to Afrikaans government schools to escape from their own English-speaking schools, which have been swamped by blacks.
(The same thing is happening in Brussels, where French-speaking Walloons have traditionally looked down on the Flemish, but now send their children to Dutch-language schools where they can still get a European education. The French-speaking schools have been taken over by North and West African immigrants, who want to learn an imperial language rather than Dutch. White-minority languages may become a haven for maintaining Western identities and education standards, both in Europe and in South Africa.)
Afrikaans may be a barrier to blacks, but there are also racial barriers and divisions within Afrikaans. Eighty percent of the four million mixed-race Coloureds speak Afrikaans, sometimes very beautifully in rural areas, but since 1994 the government has pushed for the Creolization of Afrikaans. For the government and media, speaking or writing “proper Afrikaans,” the standard, white, Germanic version of the language, is a sign of political conservatism and opposition to race mixing.
The new model is a debased version spoken by urban Coloreds, mixed with English words and expressions. Subverting Afrikaans and turning it into a Creole language would facilitate the linguistic and racial assimilation of the Afrikaners themselves. English, too, is changing quickly, and is no longer subject to what used to be the British norms; in many parts of the country it is also being Creolized, mixed with African words, the grammar and pronunciation losing their rigor.
At first, the official push toward Creolization met with little resistance, and was even welcomed in liberal or left-wing circles. Recently, however, there has been a backlash against non-standard forms of Afrikaans, as well as mixing the language with English. A broad front of Afrikaner authors and intellectuals, including homosexual and left-wing writers, now vehemently opposes any form of mixing or denaturing. This has drawn a new racial line in the sand, because Afrikaans-speaking Colored journalists and intellectuals instinctively lean toward a Creolized language, and eschew any form of purity, whether linguistic or racial.
Currently, Afrikanerdom is being scandalized by a novel that captures the ambiguities of even those Afrikaners who appear to have thrown over everything their ancestors stood for. The novel is Kontrei, published in 2003 by a 47-year old Bohemian living in one of the Johannesburg areas called Yeoville that has been taken over by blacks in the last five years. Once a Jewish quarter with synagogues and beautiful apartment buildings designed by famous South African architects, Yeoville is now a crime- and drug-ridden slum, lorded over by Nigerian and Congolese gangsters.
Writing under the pseudonym of Kleinboer (Little Boer), the author describes his life as probably the last white person left in Yeoville. He lives with an HIV-positive Zulu woman and her mixed-race child by a Portuguese man; he also regularly visits black prostitutes from all over Africa in the many brothels in adjacent Hillbrow, an area known as the Manhattan of Africa when whites still lived there, as recently as 15 years ago.
Academic studies show that it takes a prostitute in Johannesburg an average of six weeks to become infected with HIV. Although Kleinboer has, by his own admission, slept with over 400 black prostitutes, and though he lives with someone who is HIV-positive, he is a healthy man. He has a science degree, and is fanatical about wearing condoms. Despite free condoms and hundreds of millions of dollars for advertising campaigns by government, few blacks manage to practice so-called “safe sex.”
Kleinboer enjoys the rush of black life: sex at ten dollars a throw, the adrenaline of watching gang members kill each other, the free availability of drugs, in which he occasionally indulges. But he also answers the door with a machete, and sleeps with a loaded revolver under his pillow. During one of his forays into white society, Kleinboer tells his suburban host, “It is so nice to visit white people for a change that I wouldn’t mind paying you for the privilege. I could never leave my cellphone or car keys lying about in Yeoville as I do here, not even in my own home.”
Despite his almost incalculable distance from the Afrikaner society of Easter Friday services and school awards ceremonies, Kleinboer practises condom apartheid, and would probably never father a child with a black woman. Thus he hardly represents the model for the métissage or generalized race-mixing so often preached by visiting Westerners to South Africa, and who want to see whites cease to exist as a distinct racial and cultural group.
Even a racial Bohemian like Kleinboer writes in the white form of Afrikaans, his book is read by whites, and he knows how to participate in a Caucasian high culture that utterly excludes those around him. His live-in Zulu lover will never read what he has written, because she does not understand Afrikaans, and is unaware that she has become a household name among white Afrikaners who find their own dark suspicions about black life confirmed by Kleinboer’s humorous, decadent tale. Perhaps even for Kleinboer, the struggle for Afrikaans is emblematic of that wider resistance to being racially assimilated by the African masses.
This resistance becomes increasingly necessary and difficult. The radical Indian minister of education, Kader Asmal, stated last year that there were no longer any Afrikaans universities — even though great institutions like Stellenbosch, Bloemfontein, Potchefstoom, Pretoria and the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) were built up by Afrikaners over more than a century. From now on they belong to the black state, which will turn them into English-language, multicultural institutions.
The demographic weight of the black majority, the reality of black power, and the persistant racial gap in skills and ability have put the Afrikaner in a strange position of servitude. White South Africans, particularly Afrikaners with their idealistic disposition and lingering patriotic feelings over a South Africa that no longer belongs to them, are in danger of becoming the intellectual slaves of blacks, much like the Greeks of Rome who educated Roman children and managed their masters’ households, estates, and businesses.
South Africa is creating a new kind of cognitive and racial hierarchy never seen in the world before. Since 1994, at least in government service, there exists a kind of caste system in which the top echelons are filled by blacks who occupy all the prestigious jobs with high salaries and perks. Just below are Indians or left-wing English-speaking whites being rewarded for loyalty to the black cause. Middle and lower management, as well as technical jobs such as accountant or computer expert, are filled by Afrikaners who will never be promoted beyond a certain level because of their ethnic origin. At the most basic clerical level again, huge numbers of blacks are employed for the simple tasks of filing, answering the phone, or handing things over a counter.
This same pattern is being repeated in the private sector, where hard-core intellectual and technical skills are provided by whites paid low wages. In private business, black managers who are appointed to fill race quotas are typically paid 50 percent more than their white counterparts, as the number who can hold down a job semi-functionally is so small that companies constantly bid up their services, using head-hunters and search agencies. These pampered black “executives” hop from job to job at ever-higher salaries, while whitey makes sure the work gets done.
Many South African blacks have intuitively understood that whites have handy skills and abilities. A white brain stuffed with mathematics, accounting, and organizational skills, as well as a Teutonic work ethic, can be very useful. Not so long ago, Mathata Tsedu, the black editor of the Sunday Times, South Africa’s largest-circulation weekly, wrote: “It pains me to say this, but my African colleagues who manage large companies or government departments tell me that to get a job done, you usually have to employ a white.”
Few blacks ever pass science and mathematics at school; according to official statistics, a white high-school student is 100 times more likely to pass mathematics at the higher grade required for university study than his black counterpart. This is despite the extra five percent “adjustment” in grades all blacks receive for studying in a supposedly second language, English. Although they are showered with corporate scholarships and money from foreign agencies and governments, almost no blacks get qualifications in rigorous intellectual fields like engineering, science, accounting and, until recently, medicine.
When bonds were still traded on a floor in Johannesburg, 80 percent of the traders taking risks on their own account were Afrikaner men. Probably more than half of stockbrokers are still Afrikaners. According to one expert on the South African software industry, as many as 80 percent of the computer programmers are young Afrikaner men. No one else can match them in sticking to tight deadlines, working through nights and weekends if necessary, and finding the most creative solutions to programming problems. Despite affirmative action, high-tech companies still employ them. In these companies, even among military suppliers, Afrikaans is usually the language most likely to be spoken around the water cooler.
In at least one government department it was found that none of the top black managers was fit for the job. In a race-neutral environment they would be fired. However, in South Africa blacks are never fired, even for gross incompetence, especially in a bureaucracy. The solution was to a create a series of new posts reserved for whites, who would report to their black heads. The whites would essentially do the jobs of their black bosses, except they would be at a subordinate level, a kind of intellectual slave. They would stay in the background and not detract from the prestige of their black masters. In the same department, the average black academic qualification is a grade ten, two years short of a high school diploma, while the average white has a post-graduate degree. Management tells whites they must get a master’s or doctoral degree if they want to keep their jobs, while they promise blacks a promotion if they manage to get a high school equivalency diploma.
Throughout the country, highly qualified whites often work for blacks with low qualifications and skills. They have to correct their grammar and spelling, and do simple calculations for them, while paying them obeisance and responding to their every whim. Blacks have conquered, not by the sword nor by the intellect, but by the womb, and constantly refer to themselves as “the majority.”
In South Africa, property is more and more defined as something a black person owns. A black may own a piece of land or a business outright, whereas a white may own it only in partnership with a black, or subject to conditions such as black empowerment or training for blacks so they can eventually take it over. There are many cases in which white intellectual slaves working for the government or major corporations must train up black replacements, after which they are fired because of their race.
Increasingly, whites are economic slaves as well. They pay 80 percent of personal taxes, despite earning only 50 percent of total salaries. Afrikaners as a group pay the highest portion of overall tax in South Africa — 36 percent — while white English-speakers pay 32 percent. When he was in exile in Britain, Mr. Mbeki is reputed to have said, “We will suck the whites dry,” and that is essentially what is happening. South Africa is like a small, first-world economy similar to that of Denmark or Norway, still run by whites, but which must support a welfare state for 40 million blacks and Coloreds.
In their treatment of whites, however, blacks suffer from an internal conflict that often produces contradictory behavior. Rationally, they should continue their domination, keeping white taxpayers and intellectual slaves within the system. In practice, blacks often veer toward irrationality by excluding whites purely on racial grounds, just as Robert Mugabe has done in Zimbabwe by driving white farmers off the land, only to trigger an economic and food crisis to be cleaned up by other white people working for the UN and international aid agencies.
When the remaining white officers in the South African army arrived back from their summer vacation in December last year, they found themselves fired for the following official reason: “whites lack credibility in Africa, and we sometimes have to engage in peace-keeping operations elsewhere on the continent.” Rumor has it that the South African army is already in dire straits, with 60 percent of its black troops suffering from AIDS. Alcoholism and indiscipline are rife. Firing the last remaining white officers will probably lead to the complete collapse of South Africa’s armed forces.
Exclusion on racial grounds is often absolute. Liberal and left-wing whites, especially communists, have been the staunchest allies of South African blacks. Yet after 1994, even Helena Dolny, the widow of Communist Party leader Joe Slovo, who had dedicated her life to the black cause, was fired and humiliated on racial grounds.
Many former liberals have simply run away since the advent of black rule, no longer able to stand the crime and the collapse of public institutions. One is the widow of liberal author Alan Paton, who stated upon her departure, “Our president has called those who leave the country cowards. I have to confess that I am now about to join the number of those cowards who are streaming out of the country.” Nadine Gordimer’s daughter finds it safer to live in the south of France than in South Africa.
Liberal and especially foreign whites, such as tourists, are usually the first victims of crime, as they lack vigilance, and trust black strangers more than they should. Anti-white racism and crime alienate even those whites who would otherwise serve blacks. Of course, when commentators do refer to the vicious outbreak of violence that has characterised the so-called new South Africa under black rule, it has mostly been to blame apartheid for the violence, forgetting that most of the young black perpetrators grew up under black rule.
So what are the prospects for an Afrikaner nation? A less peace-loving, pragmatic people would by this time surely have come out in violent revolt, if its children were virtually banned from the most sought-after medical and law schools, and excluded from jobs in government or major corporations on the grounds of race and language.
I suppose the real test of a nation is whether it can survive bad leadership and defeat. Afrikaners today suffer a domination almost as intense as that of the Greeks under 400 years of Turkish rule, during which Christianity and the Greek language were banned, and people had to keep the Bible and Greek books in secret recesses in their houses. Many people in South Africa, notably the anglophone intellectuals with their radical chic and admiration for everything African, have already pronounced the Afrikaner nation dead.
Yet a people who fought wars for two centuries, both against black tribes and the greatest empire of the time, who produced the finest body of literature on the African continent, a philosophy, and a highly intellectualized Calvinist theology, and that enjoys its own cuisine, customs and folk culture, does not one day cease to exist just because Nelson Mandela smiles into the cameras and declares the birth of a new nation on these shores.
It is somehow hard to believe that Thabo Mbeki’s African Empire will succeed where the British Empire failed, by eradicating, as Lord Alfred Milner put it around 1900, “the last vestiges of Afrikanerism from South Africa.” The ham-fisted way the South African government is trying to suppress the Afrikaner identity in favor of an imported quasi-American multiculturalism mixed with warmed-over pan-Africanism, is bound to provoke the slumbering Afrikaner spirit of resistance. The dogged Afrikaner nationalism of the 20th century that transformed the entire country must count as one of the most powerful movements ever to arise in Africa. To this day, South Africa is littered with the monuments and buildings erected during that flowering of nationalism, of which the majestic art déco of the Voortrekker Monument on a hill overlooking Pretoria is the most visible.
On 16 December last, the Afrikaners commemorated their victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838 — known as the Day of the Covenant, but ridiculously rechristened “Reconciliation Day” by the new government. While tens of thousands of Afrikaners gathered in typical fashion all over the country at their own expense to affirm their traditional vow to be true to their God and their people, Mr. Mbeki and his cohorts organized a grand gathering on the lawns of the Union Buildings in Pretoria, spending two million dollars of taxpayer money on free food in the hope of attracting 20,000 people. However, only 2,000 of Mr. Mbeki’s followers showed up, and truck-loads of food went to waste, while at least 5,000 Afrikaners attended a ceremony a few kilometers away at the Voortrekker Monument.
Reflect upon it: Afrikaner patriotism and national sentiment are derided by the media, both locally and internationally, as right-wing racism, and their language and identity are officially suppressed. At the same time, Mr. Mbeki’s brand of multicultural, Afro-nationalism and black pride is propagated by the state and embellished by the media and dozens of conformist commentators. One then realises that perhaps the weakness lies not so much with the downtrodden “white tribe of Africa” whom the world sees as backward hillbillies, but possibly with South Africa’s radiantly confident rulers whose power is literally skin-deep, founded as it is on a late 20th century fashion for the color black.
And yet, despite their obvious strengths and courage, Afrikaners suffer from several weaknesses characteristic of Western man. Most are practising Christians, endowed with a sense of altruism that may yet prove fatal. The three mainstream Afrikaans churches already encourage their members to look after AIDS babies abandoned by black mothers. Afrikaans newspapers carry stories about the selfless devotion of adoptive parents who are raising children of the race that is oppressing and killing them.
As for the non-Afrikaner churches, both the Church of England and the Catholic Church have been thoroughly infiltrated by Africans. The Anglican Church in South Africa is now a black church with a black archbishop who preaches white surrender and black entitlement. Protestant churches everywhere in the West have become hotbeds of capitulationist thinking, and welcome Third-World immigration into even the most ancient white homelands.
In The World and the West, Arnold Toynbee wrote that “technology is, of course, only a long Greek name for a bag of tools … But all tools are not of the material kind; there are spiritual tools as well, and these are the most potent that Man has made.” Just as communism used to be a Western weapon in the hands of Russia, as Toynbee remarked in the 1950s, so Christianity has become a piece of occidental technology in the hands of today’s Africans.
Another major Afrikaner weakness is dependence on cheap labor. There have long been warnings about this, but to no avail. At a time when race relations were more natural, black labor was satisfactory to black and white alike. Even today, apart from the super-rich nomenklatura connected to the state and big business, black South Africa consists of a slave class that would not survive without white masters.
One could do a whole linguistic analysis of all the words in Afrikaans that have to do with “master” or baas, which literally means “boss.” There is oubaas, old master, an endearing term for an elderly white person, the white patriarch who provides jobs. When a friend visits her land holdings, the remaining blacks in the area lament the death of the oubaas, and the good times when there was a white provider who could train them, employ them and look after them. Then there is kleinbaas or young master, the son in the household, who would eventually fulfill that role and is therefore already worthy of respect.
Not long ago, as part of the government’s meddling in land ownership, a large white farm was bought out and turned over to more than 1,000 blacks as part of their “liberation.” Soon a deputation visited one of the white agricultural unions that usually spends its time defending its members’ remaining property against spurious black land claims. The new black farmers asked for a baas to come and tell them what to do and to stop the infighting. I do not know if they got their baas, but when the famous citrus farm, Zebedelia, was facing bankruptcy after being handed over to blacks, it got a white baas. Within a year or two, Zebedelia was again exporting oranges to the rest of the world.
However, in most cases such racial patronage is no longer possible, and whites cannot freely harness the labor of blacks the way blacks harness the brains of whites. The Orania experiment next to the Orange River in the remote Northern Cape shows that Afrikaners do not need black labor. Foreign journalists flock to Orania as if to some exotic zoo to see 800 white Afrikaners living self-sufficiently and in peace, without crime and drugs, digging their own ditches, laying their own bricks. If the Oranians can do without servants, gardeners and the plethora of glorified beggars who clutter our lives for a few rand a day, so can the rest of us. Ever since the founding of Cape Town by Jan van Riebeeck in 1652, white reluctance to do manual labour when thousands of natives were prepared to work for a pittance has been the downfall of any attempt to set up an autonomous and self-sufficient white society.
In the 1880s, President Paul Kruger ordered that white farmers were to have no more than five black families on their land; the law was widely ignored. By some estimates, at that time the Boers formed an absolute majority in the two northern republics [the Orange Free State, now Free State province, and the Transvaal, now broken up into Gauteng, North West, and Northern provinces], but a century of black population growth aided by Western medicine and nutrition has reduced Afrikaners to a tiny and oppressed minority in their own country.
And yet, even in dispossession, the Afrikaner retains much of his traditional nature. Blacks, as recipients of affirmative action largesse and handouts from government and the private sector, have experienced breathtaking social mobility never before seen in the history of black people anywhere. The typical image of the South African black today is sitting behind the steering wheel of a Mercedes convertible or a BMW SUV. That is, apart from the millions who subsist in shanty towns that the vast government housing projects never seem to clear away.
By contrast, the typical Afrikaner probably still drives a pick-up truck. In fact, the market for these utilitarian vehicles, called bakkies in South Africa, is still 60 percent Afrikaans, even though Afrikaners represent only five percent of the population. Makers of German luxury vehicles have long forsaken Afrikaners for the new breed of well-heeled government official or corporate mogul produced by the system of so-called black economic empowerment.