04 March 2007
IN LAST week’s Sunday Times, Mondli Makhanya expressed the wish to come to a better understanding of why Afrikaners are so deeply unhappy about the recent course of events in South Africa.
I believe I am well placed to provide a few enlightening answers, if only because I have spoken to farmers, students, authors, academics, singers, housewives, dominees, businessmen, politicians, motor mechanics, accountants, lawyers, teachers and representatives of just about every occupation among the 2.5 million Afrikaners who inhabit South Africa, and the half a million or so who have already left.
Let’s start right there. Why are 20% or more of our people living abroad — in exile, so to speak? Some may have pursued economic opportunities, but most have left because of one issue: violent crime. On every flight from Sydney to Johannesburg you can see a plane full of red-eyed people, mostly Afrikaners, sniffling into their paper handkerchiefs as they try to get over the tearful farewells to relatives living thousands of kilometres away in the Pacific. There are now more of us in Australia than Aborigines.
Afrikaners dearly love South Africa: the land of braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and your brand of car, except that you get a gun pointed at your head in that same car every so often. At one time our people formed the backbone of a multiracial police force. Years ago we patrolled the borders on horseback to stop stock theft and painstakingly typed statements in both official languages on typewriters. Crime was something we mostly read about in detective novels.
We have therefore watched in amazement at how transformation cut a swathe through what was once a professional police force, how it became inefficient, corrupt and almost useless in protecting us from the marauding gangsters who now rule our once peaceful streets.
In December a private security company issued a directive to all its clients, advising them to lock their gates, switch on their alarms and not venture out after eight o’clock at night.
On December 20 2006 a beautiful little girl of five named Danielle Esterhuizen was executed in cold blood on her mother’s lap next to a dam in Randfontein, where she had been visiting her father for half an hour while he was fishing with a friend. When Steve Hofmeyr, Joost van der Westhuizen and I had coffee with him a few weeks ago, he broke down and muttered, “I will never be able to touch a fishing rod again. Why did I allow her to come visit me when I knew of the danger?”
During the political negotiations of the early ’ 90s, we were lulled into a sense of wonder. The international media were enthusing about the South African “miracle” and we trusted our leaders. De Klerk regularly spoke about “checks and balances”, that our language and culture, our schools, universities, museums and monuments would enjoy constitutional protection.
Over the past few weeks especially, we have been horrified by the cavalier way in which a minister of Education with a colonial British accent could order one of the most famous Afrikaans high schools in the country, Ermelo, to change its medium of instruction. After winning the first round of a court battle, our hopes were dashed when the judge overturned an earlier decision in a judgment that lasted two minutes, according to those who were there.
Are our Xhosa rulers acting out some inner fantasy of self-made ruin, a second coming of Nongqawuse?
Who knows? In this system, nothing will surprise us anymore. We have become used to a myriad racial laws that restrict our ability to trade, our access to education and capital, even our ability to get bank credit that must rank in the annals of anti-minority legislation up there with anti-Jewish measures during 1930s Germany.
Name changes are calculated to irritate us. But worst of all is the knowledge that we have finally been conquered by our traditional enemies, the Xhosa. In the 1820s they made life so difficult for us on the Eastern frontier that we had to cross the Drakensberg by ox-wagon. Now, occupying offices in Pretoria, they are driving us off the land and onto planes to Australia, Canada and Britain.
Nothing will surprise us any more. Whether the future will be a Zimbabwe, a Uganda or even a Rwanda, we know it will be violent and nasty. No wonder we are longing for a Moses, or a De la Rey, to lead us to the Promised Land.