Prof Francois Venter, one of the former chairpersons of the Afrikanerbond, writes in a congratulatory message on the occasion of the centenary of this organisation: “As the Century of the Afrikaner. Many battles were fought, and many of them were victorious: the language battle; the battle against the colonial yoke; the battle against poverty and being disadvantaged; the battle against humiliation and lack of self-confidence; the military battle against communist terrorism as part of the cold war; the battle (with ourselves) to relinquish political power. There were heroes and anti-heroes, campaign heroes and foot soldiers, millionaires and paupers, builders and destroyers, statesmen and turncoats, champions of the faith and heretics, intellectuals and drudges, artists and petty bourgeois, technologists, technicians, scientists, farmers, educators, economists, jurists, medical professionals, everyone an Afrikaner.”
In many fields it was indeed the century of the Afrikaner. Since 1918 when the Afrikaner Broederbond was founded, the following stages of the Afrikaner played out:
Stage 1 was the uplifting of the Afrikaner; this should be seen in roughly the period (1918 to ± the 1960s) where the focus fell on educational and economic upliftment, and then the focus shifted to the political from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Stage 2 was a period of unprecedented prosperity for the Afrikaner (1960s – 1980s) where political control led us to new heights but at the same time which also led to self-indulgence, the oppression of others and selfishness.
Stage 3 was a time when insight came (in the 1980s – 1990s) after the realisation had dawned that the state dispensation and the ideology of apartheid were not sustainable. The responsible thing was done and a start was made with dismantling apartheid and that were followed by political reforms and negotiation which led to a new dispensation.
Stage 4 can be seen together with the Mandela years (1990s – 2000), participating in the new political dispensation and being enthusiastic about reconciliation and nation building. It might also have been a time of being naively unprepared for the new dispensation.
Stage 5 (2000 – 2015) was a time of disillusionment, exclusion and marginalisation, when language and culture became threatened. Transformation started becoming the theme and was one of absolute alienation.
This led to Stage 6 where Afrikaners were by default compelled to think anew about their own survival in the fields of economics, education and politics. Entrepreneurs and new organisations came to the fore and performed outstanding work in these fields.
This last stage gave the Afrikaners greater independence but also increasingly isolated them. This was not of their choosing, but could largely be blamed on the Zuma regime which was based absolutely and solely on personal gain at all costs. The good relationships and regular interaction that had been the order of the day with previous governments, has never again materialised, in spite of countless requests and promises.
In many respects, the Zuma regime was catastrophic, not only for the country but also for relationships at all levels. Transformation supplanted apartheid as the overwhelmingly dominant ideology. This came down once again to social engineering or societal manipulation. It did not take the best from South Africans and build the country on it. It was attuned far more to promoting politics, their hangers-on and their party. By these means, a racist society was created anew and some groups benefited at the expense of others.
The new government offers new possibilities and numerous undertakings which have already been made. It again offers other possibilities which must be exploited. Just like other cultures and communities, Afrikaners have expertise in their own ranks which should be used. This could offer a sound basis for the recovery of the state and government! The collective participation of minority groups and communities as well as alliance partners would be essential for this enormous effort.
The energy of the Afrikanerbond in time to come will be attuned to placing Afrikaners in a position of continuous dialogue. Dialogue will have to take place in a variety of fields and over a broad front, and must be aimed among other things at:
- bringing about interaction with other minorities and communities to strive for a new social contract which can confirm what the relation of Afrikaners and other minorities is to the Constitution of South Africa and within the current sovereign dispensation.
- establishing relationships with the government to place Afrikaners in a better position to contribute in a solution-oriented manner to solutions to a government which does the right things for all South Africans.
- also healing the fractures of the past among Afrikaners and promoting shared interests.
- supporting the broader Afrikaans community and existing initiatives to promote our language.
- promoting interaction with fellow South Africans to collectively take up and promote our place in South Africa.
- reaffirming our position in Africa with a constructive role in every sphere of life in the greater continent.
Afrikaners in general, and the Afrikanerbond in particular, will in the days to come focus at our Bondsraad on selecting the last option among the following positions in which Afrikaners find themselves:
1) Being swept away in a stream of exaggerated political correctness,
2) Withdrawing into a cocoon and taking care of oneself only,
3) Forming laagers and beginning to resist aggressively with no idea of the eventual outcome, or
4) Continuing our search for solutions, a balance, in an identified context where we do play a role in ensuring meaningful outcomes. We can only do this in the knowledge of our own identity and who and what we are, linked to our intrinsic value and pride.
We must therefore make the new reality in which we find ourselves emotionally our own as soon as possible, and position ourselves so that we can best serve the interests of the Afrikaner, which will also benefit South Africa. The occasionally hostile environment where the Afrikaner is placed, poses a completely new challenge.
The Afrikaner community is inextricably part and parcel of South Africa. We must decide what role we are going to play in order to co-operate constructively to promoting the South Africa we would dearly like to have, not the destructive one which has been forced upon us in the past few years. We do indeed promote the South Africa which we believe could work for the Afrikaner within the Constitutional dispensation, about which agreement has already been reached.
The Afrikanerbond has already positioned itself to a large extent as an organisation which works from the perspective of the Afrikaner for the greater good. Our forthcoming Bondsraad and the ensuing months will bring greater clarity about the way in which we are going to overcome these challenges.
Jan Bosman is Chief Secretary of the Afrikanerbond. This article first appeared in Afrikaans in Beeld newspaper.