Afrikaans identity under huge pressure - FW de Klerk

Former president says 1973 declaration of apartheid as a 'crime against humanity' was a Soviet agitprop project



It is a great honour for me to address this important meeting of the Bondsraad at the Voortrekker Monument -­ this national shrine which is so central to the identity, the history and the soul of our people.

It is also an appropriate time to address the Bondsraad. The AB’s predecessor played a central role in the history of our people during the 20th century -­ first in the revival of Afrikaner nationalism after the First World War and then in the political affairs of the Afrikaner people in the tumultuous years that followed.

The AB played a leading role as an intellectual sounding board in the construction of separate development. When it became evident that separate development could not provide a just resolution to our complex problems, the AB -­ particularly under Prof De Lange -­ helped to prepare the way for a negotiated solution -­ a solution that would protect the rights and freedoms of all South Africans.

It is now 21 years since the commencement of our new constitutional democracy. During this period our Constitution has provided a framework for relative peace and progress. We are once again a full member of the international community; we can look our fellow South Africans in the eye as equals; our economy is three times larger than it was in 1994; and most whites have prospered -­ more so than any of our other communities.

There are many critics of the decisions we took at the beginning of the 1990s. Some say we should have clung to the old dispensation. Others claim that we could have negotiated a better deal. Some think that we could have retained some or other minority veto.

Let me state quite clearly: if we had not reached a settlement as soon as possible -­ following the collapse of the Soviet Union -­ the balance of forces would have inexorably -­ and quite quickly -­ shifted against us. With each year that passed, our ability to secure our core interests would have weakened -­ which is exactly what happened to Ian Smith in Rhodesia.

Clinging to power was simply not an option. We could probably have continued to rule South Africa for another 15 to 20 years under increasingly grim circumstances. We would have become completely isolated. Our economy would have been crippled. A high percentage of the white population would have emigrated. Our young men would have spent half of every year fighting on the borders or repressing dissent in the townships. Inter-­ racial animosities would have increased to a level that would have made a mutually acceptable negotiated solution less and less possible with each year that passed.

Others would have liked us to carve out a white homeland somewhere in the country. However, there is -­ and was -­ nowhere in South Africa where whites are close to being in a majority. There was no possibility that whites would have given up their comfortable livelihoods in our cities and trekked into the far-­flung areas to establish a new state.

Others who think we could have secured a minority veto are deluded. Such an outcome would have been completely unacceptable to the vast majority of South African citizens -­ and would never have been accepted by the international community.

As it is, we negotiated a Constitution in which all sides have to make painful compromises.

As Ngoako Ramathlodi conceded a few years ago, the balance of forces at the time of the negotiations forced the ANC to make vast concessions. He complained that while the ‘regime’ had given up elements of political power to the black majority, substantial power was also migrated away from the legislature and the executive and vested in the judiciary, Chapter 9 institutions and civil society. As a result, “the black majority enjoys empty political power while forces against change reign supreme in the economy, judiciary, public opinion and civil society.”

He went on to complain how ‘white economic interests’ had used litigation to curtail initiatives aimed at introducing fundamental changes.

At the same time, there can be no doubt that the Constitution is under increasing pressure. On all sides we see the steady and deliberate erosion of the rights and freedoms.

It is not my intention to speak today about the decline of the new South Africa since the 2007 victory of the SACP and COSATU at the ANC’s national conference at Polokwane. I spoke at some length about the threats that we now face in my panel discussion with former President Motlanthe on 21 May. My speech is on the website of the FW de Klerk Foundation for anyone who might want to know my views about the situation in which we now find ourselves.

Suffice it to say that the situation is very serious.

I would much rather talk today about the future and about what we will need to do if we wish to secure our position in our beautiful country. The message that I would like to leave you with is that our future is once again in our own hands -­ as it has so often been during our tumultuous history.

Firstly, I think that is essential for us to define who exactly we are. We all have multiple identities:

I am FW de Klerk, an individual human being.

I belong to the De Klerk, Coetzer, Van Rooy and Fouché families.

I am a member of the Gereformeerde Kerk.

I am an Afrikaner.

I speak Afrikaans -­ so I am also an Afrikaanse.

I am a South African.

I am an African.

I am also a member of the great Western European culture.

I am a citizen of the world.

None of these identities is mutually exclusive. All of them enrich me and make me who I am. I am proud of all of them and ashamed of none.

These identities are all acknowledged and protected by our Constitution. They are all central to my human dignity which is perhaps the foundational value from which all of the rest of the Constitution devolves.

The problem is that two of these identities -­ my identity as an Afrikaner and as an Afrikaanse -­ are under enormous pressure.

The ANC/SACP Alliance has been trying to make me feel ashamed of being an Afrikaner:

Our President tells us that all the problems of South Africa began with the arrival of our ancestors in the Cape 363 years ago.

The President and leading members of his government increasingly refer to us as “colonialists” -­ as though we are recently arrived interlopers with no historic rights or claims;

At every opportunity the ANC government blames its own failures on the policy of former Afrikaner-­led governments;

The ANC lets few opportunities slip by without claiming that the policy of former Afrikaner-­led governments were a crime against humanity;

Everywhere they are increasing their attacks on our national symbols and heritage. They would like to hide away statues of our heroes in some kind of “Boerassic Park”. And when I speak of heroes I am not referring to typical politicians, I am referring to the Paul Krugers and the Christiaan de Wets.

Afrikaans is no longer being treated equitably or with parity of esteem despite the clear requirements of the Constitution. English is being imposed upon the country everywhere as the single de facto official language.

Our Minster of Higher Education and Training is telling us that there is no place for an Afrikaans-­language university.

The Gauteng Education Department is trying to force parallel medium education on non-­racial Afrikaans single-­medium schools. They know full well that whenever a regional language is forced to compete with a world language in educational institutions, the world language eventually replaces the regional language.

Unfortunately, many of our people have been strongly influenced by this deluge of criticism -­ to the point where they are now ashamed to call themselves Afrikaners.

This sense of guilt is deeply corrosive and often prevents us from standing up for the rights that we negotiated in the Constitution.

In the ongoing debate on the future of the former Afrikaans-­language universities, well-­meaning Afrikaner intellectuals have frequently sided with the ANCs version of transformation;

Many have bought into the ANC’s constitutionally unfounded view that all institutions should reflect the demographics of the country;

In Nedlac we find that big companies -­ some of them led by Afrikaners -­ frequently go along with the ANCs ideological programme. Few ever dare to speak out against government initiatives -­ despite the damage that it can or will inflict upon their own interests. Recently they approved the controversial Expropriation Bill. In so-­doing they may have consented to the design of a system which might one day possibly destroy them, and their property rights.

Some Afrikaners go along with anti-­white ANC policies because they are afraid; others because they are crippled by their sense of historic guilt.

The first thing that we have to do to secure our future as Afrikaners will be to achieve a balanced view of our past and to escape this burden of guilt that makes many of us ashamed of being who we are.

Let me say at the outset that -­ when I say these things -­ it is not my intention to justify apartheid.

Apartheid severely limited the political rights and freedoms of non-­whites and was an outrageous affront to their human dignity. It restricted their ability to participate in economic activity; it led to the forced removal of more than three million people; and more than 17 million people were arrested for pass offences.

In May 1996 I made a sincere apology before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for all the injustices caused by apartheid. More important is that fact that six years earlier it was the National Party that initiated the process that abolished apartheid and that took the lead in establishing a non-­racial constitutional democracy.

But was apartheid a ‘crime against humanity’ as the ANC so frequently insists?

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation reported earlier this year that 52.8% of whites still think so -­ but are they correct?

First we have to look at the origins of the charge:

In November 1966 the UN General Assembly declared apartheid to be a crime against humanity -­ and in 1973 it adopted the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

Both the resolution and the Convention were political initiatives of the Soviet Union -­ which had itself committed real crimes against humanity that involved the slaughter of millions of people. In 1976, when the Convention came into force, 23 of the 31 signatories were, according to Freedom House, not free. Six were “partly free” -­ and only two were free. Ironically, South Africa was classified as partly free and had a better human rights score than 27 of the signatories.

The 109 states that subsequently joined the Convention included none of the core democracies -­ not even staunch supporters of the ANC like Sweden and Norway. According to the United States delegate:

“Deplorable as it is, we cannot, from a legal point of view, accept that apartheid can in this manner be made a crime against humanity. Crimes against humanity are so grave in nature that they must be meticulously elaborated and strictly construed under existing international law...”

The idea that apartheid was ‘a crime against humanity’ was, and remains, an ‘agitprop’ project initiated by communists to stigmatise white South Africans by associating them with genuine crimes against humanity -­ which have generally included totalitarian repression and the slaughter of millions of people.

By contrast, 23 000 people died in South Africa’s political violence between 1960 and 1994 -­ of whom fewer than 4 000 were killed by the security forces. Most of the rest of the deaths occurred in the conflict between the IFP and the ANC. In Kenya, the British interned more than 320 000 people during the Mau-­Mau uprising and hanged more than a thousand Mau-­Mau members. In Algeria the French killed more than 140 000 people in a war that claimed some 700 000 lives.

Also, it is not usual -­ where genuine crimes against humanity are involved – that

The share of the oppressed in national income almost doubles within 25 years -­ from 28% in 1970 to almost 50% in 1994;

Far-­reaching reforms  including trade union rights  enhance the power of the oppressed;

The oppressed are given enclaves -­ including a third of their population -­ where they are free of the oppressors laws;

Education levels of the oppressed improve rapidly -­ with more than 12 times as many blacks passing matric in 1994 as in 1980 -­ and with more blacks at university than whites by 1994; or that

65% of the oppressors’ tax is spent on social services for the oppressed.

None of this is meant to whitewash the injustices that were undoubtedly committed under apartheid. Rather, we need a balanced understanding of our past -­ not one based on a simplistic black/white, good/evil framework -­ but on a framework that reflects the infinite shades of grey that actually characterise our history.

Apart from the injustices perpetrated under apartheid we should bear in mind

The complex history that created the situation in which white South Africans found themselves in the 80s;

The well-founded existential fears and concerns of former governments - including the Afrikaners struggle for self-determination; the future of minorities; the fragility of democracy in Africa; and the dominant influence of the SACP within the ANC;

The substantial - but never sufficient - socio-economic progress made by black South Africans during the 70s and 80s;

The far-reaching - but contemptuously dismissed - reforms introduced by PW Botha; and

The courage of white South Africans in seeking to come to an equitable solution by putting their faith in our non-racial Constitution.

As Christians we should acknowledge our transgressions - but there is no requirement for us to feel morally inferior to anyone - and least of all to the Marxist-Leninists who have traditionally played a prominent role in the approach and the policies of the ANC.

The second problem that we must overcome if we wish to ensure a positive future for ourselves and for all the people who live in South Africa is to realise that we are not powerless.

We too frequently fail to claim our rights because we are convinced that we are too few and too weak to make a difference.

This is wrong.

The Constitution endows us all with substantial powers to protect our rights. It gives us the power of free expression.

We must use all the media at our disposal to tell the world that we reject new forms of racism in the guise of unbalanced affirmative action and demographic representivity;

We must expose the growing influence of the South African Communist Party within the ANC Alliance. Without having won a single vote in a free election the SACP is fast becoming the most powerful element in the Alliance.

We must warn our fellow South Africans of the catastrophic implications of the ANC’s current assault on property rights and their incomprehensible land reform proposals.

The Constitution gives us other important powers:

We have the right to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions. We should make use of these rights to give visible and audible expression to our grievances and to our determination to insist upon our rights.

We have the right to strike to defend our interests.

We have the right to free political activity. We should use it to join the political parties of our choice and to support NGOs that champion the causes that we support.

We have the right to access the courts. We should fight unconstitutional legislation in the courts at every step of the way. This task should not be left to a few dedicated NGOs. We should all become involved in supporting litigation in defense of our rights and of the Constitution.

However, it is not only from the Constitution that we derive our power:

Our skills and economic resources give us very real ability to influence the course of affairs.

Apart from this, we will be able to count on increasing support from the international community and from South Africans from all races who share our concerns.

So we are far from powerless -­ provided only that we have the will to use the power at our disposal in pursuit of our constitutional rights.

For this reason we need to strengthen and mobilise our will.

We must all understand the absolute necessity of taking action to defend our rights and our legitimate interests.

The hour is getting very late. We must inform ourselves about the nature of the threat -­ the threat that the ANC and the SACP have spelled out in detail in their Strategy and Tactics documents and in the South African Road to Socialism. Why do we imagine that they are not serious about achieving their publicly proclaimed goals?

We must understand that the goal of the ANC’s “radical second phase of the National Democratic Revolution” is progressively to limit our property, our companies, our employment prospects and our cultural heritage to the shrinking percentage of the population that we represent. This will be regardless of our skills, the contribution that we make and everything that we have built up in the past.

We will maximise our will if we are convinced of the rightness of our cause.

We must rededicate ourselves to the values that underlie the Constitution;

We must work not only for the preservation of our own rights -­ but for the rights of all South Africans.

We must maintain the moral high ground by taking our stand on the Constitution that we all negotiated in good faith between 1990 and 1996.

We must protect the institutions that the Constitution created -­ including the independent courts and Chapter 9 institutions -­ not just for ourselves but for the protection of the rights of everyone in the country.

I am confident that we will be able to secure our position in South Africa for many years to come:

If we can divest ourselves of the guilt that the ANC continuously tries to instill in us;

If we can achieve victory on the battlefield of ideas;

If we can use all the powers with which the Constitution has endowed us;

If we can free ourselves of our sense of disempowerment; and

If we are certain of the rightness and the necessity of our cause.

As I mentioned earlier the future of our people is once again in our hands -­ as it has been many times in our tumultuous history. It is for us to accept the challenge and to determine whether we will maintain our place in South Africa -­ or whether we will apologetically bow from the stage of history to become a footnote in the story of our continent.

We must remember what our people have accomplished in the past:

How we set out into the unknown to establish our own sovereign republics;

How we survived the crises at Weenen and Blood River;

How for three years we held at bay the mightiest empire of the modern era in the Second Freedom War;

How we rose from the ashes of defeat to secure our right to self-­determination;

How we held the line for 13 years against the Soviet and Cuban-­led expansion in southern Africa; and

How we finally succeeded in negotiating a fair and equitable Constitution for all South Africans.

When measured against such accomplishments should we really be so worried about our ability to protect our rights against Jacob Zuma and his “second phase” entourage?

Of this we can be assured: our future and the future of all South Africans is at stake.

As Edmund Burke noted more than two centuries ago: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” If we do nothing the “second phase” forces will prevail to the immense detriment of all South Africans. If we stand together; if we have the will; if we are assured of the rightness and necessity of our cause there is every reason to be confident that we will succeed.

Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation, May 29 2015