NEWS & ANALYSIS

If it is not what we do, but who we are, then what?

Wynand Boshoff writes on the increasing number of threats against the Afrikaner town of Orania

If the post-apartheid Afrikaner is conceivable, will it be allowed?

Climate change is apparent, not only in nature, but also in South African politics. Part of the increased political temperature, is an increasing number of threats against the Afrikaner town of Orania; apparently because it is a relic of apartheid. To evaluate that accusation, it is necessary to investigate the offensiveness of Apartheid.

The main problem with apartheid is that it perpetuated a colonial system of white rule and privilege in a part of Africa, exactly when that became politically incorrect. Even Afrikaners themselves could see that it was a bad idea to withstand the winds of change and devised the concept of “black homelands”.

As it was presented to the world, areas in black possession would be developed into independent ethnic states. That would fulfil black political aspirations and unleash their economic potential. It would also turn the migratory stream towards the “homelands”, relieving pressure from “white” South Africa to extend the franchise to black South Africans.

Whether this is regarded as a cynical and expensive form of oppression, or a sincere attempt to reach a political solution, it did not work. Not that it did not work at all. This was the only time in modern history that substantial resources were expended on tribal areas and it compared favourably to states like Lesotho or Swaziland. But that was not the question.

Homelands did not convince either the international world that it was an alternative to full political rights for black South Africans, nor did it ignite the passion and initiative of the peoples it was meant to serve, nor did the apartheid government treat these states as equals. These were basic conditions for success.

In “white” South Africa black numbers increased, despite influx control and other discriminatory laws. By the early 1980s the white government admitted that the homeland-policy was not the “complete solution”, without recognising that the only alternative would be equal rights for all citizens.

Matters simplified into a direct power struggle. Blacks knew they only needed equality to gain the country. Whites knew that too. In this power struggle blacks used their labour power, international connections and ability to make townships ungovernable. The government used its control over the armed forces and much of the economy.

Apartheid had feet of clay, that became exceedingly clear. Whites had the political power, but could not and would not exercise it without a black majority it denied political rights. Measures like “Whites Only”-signs were negative, and homelands were meant to be positive, but both served to maintain exclusive power for a white minority in the most important parts of South Africa.

Blacks would not tolerate that any longer, the Western world’s patience ran out and even many Afrikaners could see the unsustainability. So the South African “miracle” happened, which was only Afrikaners suddenly capitulating when they realised what really was going on.

In the dying days of white government, a group of Afrikaners was very vocal about two things: That the days of white rule were numbered, and that they did not want to sacrifice their identity in that reality. They propagated a new beginning for Afrikaners, independent of black labour.

As these Afrikaners argued, white rule was unsustainable, because whites (or Afrikaners, as they chose not to cling to racial identity) were the minority wherever they were. But if Afrikaners would concentrate its numbers in a limited, relatively undeveloped area, and proceed to develop it with their own labour, they would be entitled to govern that by themselves.

Essentially, they promoted post-apartheid Afrikanerdom and even implemented it in the town of Orania. I am one of them.

Now, to repeat the title in slightly altered form: We have conceived and created the post-apartheid Afrikaner who mended our feet of clay. If that is not acceptable, it means the problem is not what we do, but who we are. And if that is the case, a warning of impending genocide is not frivolous politicking.

Wynand Boshoff is provincial leader of the Freedom Front Plus in the Northern Cape and a former resident of Orania.