NEWS & ANALYSIS

If the ANC wants a final settlement...

Wynand Boshoff writes on how the Afrikaners could be won over

It seems that nobody has mild sentiments about so called expropriation without compensation. In several public hearings, debates and social events I have attended since that term entered the mainstream conversation, people take strong emotional positions.

Several times have I observed black participants incredulously asking why white land thieves are even allowed to voice an opinion. In one comment on Facebook a black observer said he had not heard even one white supporting expropriation without compensation - indicating that the land issue is ground zero for racism.

Most white people I know, were caught off balance. The idea that anyone can think it is possible to expropriate any property without compensation without harming financial markets, food security or the economy in general, just makes no sense. While trying to get their heads around that, white people seem not to realise what is actually happening.

To my mind it is the settlement of 1994 which is crumbling beneath our feet. And most whites believed it to be as solid as pre-Copernican earth!

Moving towards the settlement of 1994, some minority groups, notably Afrikaners and Zulus, insisted on a deal which would recognise the cultural diversity of South Africa. Vague promises of self-determination or federalism were made, but the ANC would rather chew a diamond.

In the constitution of 1996 both these groups were pacified by dealing with their material claims. For the Zulu kingdom the Ingonyama Trust was created to guarantee traditional land ownership, and traditional leaders were recognised all over the country. Whites were relieved when private property was guaranteed, augmented by supreme rule of law, while the pensions of civil servants would be honoured and the free market actually became free.

Without analysing other groups' responses, I dare say Afrikaners by and large welcomed a marvelous deal - a miracle, as the world cheered. One historian observed that in 1902 Afrikaners told the British empire, "Take our gold, if you have to, but leave our freedom." In 1994 Afrikaners told the ANC, "Take our freedom, but leave our gold." It worked - or so it seemed.

In the elections of 1999 the Freedom Front, still insisting on self-determination, found three quarters of its support base defected to the Democratic Party. The reason? The deal was so good, it just needed to be guarded - and the DP (later DA) seemed good at it.

In the meantime, the ANC had never regarded the settlement as permanent. They realised that, once in power, all the rest would come in time. That was the purpose of laws on land restitution, affirmative action and black economic empowerment - all attempts on property rights and/or the free market.

Afrikaners reacted pragmatically. A large proportion moved from the public to the private sector and made more money than ever. When wronged, the rule of law was employed in defense. Suddenly Afrikaners only had private property, and if its all you have (even if you have a lot) you defend it like hell - oblivious to the frustration it creates.

So now we have reached the point where the ANC wants a final settlement. And a final settlement to their mind is one where ownership of property reflects political power and demographic numbers. For Afrikaners the rock solid settlement of 1994 suddenly turned to quicksand.

A final settlement must indeed be reached. Afrikaners need recognition of our collective identity to be part of it. We need, for instance, a council similar to the councils of traditional leaders, but which will be allowed to take responsibility for education, heritage and welfare. We need a tenth province where we will not be subjected to punitive laws; where (of course) there will be no discrimination on the basis of race.

It might be surprising how co-operative Afrikaners will be when, as a collective, we have reclaimed our future.