We mustn't fight racism with racism - Flip Buys

The Solidarity SG argues that minorities never benefit from racial conflict and polarisation

Esteemed Mister Chairperson, ladies and gentleman,

This meeting of the National Council is taking place during a turbulent time in our country's history. It won't be an exaggeration to say that the country finds itself in a state of crisis - a self-made, government-made or home-made crisis to boot. It isn't out of our control like a natural disaster that hit the country; it is something the government allowed to happen to us.

Of course, I'm referring to the general deterioration of the state that is clearly visible in every domain of society, from the security crisis, municipal decline, mismanagement of state hospitals, and parastatals (Eskom, Denel, Armscor, Land Bank, Transnet, SAA) that stumble from the one crisis to the next, to the decline of the public school system and skills training.

This negative picture is not being plucked out of thin air. The Dinokeng scenarios ( for South Africa that were published in June 2009 provided an in-depth analysis of the state of affairs in South Africa. This research was done by a group of businesspeople, academics, politicians, researchers, trade union leaders and opinion shapers representing a broad political spectrum in our country.

The core finding of the Dinokeng scenario team was that South Africa is a failing state, and that the main problem in our country lay in the combination of an inefficient state and an uninvolved civil society. At the same time, a working state and the involvement of the civil society were presented as prerequisites for a successful country and citizenry. There is still time to turn around the downward spiral; deterioration of the state is still far enough removed from the collapse of the state. But for this there are two important prerequisites: the political will of the government and the civil role-players, and the executive capacity to convert that will into practical realities.

And that is where the problem lies. Where a will still exists, the capacity is lacking. Or even worse, the government would like to, for example, solve the crime problem, but they are no longer able to do so: with their own transformation policy, they destroyed the capacity of the public service to fulfil their promises to the country. (Johnson, 04: 214).

The world-renowned scientist Francis Fukuyama said after 1994 that the largest threat to South Africa would be if new government followed policy directions that lead to an exodus of skilled white people. They did not listen to him. Years ago, Prof. Lawrence Schlemmer also warned that the ANC's overwhelming political power must not seduce them to adopt policies that would alienate trained minorities. Both scientists emphasized that the reason was that the ANC would need these skilled minorities to fulfil their promises to the masses. The new wave of black uprising is, in fact, a consequence of the state's failure to meet the expectations created by its politics.

Future shock

But we cannot only blame the government. For example, there are very few Afrikaans civic organisations remaining with the executive capacity to actively achieve their own objectives. At most organisations there is a large gap between what they want to do and what they can do. There are probably many reasons for this. But the most important reason is certainly the "future shock" - as the futurist Alvin Toffler calls it - that hit the community after 1990.

What Toffler means by "future shock" is a person's inability to keep up with changes in his life that are happening too fast. But his does not only happen to people. When the rate of change happens at an increasing pace without a concurrent acceleration in an organisation's ability to react meaningfully, such an organisation could completely lose control and go under. The loss of power and the functional demise of many organisations after 1994 resulted in a type of future shock hitting the Afrikaner - there were just too many changes, happening just too fast, and people were unable to react meaningfully, especially because there weren't any strong institutions left that could do it.

Therefore, rebuilding important institutions after doing thorough planning should be a priority, otherwise we won't be able to do anything about what had happened to us or had been done to us. Strong institutions and thorough research and planning are the only countermeasures against future shock and collapse. I'll talk more about this later.

Racial polarisation

Last week the authoritative South African Institute for Race Relations declared that racial tension had increased significantly over the past few weeks. The most important reason for this has been incitement by ANC leaders (not only Malema!) to shoot and kill the Afrikaner minority. The eventual turnabout by the ANC regarding this issue is extremely ambiguous because in the same week they reprimanded Malema about the song, they filed court papers in support of the song in the upcoming case brought by AfriForum in the Equality Court.

From Constitution to Revolution (NDR)

After 1994, the ANC purported to be a modern, progressive party that had accepted the Constitution and the democratic values stemming from it as their foundation. According to the historian Prof. Hermann Giliomee, in the nineties both Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki publicly did no more than pay lip service to the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

Most enlightened liberal and liberal thinkers had scant regard for the NDR or laughed it off as foibles of the Botha regime's total onslaught propaganda. As recently as five years ago it was still possible to poke fun at it, as often happened. However, the Polokwane election of 2007 changed everything. Cadres in the SACP and Cosatu immediately placed the NDR high on the ANC agenda again, and it is now once again the party's guiding philosophy. Without the NDR, according to Giliomee, Julius Malema's current role would not have been possible. As a result, we hear less and less about the Constitution these days, while we hear more talk about the nationalisation of mines and farms, the abolition of property rights, and policy directions that amount to the ANC's simple continuation of the struggle by means of state power, under the guise of democratic government.

In this turnabout from Constitution to Revolution, probably the best preface is by Prof. Francois Venter, constitutional expert of Potchefstroom and a key role-player at Codesa, who made the following statement:

"Early in the nineties, when the ANC decided that they would negotiate, they set long-term ideological goals for themselves, and it is becoming clearer and clearer that some of those goals are still being pursued without qualification: in the negotiation process, a number of concessions were made in order to gain control over the state so that they could use the state's resources to systematically accomplish their original goals."

Venter's statement is indeed worrying, but it ties in closely with Giliomee's conclusion that it is now becoming clear that the NP government and the ANC attribute conflicting meanings to the constitutional negotiations. To the NP, the agreed Constitution was a binding contract concluded in good faith.

To the ANC, the settlement was merely an intermediary step from which the revolutionary process could be continued. The same is true of the so-called watchdog institutions such as the Public Prosecutor and the Human Rights Commission, on which the NP placed so much hope during the negotiations. The minorities expected that they would actually keep the ruling party on its toes; the ANC abused the institutions to further strengthen its power.

My big concern is the political culture of the ANC. The ANC regards itself as a revolutionary party, and its ideological roots are in communism. In essence, it is an aggressive ideology that speaks of enemies rather than opponents; of battle rather than democracy; of struggle rather than government; of redistribution rather than economic growth; and of revolution rather than constitution. It is an ideal ideology for a struggle, but a disastrous one for governing a modern state. This ideology does indeed lead to the de-modernisation of South Africa, as pointed out by Brian Pottinger.

This strategic blunder by the old NP government is the reason for the voters' revolt against the NNP, which eventually led to the demise of the party and its incorporation into the ANC. But it is of no use being angry at the NP and the ANC now; we and our children are stuck with the consequences and if we want to survive in this country, we will have to do more than just complain. The fact is that the constitutional settlement of the nineties did not only unravel from the ANC camp's side. Among the white minority there is also waning faith in the Constitution's protection of minorities. Looking back, the intentions were good, but the results were not good enough to secure our future. This leaves a large task on the shoulders of those of us who still believe in the future and cannot just leave it to fate or the ANC.


The term "revolution" sounded too harsh for sensitive post-'94 ears, so the ANC seized the term "transformation" and designated it the official state ideology. The problem with this, as John Kane-Berman of the SAIRR rightly points out, is that it could be understood simultaneously in an innocent and revolutionary manner. Being against transformation is being completely politically incorrect - almost like being against motherhood and apple pie! But supporting it implies support for the ANC's NDR!

Transformation could mean anything, from mere change to the definition of Joel Netshitenze, ANC intellectual under Mbeki: "Transformation of the state entails, first and foremost, extending the power of the NLM over all levers of power: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatals, and agencies such as regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, the central bank and so on. This is not in contradiction to the provisions of the constitution which characterise most of these bodies as independent and non-partisan. Control by democratic forces means that these institutions should operate on the basis of the precepts of the constitution; they should be guided by new doctrines; they should reflect in their composition the demographics of the country; and they should owe allegiance to the new order."

Transformation's point of departure is that everything in existence is evil, and that everything needs to change fundamentally; hence the changes to everything that used to work, such as apprenticeships, the police and municipalities.

Violent crime

Of all the things in our country that upset people, violent crime is the biggest cause of national anger. The state can no longer perform its core function of keeping its citizens safe. It is the largest and most important sign there is of the deterioration of the state.

Consequences for Solidarity

Solidarity and our members do not function in isolation. The problems highlighted here closely affect our members and our communities every day. South Africa is not an underdeveloped country like Zimbabwe. The collapse of such a country is like someone riding a bicycle and falling - you simply pick up the bicycle and ride further down the dirt road. But the collapse of a modern country is like an airplane crashing - the consequences are much worse and getting up is much more difficult. The lesson from Zimbabwe is that workers' rights cannot continue to exist when civil rights are trampled or if the country deteriorates.

Without ever officially touching workers' rights, unemployment reached 94% due to Mugabe's mismanagement! Therefore, it is in the interest of our members to help maintain our country's civil rights, otherwise we will also end up with nothing! After all, we cannot allow communists to determine the national playing field for us while we just pay attention to issues in the workplace. For the sake of survival, we need to protect our members and their communities both inside and outside the workplace, otherwise we will get pushed out everywhere.

Problem and solution

It is clear that all of these problems in our country go much further than labour relations, and it is logical that the solutions required must also be bigger than simple answers to labour problems. That does not mean that labour relations have now become less important, just that we now have to pay attention to more areas. After all, we did not start neglecting our members when we established Helping Hand - it is simply an additional service our members received!

Solidarity's reaction to the crisis

The question is: How can we, as a first-world minority, continue existing successfully in a failing state, especially one that is still regarded abroad as a success model in Africa? In other words: Is there still a future here for us and for our children? The problem is that we have been democratically excluded (Taylor) from making decisions that are of fundamental importance to our survival.

But despite this, I firmly believe that we could still have a future in South Africa, provided that we don't leave it to the ANC, but that we take responsibility for ourselves. Our children's future is far too important to leave to the ANC, SACP and Cosatu! They will decide what is in the interest of their children, not ours. Besides, this alliance places far too much faith in its own ability and that of the (weakening and overburdened) state to meet their expectations. The state cannot go on; there isn't any money or capacity left.

Emigration shows that we are below the subsistence minimum required to allow minorities to maintain a successful existence and help the country remain successful. Therefore, our long-term goal must be to create the right conditions for staying in South Africa, so that we can permanently help make the country successful.


Let us talk about racism, because it threatens the future of all of us. Unfortunately, it is a fact that the ANC's ideology and their racism are sometimes dressed in pretty words and camouflaged in politically correct terms such as affirmative action and transformation. Sometimes, this makes something that is an example of unacceptable racism sound right and official - such as the racial targets we read about everywhere. It is with concern that we noted the growing racism against our members at several companies. It is increasing by leaps and bounds, and we will fight it with all our might.

But then our members' own hands need to be clean, and nobody should be able to point a finger at us. Therefore, we should not react in a racist way to the racism perpetrated by the Malema's of this world. Yes, we must take decisive action against hate speech, incitement and talk of violence, as we have already done, but we must maintain the moral high ground. If we complain about racism, we must also fight against the white racism that has been flaring up again of late.

It is unacceptable for people to stir up racism through SMSs, Facebook, the internet, e-mail and conversations with family and friends. Our members must not show sympathy for white racists. Minorities never benefit from racial conflict and polarisation. We must also not show sympathy for white racist, because it could backfire in the form of violence towards our spouses, children and parents. Minorities have never benefited from racial conflict and polarisation, especially not where the majority almost has a monopoly of the sources of power.

Independent research shows that the vast majority of white farmers have good relationships with their workers and generally have fair labour practices. But if there are cases where black farm workers are exploited or where paternalistic or colonial labour practices are still in existence, these practices are inexcusable and we must criticise them just as strongly as we fight the exploitation of and unfair practices against our own members. Look at what is right and wrong, and not at who belongs to what race.

We are a movement based on Christian principles. Let us also propagate this in practice, including where we sometimes have to work with other races under difficult conditions. Never make enemies of those people who are not your friends. Good race relations cost nothing, and are essential for the safety and peaceful existence of everyone in this country.

Party politics

Solidarity's policy regarding party politics is clear: We speak to everyone but we do not tie ourselves to anyone. We remain independent. Political parties play a numbers game that cannot be won by minorities, because minorities do not have the voting power, even though they have the right to vote. Therefore, we practise politics based on interests rather than party politics. It is about the weight you carry, and not the number you count in your ranks.

For example, AfriForum has achieved more success regarding Malema's hate speech and the Zimbabwe issue than all the opposition parties put together. Let us take Prof. Lawrence Schlemmer's wise advice to minorities seriously:

"Minority groups in South Africa would therefore be well advised to develop strategies for political participation which do not assume electoral growth and leverage. Mobilisation for a more effective voice in civil society and in the lobbying process seems to be the obvious strategy to follow."

If we do not have political power, it definitely does not mean that we are powerless! We still have the courts, public pressure, foreign networks, alliances, negotiations and, very importantly, the power of taxpayers to negotiate for working towns and cities as well as value for the taxes we pay! That is why we have already asked AfriForum to come up with suggestions on how taxpayers can be mobilised at a local level to prevent the further decline of service delivery. We also need to look at ways of expanding our Civil Rights Legal Fund even further in order to build on the successes achieved in the past few months.

But we must remember: Winners are not those who only play brilliantly according to the rules of the game; winners are those who make the rules!

The road ahead

At a lekgotla of the Head Committee about two weeks ago, we pondered the future and made plans for it. Thus far, Solidarity has been very successful, and we must ensure that we will continue to be successful in the future. That is why we obtained the top expertise in the country in the past year, and we invited all well-disposed organisations to form part of the Afrikaner Civil Network, where plans are made for the future under the guidance of top political scientists, economists, demographers, sociologists and other experts.

Research conducted by more than twenty researchers is currently being processed under the leadership of Prof. André Duvenhage and his team. By September they should have completed possible scenarios for the future and by November they should have plans of action for every important area of society.

This planning will also be discussed by the Head Committee and will be considered as part of our own planning. Meanwhile, we are not resting on our laurels, and we are already doing our own planning. Our ten-year vision should be the creation of minimum conditions that would enable us to live in South Africa successfully, so that we can make a permanent contribution to the continued success of the country. Secondly, we must now expand the Solidarity Movement faster across the country.

Thirdly, we must establish a network of civil organisations, almost in the way that Cosatu took the lead in establishing the UDF. Our aim will not be to strike and disrupt, but to provide services to our people where the government can no longer or will no longer do it, and to create a fixed address where the government can negotiate regarding burning issues.

Fourthly, we need to reflect today about a legal and protected Nedlac protest action, to show that we are serious about fighting violent crime in our country. Lastly, we need to ensure that our plans are larger than the problems we must face, and that we are able to actually carry out those plans.

My hope is that in ten years we will look back on this National Council meeting and say: This is where things started happening! Ladies and gentlemen, there are certain things that are worth fighting for. The most important of these is the future of our children. Thank you very much.

Flip Buys is the secretary general of Solidarity. This is a translation from the Afrikaans of his speech to the union's general council, on April 15 2010

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