Dishonest in this, as in every way

Hermann Giliomee writes on the ANC's approach to Afrikaner language and heritage

In 1999 President Thabo Mbeki addressed the Afrikaner Bond, which was founded as an organisation to promote the same cultural goals as the Afrikaner Broederbond. He said the following:

‘One of the biggest problems facing our people today is that of poverty.

Our duty is not only poverty alleviation, but also how to end this poverty, how to create an enabling environment for all our people to work, eat, learn and live their lives to the full... The Afrikaners have vast experience in these areas; and we challenge everyone today to come into partnership with government in making this programme a success.

The ANC never extended such a concrete invitation.

In 2018 when the Afrikaner Bond celebrated the centenary of the founding of Afrikaner Broederbond, President Cyril Rapmaphosa, who was the main guest speaker, stated:

‘The fact that we mark the centenary of the Afrikanerbond in the same year as we celebrate the centenary of the births of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu is important not only in understanding our past. It is just as important – perhaps even more so – for understanding our future. Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu were among the most consistent proponents of a united, non-racial, non-sexist society in which all would have equal rights and opportunities.

They both believed deeply that Afrikaners were an essential and integral part of the South African nation. They believed that South Africa belonged to all its people equally and that none should be discriminated against on the basis of language, faith, culture, creed or origins.

That is the South Africa that all of us, together, have a responsibility to build. We owe it to the memory of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu to forge a new nation that is united in its diversity. More importantly, we owe it to our children to forge a nation in which all may have security, all may have shelter and comfort and where all may enjoy an improving quality of life.'

A week ago, on 24 September, in celebrating Heritage Day, Ramaphosa made a speech that stands in stark contrast to this. He advocated removing from our city centres the statutes of Afrikaner historical figures who in some way extolled racial exclusivity and white domination. Ramaphosa had clearly forgot pledging himself to building a new nation united in its diversity given the fact that 90% of the Afrikaner leaders in various parties supported segregation or apartheid. That includes Gen. Louis Botha and Gen. Jan Smuts.

Ramaphosa’s new version of national unity prompted Dave Steward to write an article that was posted on Politicsweb on 29 September under the title "Ramaphosa's doublethink'.

"In his novel “1984” George Orwell defined doublethink as the tendency to cling to two contradictory beliefs. He elaborated as follows: ‘To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies - all this is indispensably necessary.

Ramaphosa celebrated the fact that South Africa is a nation of eleven official languages”, He is silent about the fact that under the ANC government English has effectively been made the sole national language, that Afrikaans as a university language has been marginalised as a university language in all but one of the university campuses except one (Potchefstrom) and that he has done very little to promote that indigenous languages facing extinction."

Someone at one of the Historically Afrikaans Universities who watched the marginalisation and ultimate exclusion of Afrikaans on his campus remarked as follows: ‘

‘The story of Afrikaans on the university campuses is a tale shot through with dishonesty. The ANC administration drove the policy through with absolute cynicism. Nothing came of the initial policy of accommodation formulated after the report of Dr James Gerwel. Absolutely nothing.

But as we all know once dishonesty takes hold of part of you it quickly spreads to other parts of your life. And so it is with the ANC. As an organisation and as a government it has no shame. If it is so easy to steal money and defraud the taxpayer without any consequences why would you keep your word about anything else?’

After Ramaphosa’s recent speech we know what the ‘new nation that is united in its diversity’ means to the ANC government. It is one in which the ANC determines who the heroes are who should be honoured today and who the villains are who should be consigned to the dustbin of history. The government may even provide guides to instruct those too dim-witted to understand our history.

The whole project to re-engineer history in terms of present values looks like a fumbling attempt of a movement that was once powerful but has lost its bearings.  

Hermann Giliomee’s new book The Afrikaners: A Concise History (Tafelberg) is due to be released next month.