Dr Pieter Mulder, chairperson of the Freedom Front recently visited China. During a conference with Chinese politicians and diplomats, he had the opportunity to introduce himself and address the audience on the Freedom Fronts’ policies. The conference was held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. In South African terms the Parliament Building of China. Here is a shortened version of his speech:

Madam Chairperson,

I represent the Freedom Front, a political party in South Africa. My party, the Freedom Front, won seats in Parliament in the 1994 and the 1999 elections. In South Africa we have a proportional representation electoral system. The majority of our votes came from Afrikaners or Afrikaans speakers, one of the official languages of South Africa. We believe that different interest groups must be represented in Parliament.

Because of the limited time, I am going to confine myself to a single issue.

My mother tongue is Afrikaans. My language is not spoken anywhere else in the world. Therefore, I see myself as an African, part of Africa and committed to Africa.

Chairperson, in your introductory remarks, you referred to Kosovo, Eastern Europe, the break up of the Soviet Union and Tibet. After the end of the Cold War, most of the conflicts in the world can be traced back to some form of ethnic conflict. We believe that the challenge for countries in this new century is to get an acceptable solution for the solving of these ethnic conflicts. If ethnicity is ignored, it leads to confrontation and conflict. If ethnicity is over emphasized, it may also lead to conflict. The challenge is to get the right balance in handling these realities.

Chairperson, you also referred to China’s 56 ethnic groups. In South Africa we have 11 official languages and even more ethnic groups. After Zulu and Xhosa, Afrikaans is the third most numerous language spoken in South Africa.

My Great grandfather came to Africa in 1680. That was long before most Australians or Americans settled in their countries. My own grandfather fought two wars against the British colonial forces when they conquered us and tried to oppress Afrikaners in the previous century. During these wars, my grandmother was in a British concentration camp. For every Afrikaner that died on the battlefield, nine women and children died in  British concentration camps. After this she never again spoke English.

Because of South Africa’s history of Apartheid, there is an extra sensitivity in South Africa when it comes to ethnic and minority issues. It is often seen as an effort to recreate the past. People that believe or try to reinstate the past, will fail in South Africa. Different reasons and realities exist today that will make this impossible. However, this does not mean that ethnicity, language and cultural differences do not exist anymore in South Africa. The international realities of ethnicity and minorities are also present in the “new South Africa” after 1994. My party believes that these issues are not addressed in the new constitution. We work for the peaceful solution to these problems. If we handle these problems irresponsibly in South Africa our risks are the same as in other conflict areas of the world.

Listening to your introduction on Tibet and looking at the realities of South Africa — This is our challenge and yours. We shall need wisdom, leadership and cool heads to succeed in solving these problems.