SEPT 2002

What is going on in Afrikaner circles? Police uncovered plans for a meeting in Lichtenburg on the 14th of September for the “proclamation of the old Boer republics”. A truck containing explosives was impounded at Lichtenburg on that date.

Why Lichtenburg? Why 14th of September? Historical background is needed to understand.

From 1899 to 1902 Afrikaners defended their Republics against the biggest power of that time, Britain. For every Afrikaner man killed on the battlefield, nine women and children died in the British concentration camps.  The Afrikaners lost the war and their freedom. The new British governor, Lord Alfred Milner, then proceeded to force English down the throats of Afrikaners. If you spoke Afrikaans at school, you had to wear a special hat with donkey written on it as punishment.

The Boer generals promised each other to get their freedom back at the first possible opportunity. When the First World War started in Europe in 1914, some generals saw this as their opportunity. They will start an uprising and get their freedom back while the British are occupied far away in Europe.

One of the most successful Afrikaner generals during the Anglo Boer war, was Genl Koos De la Rey from Lichtenburg. On the 14th of September 1914  genl De la Rey was on his way to Potchefstroom to start a rebellion against the government to get back Afrikaner freedom. On that date he was shot and killed at a police roadblock. The rebellion continued but failed because the situation in South Africa was in 1914 very different from the Anglo Boer war in 1902.

It seems that some individuals were trying to repeat this history on Saturday 14th September 2002. As in 1914 the Afrikaner is in 2002 in a new situation with new realities.

I understand their historical parallel. I understand their frustrations but I disagree with their methods. For Afrikaners to position themselves as the permanent enemy of the government will not solve their problems.

At my public meetings most of the questions are about black racism in Zimbabwe; about unfair affirmative action decisions that ended or changed a career; about the reasons why the government want to Anglicise all Afrikaans schools and universities.  Whether these questions are based on facts or not, is not important. Why? Because history has taught us that people do not react on facts but on their perceptions of a situation. The Russian writer Solzhenitshen wrote on perceptions and war: “You do not fight me on what I am, but on what you think I am.”

When pres Mbeki argues silent diplomacy on Zimbabwe, Afrikaners hear silent approval and a commitment to repeat this in South Africa. When min Asmal argues access at schools and universities, Afrikaners hear lord Milner in 1902 that tried to destroy their language and schools. When pres Mugabe says that this is his Zimbabwe, Afrikaners hear that there is no place for whites in Africa. (Some black people agree with these perceptions. There is no difference between the intolerance of a white or a black racist. )

My message to Afrikaners is that they must learn that all black leaders are not the same. In the same instance, black people must learn that all Afrikaners are not the same. People and politics are just not that simple. Stereotyping is always dangerous.

I am from Africa and proud of it. (My grandfather was kommandant Pieter Mulder that fought the British in the Anglo Boer war. He was one of those De la Rey rebels in 1914. He was put in jail for freedom as he saw it.)  I am a modern Afrikaner and an African. My language is not spoken anywhere else in the world. More than 80% of all Afrikaners will not leave the country.

If there is place in the North of Africa for Arabs with their religion and “different” culture and cruel slave history then there should also be a place for Afrikaners in the South of Africa even though black intolerants still call them Euro-Africans. All that Afrikaners ask is to be themselves in Africa. Is that too much to ask?

What do Afrikaners talk about while standing around the “braai’-fire?  There, where they are alone, and need not be politically correct? They speak of crime and the cruelty of the latest farm murder. They speak of feeling like strangers in South Africa. How Afrikaners are unfairly blamed for everything that goes wrong.

What do Black people talk about when they are on their own? They say that Whites are ungrateful.  Whites should have had a Neurenberg hearing.  Mbeki is far too soft with these White exploiters and that Mugabe is right.

These views and perceptions are hardly the recipe for a win-win solution in South Africa. What is happening between the different groups in South Africa? Are we moving away from win-win solutions and towards conflict? We must all remember—(if the South African ship goes down, we all go down with it.) If South Africa is seen as a forest and it starts burning, all the trees will burn. There is no way that this group or that group will not be burnt and hurt in such a situation. 

When I as a leader strongly criticize the methods of the people that planned to overthrow the government by armed force, then I must be able to offer Afrikaners some realistic alternatives for their problems and frustrations.

The government can address these problems but then there must be the political will to do so. Most people in South Africa are yearning for peace and harmony.  To achieve this goal requires a solution between the minorities and the majority. Such a solution must create a win-win situation for all—allowing sufficient space for the ANC and the Afrikaner. With statesmanship, leadership and the political will on both sides, win-win solutions can be obtained.

With extremism and polarisation, we will repeat the mistakes of Zimbabwe and Burundi and will be fighting each other for the next twenty years in win/lose political battles. How stupid.

The ANC must make its choices. Is the Afrikaner part of the problem or part of the solution? After the government addressed these problems, the ANC will be surprised to see how much Afrikaner energy will emerge to support and help resolve the country’s problems. Now that energy is used in internal Afrikaner debates, and by some to plan military takeovers.