During my recent visit to the Netherlands, Belgium and England, I was often invited to “come back home”.

With the word, “home” the people meant the Dutch speaking countries. After my speech in Antwerp, someone in the audience also asked me why Afrikaners do not want to accept Dutch as their language again, thereby solving our language and culture problem…

Yet, the more I travel abroad, the more I realise my heart is in Africa. What a strange longing for a beautiful, rough, sad and often sorrowful land. I cannot always explain it, but this was once again confirmed when I listened to a Flemish woman, singing Afrikaans songs in Belgium. She moved me with a beautiful rendering of “Kinders van die Wind” – in Afrikaans in a foreign country.

During my visit I had many late night conversations with Afrikaners who emigrated – all of them are homesick. That made me think of the two arguments which described the emigration debate in Afrikaner circles in the 1980’s, the era of the “total onslaught”:

  • “People who run away to countries abroad are cowards, un-patriotic and traitors who cannot take the pressure. We are better off without them”.
  • “People who stay in South Africa are tough, patriotic and they fight for their rights. They form the healthy core with which we will save the country”.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever so simple. To condemn anybody because he stays in the country or because he packs up and leave, is wrong. Every case must be judged according to its own merit and circumstances. I will stay here whilst good friends have already departed. However, I denounce people who emigrate for the wrong reasons. It could be compared to the statements made by Pieter-Dirk Uys before 1994, when he commented on people leaving the old South Africa “Firstly because they are strongly opposed to the racism of apartheid and secondly because they cannot stand the blacks anymore”.

Recently a man explained to me why he is emigrating – I should understand, was his opinion “here we do not have enough Afrikaans on TV anymore and religion is neglected in our schools”. Now he and his family are leaving for the USA – were there is no Afrikaans on TV and even less religion in the schools! If he explained to me that he could not find a job for which he was trained in South Africa; or that he is leaving after two car-hijackings and he is now putting the safety of his family first, I would have judged him differently.

The same goes for people who are unrealistic about emigration and are dishonest with themselves. If you realise that you, as first generation emigrant will never truly become part of the new community, but that your children will fit in, then you are realistic. If you also realise that it is unfair to expect from your children to become true Afrikaners abroad, then you are also realistic. You may teach them Afrikaans – for the sake of their grandfather and grandmother and also for the slight chance that they may return to this country some day in future. But remember the world of these children is English, their schools, their friends and TV are English. They might of course still speak Afrikaans with their parents at home – but that is mostly due to politeness. Listen to them when they are playing alone – they prefer to communicate with each other in English. It is unfair to such a child to be raised in a foreign country, alone, as an Afrikaner.

I love Afrikaans and my people. These above mentioned problems and realities are obstacles, which I will not be able to overcome. It is one of the reasons why I will remain here – without condemning those who depart for good reasons.

Why is my heart in Africa? Is it for the challenges in Africa or is it only because of the beauty of our nature?

I am fond of walking in summertime, especially at sun set. I stayed in Britain for a couple of months on a bursary scheme. I also visited China, Australia and every continent. I studied and stayed in the USA for a whole year during my post-doctoral studies.  Wonderful countries, but none have twilight and a sunset that could be compared to ours, our blue skies, the shades of red when the sun sets, and the shapes formed by the clouds.

What can be compared to gazing at the stars in the Karoo while pondering the wonder of God? Nothing comparable could be found in the USA or any other country during my visits.

Apart from nature, the challenges of Africa are also important to me. I like to watch the TV news bulletins, from the popular emigration destinations. They cannot hold my attention. The nature of their challenges and crisis’s are boring. They argue about questions such as whether they have too many or too few sheep, or whether a cloned cow should be slaughtered or not!

An Australian explained to me how stimulating he finds all the challenges in South Africa – but only for one year. Then, according to him, he must return to the peacefulness of Australia to recharge his spiritual batteries. We on the other hand complete a lifetime in South Africa with the same spiritual batteries.

From an Afrikaans perspective, South Africa at present is not more dangerous than the battles on the eastern frontiers in 1836 or those of the Anglo Boer War in 1900.  But let us who remain in the country also be honest with ourselves. I hate crime and violence. I detest corruption and bad administration. Every day I am utterly frustrated to see how the government makes mistakes to the detriment of all. I am sad when I see how the opportunity for international success and for solutions and the accommodation of the different cultural groups slip through our fingers.

My heart is attached to Africa; My mind sets the conditions: I want to be myself in Africa. Is that too much to ask? If we succeed with this, more people will stay. That is the big political challenge as I see it. If there is place in the North of Africa for Arabs with their religion and “different” culture then there should also be a place for me in the South even though black intolerants call me an Euro-African.

The word “calling” is a cliché that many people like to pour over everything. Almost like a religious gravy. However calling does play a role in my decision to stay. Why did Jan van Riebeeck leave us here? Why did Afrikaners survive the Great Trek, Blood River and the Anglo Boer War? Did we survive all this just to disappear tragically in the 21st century?

I refuse to belief this. You may call me one of those who believe there is a plan and a purpose for everything, also with my life. Perhaps part of that is to play a role here and to make a difference. The theologists name this “calling”.

You may say that I am arrogant — but I do feel a strange responsibility towards thousands who would never be able to leave the country, regardless of what may happen in the future — even if they want to. Poor people, oppressed people and Afrikaners who experience discrimination. For more than 80% of all Afrikaners it is not possible to leave


My father taught me that, one person at the right time at the right place, can make a difference. I would like to believe that.

I grieve for every person that emigrates, because it is a loss to South Africa. But people, who decide to stay and then only complain, moan and groan, do not help at all. If you decide to stay, become involved. Join a political party or a cultural organisation or donate money for a cause. To only ask other people “what are you doing to improve my position?” is not good enough. Do something yourself.