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Beyond broedertwis — Afrikaners seek to ‘bury the hatchet’ 30 years into democracy

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Marianne Thamm has toiled as a journalist / writer / satirist / editor / columnist / author for over 30 years. She has published widely both locally and internationally. It was journalism that chose her and not the other way around. Marianne would have preferred plumbing or upholstering.

There is no monolithic identity, but many in the Afrikaner community are reaching out constructively.

There are many ways to be Afrikaans in South Africa and just as many manifestations of this official language, the mother tongue of about seven million South Africans.

There is Pretoria Afrikaans, Free State Afrikaans, Oranjerivier-Afrikaans, Namakwa-Afrikaans, Griekwa-Afrikaans, Boland Afrikaans and Afrikaaps.

Afrikaans is a creole language with roots in Asia, Africa and Europe. “Arab Afrikaans” is one of the oldest varieties of the language in the Cape and the first written texts were in notebooks called kopleesboeke (lessons for the mind).

What is the meaning, then, of the manifesto or “cultural accord” released last week by a group of self-identified Afrikaner organisations that “we are here to stay and to build”?

The organisations, under the umbrella Afrikaner Leadership Network, were brought together by ­Theuns Eloff, executive director of the FW de Klerk Foundation. The network represents a spectrum of white South Africans who “culturally” self-identify as Afrikaners.

The agreement to work with the government came about, said Eloff, subsequent to a decision to “bury the hatchet” after 40 years of “politicking” among this group of language speakers.

“The crisis in the country now compels us to have a vision for the future that is stronger than our memory of the past,” read the pledge.

Broedertwis

Broedertwis (fraternal friction) has always been a feature of Afrikaner cultural life, proving there is no static sense of identity or way of being.

Examples abound – anti-apartheid cleric Beyers Naudé, advocate Bram Fischer, politician Van Zyl Slabbert, writers Antjie Krog, Uys Krige, Ingrid Jonker and Breyten Breytenbach, philosopher Willie Esterhuyse, editor Max du Preez, transparency activist Hennie van Vuuren, historian Hermann Giliomee, academic Piet Croucamp, economist Sampie Terreblanche, constitutional expert Pierre de Vos, musicians Johannes Kerk­orrel, Koos Kombuis, Karen Zoid and Amanda Strydom. The list is long and illustrious.

Then there is Privilege Foundation COO Barend La Grange’s cross-cultural-linguistic network, Dialogue for Action, pulled together in 2016 by La Grange, Wannie Carstens, director of the School of Languages at North-West University’s Potch campus, and Dawie Jacobs, a former diplomat.

Jacobs writes that, back then, the need had been identified “for South Africans to look each other in the eye; talk about our past, our present and our future; unlock the treasure of goodwill among our people”.

The Afrikaanse Taalmonument (Afrikaans Language Monument) in Paarl, Western Cape, on 28 June 2021. It was officially opened on 10 October 1975 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa, separate from Dutch. (Photo: Steve Eggington / Gallo Images)

This is “an inclusive network of individuals and organisations that grew organically from these early initiatives and has now come to fruition” and “we have common needs and face common challenges, to reignite the spirit of our people and start rebuilding our country”.

The network has initiated several community projects deploying the “oil drop” effect. When we begin to care for our streets and verges, a sense of ownership and pride follows. “Our people” here means all citizens of the country.

On the lunatic and often criminal extreme right on the spectrum of Afrikanerdom are the likes of “diamond king” Louis Liebenberg and MK’s Carl Niehaus. There are other loudmouths and provocateurs like singer Steve Hofmeyr, academic Dan Roodt and Bittereinder Francois van der Merwe.

Then there are the murderous: the AWB’s Eugène Terre’Blanche, apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock, mass killer Barend Strydom and the Boeremag’s “bomb squad”, Wilhelm Pretorius and others (in the slammer after being found guilty of high treason).

Read more in Daily Maverick: The broedertwis in Afrikanerdom’s ranks all began at Eskom

Add to that the nihilist fringe groups such as the Boerelegioen, the Suidlanders, the Israel Vision, the Daughters of Zion and the National Christian Resistance Movement and you get the depth of the schism.

Floating somewhere as a figment of its own imagination in between and above all of this is the Afrikaner homeland, Orania, in the Northern Cape. It has existed and flourished since 1991. It is free to be.

In fact, the Orania council is currently cooperating with the Jamangile kaMabandla royal family near Nqanqarhu in the Eastern Cape. The AmaBhele kaJamangile also signed a “recognition and cooperation agreement” with AfriForum in February 2022.

Towards the centre right we find AfriForum, led by Kallie Kriel, and the Solidarity movement and union, representing a large section of Afrikaners.

“Forward-looking conservative” is how Kriel describes the movement.

Led by Flip Buys, Solidarity is almost a “state within a state”, wrote historian RW Johnson.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Since 1929 — ‘swart gevaar’ the lethal secret sauce few white voters can resist

These are the kinds of Afrikaners who like to get things done. They get their hands dirty because they don’t like to stand around.

The Sunday Times reported recently that Deputy President Paul Mashatile was seeking to work with farmers, Solidarity and AfriForum to help local governments to repair and maintain water-treatment plants across the country.

The Afrikaner Leadership Network manifesto, released in Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Sotho, and signed by a number of high-profile Afrikaners, sets out that “we see ourselves as equal and not above or below other communities”.

Nationalism Lite

Nationalism is a feature of South African life. Although its uglier fundamentals always lead to violence, its nontoxic version can act as a glue that provides rivers of connectedness in a country as diverse and as multicultural as South Africa. Zulu traditions and culture are a feature of South African life. We also have six other official “kingships”, as they are termed.

These include the AmaXhosa, the AmaMpondo and AbaThembu of the Eastern Cape, the Kingdom of Vhavenda in Limpopo, the AmaNdebele of Mpumalanga and the Bapedi ba Maroteng of Limpopo.

Two things to hold in mind: one is that there is a real commitment to rebuilding and, two, it’s an election year. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.

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  • Louis Fourie says:

    These verkrampte “Afrikaners” and their exclusionary brand of Afrikanerdom don’t represent me. They have a long way to go before they understand the Afrikaan part .

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    A fascinating insight into the ‘afrikaaner’ identity … or more likely .. identities .

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    A fascinating insight into the ‘afrikaaner’ identity … or more likely .. identities .

    • T'Plana Hath says:

      To paraphrase Chris Rock, “There are the 𝘳𝘦𝘨𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘳 Afrikaaners, and then there are the 𝘧𝘰𝘬𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘴. And even the 𝘳𝘦𝘨𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘳 Afrikaaners hates (sic) the 𝘧𝘰𝘬𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘴.”

  • Jean Grové says:

    Interesting tht Niehaus is now lumped with the “far right”

    Fair enough, depending on which framework one uses, much of Zuma and MK can be positioned there on that outdated spectrum…

    Here, though, it seems to go more with the media coding of “white male with opinions I dislike” sense into which use of the term has devolved, rather than a reasonable attempt at placing complex political positioning on a line…

    But does even Niehaus consider himself an Afrikaner?

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