Ongoing political debate …

Adv Jacques du Preez

The FW De Klerk Foundation strongly condemns recent remarks made by Dr Piet Croukamp of the University of Johannesburg in an article in Rapport on 13 May, 2012 (“Safarina Luthuli”).

The ANC recently invited interested parties from the Afrikaans language community to a high-level discussion event. The invitation was specific in that minorities in South Africa should be more than only merely a critical voice. They should be a pro-active voice for the promotion of mutual interests and a national consensus. The purpose of the discussion was to prevent alienation within the civil society segment and in the political and economic dispensation. The expectation was that this gathering would have led to meaningful dialogue in the national interest and facilitated cooperation between the ANC and Afrikaans speaking interest groups.

Dr Croucamp facilitated the conversation and expressed himself as follows in the quoted article: “My political instinct has an aversion to Afrikaner politics and I made it clear from the outset that the term Afrikaner is ideologically charged. I think people who describe themselves as Afrikaners do not feel themselves as part of South Africa and their objectives do not correspond with the Constitution of the country. As far as I’m concerned, Afrikaners are virtually by definition – with rare exceptions – intolerant and probably also racists. I am convinced that being Afrikaans is as obsolete as a smoke signal and that South Africa would be better served without Afrikaners, just as the country would be better off without Julius Malema.”

On the other hand, according to Croukamp, the term “Afrikaans speaking” includes diverse identities and presupposes no ideological consensus or even necessarily any political autogenous grouping. Croukamp is also of the opinion that people who identify themselves as “Afrikaans speaking” South Africans, are predominantly loyal to South Africa, trust in the Constitution and don’t really care which colour or race the government or state is, as long as it governs in a good and just manner. Their (Afrikaans speakers’) struggle is therefore about better governance, not about a white, Afrikaner government.

Croukamp also believes that some persons who attended the event, virtually begged to have their skills utilised to govern the country in a better manner. According to Croukamp Afrikaners therefore do not view themselves as part of South Africa, their purpose – whatever it may be – is unconstitutional and they are, without exception, disloyal towards South Africa.

These ill-considered and irresponsible comments are not only unconstitutional, but also racist. The crux of racism and racist utterances such as Croukamp’s, is its harmful treatment of, or the attribution of negative characteristics to people because of their race or cultural grouping.

The statement that Afrikaners are, per definition, intolerant and (probably) racist, is not only extremely insensitive and unfounded, but borders on hate speech. Comments that certain South Africans, irrespective of their race, language or culture are less worthy than others and that South Africa is better off without Afrikaners, erode valuable attempts at nation building by all South Africans and cause bitter polarisation of the races within our communities. Furthermore, any person can be ideological. Our Constitution provides for that. The whole idea of our constitutional democracy – that Afrikaners helped build with so many other South Africans – is not only that we are all equal, but that we all matter in the bigger scheme of things. Our Constitution is very clear in this regard: South Africa belongs to all who live in it – united in our diversity.

Afrikaners played a central role in building South Africa and there are many Afrikaners who openly resisted the racist ideologies of the past. These included Bram Fischer, Beyers Naude, Ingrid Jonker , Andre Brink, Breyten Breytenbach and Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, to mention a few.

The fact that some of the individuals that attended the recent discussion offered their skills and expertise to assist in managing the country more effectively, is a further example of the essential will of the Afrikaner to have a permanent share in, and contribute to, the democratic success story of a new South Africa.

What “Afrikanership” entails or may not entail, is an issue that is open to interpretation. People ought to be judged as individuals and on the basis of their personal character, not according to the colour of their skin or cultural grouping. This holds true for all South Africans, irrespective of whether they are Afrikaners, Zulus, Xhosas or Tswanas, or speak North-Sotho, English or Afrikaans.

Our compassion as a nation – which includes all our communities – is that we rose above our segregated past and came to an agreement in our Constitution on a non-racial democracy where human dignity and equality before the law prevails, and that all South Africans can enjoy fundamental rights.

People should be judged as individuals according to the content of their character – and not the colour of their skins – Martin Luther King Jr.

FW de Klerk Foundation
Cape town, 18 May 2012

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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