by Shaun Willcock
South Africa’s black Marxist or Marxist-sympathising leaders, with their arrogant assumption that the whole world owes them a cushy living and their hatred of the two white South African nations, the Afrikaners and the English, would do well to study some basic points about South African history: how these groups won their place in the sun. These groups understood, as the ANC and its alliance partner, the SA Communist party, do not, that moving from poverty to prosperity involves massive effort on their part. There were no government handouts for the Voortrekkers or their descendants; no free perks for the early British settlers. To survive at all, these groups – and others – had to struggle and sacrifice like supermen; and SA is immeasurably the richer for it. How many similar supermen are there in the ANC? Thus far, we have seen none; nor will we, for Marxism and black African nationalism cannot produce them.
“The Afrikaner tribe at the tip of the continent… is built, and organised, around the instinct for survival. It has nowhere else to go.” – The London Economist
“As always in South Africa, it is the Afrikaner who stands at the point of the flame. For him, it is not a matter of win or lose, but of survival or going under.” – N.P. van Wyk Louw, Afrikaans poet
“Would blunders never end upon the Tugela? Would British officers never learn that they were fighting, not simple rustics, but men of matchless resource and cunning – men with a natural gift for tactics, ever ready, as at Majuba or Tugela Heights, to take advantage of a strategic mistake?” – Donald MacDonald, Australian journalist, after watching a succession of British defeats in the Boer War of 1899-1902
“It is impossible for a people that has fought as the Boers have done to lose their self-respect; and it is just as impossible for Englishmen to regard them with contempt.” – Lord Kitchener
“In World War Two no part of Europe was so devastated root and branch as the Transvaal and the Free State in the South African War. From the battlefields our people returned only to a country in ruins – devastated and burnt till only nature remained.” – General Jan Smuts, quoted in the Johannesburg Star, 18.6.48
“The rise of Afrikanerdom has been a great historical drama. I have no wish that it should turn into a tragedy.” – Alan Paton, English South African author
These are traumatic days for the Afrikaners, Africa’s famous, much-debated, much-maligned “White Tribe.” There are roughly 2,8 million Afrikaners. They constitute slightly more than half of the White inhabitants of South Africa. South Africa is the only home they have ever known. They have no other home than this, a home their ancestors carved out of the wilderness – and to which they and all their people gave a fierce and possessive love.
Today the Afrikaner faces the most challenging phase of all his near-350 years of history in Africa. Like it or lump it, almost all now accept that the era when the Afrikaner could exercise virtual total control over every aspect of SA life is irrevocably past. So, willy-nilly, the Afrikaner feels apprehensive, has a sense of being threatened, isolated, beleaguered. Inevitably, he asks himself: In the “New South Africa,” will the Afrikaner be ploughed under? Will the new dispensation, whatever that may finally be, sound the death knell of Afrikaner culture, language, identity?
Such fear should be readily understandable. The Afrikaner knows from his not-too-distant past what it is to go down before superior numbers. National tragedy is by no means unknown to him. Total national tragedy is therefore not beyond his imagination.
Those are his fears. What is the reality? The reality is that, as few others on this earth, the Afrikaner has been trained and tempered to cope with change, even massive change. The struggle for survival, for national and personal liberty, has always been part and parcel of his existence.
In the past 200 years in particular, he has built up a truly incredible capacity for endurance. At rock bottom, these are no weak or faltering lightweights. On the contrary, they are a people who have behind them a stirring, robust, hard-grained history. Almost a century ago, General Smuts wrote of ´n eeu van onreg (a century of wrong) suffered by the Afrikaners. His bitter lament was well warranted. His was a nation that had truly suffered gotterdammerung, been discriminated against, persecuted, conquered, impoverished and subjugated for the greater part of its existence.
Nor, in many ways, have they fared all that better in this, the 20th century. Facing an almost entirely hostile world, they have suffered much ignorance, calumny and misrepresentation. There are many, both here and overseas, who take a tortured delight in baiting the Afrikaner, who regard Boer-bashing as a sort of elaborate sport: a sport that in turn has reduced our economy to near-ruin, has inflicted world-wide isolation upon us.
Yet, through it all, through those turbulent years, the Afrikaner has survived. They do not claim to be a nation of heroes: but they have demonstrated in the past that heroic qualities are there. All this provides them, today, with considerable pliancy when confronted with change.
The Afrikaner’s remarkable adaptability is all too easily lost from sight. One has only to examine how this once intensely conservative, Calvinist, rural people in just one generation won their place in modern hi-tech industry, commerce, science and technology.
As Dr G.M.E. Leistner of the Africa Institute has pointed out, foreign observers of present-day SA tend to overlook that a mere half-century ago the Afrikaner was still very much the underdog in this country: the handyman, clerk, ordinary school teacher, the postman, railway porter, road builder, police constable, the subordinate wage-earner generally. In the early 1930s about one-third of Afrikaners were designated “poor Whites,” many existing at a lower level of material wellbeing than Blacks.
The parents of many of those whose luxury homes, game farms, big Mercedes’ and children at overseas universities are today regarded as the very archetype of White South Africans more often than not in their youth went to school barefoot, their families too impoverished to buy them shoes.
Dr Gerrit Viljoen has recalled: “…at that stage – end of the Forties, beginning of the Fifties – the young Afrikaners had grown up going to school in tents in Pretoria, with the Church providing soup kitchens in winter to keep them from freezing – that standard of under-provision in Black and Brown schools (today) is not all that different from what it had been for us.”
Yet from that unpromising background came Chris Barnard, first surgeon in the world to perform a heart transplant. With him came Afrikaans physicists, scientists of international renown, admirals, jet pilots, artists, poets, writers of world standard. Afrikaners can indeed look back on a rich heritage of courage, tenacity, adaptability.