28 DECEMBER 2002, Page 17


Andrew Kenny says the Afrikaner nationalists

love their culture but the African nationalists hate theirs

Cape Town A SERIES of terrorist bomb blasts across South Africa, one of which killed a woman in Soweto, has rubbed a wound of resentment between Africans and Afrikaners. This terrorism, unlike 11 September, has not required us to worry about its 'root causes'. It has required only simple condemnation. This is because the bombs are believed to be the work of 'right-wingers'.

South Africa has enriched political philosophy by giving definition to the terms `left-wing' and 'right-wing', which otherwise mean nothing at all. (Is Fidel Castro left-wing or right-wing? He persecutes homosexuals, supports capital punishment, bans trade unions, is a billionaire in an impoverished country, and has decreed that his brother should succeed him in absolute power.) In South Africa, as might be expected, the meaning is racial. If you hate capitalism and globalisation, loathe the US, seethe with ethnic nationalism, see your people as the victims of an evil conspiracy and have a black skin, you are 'an extreme left-winger'. If you hold exactly the same set of beliefs but have white skin, you are an extreme right-winger'.

The 'extreme right-wingers' are tiny groups of hardline Boer nationalists. They have as much chance of taking over South Africa as the Druids have of taking over England. There is no hard evidence that they are behind the bombings but the circumstantial evidence points towards them. This month members of the Boeremag (Boer Power') were arrested with large amounts of explosives, I have spoken to members of similar groups, such as the AWB (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), and I know what they stand for. They feel that South Africa rightly belongs to the Afrikaners, and is given to them by God, It has been stolen from them by a wicked Jewish–capitalist conspiracy, whose roots go back to the Illuminati and whose master is the Antichrist. Black people, who are subhuman innocents, are being used by the conspiracy to wreck South Africa in preparation for its takeover by the 'New World Order'.

In other words, the 'right-wing' plotters are a dreary lot, not peculiarly Afrikaans, whose thoughts are little different from those of any other bunch of fascist, Marxist or religious fanatics. Much more interesting has been the reaction of ANC commentators to Afrikaners in general.

Their most outrageous suggestion was that any Afrikaner who is campaigning to promote Afrikaner culture must have links with the bombers. This is like saying that because I am a vegetarian I must be blowing up animal laboratories. Afrikaners hit back angrily. Then followed arguments about language and identity, and about the rights of minority groups in the new South Africa. As an English-speaking South African, I found myself staring into a chasm of jealousy and suspicion between the Afrikaners, who ruled me in the past, and the Africans, who rule me now.

Each group is faced with a central contradiction which is at the heart of the disputes between them. The Afrikaner contradiction is physical and is now partly resolved. The African one is spiritual and is completely unresolved.

The problem for the Afrikaners was that they professed to believe in Western Civilisation, which implies democracy, but they were always a racial minority in the country they called their own. Eventually, to try to overcome this contradiction, they devised the tortuous nonsense of apartheid. This was acceptable to them when most of them were rural poor or working-class — as the 'extreme rightwingers' are now. But when apartheid delivered high economic growth (a fact that makes liberals such as me squirm), it projected large numbers of Afrikaners into the wealthy, educated classes, where their middle-class consciences could not accept it. It was only a matter of time before one of their number, F.W. de Klerk, as it happened, ended the wretched system. Apartheid collapsed under the weight of bourgeois Afrikaner embarrassment.

The African contradiction is much more profound. It is this: most African leaders loudly denounce European values and praise African ones, but in their every deed they show that they worship everything European and despise everything African. They drive Mercedes, wear Savile Row suits and Gucci shoes, quote Shakespeare, send their children to Eton — and shout against Eurocentric' ideas. They are never more at ease than when they are attending conferences in Europe, surrounded by white diplomats, or less at ease than when in the African bush, surrounded by black peasants. Before colonialism, the literacy rate in sub-Saharan Africa was zero, but African leaders now blame low levels of literacy on colonialism. They are saying simultaneously, 'Why did you colonise us?' and 'Why didn't you colonise us more?'

Such unhappy conflict in their breasts renders most black leaders incapable of logical policies, and causes a ruinous division between them and the black people they rule.

Afrikaners jeer at this behaviour, and the African leaders are well aware of it, The key to the whole conundrum is language. During their 100 years under the British Empire, Afrikaans was suppressed by the British. Bitterly resentful, the Afrikaners vowed to champion their language when they eventually came to power, and this is exactly what they did. With great effort and determination, they set up Afrikaans schools and Afrikaans universities. They taught the science of Europe, but they also taught the beauty of their own culture. The crucial test of any ideology is this question: 'What school do you send your children to?' (Try the test on British socialists,) The Afrikaner leaders passed the test with flying colours. They sent their children to schools and universities where the teaching was in Afrikaans.

By contrast, African leaders do not send their children to schools that teach in African languages. They shudder at the thought. They send them to schools and universities that teach in English. The louder a black commentator shrieks against white colonialism, the surer you can be that she sends her own children to a highly Furocentric school where most of the teachers are white and the medium is English. Since the ANC came to power in 1994, they have made no attempt to foster schools and universities teaching in African languages.

South Africa has 11 official languages. This is an admirable gesture towards our 'rich cultural diversity', But while the ANC leadership pretends to promote this policy, it does nothing of the kind and actually tries to root out other languages in favour of English. The only universities which do promote language diver sity are the Afrikaner ones, such as Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom, where Afrikaans is the main medium of teaching. Far from praising them, the ANC constantly snipes at them. Unable to justify his dislike of them, the ANC's minister of education. Rader Asmal, falls back upon the usual mind-blocking arguments that they are racists and closet supporters of apartheid. 'Judging by the strident comments in support of Afrikaans being retained as the only language of tuition at certain institutions, it is evident that some individuals are beginning to show their true colours and to speak through the justifications of those who created and manned the apartheid regime.'

Yet this same minister of education has recently announced his intention to set up universities teaching in the Sotho and Nguni languages (Zulu and Xhosa). The real reason for his anger, as Africans and Afrikaners understand full well, is that in the unlikely event of such universities ever being instituted, no black leaders would ever send their children to them. They are ashamed of their own languages, and the Afrikaners are proud of theirs. This is the fundamental problem.

An Afrikaner commentator with a vivid turn of phrase, Dan Roodt, described our black leaders as 'Afro-Saxons'. This is marvellously apt. President Mbeki of South Africa is a good example and President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is even better. You cannot really understand Mugabe's behaviour and Mbeki's support of him unless you understand what black racism really means.

A white racist is someone who believes that white civilisation is superior to black civilisation, and is happy about it. A black racist is someone who believes white civilisation is superior to black civilisation, and is furious about it. Robert Mugabe exactly fits this definition. He is Dan Roodt's perfect Afro-Saxon. Mugabe reveres all things European and sneers at all things African. He loves English lords and ladies, and regards African peasants as backward coons. He shops at Harrods and dresses like an English gent. For 20 years he was quite content for white farmers to own a large part of Zimbabwean soil. It was only when he knew that the African electorate was going to vote him out that he dreamed up his present policies of 'land reform', whose main intention was to terrorise black farmworkers. And then the phrases of hatred against Europeans came naturally to him, since, like all black racists, he hates the thing he adores.

The ANC government in South Africa has not uttered one word of condemnation of Mugabe's massive violation of human rights in Zimbabwe, particularly those of black people. The ANC does not hesitate to condemn governments that it dislikes, and so its silence is rightly interpreted as support for Mugabe. I have heard ANC spokesmen at first hand, and can tell you that they are fully behind Mugabe. This was confirmed at the ANC's conference this month when one of Mugabe's thugs, Emmerson Mnangagwa (who educated his children in America and Britain), praised Mugabe, attacked 'Western imperialists' and thanked the ANC for its 'resolute and steadfast solidarity with us'. He received a standing ovation and President Mbeki gave him a big bear hug. The reason for the ANC's support is simply that Mugabe, the Afro-Saxon, the black man who will shout against whites to cling to power but who thinks European culture is better than African, is one of them. I have little doubt that if the ANC faced the prospect of losing an election, it would behave exactly as Mugabe is behaving now.

Meanwhile, the Afrikaners prosper and brood. Many are emigrating, particularly doctors, teachers, engineers and other professionals, but most remain, some moving from government to business and doing well at it. Despite their lamentations, Afrikaans is the third most widely spoken language in South Africa (behind Zulu and Xhosa but ahead of English). More students, including blacks, go to Afrikaner universities than to any others. The Afrikaner has left a deeper mark on the landscape of South Africa than any other people. No liberation struggle in black Africa comes close to matching the heroism of the Boer War, when a handful of Afrikaners — husbands, fathers, farmers, each armed only with a horse and a rifle — took on the greatest empire in the history of the world, inflicted upon it in one week three shattering defeats from which it never recovered, and were overcome in the long run only by overwhelming superiority of weight and numbers. They know their history well, including their infamous years of rule, and ponder their future.

What should the Africans do? The answer is simple. They should do what the Britons did after the Romans left, or what the Japanese did when they discovered the superiority of European science. They should accept that white technology, economic management and political systems are better than their own and learn them as quickly as they can from whomever they can. But they should be proud of their own traditions, culture and language. In fact, this is what the vast majority of African people want to do, but their leaders will not let them. So what should their leaders do? Again, the answer is simple. Follow the example of the Afrikaners.