Press "Enter" to skip to content

Any room for Afrikaners in the new South Africa?

About two months ago I wrote a light-hearted post (on my blog) about the South African language I considered to be the sexiest. The post was written for a limited audience and was not intended as social commentary. I rated Afrikaans fourth and said — in jest of course — that “unfortunately, Afrikaans is burdened by Soweto Skhothanes, Capetonian thugs and, well … the National Party. Many young South Africans thus refuse to speak the language”.

I made these comments sincerely. Despite being a joke, I did not expect Afrikaans speakers to take offence (let alone read the blog). It was only when an Afrikaans blogger, who calls himself alleman, posted a comment that I realised my ignorance. Alleman commented that: “I appreciate this was written in a light-hearted way, but at times I need to speak out about South Africans’ habitual hypocrisy about Afrikaans. I can remember how the majority of white English people supported the National Party in the 1980s, and how their young men, like me, were willing conscripts to the SADF. Why do people not remember that now and why do they not know the role that Britain played in the formation of white rule in South Africa? If Afrikaans must still be tied to the National Party, then why is English not called the language of colonialism?”

The comments have haunted me. In retrospect I realised that I might have spoken out a prejudice towards Afrikaners. In school I voluntarily studied Afrikaans, even when many of my schoolmates opted out. Over the years I have made many Afrikaner friends. The annoying voice inside me posed a difficult question: How is this different from the racist who says “some of my friends are black”?

Over the years a number highly publicised political shenanigans have brought to the fore a strong black resentment (if not sheer hate) towards Afrikaners. First it was former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s instance on singing the provocative dubul’ ibhunu or ”shoot the boer” song. Bizarrely, and in spite of its progressive stance, the ANC sought to defend the singing of the song. Defenders of dubul’ ibhunu (and other divisive struggle songs) argued the song was ”sacred heritage”.

Writing from this pro-dubul’ ibhunu stance, Abe Mokoena rehashes the inane argument that: “Our Struggle songs are a sacred heritage that was constructed with solid revolutionary creativity, iron faith in the future and an unbreakable firmness of spirit. They are the barometer of revolutionary thought. They are the embodiment of great thinking and leadership. They mirror the sustained commitment and dedication of revolutionary martyrdom for the realisation of a great national ideal, democracy.”

More recently the minister of women, children and people with disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, and her rant to the media about young Afrikaner men. Xingwana told an Australian newspaper that young Afrikaner men are brought up in the Calvinist religion believing they own a woman and children and can therefore take that life because they own it. Xingwana has since made an incongruent and derisory apology.

The pejorative black perception of Afrikaners is not only regressive, it’s also hypocritical. Blacks often bemoan the unwillingness of whites (especially Afrikaners) to chip a shoulder towards nation building. Such calls are insincere if blacks are themselves unwilling to walk the walk. Rather than uproot black racism, it is often justified as anger.

It is regrettable that the relations between the various cultural communities in South Africa have been characterised by mistrust, bloodshed and residual anger. All South Africans must be reminded that we, together as a nation, decided to wipe the slate clean in 1994. Democracy did not only liberate blacks from oppression, it also liberated whites from their oppressive position.

It’s important that we guard against the tendency to annihilate Boer (Afrikaner) culture. Prejudice bears only prejudice, it will deepen the rift between South Africans and reverse the democratisation project.

I am a Zulu man. Between 1826 and 1836 King Shaka Zulu, the Zulu king credited with building and growing the amaZulu nation, waged bloody wars against other Bantu tribes in southern Africa. The wars are collectively known as imfecane (the crushing or scattering) because various Nguni tribes escaping the wrath of Shaka’s formidable army scattered all over southern Africa including Mzilikazi and amaNdebele (Zimbabwe), Ndwandwe and Soshangane (Mozambique), Sobhuza and amaNgwane (now Swazi in Swaziland), Zwangendaba (now Ngoni in Tanganyika) and Moshoeshoe (Lesotho).

The point is, I imagine, that those who suffered under Shaka’s wrath have continued to tell the story for generations. As a Zulu descendent I wish not to be tainted by Shaka’s cruelty. I continue to be a proud Zulu without fearing abomination by the Basotho or amaSwati (for example). Young Afrikaners must be afforded the same space to celebrate their Afrikaner (Boer) heritage without pressure from past events. It is true that some Afrikaners raise culture as a justification for apartheid and discrimination, Orania is an example. This is merely a challenge we must overcome as a nation.

Besides, who wants to live in a country without biltong or boerewors?



  1. NATE IV NATE IV 8 March 2013

    I love this article. A seasoning to the novel treading this very vein. That we black Africans conveniently hide our prejudices yet gasp with disbelief to others.

  2. NATE IV NATE IV 8 March 2013

    *to my novel (busy writing it)

  3. Confused Confused 8 March 2013

    I think you may have tried to make some point about appreciating Afrikaner culture, but what you ended up doing was confuse me with your “incongruent and derisory” arguments. Retry my friend.

    Brad, I really don’t understand you. Are you really accusing black people of not giving enough space to Afrikaners to express their culture. Brad, for goodness sakes, which country do you live in?

    I am so so confused right now. I shouldn’t have read this.

  4. Amanda de Beer Amanda de Beer 8 March 2013

    Thanks for the great article, I am a proud afrikaner and it is great to read that a black zulu is defending the language.

  5. Also Confused Also Confused 8 March 2013

    i have to agree with Confused. I dont know which South Africa you live in where Afrikaans are not able to fully express themselves? do you think people will just forget what happened to them? i work with a 28 year old girl who has clear memories of apartheid. ofcourse there is going to be some resentment, we cant pretend its not there and just say well in 94 we had change so lets move on. doesnt work like that. i just wish people would stop hoping that black and white people in this country are at the same place emotionally (i am talking majority population). If we are to move on we have to be realistic about human nature. You would never say to a jew who survived holacaust or even their children who affected to just get over it. that doesnt actually fix anything.

  6. Amanda de Beer Amanda de Beer 8 March 2013

    Confused, mayby Brad is just trying to say that we should appreciate and respect each other language and culture.That afrikaans should not always been seen as the language of the oppressor. My daughter is taking Zulu as a third language at the univercity and she is loving it.

  7. Juju Esq. Juju Esq. 8 March 2013

    Well said Brad. You always think things through, express them clearly and are prepared to examine them from another perspective should the need arise.

    Life is a journey, this South African Rainbow Nation cannot afford to remain psychologically stuck in either Queen Victoria’s colonialism, King Shaka’s time or Hendrik Verwoerd’s time.

    You are critical, conciliatory, compassionate, knowledgeable and objective.

    Thank you.

  8. Gordon Gordon 8 March 2013

    Nice honest reading and let’s face it, the debate could rage on forever. For example, my home language is English, on my fathers side I am second generation South African and following some excellent work into our family tree by my wife, I discovered not so long ago that my great-grandmother, going back to 1683, was apparently the first Huguenot child born in South Africa and Generaal Delarey shares this very same grand mother on his mother’s side (his Mother was a van Rooyen). All my Grandmothers on my Mom’s side were Afrikaans speaking born into Afrikaner families who happened to marry English speaking men.

    I was fortunate enough to grow up in a largely Afrikaans speaking town attending English school where my father worked on the mines and thankfully, all the bullying because I was ‘Engels’ (despite the fact that I could/can speak Afrikaans pretty fluently) did not bother me in the least which carried on into military training and, believe it or not, my early business career.

    The point I am making is that we should be careful pinning labels on people because I am in many ways, through my heritage, more Afrikaner than many people who consider themselves more Afrikaans than me…interesting.

  9. Ansie du Toit Ansie du Toit 9 March 2013

    I personally know 3 Afrikaans families that are quietly paying for black kids to be educated. This is done with the believe that educating one or two disadvantaged people will help more than dishing out money to charities. I am sure there are English speaking people doing it, just have no experience of it.

  10. Heinrich Heinrich 9 March 2013

    The words ” Afrikaner” and “Afrikaans” mean “of, or from, Africa”.

    Similarly “Suid-Afrikaner” and “Suid-Afrikaans” means “of or from, South Africa”

    Nice article, Brad. We are all Afrikaners and Suid-Afrikaners, except those who seek to divide us. That is why I so detest political parties. The only unity they seek is party unity, at the cost of national unity.

  11. Lin Lin 9 March 2013

    A pity we have to speak any language at all. Sadly most people just seem to lack communication skills even if they have a language or a culture or are privileged enough to have roots. Perhaps if we spent more time at school learning how to express ourselves, we may all eventually be able to connect. I reckon a lot of the world’s problems have been caused by communication blunders. I am an English Afrikaner (or something) – speak fluent Englikaans – but I may be re-incarnated a few times so who knows what else is in there …

  12. Brian Dawes Brian Dawes 9 March 2013

    I just wish I could speak another Afrikaans and Zulu and Xhosa and French and German – but I’m from the North of England and I don’t speak English all that well. I habe no talent for language.

  13. Brian Dawes Brian Dawes 9 March 2013

    or typing – habe should read have. I am sitting a wee bit left of centre

  14. Dave Harris Dave Harris 9 March 2013

    Again, like your last blog “Europeans must leave South Africa!”, you seem to be either clueless or simply self-righteous to have the gall to imply that SA should purge itself of these “undesirables” who look, act and think differently to the majority. The mere fact that you question whether there’s “any room” shows your lack of tolerance for diversity – which actually, is one of our major advantages compared to most other countries!

    Afrikaners, like the “Little Europeans” you castigated in your previous blog, have every right to live in SA and be treated as human beings. However, some of their abhorrent practices used to cling to their apartheid privileges must be stopped e.g. declaring Afrikaans an “African” language to marginalize blacks in schools and universities.

    I agree with Confused, and can’t see the point of this rambling blog since, Afrikaners have the same rights as you to freely practice their culture in any manner they see fit, without of course, forcibly imposing it on others.

  15. rmr rmr 9 March 2013

    Thank you Brad, for this article. As a white Afrikaner (and Afrikaans is, of course, not by any means a white language) I am pleased not to live under apartheid. My life is richer for the chances I have to interact with the various cultures of our country. I also value Afrikaans and, now that I live in the Western Cape, take delight in the various accents, dialects and traditions (many of which are not white) which I find here.

  16. Jon Story Jon Story 9 March 2013

    One human trait is to remember things and to associate the remembering with current happenings.
    Not only do we remember we convey what we remember to our offspring. Who in turn lay their own links and add their own interpretation.
    In a bible reading the other day I came across this saying, attributed to God: ‘I will remember their sins no more’.
    Many people believe, me included that we created in God’s image and yet we remember the bad things of the past and ourselves. We might wish for these bad things not to have happened, but still remember them. By contrast when it concerns good things we might have trouble in remember them off hand.
    But in the end we succeed because life is not made up of bad things only.
    To cut a long story short (no pun intended) I am therefore glad that Brad remembered biltong and boerewors.

  17. Matoro Matoro 9 March 2013

    Brad I read you with pleasure … but the ignorance Eish Man… in your previous post about “Europeans must leave South Africa!” you strike out against, I don’t know what, but I must assume the culture of a sizable number of the Rainbow Nation. Unless as if you have so clearly pointed out in your blog that you assume (?) that the Rainbow Nation consists only of the Nguni and KhoiSan section. You are forgiven….. Seeing that your are basking in Paris France the capital city of European-ism … or maybe you really didn’t know about the existence of the Tswana-Sotho, Venda, Tsonga and others … more than 50% of the Rainbow Nation. I respect you for your Nguni orientation. But have you noticed that more than 50% of the Afrikaans speaking peoples in South Africa are not white? That it is the dominant language in two of the provinces of South Africa? Eish man my bra ….

  18. Dewald Dewald 9 March 2013

    Boer = farmer = an occupation.
    Arfikaan = African
    Afrikaner = Afrikaans speaking African.
    Note the absence of the word WHITE.
    More “non-whites” speak Afrikaans than white dudes. Don’t equate a language to a single cultural group.

  19. Heinrich Heinrich 9 March 2013

    Dewald : Don’t let a few “intellectuals” who tried to camouflage the word “Afrikaner”, brainwash you.

    There is no such thing as an “Afrikaan”. What would you then call a South African, or an American?

    They are : Suid-Afrikaner and Amerikaner. NOT Suid-Afrikaan or Amerikaan.

    Therefore, an African is an Afrikaner. Die Nyl is ‘n Afrikaanse rivier…

  20. Alois Alois 9 March 2013

    Dewald, history shows that, although many African peoples and peoples of African descent in and out of Diaspora speak European languages, that did not dampen the spirit of racism directed towards peoples of African descent. In Alabama, for example, a congregation peopled by African Americans and, yes, “Christian,” was nevertheless bombed by hateful people who shared that same “Christianity,” causing the death of four young girls of color. And apparently, speaking “Afrikaans” in South Africa notwithstanding, the unfortunate and discriminatory racial binary system still applied. So what are you saying?

  21. MrK MrK 9 March 2013

    ” various Nguni tribes escaping the wrath of Shaka’s formidable army scattered all over southern Africa including Mzilikazi and amaNdebele (Zimbabwe), Ndwandwe and Soshangane (Mozambique), Sobhuza and amaNgwane (now Swazi in Swaziland), Zwangendaba (now Ngoni in Tanganyika) and Moshoeshoe (Lesotho). ”

    I thought the Sotho were related tot the Tswana. Their language is often caterogized as Sotho-Tswana.

    North of the Drakensberg mountains you have the Sotho and Tswana, south of which you have the Northern and Southern Nguni.

    The Ngoni today live in Zambia, Malawi, and some in Tanzania.

  22. Keep it up Keep it up 10 March 2013

    Brad, your columns may indeed seem a little schizophrenic but keep it up. I’m enjoying them for the simple reason that you appear to be working through your own questions by putting them down in writing. Many of us are engaged in a similar process and its good to share insights . It far gentler and more honest that a lot of the schutte – like diatribes we are subjected to on these fora.

  23. Rambler Rambler 10 March 2013

    ‘Harris’ shows the strange side effects of his profession as a propagandist used to telling lies. If your only ability is to attack others and contradict them, you eventually lose basic reading skills. As his rambling comments show.

  24. Kreef Kreef 10 March 2013

    Met ouens soos jy kan ons n nasie bou my ou !

  25. SJ Botha SJ Botha 10 March 2013

    You are wrong yet again when it comes to why people support Orania and the volks staat idea. It has nothing to do with apartheid or racism, but everything to do with freedom and self determination. This right of any nation can never be removed and it is not for you or anyone else to deny it.

  26. Simon Chilembo Simon Chilembo 10 March 2013

    How I love my people, how I love SA! I’m going to describe my PROUD Capetonian friend the way I do here NOT as a reflection of any prejudices I may seem to habour, but only to highlight stereotypical things in my head during our discussion about SA language culture. He’s Cape Malay Coloured looking as Indian as they come, gay, 40+, highly educated (English Ivy Leage univ.), successful, well-travelled, cultured & sophisticated; based in Europe since age 28.

    I brag about my flair for languages, saying, though, I only read Afrikaans for the first time at age 10, at school in Thaba Nchu, Free State. I had earlier started schooling in Lesotho, no Afrikaans there. I tell him all was ok with Afrikaans for me until the Soweto uprising in 1976, explaining that that arose basically out of Black students refusal to accept the forced imposition of Afrikaans as the sole medium of instruction in SA schools. Noticing his confusion, I give him a brief intro into politics of language as a tool of oppression. “Wow, Simon,” he says. “But with us Coloureds in the Cape, we very early embraced Afrikaans as our own. When long ago we were confused, and didn’t understand shit about Boerers and all, we had the language left as the only thing we could have and use to consolidate our presence, and define ourselves and our space in this country. I, WE, just LO-O-OVE Afrikaans!!!” He noticing my own state of confusion now, he says, “Strange how much South Africans don’t know about one…

  27. Simon Chilembo Simon Chilembo 10 March 2013

    “… Strange how much South Africans don’t know about one another, neh!?”

  28. The Creator The Creator 11 March 2013

    Dunno about biltong, but boerewors, like most of the foodstuffs which Afrikaners claim for their own, is actually Indonesian or Malay in origin (coriander is not a common Dutch spice); that is, it comes from the slaves of the Boers rather than from the Boers themselves.

    Which shows that the issue is rather complicated. However, the idea that Afrikaners, the most privileged group in South Africa, are in some day a disadvantaged group who need protection is a hoot of the first magnitude.

    It is rather interesting that Zulus tend to be more chummy with Afrikaners than members of other tribal groups. Can it be that — since the Boers were chased out of Zululand quite quickly — they don’t have as much experience of Afrikaner oppression and have rather more experience of Anglophone Shepstonian apartheid? (In the 1920s the ANC used to meet in Natal, being Zulu-dominated, and the delegates from the Eastern Cape were always bewildered by racial segregation since it wasn’t practiced where they came from.)

    Or is it just that one group of authoritarian patriarchs is inclined to give the high-five to another?

  29. Barbra Barbra 11 March 2013

    Well said, Brad. I am a white, Afrikaans female, but, as Nataniel put it so well many years ago, it is simply the language that my mother first taught me, and does not define who I am. I know a lot of Afrikaners that couldn’t be more alien to me than any visitor from out of space. Ultimately, it is shared values that should matter, and race, colour, language, sex, whatever, should not matter one bit.

  30. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 11 March 2013

    Brad you should be a carpenter because you keep hitting the nails on the head.

  31. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 11 March 2013

    @The Creator:
    This should clear up the mystery of who got chased out of KZN:

    It’s no mystery that the Dutch as a whole actually had very good relationships with their slaves (in more ways than one..). Just like the idea of 300 or 400 years of unbroken colonialism and slavery is a recent invention, so is the idea of the pure Afrikaner Baasskap.

    Biltong, by the way, can be traced back to the San people, but there are other dried meat dishes of the time as refrigerators were hard to come by in the days of the spice trade. The fact that some spices are rare for the Dutch is the reason why they went around the world. There were quite a few Germans who helped to cook sausages too, but they weren’t Dutch or Boer subordinates last time I checked.

  32. Mike Mike 11 March 2013

    Not true sorry self determination is the right of every nation worldwide “It is true that some Afrikaners raise culture as a justification for apartheid and discrimination, Orania is an example”

  33. Joleen Joleen 11 March 2013

    Love the piece wirh one objection…All Afrikaners are not boer! A boer is a farmer… all white Afrikaans speaking persons are not farmers…

  34. Momma Cyndi Momma Cyndi 11 March 2013

    The Creator

    Have you ever considered that the amaZulu and the Afrikaner have mutual respect because they are so similar?

    The original recipe for droewors and boerewors had only local herbs and spices. The best translation for the local herb would be ‘wild celery’ which was mainly found in the swampy areas and is still used in herb lore for its medicinal properties.

  35. Slindile Slindile 11 March 2013

    Great article and I agree. As prejudiced as I am I still leave room to wonder what kind of person I would have been had I been white (Afrikaner or English). It’s easier to be a victim than to take ownership of ones own circumstances. We’re largely shaped by context. As much as I deplore any ideas that some people are superior to others, I wonder if I would not have embraced the privilege white people had at great expense to the majority of the country’s population. The fact is I can’t know, so I can’t make permanent monsters of others and a saint/victim of myself.

  36. Johan Kruger Johan Kruger 14 March 2013

    Wel gedaan, Brad. ‘n Goeie argument goed verwoord. That is what reconciliation, unity and nation-building are all about – thinking about why you think the way you think about those around you. Mutual respect indeed grows from understanding another’s way of think.

  37. Hlarane Wa Afrika, Legoabe Hlarane Wa Afrika, Legoabe 15 March 2013

    we never wiped the slate clean. White people especially young Afrikaaners still cry foul today by stating that they were not there when the likes of Botha unleashed terror at black people, when Paul Kruger discovered and decided to exploit, not only diamond but also blacks who had to live in the compounds. But the reality is this today you have, on the one hand, those who are well off, who are born with trusts worth of millions, those who are still reaping the fruits of slavery, colonization and apartheid. You also have those who are still trapped in the poverty cycles, who are suffering because of the Bantu education that was fed to their parents, who still live in the former Bantu-stands of Kwandebela, Ciskei, with unexploitable raw material etc. Today this people are caused to be migrants in the cities of Tshwane and JHB. I am from the university of Pretoria and i have never seen a white clean, the majority of them are black WOMEN. So hell no there was never a clean slate bacause the economy is still very much in the hand of the settlers who are a minority in South Africa while the majority are still in slumps

  38. Roy Roy 15 March 2013

    “and how their young men, like me, were willing conscripts to the SADF.”

    WOW!!! You were conscripted into the SADF???? You mean you actually volunteered – bit of a difference there….. The whites who refuse conscription went to jail or DB for two years….. I don’t remember any non-whites….. lot of Jews, religious zealots, liberalised parents who forced their kids into prison….. but nope, no blacks, coloureds, Indians…..

    “Why do people not remember that now and why do they not know the role that Britain played in the formation of white rule in South Africa? If Afrikaans must still be tied to the National Party, then why is English not called the language of colonialism?”

    If this is how you want it, then we must tie black languages to the same holocastic attitudes and actions the are percieved to be….. Zulu’s – impaling people, Xhosas for burning people with tyres, Pedi’s for specialising in dismembering…. and the list can go on and on and on….

    Don’t get me wrong, humour is a greater weapon than you can understand, and by using it to put forward a form of bigotry, does nothing more than cause strife and incite enhanced hatred, as different forms of humour are not readily understood, and most of it is opinionated…..

  39. San-Mari San-Mari 15 March 2013

    Chad, it is young black men like you, that could really make nation building a reality. I am a proud Afrikaans speaking woman. ‘n Boer to me, means farmer. So I don’t classify myself as a boer. What makes me sad is that I still get judged for what my forefathers did in the apartheid era. I grew up in a NP household, but was taught that every person is a human being and needs to be treated as such. My mom and dad was part of the old SANDF and we had a black friend from Kwa-Tema, that ate with us at our table. And that was in the 80’s. I so wish all South Africans can have your point of view.

  40. Sooz Sooz 28 April 2013

    What a fantastic article to find amongst many negative ones on the web about Afrikaners. Forward thinking and thinkers like yourself does keep my hopes high.
    Viva boerewors (!) although that sounds a tiny bit unsavory.

  41. Mossie Mossie 30 April 2013

    Broer. Nou lees ek die artikel en wonder hier by myself. Ek is ‘n wit man. Diep in my 40″s. My ouers was nie rassiste nie. In teen deel ek het tussen Zulus groot geword. Het die taal op ‘n stadium goed bemester maar het ook verstedelik. Nou praat ek die taal amper nooit. Ek was ‘n polisieman van beroep en het alle rasse gedien en vir almal gebid. Ek het ook die vrees in almal se oe gesien. Wit,swart en bruin.

    Dit is so. Ons(Ek) kan nie weg hardloop van my verlede(geskiedenis) nie. Dit is gegiet. Die probleem is wat ek hier lees. Hoekom kan ons nie ons eie geskiedenis skrywe nie. Onthou ‘n paar dekades voorentoe gaan die denkers na ons kyk en hoe ons hande gevat het en hoe ons probleme aangepak het.

    Ek kon nie by geboorte my ras,gelag,ouers of land van oorsprong kies nie. Net so ook u nie. Ons is hier. Ek is hier om te bly. Die afrikaner (boertjie) gaan nerens heen nie. Ek bly lekker hier. My kultuur is hier tussen die zulus,vendas,tswanas,engelse,pedi’s ensv. Hierdie is my mense. Hierdie is die mense waarvoor ek nog wil opstaan en beskerm en dien. Ek wil saam met hulle werk. Ek wil tussen hulle wees. Ek wil net myself wees. Dus gun ek u nie ‘n keuse nie.

    Jammer my broerder. Ek moet se ek het jou artikel hierbo baie geniet. Te minste erken jy dat jou siening effe veander het. Sien jy was bereid om te leer en die positiewe te vat en aan te gaan. Ek bly in ‘n arm gebied en daar groet ons nog mekaar en praat met mekaar. Daar is ons nog almal trotse landsburgers…

Leave a Reply