This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Afrikaner Leadership Experience
A Foundational Report of Findings and Observations from an Exploratory Assessment of the History and Evolution of the Concept of Leadership with Reference to the Development of an African Leadership Approach
II. AFRIKANER LEADERSHIP MODEL
An Abridged Assessment of Afrikaner Leadership Experience
Given its history and nationalistic leadership orientation, Afrikaner community emerges as one of the closest and, therefore, most appropriate focus of comparative study regarding the search for the elements of leadership effectiveness and impact.
Although conventional lore tends to fix the date of Afrikaner leadership growth around the middle of the previous century, the interim research has established that the true origins of Afrikaner leadership go back to the very beginning of white settlement in South Africa. In a nutshell, the effectiveness of Afrikaner leadership lies primarily around communal leaders in the form of such thought leaders as church leaders i.e. dominees and predikants, literary writers, journalists and socio-political commentators as well as other classes of community role players. Political and business leadership came to the fore as the group became more self-confident about its goal of moulding the entire white group into a national entity rather than a mere ethnic, sub-ethnic group or tribe.
Throughout the black-led struggle for freedom and justice, sympathetic Afrikaner leaders encouraged their black counterparts to look into Afrikaner leadership experience for clues on ways of matching and containing the political excesses of apartheid leadership. However, the appalling racist track record of Afrikaner leadership always stood as formidable barrier against black attempts to adopt the requisite empathetic mindset to learn, adopt or adapt Afrikaner leadership experience into part of the post-apartheid African leadership arsenal. This section of the leadership analysis and review attempts to present aspects of Afrikaner leadership experience, struggles, achievements and contribution to the development of the contemporary southern African political economy. The analysis uses historical and other types of data to identify key learnings as well as paradoxes which are central to Afrikaner leadership. The analysis also takes journalistic licence with its approach and handling of historical data: we are concerned here with leadership issues rather than the chronology of Afrikaner development. Also the review attempts to look at Afrikaner experience from the vantage point of African rather than white or Afrikaner perspective.
We have, therefore, not attempted to correct or re-state historical facts or truths which do not correspond with the experiences of people who witnessed life from outside Afrikaner or white community. Ours is not an exercise to settle inter-race experiential scores. Yet, no attempt has been made to overlook issues, points or facts which do not accord with facts or issues which are generally known as accurate or correct. Put another way, although Afrikaner leadership experience and development has used a great number of exaggerated or false myths, the researchers have avoided becoming embroiled in what are essentially professional disputes and controversies best left to professional historians, historiographers and other intellectual types. Ours has been to trace Afrikaner leadership golden thread from Jan Van Riebeeck's marketing enterprise to the founding of a race-based white or Afrikaner national identity on top of or alongside that of the indigenous African people.
Perceptions of Afrikaner Leadership Approach or Style
The presentation of a detailed review of the foundational rationale, development and demise of racist Afrikaner leadership is preceded by a brief overview of contemporary black and white perceptions of Afrikaners and their approach to leadership. This aspect of the review is based on information gleaned from primary research conducted among a cross section of the South African racial, political and business spectrum. As mentioned in the foregoing, lingering antipathy between Afrikaners and Africans ruled out Afrikaner as an ideal model of effectiveness and high impact. Much as blacks admired them for what they had been able to achieve within a relatively short period of time, Afrikaner leadership legitimacy is undermined by its close and direct associations with the root cause of African under-development. The fact that Afrikaner or apartheid rule forced the black majority population to live the Sisyphean struggle is still too fresh in the minds of the latter.
Although Afrikaner leadership model was placed high on the list of strong candidates, several factors disqualified it from being considered as the most ideal or most effective.
The Almost-Indigenous Group
Notwithstanding its well-known political and social antipathies vis-à-vis the black ethnic groups and other settler minorities, Afrikaner group appears to have a great deal more in common with Africans than most other white ethnic groups. Afrikaner group is almost as indigenous as its African counterparts. This means that it can always be relied on to come to the party if and whenever required. Unlike other white groups, Afrikaners have openly and repeatedly declared that they have nowhere else to go but to stay and make the best of what post-apartheid South Africa offers.
As we have shown in the previous section, Afrikaners are an important, if not the most important, factor behind the Black Doughnut Leadership Model*. By virtue of having dominated the apartheid public sector as well as large sections of the South African economy, Afrikaners are, indeed, Slovo's 'sunset people'. They are, therefore, an important ingredient in the development of a unified and unifying African leadership model that will help Africa realize the claim that the twenty-first century is an African century.
One of the key considerations the researchers took into account was the fact that both Afrikaners and Africans saw the former as being neither as sophisticated nor as aloof or class-conscious as the European ethnic groups of the First World. For their part, members of black ethnic groups have always regarded Afrikaners as some kind of 'cousins'. Their social habits and level of sophistication placed them in close proximity to their indigenous counterparts. Certain categories of Indians and Coloureds considered most Afrikaners to be less developed than they were. For this reason, there were always sharp tensions or low tolerance between the more educated and more sophisticated sections of the broad black group and Afrikaner. Thus, shorn of apartheid pretences, Afrikaner appears more amenable to declare as well as practice his Africanness.
Preoccupation with Political Containment
One of the main factors that persuaded the researchers to disqualify Afrikaner's leadership model as the ideal guide for the development of the African leadership model stems from the legacies of apartheid. The interim research established that substantial proportions of black South Africans associated Afrikaner leadership with the development and application of dehumanising containment machinery. Like post-Holocaust Jewry, black survivors of apartheid are in no mood to forget Afrikaner involvement in the dehumanising campaign.
Afrikaner brand of leadership remains too closely associated with the management of an inefficient public sector and a corrupt bureaucracy. From this perspective, this leadership model has too little to offer the task of developing a different and world-class African leadership model. Afrikaner political leadership model has little to offer to people who have to prepare themselves for the management of a fully democratic, open society. The philosophical, mythological, ethical and cultural bases of Afrikaner political leadership model are antithetical or anathema to an unbridled democracy.
However, not to miss a paradoxical point, whatever positive lessons were to be learned from the apartheid leadership model, such lessons must have been shared between the midwives of our democracy. It is hard to believe that there is much positive value to be derived from the ghost of apartheid save those out-of-bound things which the leadership of democracy must avoid at all cost e.g. corruption, disregard for the rights of others, disrespect for the dignity of people, lack of accountability, etc.
The point should also be made that many South Africans have been astounded by endless reports of corruption and scandals that predate the democratic dispensation. Within the public sector as well as other sections of the economy, most of the corruption has, rightly or wrongly, been attributed to the legacy of apartheid. In this sense, many black culprits are generally considered to be people who have learned their lessons rather well and quickly 'from their apartheid masters'. This comment applies largely to black people who served or operated in 'homeland' bureaucracies, urban black administrations and so forth. This, therefore, makes nonsense of Afrikaner leaders' exhortation that current and aspirant black leaders should take a leaf from Afrikaner leadership book.
The foregoing discussion does not rule out or ignore the sterling leadership that has emerged within sections of Afrikaner group. This leadership has been in full evidence within the private sector. Some of it was to be found in state-protected monopolies. The latter group is, however, not considered as effective in handling open market competition as their brothers and sisters who chose to do business in the mainstream economy. Respondents who took part in the preliminary research pointed out that most of the successful private sector Afrikaner leaders tended to associate themselves more with European (English, German, French, Italian) managers who ran competitor businesses.
In a sense, the successful Afrikaner businessman or woman tended to maintain rather loose ties with his or her group once they made it to the top of the business community. Therefore, there is little of real value to be learned from the so-called Afrikaner business model. It was not entirely Afrikaner. If anything, it was more European than Afrikaner.
The Bedrock of Contemporary Leadership
One of the ironies of post-apartheid South African society lies in the fact that in spite of all that may be said about Afrikaners' past or lingering wayward behaviour, the group has continued to show commitment to the leadership and management of the country's political economy. As the discussion about the Black Doughnut Leadership Model has demonstrated, Afrikaner leadership serves as an important cornerstone of the contemporary South African leadership. As some respondents mentioned, Afrikaner's commitment to serve the institutions and organizations of post-apartheid South Africa shows the group's remarkable resilience and a measure of flexibility.
The foregoing observations find support from the perceptions of black employees of some of the country's largest SOEs who stated that credit for the record-breaking results achieved by these state-owned enterprises (SOEs) - locally and internationally – should be passed on to Afrikaner leadership, managers and consultants. This observation supports almost everything that has been said about the Black Doughnut Leadership Model, i.e. whites or Afrikaners are, in effect, still responsible for the success or failure of most of the companies that were inherited from the apartheid era. This means, therefore, that the majority of black leaders and managers continue to languish in peripheral managerial and supervisory positions.
To reiterate, those who have made it to the inner or top leadership circles are, to all intents and purposes, cut off and marooned from the realities in which the rest of their black brothers and sisters operate. This situation cannot, in the long term, be healthy for the incumbent black leaders/managers, the institutions or enterprises, and the country. Again, this is one of the fatal flaws of the Black Doughnut Leadership Model; it is too short-termist and it carries seeds of its own destruction.
The Love-Hate Relational Dynamics
The foregoing discussion has highlighted some of the dynamics that continue to place Afrikaner-African relations on the axis of a love-hate continuum. Conventional wisdom maintains that while apartheid has disappeared from the country's statute books, many of the habits and customs of the respective race or ethnic groups remain hardwired to the fabric of society. Thus, whenever relational problems arise, both Afrikaners and their black compatriots will tend to revert to race-based positions. Consequently, they will use the so-called race-card in its various guises i.e. indirectly, covertly or subtly.
In essence, the love-hate relational dynamics are indicative of the fragile trust levels that exist between groups that, a mere ten years ago, were sworn enemies. It is, indeed, still early to expect Afrikaner and African leaders/managers to operate according to the construct of an open society. These are the same people who have yet to live by whatever undertakings they entered through, or as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Evidently, individual South Africans have yet to start with the job of sharing some real home truths about themselves while they contemplate how to go about reconciling whatever differences get in the way.
Building Silver Bridges to Business Opportunities
Another of the paradoxes of post-apartheid South African society is that in spite of the difficulties and antipathies highlighted above, Afrikaner leadership has voluntarily sought to strike new partnerships with its black compatriots across a wide front i.e. in politics, civil society, business and so forth. Afrikaner institutions and businesses that benefited from Afrikaner governmental patronage have been quick to grasp black partners with the requisite connections to and intimate knowledge of the workings of the black-led democratic government.
The interim research study has established that Afrikaner-led institutions and businesses rank among the top or major initiators and supporters of Black Economic Empowerment initiatives. Some black sources go so far as to suggest that Afrikaner business leadership has been most instrumental in introducing far-sighted or creative solutions that helped to break down decades of white reluctance to partner black people. These sources also suggest that, by some curious logic, Afrikaner leadership has been far more forthcoming and less racist than some of the ethnic groups that profess to be non-racist.
In conclusion, the point must be made that although the decision not to adopt Afrikaner leadership was taken, this does not mean that the study will ignore valuable experience, lessons and support that Afrikaner leadership group is prepared to offer. Given the paradoxical nature of Afrikaner-African relationships, the task of developing a unified and unifying African leadership model will, of necessity, incorporate much of Afrikaner knowledge and experiential capital. What should not be lost sight of is that Afrikaner group remains an integral part of the campaign to develop a suitable African leadership model.
The foregoing analysis has, in many ways, demonstrated the extent to which Afrikaner leadership cannot be unscrambled from current leadership thinking or initiatives. More importantly, the experiences of Afrikaner leadership are almost as indigenous as those of the true children of the African continent. Theirs is a qualified indigenous legacy: they are by their own choice, of Africa. Consequently, they have to be included in all attempts at searching for a different and more suitable African leadership destiny.
We turn now to a more detailed analysis and review of the origins, development and demise of Afrikaner leaders, its dynamics, paradoxes, achievements and contributions. The review draws heavily upon the works of historians including Giliomee, Thompson, and Vatcher. As has been the case throughout the analysis of aspects of leadership and leadership experience across different race, ethnic or cultural groups, the borrowed material has been subjected to extensive paraphrasing and adaptation. Yet, wherever possible, attempts have been made to preserve the authenticity and integrity of the original work – in which case, direct acknowledgement is made to the author.
II. OVERVIEW OF AFRIKANER LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCES
1. Comparison of Certain Jewish and Afrikaner Experiences
Leaving aside the controversial origins of the Jewish claim to a homeland of their own, that of Afrikaner was not only controversial but also bizarre in the extreme considering how it came about. In a recently published book, The Afrikaners: A Biography of a People*, Herman Giliomee (2) notes that the period between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the idea took root that South Africa, with the exception of areas of dense African settlement, was a white man's land, although the white community remained but a fraction of the numerical black majority, a population that had been there for hundreds of years. During the twentieth century white politicians could glibly refer to South Africa, as Hendrik Verwoerd did in 1948, as a white man's country where he must remain the master. During the 1850s, however, South Africa was a mere territorial expression. In the eastern half of the land, the whites controlled large parts only precariously.
The society that began to take shape at this point was unique in the world of European colonization. It was neither a self-sufficient, essentially white society, like Australia, nor was it an India, where Europeans played a limited role as rulers, traders and missionaries. South Africa was something in between: where whites settled in considerable numbers they dominated but remained dependent on blacks as labourers or sharecroppers. South Africa was unique in another way as well. It was one of the very few European colonial settlements where the dominant racial minority was ethnically divided. The division was between the Dutch and English 'races', as the communities were called at the time. They were prepared to suspend their political rivalry only at the point where it jeopardized white supremacy itself. (2)
In the Republic of the Orange Free State (OFS), the burghers experienced stiff Sotho opposition in attempting to acquire control of the fertile Caledon River valley. They later gained the upper hand when they were on the point of conquering the mountain kingdom of Basutoland. Britain, at the request of the Sotho king, annexed it to prevent its dismemberment. After a brief spell under the control of the Cape Colony, Basutoland reverted to British rule and would become independent decades later. In the ZAR the burghers had effective control over only the southern half. In Natal the settlers formed a small minority the great majority of Africans. There were, however, several unsuccessful attempts to dump the 'surplus' Africans beyond the southern border. White control over all of Natal was only established towards the end of the nineteenth century. (2)
In the Cape Colony there was little enthusiasm for annexing the large semi-desert area north of the Orange River. The eastern border of the colony long remained disputed. Between the Fish River and the Natal western border was an excellent land densely populated by Xhosa-speakers. By the middle of the nineteenth century the Xhosa had been driven from the Fish River to over the Keiskamma River. Some wondered whether Cape control should also be extended to the Kei River and beyond that to the western border of Natal. The pressure for such a move came from imperial proconsuls and British merchants and land speculators in the eastern districts. Among the Cape Afrikaners there was no strong demand for bringing all Xhosa land under colonial control. The frontier wars had been the result of the injudicious treatment of the Xhosa whom a leading newspaper of the time described as the white people's 'inferiors in the arts of civilized life'. The paper also referred to the Xhosa as 'perfectly competent to distinguish between power and imbecility, justice and its contrary'. (2)
Giliomee states that early in the nineteenth century, a handful of Afrikaner thought leaders used their diverse skills and positions within their respective communities to register their disapproval of policies and activities which unfairly disadvantaged black people for the benefit of whites. The thought leaders' trend persisted until the fall of apartheid late in the twentieth century. A century earlier, a prominent Afrikaner thought leader, J. de Wet, pointed to the implications of further land grabs and the fact that a much-reduced Xhosaland was increasingly unable to support its population. De Wet said that he did not know what 'means remain to a people if one takes away their country, more especially if they depend for support, as the Kaffirs do, on their flocks, unless perhaps if you allow them to steal.'
The dominant view among the majority Afrikaner leadership always ran counter the view just cited. From the beginning of Afrikaner nationalistic project survival was motivated by a singular motive, viz., to crush Afrikaners' 'barbarous neighbours from one ocean to the other, and thus prevent them for many years from disturbing the safety of the colony, and then will be the time for a Christian people to tame and civilize them.' (2)
One of the many ironies triggered by Afrikaners' 'nationalistic' survival enterprise revolved around the irreconcilable behaviour of Afrikaners and the erstwhile oppressors, the British. While at one level, these two would frequently involve themselves in bloody conflicts, they would at another engage themselves in conspiracies which resulted in the total subjugation as well as dispossession of black people. The English softened the Africans' resolve with a combination of diplomacy, subterfuge and brute force. Where Afrikaner sought to co-habitation with Africans, which were based on unjust, cruel and unworkable arrangements, the British adopted an approach or policy referred to as 'civilization through mingling'. The end result was to transform Xhosa society from unconquered and apparently unconquerable foes into friends who may have a common interest with the whites (2).
According to Giliomee, British attempts to transform African society invested considerable resources and effort the removal of traditional African leadership and the institutions, which were crucial for its survival and effectiveness. The British authorities focused their energies on the curtailment of the power of the chiefs and persuaded them to take salaries, which made them little more than functionaries. The British also appointed salaried headmen to act as a police force. The long-term ambition of British authorities was to replace chiefs with colonial magistrates, who would teach Africans the colonial laws and expedite modernization by improved educational and health facilities. They also planned to settle progressive white farmers the blacks in order to stimulate the rise of a class of progressive African farmers, owning land on an individual basis. This class of small farmers had to spearhead the transition of Africans to 'civilization and Christianity.' Yet for all their fine phrases, the British authorities had a subordinate place for most Africans in mind. They were to become 'useful servants' consumers of our goods and contributors to white revenue.
African chiefs feared British plans as a major threat to their own status and role in traditional society. Traumatised by successive frontier wars, they fell under the spell of a millenarian message of a young girl, Nongqawuse. At her behest they killed their cattle and destroyed their crops, expecting the ancestors to rise and food to fall from heaven. The population was decimated and fewer people remained in Ciskei while large numbers of Africans settled permanently on colonial farms. The British authorities charged some of the chiefs and headmen who had promoted the slaughter and cleared land on both sides of the Kei for white settlement. Xhosa traditional society in British Kaffraria/Ciskei received a blow from which it would never recover.
Hand in hand with the annexation of African land went a change in the ideology of white supremacy. In both imperial circles and among white political leaders and administrators the conviction had grown that subjected peoples had to be ruled through their own customs rather than be assimilated into Western culture. In India the British emphasis was now on preserving native customs in the personal sphere (marriage, inheritance and family succession). In Africa it would be extended to land, which would be owned by the community and held in trust by the chief. Colonial administrators also abandoned the view that indigenous cultures had to be rooted out. They began to see value in the preservation of traditional African culture, recognizing the potential of using traditional authorities to bolster the colonial administration.
Colonial administrators also encouraged this shift and along with others succeeded in getting a Native Laws and Customs Commissioner appointed. Consequently, Africans in the recently annexed territories were allowed to retain much of their own social and legal system. (2) The subjugated Africans pressed into reserves specially set aside for them to practice traditional leadership and customary law. Yet despite these developments, the idea of South Africa as a white man's country was still a tenuous one. Once more, a handful of farsighted white political and thought leaders openly challenged the notion that South Africa could ever be a white man's country. These leaders believed that the 'European race' had to see itself as 'the garrison', holding the country 'in the interests of civilization and good government and general enlightenment in South Africa.' (2) We return to this point later in the analysis.
Returning to the issue of Afrikaner-Jewish similarities and differences, the point must be made that one of the similarities stems from the fact both Jewish and Afrikaner leaderships have undertaken rather costly yet less successful efforts to mould their respective people into nations or countries in the normal sense of the word. The closest that successive Jewish leadership have come has been to secure a level of qualified statehood whose existence remains the fierce focus of political conflicts between Jews and Arabs, whose territorial claims seem incapable of yielding an amicable and lasting solution. Afrikaners attempts to create and impose themselves as a nation or country within or on top of one of humanity's oldest people, the Africans, evaporated without much consequence. From a leadership perspective both Afrikaner and the Jewish quest to create themselves into nations has provided some valuable lessons to future generations of leaders everywhere who may be tempted to pursue similar nation-making ambitions.
The differences just highlighted reflect interesting experiential gaps between the lives of the Jewish people who, for three thousand years, have existed continuously and almost intact as a small but highly productive and self-sufficient people. Unlike Afrikaners, the Jews have thrived and made significant impact within heavily proscribed boundaries of whatever host-country or nation they found themselves operating under. Throughout their three thousand year long history their leadership made no known or serious attempt to assert or impose their own nationalistic claims on those of their host-countries or nations. Bitter and costly experiences had long conditioned them to restrict their claims and activities to primarily within the economic sphere.
Conversely, Afrikaners are a relatively young group which traces its origins to a business strategy of a now defunct European company which sought to establish a business operation on the southern tip of the African continent some three hundred years ago. In simplistic terms, it is fair to state that unlike that of the Jews, the leadership of Afrikaner group set itself on a course of creating and promoting itself into a nation within an African nation which had continuously existed on the African continent since the beginning of time. Unlike its Jewish counterpart, Afrikaner group deliberately sought to assert the nationalistic claims of a small minority of foreign white settlers at the expense of those of the indigenous African nation. Unlike the economy-focused strategy of the Jewish diaspora, Afrikaners ensured that as the white settler group grew in numbers and confidence, it brought everything and everybody under its total control i.e. politically, economically, and socially.
It is interesting to note that while the approach or strategy of the Jews allowed them to become dominant players within the political economies of their host countries, Afrikaners' was a highly opportunistic strategy which meant that they either won or lost everything. As Giliomee has aptly illustrated, by the time Afrikaner leaders came out of negotiations with their African counterparts they had to console themselves with King Lear's pride: they had lost power, position and privilege yet they expected their people to continue treating them as if they were still in power. To this day, they continue to tell their followers that they neither lost nor won power. We return to this and similar issues later.
In his recently published book – Afrikaners – Giliomee points out that previous attempts by historians to analyze Afrikaner nationalism have used various approaches. On the one hand, liberal historians have tended to focus on Afrikaners' racial prejudices, their Calvinism and xenophobia and more recently on their civil religion. On the other hand, Marxist historians have explained the class interests of the constituent parts of Afrikaner people while Afrikaner nationalist historians have recounted the establishment of white supremacy and nationalist struggles against British imperialism. Giliomee's own attempt at reviewing Afrikaner people and their passage through history has sought to draw inspiration from within Afrikaner group itself. Giliomee bases his approach to the subject of Afrikaner history on G.D. Scholtz's in-depth review and analysis of Afrikaner history which covers eight volumes. (2)
Much as it borrows from the work of professional historians, historiographers, social anthropologists and so forth, the approach adopted throughout this study does not subject its investigations to by the straightjackets of professional historians, social anthropologists, etc. There is, therefore, no attempt to rank issues according to their chronological integrity. Ours is to highlight points about leadership regardless of when and where they were experienced. For instance, we pick up the idea that the father of the white settler community, Jan van Riebeeck, had a penchant for the pursuit of short-term corporate objectives and detail rather than the big strategic issues. We then attempt to see which, if any, of Van Riebeeck's successors have, over the years, reproduced, matched or improved on the founding father's micro-management style.
The point this illustration is that leaders come and go but that leadership traits remain constant regardless of where and when a particular leader or leaders existed and when they took or carried out decisions which left indelible marks on the face of history. As long as credible records are available, we will always be in a position to study and compare contemporary leadership decisions and behaviour with those left behind by leaders who passed through history centuries or millennia ago. This is the point at which the power of Jewish exegesis and interoperation comes onto its own. Written texts are turned over many times until some agreeable interpretation emerges. By emulating the exegetic analysis and interpretive discipline of Jewish scholarship, we attempt to extract useful analysis of aspects of Afrikaner leadership throughout their recorded history. Largely because of obvious biases or spin which different kinds of historians apply to historical facts, the quality of our interpretation will not always be consistent. This is a matter for rectification through more rigorous future leadership research studies and analysis.
Against the foregoing background, this section will attempt to highlight pertinent lessons from some of the high and low watermarks of Afrikaner leadership's costly attempt to build a case for a viable white national identity against the fast rising tide of an African majority and a globalising world political economy that had lost its appetite for blood profits made from such human rights violations as slavery, colonialism, apartheid or racism by any other name. The section is not dedicated solely to a comparative study of the leadership experiences and styles of Jews and Afrikaners. Comparisons between the leadership experiences of Jews and Afrikaners are made whenever the information or issue at hand warrants it. In essence, the focus of the review falls primarily on the dynamics of Afrikaner leadership.
At the risk of appearing to over-indulge the review with detailed historical accounts or information, the paragraphs that follow present detailed evidential information which is intended to drive home points we believe contributed to the global sidelining of Africa and its leadership. We quote historic passages - from the original sources - to make the point that white settlers arrived on African shores with a superiority complex and an attitude to boot which saw them brush aside whatever indigenous leaders they encountered throughout their quest to build an Afrikaner-led nationalism over and above that of the Africans.
Early European Racism and Afrikaner Leadership
To appreciate how a small band of outcast soldiers and sailors painstakingly went about building with much spilling of blood, sweat and tears - Africa's first and last white nation, it is important that we take a detour to familiarize ourselves with a significant point often overlooked by historians. From the moment that Johan (Jan) van Riebeeck dispatched Leendert Janz on a fact-finding mission to the Cape of Good Hope on behalf of the Dutch East India Company (the Company), the soon-to-be settlers had won the pre-contact psychological contest. As the Company's strategist, Van Riebeeck had prepared himself and his men to take, protect and defend a piece of real estate at the Cape without unnecessary spillage of Dutch blood. The important point about the journey to the Cape is that Van Riebeeck had convinced himself, even against first-hand advice to the contrary, that the indigenous Africans were lesser humans who should not be allowed to stand in the way of Company objective and strategy. Thus, if they were not too far removed from the wild and dangerous animals of their continent, the indigenous inhabitants of the Cape could be dealt with in the same fashion one deals with troublesome animals.
For their part, the indigenous Africans had operated according to traditions which promoted cordial friendship and warm hospitality to foreigners or guests regardless of the mode of their invitation. Their principle of according travellers from far and near friendly reception lost them the pre-contact contest with the Europeans – especially the employees of the Dutch East India Company who were out to secure reliable resources for their shareholders. Little did the indigenous people realize that unlike other foreign travellers such as the Portuguese, the British or the Chinese, the Dutch visitors were bent on staying long beyond their welcome. Conversely, the Dutch settlers made it abundantly clear to the indigenous people that the white settlement did not welcome savages whose nature and motives the Dutch maritime and military circles had long believed to be intrinsically unsavoury.
While ignoring the significance of the pre-engagement European settler mind-set, historians have tended to blame or justify Africa's serial under-development and under-performance on the continent's lack of strong and competitive social systems built around the Christian religion and/or its Protestant ethics, western civilizations and/or their scientific and technological foundations. It is the last-mentioned aspect of the western influence i.e. technology to which we now turn. Explanations based on technology do not tell the full story of how and why Africans abandoned their own ways of life, cultures and traditions in favour of those of the settlers who, on the whole, had used extreme forms of force, brutality and barbarous behaviour to introduce and enforce foreign ways and customs.
Looked at from a leadership point of view, Africa's losses can be put down to will rather than power. One of Africa's enduring customs requires that one receives travellers and strangers, from far and near, with maximum hospitality and cordiality. At the first point of black-white contact, white settlers and explorers mistook Africans' sunny demeanour as a mark of weakness to be exploited. That there were exceptions to the westerner's overtly aggressive stance is not disputed; the point is that those who carried the day were western explorers and settlers who used brute force and other barbaric methods to dispossess Africans of their life, freedom and property.
The westerners' history of aggression towards Africans has become such curse that no matter what corrective efforts or public relations campaigns African leaders mount against it, this unfortunate stereotype continues to wreak havoc. The notion is deeply ingrained in the western psyche that, regardless of its scientific, technological and cultural lead it is reluctant to allow Africa the opportunity to narrow the digital divide. The goal posts of development are shifted so that Africa has no chance of claiming any century or part thereof as its own.
Ever since Roman times Africans and those in the diaspora have found it difficult to establish lasting relationships, trust and credibility in the eyes of non-Africans. The belief that Africans have a propensity for unpredictable and inexplicable behaviour stays with them whenever and wherever they engage with other. Even in situations where, by Western standards, African leaders post exceptionally good performance, total acceptance or recognition of the results is withheld. The case of the highly successful South African democratic transformation illustrates western prejudice. The government under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki has been deprived of due recognition on the grounds that it is too soon to pronounce the South African democracy as successful and irreversible because Nelson Mandela is still alive.
This brand of Afropessimism has been around since time out of mind. For instance, early European travellers and explores declined to credit Africans with the authorship of some of the world's most notable wonders e.g. the Zimbabwe Ruins, the Pyramids of Egypt and the many excellent African works of art and creativity which remain locked away in European museums. To this day, the western mind remains reluctant to credit Africans with outstanding creations, performance or breakthroughs. Given the constant diet of Afropessimism that prevailed in fifteenth to nineteenth century Europe, it is not surprising that the mysterious continent always beckoned to the restless and the curious.
As Frank McLynn (9) puts it, Herodotus, 'the father of history', went up the Nile as far as the first cataract and brought back many strange legends, including a story, regarded by modern historians as probable, of a circumnavigation of the continent by the Carthaginians. Africa became the focus for the fanciful imaginations of Europe. The great Portuguese epic poet Camoens, for example, used Vasco da Gama's great voyage as the inspiration for his Lusiads - a bizarre attempt to fuse modern discovery and Vergilian epic, complete with the illogical 'co-presence' of Christianity and Olympian gods. Africa as stimulus to the creative imagination was the other side of the coin from Africa the unknown. One of the most eloquent testimonies to European ignorance of the continent was provided by the geographer Richard Hakluyt, who in his Principal Navigations of the English Nation, written at the end of the sixteenth century, was reduced to citing ancient sources for his 'discourse' on Africa.
On paper, nineteenth-century Africa presented a picture of political variety and diffusion every bit as complex as that analysed by Aristotle in his Politics. Ancient empires, city-states, quasi-feudal baronies and nomadic bands were all represented. But in fact nineteenth-century Africa was for the most part a spectacle of 'politics without the state', to use the language of political science. Overwhelmingly its people lived in small communities bound together by the dynamics of proximity, kinship, neighbourhood and the village. The ethos of the village was even more important than that of the tribe. The tribal system itself was of considerable complexity: there were over 700 different tribes, each with its own distinctive culture, different ways of growing food, settling disputes or burying the dead. This made social intercourse particularly difficult. (9)
Africa's sense of mystery deepened as European travellers and voyagers perished in droves through a variety of 'mysterious' diseases which did not seem to affect the inhabitants. The explorers also had to deal with fever, for which they had no explanation and no answer, until the coming of quinine. A particular puzzle was that it struck down sedentary Europeans as well as peripatetic explorers. Some thought the origin of fever was inadequate sanitary arrangements and impure water. Others speculated that the wet wind of the monsoon was the culprit. There was even a theory that the prevalence of fever was due to the disturbance of the soil, especially during excavation for building purposes. In more senses than one, then, to penetrate the interior of Africa was to enter a chaotic world. For instance, the excessive African heat produced weird effects. Screws worked loose from boxes, horn handles dropped off instruments, combs split into fine laminae and the lead fell out of pencils. Signal rockets were spoiled, hair ceased to grow, nails became as brittle as glass, drawers on desks refused to open and boxes once opened would not shut. Flour lost more than eight per cent of its weight and the proportion of loss in the case of other provisions was even higher. (9)
The 'savage' or 'animal' traits of African people stemmed from the continent's associations with a variety of dangerous animals which are not found anywhere else in such abundance. True and imagined tales of encounters with Africa's ferocious wild animals have tended to rub off on the character or reputation of its people. Thus, to survive such wild and dangerous animals, African people had to have some animal instincts or traits. The chroniclers of early European explorations found it easy to refer to dark-skinned people who did not look, speak, dress, or think like Europeans in vocabulary commonly used to refer to animals or animal behaviour. Further, the men who undertook the perilous journeys of exploration and discovery expected no red-carpet reception from people who lived with wild and dangerous animals. If anything, they ventured ashore, armed to the teeth, ready to kill before they were killed by the savages. This much is evident in the official records of Jan van Riebeeck's pre-Cape Colony settlement. Even where his own men give first-hand accounts of African hospitality and friendship, Van Riebeeck consistently warns his men against the savages whose behaviour he firmly believed was unpredictable or inexplicable. Following are lengthy excerpts of exchanges between Van Riebeeck and the leaders of his expeditions to the Cape of Good Hope which took place during the decade of the establishment of the settlement at the Cape:
Others will say, that the natives are savages and cannibals, and that no good is to be expected from them, but that we must be always on our guard; this is, however, only a popular error, (Jan Hagel's praetjen) as the contrary shall be fully shown, but that they are without laws and civil policy, such as many Indians have, is not denied; that some of our soldiers and sailors have also been beaten to death by them, is indeed true; but the reasons why, are, for the exculpation of our people who give them cause, always concealed; for we firmly believe, that the farmers in this country, were we to shoot their cattle or take them away without payment, if they had no justice to fear, would not be one hair better than these natives…We, of the said ship Haarlem, testify wholly to the contrary, for the natives, after we had lain there five months, came daily to the Fort which we had thrown up for our defence, to trade, with perfect amity, and brought cattle and sheep in quantities…the chief mate, carpenter, and corporal, of the said ship Haarlem, having once also gone so far as to the houses of the natives, and where they at that time resided, they were received and treated in a friendly manner by the said natives, who, as they were in their hands, could easily have beaten them to death, had they been inclined (as is maintained by some) to cannibalism; so that beyond all doubt their killing our people, happens more out of revenge for taking their cattle, than for the purpose of eating them.
So that we have not the natives, but the rude unthankfulness of our own people, to blame; for last year, when the fleet…lay at the Cape, instead of making to the natives any recompense for their good treatment of those of the Haarlem, they shot seven or eight of their cattle, and took them away without payment, which may likely cost some of our people their lives if opportunity offers, and whether they have not cause, your Honors will be pleased to consider…the said Fort then, being provided with a good commander, who would treat the natives kindly, and pay them thankfully for all that was bought of them, treating some of them with a belly full of food, of peas, beans, we would not have the slightest cause to fear them, but in time they would learn the Dutch language, and even the natives of the Bay of Saldania, and of the interior, might through them be brought to some kind of intercourse, of which, however, we cannot speak with certainty…That the said natives would easily learn the Dutch language is evident, for while the chief mate, Jacob Claes, lay there, about six or eight weeks with the sick, they came daily to fetch wood and to cook, and learnt to say - first, fetch wood, then, eat and they could call almost all the people of the Haarlem by their names, and speak some words, so that beyond doubt they will learn our language.
As it would later become the unfortunate legacies of the settler community of the Cape of Good Hope and, indeed, of the entire Afrikaner community of South Africa, Van Riebeeck obstinately turned a deaf ear to the advice of his trusted officers. In several subsequent correspondences Van Riebeeck demonstrates firm conviction that the indigenous Africans of the Cape are almost like wild animals that will not attack if left alone. However, like habituated wild animals, the Africans were prone to attack white settlers sometimes without reason, warning or provocation. Witness a few selected passages from Van Riebeeck's correspondence either to his superiors or subordinates within the Dutch East India Company:
And although Mr. Leendert Janz does not appear to entertain much apprehension of any interruption from the natives, provided they are well treated, I say, notwithstanding, that they are by no means to be trusted, but are a savage set living without conscience, and therefore the Fort should be rendered tolerably defensible for I have frequently heard from diverse persons equally deserving of credit (who have also been there) that our people have been beaten to death by them without having given the slightest cause: we should, therefore, act cautiously with them, and not put much trust in them…
You shall, having arrived with your ship and the people under your command taking with you as many materials as you require in order hastily to erect for your defence against attacks of the inhabitants – being a rude (rouwe) people…You will also make inspection near the Fort for the land best suited for depasturing and breeding cattle, for which purpose a good correspondence and intelligence with the natives will be very necessary, in order to reconcile them in time to your customs, and to attach them to you, which must be effected with discretion, above all, taking care that you do not injure them in person, or in the cattle which they keep or bring to you, by which they may be rendered averse from our people, as has appeared in various instances...
The said Commanders shall, above all, take care to be constantly on their guard, and to maintain always an attitude of preparation for defence and offence in order that they may not be unexpectedly overpowered by anyone whomsoever...And as such new undertakings should be conducted with great caution, particularly as regards the wild people of that country, (they being very impudent), and especially great care be taken that we be in every respect on our guard and in a posture of defence, also, that no cause of offence may be given by us or our men to that people, but on the contrary, that all kindness and friendship be shown to them, in order that by our amicable conduct they may become inclined to an intercourse with us, so that by this means we may have the greater supply of all kinds of cattle, and suffer the less molestation from them in, the plantations &c.
And as these wild tribes are somewhat bold, thievish, and not at all to be trusted, each shall take good care that his arms and working tools or whatever be well taken care of that they may not be stolen from him by the savages, as we by no means nor on any consideration, desire that they should on account of such theft excepting with our previous knowledge and consent be pursued, beaten, aye, even be looked on with anger - but each shall have his stolen arms or tools charged against his wages, as a penalty, and for his carelessness receive fifty lashes at the whipping post, and forfeit his rations of wine for eight days, or such other severer punishment as the exigency of the case may demand.
Once viewed as 'wild' and 'savage', indigenous Africans were permanently condemned to an inferior status which, in due course, resulted in their being dispossessed of all the valuable possessions including land, culture, customs, dignity and self-esteem. Savage and brute force was used to subjugate and press them into conditions which were akin to slavery even before slavery became a common practice within the fledgling white settlement of the Cape. It is interesting to note that travellers or settlers who adopted humane and respectful attitudes towards the indigenous people were less inclined to maltreat them. Instead, they set out to build sound trading or working relationships i.e. until those in power decided such behaviour was inconsistent with both Dutch East India Company rules and regulations or simply not befitting the 'low-life' or 'savages'.
Africa's long history of bad press in the west continues to hamper the continent's claim to make the twenty first century its own. Africa's infamous malaise, otherwise known as the African Condition, has its roots firmly planted in authoritative history and anthropology books and studies which continue to project Africa as a continent without a past. This out-dated viewpoint has been proved false or grossly inaccurate by many contemporary writers and researchers of African history and historiography. While the tide seems to be changing, albeit very slowly, writers such as Martin Hall (5) have stated that it is wrong to assume that perhaps as early as 50 B. C. southern Africa was in some sort of 'dark age' in which generation after generation lived in the same manner as before. The first literate settlers from Europe made this mistake, assuming that Africa had little history, and their journals and descriptions are a heritage of misunderstanding.
Hall maintains that in recent years archaeological research has revealed a very different story. Villages were built to different plans, and many of the complex architectural styles survive in stone ruins today. Technologies changed and developed. To everyday artefacts such as pots and hoes were added complex terracotta sculptures and ornate metalwork. Economies were transformed, as some were able to store wealth and power at the expense of others, and with this came new political orders, including southern Africa's first states on the eastern margins of the Kalahari Desert and in the valley of the Limpopo River. By the time the first European explorers began cautiously to probe the southern African interior, the subcontinent had a history as rich and varied as that of many other parts of the world.
Further, Hall cautions against the mistake of assuming, as have some more recent writers, that the early history of southern Africa was one of isolation, in which chiefdoms and states rose and fell with little influence from the wider world. From as early as the ninth century, traders were establishing a tenuous foothold on the southeast African coast, seeking gold and ivory in return for beads and cloth. Within a few centuries control of this trade and careful exploitation of the Islamic world's need for gold, had enabled the rulers of the Zimbabwe state to build a magnificent capital more than 300 kilometres from the sea. In the decades that followed, the kings and nobles of southern Africa continued to use the needs of the world economy to buttress their own power, playing Portuguese merchants against their Arab rivals, French against British, and British against Dutch. It was only in the nineteenth century, after a thousand years of political and economic exchanges with the wider world, that the superior military technology of the colonial powers destroyed the authority of kings and chiefs and transformed the peasants and warriors of the southern African states into the wage earners of the new industrial centres.
Historians point out that the continent of Africa was known to Europeans five hundred years before the New World, but lay unexplored when Lewis and Clark crossed the northern landmass and Alexander Mackenzie put the finishing touches to the map of the far north. More was known about the Arctic north than about places just 100 miles inland from the slave forts on the Gold Coast. The technological revolution that enabled Europeans to conquer the Americas, when their Norse forebears had failed 500 years earlier through lack of technical superiority over the indigenous peoples, was not enough to permit the conquest of Africa. A second technological revolution, associated with European industrialisation, urbanisation and the cult of science was needed before Africa could be tamed. Africa threw up unprecedented obstacles to penetration by 'the lords of humankind' in Europe. (9)
The conquest of Africa by European nations was made possible by one or two nineteenth century developments viz., the fight against tropical disease and the deployment of massive technological superiority – more specifically, the awesome power of the gun. As the porters of the famous explorer, Stanley, graphically expressed it: 'bunduki sultan ya bara-bara' ('The gun is the Sultan of Africa'). One of the unintended consequences of the European explorers in Africa was the introduction of traditional leaders to the wonders of the technology of the firearm. As McLynn asserts, whether their aim was to impress, overawe or evangelise the local peoples, a demonstration of firepower was always a very good way to break the ice. Explorers were often in high demand as miracle-workers who could rid a village of a man-eating lion or a predatory crocodile or who could solve the local meat shortage by bagging a hippo or two. The European trailblazers took full advantage of the opportunity increase their wizard-like status. Stanley impressed Mutesa by a lucky shot that killed a basking crocodile.
Even missionaries could be sure of a warm welcome if they brought guns to a village. The awesome impact that the gun had on Africa's indigenous communities has been well documented by writers such as McLynn. The last-mentioned author cites the experience of one John Petherick among the Azande (9) who wrote:
'I seized a fowling piece…and pointing to a vulture hovering over us, I fired; before the bird touched the ground, the crowd was prostrate and grovelling in dust as if every man of them had been shot. The old man's head, with his hands on his ears, was at my feet and when I raised him, his appearance was ghastly and his eyes were fixed on me with a meaningless expression'.
McLynn also states that, in its direct manifestations, European technological superiority in Africa meant its firepower. Europe as a whole never waged war on Africa as a whole; in such a conflict, where one side was unable to produce machine-guns or bombs, there could have been only one outcome. European engagement in Africa was partial only. Only a tiny proportion of Europe's strength was deployed in Africa even at the height of the colonial era; for colonialism to have survived at all was a sign of the fissiparous tendencies innate in African tribalism and the skill of the imperial powers in dividing and ruling. The supremacy of the colonial powers rested on credibility - the idea that behind its tiny handful of administrators, commissioners and missionaries was a military behemoth that one called forth at one's peril. This was why a serious military defeat, such as that inflicted by the Zulus at Isandhlwana in 1879, obliged the British to mobilise such force as was necessary to defeat Cetewayo, even though the empire at that time held no significant interests in that part of Africa. The defeat of Cetewayo at Ulundi was necessary for the sake of prestige.
Once Van Riebeeck's ex-solders and ex-sailors started arranging themselves into a settled community, they quickly made sure that theirs was a class of men and women which was different, better, more valued and superior to the indigenous communities from whom they drew such invaluable resources as labour, livestock and other life's necessities. But more importantly they were quick to define their version of leadership which translated into control by means of disproportionate or excessive use of physical force. Given that the first clump of white settlers was drawn from men who were accustomed to violence and rigidly regimented life, it is not surprising that the version of leadership that they planted in the Cape Colony was one that was used to keep hardened solders and sailors under conditions of total subservience.
As can be deduced from Van Riebeeck's correspondence, (10) early white settler leadership was so paternalistic and patronising that it left the subjects no scope for initiative or creativity:
And accordingly, whoever ill uses, beats, or pushes, any of the natives, be he in the right or in the wrong, shall in their presence be punished with 50 lashes, that they may thus see that such is against our will, and that we are disposed to correspond with them in all kindness and friendship, in accordance with the orders and the object of our employers. Wherefore the sentries and other guards are thus expressly ordered to assist in this; or otherwise, on their suffering any injury to be done to the savages in their sight, they shall be liable to the same punishment as the actual offenders.
To this end all persons whomsoever are seriously exhorted and ordered, to show them every friendship and kindness, that they may, in time, through our courteous behaviour, become the sooner accustomed to us, and attached to us, so that we may thus attain the object of our employers; provided at the same time, that every one be well on his guard, without going so far among them, or trusting them so far, that they may get any of our people into their power, and massacre or carry them off.
For which purpose…all persons, of whatsoever quality, are furthermore expressly forbidden and prohibited from carrying on any traffic or barter with the natives or savages, except with the knowledge and consent of the commander and council above-named, whether in cattle, refreshments, or any other article whatsoever, in order that they may not, by the eagerness and thoughtlessness of the common people or others, become proud and dear with their cattle and other articles - and thus the Company's wares be brought into disesteem - and whoever shall contravene our interdict in this respect, shall be proceeded against according to the General Articles in the severest and most rigorous manner, by mulct of wages and rank-and be deported to Holland without pay or employment, and the cattle which may have been bought or bartered, confiscated to the Company; as we conceive such to be highly essential to the interests of the Company.
We order therefore…whoever transgresses in other particulars not herein inserted, shall be punished according to the General Articles, and the exigency of the case. And that no one may have cause to pretend ignorance, we have caused these, and some sections of the General Articles to be read to the people on board of all the ships of the squadron, and also caused the same to be affixed at the proper place, on a post erected for the purpose.
The foregoing clearly shows the true origins of paternalistic and authoritarian streaks that are so evident in Afrikaner leadership. The propensity to exercise tight control – often accompanied by vicious or barbaric brutality to extract total subordination - was transferred from Dutch military and maritime cultures to the early white settlement of the Cape Colony. From the outset, the European ex-sailors/soldiers who secured freedom from their employer, Dutch East Indian Company, were dead set against attempts to place them on equal terms with the members of the indigenous communities viz. both Khoisan and slaves.
It is important to understand the origins of the ex-Dutch sailors/soldiers' resistance to being equated, lumped together or associated with Africans. In the first instance, most of the immigrants who became free burghers were poor, humble and ignorant, but the term 'burgher' was the same as that used for those at the centre of the seventeenth-century Dutch world: the prosperous, self-confident burghers of the Dutch cities portrayed in the work of Rembrandt, Steen, Vermeer, Hals and other painters. The Dutch burgher was not a bourgeois defined by economic function and power but 'a citizen first and homo economicus second'. 'Free burghers' were released from their contract with the Company; but continued to be subject to the Company's regulations for the Cape settlement and the decisions of the Cape authorities. (2)
Giliomee asserts that much ambiguity surrounded the status of the burghers. Free burghers were not prepared to accept a status radically different from that of the burghers in the Netherlands. They were burghers and citizens, not mere subjects or subordinates. The claim may not have been factually correct, but the burghers never abandoned this aspiration. The burghers in the western Cape described themselves as 'free citizens of a colony of the free United Netherlands, sharing the same rights and privileges'. The Cape burghers soon embraced their own foundation myth: that they were indispensable to the Cape settlement and that their interests were of key, if not of paramount importance, to maintaining the first sign of an emerging political consciousness. Company officials never ceased to be outraged by what they regarded as the ordinary burghers' preposterous demands. The Company authorities disputed the comparison free burghers made with their counterparts in the Netherlands, since the Company that granted privileges could also withdraw them. It had the power to free burghers from its service, but also to force those who had misbehaved to return to the Company's service or to deport them. But the Company also had to concede that they were not simply serfs, obliged to submit to any order, as Van Riebeeck discovered in his December 1658 altercation with the burghers.
With the Western world experiencing an upsurge of racism late in the nineteenth century, Afrikaner and English-speaking whites tended to justify white supremacy in different ways. English South African politicians and journalists drew particularly on the concept of a biological hierarchy of races and on the (social) Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest. By contrast, Afrikaans or Dutch publications seldom considered the biological concept of race. They focused on an idealized picture of paternalism, depicting the white master as caring for faithful servants, and punishing them when they erred. The more modem among them sketched a world of competing organic nations, each with its own distinctive cultural heritage and needs, co-existing under the aegis of white supremacy. Later both English and Dutch/Afrikaans publications fostered the idea of white 'trusteeship', under which blacks could gradually progress upward to the levels Europeans had already reached. (2)
The Impact of Slavery on Race Perceptions and Relations
The white settlers' disdain for the slave community reinforced their prejudices about the sub-human status which was associated with all dark skinned people. As Paul E. Lovejoy (8) points outs, slavery was one form of exploitation whose special characteristics included the idea that slaves were property; that they were outsiders who were alien by origin or who had been denied their heritage through judicial or other sanctions; that coercion could be used at will; that their labour power was at the complete disposal of a master; that they did not have the right to their own sexuality and, by extension, to their own reproductive capacities; and that the slave status was inherited unless provision was made to ameliorate that status.
As property, slaves were chattel to be bought and sold. Slaves belonged to their masters, who at least theoretically had complete power over them. Religious institutions, kinship units, and other groups in the same society did not protect slaves as legal persons, even though the fact that slaves were also human beings was sometimes recognized. Because they were chattel, slaves could be treated as commodities. Therefore, slavery was fundamentally a means of denying outsiders the rights and privileges of a particular society so that they could be exploited for economic, political, and/or social purposes. (8)
Usually outsiders were perceived as ethnically different: the absence of kinship was a particularly common distinction. A person who spoke the same language as his master, without an accent, who shared the same culture, believed in the same religion, and understood the political relationships that determined how power was exercised was far more difficult to control than an outsider. For Europeans, slaves were perceived as racially distinct; despite acculturation, slaves were even more clearly defined as outsiders, thereby guaranteeing that the acquisition of rights in European society would be severely limited. Other more subtle distinctions were made, including differences in dialect, the accent of people who had just learned a new language, facial and body markings, perceived physical characteristics, and, most common of all, memory. (8)
Lovejoy states that a peculiar feature of slavery was this absolute lack of choice on the part of slaves. Their total subordination to the whims of their master meant that slaves could be assigned any task in the society or economy. Hence slaves have not only performed the most menial and laborious jobs, but they have also held positions of authority and had access to considerable wealth. The plantation field-hand and the slave general had their subordination to their master in common. Both were assigned a task, but the nature of their employment was so different that they had virtually no mutual interests. The identity of the slave was through his master. Legally, the master was held responsible for the actions of the slave, and this was the same for administrative slaves as well as common labourers. Slaves did not necessarily constitute a class, therefore. Their dependence could result in the subordination of their identity to that of their master, on whom their position depended, or it could lead to the development of a sense of comradeship with other slaves, and hence form the basis for class consciousness.
Because slaves were fully subservient, their masters controlled their sexual and reproductive capacities, as well as their productive capacities. When slaves constituted a significant proportion of any population, then sexual access and reproduction were strongly controlled. Women (and men too) could be treated as sexual objects; the ability to marry could be closely administered; and males could be castrated. Slaves lacked the right to engage in sexual relationships without the consent of their master. They could not marry without his permission and his provision of a spouse. Their children, once slaves were given an opportunity to have children, were not legally their offspring but the property of their master and often the master of the mother. Biologically, they were the offspring of the slaves, but the right to raise the children could be denied. Instead, slave children could be taken away and, even when they were not sold, they could be redistributed as part of marriage arrangements, trained for the army or administration, or adopted by the master's family. (8)
According to Lovejoy, masters had the right of sexual access to slave women, who became concubines or wives, depending on the society. This sexual dimension was a major reason why the price of female slaves was often higher than the price of men. Male slaves could be denied access to women, and such a dimension of slavery was a vital form of exploitation and control. The ability to acquire a spouse depended on the willingness to accept the slave status and to work hard. Marriage or other sexual unions were a method of rewarding men. The desires of women were seldom taken into consideration. Although men could be given a wife from among the reduced pool of females available for such unions, they were not allowed effective paternity over their offspring. Actual bonds of affection and recognized biological links existed, of course, but these could be disrupted through the removal of the children if the master so wished. The master could reward the male slave, or he could deprive males of their sexuality through castration.
In both cases, moreover, the violence inherent in slavery affected the psychology of the slaves. The knowledge of the horrors of enslavement and the fear of arbitrary action produced in slaves both a psychology of servility and the potential for rebellion. This dual personality related to the coercion of the institution, for memory and observation served as effective methods of maintaining an atmosphere in which violence always lurked in the background. Slaves did not have to experience the whip; indeed, they were wise to avoid it. (8)
Frederick Douglass (7) provides an unusual insight into how slavery transformed men and women into a class of sub-humans with its warped sense social, moral and ethical values. In a four-volume account of the impact of slavery on African-Americans, the self-taught ex-slave Frederick Douglass gives us a glimpse of what it meant to be a slave.
The lengthy excerpt featured below provides a graphic confirmation of the assertions made by Lovejoy (8) in the paragraphs just cited.
With the exception of a few highly favoured house servants, the physical condition of the slaves was indescribably wretched. A bushel of corn and eight pounds of salt pork per month were considered a large allowance for a full-grown man. The huts in which they lived left them largely exposed to the mercy of the elements. Their beds were boards, and their covering a miserable blanket, with which they were served not even once a year. Much of the time they were worked under the lash in all weathers. Want, exposure, and cruelty brought to them bodily ills and general physical deterioration often to the extent of repulsive deformity. That physical well-being is essential to physical perfection is easily demonstrated both in the case of man and beast. Men laugh at the irregular make-up of the Negro, but forget that no people, white or black, could preserve the finer attributes of physical manhood subjected to two hundred and fifty years of slavery. The woes of the slave mother can be read in the faces of her children. Slavery has twisted their legs, flattened their feet, and imparted a depressed and cowardly aspect to their features. Let those who laugh rather be ashamed of the crime against human nature which has produced the deformity over which they make merry.
With respect to the moral progress of the enslaved class I am sorry to speak in a somewhat lower tone. They are in this respect, as well as others, the legitimate results of their antecedents. The sense of right and the voice of conscience had little chance of cultivation in the relation of master and slave. Conduct in that relation was guided by force and fear. Mutual interest and common welfare were excluded from that relation. Its corner-stone was composed of the blood-cemented fragments of the moral constitution of human nature. Each party to it found himself impelled to do that which was not to the advantage of the other. They were mutual enemies on the same territory, and in daily unfriendly contact.
The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unlimited despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. In such a state of society the moral sense was blunted, and the voice of conscience suppressed. The master forced what he could and all he could from the slave, and the slave in turn stole all he could from the master, his only restraint being the fear of detection and punishment. He was born into a society organized to defraud him of the results of his labour, and he naturally enough thought it no robbery to obtain by stealth - the only way open to him - a part of what was forced from him under the hard conditions of the lash. I do not pretend to deny that there was ever a generous slaveholder or honest slave, for I know the contrary, but I equally know that the system made tyrants of one class and thieves of the other.
As to social relations, the system was even more destructive and deadly. Its victims were herded together like horses, sheep, and swine, without the restraints of moral instruction or decency. The master was made more important by every addition to his slaves. Marriage did not exist; the family was abolished. The young had no reputation to gain, and the old had none to lose. Let it be remembered in respect to the morals of these people that streams are not easily diverted from well-worn channels; that the moral character formed under the conditions thus feebly described is not easily or speedily reformed.
There is not only much to learn, but much to unlearn. It is sad to think of the multitude who only dropped out of slavery to drop into prisons and chain-gangs, for the crimes for which they are punished seldom rise higher than the stealing of a pig or a pair of shoes; but it is consoling to think that the fact is not due to liberty, but to slavery, and that the evil will disappear as these people recede from the system in which they were born. What was once done among these people not only with impunity, but with mirthful boasting, and without apparent sense of wrong or shame, does not now escape the rebuke and reprobation of a large and growing class of their own colour.
III. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF AFRIKANER LEADERSHIP
1. History of Suffering and Wandering
There is a great deal of truth in Jewish and Afrikaner leaders' claims about the history of struggle and suffering endured by their people throughout their respective histories. The struggles and suffering are no different from those experienced by any other group of people who decided to embark on the long and arduous task of moulding themselves into a nation with all pretences. Only in very rare or exceptional circumstances has a nation been born without considerable struggle resulting in considerable sacrifices measured in terms of huge losses of life, position, privilege or possessions of great value to the emergent nation. In the course of refurbishing pride in the nation, it is normal that the people's praise-singers and mythmakers will bend and stretch the facts of their particular struggles a little beyond the truth. This is normal and exclusive to all the people who lay claim to the title of a proud nation. It is the athlete's hard-worn right to lengthen and embellish the moment of pain that came before victory.
The Jewish history of endless persecution and wandering across the face of the globe is well documented and so is Afrikaner's. The Old Testament offers detailed accounts of the trials and triumphs of the Israelites as they were pressed into a three thousand-year life of wandering, persecution and depredation. Jewish scholars point out that even this history was not all about pain and suffering. They have been critical of both the 'theological' and 'spiritualistic' conceptions - the latter for reducing Jewish history to persecution and the striving for intellectual creativity. They have also pointed out that Jewish people in all times and in all countries have had a history of their own, not only spiritually, but socially as well. To a large extent, the myth-makers of Afrikaner nationalism have also tended to go overboard by creating an impression that early Afrikaners' lives were consumed in endless conflicts and wars against either the British or different sections of African society.* This is unfortunately a result of the one-dimensional nature of myths: they tend to restrict their audience to the story line at the exclusion of everything else.
Against the foregoing limitation, Jay Y. Gonen (3) observes that it is most assuredly a great advance to hold that the Jewish people in Antiquity - whether independent, 'protected', or dispersed - did not live solely by contemplating the monotheistic idea and that the Jewish communities of the medieval or modern diaspora were neither purely subjects of intellectual life nor purely objects of persecution. Equally assuredly, it must be acknowledged that these various entities manifested the general tendency of social groups to preserve their own existence over time and to defend their interests and aspirations as well as to defend or extend whatever advantages they enjoyed. Gonen adds that there was in Antiquity a Jewish group of a national type, characterized other features by a national religion. The Hebrew and subsequently the Jewish nation conformed to the normal tendencies of national groupings in the social, economic, political, and cultural conditions of the time. The evolution of its religion as a function of the history of the nation lent this ideology a unique character.
As Robert Gordis (4) observes, the Hebrew and Jewish prophetic tradition went through a very specific evolution, and the victory of the Jewish nation over neighbouring nations both afforded that tradition free rein and assured the preservation of the documents in which it was expressed. The national god Yahveh finally came to be conceived as the god of the universe, the one god excluding the very existence of the other national gods. The intense Jewish emigration of Antiquity, too, must be explained by factors that were also at work everywhere, and these were economic in the first place. The Jewish nation was divided into a diaspora composed of multiple local groups and a Palestinian Jewish 'establishment' (yishuv).
By comparison with the ancient history of the Jews, that of Afrikaner is almost brand new in the sense of having been created a mere three hundred years ago while that of the Jews has been existence some three thousand since. By comparison, therefore, Afrikaner's history lacks the long and deep history of struggle against all sorts of odds i.e. internal or spiritual, philosophical and moral, and suffering at the hands of tyrannical communities or their rulers. Whereas the Jewish history is sourced on divine myths, that of Afrikaner has had to manufacture its myths based on its own struggle to assert and impose its claims against the competing claims of rival people. Later, Afrikaners also had to borrow the divine myths of the Jewish Bible to legitimise their own sense of national wholesomeness. On close scrutiny there is, however, nothing divine or wholesome about the circumstances that conspired to give birth to the idea of an Afrikaner 'nation'. Simply stated, that of Afrikaners' is a history founded on vision and mission of a modern company known as the Dutch East India Company (the VOC). No special divine intervention, there.
Afrikaner's is a short history of a people who derived from a seventeenth century fragment of European society who, once they settled in South Africa, developed racial ideas which were adapted to their experience and their needs in the South African context. Those ideas differed in detail but not in essence from ideas which were current in the western societies of the time. However, as the western world moved away from racist supposition, Afrikaner elected to retain and reinforce his until the former decided to take punitive steps that helped Afrikaner to toe the line. This was, however, not before Afrikaner leadership propagated a modified, Verwoerdian version of a racist mythology to legitimise their racist regime.
Once Afrikaners thought of themselves as a nation with a distinct history, identity and divinely inspired mission in Africa, their thought leaders employed a variety of means, myths and theme to sustain their nationalistic claims. They also frequently evoked Old Testament analogies especially the underlying motif that suffering and oppression purify a people as they are led forward by God's plan. Some explicitly portrayed Afrikaner history as the history of a Chosen People,* denouncing the anglocentric teaching of history in the government schools and treating anglicized Afrikaners as traitors.
The first attempt to formulate a distinctive Afrikaner historiography occurred in the town of Paarl, where predikant or church leaders launched a movement that would eventually lead to the establishment of Afrikaners as distinct people with a common destiny – with a language and a country to call their own. The movement campaigned against the domination and control by the assimilationism of the British viz., the forced use of English as the only official language and the imperial bias of the school textbooks. The seeds planted by the Paarl thought leadership did not bear much fruit so long as Afrikaners were divided between colonial and republican regimes. Initially, most Afrikaner leaders were more concerned with processes in their particular territories than with identifying with an ethnic community that transcended the political boundaries. Nevertheless, Paul Kruger gave his immense prestige to a vital element in the embryonic Afrikaner mythology: the Calvinist concept of national calling and destiny.
In spite of many setbacks, Afrikaner leadership gradually attained their nationalist goals albeit precariously. Once the nation-making enterprise had been accomplished, Afrikaner leadership set on the task of tightening the noose around the indigenous African majority. They also re-segregated the white group into Afrikaans-speaking versus the rest. Afrikaans became the premier official language while English was given second-class treatment. The leadership vowed that there was to be no mixing of language, no mixing of cultures, no mixing of religions and no mixing of races. All schools were to teach history as a revelation of the purposes of God, who has 'willed separate nations and people.
The claim of special similarities between Afrikaner and Jewish histories must be weighed more against the context of attempts by Afrikaner leadership to legitimize aspects of their history or struggles which are not entirely kosher. It was all in order for Afrikaner leaders to empathise with the Jewish struggles if the purpose was to inspire and embolden their army of supporters. They were out of order if their claim was intended to imply that their struggles were as just as those of the Jews. There is nothing Holocaustal in Afrikaner struggle. It was this very journey of exploitation and oppression, from the Cape to Mapungubwe, that earned Afrikaner many distinctions including the self-awarded title of the polecat of the world. As they were preparing to pull the plug off the apartheid project, the leadership peers of the organized world community, through the United Nation, thought their Afrikaner counterparts had done enough to be awarded the grand prix prize, namely, perpetrators of crimes against humanity. By comparison, the Jews and their equally controversial political Zionist project did not receive even a mention.
2. Africa's 'Chosen' Race
Both the Jews and Afrikaners claim to have been elected by God as 'Chosen People' on earth. Like their historical claims, the Jewish claim to election, however, appears to draw its authenticity and legitimacy from the Jewish Bible. A closer look at Afrikaner's claim to election suggests that his was not an attempt to unseat the Jew from his biblical podium, although historians record that at some point in their nation-making enterprise, some Afrikaner leaders went so far as to claim the title of being the genuine article while dismissing the Jewish claim as mere charlatanism. In the heady days of Afrikaner triumph and glory, sections of the leadership were so intoxicated by their victories that they forgot that even Prophet Mohammed so admired his fellow Semites that he nicknamed them the 'people of the Book'.
From a Judaic perspective, the Hebraic faith represents the commitments of an entire people to its God, not merely that of a caste of priests or nobles to a sovereign. The whole people entered into a brit, a covenant to obey the will of God by observing His commandments. In essence, the cornerstone of Jewish religion is belief in the personal guidance of the Lord of Hosts. The children of Israel believe that the Lord chose them to be his people. Thus, the notion of distinct peoplehood or even nationhood is imbedded in the Jewish religion. However, the worship of God comes first. The Jews are a distinct people only because they are God's Chosen People. Therefore, if religious worship is abandoned, Jewish distinctiveness goes with it.
Contemporary secular Jews no longer adhere to this Orthodox viewpoint. It is because Zionism represented chiefly secular nationalism that it evoked such alarm in Orthodox quarters. Nationalism in itself, however, was well within the realm of the religious heritage. The one and only God of Israel set his eyes on the Chosen People and gave them the Promised Land. This is nationalism par excellence under the auspices of the mighty Lord. Under the umbrella of religion, nationalism could continue to remain a controlled force: the divine laws of the God of Israel had to be obeyed at all times, but a national salvation was destined for the future when God finally willed it so. National cravings therefore received religious sanction, but were also held in check.
The origins or implications generally associated with the Jewish nickname – 'people of the Book' – are based on a biblical claim namely that the Jews are descended from the line of Jacob, the brother who was more intellectually gifted than his brother Esau. Consequently, throughout their long history, the descendants of Jacob could not be separated from their books. As some Jewish scholars have established, the roots of the Jewish scholarly tradition may lie in the old biblical phrase: 'The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau" (Genesis 27:22). As we may recall, Jacob the tent dweller, who used his head, outsmarted Esau the skilled hunter, who used his hands, and cheated Esau out of his inheritance, Isaac's blessing. The blessing was the birthright of Esau by virtue of his being the first-born child. In Jewish tradition, Jacob came to symbolise the Jews and Esau the Gentiles. Thus, an image of contrasting roles was formed whereby the Jews were supposed to use their heads and the Gentiles their muscles. Jacob's voice and Esau's hands are therefore well understood and condensed Jewish symbols for role distinctions between Jew and Gentile.
The route that Jewish people took in order to transform their identity and image deficit led them to make painful but necessary adjustments to aspects of their history, traditional thoughts and customs. The vehicle for this transformation took the form of the Zionist rebellion against tradition. It took the form of turning away from books and studies in favour of engaging in physical work, even with bare hands if need be. (3) This was a radical step given that for too long in Jewish history only working with the head had been regarded as fruitful, while working with the hands had been considered shameful, degrading, or at least of secondary importance. However, as they faced the challenge of having to build their own national identity and heritage with their own hands, Jewish thought leaders such as A. D. Gordon (3) have had to modify the Jewish tendency to over-emphasize the value of literary work over manual labour.
Afrikaner's chosen-people claim came about as a result of the cultural isolation experienced by Dutch ex-employees (burgers or Boers) of the Dutch East India Company who had decided to make Africa their new home from home in the midst of indigenous African people whose land the burgers had plundered. Given that the Bible was the only source of knowledge, comfort or link with the homeland culture they had decided to turn their backs against, the culturally marooned Afrikaners started comparing their own situation with the predicament of the Israelites of the Old Testament. Over the years successive generations of Afrikaner leaders – within the Dutch Reformed Church, the intelligentsia and politicians – used the claim to mobilise their followers for purposes of building a new identity with its own cultural customs, values, language and rituals.
Historians have cited different references of the claim to election but William H. Vatcher's explanation appears most apt. Vatcher (13) asserts that the burgers or trekboers, found remarkable parallels to their own situation. Like the children of Israel seeking the Promised Land, the seventeenth-century Dutch settlers removed themselves to the promises of the Cape. They were able to liken the Hottentots and slaves, and later the Bushmen and Bantu, to the Amalekites, heathens who could rightfully be smitten before the Lord. In the view of the Dutch settlers, the pagans were predestined to serve the white man i.e. to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. They believed these heathens to be descended from Ham: 'cursed by Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren'. From Calvinism, Afrikaners took their belief in predestination and the infallibility of the Bible. Strict Puritans, the early boers read the Bible daily by the light of heavy tallow candles, and accepted its teachings literally, particularly those of the Old Testament.
In time burger leadership developed the notion that some kind of covenant existed with God to preserve this community with its cultural characteristics. This covenant theology argued that there was continuity between God's covenant with the Jews and the one He had with Christians. It reinforced the idea that Christianity marked the community of burghers. It was birth rather than personal conversion that determined who the 'real' Christians were. Hence they formed a particular social group rather than a community of the faithful. The continuity; through the covenant, of Christians with the Old Testament people of God provided a ground for group cohesion in the midst of the individualism inherent in the Protestant doctrine. The strand of baptism theology finally accepted in the DRC at the Cape argued for internal generation, which deemed the children of Christian parents to be saved in the womb, which was symbolised by baptising the child as an infant. At baptism parents were merely expected to promise to educate the child in the faith. When the child reached adulthood he or she made a formal confession and as a confirmed person was permitted to receive the Lord's Supper. Out of this developed the conviction that God had a covenant with a particular body of people and their descendants. (13)
Looking at Afrikaner's claim of being God's 'Chosen People' as the basis of the main cornerstone of Afrikaner nationalism and apartheid, Thompson postulates that Afrikaner mythology like other mythologies was dynamic: it changed with changing circumstances. Initially, it included a strong neo-Calvinist element, namely, that Afrikaners were a Chosen People with a God-given destiny. A prominent Afrikaner leader, J. C. van Rooy, commented that 'in every People in the world is embodied a Divine Idea and the task of each People is to build on that Idea and to perfect it. So God created Afrikaner People with a unique language, a unique philosophy of life, and their own history and tradition in order that they might fulfil a particular calling and destiny here in the southern corner of Africa. We must stand guard on all that is peculiar to us and build on it. We must believe that God has called us to be servants of his righteousness in this place. We must walk the way of obedience to faith.' (13)
Verwoerd frequently repeated the notion that 'as Christians, Afrikaners had a God-given destiny to preserve their distinction from other races. In one of his fiery speeches Verwoerd declared 'we send this message to the outside world and say to them that there is but one way of saving the white races of the world …and that is for the white and non-white in Africa, each to exercise his rights within his own areas...we have been planted here, we believe, with a destiny – a destiny not for the sake of the selfishness of a nation, but for the sake of the service of a nation to the world of which it forms a part and the service of a nation to the Deity in which it believes...if meddlesome people keep their hands off us, we shall in a just way such as behoves a Christian nation, work out solutions in the finest detail and carry them out. We shall provide all our races with happiness and prosperity.' (13)
The claim by both Jewish and Afrikaner leaderships served them well within the context of their religious worship and related religious activities. For both groups, problems arose when they used the 'Chosen People" claim for nationalistic purposes. In both instances, the mainstream citizens of their respective countries read the claim as meaning or suggesting that the 'Chosen People' were bent on discriminating against them on racial grounds. In the case of the Jews, the accusation of racial discrimination as well as antisemitic attacks against Jewish or Jewish interests intensified with the launch of political Zionism. The attacks did not always emanate from outside Jewry: Jews who were uncomfortable with aspects of the Zionist movement distanced themselves from the elective claims, Zionism or both. Many Jews objected to efforts that sought to link the politics surrounding the formation of the Jewish state with the Hebrew faith, Judaism or both.
Against the continuous serial violation of the human and property rights of others, Afrikaner's electic claim always sounded hollow. Much as they loved the Bible – to be precise, the Old Testament – this did not brand or set them apart from other people of and on the African continent as 'People of the Book'. The depth of their Christian faith did not serve as the basis of their traditional philosophy to the same extent that it did for the Jews. As we shall soon see Afrikaner's association with their 'goie boek' (good book) was something of an act of reparative indulgence i.e. to keep the burdens of cultural isolation at bay while they carried on with the long process of plundering land and livestock from the indigenous Africans. The chronicles of travellers from outside the Boer frontier often presented the relationship between the Boer and his Bible in romantic and sympathetic terms. Fellow Dutch or Afrikaner travellers into the remote Boer frontier projected disturbing pictures of white people who had degenerated to the same level as their unlettered African servants and neighbours. For this reason, concerned Afrikaner predikant leaders appealed to others of their ilk to mount rescue efforts to save the frontier Afrikaner from total degeneration and barbarisation.
Unlike their Jewish role models, the 'chosen' Afrikaners lacked the complex body of interpretive biblical texts, the strict ethical codes, the dynamic customary laws and ritual regimen, and the equivalent of the Jewish rabbinate leadership to promote group cohesion and strict discipline at the levels of both the individual Afrikaner and his family. Historical accounts of Boer life on the frontier are replete with references to lack of education, ignorance, or a predilection for bunking class among Afrikaner youths. Education does not appear to have been a burning priority among early Afrikaners. Notwithstanding years of disproportionate investment in attempts to fast-track Afrikaners, through education and training, ahead of their African counterparts, the years of Afrikaners affirmative action do not appear to have transformed them into the same class of scholarship as their Jewish role models.
Part of the problems generally associated with Afrikaner leadership development revolves around a stubborn aversion to authority and discipline imposed from outside the group. Varying historical accounts describe their impatience of restraint, their unwillingness to submit to the irksomeness of government as being proverbial. Their overall approach to life was anything but fractious and anarchic. (2) In his daily dealings with his servants and labourers, he became the absolute authority – a law unto himself. Within his own immediate household he exercised strict authority or paternalism and brooked no interference from anybody. On the few occasions that the Company and the British authorities attempted to impose some semblance of external authority, discipline and control over the trekboers, the latter either ignored such interference or moved on behind the next mountain. This resulted in the episode generally known as the Great Trek. Protesting the manner of British and Company imposition of authority over him and his fellow trekboers, Willem Pretorius, who became the leader of this episodic journey, protested that his brand of authority was not trusted.
Afrikaner's claim to election always rankled the British administrators, the English-speaking or progressively liberal sections of the white community. Given their long-standing claim of being the lords of European civilization and cultural refinement, the British considered Afrikaner's claim an affront, seeing the latter had become almost as degenerate as the 'savage natives' whose company he seemed to prefer. It should be borne in mind that the British sponsorship of rather costly campaigns to anglicise the unassimilable Afrikaner was motivated, in part, by the desire to expose him to some social refinement. While these campaigns failed to effect wholesale anglicisation of the Boers, they succeeded in converting a section of Afrikaner elite or the more progressive or liberal-minded. Afrikaner history is full of examples of prominent Afrikaner leaders who turned their backs on those of their folk who went against the British e.g. in the use of English in white schools, courts, churches, government institutions and so forth.
Criticism of Afrikaner electiveness also came from the leadership of the African majority. These rejected the claim as a barefaced ploy to justify racial discrimination and segregation based on colour. As long-standing victims of Afrikaner privilege and brutality, African leadership generally made no attempt to differentiate between Afrikaners and other whites. After all both Jews and Afrikaners represented the majority of whites including all English-speaking white South Africans. Afrikaner leaders' attempts to justify apartheid on some spurious or tenuous theological principles were roundly rejected by the leadership of the black majority, white liberals including those within Afrikaner community, and the world community. The entire anti-apartheid world community was relieved and felt vindicated when the Dutch Reformed Church and its sister churches announced their intention to dissociate themselves from the long-running controversial theological endorsement of apartheid.
As the twentieth century came to a close, both the Jewish and Afrikaner communities appeared to have shed the passion and fervour which they previously attached to their elective claim. Increasing secularisation within both communities appears to have taken its toll on conservative leaders whose clout and legitimacy had benefited from the claims. Further, both Jewish and Afrikaner youths appear to have been moving away from the religious, political or nationalistic conservatism of their predecessors. This reference applies largely to Jewish and Afrikaner youths who live in the multi-ethnic and open democracies of North America and South Africa.
The demise of apartheid together with the de-escalation of Afrikaner leadership from public institutions as well as positions of privilege appears to have opened new vistas especially for white youths with leadership capacity or potential. Of the many challenges they face, one that is more urgent revolves around their ability to exercise sufficient patience while their black compatriots received preferential affirmative appointment or deployment into leadership positions. For high potential young white South Africans, talk of democracy and open society – and the opportunities that go with it – is cold comfort. Many believe it is a matter of letting them suffer the sins of their forebears. Consequently, relatively large numbers of young whites with leadership potential continue to feed the brain drain to greener pastures. The trend appears to be more pronounced young South African Jews and other English-speaking whites.
What does being God's "Chosen People" have to do with young South African Jews and Afrikaners? Findings from the interim leadership research suggest that these youths consider themselves to be 'chosen' for special reverse discrimination or a form of employment 'de-targeting' especially in public sector organizations including SOEs. Some of them believe black and white leaders in charge of employment or youth development and deployment programmes have entered into a deliberate silent conspiracy against the employment of white youth with leadership potential.
3. Afrikaner Identity and Cultural Transformation
Afrikaners and the British in South Africa were set apart by their respective cultures, but their differences went much further. Within the Empire the British had become accustomed to dominating the political and economic system where they settled in sizeable numbers. In South Africa they were an urban people who, along with Jewish South Africans, were better educated than Afrikaners, and had better access to capital and the trading network of the empire. They soon completely dominated the urban economy, and from this commanding position fervently advocated free trade. More than ninety per cent a farming people, Afrikaners were mainly concerned about control over black and Coloured labour. They opposed free trade if it meant flooding the Cape market with imports at prices with which they could not compete. Instead they demanded protection for their products in a country that tested the ingenuity and endurance of farmers.
British South Africans and Afrikaners also occupied different niches in the industrial workforce. The gold and diamond mines attracted highly skilled white artisans from Britain; Afrikaners, slow to acquire industrial skills, became supervisors of the black workers who performed the hard labour at the rock face. In the twentieth century the English-speaking workers protected their position through unions of artisans, which controlled access to skills; Afrikaners formed general unions, much more inclined to seek state protection for white workers. But all white workers had a common interest in white political supremacy. (2)
The first attempt to formulate a distinctive Afrikaner historiography was made by residents of the small town of Paarl. Under the leadership of a Dutch Reformed Church predikant, Afrikaner residents of the town founded the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (Society of true Afrikaners). They were effectively reacting against cultural domination by the British colonial regime. For instance, they were against the use of English as the only official language and the imperial bias of school textbooks. They based their own history on publications by European authors who were critical of British imperialism and on private correspondence and interviews with fellow Afrikaners. (1)
Though this was simple, naive history, it was a path-breaking achievement. It was the first book published in Afrikaans - the spoken language of the people - as distinct from Dutch, from which it had grown apart in the South African milieu by simplifying the syntax, changing the vowel sounds, losing vocabulary items that were not relevant, and incorporating loan words from the other languages that were spoken at the Cape in the eighteenth century - Malay, Portuguese creole, and Khoikhoi. It was the first book to treat all Afrikaners, dispersed as they were among British colonies and independent republics, as a single people. It was, too, the first book to set out the rudiments of a national mythology, with the overt purpose of encouraging Afrikaners to think of themselves as forming a distinct people with a common destiny and to resist the pressures for assimilation into British culture. (1)
Problems of disunity and division delayed Afrikaner realization of their avowed transition into a 'nation' with all the requisite paraphernalia. Thompson says in this regard that the seeds planted by the Paarl authors did not bear much fruit so long as Afrikaners were divided between colonial and republican regimes. Most of them were more concerned with processes in their particular territories than with identifying with an ethnic community that transcended the political boundaries. In the Cape Colony the most effective Afrikaner politician, Jan Hofmeyr, sought to advance the material and cultural interests of his community by working for concessions within the colonial system, whereas the primary goal of the leadership of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal was to sustain the independence of their republics. Nevertheless, as president of the South African Republic (of the Transvaal), Paul Kruger gave his immense prestige to a vital element in the embryonic Afrikaner mythology: the Calvinist concept of national calling and destiny.
Kruger's ascendancy to political leadership underlines the crucial role that Afrikaner clergy or predikants played in the birth of an Afrikaner 'nation'. Kruger was a prominent leader in the smallest and most conservative of the Dutch Reformed churches in South Africa - the Gereformeerde Kerk van Suid-Afrika. Its members were known as Doppers, because they believed in extinguishing the light of the Enlightenment. Their first ministers came from the Christelike Afgescheiden Gereformeerde Kerk in the Netherlands, which had seceded from the state church in 1834, rejecting its liberal theology and its evangelical emphasis on personal devotion and experience. The core of Dopper theology was the Calvinist conception of the sovereignty of God in every aspect of life and acceptance of the Bible as the only source of belief and practice. The Doppers exerted strict control over the moral behaviour of their members; they wore distinctive old-fashioned clothes; they forbade the singing of hymns; and they held aloof from others, going so far as to censure church members who attended communion services of other Reformed denominations. (2)
Given his strong position within his church, it is surprising that Kruger was a sincere Dopper believer. According to evidence cited by Thompson, Kruger was so sure that the earth was flat that when an American traveller was introduced to him as being on a voyage around the world, Kruger retorted, 'You don't mean round the world... it is impossible! You mean in the world.' This formidable president laced his speeches with explicit comparisons between the history of the biblical Israelites and the history of the republican Afrikaners and with assertions that the People (Volk) are the elect of God with a God-given destiny, and that the voice of the People is the voice of God. (2)
The Afrikaner's attempt to transform his cultural inferiority and related unfavourable complexes appears to have been borrowed from the Jewish copybook of cultural revolution. However, unlike the Jews who had to conduct their cultural transformation across a community which was scattered across many and diverse countries and communities, Afrikaner's task was rendered more workable because he had to work within a more confined, single or homogeneous country. The people who desired to forge a new culture lived and worked within a relatively small geographic space – South Africa. Afrikaner's cultural transformation was rendered more difficult by the fact that his was a struggle against the cultural imperialism of the British. Up to that point Afrikaner had defined himself through anglicised cultural identity inherited from the British. Culturally speaking, Afrikaner had tended to be the opposite of almost everything the British were.
With their work cut out, Afrikaners employed the combined services of Afrikaner leadership from the indefatigable predikants, literary writers and commentators, community leaders, to those who operated at the political level. Leading the charge at the national level, Afrikaner politicians charged that 'from year to year, and from one generation to another Afrikaner had been treated as an inferior - it had been preached in the civil service, by the school, in every small public notice alongside a road, and through the entire institutional expression and tone of public life. And where others regarded and treated him as inferior he himself began to regard himself as such.' (2)
At the heart of Afrikaner nationalist struggle was the attempt to imagine a new national community with its language enjoying parity of esteem with English in the public sphere. Only then would the sense of being marginalized be overcome. This meant that Afrikaans had to be heard in parliament, the civil service, schools, colleges and universities, and in the world of business and finance; it had to be the medium of newspapers, novels, and poems, giving expression to what was truly South African. Instead of English-speakers portraying Afrikaners in reports, novels or histories as everything they were not: unrefined, semi-literate, racist, dogmatic, and unprogressive, Afrikaners had to define and represent themselves as the true South Africans. This cultural revolution had to pave the way for the establishment of political, economic, and cultural institutions and ultimately the Union of South Africa had to make way for a Republic of South Africa that was free and independent. (2)
In their quest to carve themselves a new identity, Afrikaner leaders across the cultural spectrum discovered that theirs was a difficult task of defining who was to be taken in or left out. Up to that time, they had referred to themselves through a whole range of loose terminology as the Dutch or Dutchmen, Boers, whites, South Africans and even Afrikanders. For Afrikaner nationalists to build a constituency along such ideological lines was much more difficult than some of their leaders had initially thought. Some of them came to realize that the circumstances of this country had been such that Afrikaners had largely assimilated English customs, culture and ideals.
The review of Afrikaner leadership reveals some interesting points of learning especially for those Africans who have made it their business to capture the twenty first century as a century of their ascendancy to the global community of highly effective nations. The lessons do not necessarily derive from the achievements and successes of Afrikaner leadership. Indeed, some of the most effective learning derives from the shortcomings and mistakes committed by Afrikaner leaders. The crucial points of learning can be summed up as follows.
4. Setting Realistic Goals
Management textbooks have long identified capacity to set realistic goals as one of the crucial points of difference between effective and mediocre management and leadership. During its three hundred year existence, Afrikaner community has experience leaders who had exceptional ability in setting clear and achievable goals for the nation-in-the-making. Among Afrikaner thought leaders, the predikants or dominees emerge as perhaps the most formidable leadership class or sub-group that knew how to set goals which sections of the community could cope with. Their approach to the daunting task of nation building was tackled on a piecemeal yet logical and programmatic basis. In other words, they treated key aspects of the nation-making project as challenges facing the survival of the white people of the local community, district or region.
While the foregoing leadership approach was relatively effective at the local parish or community level, it created serious blind spots which Afrikaner leaders could not resolve at the national or country-wide level. Although regional leadership had successfully transformed regional power bases into Boer Republics, these entities became too unwieldy to manage on a centralised basis. Afrikaner leadership just did not possess the requisite capacity to unite and hold their republics together for a sustainable period of time. In their hurry to forge a single Afrikaner nation, successive Afrikaner leaders overlooked the competing claims and aspirations of the black majority population; they went out of their way to stop the development and empowerment of indigenous communities; they purposefully disrupted or destabilised indigenous leadership institutions and farming methods which were sufficient for their time or needs.
Given the shortcomings cited above, it is difficult to conclude that Afrikaner leadership had the requisite capacity to unite its support base around goals which were realistic. The very nation-making project was premised on a seriously flawed assumption that Afrikaner's dominant position and reputation for brutality would serve as a permanent deterrent against attempts by the African majority to topple Afrikaners from their position of authority, power and dominance. A close look at debates which occurred at critical stages of Afrikaner nationalistic project reveals that those sections of the leadership which advocated that the claims and aspirations of the black majority be addressed, in full, were always rebuffed by the more kragdadige leaders. Throughout their nation-building project, the conservative section of Afrikaner leadership always won because they feared the consequences of allowing black people to enjoy similar developmental benefits as were accorded members of the white group. Over time, these fears took on a life of their own as the prospects of the reversal of roles between whites and blacks grew ominously closer each decade.
The scenario just highlighted encapsulates the increasing dilemma with which successive generations of Afrikaner leaders have had to contend. By the time apartheid was formalised, those in leadership positions were adamant that radical or desperate measures were required to subdue black aspirations. Attempts to provide political safety valves for the ventilation of pent-up African aspirations and expectations seldom produced the desired results. The concept of Bantustans or homelands as a safety valve against rising black political and economic aspirations failed to divert the long-held claims of the majority population. It is against this background that we conclude that Afrikaner nation-making project proved, in the end, to have been an unworkable or unrealistic goal. Much as they tried, generations of Afrikaner leaders could not render the concept of a white or Afrikaner nation acceptable to both the Africans and the world community. It was unrealistic for Afrikaner leaders to expect acquiescence from both the world superpowers and the Africans.
The failure of Afrikaner leadership to sustain their concept of a nation of exclusively whites or Afrikaners also reveals this leadership's lack of transformational leadership capacity. Even when they realised that Verwoerd did not appear to have formulated a clear and safe route ahead for the apartheid project, Afrikaner leaders could not produce a workable programme for the transformation of apartheid. At the risk of appearing boastful, it is fair to suggest that Afrikaner leadership would have fared much better than they did had they been able to produce visionary and deeply magnanimous transformational leaders such as Nelson Mandela. Afrikaners who appeared to possess some of Mandela's transformational capacity - Jan Hofmeyer and Paul Sauer for example - were effectively sidelined as liberals whose political agendas could not be trusted. Many such leaders were tolerated or accommodated through deployment into innocuous leadership positions.
Responsibility for the downfall of Afrikaner nationalistic pipe dream must be placed squarely at the feet of political leaders whose intransigence, arrogance and disdain towards those whose opinions may have helped save the entire effectively killed it. Historians have shown how almost all modern-day Afrikaner political and church leaders trashed the advice volunteered by people who operated outside the trusted inner circle of crony advisors and supporters. As Giliomee points out, an organisation known as SABRA was the most prominent organisation of the apartheid theorists. However, even they found it difficult to criticise apartheid aloud since the nationalist leadership commonly denounced any such criticism as deserting Afrikaner course to curry favour with the English community. (2)
It was John Vorster who warned leaders of non-political institutions and interest groups to stick to their respective occupations and stop meddling in politics. The lesson for future African leaders was loud and clear: exercise enough flexibility, courtesy and humility to accommodate competing views from within and without your immediate circle of sycophants and cronies. Leaders who operate on the outer periphery of power and authority have a better chance of sizing up different options without their judgment being clouded by loyalty and patronage.
5. Singular Focus, Internal Cohesion and Discipline
The brief comparison of leadership approaches between Afrikaners and the Jews underlines the importance of ensuring that both the leadership and those they lead share a common view of the primary goal on which the group or nation depends for its survival. Obtaining a shared view of what the group or nation wishes to do or achieve is not enough to secure the all-important survival objective. It is up to the leadership to ensure that each member of the group or nation also understands the consequences which will accrue from the achievement or non-achievement of the primary goal. Both Afrikaners and Jews have been unyielding in their pursuit of the survival of their respective groups or 'nations'. Regardless of where - within the group or 'nation' - the individual leader or member operated, each leader or member understood the consequences of non-compliance with the rules, customs, values and mechanisms which the group or 'nation' considered crucial to the achievement of the primary objective.
It is the responsibility of the leadership to ensure that resources crucial to the success of the primary goal are made available and deployed for the achievement of the primary objective and nothing else. It is incumbent on the leadership to ensure total commitment to the primary objective by extracting all the benefits accruing from internal group or national cohesion. Internal cohesion goes hand in hand with unflinching application of discipline and other self-imposed enforcement mechanisms. Both Jewish and Afrikaner leaderships have, throughout their respective nation-making endeavours, invested considerable resources and effort towards the maintenance of internal cohesion and discipline. For instance, the Jews' legendary reputation for being an introverted or a closed community stems, in part, from the group's desire to enforce or promote internal cohesion and discipline.
The institutions of Jewish leadership make it abundantly clear that non-conformity or non-compliance with aspects of Jewish life and customs which are intended to facilitate the pursuit of Jewish survival will neither be tolerated or excused. Nonconformity will be treated as apostasy and the apostates will have to endure the consequences of ostracism or denial of group affiliation. Indeed, both Jewish and Afrikaner communities have had their fair share of men and women who apostatised themselves by choosing to go against the tide of the group's 'nationalistic' goals or claims. For instance, some of the world's leading scientists and researchers, writers and so forth were Jewish men and women who chose not to associate more openly or at all with aspects of Jewish life, custom or Jewish nationalistic aspirations. Some were motivated by a desire to avoid antisemitic stigma while others withheld their Jewish identities for reasons best known to themselves. But those who renounced their Jewish identity were decorated with that ultimate Jewish insult, namely, being branded as irredeemable and afflicted by that incurable condition otherwise known as selbsthaste or hatred of self.
Afrikaner community has had its own share of men and women whose opposition to mainstream Afrikaner nationalistic opinion was such that instead of backing down under the weight of group censure, the headstrong individuals chose to face the unpleasant consequences of being ridiculed and reviled as sell-outs or lovers of the enemy or enemies of Afrikaner people. Afrikaner treatment of those of their kind who were considered to have been afflicted by selbsthaste was no less stigmatic. Some were publicly humiliated e.g. tarred, feathered and paraded as traitors of Afrikaner 'nation'.
The closest that black South Africans came to using group censure to extract conformity with group goals occurred at the height of the anti-apartheid activism. Black people who were known or suspected of siding with the apartheid forces, otherwise known as the 'system', were branded sell-outs. As an effective tool for the enforcement of internal cohesion and discipline, the insult lost its sting as the term was used rather indiscriminately against people who either differed or disagreed with the tactics of the township firebrand activists. Thus, the use of verbal censure produced many unintended consequences such as alienation of large sections of the black community against the leadership of this or that activist struggle. In essence, the misuse of group censure alienated the very people whose support was necessary to secure freedom against apartheid. This is not to say that there were no genuine detractors or traitors against the struggle for freedom.
This study confirms that every group, community or nation has its own share of traitors as well as its own ways of dealing with those who turn against the goals of the group. However, there are risks in the manner in which group censure is applied especially when the enforcement mechanisms are left in the hands of individuals. If not properly supervised, ordinary people seldom pass up the opportunity to misuse the sources of the group or its leadership to settle personal scores. Name-calling is a readily available weapon to use against people otherwise declared as fair game. However, when the leadership of the group or nation resorts to name-calling tactics, this places question marks on their leadership integrity.
6. Raising the Level of the Catching-up Game
Afrikaner's feelings of inferiority and inadequacy toward the British, who dominated and ruled him, had both negative and positive consequences. On the positive side, the twin-headed threat of being caught or overtaken by the indigenous Africans and being left behind by the superior British spurred Afrikaner thought leaders to embark on a highly effective campaign to use all the means and resources at their disposal to wrest political, cultural and economic control from the British. Once this was achieved, Afrikaner thought leaders set themselves the rather ambitious task of imposing their own version of cultural dominance over the Africans. The motivation to do this job well was provided by the ever-present threat of being caught, overtaken and dominated by the blacks.
Under the ominous banner of swart gevaar (black danger or catastrophe), successive Afrikaner leaders, especially in the political arena, exploited their people's fear of black domination until some of their thought leaders started to discredit the relevance of the slogan. Interestingly, the swart gevaar slogan remained a potent vote catching tool up to and including the very last white election. And this, in spite of the fact that use of the slogan – in any guise – violated laws which sought to guard against acts intended to harm positive inter-race relation.
For a relatively long time, the entire Afrikaner leadership class was deeply traumatised and immobilised by the extent of the disparities between themselves and their British counterparts. They were extremely resentful of the fact that their inferior status effectively put them on the same social and cultural level as the indigenous people for whom they had nothing but total contempt. Finding themselves caught between the sheer cultural arrogance of the class-conscious British and the abject under-class conditions of the black majority, Afrikaners resorted to taking their frustrations and inadequacies out on black people. Even when they tried to form alliances with members of African community to neutralise the adverse impact of their inferiorities, Afrikaner leaders found they could not sustain such partnerships without the risk of losing whatever position and privileges they had already accumulated.
Faced with the unrelenting cultural, economic and political pressures brought about by their second-class status, Afrikaner thought leaders embarked on initiatives which saw them transform themselves from an underdog to a top-dog position. To achieve this, Afrikaner leaders had to launch campaigns designed to change the cultural mindset of their people. For instance, they campaigned against the dangers of being left behind (agterryers) culturally, economically and in any other way. The consequences of being left behind were graphically illustrated by the spectre of cultural degeneration which had, at one time or other, blighted the trekboer communities of the frontier. There was also the problem of white poverty which had slowly eaten its way into the very psyche of Afrikaner nationalistic pride like an unstoppable cancer. Against this background and at the instigation of the church leaders, the entire Afrikaner thought leadership group joined hands in fighting against what they termed the British campaign to equalise (gelykstelling) the races through a programme of cultural imperialism i.e. requiring that English and English customs and values take priority over those of Afrikaners and Africans.
For their part the leaders of the African majority have, from the very first contact with European settlers, endured the disadvantages which go together with positions of inferiority i.e. cultural inferiority, economic inferiority or political inferiority. More than any other race or interest group, Africans are intimately conversant with the extent of the price subordinate people have to pay for their occupancy of the lowest rungs of the human development ladder. As the inheritors of the post-apartheid democratic state, African leaders have to answer the question: how do you propose to go about taking the majority population group from their centuries-long subservience position to one in which they are the social and economic equals of members of the global community of nations. Like Afrikaners before them, African leaders can be expected to be weary of falling behind other race or ethnic groups. Indeed, the so-called African condition focuses attention on the adverse position which Africans occupy, courtesy of centuries of under-development.
What motivational levers are available to African leaders who are committed to pull their communities on to levels of development and modernisation which are enjoyed by the so-called developed nations of the world community? The demands of a democratic, open society will not allow African leaders to advance their position at the expense of the human rights of others. They can count on the fast globalising world community to remind them to play by a set of rules which Afrikaner leaders did not have to contend with during the critical stages of their exclusive nation-making programme which, in contemporary language amounts to nothing less than disproportionate Afrikaner affirmative action. Today's twin-headed empowerment programme comprises Affirmative Action (AA) and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), but Afrikaner's empowerment programme was enforced with all the ruthlessness of an intolerant state. Effectively, the advancement of the African majority – more especially its leadership class – was firmly put on hold through a complex body of laws, regulations and socially exclusionary customs and habits.
Put another way, the future of African leadership will be determined among other things by the extent to which African leaders themselves are prepared and willing to implement large-scale campaigns to transform the deeply ingrained subservient mindset. From the preliminary leadership study, indications are that feelings of inferiority and inadequacy do not only run deep into the psyche of black people but they are also spread across different generations. Unless some radical intervention is undertaken, the process of reversing centuries of subservience will only be effected through natural attrition i.e. damaged generations will simply fade away with their inferiorities and inadequacies. By that time, Africa will have lost half of a century it has claimed as its own.
The process of reversing or erasing the underdog mentality (and the culture that feeds it) will have to be conducted over a wide front, namely, language, culture, customs, rituals, life-styles and general belief systems. For black South Africans, this will require immense sacrifices as the current elite has become so westernised that its skin colour and surnames are the only things which betray their African heritage. This is a group of men and women who are unsure of the authenticity or relevance of their Africanness. Many hold the view that the new African order will have to make adjustments and compromises necessary to allow them back into the world of African customs and values. It is possible that some of the damaged members of the African elite have little chance of retracing their way back into a truly African way of life no matter how badly they wish to.
7. Reliance on Science and Technology
The successes of both Jews and Afrikaners underscore the importance of a group or nation's ability to master science and cutting-edge technology. While the Jews have been a dominant force in the creation of breakthroughs in various aspects of science, technology and research, Afrikaners were successful in overcoming whatever deficiencies existed to disqualify Africa as a science and technology-friendly society. In his book Muntu, Jahn poses the question whether or not Africa has the requisite resources, will and capacity to emulate the Japanese breakthrough. For them to make good their claim to become a competitive global player of the twenty first century, tomorrow's African leaders will quickly have to get on with the job of mastering the critical challenges that science and technology place in their way.
The quest for the mastery of science and technology starts when African leaders overcome science and technology deficits imposed by aspects of African tradition, experience and knowledge. Research will be required to expose cultural and experiential constraints. At the same time, appropriate solutions will have to be found to accommodate cultural differences which are essential to African self-identity and cultural integrity while experiential deficits are resolved through appropriate interventions such as targeted education and training. African leaders can no longer afford to hide behind arguments that African traditional culture, linguistic or numerating terminologies are too limited to accommodate modern scientific and technological concepts, terminology and so forth. The Japanese made the necessary cultural and national sacrifices to put their political economy beyond that of the highly developed western world.
The rise of Afrikaner leadership into a formidable force on the African continent was based to a large extent on the acquisition of higher quality education. This was particularly the case during the first half of the twentieth century when Afrikaner leaders decided education, including that of a technical nature, held the key to Afrikaner triumph over conditions that condemned many of their people to conditions of abject poverty and helplessness. Enormous resources were poured into educational programmes and schemes designed to fast-track Afrikaner youths out of the poverty trap. These programmes were held in place for several decades i.e. until the conditions responsible for white poverty were totally wiped out.
Afrikaner example clearly holds a great deal of promise and hope for their African compatriots. Given that little separates Afrikaners and Africans, it stands to reason that the latter have the requisite wherewithal to triumph over the so-called African condition i.e. a combination of poverty, under- or lack of development, disease, inter-tribal wars, corruption and so forth. African leaders should draw courage from the fact that Afrikaners have had to overcome similar conditions or challenges to get where they are today. As historians have shown, Afrikaners' nation-making experiment was conducted in conditions of public corruption and abuse of state resources, inter-group schism and squabbles, poverty and hopelessness as well as oppression or domination from the British.
Whatever incompatibilities may exist between modern science and technology on the one hand and, African traditional thought or knowledge systems, on the other these challenges can be addressed largely through the right educational intervention. The leadership study has also shown that a fast-growing category of black South Africans have made significant strides vis-à-vis moving into and acquitting themselves in positions of leadership in different segments of the political economy. Yet these modest gains cannot be sustained without some concerted effort by the leadership to reconcile African traditions, customs and knowledge systems with the requirements of the democracy which derives its strengths from a legacy formulated by science and technology.
8. The Value of Thought Leaders
While the foregoing review has tended to over-emphasise the need for educational intervention and the mastery of science and technology by future African role players, it does not downplay the important role of thought leaders whose occupations have no direct links with either science or technology. The point is that Afrikaner leadership struggle was fought almost exclusively on the backs of thought leaders especially those operating within the context of church organisations and related institutions. Other Afrikaner thought leaders, namely literary writers, poets, editors, journalists, social commentators, artists and theatrical producers joined in to broaden the footprint of Afrikaner leadership. At the risk of appearing to contradict ourselves, we could venture so far as to state that Afrikaner political leadership was predominantly hammered out of the Dutch Reformed Church and to a lesser extent the journalism and the legal fields. It is therefore not surprising that many high profile leaders, viz., prime ministers, presidents, cabinet ministers, senior politicians and many other categories of governmental bureaucrats were recruited directly from the church, journalism or law.
Future African leaders will have to re-evaluate leadership trends which seem to place premium value on political leadership while the latter tend to consider the roles of other categories of leadership as secondary in the management of the affairs of the political economy. Both Jewish and Afrikaner leadership models or approaches have demonstrated the immense value which non-political leaders bring into the task of nation-building, the broadening of democracy, galvanising support and commitment to national priorities, and the promotion of internal cohesion as well as discipline at communal levels. Political leadership does not have the same clout and capacity to mobilise or sustain community participation and involvement as church and other thought leaders. It is at community level that the Jewish leadership model appears to be strongest. The rabbinate plays a crucial role in helping to hold the community together, enforcing compliance with Jewish laws and discipline, providing encouragement, promoting support for the primary group survival goals and so forth. A similar pattern emerged during Afrikaners' growth into a dominant ruling group. Afrikaner church leaders were always on hand to do whatever was necessary to hold the group together and promote support for group survival activities.
9. Leadership through Robust Organizational Networks
Given that apartheid's instruments of containment vigilantly policed and removed black people's capacity to organise and to lead organised life, the task of (re-)building robust African leadership emerges as one of the top priorities of our times. Both Jewish and Afrikaner leadership models benefited immensely by the support they received from a wide range of organisations which were prepared and willing to support the pursuit of group survival-boosting activities. As mentioned in the foregoing, church and community organisations took centre stage in the management of Jewish and Afrikaner aspirations or interests. Other crucial groups included those which catered for different categories of thought leaders e.g. journalists including editors and analysts/commentators, business, trade and professional interest groups.
The interim leadership research suggests that the advent of a full democracy has witnessed a rather rapid demise or weakening of organisations which had existed prior to and survived the harsh apartheid environment. Future African leaders have to answer questions such as these: why does Africa's rainbow democracy appear to be less tolerant towards group networks which operate outside the political arena? How tolerant are the leaders of our democracy towards the leadership of extra-parliamentary organisational networks? These questions insinuate an opinion that the current ruling political leadership has no stomach for the style of leadership generally found within non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Many of the NGOs were considered to have failed to adapt or adjust their operational style and tactics to a political leadership which calls for inclusion rather than exclusion of the leaders of non-political organisations.
Information gleaned from the interim research also suggest that in spite of President Mbeki's frequent invitations to the country's African intelligentsia to participate in a collaborative exchange of ideas appertaining to the political economy, these thought leaders appear to be rather too shy or disorganised to heed the presidential invitation. Some of the erstwhile leaders flatly decline invitations that they believe will expose them to undue or unwarranted attacks from the political leadership. Simply stated, the ruling political leadership is not entirely trusted outside the circle of the trusted insiders. Some believe this leadership is becoming as paranoid as some of the apartheid era Afrikaner leaders. The latter were said to have developed a knack for drawing out potential rivals whose budding leadership careers were subsequently nipped in the bud.
The point has also been made that robust anti-apartheid black-led organisations have served their cause and have, therefore, to be re-configured or discarded altogether. Most of the pre-democracy community groups were said to have been rather too hide-bound in disruptive activism of the anti-apartheid era. In terms of this view, the democratic dispensation requires an organization whose founding principles and objectives are compatible with those of the broader democratic, open society. However, the holders of this view also made the point that the current political leadership had become accustomed to operating without the benefit of strong organisations whose leadership has the requisite capacity or courage to compel political leaders to become more accountable, humbler and less arrogant.
10. Reckoning with Foreign Cultural Influences and Traditions
Minority ethnic groups are generally vigilant against risks posed by the absorption of foreign cultural and life-style influences to group identity, internal cohesion and discipline. These groups always treat external or foreign influences as representing the thin end of the wedge against group survival and other important claims or interests. For the reasons just stated, the leadership of both the Jewish and Afrikaner groups took active steps to stem or minimise the influence of the language and customs of the dominant or ruling class. In the case of Afrikaner this required them mounting serious and vigilant resistance against the British attempts to subvert linguistic and other Dutch or Afrikaans influences.
In the case of black South Africans the issue of cultural and linguistic contamination is so deeply entrenched that the indigenous people appear to welcome the intrusion of these foreign influences as development, modernisation, or achievement. For instance, many black South Africans place great store in their ability to speak the English language or navigate through the English customs and rituals with relative ease. Many snide remarks have been directed at American-trained black South Africans who return from the USA with a noticeable American twang or slang – although they may have spent only a week or month in that country. Similarly, black children attending previously white private schools are ridiculed for their feigned inability or unwillingness to speak their parents' African languages.
The focus of these jokes points to a general criticism, namely, that uncritical swallowing of foreign influences has far exceeded tolerable proportions. In other' words, black people's inability to speak their own language or observe African customs and rituals should not be viewed as desirable enlightenment or modernisation. To do so is to perpetuate the ancient western explorers' or missionaries' rationale of saving the poor savages who cannot save themselves. These are pathetic 'skokians' and 'damaged goods' which both Jahn and Abrahams have been warning Africans to guard against.
Future African leaders will also have to decide how far back they need to go to reconnect with Africa's lost customs, wisdoms or traditional thought. The leadership will have to find compromises which will help allay the fears of the African elite who are fearful of campaigns which seek to install neo-African culture and customs. The campaigners will have to assure the elite that their campaigns are not designed to deprive the elite of their hard-earned claims to first-world modernisation and sophistication. They will also have to exercise ample patience towards the process of removing exotic cultural influences which instead of enhancing African culture, bastardise and weaken it. The question is, do current African leaders have the stomach to tamper with the exotic cultural trophies which have come to symbolise much sought after modernisation, sophistication, success or achievement to generations of the African elite?
Another challenge facing future African leaders revolves around the habit of associating democracy with all the foreign cultural trappings. Throughout the decades of the struggles for freedom, black and white activists promoted the view of a post-apartheid society whose common or shared values and customs are largely those inherited from the colonial masters, viz., the English, with western rituals. In other words, the African majority would have to be prevailed on to adopt English as the lingua franca. They would also have to abandon anachronistic customs, rituals and habits that flew in the face of modernisation or development. By the same token they would have to be persuaded to exclude or leave behind leadership customs and styles inherited from the traditional African leadership systems and institutions – both of which were considered anti-democracy or undemocratic.
In essence, the textbook democrats envisioned a post-apartheid democracy which did not place any undue cultural pressure on non-African activists whose first or second language was in any event English. As it would later turn out, the African majority was always expected to shoulder the burdens of transformation while their non-African comrades swam unhindered through the waters of an open and democratic society. As with the post-TRC situation, black South Africans were expected to do the reconciliation while those who perpetrated or benefited from the commission of gross human rights, against the African majority, went about lamenting their loss of power and privilege.
11. A Religion to Bind the People Together
Both the Jews and Afrikaners drew considerable inspiration from claims based on the belief that theirs were a people specifically chosen by God to be His representatives and voice on earth. As the foregoing analysis has attempted to show, these claims to election were often misused and even abused to justify unethical behaviour on the part of Afrikaner. Until unrelenting pressure forced apartheid leaders to come to their senses, many of their colleagues had steadfastly insisted that their presence in Africa as well as ways of going about the building of white nation were justifiable through biblical text – although no such text could ever be produced. Divine claims to election are not limited to Jews and Afrikaners. The leaderships of some of the western democracies consider themselves to be equally God's chosen people to although they are not as upfront about their claims as the Jew and Afrikaner.
The question which needs to be answered is: to what extent, if any, do African leaders have to invoke divine election in order to guarantee their chances of succeeding in transforming their political economies to globally competitive democracies? Put differently, is divine election a prerequisite for leadership success? To what extent is religious faith a necessary factor in the development or implementation effective leadership? Or is divine election only a factor where a group has set itself the task of moulding itself into a nation of sorts?
The foregoing also raise the question whether or not African leadership should find itself some form of religion around which to cultivate the neo-African culture, morality and ethical code(s). A case should be made for Africa to find itself something that its people can believe – something which contains cultural, moral and ethical principles which are consistent with and supportive of the African leadership model or approach. Both Jahn and Ade Ajayi make the point that nations which have successfully transformed themselves into formidable competitors within the global political economy are those which found or adopted some religion on which to hang the nation's beliefs. Without such a religion, national transformation becomes an opportunistic hit or miss business. Some African and Africanist scholars contend that Africa possesses a formidable religion in its traditional philosophy and knowledge systems. For detailed discussion of this point the reader is referred to the section dealing with the topic of African philosophy and traditional thought. Suffice it to state that from the perspective of traditional thought and indigenous philosophy, Africa is in the same league as India and other ancient societies. The problem with both Indian and African philosophical traditions is that they were sidelined by successive colonial powers. Unlike India, Africa's situation was aggravated by a general lack of a Doxographic tradition – very few if any written records were kept.
12. Need for Effective Enforcement Mechanisms
The review of the Jewish leadership model and experience has made it abundantly clear that without an effective mechanism to promote or enforce compliance and conformity with national customs, values and ethical laws, a group or nation's leadership stands very little or no chance of pulling it off. With their relatively rigid, complex yet comprehensive body of laws - the halakhah, the talmud, the torah, the Aggadah, midrash and so forth – Jewish leaders have always been in a position to make a considerable difference in their quest to reinforce group survival, internal cohesion and discipline. Conversely, the ultimate collapse of Afrikaner nationalistic project can be ascribed, in large measure, to their inability to craft an effective and efficient enforcement mechanism. Unlike the Jewish community, the Afrikaner community allowed the individual unfettered room to do as he or she chose.
From the beginning of their nationalistic venture, Afrikaners had always struggled to maintain or accede to authority and tight disciplines. Individual landowners (the Boers or trekboers) assumed near total authority over those who fell under their authority and control. This is truly the origin of authoritarianism and paternalism in Afrikaner leadership. As heads of their own and/or extended families (including their house servants and labourers), the Boers relied on force and coercion to extract compliance or subservience from what they referred to as 'my people'.
As they take over the reins of their democratising political economies, African leaders will need to investigate and develop a set of enforcement mechanisms. Given apartheid's wholesale destruction of the African family and community infrastructure support system, it is not surprising that large sections of urban and rural African households and communities currently thrive on the basis of negative or anti-culture approach to life. This is a culture which encourages the individual to turn against other individuals, his or her family, community or society. These individuals exist in situations characterised by the barest of recognised authority or discipline. Whatever discipline exists, this is not far removed from the law of the jungle where only the fittest survive. It is a society where lawlessness, abuse, corruption and a total disregard for the rights of others rule supreme. At the height of apartheid, discerning criminals saw themselves as socio-economic adjusters who practised their occupation almost exclusively the privileged white sections of South African society.
13. "Never, Never Again"
The most important lesson to be drawn from Afrikaner leadership experience is that future generations of leaders should guard vigilantly against embarking on similarly flawed nationalistic ventures as Afrikaners. As Nelson Mandela has so frequently reminded us, 'we have, at last, achieved our political emancipation…we have pledged ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination…we have succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace…we have committed ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace…we have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people…we have entered into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world…Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. (12)
14. Record of Achievements and Contribution
Notwithstanding the many points of criticism that we may have levelled against Afrikaner leadership as a group, it behoves us to acknowledge that the group has also been responsible for some outstanding achievements and contributions to the strengthening or development of the South African political economy. Ironically, the South African economy witnessed its highest economic growth and prosperity during the period 1933-1973.
In essence, apartheid was both good and bad for the economy. Its adherence to outmoded race policies precluded the most economic use of the black labour force, thus aggravating the inflationary bottlenecks. Inflation would become a serious economic problem in the early 1970s. The downside of apartheid also manifested itself in the imposition of curbs on the training and advancement of blacks, the lack of proper funding for black education, the poor productivity of workers, and the large distances the poorest of the workforce had to travel because of the group areas legislation. (2)
In terms of capacity building within the broader political economy, Afrikaner leadership was able to record in some impressive gains. For instance, the massive affirmative empowerment of poor urban and rural whites led to the effective eradication of white poverty and other conditions associated with it. Working class whites became a significant force within the overall political economy. Until late in the twentieth century, whites commanded more personal wealth than their black counterparts. But one of the factors behind record economic growth - apartheid notwithstanding – was the capacity of Afrikaner leadership to facilitate foreign direct investment in the local economy. Even as they mourn its demise, Afrikaners have to thank their racist nation-making project for helping them build up a sense of identity and relatively long history – both achievements giving them a greater sense of accomplishment.
Another aspect of achievement that must be credited to Afrikaner leadership revolves around their resolve to stay and help turn South African society from one ravaged by apartheid to one built around full democracy and open society principles and values. While contemporary historians pour scorn on the leaders' alleged inability to out-manoeuvre their black political rivals and partners – during pre-democracy negotiations –historians without scores to settle will give full credit to Afrikaners for their courage and willingness to become part of a democratic solution. The name 'Afrikaner' was being used in a bewildering confusion of ways. From the moment they started referring to themselves as Afrikaners, they also began to realize that they had a lot more in common with the indigenous Africans than mere sharing of the name African, Africaan, Afrikander, Afrikaner and so forth.
In the final analysis, Afrikaner thought leaders had to convince themselves that the label Afrikaner stood for something vastly different from what the word or name African stood for. In attempting to work through this confusion, the leadership often found itself embroiled in a great deal of nonsensical confusion. For instance, a cabinet minister claimed to speak up for 'Afrikanderism - English, Dutch or otherwise descended.' Some said, of 'our Native population: let us never forget that they are Africanders; that they are the oldest Africanders in the land, and that we have great duties towards them'. (2) Some prominent political leaders used the term 'Afrikaner' to refer both to a white South African patriot and also to a Dutch Afrikaans-speaking white alone. They conceded that Dutch-speakers were not the only Afrikaners, that there were also Afrikaners whose mother tongue was English, though Dutch speakers were in 'the first row'. (2)
In an attempt to trace the origins of the word Afrikaner or Afrikander, Giliomee cites some of incidents that may have influenced the application of the term to Africans who are otherwise white. One such account involves a drunken youth, Hendrik Biebouw, who after some drunken altercation with a town officer sought to be excused on account of him being an Afrikaander. As Giliomee points out, at the beginning of the eighteenth century 'Afrikaner' was applied to indigenous people or to the offspring of 'natives' and slaves or free blacks. Biebouw's public protest was the first recorded occasion of a European using 'Afrikaner' as a name for himself. Other references to the word were made by church leaders when they spoke of the danger that 'the Africaanders will fall to the level of Hottentotdom. Other references were to the term 'Africaan' used to distinguish between Europeans according to their place of birth e.g. 'three Dutchmen, three French refugees and three Africanen's. (2)
Giliomee posits that for Biebouw to use the name Afrikaander for himself and for the Company to designate whites as Africanen was strange. There are opposing explanations of Biebouw's defiant shout 'I am an Afrikaander!' True to their vocation, Afrikaner mythmakers have tended to read more into an otherwise innocent incident of an inebriated youth from a mixed-raced background. Some serious intellectual extrapolation has also been woven into Biebouw's response to give it similar intellectual significance as to the question: 'Who am I?' Thus, Biebouw's drunken protest is equated with De Crevecreur's famous question about identity posed in the eighteenth century: 'what, then, is the American, this new man?
Others have dismissed the incident, pointing to the context in which the words were uttered, and to Biebouw's background. His father was a German chirurgijn (a post below that of medical doctor), who could only sign his name with a cross and was according to all accounts very poor. A liaison with a black woman had resulted in the birth of a daughter before he married Hendrik's mother, a Dutch orphan who had come to the Cape. Far from being an ethnic nationalist, therefore, Biebouw, with his German father, Dutch mother and black half-sister, was perhaps more confused than anyone else about his identity. He called himself an Afrikaner, but was the term more than merely descriptive? Did he only want to indicate that he was a native of Africa (in contrast with natives of Europe), or did he imply that Afrikaners of European descent had rights and enjoyed a status that landdrost Starrenburg, an immigrant, ought not to ignore? Historians cannot answer these questions with any degree of precision. What they could agree on was that the rowdy behaviour reported from Stellenbosch during the first decade of the century was symptomatic of the increasing strains colonial society was experiencing. (2)
For most of the eighteenth century the colonists referred to themselves as burghers or Christians and occasionally as Dutchmen, but two other self-concepts also came to the fore, one of being white people, the other of being Afrikaners. During the first 150 years of the Cape there was no compelling reason to introduce clear racial distinctions or develop an ideology of racism. In every generation the legal status distinctions, which largely corresponded with racial distinctions, were reproduced. Burghers were white and slaves black. The increased visibility of free blacks triggered regulations to control them and efforts by burghers to ostracise them with feelings of racial prejudice becoming increasingly evident. Racial separation and racism was promoted, in part, by government and church authorities' practice of keeping separate lists for certain categories of people. Official records of speech also referred to the superiority of whites. (2)
The term 'white' had begun to appear in growing measure in the records. 'Afrikaner' was the other term that had become more prominent. A sense of being Afrikaners rather than being Dutch or French or German had crystallised by the end of the eighteenth century. Biebouw's term 'Afrikaander' or 'Afrikaner' re-surfaced when the equally enigmatic French-born character, Estienne Barbier, used it. As in Biebouw's case Barbier was on the periphery of European society and spoke his words in the context of political insubordination. In an attempt to secure protection against officers of the same town with which Bierbow had a disagreement, Barbier appealed to his 'Afrikanders broederen' ('Afrikaner brothers') to join him in opposing a government that favoured 'Hottentots' in its business arrangements. Like Bierbow before him, Barbier lost the fight against the authorities and was executed.
As the term 'Africaner', Afrikander, Afrikaner gained currency, even the burghers of the western Cape began to demand an extension of their rights as members of a political or civil movement. A Dutch visitor expressed pride in the 'name Africaan' as it seemed to him like a grand title. Other observers used the term 'Afrikaners', or 'Afrikaanen', for people in the city, and 'Boeren' (Boers) for those living in the countryside. Some of the Cape British referred to light-skinned slaves born at the Cape as 'Africanders.' However, the name 'Afrikaner' grew to be more broadly used to refer to Europeans who spoke Dutch or Afrikaans. Some observers had noted that all those born in the Cape Colony who were not of English but of German, Dutch or French descent, and who spoke Dutch called themselves 'Africaanders'. They spoke a very bad sort of Dutch language and styled themselves as an original nation of Africanes. The 'bad sort of Dutch language' came to be known as Afrikaans. (2)
The birth of the group of white people who finally came to claim the terms Afrikaner (as their exclusive group title) and Afrikaans (their language) was the result of a natural collaborative effort between a mixture of white and black people who lived cheek by jowl. Slaves and Khoikhoi servants had the greatest hand in the development of the restructured Dutch. In the course of the eighteenth century both burghers and their servants, in interaction with each other, took the restructuring further. Dutch was simplified and a considerable amount of Malayo-Portuguese, as spoken the slaves, was injected. By the end of the century Cape Dutch had largely become what is now Afrikaans. In the western Cape, especially in its rural towns and farms, the main variety of Afrikaans took root as the shared cultural creation, in countless small-scale localities, of Europeans and non-Europeans, of whites and blacks, masters and slaves.
After they took control of the Cape from the Dutch, the British deplored, in extreme terms, the social distortions and lack of cultural achievements they found at the Cape. In their view, the Dutch East India Company had grossly mismanaged the place by, inter alia, neglecting education, stifling trade and enterprise, supporting slavery and its pernicious social influences, failing to check trekboer expansion, and allowing the oppression of the indigenous Khoisan. Afrikaners found the idea of English cultural supremacy difficult to refute. By 1806 the colony could boast of no great economic advances or cultural achievements, apart from the Cape Dutch homesteads. There were no books, paintings or innovations on which Afrikaners could pride themselves. They were a rural, isolated, relatively backward people with only a few who received more than a rudimentary education. The lack of military resistance to the British conquests contributed to the sense of social impotence. The feelings of inferiority were compounded by the reluctance that a vanquished people must feel to mixing with their conquerors. (2) The British characterization of the Dutch legacy set the tone for what became an unbridgeable adversarial relationship between the British and the descendants of the Dutch throughout the history and evolution of South Africa to the present.
It is interesting from a non-historical point of view that the very people, viz., the Coloureds, who had the greatest hand in crafting both the concepts or terms Afrikaner and Afrikaans ended out being deprived of direct claim to both titles. By the time Afrikaner nationalistic claims went up in smoke, the entire Coloured community was left groping for a suitable and more positive name or term. To this day, there are deep divisions within this community about who they are and how they should be referred to – not as Coloured, so-called Coloured, Brown Afrikaners and so forth. As the prospects of loss of political power and privilege loomed larger, Afrikaner leaders courted and succeeded in enticing sections of the leadership of the Coloured community in what remains a marriage of political convenience. In their King Learian style, Afrikaner leaders still behave as if they are the senior partner in whatever relationship they enter into with people they patronisingly prefer to call the Brown Coloured.
Although Giliomee contends that historians cannot pronounce on the true origins of Biebouw's original claim, is it not time to force the professional historians to say exactly what they really think, rather than hide behind the threadbare excuse of missing records. For the non-historian, the evidence presented in Biebouw's case suggest that, in all probability, he was telling the Stellenbosch landdrost that the latter had no business assaulting him because he was from a mixed-race home. Similarly, why can't the people who had the greatest hand in fashioning the Afrikaans language be made to feel that it was not legitimately theirs? Hypothetically, the same white people could just as well tell the many gangs and groups of township and country Africans to surrender tsotsitaal (township slang) simply because it has more words derived from Afrikaans than any of the African languages.
On a more serious note, the halfway or indeterminate position which Coloured people have been forced to occupy or operate under has, from the beginning of the making of modern day South Africa, been a source of great sadness and unfairness on the part of Afrikaner leadership. Their unresolved status has and continues to present serious problems to whatever group is in power. Afrikaner leaders always balked at the idea of having to define a clear and firm position and role for the Coloured people. That high priest of the apartheid project, Verwoerd, conceded that placing the Coloured people should be located on the periphery of the white group but not as far out as the Africans. His justification for apartheid was, among others, his erroneous belief that to secure and safeguard white power and privilege, the white leadership needed, first, to protect Coloureds from competition from the numerical African majority. In Verwoerd's racist mind, Coloured were neither African, black nor white but merely a convenient halfway group of people who had served white interests well since white settlers started mixing with slaves, Khoisan and other indigenous Africans.
South Africa's historical prevarication on the position and role of the Coloureds within the political economy illustrates the extent of practical, moral and ethical problems which arise when a section or sections of society decide to define who should or should not belong in this or that group. Giliomee points out that defining the Coloured people had always proved to be an impossible task. No two Coloured people can to this day agree on the true definition. The eminent Coloured leader, Abdullah Abdurahman, defined the term 'coloured' to mean 'everyone who was a British subject in South Africa and who was not a European.' The definition of lawmakers in the apartheid period was also a negative one, but even more restrictive: a coloured was a person obviously neither white nor African. Yet there were large numbers of coloured people who in physical appearance did not differ at all from one of these two groups. Coloured people were formed by their exclusion from the white dominant group, particularly in the church and schools, and by the identification of most with Western culture and Christian faith. (2)
The review of the Jewish experience and leadership has revealed that this habit always leads to unfair classification into a number of categories with those considered the most authentic members of the group emerging at the top of the list. The unfairness or impracticably of the exercise lies in the fact that outside the first one or two classifications, the people who are placed in the rest of the positions are there more through a process of exception. In fact, once the burning question of who should occupy the first slot is settled, it is those in the A-group who have the first and last say about what should be done with the rest of the people. Invariably, the dregs are thrown in the "Other" category which, in racist bureaucratic speak carries the label 'Indeterminate' race, ethnicity, tribe or origin.
Under apartheid, the creativity of racist bureaucrats surpassed itself when it was able to produce several classifications of Coloured people. There were even slots created for "Other', "Other-Other", and "Unknown" or "Indeterminate Other-Other". Black people always knew that the secret to avoiding or minimising the hassles of apartheid bureaucracy lay in bribing oneself into any of the "Other-Other" categories. Every self-respecting "A1" Coloured person knew that these over-qualified Coloureds were nothing but "darkies' who had recently converted or Africanised their African surnames. Everybody knew the score too well to quibble about the growing ranks of the Coloured community or townships. Similar classifications were used to grade urban black people into a myriad of ridiculous categories and sub-categories.
During the entire twentieth century activists for Afrikaans were confronted with a key issue that was never confronted squarely. Was Afrikaner community a racial community whose language struggle was subordinate to the entrenchment of white supremacy? Or was it predominantly a language community whose social identity was shaped by the struggle for the acceptance of Afrikaans as a public language co-equal with English? If the latter was the case, the salience of race had to diminish and the creed 'die taal is gans die volk' (the language constitutes the entire people), (2) which activists often cited, had to be made a reality across racial boundaries. Language had become increasingly embroiled in the political and status struggles of the different communities. The disdain expressed in public debates by so many English-speakers towards Afrikaans and, to a lesser extent, Dutch, was not simply a question of language imperialism.
15. Profile of Afrikaner - a Closed People
A common by-product shared between both the Jews and Afrikaners is the perception of being inwardly oriented in just about every aspect of social interaction or human endeavour. In the case of the Jews, the perception appears to have come with a great deal of positive or favourable associations or attributes. As a permanent ethnic minority almost everywhere, Jewish people have a reputation of caring for one another. Most Jewish leaders are wont to boast that no Jewish people are to be found standing in queues for poverty relief or similar empowerment programmes or campaigns. Because of their legendary capacity to manage and support philanthropic institutions, Jewish leadership ensures that Jewish philanthropy should, as the saying goes, start inside the Jewish home.
The issue of Jewish introversion vis-à-vis mutual support points to the extent of and capacity for putting into practice the principle of loving one's neighbour. This principle is central to Jewish life, morality and ethics and philosophical tradition. The principle also projects the Jewish community as being exceptionally tight-knit and united – almost without serious interpersonal or inter-group schisms but abundant mutual caring and loving. Jewish unity and mutual support is largely credited on the community's entrenched religious observance, compliance with or commitment to strict Jewish customs, laws and ritual practices. Jewish leaders have often made the point that very few Jewish policemen or women were implicated in cases of human rights abuse which appeared at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. Generally, the Jewish way of life was said to promote non-violence towards others e.g. women, children, the infirm or disadvantaged. The 'love your neighbour' principle was also said to be responsible for minimising human excesses and other deviant behaviour.
Indeed, this characteristic or reputation makes the Jewish community the envy of citizens in whatever host-country the Jews choose to set up home or business. However, the perception of being too closed a people also creates feelings of unease among members of other ethnic groups, more especially the dominant majority group. Thus, during periods of economic downturn or social conflicts, Jewish people (and their interests) are among the first to be targeted for special attention. This was particularly the case during South Africa's socio-economic and political upheavals especially during the 1920-1940s. These were periods of heightened antisemitic attacks against Jews and their businesses.
Afrikaner community's inward focus has often been associated with negative motives. For instance, they were closed largely because they discriminate against non-Afrikaners; they dislike or are resentful towards people they consider socially lower than them and so forth. The history of intra-Afrikaner relationships has been characterized by ubiquitous feelings of disunity and ostracism against the apostate i.e. on Afrikaner who went against Afrikaner group values, traditions and habits. For instance, to be branded a lover of the under-dog or 'kaffir-boetie' was to be condemned to a life of isolation and misery. The point should be made though, that the Jewish community especially in the United States has a reputation for focusing rather vicious attention on Jews who fail to toe the line. In a sense, social censure appears to be a closed group's way of enforcing conformity with cultural customs and rituals. Loosely structured ethnic groups have little or no leeway in this regard: they lack the requisite cohesion to extract strict compliance or conformity from members of the group.
The foregoing analysis suggests that the issue of internal cohesion does not occur consistently within Afrikaner leadership. This is because its leadership has been unable to project a sense of functional group unity born out of greater internal cohesion. Some prominent Afrikaner leaders have commented that the issue of Afrikaner unity has, throughout the group's brief history, been a mirage. This factor has been suggested as one of the reasons Afrikaner leadership failed to effect corrective changes to its political, business or social programmes. The leaders' failure to reform and sustain apartheid has partly been identified as a function of disunity. This was compounded by the fact that the group was relatively too big to stay united and also that its leaders tended to represent, promote or protect sectional interests. In the end, Afrikaner leadership has been characterised, fairly or unfairly, as a government of factional interest groups and cliques.
Afrikaner respondents have during the consultative leadership discussions pointed out that cronyism was so much the order of the day that important information remained hidden from the majority of Afrikaners, including leaders in senior or strategic positions. The fall of John Vorster and legions of lesser political leaders as well as the humiliation suffered by the DRC as a result of rampant corruption were cited as some of the by-products of Afrikaner disunity, cronyism and nepotism. The DRC's break with apartheid was also blamed on a church whose history and very existence was synonymous with Afrikaner fortunes and leadership.
From the beginning Afrikaner's was a leadership based largely on the principles of division and containment; authoritarianism and paternalism; Protestant Christian ethics and the electivism of the Old Testament; and a heavy reliance on the labour of others. It was a leadership which preoccupied itself with addressing the immediate needs and problems of Afrikaner group while it stubbornly refused to contemplate the long-term implications of its choices or ways. It was a leadership staunchly focused on the moment while it dismissed the future beyond the foreseeable here and now as too ghastly to contemplate. It was a leadership based on the language of postponement where tomorrow was aptly dismissed in typical Afrikaans thus: more is nog'n dag (tomorrow is another day).
Even at the height of worldwide ostracism and condemnation of Afrikaner leadership policies and behaviour, those who sympathised with this flawed brand of leadership were always at a loss for reasons to justify the pig-headedness of Afrikaner leaders. Young men and women who displayed abundant obstinate or obdurate behavioural traits were encouraged to secure positions within the institutions of Afrikaner leadership. As was the case with Van Riebeeck, a good leader was one who stuck to his guns regardless of the consequences for himself and/or the entire group. As mentioned above, long-term consequences seldom featured in the leadership plans of Afrikaner leadership vocabulary.
Consequently, a review of Afrikaner leadership is a study of how successive generations of kragdadige (iron-willed) leaders - from those responsible for laying the foundation stones of a racist social order to those who authored the incomplete apartheid flight-plan - stuck by their decisions regardless of whatever changes may have occurred within the immediate environment. It is fair to say that once decisions were made, they were to remain undisturbed throughout the tenure of the leaders who made them. Afrikaner leadership's predilection for decisions or pronouncements whose inviolate character can only be matched by an Ayatollah's fatwa* lies at the base of the demise of the entire Afrikaner nation-making project.
Just as Van Riebeeck was not going to allow himself to modify his views about the nature and motives of the 'wild savage natives' of the western Cape, so would generations of distinguished Afrikaners not allow themselves to change their minds once decisions had been made. Those who dared alter standing decisions or positions were summarily dealt with regardless of their standing within the entire Afrikaner community. In fact many Afrikaner leaders who dared go against the grain of Afrikaner positions, choices or dictates lived to regret their apostate conduct.
Violence and brutality, the abuse of human rights, disregard for basic human dignity, lack of general decency and related deviant characteristics are behavioural values that have been present in the Afrikaner community from the time the first sailor or settler set foot on African soil. The foundations of the present-day Afrikaner community were in the gross use of violence and excessive force. Unlike the Jewish group, that of Afrikaner does not appear to have the benefit of strong and deeply entrenched braking mechanisms to limit or discourage excessive use of force or violence.
One of the paradoxes which appears to confound the history of Afrikaner is the absence of well-articulated philosophical thought, traditions, morality and ethical codes which can be described as distinctly Afrikaner. This could be ascribed, in part, to the fact that the Reformed Church tended to dominate almost every aspect of Afrikaner life. Therefore, there may have been no need for Afrikaner thought leaders to develop and document a separate body of knowledge, ethics or moral codes which reflected the peculiarity of Afrikaner community. In other words, once they published their own Bible, the need to develop Afrikaner philosophy and traditional thought was superfluous. As descendants of the European culture and traditions, Afrikaner had no need to create or codify a new or different set of traditional thoughts and beliefs which reflected its peculiar African experience.
The paradoxical complexities of Afrikaner being and experience are compounded by both denial and affirmation. On the one hand, the entire history of Afrikaner has accentuated its European heritage. Throughout their struggles to build themselves into an African nation or sub-ethnic group, Afrikaner leaders have strenuously guarded against attempts by indigenous cultural and ethical forces to dilute or bastardise their European heritage or Europeanness. The early settler community as well as the trekboers had nothing but total scorn for African people's capacity to think rationally. Afrikaners also did not believe there was much that Africans could teach them by way of morality and ethics. Conversely, like most other Europeans who made common cause with Africans, Afrikaner also believed that the African was the archetypal savage who could not save himself and, therefore, needed to be saved by those of superior moral and ethical standing.
In the process, however, they succeeded in depriving themselves of the benefits of African philosophical traditions, culture and customs. From this perspective, Afrikaners have effectively denied themselves an African heritage. To this day, they have refused to learn or become literate in the philosophical traditions, customs and rituals of their compatriots. They, therefore, disqualified themselves from being called African – in the fullest sense of the word. The closest that Afrikaners came to identifying themselves with aspects of the African heritage and experience is to be found in their language. Here, there are many influences which were borrowed from the various indigenous languages – as well as the languages of the slaves who served the early settler colony. Beyond this, there is very little in Afrikaner experience or philosophical thought that can be truly called African.
16. Pursuit of a Nationalistic Claim
Central to Jewish life is the fact that Jewish leadership is charged with the responsibility to promote and protect the survival of the group, its identity, and heritage almost at any cost. The definition of what constitutes Jewish claims as well as the strategies used to address the claims change in accordance with changing circumstances. Yet, attempts to tinker with Jewish customs, laws and rituals are generally resisted with the result that the transformation of fundamental Jewish principles and laws does not occur at the drop of a hat. Further, Jewish leadership is open to challenges from all sides. Consequently, attempts by the leadership to introduce radical ideas or programmes have first to be subjected to robust and lengthy processes of analysis, debate and interpretation.
This process is essential as it promotes the ventilation as well as the accommodation of competing or diverse ideas. Jewish tradition demands that whenever an argument appears headed for deadlock, the wisdom-keepers invite the contestants to consult the book. In other words, there is a willingness to consult or defer to the superior or detached wisdom of others that possess greater knowledge or experience. In essence, while they may appear to outsiders to be constantly at each other's throats in arguments, Jewish leaders have the capacity and the resources that allow them to maintain sufficient consensus, unity and support of new ideas across a broad front. For this reason, the group seldom appears to experience divisions which immobilise the leadership.
Over the years the durability of the Jewish leadership establishment has been subjected to formidable tests and challenges. The launch of political Zionism challenged the Jewish community to produce a leadership class with the requisite capacity and skills to craft and navigate this rather revolutionary and controversial movement until the objective of establishing a nationalistic home was achieved. Jewish thought leaders have described Zionism as a movement of the Jewish people that set for itself the goal of rebuilding a home for the Jews in Eretz Yisrael (The Land of Israel). This rebuilding was to bring about a national and spiritual revival of the Jews both as individuals and as a people. (3)
For centuries, Jewish history has been perceived as beleaguered by inferiorities, de-fects and fatal flaws. The flaws were there for anyone to see i.e. anyone who was willing to look rather than just pray to the Lord and wait another two thousand years of exile until such time as the Lord saw fit to redeem Israel. The defects were many. The Jewish people were scattered, stateless, persecuted, passive, demoralised, assimilated, segregated, and sunk into an abnormal economic existence. They lacked a common language and were plagued by dark psychologies: by maso-chism, by love of suffering, and by rationalising some kind of a divine mission to explain their vulnerable existence and miserable way of life. (3)
Zionism was going to change all that. To the scattered it offered an ingathering; to the stateless, a state; to the helpless, mastery; to the passive, activity. Put more blatantly, to the inferior Jews it promised a new generation of freedom that eventually culminated in the sabra superman. One way for a movement to be strong enough to 'change history' is to draw on primitive and most potent sources of psychic energy. In the case of Zionism, the major source of strength has been the age-old Jewish love of Zion. Throughout the ages this love has been so intense that it can be regarded as a timeless factor in Jewish history. Indeed, as has been pointed out by the noted Israeli historian Jacob Talmon, the quality of timelessness that characterises Jewish history is anchored in the traditional Jewish idea of redemption. Indeed, an orientation toward future redemption sets up a fixed goal that does not wither with the passage of time. (3)
From its beginning, Zionism has been a mixture of different orientations. The common theme running throughout its development was the caring for the city of Zion, Jerusalem, which served as a focal expression of passion for the land of Israel and the fate of the Jews. However, this unifying theme sometimes obscured the underlying diversity of the movement. Perhaps the most contradictory Zionist aspirations were on the one hand to become 'a light of the nations' (Isaiah 49:6) and on the other hand wishing 'that we also may be like all the nations' (I Samuel 8:20). Most of all, the Zionist movement was characterized by its focus on a rapid transition from inferiority to overcompensation. (3)
Without allowing ourselves to be side-tracked by the political controversies which have accompanied the Zionist movement from inception, it is safe to state that as a movement, Zionism has had a significant impact on how the Jewish people and their institutions approach the issue of leadership. With the establishment of a near-viable Jewish state achieved, the relevance and appeal of political Zionism or the entire Zionist movement appears to be waning especially in large Jewish communities such as that in North America. The point should be borne in mind that the founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, (16) had envisaged the movement as a programme to be terminated once its objective had been achieved. In other words, Zionism was never intended to be perpetuated beyond its sell-by date. As a lesson in leadership, the Zionist project and those who championed it showed greater leadership capacity by allowing others to modify or jettison aspects of the movement which had become either redundant or unworkable. For this reason, the movement has been able to survive well beyond the achievement of its primary objective. Lastly, Zionist leaders showed sufficient leadership flexibility by allowing others to establish extensions of the original idea. There have, therefore, been many Zionist-inspired movements and organizations such as Cultural Zionism and Practical Zionism to name a few.
Although a brand new people, the birth of Afrikaner 'nation' was, like its Jewish counterpart, beleaguered by inferiorities, de-fects, and fatal flaws. As the pyschohistorian Gonen says, the flaws were there for anyone to see yet many Afrikaner historians and non-Afrikaner praise-singers tend to hide them behind semantic sophistry. While they will acknowledge that most of the burgers and the Boers were rough, violent, indolent, illiterate, and corrupting and corruptible, these historians will find other reasons to smooth over the rough edges. Their defensiveness makes it near impossible to conduct a dispassionate yet instructive analysis of the achievements, contributions and mistakes of Afrikaners. This trend is particularly evident in the way in which these historians have approached the lessons of apartheid leadership. Many of them resort to dishing out moral condemnation of specific Afrikaner leaders or their misguided decisions.
Where the Jews had the Zionist movement as a radical but short-term programme for addressing the establishment of a Jewish home in Eretz Yisrael (The Land of Israel), for their pursuit of an Afrikaner national status and identity, Afrikaner leaders relied on the notoriously brutal apartheid programme. Unlike political Zionism, apartheid effectiveness derived from its capacity to stop members of the black majority from competing directly and openly against whites/Afrikaners. This became a costly and highly invasive instrument of containment which caused both black and white people immense damage in terms of dignity and self-esteem, and pervasive distortions of mental and emotional health for individuals in and out of normal family life. It rendered parental and family relations and life dysfunctional; the incapacitation of the individual's capacity to organize and participate in organizational life; total breakdown of the family unit together with normal communal networks, indigenous traditions, customs and rituals; led to the near-total destruction of black people's capacity to develop, support or work through effective leadership; and condemned large segments of the black majority to being an ineffectual economic under-class.
When the Dutch East India Company despatched Jan van Riebeeck and his party to establish an African supply station, its executives and shareholders had no intention of allowing them to claim a piece of the African continent for themselves. Yet this is exactly what the free burghers and those who succeeded them did. As free agents, they were, literally, free to follow their nose and grab as much land and labourers as their nation-building appetite would allow them. As Vatcher points out, Afrikaner nationalism had no fatherland it could in all honesty call its very own - a factor that became a source of embarrassment and annoyance to its leaders. Whereas most nationalisms are nurtured on fear of threats from without, Afrikaner nationalism had developed in response to threats from within the nation. This fact gave it something of an air of impermanence, if not discomfort. The intermingling of disparate elements generally resulted in instability and the likelihood of conflict. (13)
Unlike colonists who captured new territories from vanquished adversaries on behalf of king, queen or ruler, these ex-employees did it for themselves. They were there for keeps, unlike colonists who gave up foreign territories after some treaty had been entered into between colonists and colonised. South Africa's white settlers conveniently forgot that the manner of their nation-making had left one unfinished business viz. what to do with the claims of the indigenous people that the settlers had swept under the rug. Consequently, the unresolved 'permanent occupier' status of South Africa's white 'nation' was to prove its undoing after three hundred years of 'sunny skies and braaivleis' – as the expression goes.
By the time apartheid was launched to formalise what went before as racial sans a coherent racist ideology, the damage to the rights and privileges of the black majority population was almost complete. From the beginning, the Company's ex-employees travelled far and wide helping themselves to land they believed was to be had because they found nobody sitting on it. Myths about migrating blacks from the north meeting whites from the south at mid-way in South Africa were used to salve the otherwise guilty consciences of Afrikaners who knew, deep in their hearts, that the land they were helping themselves to indisputably belonged to Africans. These faulty myths were backed by the old European anti-black stereotypes and prejudices. Blacks were sub-humans or non-believers who had no special relationship with the God of the Christians. As God's chosen race, Afrikaners had to exploit all within their grasp in order to fulfil their obligation to their God. With support and leadership from Afrikaner church and political leaders and some of the British administrators, the oppression of Africans needed no formal race policy or programme to justifying it.
Apartheid sprang from twin psychological sources – a fear complex which revealed itself in a persistent anxiety about survival and a superiority complex which manifests itself in constant racist references, on the level of grass-roots politics, to 'kaffirs' or 'Coolies' as subhuman or as members of a childlike race. (2) Apartheid rested on several bases: political apartheid restricting all powers to whites, the enforced separation of existing communities, segregated education, protection of whites in the labour market, and influx control that restricted Africans' movement into cities. The sixth base, which was the ideological cornerstone, was the setting aside of special land areas (reserves) for African residency. (2)
Some three decades after its launch, apartheid's own architects were prepared to abandon the project, but the policy had extracted its revenge. All the main goals of Afrikaner nationalism that had generated enthusiasm had been achieved by 1970 - South Africa's own national symbols, a republican form of government, a secure place for Afrikaans as a public language, single-medium Afrikaans schools and universities and a well-skilled and trained white labour force. But for many of the more idealistic whites the stark contrast between white opulence and black poverty had become obscene. Politics in the apartheid state had less and less appeal for the more gifted Afrikaners, who went into business and the professions. Because apartheid had removed the points of conflict between whites and blacks from the regular political arena the NP negotiators had no experience of racial bargaining. The apartheid state's zeal to protect the different cultures had led Afrikaners to relax their vigilance with respect to the Afrikaans language and culture. (2)
Given the history of apartheid oppression, Afrikaner leadership could not fall back on minority rights. There was in any event no longer the self-conscious Afrikaner ethnic group of the mid-century insisting on political self-determination. Only half of all Afrikaners still supported the government whose leaders had discarded the political definition of Afrikaners as a white ethnic group and had plumbed for a multi-racial party base. The issue of 'morality' was an important factor in the changing power balance. The West's sanctions had hurt Afrikaner leadership, which supported apartheid, morally much more than economically. Afrikaners had always considered themselves part of the West, and their ostracism on account of apartheid had seared their leaders' souls. The leadership had no explanation to offer to Afrikaner 'nation' why the first prize, namely a balanced system, had eluded it.
With the demise of both apartheid and Afrikaner nationalism, Afrikaners had to discard much of their historic thinking about survival as obsolete. By the time full democracy was ushered into the South African nation, Afrikaner leadership had the unpleasant task of telling faithful supporters of the erstwhile nation that neither its black political rivals nor itself had won or lost. The faithful could not be fooled this time round as they could see that the black leaders had walked away with the trophy that had graced their mantelpiece for three hundred years. As Giliomee puts it, Afrikaner leadership had lost power but were still behaving like King Lear who had renounced power but expected everyone to continue treating him as a king. Lear did not see that when he surrendered power – and for this the Fool mocked him – others would take advantage of his weakness. Like the Shakespearean monarchy, Afrikaner leadership woke up to discover that their voluble praise-singers and myth-makers who had served the cause of Afrikaner nationalism over decades had renounced their vocations.
The humiliation of the King Lears (2) of Afrikaner nation did not end with their having to discover that the contest was not only lost but that they were required to eat crow in the public square of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. This came after persistent threats of Nuremberg-style prosecutions for a leadership that had presided over a programme the United Nations had declared a crime against humanity. Notwithstanding the number or manner of their public apologies for apartheid crimes, Afrikaner leaders continued to be harassed for faking apologies made without real feeling.
A lesson that stands out of the failure of Afrikaner nation-making project and its apartheid strategy or strategies lies in the realization that traditional societies do not forget wrongs done to them. In their rush to carve and dish out to sons and daughters land they took from Africans, Afrikaners stubbornly shut their ears against voices of reason and caution which emanated from those they had wronged and from their own people. From the very beginning of the land grab and racist oppression, many Afrikaners in positions of leadership and authority sought but failed to persuade their political colleagues to change tack. Legions of well-placed Afrikaner or white thought leaders, businessmen/women, mainstream and non-mainstream church leaders, tried but failed to persuade their leaders to moderate or adopt different policies, decisions or actions.
The big lesson for future leaders keen on tackling projects of nation-creating proportions is that one needs to listen to both those whose competing claims one has surpassed and those from within whose antennae are still sensitive enough to pick up warning afar off.
More importantly, prospective leaders need to bear in mind that issues of morality are far more difficult to detect than those closely associated with the goals and objectives on which the leadership has set its sights. The moral impropriety which underlined successive Afrikaner leaders' haste to get on with the noble task of nation-making did not and could not be altered by either time or the many achievements and successes that the leadership and their 'nation' realized over a period of three hundred years.
IV. THE INSTITUTIONS OF AFRIKANER LEADERSHIP
1. Afrikaner Leadership and its Mythological Foundations
The story of Afrikaner leadership presents an object lesson in how a people almost succeeded in creating a sustainable condition of nationhood in the minds of section of an African society through clever blending of a minimum of facts with generous dosages of myths. Our attempt to present a comprehensive review of myths and mythology has meant that many points and issues, which are dealt with in greater detail under appropriate headings, are repeated here. The repetitions should be tolerated as they are occasioned by the need to make specific points. The presentation and review of Afrikaner myths and political mythology of apartheid borrow heavily on L. Thompson (1). Additional reference material has been borrowed from other scholars and writers including Janheinz Jan (36), William Vatcher Jr. (13), Hofmeyr (33), J. C. Smuts (38), (39), S. G. Millin (41), H. C. Armstrong (40), A. Paton (37), and P. B. Blankenberg (43).
The works of the scholars cited above illustrate the point that the history and evolution of leadership is inextricably intertwined with different kinds of myths and mythologies that serves to create or sustain nationalist or patriotic leadership credentials. Myths are also used to bolster the superiority of one ethnic group over rival groups. Many scholars and social commentators have been critical of attempts, by the leadership of various ethnic groups or nations, to promote strident nationalistic fervour based on myths otherwise built around unsavoury or false foundations.
Myths have generally been associated with the foundations of the history of nations or groups. In reality, every history is based on myths instead of objective accounts of what truly happened. To substantiate this viewpoint, Jahn draws on Friedell's assertion that every age has a definite picture of all past events accessible to it, a picture peculiar to itself. Legend is not one of the forms, but rather the only form, in which we can imaginatively consider and relive history. All history is saga and myth, and as such the product of the state of our intellectual powers at a particular time: of our capacity for comprehension, the vigour of our imagination, our feeling for reality. Thus, the Africa presented by the ethnologist is a legend in which we used to believe. The African tradition as it appears in the light of neo-African culture may also be a legend - but it is the legend in which African intelligence believes. And it is their perfect right to declare authentic, correct and true those components of their past which they believe to be so. (36)
The history of some of the most powerful nations on earth has benefited from myths which venerated the founders of these nations. As Thompson (1) points out, American textbooks have used political myths to inculcate patriotism in generations of American children. For instance, there is the tale of young George Washington who would not lie about chopping down one of his father's cherry trees. Similarly, generations of British children were taught to believe that Siraj-ud-Daula, nawab of Bengal, murdered British captives in the Black Hole of Calcutta. The effect of this myth was to illustrate the cruelty of the 'lesser breeds without the law.' Other political myths are much more than mere stories about the past. They are also indispensable, integral parts of a regime's ideology. Until his death, Joseph Stalin's book was used as a manual of ideology completely binding on all citizens. As long as Stalin lived, that version of the history of the Communist Party was the Soviet equivalent of sacred writ. It constituted a core myth for the Soviet system in the Stalin era, as distinct from peripheral myths such as that of the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Myths can be classified into two categories i.e. conservative and radical myths. Conservative myths often narrate events leading to the foundation of a state; they correspond with charters used in traditional societies to legitimize the social order. There are similar foundation myths in modern countries, expounded in textbooks and popular literature, and deeply embedded in the public consciousness. What is specifically American in American nationalism is the widespread belief in the unique origins of the nation. Americans believe themselves to be a new people, formed out of a migration of people seeking freedom in a New World. The nation was founded in a revolution which was both the first war of liberation and the first lasting overthrow of an ancien regime. That revolution created a new nation dedicated to the spread of freedom and democracy and equality. The history of that people and nation has been the struggle, physically and geographically as well as morally and ideally, to spread freedom across the continent and throughout the world. (1)
Thompson further, states that radical myths are created and propagated by domestic or foreign opponents of a regime, to discredit it and promote its downfall. These myths, like conservative myths, often concern past events, as with the myth that was used to discredit the Weimar Republic, according to which Germany lost the First World War not because the army was defeated by the enemy but because it was stabbed in the back by politicians on the home front. Similarly, in the United States radicals counter the conservative mythology that American history is the story of the creation of a land of plenty and equality with the myth of a capitalist conspiracy against the deluded masses. Other radical myths are eschatological projections into the future. The Xhosa Nongqawuse episode represents an indigenous example of a devastating millennial movement.
Thompson maintains that thought leaders sometimes wish history could be transformed into a myth-free science. Yet so long as history continues to include mythical elements, it will be an instrument for chauvinism. Myth cannot be eradicated from human culture, because it performs a necessary function. Nor is it to be regarded as inexorably evil. Bronislaw Malinowski's work among traditional or so-called 'primitive societies' has emphasized the function of myth in primitive societies. For instance, it fulfils an indispensable function: it expresses, enhances, and codifies belief, it safeguards and enforces morality; it vouches for the efficiency of ritual and contains practical rules for the guidance of man. Myth is, thus, a vital ingredient of human civilization; it is not an idle tale, but a hard-worked active force; it is not an intellectual explanation or an artistic imagery, but a pragmatic charter of primitive faith and moral wisdom.
Most political mythologies are linked with the state because it is the dominant institution in the modern world. Every state exerts a profound effect on popular consciousness through its use of official symbols and rituals. Moreover, the politicians and bureaucrats who control the state at any given time frequently modify those symbols and rituals to suit their interests. One could give an accurate account of a country's political mythology and history by studying the development and the usage of its flag, its national anthem, its postage stamps, its coins, and its official holidays and festivals. States differ, however, in the degree to which they dominate the institutions that create, propagate, and modify myths: churches, schools and universities, printing presses (especially those that publish textbooks), and radio and television programmes. There is a great difference between the mythologies that prevail in states where there is freedom of teaching and publication and those in states with censorship and standardised, ideological instruction. The former mythologies are weak, diluted, and subject to public dispute; the latter are strong, uniform, and incontestable. (1)
The realization that political myths may have good effects goes back at least to the Greek philosophers. To Plato, truth was a vital virtue; but he made one exception. The ruler of his model Republic should create and propagate an official mythology - a 'royal lie,' an 'audacious fiction'- to ensure that the citizens would act for the good of the country, defend it against attacks, and trust their fellow citizens. Plato believed that by fostering this belief, the leadership would make citizens care more for the city than for one another. Those effects may seem to be unexceptionable. However, Plato's 'royal lie' went on to include a rigid system of closed classes. Plato was by no means exceptional in endorsing the class divisions of ancient Greece. Aristotle provided an elaborate rationalisation for slavery. He wrote that it is clear that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right. (1)
As Plato indicated, political mythologies may contribute to the general welfare by projecting sound moral principles and promoting domestic and international harmony. Insofar as political mythologies use history to establish the highest standards by which people may judge the performance of their contemporaries, they fulfil a useful and beneficial function and meet the third criterion for the assessment of mythologies. However, the passages cited from the Greek philosophers also illustrate the extent to which values have changed over time. Today, scarcely anyone would accept Aristotle's endorsement of slavery; and Plato's system of fixed, reproductive classes corresponds to no contemporary political order and certainly to no official ideology except the South African. (1)
The view of the world that we find in a myth is always a practical view. Its aim is either to advocate a certain course of action or to justify acceptance of an existing state of affairs. Myths are, therefore, believed to be true, not because the historical evidence is compelling, but because they make sense of men's present experience. They tell the story of how it came about. And events are selected for inclusion in a myth, partly because they coincide with what men think ought to have happened, and partly because they are consistent with the drama as a whole. (1)
As Thompson states, the principal reason for studying the past is that it promotes the formulation and reformulation of useful myths about the conduct of public affairs, creates and confirms peoples' identities, and offers models of behaviour for leaders and followers alike, to help to guide us through present complexities. The American (and world) people badly need new visions, new generalizations, new myths, global in scope, to help us navigate in our tightly integrative world. If historians fail to advance suitably bold hypotheses and interpretations, then politicians, journalists, and other public figures will continue, as now, to use unexamined clichés to simplify the choices that must be made.
Thompson further states that myths are an ineluctable part of human culture. Political mythologies legitimize or discredit political systems, especially state regimes in the contemporary world. They are extremely flexible. Classes which control social institutions may manipulate them and modify them to suit their changing interests. They wax and wane in intensity, and their content varies as a result of changes in the structure of local and global societies. They can accommodate a great deal of factual and scientific error; but myths that are peripheral to the ideology may disappear when dominant classes perceive that they have ceased to serve their interests, whereas myths that are integral to the ideology are far more tenacious. Human society is never completely static: it is always in motion. One cannot understand the present without some awareness of the momentum that it carries with it from the past.
One of the most important findings of the interim study centres about the critical role which myths and mythology play in shaping as well as sustaining functional group identity, self-worth, leadership, survival and so forth. Thompson's review clearly demonstrates how a minority group of white settlers used both factual and fabricated events or episodes to build myths which, in turn, nourished and goaded the leadership of the group to achieve successes beyond their expectations. In the case of Afrikaner, the feat is accentuated by the fact that a non-indigenous minority succeeded in subjugating – as well as keeping in conditions of total bondage - indigenous African groups that collectively presented a formidable majority. As Thompson asserts, the mythology of Afrikaner nationalist movement reflects the fact that Afrikaner people never amounted to a numerical majority of the population in any specific territory.
The white minority ethnic group that crafted a highly effective instrument of containment otherwise known as apartheid promoted a brand of political mythology that kept it in power for several decades. Commenting on the political mythology of apartheid, Thompson states that Afrikaner leadership made use of falsified versions of the history of their political struggle to legitimize a racist system of oppressiveness that has since been declared a crime against humanity. Afrikaners were, however, not alone in exploiting historical events for narrow political ends. Everywhere, powerful people make decisions that affect human lives and prosperity in the light of historical images that they have acquired in their youth, even though scholars know those images to be false.
Thompson's analysis of Afrikaner leadership's use of myths and political mythology to legitimize the South African social order is based on assumptions that are similar to those the Nazis used to legitimize their extermination of six million Jews. The core assumptions of both Nazi and apartheid leaderships rest on false or exaggerated conceptions about humanity. Both Nazi and apartheid leaderships assumed that races are the fundamental divisions of humanity and that different races possessed inherently different cultural as well as physical qualities.
In the contemporary South African context, white people under the pre- and post-1948 Afrikaner leadership of Hertzog, Malan, and Verwoerd rationalised the basis of their political mythology on a crude combination of Nazi racial superiority and the Jewish concept of the Chosen People.* As the most articulate exponent of this assumption, Verwoerd frequently repeated the notion that as Christians, Afrikaners had a God-given destiny to preserve their distinction from other races. In one of his fiery speeches he declared: 'We send this message to the outside world and say to them that there is but one way of saving the white races of the world. And that is for the White and non-white in Africa each to exercise his rights within his own areas...We have been planted here, we believe, with a destiny - destiny not for the sake of the selfishness of a nation, but for the sake of the service of a nation to the world of which it forms a part, and the service of a nation to the Deity in which it believes...If meddlesome people keep their hands off us, we shall in a just way such as behoves a Christian nation, work out solutions in the finest detail and carry them out. We shall provide all our races with happiness and prosperity'. (1)
Thompson advances the view that this core assumption is buttressed by a specific myth. Africans are said to be quite recent immigrants into South Africa; therefore, they have no greater historical claim to dominion over the land than Whites. South African propaganda makes much of this myth. In its extreme form, it runs like this: 'When the whites came to Africa in the sixteenth century, there were no native blacks in South Africa - only some nomadic tribes, including the Hottentots, who were of Arabic origin. So whose country is it by virtue of original settlers?' This myth has penetrated deeply into the historical consciousness of white South Africans. (1) The stereotype of Africa and its people being grossly unpredictable has persisted to this day.
Thompson cites the sentiments of an Afrikaner builder who informed his American guests that 'the black guy is hard to understand…his views are totally different from ours…he'll agree with you one time and he'll be totally against you the next…most of the blacks I've met say this is their country...but when you get down to facts, there were only Bushmen in South Africa when the whites landed at the Cape…the blacks were in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)…basically, we came here more or less at the same time…we both belong to South Africa...there is no one black man who can say that this is his country more so than a white...we belong here as much as they do.'
Once they settled in South Africa, Afrikaners developed racial ideas that were adapted to their experience and their needs in the South African context. Until the Second World War those ideas differed in detail but not in essence from ideas that were current in Western Europe and North America. Then, however, they began to diverge. Outside South Africa, thought and action began to move away from racist suppositions. Inside South Africa, leading politicians, official television and radio services, newspapers, teachers, and textbooks propagated a modified, Verwoerdian version of a racist mythology to legitimize a racist regime. (1)
Given the effort and resources which successive generations of Afrikaner leadership invested into building a solid nationalist façade out of a labyrinth of Afrikaner myths, it is not surprising that the influence of Afrikaner leadership philosophy and mythology will, for the foreseeable future, flourish in the veins of the new democracy. It is important, therefore, that sufficient attention be paid to an understanding of that which gave Afrikaner leadership such a solid grip on the political economy – long after apartheid has been removed from the statute books of our country. This point is discussed in more detail under the heading of the Black Doughnut Leadership Model.
The interim study has revealed that the secret of Afrikaner leadership lies in the robust organizational structures which were set up to sustain the mythology which Afrikaners had built around a strategy torn from the Jewish book of eternal struggle. The study suggests that the leadership culture and the institutions which spawned and supported generations of Afrikaner leaders was, by design or default, modelled on the Jewish claim to be God's Chosen People on earth. It is, indeed, a fantastic feat of coincidence that both Afrikaner and the Jews should proffer an identical claim. However, in the case of the Jews, their claim was registered some two thousand years or more ago while Afrikaner's was, by comparison, lodged only three hundred since. The latter claim was made only after remnants of the Dutch and other European settlers decided to walk out of the security and comfort of European culture and traditions armed only with the Bible (and firearms).
The issue is not about the validity or otherwise of Afrikaner claim to being a Chosen People and all the moral and political obligations that go with the claim. The issue at stake is how Afrikaner used the claim of election as a handle to guide him through the life and death struggles which were almost identical to those faced by the Jews. Nobody should blame Afrikaner for modelling himself and his aspirations – be they religious, political, moral and ethical, or cultural - on those of the first people to make such a claim. However, once the claim was registered, Afrikaner was at liberty to defend and advance his interest against parties who threatened the survival of his group and its political claims i.e. to become a nation with all the qualities and pretensions of a nation. More importantly, given that their mandate was now securely grounded and guarded by the status of being God's Chosen People in Africa, the early stages of Afrikaner self-transformation programme was left in the hands of those more conversant with the biblical texts and related matters viz., the predikants (clergy leadership).
2. The Ubiquitous Church Leadership in Afrikaner Struggles
These developments account for the two main themes in Afrikaner nationalist mythology – the one being the mobilization of all whites with a strong liberatory motif. Afrikaner clergy – the predikant – emerged as the most potent force to mould and drive Afrikaner leadership along nationalist lines. Thus, in the late nineteenth century, clergy, politicians, and authors began to articulate the concept of an Afrikaner nation. Their purpose was to mobilize all the descendants of the Europeans who had settled in the Cape Colony during the Dutch period, whether they lived in British colonies (the Cape Colony and Natal) or Afrikaner Republics (the Transvaal and the Orange Free State), against British imperialism and its local potential allies, the white settlers of British origin. In addition to descent, the hallmarks of the 'nation' were use of the Afrikaans language (which had become distinct from the Dutch of the Netherlands) and membership of a Dutch Reformed Church. Politicians and cultural leaders expanded this theme throughout the first half of the twentieth century, creating an effective mobilizing mythology. (1)
The mobilizing theme in Afrikaner mythology is comparable with major themes in the mythologies of other former colonial peoples - Americans as well as Asians and Africans. Great Britain figures as the oppressor of Afrikaner nation and the British settlers as its Trojan horse. Stress is placed on the events of the 1830s, when several thousand Afrikaners left the Cape Colony to escape off British rule; and those of the decade 1895-1905, when Joseph Chamberlain, British colonial secretary, and Alfred Milner, high commissioner in South Africa, in collaboration with British and Jewish mining capitalists, exploited the presence of the Uitlander (foreign) community on the Witwatersrand to provoke a war of conquest. The spotlight lingers on the methods used by the British army to overcome the resistance of the Boer commandos, which included removing women and children from their farms and placing them in camps where more than twenty thousand died of dysentery and other diseases, and on Milner's attempt to denationalise Afrikaners by swamping them with British immigrants and educating them into a British mould. (1)
The other theme was racism. Afrikaner nationalist mythology has always included a racist ingredient. Most Afrikaners have believed that human abilities are determined by race, that Europeans are a superior race, and that the different races are incompatible. However, before the second half of the twentieth century Afrikaner mythology was able to assume racism rather than to elaborate it, since similar racist views prevailed in Europe and America and among other white South Africans. Moreover, British imperialism seemed to constitute a greater threat to Afrikaner interests than black resistance. Afrikaner nationalists resented South African participation on the Allied side in the two world wars, which they regarded as imperialist wars of no concern to South Africa. After 1948, however, with Afrikaner National Party in control of the government, Britain transferring political power to the inhabitants of her African colonies, and the Third World acquiring a strong voice in international organizations, Afrikaner nationalist ideology concentrated on providing legitimacy for the racial policies of the government. (1)
The racist theme in Afrikaner mythology has been far more tenacious than elsewhere, largely for reasons of political arithmetic. Most nationalist movements mobilize a people who are the numerical majority of the population in the territory that they aspire to control, and their historic role has been to weld their people together into a self-conscious solidarity, to eliminate foreign rule, and, perhaps, to struggle with their neighbours over the delimitation of boundaries. When foreign rule has been eliminated, however, rival ethnic communities often compete for control, as has been the case in many tropical African countries such as Nigeria - where two or more indigenous ethnic communities compete for power. (1)
Thompson asserts that Afrikaner nationalist movement is the product of a unique environment. South Africa contains two distinct white communities; but it also contains an indigenous population of vastly superior numbers. To legitimate the policy of apartheid, the mythology presents the African inhabitants as a totally distinct subspecies of humanity. They are deemed to have arrived in South Africa no earlier than the first Dutch settlers and to have blindly resisted the spread of 'civilization,' which is regarded as an exclusively 'White' and 'Christian' achievement. Furthermore, to legitimate the policy of dividing them ten different 'homelands,' they are deemed to comprise ten distinct 'nations. (1)'
3. Other Thought Leaders and Afrikaner Leadership
Afrikaner writers played a crucial role as they published historical works which sought to put Afrikaner case in terms most favourable to themselves. They needed to rebut lies spread by English authors. They, therefore, went out of their way to extol their victory in the recent war in which the Transvalers had regained their independence from Britain. The writers enjoined Afrikaner struggle not for honour or gold, but for life, political life, to exist as an independent people. They also eulogised the achievements of the republican Afrikaners and denounced the British. They trumpeted that the struggle of Afrikaner would 'rise in South Africa like the sun rises from the morning clouds, and like it rose in the United States of America, and then it will be from the Zambezi to Simons Bay - 'Africa for the Afrikander.' (1)
Defeat at the hands of the British appeared, momentarily, to have once and for all crushed Afrikaner nationalism as the Boer republics were overthrown; their white people were impoverished. Afrikaners were divided among the Transvalers, Free Staters, and Cape colonials; and among the bittereinders (bitter-enders), who had fought to the end, hensoppers (hands-uppers), who had passively accepted British rule, and National Scouts, who had collaborated with the British. In fact, the opposite occurred. The very excesses of British imperialism evoked and enhanced a sense of national consciousness among a high proportion of the people of Afrikaner descent in all parts of the country. As one Afrikaner said 'Milner has made us a nation'. (1)
Drawing inspiration from the Jews– whom they admired immensely – and Jewish struggles, Afrikaner clergy leadership came forth to pick up the 'nation-in-the-making' from humiliating military defeats at the hands of their bitter British enemy. Their revival was initiated by predikants (clergy) of the three Dutch Reformed churches, the most powerful Afrikaner institutions that had survived the war. Predikants had ministered to the commandos during the war, and after the peace they used their immense prestige to resist anglicisation by preserving Afrikaans culture and identity. Speaking at the funeral of Paul Kruger in Pretoria, the moderator of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk in Suid-Afrika (the principal Dutch Reformed Church) said that Paul Kruger was dead, but his people were not dead. Neither was his spirit dead, and they could go along the lines that he had laid down under the flag that now waved over them, and still be true to it, but they would always remain Afrikanders, God helping them'. (1)
Thompson points out that the predikants of the Gereformeerde Kerk were particularly prominent in the resistance to anglicisation because the neo-Calvinist theology that they shared with the conservative, separatist church in the Netherlands encouraged isolation. Building on the traditional Calvinist doctrine of the sovereignty of God in every aspect of life, Abraham Kuyper, who eventually became prime minister of the Netherlands, distinguished different spheres of human activity and deemed each sphere to be autonomous under God. The state is one such sphere, and social spheres such as the family and other private associations are justified in opposing the encroachment of the state. This doctrine was highly appropriate to the needs of people who wished to assert their national identity in the presence of a hostile state. Later, in the transformed context of the second half of the twentieth century, it would be a serious embarrassment to an Afrikaner nationalist regime with totalitarian tendencies.
The predikant leadership of all three churches organized resistance to Milner's educational policy led to the founding of private schools for Christian National Education. These schools emphasized the Calvinist tradition, promoted an Afrikaner national consciousness, and used Dutch as well as English as media of instruction. In addition, the clergy leadership and lay public resumed the attempt to create a literature in Afrikaans as distinct from Dutch. Their writings were passionately nationalist in tone and substance. One of their thought leaders wrote: 'but it is clear to every Afrikaner that only our own literature, steeped in Afrikaner spirit and intelligible to Afrikaners, through and through in language and content, that only such a literature is really calculated to hit the mark here. Who wants to help us build up such a literature for our people? We have a people to serve, we have a nation to educate; we cannot wait!' (1)
4. Afrikaner Leadership and the Creative Arts
A band of influential Afrikaans thought leaders used poetry and other literary forms to drum up themes based on triumphal episodes in Afrikaner history including the Great Trek as well as the wars against Africans and the British. They also frequently evoked Old Testament analogies. The underlying motif was that suffering and oppression purify a People, 'led forward by God's plan.' Some explicitly portrayed Afrikaner history as the history of a Chosen People, denouncing the anglocentric teaching of history in the government schools and treating anglicized Afrikaners as traitors. Once more, these themes and ideas were copied straight from the Jewish book of struggle. As in Judaism and Zionism, the predikant leadership preached a messianic gospel based on the concept of birth pangs leading to rebirth. In the act of modelling themselves after the Jewish people, Afrikaners convinced themselves that theirs was a divine duty to conquer evil in the form of both the indigenous population and their British enemy.
It was to be expected that, given their superior knowledge of both the Dutch and Afrikaans languages, Afrikaner predikants used language as an instrument of mobilization to maximum effect, especially in Afrikaner institutions such as schools, colleges and universities. This development led to the establishment of vigorous nationalist movements among Afrikaner students. The first student movement was founded at the embryonic University of Stellenbosch. It was here that one of the founding fathers of Afrikaner nationalism, D. F. Malan, encouraged young Afrikaners to 'raise the Afrikaans language to a written language, make it the bearer of our culture, our history, our national ideals, and you will raise the People to a feeling of self-respect and to the calling to take a worthier place in world civilization'. In the same year, Afrikaner leadership created the constitution for the Union of South Africa which ensured, inter alia, that Dutch should be an official language of the Union, equal to English. And in the mid-1920s the constitution was amended to replace Dutch with Afrikaans. (1)
To repeat, the predikant leadership worked hand-in-glove with other prominent thought leaders – more notably authors, poets, and historians. These authors became preeminent in the moulding of Afrikaner mythology in the first half of the twentieth century. For instance Gustav Preller became a prolific writer on historical themes, using primary sources to create subjective, sentimental portrayals of Afrikaner historical personages as heroic figures. He was largely responsible for making the Great Trek the centrepiece of Afrikaans historiography. Another prominent Afrikaner writer produced a stream of prose and poetry, much of it extremely sentimental in tone that made him the most popular Afrikaans writer of his generation. His works included a volume of historical verse, which dealt with nineteenth-century episodes such as the Slagtersnek rebellion of Afrikaner frontiersmen in 1815 and the Great Trek, when several thousand Afrikaners left the Cape Colony to become independent from Britain.
Another important lessons to be learned about how leaders achieve effect and impact comes from observing the ways and tools used by Afrikaner leadership to transform themselves into a formidable group. For instance, they were highly effective in the creation as well as management of symbolism and music. Their resentment toward the symbols of British imperialism led to a series of disputes within Afrikaner leadership class. During the first decade of the twentieth century, God Save the King automatically became the official anthem by virtue of South Africa's membership of the British Empire, much to the discomfiture of many Afrikaners. Eight years later, Langenhoven's sentimental poem was rapidly transformed into an anthem, Die Stem van Suid Afrika (The voice of South Africa). Thompson asserts that Die Stem van Suid Afrika resonates with a white and specifically Afrikaner mythology. (1)
Another source of the struggle for Afrikaner nationalism was fought over the symbolism associated with the national flag. Here, Afrikaner creativity was employed to produce a flag to unite Afrikaners and other whites who identified with their cause. Another co-founder of Afrikaner 'nationalism' – J. B. M. Hertzog - pressed ahead with a decision to create a new flag for South Africa. The battle was joined on ethnic lines. Many Afrikaners were deeply attached to the old republican flags - the Transvaal vierkleur (flag of four colours) and the Free State orange and white - while many British South Africans became apoplectic at the thought of losing British symbols. After a year of intensely emotional conflict, parliament approved a national flag consisting of three horizontal sections of orange, white, and blue (the Netherlands' driekleur of 1572-1650), with three small insertions in the middle (the vierkleur, the Free State flag, and the Union Jack); and parliament also decreed that the full Union Jack was to be flown alongside the new flag on official buildings and at special occasions. (1)
According to people such as Langenhoven and Preller, British imperialism was still the great historic enemy, despite the fact that the Statute of Westminster and the Status of the Union Act made South Africa a sovereign state and vested full powers in its parliament and cabinet. The imperial factor received a final fillip during the Second World War. Although Jan Smuts brought the country into the war by a majority vote in the South African parliament and won a decisive victory for his war policy in a general election, many Afrikaners considered that South Africa had no real interest in siding with Britain - some, indeed, hoped for a German victory - and regarded Smuts and his associates as imperial lackeys - traitors to the volk. (1)
Afrikaner leadership also became very adept at exploiting other symbolic forms for purposes of nurturing pride and commitment in Afrikaner 'nation'. Thus, the most dramatic event in the upsurge of Afrikaner nationalism was the symbolic ox-wagon trek of 1938, which celebrated the centenary of the Great Trek. Eight wagons, named after voortrekker heroes such as Piet Retief, Hendrik Potgieter and Andries Pretorius, traversed South Africa by different routes, to be welcomed by enthusiasts in practically every white town and village in the country, before they converged on a prominent hill overlooking Pretoria. There, on 16 December 1938, the centenary of the Battle of Blood River which marked the defeat of the Zulu kingdom, more than 100,000 Afrikaners - perhaps one-tenth of the total Afrikaner people - attended the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone of the Voortrekker Monument. Men grew beards and women wore voortrekker dress for the occasion. In Pretoria, when torches brought by relays of boys from Cape Town and the site of Dingane's headquarters arrived, 11 women rushed forward and burned the corners of their handkerchiefs and kappies (bonnets) in the flame of the two torches, to keep as mementoes of the great event. And on the hill above, women knelt in silent prayer in the darkness round the bare foundations of the Voortrekker Monument. The ceremony concluded with the singing of Die Stem van Suid Afrika. (1)
Reflecting on the occasion highlighted above, an Afrikaner magazine published a message from one Afrikaner leader that read, in part, that 'genuine religion, unadulterated freedom, and the pure preservation of one's white race and civilization are essential requirements for our own People's existence. Without this the South African people can have no soul and also no future. If that is true, then the Great Trek was the most important, most decisive, and all-overshadowing event in our People's history. The Great Trek gave our People its soul. It was the cradle of our nationhood. It will always show us the beacons on our path and serve as our lighthouse in our night.' (1)
5. Apartheid and the Formalisation of Racism
The period 1934-48 witnessed some fundamental mindset shifts in the collective mind of Afrikaner leadership. With the resurgence of Nazi sentiments and the ascendancy of the Nationalist Party, then in opposition, and great industrial growth, the racial element became more prominent. The indigenous population was not the only one on the receiving end of Afrikaner chauvinism: Jews and Indians were also targets for special treatment. However, African peasants were forced, by legislative and regulatory means, to flock from their reserves to the towns, where wage labour was needed by the burgeoning manufacturing industries as well as the gold mines.
Despite the existence of stringent pass laws, the government was unable to control this movement and white people became fearful of its consequences. In the same period, there was an infusion of radical nationalist ideas from Germany. Several talented young Afrikaner intellectuals returned home with doctoral degrees from German universities. Attracted by the cruder elements in German national socialism, they laid special stress on the supremacy of the nation over the individual. During the early stages of the Second World War, when the Third Reich seemed poised for victory, they published numerous articles, pamphlets and books, some for academic audiences, others for popular consumption.
One among Afrikaner leadership, Nicholaas Diederichs, wrote a treatise on nationalism as a world view, attacking individualism and liberal democracy and exalting the nation thus: 'Nationalism rejects this concept of freedom...on the grounds of its doctrine that the individual in itself is nothing, but only becomes itself in the nation as the highest community'. (1) Another leader, Piet J. Meyer, later to become head of the Broederbond and chairman of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), informed a meeting of enthusiastic students: 'Afrikaner accepts his national task as a divine task, in which his individual life-task, and his personal service to God has been absorbed in a wider, organic context.' And yet another leader, J. Albert Coetzee, started a pamphlet which stated that 'the history of South Africa is really the history of the origin of a new nation, of how, from different European nations, groups, and individuals it was separated, cut off, differentiated and specialized to form a new volksgroep, with its own calling and destiny, with its own tradition, with its own soul and with its own body. (1)
The inscrutable nature of the racial situation in South Africa has frequently manifested itself in Afrikaner leadership's failure to find suitable labels by which to describe or refer to the black majority or elements thereof. Throughout the apartheid rule, shifts in Afrikaner policy towards the position of and/or relationships with the black majority, have accurately been reflected in the changes in the nomenclature. From kaffirs, natives, Bantus, to plurals and 'black nations', all these labels reveal the unsettled state of mind and policy among successive Afrikaner leadership. No matter how adept they became at playing the word or label game with the race issue, however they could not find a lasting solution to the problem. (1)
As Thompson points out Afrikaner thought leaders such as G. Eloff published policy-oriented pamphlets laced with crude racism that, in turn, reflected the crude mindset of Afrikaner leadership. The thinking that emerged was manifest in the lexicon where distinct white, black, and yellow races are described, each with specific spiritual as well as biological characteristics. For instance, Eloff wrote that the 'preservation of the pure race tradition of the Boerevolk must be protected at all costs in all possible ways as a holy pledge entrusted to us by our ancestors as part of God's plan for our People. Any movement, school, or individual who sins against this must be dealt with as a racial criminal by the effective authorities.
The foregoing line of thought led one Afrikaner sociologist to elaborate a policy of apartheid or complete separation of the races. Interestingly, Afrikaner leadership had missed the irony and coincidence of their choice of words vis-à-vis the Nazi ruler's 'Final Solution' to the problem of the Jews. Cronje posited the view that the 'more consistently the policy of apartheid could be applied, the greater would be the security for the purity of our blood and the surer our unadulterated European racial survival... total racial separation is the most consistent application of Afrikaner idea of racial apartheid'. (1) According to Thompson, this precipitated a dramatic intensification of the racial element that had always been part of Afrikaner world view. He also points out that a mythology that had been originally articulated for the purpose of resisting British imperialism and checking the trend toward anglicisation had developed into a mythology for the reversal of the most dynamic forces in modem South African history – forces that were creating an industrial society out of people of diverse backgrounds and traditions.
The foregoing ideas were prominent in the minds of the leadership of the National Party that came into power in 1948. The man most responsible for putting them into practice was Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (2), who had graduated from a German university. As minister of native affairs and, later prime minister, Verwoerd led South Africa out of the Commonwealth and wrote apartheid, or 'separate development' into the statute book. He denounced the proposition that South Africa should be treated as a 'multi-racial nation with one multi-racial Parliament...True unity in a racial group can only develop among its own people, separated from the others. The only national unity for the whites is unity among the whites. Just as the whites had the right to national existence and self-fulfilment, so had the several black communities, and more particularly the 'Bantu' communities, which were embryonic nations.
Verwoed declared that Afrikaner leadership did 'not only seek and fight for a solution which will mean our survival as a white race, but we also seek a solution which will ensure survival and full development - political and economic - to each of the other racial groups, and we are even prepared to pay a high price out of our earnings to ensure their future.... We want each of our population groups to control and to govern themselves, as is the case with other nations. Then they can co operate as in a Commonwealth - in an economic association with the Republic and with each other. In the transition stage the guardian must teach and guide his ward. This is our policy of separate development. South Africa will proceed in all honesty and fairness to secure peace, prosperity and justice for all, by means of political independence coupled with economic interdependence. (2)
Throughout the history of Afrikaner nationalism, no single Afrikaner a leader was brave enough to formulate a comprehensive policy to manage race relations between whites and blacks. From Van Riebeeck, Boer republican leaders and Reform Church leaders to the architects of apartheid, there was a conspiracy of silence on the matter. The closest that many prominent leaders came to formulating a comprehensive race policy was to indulge in electioneering slogans, issuance of rough policy guidelines which would be retracted at the first appearance of Afrikaner stakeholder dissent. Even the tough-minded Verwoerd could not muster enough courage to develop a comprehensive and long-term apartheid programme that was supported by a balanced race policy. The most comprehensive statement that can be made about Afrikaner leaders' 'non-policy' policy towards blacks is that their actions pronounced a policy of diminishing tolerance for and disrespect towards the rights and privileges of black people.
Verwoerd's short-lived but tumultuous role as the 'T-Rex' of Afrikaner leadership was characterised by a rapid hardening of anti-black attitudes which signalled the rapid removal of whatever rights and privileges black people had enjoyed up to the formalised introduction of racism and segregation under the banner of apartheid. Verwoerd used a combination of intellectualised spin doctoring, bluster and threats of ominous consequences to persuade white leaders and voters alike to buy his concept of separate development. With his knowledge of concepts which originated at the time that social engineering was in vogue, Verwoerd succeeded in duping local and foreign thought leaders to give Afrikaner leadership room to try out the programme of separate but equal or apartheid.
By the final year of Verwoerd's term in office, the scheme for a white South Africa was most forcefully pursued. All housing construction in the African townships had been frozen and the government introduced extremely harsh influx controls that expanded the system to peri-urban areas and made possible the eradication of so-called 'black spots' (black settlements in white rural areas). In many ways Verwoerd's policies represented a holding action, not a settlement. As a result of influx control in South Africa, the system kept millions of black people in the reserves who otherwise would have become urbanised. In declaring that within a twenty-year time frame the stream of blacks to 'white' South Africa would be reversed, Verwoerd seemed to believe that conviction could prevail over reality.
For the time being a tight ideological defence of apartheid appeared to have been in place as white political, business and bureaucratic elites agreed that Africans were not inferior but 'different by nature', and that multiracial democracy was not practicable. What made the ideological commitment stronger in Afrikaner case was the fusion of apartheid with religion and nationalism. Africans were seen as consisting of various ethnic minorities or nations, each created by God and each with a 'right to survive separately.' (2) The foregoing sentiments provided ample grounds for the creation of different Bantustans or homelands for the different African tribal groups. The homelands were intended to provide legitimate homes within which black people could express all their claims, expectations or aspirations. But outside these homelands, black people were forbidden by a myriad of laws, regulations and brute force to articulate any political, economic or social claims. Attempts by them to do so would be dealt with ruthlessly.
Verwoerd's attempt to develop apartheid as a form of decolonisation fell far short of his earlier promise. He did not put in place any structures in which he could meet with politicians from the Transkei and other homelands to address grievances and discuss common interests. His Urban Bantu Councils failed to attract any significant support. He did not come up with a dynamic plan for economic decentralization and regional development that could reduce the numbers of blacks in the common area. There were two sets of logic that opposed each other. On the one hand there was the 'Verwoerdian logic', rooted in Afrikaners' own experience that blacks would not identify with the development of the reserves if they did not have a leading hand in economic projects. On the other hand there was the 'market logic', that only white capital and initiative would produce growth and jobs in the homelands. But even this logic could be questioned. The centripetal forces of the existing centres of economic activity were so strong that even large subsidies for regional development were unlikely to reverse the labour flows. (2)
It was arguably in the interest of white supremacy, faced with a growing preponderance of black numbers, to make some significant concessions to a section of the blacks. Only such a move would split the blacks politically and blunt international hostility. But Verwoerd was not really interested in this either. He embarked on the blanket political exclusion of blacks, which facilitated the mobilization of blacks as a people against the system and the ultimate overthrow of the system. (2)
In the face of mounting opposition at home and abroad, successive South African administrations proceeded to give effect to this grand racial design. However, the results were anything but peace, prosperity, and justice for the vast majority of the population. Going far beyond previous laws and practices, the government made racial segregation and discrimination pervasive and inescapable; it suppressed dissent with the utmost rigor; and it ensured that most Africans would live in squalid poverty by limiting their rights to land ownership and citizenship to the former reserves, which, in Orwellian style, it redesigned as 'Homelands.' In those scattered and impoverished territories, African communities could survive only by sending their healthy adults out to earn wages as labourers in the 'white areas'; but the government tried to ensure that no more Africans should exist in the white areas than those whom white employers needed to work in their homes, on their farms, and in their industries. In these circumstances, Afrikaner nationalist mythology de-emphasized the old anti-imperial and ethnic elements and concentrated on providing legitimation for the racial policies of the government. This was a difficult task. Inside and outside South Africa, apartheid became a byword for racial oppression. (1)
6. Afrikaner Broederbond
Another lesson in the effective development and propagation of high impact leadership is provided by some of the organizational instruments and resources specifically created, by Afrikaner leadership, to sustain the apartheid project. In essence, Afrikaner nationalist mythology was propagated through an elaborate network of religious, educational, and communications institutions. Not only has it dominated the historical consciousness of most Afrikaners, but it has also been imposed on the minds of other sections of the South African population, especially since the National Party won control of the state machinery in 1948. A remarkable organization - Afrikaner Broederbond - was largely responsible for this achievement. Founded by a tiny group of zealots in 1918, the Broederbond became a secret society in 1921 and gradually built up an extensive network of cell organization throughout southern Africa. Afrikaners are recruited who 'are wholly devoted to the service of Afrikaner nation' and who may be relied on to 'cling to the Christian national viewpoint of Afrikaner. One of its goals has been to dominate every aspect of South African society. (2)
As the chief architect of apartheid project – Verwoerd - put it, 'Afrikaner Broederbond must gain control of everything it can lay its hands on in every walk of life in South Africa. Members must help each other to gain promotion in the Civil Service or any other field of activity in which they work with a view to working themselves up into important administrative positions. (1) In this, the Broederbond was remarkably successful. Since 1948, all South African prime ministers and nearly all cabinet ministers have been Broeders; so have nearly all the heads of the Afrikaans universities and churches, and of the great state corporations including Iscor, SABC, Sasol, and Armscor.
The Broederbond had always given the highest priority to educational issues. Initially, its principal aim was to thwart British cultural imperialism by ensuring that the Afrikaans language received equal treatment with English in the public schools and the civil service, and then by placing Afrikaner children in exclusively Afrikaans schools, where, insulated from contamination, they would develop a strong sense of Afrikaner identity. Much attention was also devoted to creating among Afrikaner teachers a nationalist spirit that they in turn would inculcate in the children. In 1943 a school inspector told a Broederbond-inspired congress that 'Afrikaner teachers will then demonstrate to Afrikanerdom what a power they possess in their teachers' organizations for building up the youth for the future republic. I know of no more powerful instrument. A nation is made through its youth being taught and influenced at school in the tradition, customs, habits and ultimate destination of its volk.' (2)
7. Afrikaner 'Christian National Education'
In spite of many setbacks, Afrikaner leadership gradually attained its short to medium term goals. Once it was satisfied that the business of building an almost single, coherent Afrikaner 'nation' had been accomplished, Afrikaner leadership set the task of re-segregating the white group into Afrikaans-speaking versus the rest. Consequently, Afrikaans was installed as one of the two official languages of the country. White children were to be compulsorily divided into two sets of schools: English-medium and Afrikaans-medium; and in the Afrikaans schools a 'Christian-National' philosophy was to prevail. They were to be 'imbued with the Christian-National spiritual and cultural material of our nation. We wish to have no mixing of language, no mixing of cultures, no mixing of religions and no mixing of races.' History was to be taught as a revelation of the purposes of God, who has 'willed separate nations and people.' (1)
Thompson points out that before the National Party came to power in 1948, the outcome of the foregoing struggle was inconclusive and, because white education was a provincial matter under the South African constitution, it differed from province to province. Under Afrikaner leadership, education was to have 'a Christian character' and 'a broad national character,' and the mother tongue, English or Afrikaans, was to be the medium of instruction. The result was that all white children became corralled into ethnic institutions throughout their entire school career, with the sole exception of the few whose parents placed them in private schools. Afrikaner teachers were organized into unilingual professional associations which were among the most reactionary forces in South African society.
8. Segregated and Unequal 'Bantu' Education
Besides dividing white children into two sets of schools and propagating a narrow nationalist spirit in the Afrikaans schools, the government transformed the system of school education for the African, Coloured, and Asian people. Up to the formal introduction of apartheid, only a small proportion of the black population of South Africa received any schooling at all, and most of the education that was available to them was provided by mission institutions, which received small amounts of state aid. From Afrikaner nationalist point of view the system was dangerous because most mission schools were run by non-Afrikaners whose norms were inappropriate. As Verwoerd put it: 'Good racial relations are spoilt when the correct education is not given. Above all, good racial relations cannot exist when the education is given under the control of people who create wrong expectations on the part of the Native himself ... It is therefore necessary that Native education should be controlled in such a way that it should be in accord with the policy of the State'. (2)
Accordingly, a set of laws was passed to enable relevant sections of government to establish separate education structures for Africans, Coloureds and Indians. These laws withdrew state subsidies from the mission schools and made it unlawful for anyone to conduct a school without a license. As a result, nearly all the mission schools closed or were taken over by the central government, which acquired control of the entire educational system for black South Africans.
Late in the twentieth century, most blacks as well as white children were receiving some schooling, but whereas more than one-third of the white pupils were in post primary classes, only about one-sixth of the black children were above the primary level. The facilities for black and white pupils were not only separate but were also grossly unequal. The teaching of history in South African schools was heavily influenced by the broad Afrikaner approach to apartheid's 'nation-building' platform. Almost all historians of South Africa, including textbook writers, projected the extreme forms of the aberrations of Afrikaner nationalism as well as those of British imperialism which endure to the present day.
To substantiate his observations about the obnoxious character of South African school textbooks, Thompson cites the results of an independent survey that was conducted by a British research team and commissioned by UNESCO. After analysing forty-two secondary textbooks, the research team concluded that the syllabuses were designed to cultivate attitudes favourable to the system of white supremacy and that the textbooks served the same ends, sometimes directly, as in their descriptions of apartheid, usually indirectly, in encouraging values that underpin the system. They found that the books glorified nationalism as a major theme in European as well as South African history, treated the past as a model for the present, perpetuated wholly inaccurate myths, discredited counter ideologies, and stereotyped black people as incompetent, primitive, ignorant, unintellectual, warlike, and, indeed, innately and permanently inferior. (1)
To conclude his analysis of the situation in South African education, Thompson states that after the government had created segregated colleges for African, Coloured, and Asian students, its attempts to use its monopoly of black education as an instrument of thought control became a boomerang. With European missionaries ousted from the process, the African schools and colleges became places where young people gained an apprenticeship in politics and formulated a Black Consciousness movement with a liberatory mythology.
9. Record of Achievements and Contribution
Comparisons between Jewish and Afrikaner leadership has also to be weighed against the extent of the effectiveness and impact that the leadership of both groups have had within the global political economy in general and, in particular, that of South Africa. Jewish achievement and contribution, not only to the South African political economy but all over the world has been nothing short of astonishing. A detailed explanation of this aspect of Jewish life appears in the section of the study dealing more specifically with Jewish leadership and experience. The extent of Jewish achievement and impact within South African society has been equally astonishing. A small minority of poor East European Jews and Anglo-Jews only entered the South African political economy after the discovery of gold and diamonds in Kimberly and the Rand. The otherwise working class Jews did not take long to work themselves into the formidable economic force that they have become.
As the poor European Jews transformed themselves from working class peasants to captains of mining and industry, their Afrikaner counterparts concentrated their attention on farming and related rural activities. As has been the case elsewhere in old Europe, when Afrikaner community was blighted by poverty and joblessness, the Jews had to bear the brunt of a case of Boer antisemitism which lasted past the launch of apartheid. Whenever the needs of Afrikaner nation-making programme demanded, Afrikaner leadership was quick to call on the Jewish community to pay up or else. Afrikaner leadership attitudes towards the Jews was one of tolerance and accommodation as the former held to the line that like all other white groups (British, Germans, French etc), the Jews could not be counted on to give unqualified support to the nation-building project because other options were open to them.
In spite of the fragile Jewish-Afrikaner relationship over the years, Afrikaner leadership made concerted effort to build collaborative partnerships with both the communal leadership of the South African Jewry and the Israeli political and military establishments. South African achievements in the field of military hardware and nuclear development benefited from support from the partnership with the Israeli leadership. The partnership was only terminated when the leadership of the Jewish state became a constant target of attack at world forums including the United Nations. The Israelis could not afford to have their long-standing claims tarnished by associations with apartheid and its horrible record of oppression and human rights violations. Back at home, Afrikaner leadership made some headway by enticing some leading Jewish businesspersons and personalities to take part in parliamentary party politics. Further, the leadership of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies was persuaded to provide strategic support such as hosting Afrikaner politicians or desisting from attacking initiatives or activities sponsored by the apartheid leadership.
On their own Afrikaners have, over the years, recorded in some outstanding achievements in sections of the political economy. A remarkable feature of this economy is that no nationalisation occurred in the first two or three decades of the twentieth century when it was dominated by foreign capital. As previously mentioned, although politically dominant, Afrikaners had only a very small share of the non-agricultural private sector of the economy. The driving force of the South African economy was the mining sector which attracted funds from investors worldwide. Afrikaner nationalists took this as their model but they wanted their finance house to marry three quite different objectives: make profits for shareholders, promote the collective advancement of Afrikaners and help Afrikaners escape from poverty by Afrikaner employers offering them respectable jobs.
By the middle of the twentieth century Afrikaner involvement in the economy had grown large enough to wipe out the scourge of poor and unemployable whites or Afrikaners. Afrikaner had finally taken control of a significant proportion of the urban economy. The channelling of capital to Afrikaner enterprises had replaced the rescue action. Afrikaner business leaders concluded that after so much success, Afrikaners had to widen their horizons by encouraging immigration to solve the skills deficit, assist the black majority to enter the mainstream economy, and to encourage Afrikaners to secure partnership and involvement in foreign markets or economies. (2)
While Afrikaners have made significant achievements and contributions in the political economy of the continent in general and that of the sub-region, in particular, these achievements have not been easy to celebrate given Afrikaner's record of racial oppression, the abuse of the human rights of the African majority, and the military destablisation of South Africa's political economies. With the notoriety of a callous bully-boy, Afrikaner leadership promoted a long-standing love-hate relationship African peers and neighbours alike. Thus, when the pre-twenty first century chapter of the history of Afrikaner involvement and leadership is written, the emphasis is likely to fall more on its wayward behaviour than on its achievements and the contributions it made to the country, the region and the world economy.
Afrikaner leadership has been characterized by a capacity to ruin its own reputation and good intentions. They depicted themselves as the only whites who had become truly indigenous and who were prepared to fight to the end for white supremacy. (2) Yet, all along they forgot to find out if the rightful indigenous people were in the mood to share their God-given birthright and heritage. South Africa's record of racial oppression makes it difficult for others to associate Afrikaner leadership with noble intentions and the will to do good for the benefit of all of humanity. As they administered the last rites over the corpse of Afrikaner nationalism, the leadership could not even count on their erstwhile super-power partners and sponsors who had either instigated or turned a blind eye to the commission of crimes against humanity. The best advice they were given was that the world no longer condoned games played according to the rules of slavery, colonialism, racism and apartheid or racism by any other name.
The Jewish record of achievements and impact on the world stage is attributable largely to the Jewish way of life and the tight discipline it places on the individual, the family, the community, and the group. As mentioned previously, Jewish scholarship requires Jewish parents, family or community to enforce internal discipline and an uncompromisingly demanding work ethic early in the lives of the Jewish young. Further, individual Jews have gone on to register astounding achievements outside the Jewish community. While the Jewish community demands its fair share of compliance and commitment to Jewish laws, customs and rituals, it also allows individual Jews to go out into the non-Jewish world and excel in whatever area of endeavour individuals choose to try their hand.
Against the foregoing, it is difficult to establish whether or not Afrikaners enjoy the support of the tight socialising regimen to which their Jewish counterparts are exposed. Indications from the interim research study are that the Afrikaner family, community or group lacks the socialisation disciplines of its Jewish counterparts. Conventional wisdom would have us believe Afrikaners bring their children up within the confines of a paternalistic and authoritarian environment with strict religious principles based on Dutch Reformed Church interpretation of Calvinist ethics. However, the enforcement of these principles and values seems to rely on a system that is less rigorous than that of the Jews. The latter, we are made to believe, is designed to ensure that the individual receives all the requisite support, guidance and discipline to enable him or her to function as efficiently as his or her potential would allow. There is, therefore, less reliance on the service or labour of others i.e. the under-class who attend to menial labour and other debasing chores
From the very beginning, Afrikaner world was built around the white people on the top and blacks at the bottom – the latter attending to lowly work including looking after even the most personal needs of the employer. This arrangement has been and remains a fundamental feature of South African life and work. Its roots may be traced to the fact that the class or quality of employees who were pressed into the services of the Company, as soldiers or sailors, were people who had run out of employment options. On their arrival at the Cape, they soon found it convenient to delegate menial and debasing Company work to Khoisan and slaves. Down the centuries, a culture of avoiding manual labour at all cost evolved white people. On the farms most of the bywoners and tenants who had outlived their usefulness to become a rural proletariat passively rotted away. In the cities and towns the poor whites lived on the periphery of white society. They were barely literate, had few skills, and were often unemployed or unemployable. (2) This army of poor whites would rather sell off their possessions than earn a decent living by competing with the black workers for manual work.
It was logical and understandable, therefore, that when the issue of poor whites had to be confronted head on, one of the first issues to be tackled was the negative attitude that the poor white people held toward menial work. A six-year commission on white poverty concluded that a willingness to do manual labour, together with a superior white education was essential for alleviating white poverty. However, as Giliomee observes, after nearly 250 years in which almost all Afrikaners farmed, there was a strong prejudice against doing work that could be done by servants. They believed their good Lord had given them the natives to do manual work for them. (2) It is interesting to note that as part of an attempt to avoid the repetition of the problem of white poverty, Verwoerd had erroneously convinced himself and those around him that part of the solution lay in withdrawing excess black labour from towns and cities into remote African reserves. He firmly believed that a workplace domino effect, triggered by growing black labour pushing Coloureds out of their place in the market had, in turn, elbowed whites out of theirs.
Afrikaner resentment for manual work drove some of them to adopt desperate or extreme measure such the importation of slaves. Where poor Boers could not afford the going slave prices or after slavery was disbarred, Boer commandos opened a brisk trade in 'black ivory' i.e. forced black labour. After depleting the elephant ivory trade, Boer commandos in the Zoutpansberg area turned to capturing and abducting black children and women and indenturing the children. Some of these were sold to other Afrikaners. However, late into the twentieth century, Afrikaners' total dependence on 'black ivory' was to prove their undoing. Even before the launch of the apartheid enterprise, voices in the inner sanctum of Afrikaner leadership cautioned the leadership not to pursue programmes that would cut off the supply of black labour to the political economy.
By the time apartheid was formally introduced the likes of Verwoerd had grudgingly conceded that partial rather than full apartheid should become the policy of the government. In essence, the introduction of partial apartheid was, indeed, an indirect concession that the thing was not going to be workable. Afrikaner leaders like Paul Sauer had seen and privately characterized apartheid's hidden agenda as nothing more than the 'nauseous hypocrisy of caring for native interests masking a desire to get cheap servants. Sauer and like-minded Afrikaner liberals lacked the guts to take on the intellectually forceful and charismatic characters such as Verwoerd. Those who tried always came off second best. Given the kragdadigheid (iron-will or pigheadedness) of Verwoerd, the leadership took courage in wisdom of the Vorsterian maxim about the 'sultan's horses'. Put another way, the leadership was emboldened by their belief and trust in Boer opportunism and inventiveness i.e. 'n Boer maak 'n plan.
In hindsight, it appears from the accounts of Afrikaner historians and writers that the architects, high priests and janitors of apartheid – from Hertzog to F. W. de Klerk – had little confidence that the apartheid scheme would ever fly. Fly it could and did. What it could not do was stay in the air long enough to allow the schemers to conjure up the next trick. Verwoerd was convinced the first phase of the apartheid experiment was worth trying. He appeared to have figured it all out but died before he had worked out the rest of the apartheid flight plan. His immediate successor, B. J. Vorster, refused to discuss what was to happen next simply because he did not know. P. W. Botha knew it could not work but tried to make the best of it by declaring war on everybody. And F. W. de Klerk, without a stomach for mindless bloodbath, used up the only option left i.e. to pull the plug out and save everybody, including the patient from unnecessary agony.
While attempts were made among Afrikaners to emulate Jewish initiatives to transform the anti-labour mindset, through such programmes as A. D. Gordon's 'religion of work', Afrikaner's campaign appears to have been less successful. Long after its launch, historians and commentators have continued to lament Afrikaner's proclivity for avoiding manual labour. This habit appears to have been planted rather early in the psyche of Afrikaner. From the moment the first Dutch settlers found out that the indigenous African people were available to do all the hard, menial and debasing work, there was really no need for them to expose themselves or their children to this kind of work.
The history of Afrikaner labour struggles focus attention largely on the group's frustration with feeling marginalised by capital in the hands of non-Afrikaner white business leadership. Despite the fact that, at one time during mid-twentieth century, Afrikaners made up the bulk of the workers, people from British and Jewish descent had dominated organized labour. This prompted Afrikaner leadership to complain that the leadership of organized labour, then, looked on Afrikaner people with an air of disdain; they failed to appreciate fully the development, tradition, sentiments and aspirations of the masses of Afrikaners as a people who suffered cultural, economic and political oppression. (2) What the leaders were referring to was Afrikaner relationships with or exclusion from labour unions and not manual labour.
Afrikaners on the frontier were presented in different travellers' accounts as deficient in honesty and veracity, ignorant, unprogressive and in most respects two centuries behind other European nations. Other and more sympathetic descriptions projected them as pioneers with marvellous powers of endurance, a brave, self-reliant, peace loving yet ever ready to defend their independence, slow to move but bitter when aroused, and so forth.
V. PARADOXES OF AFRIKANER LEADERSHIP
Like other people anywhere who embarked on the hazardous task of re-making themselves into something larger than an ethnic group, Afrikaners and their leadership experience have been trapped in a complex web of paradoxes, ambiguities and plain contradictions. Unfortunately, some of the paradoxes occur in highly sensitive areas of Afrikaner and African life which have tarnished some of the most significant contributions and achievements ever made anywhere on the African continent. Consequently, whatever success, credit or victory they have achieved in the course of their history and experience, these have always carried an indelible footnote which takes the shine off their achievements. Put differently, every achievement made by Afrikaner group and its leadership is perceived to have been at the expense of African people, their rights or privileges. Afrikaner's has become a life which, while memory holds, will endure a debilitating African curse of biblical proportion.
Yet, the task of making peace with many of the paradoxes lies in the hands of both Afrikaner and their African compatriots. To the extent that Afrikaners are prepared and willing to throw their all behind efforts to re-make post-apartheid society into a truly non-racial open African democracy, many of the debilitating aspects of their paradoxes will reconcile themselves to this emerging reality. The fact that Afrikaner leaders and many of their youths have resolved to stay and help build a new South African society casts a ray of hope that Africans curse will, in due course, forgive them their misdemeanours and excesses of the past. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has taught that reconciliation involves more than one party. For it to occur with finality, both the offender and the offended have to take the figurative bath together.
From an African leadership perspective, it is highly desirable that many of the paradoxes and ambiguities surrounding the history and experiences of Afrikaner leadership are fully understood before they can be integrated into processes concerned with the re-making of South Africa's brand of leadership. Therefore, the task of unravelling these paradoxes cannot be left entirely in the hands of Afrikaner leadership. Current and future Afrikaner leaders will need to join hands with black co-leaders to review and re-interpret the implications or impact that these paradoxes and ambiguities are likely to have on the revitalised concept of African leadership.
The envisaged exercise will need to look at contradictions, dilemmas or paradoxes which are embedded in the cultural, moral and ethical, linguistic, and relational dynamics of Afrikaner life and experience. Some of the dynamics can be summed up as follows.
1. Paradoxes within Afrikaner Nationalism
The most confounding paradox of Afrikaner leadership experience revolves around their three hundred-year long goal of corralling all white people into the first and last 'white nation' of Africa. The enterprise was not without successes and achievements as it helped the beneficiaries of the nationalistic scheme amass considerable wealth, fierce political power, position and privileges, and a relatively secure sense of group survival. Yet, like all sand castles, that of the whites/Afrikaners was founded on false foundations, controversial claims and falsified myths. The builders and the occupants of the castle relied too heavily on the labour and goodwill of the people in whose backyard the sandcastle was built.
Historians assert that Afrikaner pre-apartheid and apartheid leadership rejected the idea that blacks were biologically inferior to whites or that race had anything to do with intelligence or abilities. Some prominent thought leaders professed to maintain that, throughout the bitter history of white oppression of black people nothing had been proven about the backwardness of the native mind. As evidence of the demise of apartheid increasingly stared them their face, Afrikaner political leaders went to great length to purge racist expressions from their speeches. Yet, the fact is that the sanitised vocabulary of apartheid made little difference to the reality that the policy resulted in the pervasive stigmatisation of all people who were not white. It started from the premise that black and coloured people were different, not cause they were mostly abjectly poor but because they were racially different. The message that apartheid as a system conveyed, offensively and obscenely, was that black and coloured people were socially inferior, morally inadequate, intellectually underdeveloped and sexually unfit for intimate relationships. (2)
How does one square the absence of a racist ideology with a racist programme? In some cases it was simply a case of packaging a racist product in inoffensive terms, hoping that this trick would make it less objectionable. But there was also another dimension. Afrikaner nationalists argued that that their survival as a volk was inseparable from maintaining racial exclusivity, and that apartheid was the only policy that systematically pursued that end. But apartheid with its racist outcomes was not a goal in itself; political survival was. Afrikaner thought leaders stressed the small numbers of Afrikaners as the dominant political factor in their demand for apartheid. They pointed out that Afrikaner had never experienced the luxury of 'safety in numbers.'
During his life as a social scientist, Verwoerd and other ardent apartheid apologists collaborated in the propagation of the notion that 'South Africa was remarkably free from racial mythologies. Afrikaners' desire to survive was a far stronger and more indestructible feeling than race prejudice. Like the Jews in Palestine and the Muslims in Pakistan, Afrikaners had not fought themselves free from British domination only to be overwhelmed by a majority of a different kind. They believed that Afrikaner leadership would, in the end, give the black majority its freedom but never power over Afrikaner. The black majority, they vowed, would not get more rights if that meant rights over the lives of Afrikaners.
Afrikaner thought leaders drew a great deal of comfort and a sense of legitimacy from the encouragement they received from their non-Afrikaner counterparts inside and outside the country. The former went out of their way to write and argue against the notion that apartheid was based solely on the claim that the white race was inherently superior to all others. They maintained that an unreasoning prejudice against colour was not the root of the matter. The problem was 'national rather than pigmental'. Therefore, differentiation was not enforced as a brand of inferiority but as a bulwark against the infiltration of people of another civilization. The motive was not detraction but defence. Yet, where the argument seemed to break down was the apartheid system's discrimination against Coloured people who represented neither a threat nor a different civilization. The Coloured people were, in fact, victims of the white-black struggle. For a long time even the more moderate nationalists were prepared to sanction discrimination against Coloured people because their incorporation into a common system would have sent the wrong message to blacks that the same was possible for them.
Not all Afrikaner thought leaders were as adept as colleagues like Verwoerd to weave intellectual magic with racist concepts and ideas on which the entire Afrikaner leadership experience was based. Thus, while the intellectually astute leaders sought to, gingerly, pick their way through the quagmire of racist concepts and slogans, some Afrikaner academics sought to enhance their reputations by calling a spade a spade. They espoused an obsession with an extreme racist belief that the Coloured people were a living example of the disastrous effects of miscegenation. These Afrikaner thought leaders caricatured the Coloured persona as a siuwe insluiper or a 'sly stealer-in', who had entered the white community almost unnoticed, contaminating its blood. In their apocalyptic minds, they were obsessed with visions of interracial slums where whites would lose their ethnic ties, develop feelings of equality (gelykvoeling) (2) with those not white and become conditioned to blood mixing.
In spite of the traditional intellectual blood letting that went on, between and among Afrikaner as well as other white liberal thought leaders around the formulation of apartheid policies, it was the apocalyptic-minded racist thought leaders whose stance always carried the day - without failure. Throughout the entire Afrikaner fight for white survival as Africa's Chosen Race, both Afrikaner and non-Afrikaner white thought leaders indulged each other in robust political insults but the end result remained unchanged: the position, rights and privileges of whites were not sacrificed. In effect, liberal white though leaders merely served as counterfoils against which Afrikaner leadership measured the extent or value of positions. Their natural dislike for political blood always neutralised the effectiveness of their arguments – no matter how well reasoned or ethical these were. Much as they resented the company of their apocalyptic-minded racist counterparts, white liberal thought leaders knew they could not hive off the protection of the white group for to do so was tantamount to committing both ethnic and political suicide. Few chose the path of wilderness and those did, regretted the decision each step of the way out of the white tribe.
The mainstream of conservative Afrikaner leadership did not take the white liberal thought leaders and their permanent vacillation on matters concerning racial policy seriously. The conservatives thought such liberal vision of 'going forward in faith' bordered on irresponsibility. They accused liberals of failing to come to terms with the preponderance of black numbers and an unwillingness to deal with South Africa as a heterogeneous society. While conceding the universal intellectual fairness of some liberal thought leaders' view, Afrikaner thought leaders rejected the views of their white liberal counterparts as irrelevant to the South African situation. They argued that applied to South Africa, these demands would mean that a small, relatively highly developed Afrikaner people and the English section would be reduced to an impotent minority in a black mass. Therefore the route espoused by liberal the majority of whom had alternative countries to flee to, resembled nothing less than national suicide and individual destruction. Against the suicidal tendencies of the liberals, Afrikaner thought leaders argued that Afrikaners were not a small colonial group of 'officials and merchants' as was the case with the whites in British and Dutch India, but a volk rooted in the land. Most importantly, Afrikaner thought leaders argued, 'if Afrikaners became a minority they would be as helpless as the Jew was in Germany.' (2)
The furthest that Afrikaner thought leaders would go to admit the relevance of milder yet racist solutions to the South African racial situation was to deal with them at the level of highly intellectual, hypothetical scenarios. Much as such ideas and concepts were appealing, fair or just, they were considered too dangerous and, therefore, ill-advised at each stage of Afrikaner struggle for nationalistic survival. With such a rider in place, Afrikaner thought leaders of the stature of Van Wyk Louw found it safe to concede that 'for nationalism to be based on a true political principle, it has to be true for everyone.' Accordingly, the recognition of the nationalist principle for Afrikaners logically had to be extended to all other national groups in South Africa. Hence, Afrikaners should not speak of themselves as the volk [nation] of South Africa but as one of the volke (nations) of South Africa. As the architects of apartheid set about the task of formulating, launching and pilot-testing the apartheid project, the paradox of this group of highly visionary Afrikaner thought leaders haunted the ardent racists who had chosen to ignore the implications of such wise counsel. (2)
The real reason why the political ideas of Afrikaner and other white visionary leaders outlived them was the ethical dimension which they had introduced into the debate about Afrikaner survival. They insisted that the quest for a secure future for the white or Afrikaner group resided in the concept of survival in justice (voortbestaan in geregtigheid) and insisted that national death might be preferable to ethnic survival based on injustice. (2) This brand of Afrikaner thought leadership attempted but failed to stop their more racist counterparts from introducing obnoxious racist policies and laws more especially against the Coloured people.
Thought leaders within and without the white/Afrikaner nationalistic enterprise repeatedly issued warnings about the catastrophe which lay at the end of Afrikaner nation-building project. More often than not, these cautionary words were dismissed as reckless and misguided ramblings of unpatriotic whites. Indigenous thought leaders who repeated these admonitions or protested against aspects of the nation-making project had their rights, privileges or life cut short because they dared say what everybody was reading off the wall of gloom. Like Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, generations of Afrikaner leaders were too busy building and protecting the 'white nation' to pause and listen to the message from numerous soothsayers. In typical Shakespearean drama, Africa's white Caesars did not live long enough to discover the wisdom of the soothsayers. Verwoerd and the many Afrikaner leaders who laid the foundations of a race-based white nation were not around to witness the destruction of the sandcastle by a sea of internal, continental and international condemnation and isolation.
2. 'The Caffre He Laughs Later'
The lesson from this paradox is that attempts by Afrikaner leaders to impose their concept of a white foreigners' 'nation' on top of that of the indigenous Africans was doomed because, from the onset, it depended almost entirely on the labour of an existing nation whose citizens' rights and claims had to be denied in order to build and sustain the survival of the white 'nation'. At the centre of the paradox are two simple facts; firstly, the minority whites had no chance against the fast-rising numbers of the indigenous people. The other fact is that no matter how many times they tried, Afrikaner leaders could not wish away the indigenous people's claim, namely, that they were the rightful heirs of the African continent. Afrikaner's reluctance to integrate his claim into those of the indigenous people meant one thing i.e. either Afrikaner's or the African's claim would prevail in the long run. This was a matter also of universal ethics: 'the one whose claim is just and fair carries the day, no matter how long it takes to solve the controversy'.
The humiliating demise of apartheid, and with it the dream of a secure Afrikaner or white nation was predicted many decades earlier by several Afrikaner thought leaders. Unlike Van Wyk Louw who pleaded for moderate treatment of the Coloured people, Jan Celliers and other thought leaders resorted to poetry to caution the political leadership against policies which would aggravate the abject conditions of the African majority. Celliers, in particular, had joined a small minority of burgers to object to the pervasive ideology of white supremacy. (2)
Celliers questioned why the 'Kaffer' should not be treated justly and why he should receive fewer privileges. He specially objected to legislation intended to squeeze the black man out of the political and social system so as to preserve the entire country for the whites and their descendants. Further, he protested that there was still space for everyone and blacks were not bothering whites. He challenged his audience to mention a single law that had the interests of blacks rather than whites in mind. Furthermore he argued that in all honesty, whether or not Afrikaner leadership called its own action prudence, self-preservation, a calculated risk in attempting to maintain the upper hand for Afrikaners and their descendants or exercising the right of the strongest, business leadership should not give it the name of complaisance, brotherly love, or fairness (inschikklijkheid, menschlievenheid, billijkheid). (2)
The son of one of the early prominent Afrikaner thought leaders, J.D. du Toit, delivered a rather biting comment on the long-term consequences of unjust racial policies to which Afrikaner leadership had so firmly bound itself. The satirical comment was in the form of a poem titled 'Kafferlied' (Song of a Caffre) (2)
The caffre first comes; the white man he comes later
The white man seizes the land; the black man seizes later...
The white man he lives now, the caffre he lives later
The white man he laughs now, the caffre he laughs later
When the international community and the superpower nations decided they could no longer tolerate the existence of nations whose leaders resorted to unjust means to sustain the survival of their nation or rule, Africa's first and last 'white nation' had no option but to implode. Yet, the implosion need not be construed as the end of the road for Afrikaners and their leadership. In his recently published book, Giliomee observes that while sections of Afrikaner community are, understandably, still lamenting their loss of power and privilege, Afrikaner leadership class has made significant strides by throwing its full weight behind the democratisation process. This observation finds corroboration in the findings of the interim research (see the discussion of the Black Doughnut Leadership Model). Like their Jewish and Indian counterparts, Afrikaner leaders are locked in initiatives to secure meaningful involvement in the broadening democracy and a secure position within the open society.
3. Afrikaner Relational Paradoxes
Given the nature of their ingrained racial antipathy towards their indigenous African compatriots, Afrikaners have had to thrive within a relational context that was characterised by the classical love-hate syndrome. These relational imbalances or contradictions were present from the moment of their birth to the moment of their death. From the period of the white settler community, Afrikaner households relied on Africans and slaves for such services as wet nurses or nanny support. In spite of their continuous campaign against such practices, church and other thought leadership of Afrikaner community could not break these relational bonds. It was generally suggested or feared that Afrikaner children would become so psychologically or emotionally bonded to their black nannies that, later in their adult lives, they would find it relatively easy to strike up emotional or sexual liaisons with the nannies.
Afrikaners' inability to back their admonitions with an effective alternative support and socialising mechanism to the black nanny meant that these households had to use their own discretion about how to police such emotional relationships. As they entered early adult life, Afrikaner children were encouraged to distance themselves from their black wet nurses, nannies and other black people in general. Effectively, they were encouraged to shun black people. No rocket-science intuition is required to work out that such encouragement translated into hatred and disrespect for black people. Consequently, young white children grew up calling and treating adult black people as 'boys' and 'girls'. In other words, they were encouraged to assume a superior position over black persons who were employed or associated with the white households.
The love-hate relational dynamic also found its way into other spheres of work and life involving Afrikaners and black people. Both Afrikaners and Africans continue to experience serious difficulties whenever business or other circumstances require them to enter into working relationships or business partnerships. Whatever working relationships are forged, these tend to be characterised by persistent racial undertones. Such relationships place serious strains on the parties as they constantly look over their shoulders to check the depth or authenticity of the underlying levels of trust, respect, honesty or transparency. Many of these relationships wither and perish at the first hint of conflict or misunderstanding.
Afrikaner leaders have, in the past, drawn great comfort from the fact that many black people openly prefer to deal with Afrikaners in positions of authority than with people who are steeped the Anglo-Saxon cultural milieu. But what Afrikaners appear to have missed is that this choice is made on the basis of black people having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Black resentment for the British or English-speakers stems from the rather non-direct approach that the latter adopt when they deal with black people. The English-speakers or British prefer not to be upfront or direct about things they do not like about the African and his or her behaviour or attitude. Conversely, Afrikaner is preferred because he or she does not hide his or her feelings or reservations behind the cultural sophistry of the English. In more ways than one, Afrikaner is not shy to call a spade by its name. This way, Afrikaner makes it abundantly clear what he thinks or feels about the black person. For their part, the blacks have to choose whether or not they are prepared to have anything to do with Afrikaner, given his attitudes towards black people.
4. Paradoxes within Afrikaner Leadership
Given their legendary love for control and independence, Afrikaners have consistently shown a general lack of willingness to submit to work under the authority of people other than those from their own group. Their long history of adversarial confrontation with the British was predicated on this sentiment. They were resentful of the way the British authority subjected them to treatment which, effectively, equated them to a class of people Afrikaner believed were of lower social status than they. After they gained political power, Afrikaner leaders went to extreme lengths to ensure that the necessary regulatory mechanisms were put in place to protect Afrikaners from the prospect of having to submit to or work under the authority of black people.
Contemporary historians have pointed out that Afrikaner leaders' complaints about being sidelined by the black leadership in charge of the democratic political economy stems, in part, from their inbred reservations about having to take instructions from people they were brought up to view and treat as unfit to lead or manage anything of substance. There are those who still cling on the outdated belief that white people are born to lead and black people are born to serve the former. This attitude has evoked, among black people, a counter-attitude which provokes blacks in leadership positions to go out of their way to prove that they are now in charge. In this scenario regardless of their competence, experience or track record, white or Afrikaner leaders/managers are sidelined because they are alleged to be inherently resentful towards blacks in positions of authority and power.
Yet, Afrikaner's reputation for single-minded loyalty and commitment has warmed the group into the hearts of Africans who believe that Africa belongs to all who live and work in the continent. Afrikaner professionals, managers and other support personnel have been in the forefront of most of the economic empowerment programmes which are ostensibly intended to uplift people previously disadvantaged by a system of Afrikaner's making. Afrikaner-owned or led businesses have, reportedly, shown more initiative and commitment in leading many aspects of the overall black empowerment campaign.
As suggested by this review, many of the successes associated with the growing crop of black political-business leaders and managers have benefited from the support and guidance of Afrikaner managers or personnel. Going forward, the challenge is therefore how to find the elusive balance between Afrikaner's inbred predilection for insubordination and his or her unshakeable loyalty and respect for authority. Put another way, the question to be asked is: how do black leaders and managers ensure that Afrikaners in subordinate roles and positions continue to deliver excellent performance without having to undermine their non-Afrikaner superiors? This is one of the critical challenges which will require urgent attention to guarantee the success of the entire African leadership project.
The point should also be made that the new breed of African leaders and managers will need to put aside their own stereotypes and prejudices against the class of Afrikaner leaders and managers who have shown unqualified willingness to build durable partnerships with the former. Neither of the two groups can afford to keep looking over their shoulders to see whether or not the other is being totally truthful, honest or transparent. This may sound a tough ask but it is essential if the African leadership project is to benefit from this country's rich diversity.
5. Paradoxes within Afrikaner Morality and Ethics
The history and experiences of Afrikaners are intricately intertwined with their religious faith and belief system. These are, in turn, the basis of Afrikaner morality and ethics. As the review has shown, Afrikaner's association with his Bible goes back to the very beginning of Afrikaner nationalistic roots. He relied on it for inspiration, solace and comfort. At some stage in his history, the Bible was his only claim to a European – or he believed, a superior – heritage. Therefore, the Bible and Calvinistic ethics and morality occupy a central position within Afrikaner's household or community.
Afrikaner leaders of Louw's moral fibre refused to believe that legislation directed against the Coloured community was necessary for the survival of Afrikaner people. But many far-sighted Afrikaner leaders allowed their ideas to perish unrequited because the leaders lacked the requisite audacity or foolhardiness to challenge peers who were blighted by an obsession to pursue white survival at all costs including their very own. Many like Louw went to their graves full of regrets that they had failed their nation for not having put up a more spirited challenge to the short-sighted and unjust policies of their arch-racist peers and colleagues.
Against the context just cited, many within Afrikaner leadership have regretted the failure of the overall leadership to heed the temperate wisdom of the likes of Louw, Hofmeyr, Sauer and so forth. The challenge which, like the proverbial golden thread ran through the entire length of Afrikaners' pursuit of an unsustainable nationalistic survival, was encapsulated in what Louw characterised as the three volkskrisisse or national crises i.e. situations in which the very existence of the ethno-national group was at stake. Any one of these crises would occur when:
§. Afrikaners were overwhelmed by external military might or 'ploughed under' by mass immigration, as propagated by some pro-British politicians i.e. the defeat of the Boer republics by the British and the subsequent attempt by the latter to establish an English-speaking majority in the white population by way of state-sponsored mass immigration;
§. a great number of Afrikaner people doubted in themselves 'whether they ought to survive as a volk or nation. Afrikaners might still survive individually and some might even prosper, but they would no longer constitute a distinctive volk: they would be absorbed in either to an Anglo-Saxon or Bantu-speaking nation; and
§. some time in the future a great number of Afrikaners would come to believe that Afrikaners need not live together in justice with other ethnic groups; when they come to believe that mere survival is the chief issue, not a just existence.
With regard to the last-mentioned scenario, enlightened Afrikaner thought leaders believed that Afrikaner volk had no metaphysical or inherent right to continue to exist. Afrikaners formed a small group of people and their survival was at risk if a mere thousand of them, people who 'were intelligent enough to think', gave up on the volk. This could happen when the spiritual and cultural life of Afrikaners was too barren. It could also happen if Afrikaners maintained themselves through unacceptable means which, in the end, is what transpired. Pre-apartheid and apartheid Afrikaner leaders failed to answer a question posed by Louw, namely: 'can a small volk survive for long, if it becomes something hateful, something evil, in the eyes of the best in - or outside - its fold?' The volk ran the risk of the withdrawal of allegiance by a critical number of intellectuals if it yielded to the final temptation of abandoning the quest for survival in justice and preferred mere survival. In the case of a small nation like Afrikaners this could have a fatal effect. Louw believed that ultimately Afrikaner survival would come to be based on moral values because 'the greatest, almost mystical crisis of a volk is that in which it is reborn and re-emerges young and creative; the 'dark night of the soul' in which it says: "I would rather go down than survive in injustice". (2)
As they write the last chapter of Afrikaners' three hundred year long quest for nationalistic identity and survival, historians will have to explain why Louw's prophetic words were ever ignored. The foregoing review clearly reveals a stubborn trait in Afrikaner leadership which contains the seeds of self-destruction: many generations of Afrikaner leaders refused to heed the moral imperatives which stared them in the face as they callously ravaged the rights and privileges of others to secure the own survival. What they saw as a political choice between the survival of Afrikaner volk and justice for the numerically dominant indigenous people was, in essence, also a moral choice between what was just and unjust means. Yet, Afrikaner leader Louw refused to go down the route of ethnic survival at all costs. The argument about survival injustice was a moral argument. Put differently, Afrikaner people were not entitled to use extreme measures to maintain its hold on power. Ultimately there was no justification for a policy aimed at ensuring survival that constantly and consistently flaunted liberal values. (2) By the time a new breed of Afrikaner thought leaders urged the abandonment of apartheid, time was no longer on the side of Afrikaner: the last two apartheid leaders discovered that any attempt to breath fresh life into the nationalistic project was both too late and wasteful.
Throughout Afrikaner's struggle for self-identity and dominance, observers have sought to understand how Afrikaner reconciles his deep sense of Christian ethics with granite-like resolve to deprive black people of their respect, rights and privileges. Ethicists have found it difficult to understand how Afrikaner interprets or practices such primary morality/ethical principles as 'love thy neighbour' or 'do unto others as they would you'. The attitudes and actions of Afrikaner have clearly shown that he or she did not define black people as neighbours to be loved and cared for. Indications are that Afrikaner's concept of 'neighbour' did not go beyond the immediate confines of the white ethnic group – although there were attempts to define Afrikaners as being a special neighbour class within the entire white neighbourhood.
The paragraph dealing with Afrikaner's involvement in the ascendancy of blacks into high profile leadership/management positions has highlighted the lengths to which Afrikaners and other whites support their black colleagues. These relationships suggest that both Afrikaners and blacks have managed to secure relatively high levels of mutual respect, trust, caring and (biblical) love for one another. As some of the black informants have revealed, Afrikaner support personnel, professionals and managers are so fiercely protective of their black bosses that they would not grant others (blacks in particular) easy access to the black bosses. Against conventional black wisdom and expectation, white subordinates have proved to be extremely respectful, loyal and committed to black bosses. It appears, therefore, that once they decide to put aside negative racial stereotypes and related prejudices, Afrikaners are very capable of producing highly effective ethical behaviour which, in turn, enhances the quality of inter-race working relationships.
Historians as well as our review have revealed that whites and Afrikaners who broke rank to practice neighbourly love with black people were harshly dealt with by Afrikaner establishment. To this day, many Afrikaners are uncomfortable mixing or socialising with black colleagues in full view of other Afrikaners. It is as if Afrikanerdom has not fully released its vice-like grip to allow its members to go out and play unhindered with non-Afrikaners, especially blacks. In typical apartheid terms, blacks are allowed or accepted into Afrikaner social circles on the basis of some 'international' permit – as was once the case at the height of the apartheid project. To be accepted into white or Afrikaner social circles, black individuals have first to be socially 'certified' as being 'all right' i.e. not like the rest of the objectionable blacks who fit into existing racist stereotypes.
Some commentators have suggested that Afrikaner's reservations about the prospect of living under black rule stems largely from a collective fear of black backlash or revenge. Over the centuries, Afrikaner thought leaders repeatedly warned their followers not to loosen their grip over blacks lest the latter return Afrikaner's favour by resorting to brutality and wholesale commission of injustices. Against the foregoing scenario, many whites have tended to interpret the current climate of violence as the black community's attempt to even old scores. It will be recalled that during the early stages of the post-apartheid outbreak of violence and lawlessness, Afrikaner leaders read into these acts some form of an orchestrated anti-white campaign of revenge for sins of the past. In his capacity as president of the new democracy, Nelson Mandela had to assure white farmers that acts of criminality which occurred in white farming communities were not orchestrated by bona fide black leaders. Yet, this perception has persisted among white farmers to this day.
White farmers' persistent attempts to read more into the current cycle of violence sweeping this sector of the economy has prompted some black and white leaders to remind white farmers that the history of unfair treatment that white farmers have meted out to black workers was far from exemplifying the principles of 'doing unto others' or 'loving your neighbour'. Many white farmers will be justified to argue that their relationships with the majority of their employees have always been run according to both ethical precepts. It should be borne in mind that today's white farmer is a descendant of the trekboers who firmly believed that their relationships with their households and workers were nobody else's business. Further, as traditional paternalistic heads of their farming outfits, the white farmers have known no other tradition but that of mixing the rough with the smooth, ethically speaking.
Problems associated with the ethical/moral paradoxes of Afrikaner experience require more exhaustive investigation and analysis than has thus far been possible. These issues can neither be understood nor resolved until a full assessment of Afrikaner philosophy, traditional thought and morality and ethics has been undertaken. Such a task falls outside the scope of this study.
6. Paradoxes within Afrikaner Cultural and Language
One of the most perplexing elements of the ambiguities surrounding Afrikaner's history and experience lies in the fact that Afrikaners were relatively successful in building themselves into an African tribe without acquiring the quality of authenticity or legitimacy that go together with people who are truly indigenous. In spite of many attempts to portray and pronounce themselves as Africa's 'white nation' or 'tribe', within Africa and the diaspora such claims were dismissed as spurious or mischievous. Black people, especially within both the continent and the diaspora have always found it difficult to understand how the South African black majority population could live amicably and productively side by side with its oppressors.
For their part black South Africans also did not shed any light on the matter as they offered feeble explanations which amounted to nothing more than excuses. To this day, non-South Africans have failed to fathom the nature of African-Afrikaner cultural or relational dynamics. In many instances, black and white South Africans who have had to make each other's acquaintances outside the country have often remarked about the irresistible pull to keep in one another's company instead of that of their black or white foreign friends or acquaintances. This social or cultural paradox has compelled black Africans and others in the diaspora to brand South African blacks as 'uncle Toms' and worse. Popular psychological and sociological theories were invoked to explain the origins of the classical unholy alliance which developed between slave master and slave, the rapist and his victim, or the kidnapper and his quarry. Furthermore, black-white relations have also been explained on the basis of the oppressed craving for the forbidden fruits, namely, white sexual partners, white lifestyles, and so forth.
Afrikaners' alienation from the country of their adoption or birth and its indigenous people deepened with each addition of a plethora of exclusionary or dispossession measures. Over time, it became obvious that the alienation would be too deep and too bitter to gloss over. This much emerged during and after commission hearings including those of the TRC and the land restitution. The antics of the white ultra-right fringe groups merely serve to remind the previously oppressed black majority that the white problem has not and is not likely to disappear overnight. From this perspective, many black thought leaders wonder whether the white group, as a whole, is capable of dissuading its anachronistic brothers and sisters to throw their lot behind the democratisation processes. For as long as these extreme right- or left-wing groups remain active outside the democratisation tent the mainstream society will feel justified to wonder whether the entire white or black group is fully committed to the total eradication of all vestiges of racism, segregation and oppression.
The sentiments highlighted above are not strictly confined to the political arena. The interim research has found that throughout the full spectrum of South African organized life, black and white stakeholders have not abandoned their habit of racial arithmetic score keeping. For the time being, black and white stakeholders have become intensely more vigilant about policing affirmative action and related empowerment programmes. At the earliest hint of racial imbalance, blacks are quick to protest that apartheid remains alive and kicking while whites have become adept at shouting 'reverse discrimination' at every twist or turn in this era of empowerment. At the same time, where organizational transformation programmes appear to have stalled or are failing to deliver demonstrable results, whites - and in particular Afrikaners – have to take on the role of stuffed game trophies which serve to remind all concerned of past white excesses. Put differently, the failure – real or imagined – of most transformational initiatives is automatically blamed on whites especially on the midriff of most medium to large organizations.
An interesting twist to the paradoxes under discussion is that during formal or informal inter-race contacts both blacks and Afrikaners have become very sensitive about casual use of words such as apartheid, racism and racial segregation. Both groups behave as if they have been sworn into some conspiracy of silence. The reason behind this silence stems from the fact that both blacks and whites are keenly trying to build inter-race trust, respect and collaborative work or social relationships. Both appear to have decided that trading racial insults, unless when the occasion so dictates, is wasteful and unnecessary. Those who fail to observe these sensitivities are generally regarded as anachronistic or 'untransformed'. This situation is very difficult for non-South Africans to comprehend or forgive. Outsiders are fast learning not to interfere or adopt 'holier than thou' body language during mild verbal exchanges between black and white South Africans. Only African-Americans who grew up in areas of America's Deep South are quick to understand these black-white dynamics.
The cultural paradoxes of Afrikaner experience are known to have produced a variety of psychological, emotional or social complexes among generations of Afrikaners.
On the one hand, their culture contains many elements of the traditional customs and rituals of slaves and indigenous African people. Yet, Afrikaner thought leaders mounted numerous vigorous campaigns which sought to dissuade Afrikaners from adopting the cultural values and behaviours of people they regarded as degenerates. Fear of cultural contamination or barbarisation became a common feature in the sermons and ministering services of Afrikaner church leaders. Yet, the irony is that both their language and customs are replete with words, artefacts or customs which were borrowed from the community of slaves and indigenous people.
The greatest irony of all lies in the fact that the very Afrikaans language was born out of the mouths of slaves and indigenous Africans who spoke a crude version of Dutch – which some European travellers characterised as 'gibberish Dutch'. This crude language was later to become the country's major official language. It also became the language of the ruler or oppressor. Given its status as the oppressor's language, Afrikaans was shunned by many black people who were practically more proficient in Afrikaans than English. Many feign ignorance of the language until they are forced to extricate themselves from the clutches of Afrikaans-speaking law enforcement authorities. Yet, during their social or business networks, the black teenagers, youth gang members, young adults or seasoned black business or political leaders frequently burst into heavily Afrikaans-based slang to spice their social intercourse. But these people deny their literacy in Afrikaans.
7. Paradoxes within Afrikaner Identity
At the heart of Afrikaners' legendary schism lies the unresolved question of who is or is not an Afrikaner. Those who have attempted to unravel the conundrum have ended up giving up because the boundaries are as porous as those of the South African coastline or the Namib. Afrikaner thought leaders' inability to resolve the problem wreaked untold havoc with the lives of many innocent families and individuals who often found themselves offside the flawed Nazi-like racist definitions of who is or is not white or Afrikaner. Yet the racist leaders were not deterred by such problems; instead the loose racial definition spurred them to formulate and police arbitrary racial boundaries which, in the end, contributed to the undoing of the entire apartheid nationalistic project.
Throughout their history, Afrikaner leaders shifted their definitional boundaries to fit in with whatever agenda was on the table at that moment. For instance, during the apartheid electioneering campaigns the leaders would either tighten or loosen the definition to placate their voters. When the political climate demanded it, Coloured people were brown Afrikaners and, therefore, true Afrikaners like white Afrikaners. But when it was not politically convenient, Coloured people were dismissed with epithets which do not deserve repetition lest they add to the already troubled problem of Coloured self-identity.
By the same token, frontier Boers would guard with all the might at their disposal the safety and security of all the people who lived and worked on the Boers' farms. These were the people the Boers referred to as 'my people'. They were all his children and depended on him for just about everything. As the head of the extended household, the Boer would be as authoritarian as his sense of control allowed him, as loving and caring as his Bible told him, and as harsh and cruel as his circumstances allowed him.
The identity paradoxes of Afrikaner history or experience mimics similar paradoxes or ambiguities as have associated with the Afrikaans language. Contemporary research has revealed that a good proportion of prominent Afrikaner leaders carry the blood and genes of the very Africans and slaves they have so strenuously been fighting to dissociate themselves from. The situation is not dissimilar to that of Nazi leaders who discovered that they were not the pure Aryan race they had made convinced themselves to be after all. For Afrikaner, this sobering discovery occurred too late in the life of the apartheid project to have any moderating impact on aspects of the racist society.
The question exercising the minds of Afrikaner thought leaders is: what to do about the future of both their language and their identity? For instance, do the thought leaders emulate the example of their political leaders who have been attempting without much success to find common cause with their erstwhile brown cousins – the Coloured people? How do future generations of Afrikaner guard against forces which may dilute or weaken an identity that has, for all intents and purposes been influenced more by racial consideration than ethnicity, religion or culture? This debate is taking place against the context of the broader society becoming increasingly open or less sensitive to race and ethnicity. Issues associated with these challenges will be canvassed and analysed in subsequent stages of the African leadership project. As a matter of fact all sections of the broader South African society must confront issues about their identities, language and culture within the context of accommodating the demands of a democratic, open society.
8. Paradoxes within Afrikaner Contribution and Achievements
As the current review has revealed, in spite of their atrocious record of inter-race relations, Afrikaners have made some outstanding contributions to the country's political economy. South Africa's current standing among so-called Third World or developing nations of the world is testimony to the leadership role of both Afrikaners and other segments of the white community. This assertion does not overlook the vital role played by the black majority population in their capacity as suppliers of labour.
The strategic role played by the white community within the political economy has seldom been evaluated in full. Although considerable resources and effort were expended either in diverting, stalling or denying black people's access to capacity and skills development opportunities, this action produced some positive yet unintended consequences among African community. For instance, the various tribal groups which form the mainstream African group were forced to forge closer collaborative relationships. Apartheid served as an external source of pressure which encouraged the indigenous people to realise that they had very little or nothing to fight about. Consequently, the ubiquitous scourge of tribal conflict was held in check. From this perspective Africans have to thank the apartheid leadership for, indirectly, creating conditions that minimised the need for inter-tribal strife or animosities. This does not imply, however, that inter-tribal animosities have suddenly disappeared.
Constant and deliberate pressure to deny black people's desire to participate in the mainstream economy resulted in them diverting their relatively meagre incomes to consumer goods. Early white settlers had been quick to realise that the indigenous people of this continent had an abiding penchant for western goods. Armed with this knowledge, successive Afrikaner leaderships went all out to position and programme largely urban black households to lock into middle class values. Considerable resources were poured into consumer and social marketing campaigns to educate as well as stimulate black consumer demand for heavily branded goods. The campaign was a resounding success as millions of black households swapped agrarian and outmoded values and lifestyles for those generally associated with city life. Effectively, large numbers of black households found themselves locked into a costly catch-up game which enticed them into emulating the lifestyles, customs and habits of white middle class communities or groups.
Even though they did not have access to the vote, many blacks considered themselves relatively better off than their African neighbours who had the vote but lacked the sophistication of middle class communities the world over. Over time, black South Africans developed a formidable superiority complex and an arrogance based on the belief that, in the personal development and sophistication stakes, they were merely a notch or two behind their African-American counterparts. As American consumer habits became more readily accessible to more affluent black South Africans, the latter adjusted their lifestyles and aspirations to those of their American counterparts but without totally abandoning the race to catch up to local middle class white consumer.
By equating the minority socio-political and economic positions of black Americans with those of their African brothers and sisters, social commentators merely handed the latter ample ammunition to justify their disaffection with continental social or consumer habits and aspirations. This trend was galvanised by the punitive stance adopted by most serious African countries against the apartheid regimes. For instance, South Africans – including black South Africans – were not welcome into any of the more serious African countries. At the time, this ban meant little to the many millions of black people who were content to remain engaged in the middle class catching-up game. The foregoing explains, in part, the foundations of the xenophobic sentiments which are prevalent among black South Africans. Many of them still consider themselves to be better, more developed and more sophisticated than millions of African economic refuges or migrants who flock to South Africa to try their luck.
Another aspect of Afrikaner achievement and contribution paradox is that fewer black people, inside and outside South Africa, are prepared to give Afrikaners due credit for what they have done to position this country as a developing, stable and critical economic player within the African political economy and that of the world community. The reluctance to acknowledge and commend Afrikaner leaders' achievements and contributions is directly linked to the notorious track record that Afrikaner leadership has created for itself through three hundred of years of racism and the oppression of the black majority population. Apartheid leaders' bullyboy tactics also alienated them from neighbouring countries which were punished for supporting and harbouring anti-apartheid activists and fighters. These misdemeanours left Africans and their sympathisers in no mood to give credit or commendation to a people who went out of their way to use unjust means to secure and sustain their hold on power and privilege.
One of the problems contemporary African leadership find hard to understand centres on Afrikaners' resistance to affirmative action and BEE initiatives. Given the massive and fierce scale of empowerment programmes that helped the Afrikaner community eradicate many negative aspects of its history and experience, black South Africans would have expected some understanding, empathy and support from people who received all the encouragement and protection from the racist state, and Afrikaner communal and organization support. Blacks are puzzled that the very people who encouraged them to learn from Afrikaner's past lessons and struggle for political, economic, educational and social transformation are now demanding that they be allowed to have another turn in the empowerment queue.
Giliomee says that the irony of the situation just highlighted is that Afrikaner-owned or managed businesses are reputed to have taken the lead in supporting government-sponsored black empowerment initiatives. Giliomee asserts that Afrikaner corporations including the likes of the Absa banking group – formerly known as Volkskas which was founded by the Broederbond) became one of the biggest corporate sponsors of the ANC conference. Further, during the 1990s Sanlam sold more insurance policies to people who were not white than to whites. It made the first major 'black empowerment' deal when it sold a profitable subsidiary to a black-owned group. The Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut continued to act as the coordinating body of Afrikaner enterprises, but pointed out that it was not in the business of promoting Afrikaans. In 2002 it elected as president Franklin Sonn, a Coloured man, who declared that the organisation was founded on 'reactionary traditions'. He continued: 'I'm not an Afrikaner. I have never been one and neither would I like to be one. But I'm an Afrikaans person. We Afrikaans-speaking people contribute most to the national product, we are most loyal to the payment of taxes. (2)
It is, therefore, not surprising that many black thought leaders view or dismiss Afrikaner's anti-black affirmative action initiatives as nothing short of uncharitable neighbourliness and bare faced cheek. After all these are the people of whom it was said that if or when they were saved from the blight of early twentieth century abject poverty, they would turn around to help their black compatriots rid themselves of similar conditions of poverty, helplessness, and degeneration. It did not happen then and if the whites had the choice, it would not happen now.
In closing, the point is that the burden associated with the paradoxes and ambiguities of Afrikaner leadership and experience are no longer the exclusive concern of Afrikaners. Afrikaners' partners' endeavour to enhance the principles of a democratic, open society process have a direct interest in how Afrikaner intends to manage the opposing ends of his paradoxes. The leadership of the black community is particularly interested to see how the issues are dealt with lest elements within Afrikaner leadership class be tempted to try to roll back the transformational gains thus far achieved. It is also interesting to learn from the strategies and tactics Afrikaner leadership uses to reconcile the many contradictory paradoxical points of Afrikaner leadership and experience. Many aspects of Afrikaner leadership paradoxes deal with or refer directly to the claims and interests of African people and vice versa. In the final analysis, both Afrikaner and African leaders have a vested interest in assisting the other to the paradoxes which face its community or group and its claims and aspirations.
To conclude the review of Afrikaner leadership experience, we feature some observations borrowed from papers by two contemporary Afrikaner thought leaders, namely, Hansie Wolmarans and Herman Giliomee(15). We are fully aware that these papers cover points or issues which may have been dealt with in greater detail in the preceding review. The point of presenting the papers here is motivated by the fact that both Giliomee and Wolmarans tackle issues relating to Afrikaner leadership and leadership experience from within Afrikaner group. These are not outsiders trying to make sense of what went on within Afrikanerdom but Afrikaners trying to enlighten outsiders about how Afrikaners approached leadership challenges. Wolmarans' paper was specifically prepared in response to a formal brief from the African leadership team while Giliomee's was obtained from the SJBD library.
VI. AFRIKANER LEADERSHIP POSITION PAPERS
1. The View from Within Afrikanerdom
Although Thompson's analysis of Afrikaner myths and political mythology has used or benefited immensely from insights provided by, among others, Afrikaner sources, the entire review remains that of an outsider looking in. It is to be expected, therefore, that it will contain biases and emphases which do not sit well in the minds of Afrikaner scholars and thought leaders. For balance, we now feature viewpoints gleaned from position papers and essays that have been prepared by contemporary Afrikaner scholars and academics, namely, Professors J. L. P. Wolmarans and H. Giliomee. Wolmarans' position paper Castles of Sand: Contributions of Afrikaans Leadership was specifically prepared as part of the interim research into African leadership.
Wolmarans' approach to the theme of Afrikaner leadership takes into consideration material borrowed from many Afrikaner writers, scholars and thought leaders. In addition, Wolmarans presents his personal experiences, interpretations and assumptions. The paper attempts to shed light on some of the ambiguities, contradictions and paradoxes which are central to Afrikaner myths and political mythology. It also attempts to present or look at specific issues from the positions of some prominent Afrikaner leaders including H. F. Verwoerd, P. W. Botha, Bram Fischer, Anton Rupert, and C. F. Beyers Naudé. The focus of Wolmarans' analysis is Afrikaner leader-ship and how Afrikaner rituals, education, culture, customs, business, politics, phi-losophy, military structures and its workings, and belief system impact on the group's approach to and application of the concept of leadership. More importantly, Wolmarans attempts to evaluate the contributions of Afrikaners to leadership in South Africa.
Wolmarans deals specifically with issues such as defining and categorising Afrikaner culture within broader theories of culture; ac-counting for its master-narrative or controlling vision; specifying the primary paradigm within which Afrikaner leadership was exercised; and exploring the methods by which Afrikaner leaders were able to reach collective goals in the areas of religion, culture, politics, education and business, especially through myths, rituals and symbols, the slandering and demonising of opponents, the "laager" and the practice of "double-speak". Against the terms of the brief, the analysis sketches rather than discusses in detail the impact of Afrikaner leadership during forty-five years of its dominance of the South African political economy. This paper presents, with editing and paraphrasing, many of the points which have been dealt with in Thompson's lengthy analysis of Afrikaner political mythology.
There is much agreement between Thompson and Wolmarans regarding the philosophical and ethical foundations on which Afrikaner leadership based the system of racial segregation. As Wolmarans puts it, the controlling vision of Afrikaner culture and leadership was that of a racially segregated society based on separate but equal political, economical and cultural rights. It was established on the myth that Afrikaners were elected by God to plant Christianity and Western civilisation in Africa, and to remain white and in control until the end of times. Rituals, like the Day of the Covenant celebrations of 16 December, strengthened Afri-kaner myths, values, philosophy, and beliefs. After an examination of Afrikaner beliefs, its philosophy, and values, Wolmarans posits that the dominant paradigm of Afrikaner leadership is that of command and control, for which various methods, like a rigid regulation of the flow of infor-mation, were used. Dominant Afrikaner culture is categorised as a closed culture, although the characteristics of an open culture with its values of equity, social justice, the rule of law, respect for human rights, the common good, and the freedom of movement for persons, goods, services and ideas, struggle to break through.
During their half-century at the helm of the South African political economy, Afrikaner leadership institutionalised the political system of apartheid (or separate development) and was also largely responsible for dismantling it. Generally referred to as "Africa's White Tribe" (14) Afrikaner leadership left its footprints indelibly on the landscape of Southern Africa, sometimes disfiguring and destroying, at other times developing and decorating it. The end of this regime saw, on the one hand, hundreds of thousands of Afrikaners (especially the so-called poor whites, and first generation Afrikaners who urbanised before and after World War II) being in a better position economically and culturally than they were before 1948. The Civil Services as well as SOEs such as SASOL and ISCOR supplied jobs and regional development. Individual Afrikaners, like Anton Rupert, achieved considerable success, locally and internationally, in the business sphere. Educational facilities from pre-primary schools to tertiary institutions were developed, protected and sustained on the basis of racial segregation.
2. Unity through Segregated Diversity
Traditionally, the accepted ideological stance in the dominant white culture was that the only way to manage diversity was to keep the races segregated. This approach focused on the differences between people, while shared qualities were over-looked. When the National Party came to power in 1948, this ideological vision was institu-tionalised. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) and the Immorality Act (1950) outlawed marriages or sexual relations between members of different races. The Group Areas Act (1950) relegated blacks (consisting of seventy six percent of the population) to thirteen percent of the land. The Bantu Education Act (1953) established separate educational institutions for blacks. This led to an illiteracy rate of fifty seven percent blacks. The Native Urban Areas Act (1955) controlled who could live in cities and where. The Black Labour Act (1964) tight-ened influx control. Black people were only allowed to fill the lower categories of manual labour in white areas. Effectively, the factory floor became black while the boardroom and the management echelons remained white. However, these measures did not lower conflict but instead gave rise to inequalities and bitter resentment the so-called non-whites. Relationships between the different races were largely adversarial. The policy of forced segregation was a dismal failure. The World Com-petitiveness Report of 1995 ranks South Africa in the 48th position, last on the list, in the field of human resources development.
Anton Rupert (35) is, however, an example of an Afrikaner leader who valued the strength of diversity. He attempted in 1959 to set up a factory in the Paarl on the basis of partnership with coloured people. Verwoerd vetoed this because, as the latter reasoned or saw it, Rupert's business initiative would theoretically and effectively make it possible for whites to work under coloured managers or supervisors – a situation that was totally against the general thrust of the apartheid failed paradigm of 'separate but equal'.
The forceful implementation of apartheid exacted a costly price to both the political economy and the prospects of lasting and harmonious inter-group relations. The policy of separate development attempted to create separate but equal facilities and institutions for the non-whites, and failed dismally in this respect. Hordes of black South Africans were forcibly moved from their traditional homesteads or violently dispossessed. Treated like aliens in their own country, generations of the majority of South Africa's children were deprived of their basic civil rights and developed a deep distrust of competitive capitalism and of the western judiciary system. The apartheid system could only be maintained by force, by states of emergency, detention without trial, 'dirty tricks' by its security apparatus, and assassinations.
This focus on racial issues clouded other phenomena and problems of diversity. The question of gender diversity received no attention. Female teachers, for example, received less pay than their male counterparts. This entrenched a deep culture of gender inequality which persists to this day. Many working women, throughout South Africa, still receive less pay than their male counterparts for the same work. As we shall soon see, sociology behind apartheid accorded women a secondary or inferior role within and without the home. Management positions in the private and public sector were and still are dominated by males. The fate of disabled people who make up about five percent of the population was worse. Their concerns were scarcely voiced.
Part of the high price which the South African political economy had to pay, came in many and different forms e.g. international sanctions including the exclusion and/or expulsion of South Africa from international forums, the withdrawal of multi-national or foreign-owned businesses from South Africa, the branding or declaration of apartheid as a crime against humanity, and deep internal divisions as well as the destabilisation of the entire political economy. The global sanctions campaign, during the apartheid years, not only isolated South Africans from participating in global devel-opments but also meant that aspects of their political economy fell into disrepair. For instance, machinery and equipment could not be readily maintained; black and white South Africans could not benefit from involvement in and exposure to international competition, and so forth.
As the globalisation of the world economy took off, that of South Africa went into reverse or worse still it stalled, with the resultant worsening of serious economic, social and political pressures internally. As the world economy became increasingly globalized it was realised that diversity and multicultural issues had to be addressed if a country wanted to remain com-petitive in the global economy. Increased isolation forced Afrikaner leadership to promote economic growth through the de-velopment of large monopolies. Effectively, the ownership of the entire South African economy fell into the hands of five large business families and/or conglomerations. Lack of serious competition meant that a white, male-dominated culture was not challenged. Afrikaner political leadership brushed aside protests from within its business ranks. For instance, Rupert always argued that the monopolies stifled the spirit of free enterprise and that the monopolistic tree had to be pruned. Rupert's operating principle had always been to roll back creeping bureaucracy – something that could not have endeared him to his political brothers.
If leadership is defined as the process of influencing followers to attain certain collective goals, the question poses itself as to what types of leadership produced the positive and negative situation prevalent in South Africa when the African National Congress took over power in 1994. What contribution did Afrikaner leadership make that can be imitated or rejected in the quest to successfully negotiate our harsh Southern African environment?
3. Brief Survey of Five Afrikaner Leaders
By way of background, Wolmarans provides thumbnail profiles of five Afrikaner leaders who cover divergent points of the overall Afrikaner political and business leadership. The profiles mainly serve to substantiate the point that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Afrikaner leadership was not always monolithic. Thus there were distinguished Afrikaners – leaders in their own right - who voiced opposition to aspects of the apartheid project albeit at some considerable price to the security, interests or reputation of their respective undertakings as well as their personal reputations. As has been the case minority ethnic communities such as the American Jewry, apostasy is seldom tolerated. Thus Afrikaner apostates such as Fischer, Naudé and Rupert were, were often rewarded with uncompromising public humiliation - or even ostracism.
1. Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd: born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1901, his family immigrated to South Africa in 1903 in sympathy with Afrikaner community's position or experiences during and after the Anglo-Boer War. Verwoerd received an MA and a PhD in philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch, and continued to study psychology in Hamburg. In 1927 he lectured at his old alma mater and later, during the depression years, became active in social work poor white South Africans – thus being drawn him into politics. In 1937 he became editor of Die Transvaler with the added responsibility of organising the National Party (NP) in the Transvaal.
Verwoerd rose to Cabinet level in 1950 as Minister of Native Affairs and was responsible for the resettlement of some 80 000 Africans from Sophiatown, Martindale and Newclare into the newly established townships south-west of Johannesburg (Soweto). Verwoerd was also in charge of African education, which was inferior to that of whites. He became Prime Minister in 1958 and became the architect of apartheid. He realised his republican dream two years later, and took South Africa out of the Commonwealth. He refined apartheid into a "separate-but-equal" policy, but failed to perceive the horrors it inflicted on blacks. He survived an assassination attempt on 9 April 1961, but in 1966 a second attempt by a parliamentary messenger, Dimitrios Tsafendas, proved successful. Today his legacy, in the form of the apartheid city, land dispossession, black poverty and urban crime, lives on to plague the progress of a young South African democracy. Apartheid turned out to be a dismal failure.
2. Bram Fischer: was born into a prominent and patriotic Afrikaner family, in 1908. His grandfather was elected Prime Minister of the Orange River Colony after the Anglo-Boer War, and his father was judge-president of the Orange Free State Supreme Court. The family was bitterly grieved by the injustices suffered by the Boers during the war, inter alia the scorched earth policy of the British and the system of concentration camps in which some 26 000 people, mostly under-age children, perished. The Fischer family deeply resented the forced English language policies promoted by the British administrators, which in turn led to the establishment of Afrikaner private schools - with both Dutch and English as medium of instruction. During the First World War, Fischer, at the age of six, watched as English mobs set fire to business premises with German names, including those of his mother's family, the Fichardts.
As an Oxford University Rhodes scholar, Fischer studied law while also coming into contact with communist ideology. He resented nationalism and espoused communism as a scientific alternative. Back in South Africa, he joined the Communist Party while practising as a lawyer. He was charged with incitement after the African mineworkers' strike in the 1940s. During 1943 he assisted AB Xuma to revise the constitution of the ANC. In the epic Treason Trial of 1956-1961, he worked with the defence legal team to defend members of the ANC and was the leader of the defence team in the 1964 Rivonia trial. In 1964 he was arrested and charged with membership of the then banned Communist Party. He skipped bail and went underground in January 1965, but was captured in November. In 1966 he was convicted on accounts of violating the Suppression of Communism Act, as well as conspiracy to commit sabotage. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he contracted cancer in 1974. In 1975 he was released on humanitarian grounds, but died a few weeks later in May.
3. Anton Rupert: was born in 1916 and studied at the University of Pretoria where he obtained a MA in Applied Chemistry in 1939. Simultaneously he took commercial law and law courses at the University of South Africa. During the 1940s he became involved in the Reddingsdaadbond, an organisation working for the economic upliftment of Afrikaners after the depression. Simultaneously, he ventured into business. Today the Rupert family controls the South Africa-based Rembrandt and Swiss-based Compagnie Financiere Richemont, and is South Africa's second richest family after the Oppenheimers.
While his business interests extend across many countries outside South Africa, Rupert always based his business dealings on the philosophy of partnership. More specifically, Rupert's operating philosophy is based on the concept of 'leaving the other guy enough to go on". In other words, Rupert maintains that his success is, in large measure, due to his strict adherence to a personal discipline which requires him not to walk out of business negotiations with all the spoils while the other party goes away empty handed. That is, one should not put one's adversary in a situation where he or she loses face. Another aspect of Rupert's leadership effectiveness is that apartheid did him little or no favours as he went about transacting business deals locally and internationally.
4. P. W. Botha: became Prime Minister of South Africa late in the 1970s , after a brief stint as minister of defence. Making a distinction between 'Grand Apartheid' and 'Petty Apartheid', he pushed through some limited reforms such as the recognition of the black trade union movement. In 1984 he established a tricameral parliament for whites, coloureds and Indians, excluding the black majority. After his notorious about-turn on the eve of an internationally awaited announcement about major political decision(s), Botha fell off the political stage - both locally and internationally. He was subsequently succeeded by F. W. de Klerk in 1989 who, in turn, earned himself both the notoriety and reputation of having switched off the apartheid project.
5. C. F. Beyers Naudé: the son of a Dutch Reformed Church minister and born in Roodepoort in 1915, Naudé studied theology at the University of Stellenbosch and served as a dominee in the Dutch Reformed Church. In the 1950s he realized that the NG-kerk's theological justification of apartheid was 'folly' and joined the anti-apartheid struggle. He also became editor of the ecumenical magazine, which he used to publicize his opposition to government policy. In 1963, he was stripped of his status as a dominee of the Dutch Reformed Church, when he served as leader of a non-racial organization known as the Christian Institute. Both the magazine and the organization were banned in 1977 and Naudé was placed under house arrest. He later served on the leadership of the South African Council of Churches.
From the point of view of identifying factors and circumstances which propel young men and women to seek prominent leadership, to liberate their people from adverse social, political or economic conditions, it is interesting to note, en passant, that most of the serious Afrikaner leaders profiled in the foregoing paragraphs share a great deal in common with a myriad of leaders the world over. More specifically, it is interesting that both Verwoerd and Fischer were stung into leadership action by almost identical circumstances as those that drove Theodor Herzl and that Nelson Mandela to enter the distinguished leadership. Also interesting is the fact like Mandela and many effective leaders the world over, Rupert rigidly adhered to the highly ethical principle of avoiding to place one's adversaries in a position where they lose face.
The lesson learned from the profile of Botha is that leadership is a game of managing paradoxes. Botha's leadership occupies the nether-side of effective leadership. His becomes a counterfoil of good leaders. Thus his successor was able to secure world acclaim while standing shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela as joint-winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Within South Africa, Botha's leadership became associated with all the evils of apartheid. The last shred of his reputation was destroyed in during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when he, inter alia, refused to toe the line. To reiterate, his leadership will remain buried by the proverbial Rubicon on whose banks he was meant to have administered the last rites on the corpse of apartheid. Finally, Botha's leadership demonstrates another important principle of effective leadership: the courage to take bold and risky initiatives.
Unlike Thompson's treatment of aspects of Afrikaner philosophical traditions, concepts and ideas under the ambit of myths and mythology, Wolmarans presents an abridged explanation or description of aspects if Afrikaner philosophy, religion, ethics and custom from within the group. The analysis is particularly interesting in that it attempts to presents the rationale by which Afrikaner leaders justified the core belief systems underpinning the apartheid enterprise. Citing the work of other Afrikaner thought leaders viz. Esterhuyse, Meredith, Pottinger, Van Niekerk etc, Wolmarans asserts that Afrikaner culture can be viewed as the sum of its beliefs, philosophy and values about how the environment should be negotiated and collective affairs be conducted. Following are some of the points covered in Wolmarans' analysis:
Divine Election of Afrikaner Nation vs. Equality of All Before God: Afrikaners, in general, have strong religious beliefs, based on a particular local brand of Calvinism, focusing especially on the doctrine of electivism and determinism. God has created them to be a Christian nation in Africa, elected to spread the light of the gospel and of civilisation to its inhabitants, and to remain white, Afrikaner and in control until the end of time. God determines the rise of nations. Afrikaners are called on to exercise guardianship over the 'non-white' peoples of South Africa. The interests of the individual therefore come second to that of the group.
The foregoing explains why Afrikaans leaders easily passed various restrictive laws to control group behaviour, i.e. regardless of whether or not such laws violated the rights of those affected by them. These included the infamous Group Areas Act, Population Registration Act, Natives Land Act, and Immorality Act. These were most restrictive laws meant to keep black people on their side of the political fence. The Immorality Act was, among others, designed to protect the white group against racial contamination as well as assimilation by the black majority. Indeed, there were several other obnoxious laws, regulations, and directives that transformed innocent people into criminals and pariahs within their own communities.
Most Afrikaner leaders acted in the belief that what was good for Afrikaner was good for South Africa. The view of their own election blinded them to alternative and positive group values, like desegregation of the workplace, equal opportunity, and social responsibility. This belief in their divine election explains a paternalistic view towards blacks in general, instead of partnership. This explains why blacks were not allowed to participate in the tri-cameral system, but only Indians and Coloureds.
Rupert regarded the relationship of whites to blacks not in a paternalistic framework, but as one of temporary guardianship. Bram Fischer developed another vision: that of inclusiveness and of people of different nationalities living together in harmony. This vision was based on the requirements of a multicultural background including attendance at a dual-language medium school and exposure to international and local African viewpoints and experiences. While in London in 1933, Fischer delivered a speech - in commemoration of the Day of the Covenant (then known also as Dingaan's Day (16 December) - in which he said that commemoration should be considered from the point of Dingane as well. Fischer maintained that 'many ideas as to race and nationality have to be destroyed or modified. Now another great effort is needed, but it must be integrating this time, and draw together not only the two different European races, but see to it that these two advance with our vast black population'. The myth of racial supremacy had to be deconstructed.
Afrikaners in general believed that diacritica based on colour of skin and race were a good indicator of the value of each and every person. As in racist societies past, the apartheid leadership used scientific and quasi-scientific studies or arguments to prop up their myths. For instance, a 1987 study found that most Afrikaners believed that blacks were as much in favour of ethnic separation as whites. People like Anton Rupert and Harry Oppenheimer, however, promoted the concept of shared values. This saw the two gentlemen mobilize white business to establish a set of black business and black community development organizations known as the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) and the Urban Foundation (UF). Rupert also regarded himself not only as a staunch Afrikaner but also a global citizen and player. In 1983 he assisted the citizens of Berlin to set up their own small business development corporation, called Neu-Europa Hitec & Biotec. Rupert's activities reflect a belief that all people are equally children of God.
In spite their rigid adherence to myths surrounding their claim to racial purity or Aryan heritage, many high profile Afrikaner leaders and their families were shocked to learn, from a study by one of their own, that their claims were – after all – not so pure. One such study detailed the Coloured antecedents of prominent Afrikaner families. The findings of this study did much to demythologise the pure 'white' race myth pervading Afrikaans society. However, not much notice of this study was taken as the population registration remained a cornerstone of the policy of segregation.
Afrikaners as a True Christian Minority: like the Zionists after whom they modelled themselves, Afrikaners believed that as a small loyal Christian minority, everybody was against them because of their Christian beliefs. Therefore, isolation and constant attack was just part of life, as their version of Reformed faith was the only true remnant of Reformed Calvinism in an evil world. This belief propelled Botha to launch a formidable defence and containment strategy against the 'total onslaught,' from enemies within and without South Africa. There was always a constant threat to the existence of Afrikaners, their family life and Christian values, from various sources. The enemy included communism and even the cultural imperialism of the West. The leading metaphor for life was seen in violent terms: a battle against the powers of evil.
Beyers Naudé, on the other hand, saw that this vision was created and maintained through the manipulation of information. As we saw earlier, Naudé paid dearly for his apostasy. Similarly, many young Afrikaners and other white leaders who shared his liberal views were given a hefty serving of Afrikaner justice.
The Basic Sinfulness of Humankind vs. The Basic Goodness of Humankind: a very pessimistic view of humankind lies at the basis of Afrikaner Calvinism. Humankind in its essence is sinful and has evil tendencies. All behaviour should be regulated and scrutinised as closely as possible. Basically, people cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Afrikaans people tend to appoint policemen over policemen over policemen. Anton Rupert typically has a more positive attitude towards people. As he proclaimed 'Trust is a risk, but mistrust is an even greater risk'. Given his staunch Christian background and occupation, Naudé was even more outspoken against the elective or 'Chosen People' gospel behind which the leadership of his own people sought shelter while they unleashed crimes against humanity like the serial offenders that they had become.
Afrikaners as Victims and Afrikaners as Victimisers: it would seem that a strong sense of being a victim supposedly gave Afrikaners the moral right to implement their rigid policies of segregation. Their claim to a near-permanent victim status stemmed largely from the treatment they received at the hands of the British colonisers. Feelings of being a victim deepened especially during the global anti-apartheid campaign; hence Botha's total onslaught counter-strategy. To reiterate, many Afrikaner families suffered under the British scorched earth policy during the Anglo-Boer War. Many thousands perished in the concentration camps. The forced English language policy was bitterly resented by Afrikaners after the war and supplied the impetus for the rise of Afrikaner 'nationalism'. However, Fischer developed a profound antipathy against nationalism. Anton Rupert espoused a liberal nationalism, that is, a nationalism that leaves room for the aspirations of others.
Determinism vs. Free Will: Wolmarans maintains that Afrikaners feel that God determines the minutest details of their lives. As a member of that group, Wolmarans believes it is their responsibility to 'fit in with God's blueprint for our lives'. This viewpoint serves to undermine human responsibility. Citing personal experience, Wolmarans points out that 'as a minister, I once had to conduct the funeral of a twelve-year-old girl. She was killed in an accident caused by her father who drove under the influence. He told me in all earnestness that she died because it was her allotted time'.
In contradistinction to the foregoing view, there is the case of Rupert, Afrikaner business leader and philanthropist, who professes that to 'go on my knees and thank Providence for the things I was not given when I badly wanted them'.
Intervention of God vs. Human Responsibility: a preacher in his own right, Wolmarans maintains that most Afrikaners believe in the intervention of God in the affairs of humankind. Through prayer, God can be entreated to intervene on behalf of a particular individual or group. This explains why Afrikaners interpreted the Battle of Blood River as a divine sign of their election, and why leaders like John Vorster and Botha publicly supported special days of prayer in the case of drought.
Apocalyptic View of History vs. The Here and Now as the Realm of God's Kingdom: Afrikaners also believe that Utopia would only arrive at the Second Coming of Jesus. People who agitated for improved living or working conditions, or a better political dispensation, would be labelled as dangerous liberals who attempted to create heaven on earth. This viewpoint again undermined human responsibility. A right wing politician, Andries Treurnicht, regarded the outcome of the vote in favour of the tricameral parliament (sixty six percent in favour), as an ominous sign that the devil was triumphing in South Africa.
Contemporary theologians like Naudé - with his theology of liberation - did much to propound the viewpoint that human history embodies the coming of God's kingdom.
The Evil World of Business vs. the Business World as Liberating: traditional Afrikaner thought regards the sphere of business as being under the control of the devil and, therefore, meant for people who are dishonest and greedy. For this reason, most Afrikaners feel safe in the civil service, police, army, schools, or working for a company. It might be because of this distrust of business that some Afrikaners, who do venture into this sphere, are regarded as "Boereverneukers" (exploiters of their own people; paying low salaries; not honouring contracts; misrepresenting facts).
This view probably originated because they felt exploited by capitalism and alienated from trade and industry. Socialism can be regarded as typical of Afrikaners, so that nearly fifty percent of them were employed in the civil service during the heyday of apartheid. Verwoerd was perfectly willing to act against the interests of capitalists when he thought it would be in the interests of whites. Wolmarans appears unsighted about the origins of Afrikaner antipathy towards business and traders. This point is also discussed under the section dealing with relations between early Jewish hawker-traders (smouse) and Afrikaners in smaller towns and villages throughout the country. That analysis points out that the latter were generally resentful of Jewish traders whom they saw as exploiters who helped many Boer business and farming undertakings on their way to bankruptcy. Similar antipathies were directed against the wealthy Anglo-Jewish mining magnates and other kinds of industrialists who dominated most urban centres.
In stark contrast, Anton Rupert worked intensely for Afrikaner economic empowerment, especially through the Reddingsdaadbond. He also advocated the opening of black reserves to white capital, for which Verwoerd never forgave him.
Afrikaner Protestant Work Ethic: the roots of the Afrikaner work ethic are deeply embedded in their Protestant past. Work is not to be done to find favour with people, but to please God. A good education is regarded as a passport to success.
The End Justifies the Means vs. Truth Cannot be Served Through Falsehood: once more citing personal experience, Wolmarans asserts that Afrikaner subscribes to a machiavellian philosophy which he, personally, run up against. Wolmarans cites a number of well-known public incidents where Afrikaner leaders manifested their belief in the concept of the end justifies the means. It was, for instance, the apartheid government which started the Citizen newspaper with taxpayer's money for purposes of subverting truth and public trust. In his defence of their machiavellian enterprise, Botha justified the project on the need to countermand elements of the 'total onslaught' – this time, emanating from the independent press. Thus expedience and misinformation kept the machinery of the Botha government operational.
Wolmarans' analysis is much in line with the general view that successive apartheid leaderships employed dirty tactics to subdue attacks directed at their pet project. Much more robust and concrete evidence was presented during the TRC hearings. Long before the TRC, sections of the South African public had become aware of Afrikaner leadership's machiavellian tendencies. For instance, the apartheid government was implicated in a number of high profile scandals. One such episode, the Information Scandal, reflected a view common among Afrikaners that the problem with the apartheid policy was not its inherent injustice, but poor public relations. Thus innocent and not-so-innocent lives were expended in defence of campaigns of the apartheid project. Police officers fabricated evidence to justify their assassination sprees. Yet, the culprits were not brought to justice as they were considered to have been operating above the law.
Wolmarans further states that underhand fighting against perceived political opponents was regarded as acceptable. As previously mentioned, those who broke rank from the white line of defensive white lies were dealt with swiftly. For instance, a prominent business leader and banker, Chris Ball, endured ignominious public humiliation and character assassination for having facilitated the funding of a pro-ANC advertisement. When churches - notably those within the SACC fold – spoke against the injustices of the apartheid system, Afrikaner political leadership (Botha) countered by warning them to desist from mixing religion with politics. Yet, the fact that the Afrikaans churches had actively promoted and sustained the apartheid project from inception escaped the vigilant eye of the political leadership. Many a dominee was allowed to go about the business of supporting government policy and campaigns with total impunity.
Quite a number of Afrikaner leaders thought that 'it's okay to break the rules, as long as you don't get caught'. For quite a while South Africa denied being involved in campaigns for the destabilisation of neighbouring countries. The web of lies and denials that had, for years, been spun around many such clandestine activities was blown apart by the publication of the Vaj Diaries vis-à-vis apartheid involvement in Renamo's fight against the elected government of Mozambique.
Yet, against such machinations and skulduggery, Afrikaner leaders such as Rupert and Naudé argued for honesty, integrity, reliability, loyalty, humility, sincerity and steadfastness in the leadership.
Pragmatism vs. Principled Leadership: many Afrikaners hold extremely pragmatic values where such values accord with their own interests. For instance, late in the 1970s, Botha said that Afrikaner leaders did not entertain too many visions for fear succumbing to one's own dreams. Botha lived long enough to have suffered the consequences of his unintended prophecy. For instance, anti-apartheid campaigners such as Winnie Mandela used Botha's sham political reform campaigns to blunt the apartheid leadership's public relations machinery both locally and abroad.
Opposed to this type of pragmatism, we find the visionary leadership of Fischer who explained at his trial why he held certain beliefs and why he felt compelled to act in accordance with them. Whenever the opportunity permitted, Rupert criticised the typical crisis management of Afrikaner political leaders and argued for visionary and principled leadership. For his part Naudé exemplified the principled side of Afrikaner leadership which regarded it better to be obedient to God than the prescripts of men.
Respect for Authority vs. Critical Accountability: according to Wolmarans, Romans 13:1-7 was believed, by both Afrikaner leadership and the community to supply the divine authority for Afrikaans political leaders to rule South Africa, for "all authorities are instituted by God." Afrikaners value authority highly, and look for strong or bold "kragdadige" leaders. As Wolmarans points out, to call a leader to book is regarded as an unmitigated insult. Respect for and loyalty to the authority of those in leadership position is sacrosanct. No matter the circumstances leaders may find themselves in, their authority was not to be challenged or dismissed lightly.
Yet, time and again, evidence comes out to reveal that some of Afrikaner leaders seldom treated authority as a two-way or reciprocal stream. Their behaviour and conduct contradicted the very solid foundation on which the entire concept of authority is based. Consequently, many Afrikaner leaders literally got away with lies, theft and murder. In a community where ordinary members have been brought up and are encouraged to invest their unqualified trust in the leadership implicitly, the leaders are bound to find themselves so straight-jacketed by traditions not to find it easy to admit fallibility. As Wolmarans points out, for a leader to admit mistakes is regarded as a sign of weakness in all its senses.
Unfortunately, this style of leadership allows reasonable change only to take place under the circumstances of force and suffering. The Greek tragedians of the fourth century BCE explained the human condition as that we only learn through suffering - not through rational argument, not through debate - only through suffering. This style of authoritarian leadership, unfortunately, has the exact same effect. The labour reforms implemented in the late 1970s and early 1980s were only done because government was forced to do it. On the contrary, Rupert emphasises the value of consensus and democratic procedures. All leaders should be accountable.
Regarding the issue of Afrikaner leadership's inability or unwillingness to implement difficult changes, except in the face of unavoidable pressure, Wolmarans appears a little hard on Afrikaner leadership. Given their philosophical traditions and the many myths they had spun around their world, it could not have been a simple matter of throwing out the old and taking on the new. Wolmarans is blind-sighted in the issue of Afrikaner leadership's approach to suffering and pain. Their messianic belief system orders them to endure pain and suffering because such things happen for a reason. They will probably justify the ignominious collapse of apartheid and all that it offered to Afrikaner 'nationalism' as God-ordained.
Patriarchal Society vs. The Open Society: the core value of Afrikaner culture lies in patriarchy: men are, from birth, regarded as heads of the institutions of the Afrikaner community while women are required to use their intelligence and intuition in the service of their husbands and families. For a woman being married is the ideal state. Children should be "seen and not heard." In fact, children were generally seen as objects under the control of the father, who even decided the future occupation of especially his sons. Speaking as the supreme patriarch of Afrikaner 'nationalism', among Botha warned students who wanted to make contact with the ANC's Youth League (the "proponents of violence and revolution") against it, because they lacked the requisite 'experience of the hard realities of life'.
As mentioned previously, the Afrikaans government paid lower salaries to female teachers than to male teachers, because the woman was not regarded as the breadwinner. Even in churches like the Hervormde Kerk, which do allow women as ministers, females have a better chance of finding employment if married to a dominee.
The Fischer family is in stark contrast to this patriarchal vision of silencing children. Around the dinner table, debate was encouraged in both English and Afrikaans. Fischer's wife instructed him explicitly not to ask her father for her hand in marriage because she would 'not be bargained over'. A more equitable society is envisaged here. The customs and traditions of Afrikaner world were not accepted uncritically.
Wolmarans argues that the characteristic double standards of patriarchal society are also found in Afrikaner culture. The operating word: "do what I say, and not what I do" appears to be a well-known tongue in cheek expression regarding a deep-seated hypocrisy.
Motivation by Force vs. Motivation Through Rational Debate: corporal punishment was practised widely as a means of discipline in the home, and in Afrikaans schools as well. This practice continues clandestinely in some Afrikaans schools to this day, although it has been made illegal. Recently, Afrikaner head of a primary school slapped a child through his face and received only a reprimand. Because of this trait, holding or voicing different opinions were not readily tolerated.
Wolmarans' observation about Afrikaner's propensity to apply force or punishment to motivate others to perform is rooted in the psyche of the group. As illustrated under the section dealing with Thompson's analysis of Afrikaner mythology, earlier Boer settlers strongly advocated the use of corporal punishment to encourage their black labourers and captives to produce desired results. But it should be pointed out that the use of force is a trait shared by many African communities. It is no exaggeration to state that the expression 'spare the rod, and spoil the child' comes straight from the English dictionary of socialization (actually from the Bible).
Group Freedom vs. Individual Rights: given their long history of rebellion and struggles against domination by groups outside their own world, Afrikaners have a very deep appreciation for freedom to set and follow their own agenda. Contemporary historians neglect to record that the core of the early Dutch settlers had a reputation for defying external control or interference in its internal affairs. As shown earlier, modern Afrikaners harboured resentment against the British for taking away their freedom during the Anglo-Boer War. An interesting aspect about Afrikaners' approach to freedom is that they tend to think about freedom from a group rather than from an individual perspective. In this regard, Afrikaners are as African as their indigenous counterparts. Thus the basic philosophy behind apartheid was that Afrikaners grant other groups what they demand for themselves, i.e. separate freedoms.
It is interesting to note that rebel leaders like Fischer and Naudé focused on individual rights. The interim leadership research has established that this is a growing trend generally observable among communities as they become more sophisticated and more affluent. It is to be expected, therefore, that the more sophisticated and more travelled members of closed communities will place more emphasis on individual than group values. This point is also borne out in the analysis of various aspects of Jewish history and development. It is particularly true of sections of contemporary American Jewry. And within South Africa, a similar trend has been observed among affluent and sophisticated black people.
Afrikaner Master Narrative: Segregation vs. Integration: emanating from a deep sense of injustice after the Anglo-Boer War, a nationalist master narrative developed within Afrikaner group. The British dominated industry, commerce and the mines, and controlled banks and finance houses. Afrikaners were impoverished.
The good ending of the story for Afrikaner in South Africa was, therefore, viewed as a situation where all 'nations' would live separately from one another but in total harmony: with their own schools, own businesses, own universities, own factories, own governments, own countries, and exercising their freedoms separately. White supremacy should in this way be ensured for all time against the 'swart gevaar' – black threat. The worst scenario was the integration of all peoples, which would lead to chaos and bloodshed. This vision focused on the differences between people, while shared qualities were over-looked. To ensure harmony, Afrikaner leadership decreed, people of different nationalities had to be vigorously separated: socially, politically and, as far as possible, economically.
Fischer developed an alternative vision or master narrative to the foregoing. He argued before the Native Economic Commission (in 1928) against segregation and in favour of the free flow of labour from the African reserves to the towns. He also protested various issues reflecting the African population, such as pass laws, property rights, improved wages, segregation measures and the removing of African voters from the common roll in the Cape Province in 1939. Fischer took leave of his traditional view of segregation after a discussion he had with Edwin Mofutsanyana, a prominent ANC and Communist Party member. The latter had told Fischer that separation causes people to forget that the Other laughs in the same way, that each experiences joy and sorrow, pride or humiliation for the same reasons.
Afrikaans opponents to the segregationist vision developed an alternative vision, namely, that of a multiracial society. The Fischer household opened its doors to various people including disadvantaged blacks as well as associates from outside Afrikaner community. At his trial in 1966, Fischer explained his vision for South Africa as the right of all to freedom and happiness, the right to live together with their families wherever they may choose, to earn livelihoods to the best of their abilities, to rear and educate their children in a civilised fashion, to take part in the administration of their country and obtain a fair share of the wealth they produce. At his funeral, speakers credited Fischer with having enlarged the concept of Afrikanerdom through his belief in liberty, justice, compassion, trust, and equality of mercy and, above all, human dignity.
For his part, Naudé used the resources of the Christian Institute to encourage contact between black and white South Africans. He partook in the ecumenical movement in South Africa, which also fostered interracial contact not only between Christians, but religions in general. This service he also broadened through his involvement in other progressive organizations. During the entire apartheid era, Naudé became one of the lone white voices to campaign abroad for the requisite support for rapid change from apartheid to a more equitable society.
With his broad international experience and contacts, Rupert became another proponent of a more inclusive master-narrative. His resounding economic success was based on the principle of partnership and sharing aimed at eliminating domination and promoting self-respect through co-participation in industry. Rupert believed there could be no salvation for South Africa in racial separation. As a liberal business leader, he constantly criticised the closed ideological vision of apartheid and actively promoted a philosophy of partnership. He valued competition in contrast to the monopolistic and protectionist policies of various apartheid administrations. He even proposed to Verwoerd that blacks be given property rights in black Soweto. This was flatly refused.
This master narrative of segregation, this overarching vision, was never seriously challenged from within mainstream Afrikaner society. One can ask why? The main factor probably was that of the so-called blind or closed ideology. This means that one is so convinced that a certain societal vision is best for all, that information pointing in the opposite direction, is suppressed. This master narrative blinded Afrikaans people to basic inhumanity perpetrated in the name of apartheid, e.g. the frequent destruction of squatter shanties, and forced removals. In 1982 it came to light that the top twenty percent of South Africa's population disposed of sixty percent of the national wealth. The bottom forty percent enjoyed less than eight percent.
Botha's reaction to this unsettling information was to brand the inquiry as politically biased by exploiting the misery of blacks. Later on it transpired that the homelands could not contain the process of urbanisation, nor make the big cities free from people seeking jobs and a better future. Apartheid with its inhumane and ruthless application of influx control was a failure. This message did not readily reach the makers of policy. Bram Fischer suffered to a limited degree from the same problem. When unfavourable reports about Stalin's regime surfaced, Bram dismissed them as Western propaganda.
The Primary Paradigm of Afrikaans Leadership: in the main, Afrikaans leadership was based on the paradigm of command and control versus that of serve and liberate. On the occasion of Verwoerd's election to the post of Prime Minister, a Cape Town English-language newspaper commented, pessimistically, that 'as Minister of Native Affairs Verwoerd had been an autocrat, contemptuous of criticism and public opinion. He was a declared racialist and champion of baasskap. He was an advocate of what he called 'strong leadership'. Conversely, the Afrikaans press reacted favourably – pointing out that Verwoerd's style of leadership was welcomed and indeed desired by Afrikaner culture in general.
One Afrikaans newspaper called Verwoerd a "man of steel," while another hailed him as "a power and phenomenon in public life, a man of destiny who has already made his mark on our fate and will continue to do so." One of Afrikaner journalists found Verwoerd to have had a weakness for sycophants - a typical feature of the command and control paradigm. As some Afrikaner writers have pointed out, strong leaders do not like competition. As previously illustrated, it was typical in Afrikaner mind to value strength above compassion, conviction above rationality, and dogma above compromise.
Controlling the Flow of Information: most Afrikaner leaders did not feel it necessary to test the success or failure of their policies against facts. This explains why most of them had not taken the effort to visit black townships such as Soweto. Botha was the first to do so but this was basically a public relations exercise. In general, the only direction allowed for information to flow was from the top down. As editor of the Afrikaans-language newspaper Transvaler, Verwoerd used his paper to propagate his party's apartheid policies. In similar vein, Botha created the President's Council for purposes that were not dissimilar to those of Verwoerd and other Afrikaner political leaders who succeeded him. Under his leadership, the President's Council served as an apartheid think-tank organ. Afrikaans political leaders, in general, decided whom they would talk to and whom they would regard as legitimate leaders.
By contrast, Fischer, in an article which appeared in The Observer (London), stated that a 'peaceful transition can be brought about if the government agrees to negotiation with all sections of the people, and, in particular, with the non-white leaders at present on Robben Island or in exile'.
As mentioned under the discussion on Afrikaner myths, the SABC became one of the most potent tools for the propagation of apartheid myths, policies and lies. Management and staff appointments were stringently controlled through selective appointments based on nepotism. The broadcaster was used, unashamedly, as a propaganda machine for the government. Botha even had his own personal TV representative who became known as the 'Ou Krokodil se Tuinwerker – the Old Crocodile's* gardener) by his colleagues. Newspapers were forced not to publish "subversive statements", or the names of people held without trial, or allegations of maltreatment by detainees. Dissidents were put under house arrest. Accuracy of information was suppressed, while propaganda for the government was encouraged and rewarded.
The Information Scandal shows that Afrikaner political leadership was prepared to go any length to secure total control of vital information. After an Afrikaner judge, Mosterd, had been appointed by Prime Minister Vorster in 1978 to investigate allegations of exchange control irregularities, he found the Department of Information to have been guilty of large-scale contraventions. Botha did much to block the release of this damning report. In fact, apartheid leaders became very adept at setting up commissions of inquiry whose results were seldom released into the public domain.
It says much about the integrity of Rupert that he had conveyed suspicions of corruption in this regard as early as the mid-1970s to B. J. Vorster but to no avail. Fischer, on the other hand, never sought to impose his ideas on others or even to proselytise. Rupert's contribution to the promotion of free access and sharing of information was to establish a business paper, Tegniek, in 1949, which later became known as Finansies and Tegniek. Rupert consistently refused to have any financial dealings with The Citizen newspaper.
Social Engineering vs. Freedom of Association: stung and embarrassed by the outbreak of the stubborn black youth's revolution of 1976, and the subsequent collapse of many of the apartheid state control of black life and work, the apartheid leadership was persuaded, by white business leadership, to ease its rigid control on regulations which adversely affected living conditions inside black townships. Under the leadership of Simon Brand, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) initiated economic viability studies of such large black townships as Soweto. Taking its cue from some of the break-through projects of the Urban Foundation, the apartheid leadership put its support behind the establishment of satellite black 'suburban' as opposed to 'township' housing projects such as Selection Park (Soweto) and Spruitview (East Rand).
These model housing projects were initiated to accommodate or contain the aspirations of upmarket black households who would otherwise have settled for life in the northern suburbs of Greater Johannesburg. As with the grand system of apartheid, with its forced removals and relocation of people– the 'suburban' housing scheme became one big failure. Apartheid resistance to black mobility was soon overtaken by events and affluent black households joined the exodus from the townships to the affluent white 'suburbs'. The trend has continued, to this day, without abating.
Self-Aggrandisement vs. Humility: apartheid leadership has, over decades, been associated with accusations and rumours involving gross misuse of taxpayer resources. Ten years after its demise, apartheid has left a cloud of self-aggrandisement hanging over Afrikaner leaders who have, directly or indirectly, been implicated in one scandal or other. Like the good politicians that they had become, many chose to adopt fancy legal footwork to dance out of the reach of public scrutiny.
The whiff of self-aggrandisement reached the highest political office. As Wolmarans puts its, after his retirement from public office, B. J. Vorster declined to comment on allegations linking him with the infamous Information Scandal. Yet, his lounge was peopled with portraits and busts of himself. By contrast, Nelson Mandela recalls Fischer as a "humble person, self-effacing, and almost retiring'. Mandela's colleague and peer, Walter Sisulu, described Fischer in terms of being "a perfect gentleman", widely liked and trusted. Anton Rupert holds the view that nothing should be named after him during his lifetime, because he is well aware of humankind's fallibility.
Inflexibility vs. Flexibility: while effective leaders are distinguished, in part, by their capacity to be flexible, some Afrikaner leaders proved to have an abundance of the opposite trait – inflexibility. One of Afrikaner writers described Botha as being so pigheaded that once he 'has made a decision he was not about to change it'. Botha's now infamous 'Rubicon speech' underscores this leader's lack of flexibility and finesse. Conversely, Rupert has proved himself a master of the art of compromise. Once more, his principle of ensuring that his business partners do not walk away empty-handed is a mark of flexibility.
Centralisation of Control: one of the short-term success factors of apartheid was the leaders' capacity to centralize power in the hands ofa relatively fewer insiders. Vorster's reign was based on the centralisation of control. The disadvantage of this system was, of course, the suppression of initiative, the avoidance of accountability and the proliferation of red tape which, in turn, led to bad management. In the early 1980s, it was decided to deal with the real security risk raised by the appalling living standards in the Eastern Cape. The cost was estimated at R540 million. However, the project got bogged down in red tape, precipitating the violent unrest of the Eastern Cape townships in 1984. In an autocratic manner which was characteristic of him, Botha used a variety of laws to secure dictatorial powers.
Because of centralised leadership, Afrikaner leaders tended to appoint "ja-broers" or sycophants and cronies who remained totally dependent on the powers of 'the leaders'. This resulted in a system of appointing watchdogs to watch watchdogs. Thus if somebody does not fit in with the central leadership, the person is quickly humiliated and eliminated. When Allan Hendrickse led a protest swim on a 'whites-only' beach in Port Elizabeth in 1987, Botha took twelve minutes of prime television time to publicly harangue and belittle Hendrickse. Even Chester Crocker, US assistant secretary of state, was given a tongue lashing by Botha when Reagan claimed that trade union detainees were released through US pressure. It was his propensity to 'bite' opponents that won Botha the nickname of Ou Krokodil. Rupert ardently believes that power and decision-making should be decentralised and that this would lead to better government. He repeatedly encouraged those who cared, to fight creeping bureaucracy by driving it out of functional organizations.
Forced to turn their economic activities inward, Afrikaner leaders institutionalised the so-called mixed economy. State enterprises like the railways were protected from competition by stringent laws. Rupert pleaded for privatisation of state-controlled enterprises, as well as deregulation. He believed that wealth should not be distributed through force, but by baking a bigger cake so that everyone could have a bigger share. When the state redistributes wealth, it only succeeds in spreading poverty more evenly.
The Power of Military Force vs. the Power of Argument: the history of Afrikaner taught them that survival had to do with the barrel of a gun. Afrikaner political leadership had, over decades, developed one of the most formidable instruments of containment. The extent of their killing machine was evident in the chilling words of one notorious police general who told a commission of inquiry that he had enough men to commit murder if he ordered them to. Thus moral persuasion played little or no role in the hearts and minds of a leadership almost drunk with military power.
The principle of "law and order" continually overrode that of natural justice. When Sharpeville erupted in 1960, police opened fire indiscriminately on a crowd of blacks protesting the pass laws, killing sixty seven. Most were shot in the back as they attempted to flee. Verwoerd espoused strong-arm tactics and banned the ANC and the PAC. Botha had far more success with his military control of the black townships, than with persuading the majority of the population that his policy was the best for them all.
Order had to be maintained at all costs. Botha developed the National Security Management System (NSMS) through which he was relatively successful in suppressing any black dissent. Apartheid could only be maintained by force: denial of citizenship to the black majority, forced removals, the ruthless application of influx control and the railroading of the independent homelands. It was an overarching goal and vision of Afrikaner leadership to become a regional super military power. One of the writers consulted by Wolmarans referred to the "cult of security" that permeated the Botha government. Political activities were invariable banned or suppressed. Various states of emergencies were declared. Before elections, "ANC bases" in neighbouring countries would be attacked to smooth the electoral public. Death squads were used to eliminate activists. Bullying tactics became typical of this type of "kragdadige" leadership. A leader like Botha was not known for his sophistication.
Typical of mainstream Afrikaans leadership was to use force to crush any opposition where possible. Fischer's house was raided frequently by security police. Phone calls were tapped, mail intercepted, meetings bugged and attendees photographed, car number plates were noted, activists kept under constant surveillance, and threats and intimidation used with their employers and families. Solitary confinement was used to break the spirit of opponents. Ruth First, for example, attempted suicide while in jail.
Opposed to the philosophy of violence, one finds the principle of peaceful protest and rational argument, as practised by Fischer, in his involvement in the Defiance Campaign. It was only when peaceful protest was constantly treated as an act of rebellion that people like Fischer espoused violence as a form of self-defence. When Umkhonto we Sizwe was established, government buildings and installations were targeted. However, more ruthless counter measures were instituted by the apartheid government. B. J. Vorster and his security police chief presided over one of the most brutal periods under apartheid. Police interrogators were prepared to use any method to extract information.
Anti-intellectualism: according to Wolmarans, deep-rooted distrust of independent thinking and academic research exists within the Afrikaans community. Many Afrikaner intelligentsia and artists were alienated by the apartheid government, especially when they were not prepared to use their art or research to propagate the ideology of apartheid. When apartheid was finally dismantled, the community saw an alarming rise in social pathology: chemical dependency, divorce, familial homicide and suicide. A community that was ideologically controlled to act unjustly had to disintegrate.
Keeping Business in Line: Botha had a myriad of Afrikaner leaders controlling the civil service, and they made sure that government contracts were awarded mostly to their own compatriots. Many businesses, therefore, never learned to compete in the open world economy, and withered at the end of the apartheid era. Because of high taxes, the government was a big spender and considerably influenced business. The system of exchange control, whereby citizens were in general not allowed to take their money out of the country, artificially boosted local investment. The ideal system, of course, would be to have such a secure business environment that these kinds of controls would not be necessary. It would impose discipline in devising and implementing foolish business decisions. Bad policies would not attract investment; good policies would.
In the early 1980s, the government started with a massive import substitution programme for strategic goods (electronics, heavy machinery, energy substitutes and fertilisers). This interference with the supply-demand factors of the economy pushed up production prices and made South African goods less competitive on world markets. The lesson to be learned is that minimal interference in the economy is the ideal.
Myths, Rituals and Symbols: the Day of the Covenant Celebrations were used to strengthen the control of the National Party. Political leaders were invited to give the main speech. As Wolmarans observes there were sermons that sought to justify apartheid on biblical grounds. Racial differences were projected as God-given invariants. Paul's speech on the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17:26) was used as proof. There it is stated that God "hath made of one blood all nations of men and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation". This was read to refer to homelands. In the context of this speech, of course, Paul does exactly the opposite: he undermines the myth of ethnic separation and inequality.
The story of the tower of Babel was also used to show the folly of integration and to justify apartheid, and strengthen the myth that Afrikaner nation was elected for a special task. The New Jerusalem of Revelation 21, with all its nations living peacefully together, was conveniently ignored. Verwoerd's system of Bantu authorities was the assertion of the principle that black and white were essentially and incompatibly different. Naudé was ostracised from the Afrikaans community because he questioned the biblical justification of apartheid. Against current volksteologie (folk theology), Naudé argued that the church should be the voice of the poor and dispossessed in general, and that all who believed became part of God's people.
Symbols that strengthened Afrikaner ideology included the national anthem as well as a host of monuments which served to reinforce some or other aspect of Afrikaner ideology. For Afrikaners, reserved entrances, lifts, conveniences, churches and hotels were symbols of their racial supremacy. During battles, like that of Blood River of 1838, the positioning of the ox wagons in a closed-off Laager, served Afrikaners well. This developed culturally as well into a "closed ranks" method of survival. In times of crisis, "liberals" would be purged, and ranks would be closed. The schooling system was culturally based, and churches separate (the idea of the volkskerk). Mixing with people different from your own kind was regarded as evil. Recalling his childhood experience, Wolmarans states that 'as a child, my siblings and I were prohibited by my father to play with the children next door, as they might have a bad influence on us. The result was that we did play with them, until five minutes before he came home from work'.
Marrying within one's culture (same church affiliation if possible), was valued highly. Intercultural marriages were frowned on. Interracial marriages were forbidden, although liaisons across the colour divide did continue, without legal protection for either party, especially in the case where there were children involved.
Fischer however, was exposed to multiculturalism. In 1927 he became involved in the Joint Council of Europeans and Africans, a forum where black and white could exchange ideas. He also became involved in adult education courses for blacks in Bloemfontein's Waaihoek 'location'. Fischer also developed a more inclusive view of humanity instead of the narrow and exclusivist Afrikaner nationalist outlook. Rupert's philosophy also agitated against the laager mentality. He propagated co-operation on the basis of shared interests. He believed that South Africa does not belong only to one group of people, but that it is a common country over which no group has a monopoly or sole ownership rights. The disadvantage of the Laager mentality is obviously intellectual and cultural inbreeding.
By way of conclusion, Wolmarans notes that at the end of the apartheid era, after the political landscape was dominated from 1948 to 1994 by Afrikaner leadership including HF Verwoerd and Botha, South Africa sat with the legacy of racial segregation where one section of the population, Afrikaans-speaking whites specifically, but also whites in general, were advanced by the system. Hundreds of thousands of black people were forcibly displaced from their traditional homesteads or deprived of meaningful political and economical expression. White patriarchal society dominated society in general, while black males, black and white females and disabled people of all races were relegated to inferior positions. The system of enforced segregation was a dismal failure when it came to the general upliftment of people classified as non-white. The system was dismantled by Afrikaner leaders, and Afrikaner revolutionaries (viz. Fischer and Naudé) and business leaders (e.g Rupert) played a significant part in the dismantling of the system.
6. The Cultural Survival of Afrikaners/Afrikaans-speakers
Giliomee, (15) one of the leading thought leaders of the contemporary Afrikaner community, takes stock of gains and losses made by Afrikaner leadership since apartheid was replaced by a fully-fledged democracy. Following is an abridged summary which has paraphrased aspects of the paper to fit in with the review of Afrikaner leadership. Giliomee approaches the topic against the context of recent African transitional transactions which, in the main, brought about instant losses of political power, property and even life among those who were replaced by the insurgent groups or parties. Giliomee makes the point that the South African transitional episode has, thus far, bucked the trend of instant upheavals with the resultant destabilization or demise of key elements of the political economy.
One of the crucial factors that makes the South African democratic transition radically different from what has gone before in Africa is the fact that the ruling Afrikaner group behaved differently. As Giliomee points out, the case of Afrikaner leadership is fairly unique in that as an erstwhile dominant national minority, it has committed itself to stay on in a country it once ruled. To reiterate, the known trend in African countries with sizeable white minorities like Kenya, Algeria or Zimbabwe has been that the struggle was ended not by detente between the majority and the minority but by the liquidation of the minority or its complete political marginalisation. When Afrikaner-dominated National Party in 1990 entered negotiations with representatives of the black majority it was determined to avoid this fate. It announced that it would only settle for a constitution which would balance the power of the numerical majority. Minorities would have to be over-represented in cabinet and other levels of government, and decisions taken with their concurrence. Individual rights would be enshrined in a Bill of Rights and a Constitutional Court would have to be introduced which would be able to test all legislation.
Throughout his paper, Giliomee highlights the lingering fears, frustrations and anxieties among section of Afrikaner community where the collective feeling is that its leadership sold just about everything Afrikaner stood for and had amassed from decades, if not centuries, of hard fought battles and struggles against 'foreign' domination as well as internal conflicts. One of the early areas of Afrikaner dissatisfactions with the black-led democratic transformation has been their having to come to terms with the fact that none of the significant world powers had been prepared to underwrite their nationalistic claims to the same extent that Jewish leaders had successfully secured American support for their claims to a homeland in Israel. Lack of meaningful super-power backing meant that Afrikaner could be verneuked by its political partners as the consummation of its political settlement got under way.
Notwithstanding the infectiousness of bonhomie around the political negotiations, the principal parties had not addressed, sufficiently, problems presented by the depth of competing claims and expectations of local as well as international stakeholders. Giliomee points out that but for all the talk about mutually acceptable solutions the outside world and the African majority expected nothing less from Afrikaners than to give up power. The general view was that the time of the African majority to rule the country was long overdue. At a crucial stage of the negotiation the American government signalled its view that all sides had to recognise the right of the majority to govern, and that no side could insist on overly complex arrangements intended to guarantee a share of power to particular groups, which would frustrate effective government. This lack of any foreign sympathy was what made the position of Afrikaners different from that of the ruling groups in Israel and Northern Ireland. For instance, in the unlikely event of Irish unification no one envisages the Protestants in Northern Ireland having to accept any compromise solution to their conflict without complex arrangements.
7. An Overview of the Long-Term Prospects of Afrikaner Group
In terms of the background, Giliomee notes that that in the 1980s there were also certain similarities in the conflicts in South Africa, Israel and Northern Ireland. The dominant groups in all three cases - Afrikaners, the Ulstermen, and Jewish Israelis - were 'homeland peoples' who took control of the land, not only for advancing their material interests but also to underpin the expression of their national identities. Because the claim to the land was contested there was an obsessive search for rootedness and a continuous attempt to take possession of the homeland, fatherland or patria.
Before 1994 there were major fears among Afrikaners and whites in general about life in a black-ruled South Africa. First there was the fear of political displacement and marginalisation in one's own country that made exile or 'internal migration' appear the only options. One of the main themes in the intellectual debate in Afrikaner circles had been about survival or more specifically about the way in which the ethical quality of apartheid as a survival strategy would impact on Afrikaners as a people and on their culture. Giliomee maintains that, for intellectuals, the greatest crisis of all occurred when a large number of their people came to believe that they need not live together in justice with other ethnic groups; when they came to believe that mere survival was the chief issue, not a just existence.
Succumbing to this 'final temptation' could have fatal effects for a people since it could lead to the withdrawal of allegiance by a critical number of intellectuals. Giliomee cites Van Wyk Louw who posed the question: 'Is it possible for a small people to survive for long if it becomes hateful or something evil for the best in - or outside - its ranks?' Louw believed that it was possible for Afrikaners one day to emerge from the 'dark night of the soul' and to say: 'I would rather go down than survive in injustice'.
Between 1910 and 1994 Afrikaners differed significantly from English-speaking whites in the relationship in which they stood with the political regime of white supremacy. There was, after all, a long history of Afrikaner leaders claiming the land for whites and for Afrikaners specifically. Between 1910 and 1994 most English-speakers, except for brief periods, did not vote for parties that governed the country. Because of their language skills and their much looser identification with the National Party as the party of apartheid their job prospects were considerably better than those of white Afrikaans-speakers under a black-ruled South Africa.
In the final decade or two of apartheid the sense of political ownership of the land and the fear of the loss of it was expressed much more strongly in the speeches of Afrikaner politicians than in those of their English counterparts. A typical statement by one of the reformist Afrikaner leaders, R.F. (Pik) Botha, was that it was 'the birth right to govern this country of ours' - one for which people were prepared to die. Botha was not even prepared to contemplate power-sharing with black people then 'or in a hundred years'. So unpalatable was the prospect of the ANC coming to power that, during the late 1980s Botha told the State Security Council that he would rather serve in a Government under the far right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), which was propagating the siege option, than in one under the ANC. The irony in all this is that Botha was among the first crop of the apartheid leadership to become a card-carrying member of the very ANC he so detested.
Giliomee maintains that closely related to Afrikaner fears of political displacement were fears about physical safety after the loss of power and the traditional forms of communal deterrence. The Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, the mass evacuation of French settlers from Algeria and the chaotic retreat of Belgians from the Congo were all deeply unsettling to whites in South Africa. Fear of an equally violent catastrophe always lay close to the core of Afrikaner thought, giving rise to draconian security laws. Despite the fact that the state and white citizens armed themselves to the teeth, the fear did not subside. In 1987 four-fifths of Afrikaners stated in a poll that under black majority rule the physical safety of whites would be threatened and that white women would be molested.
8. Fear of Losing Afrikaner Cultural Integrity
Another source of Afrikaner fear centred on the prospect of losing their cultural integrity and, more specifically, Afrikaans as the language that had dominated the entire political economy. Giliomee asserts that unlike white English-speakers, Afrikaners had every reason to fear the rapid decline of the Afrikaans culture under a black government which looked set to elevate English to the status of sole official language. Under apartheid Afrikaans had widely become identified as the language of the oppressor - the medium used when policemen arrested blacks or when officials instructed blacks to show their 'Pass', which constituted the most effective check on black urbanization. Black resistance was expressed in a rejection of Afrikaans and Afrikaners. The more apartheid in its own terms 'succeeded' by getting blacks to accept 'self-government' in their own 'homelands', the more Afrikaans as a language failed. One after the other the 'homeland' governments chose English and an indigenous language as official languages.
Giliomee adds that the future of Afrikaans was threatened from two sides. On the one there was the albatross of the close association of Afrikaner culture with Afrikaner domination, both of which were underpinned by apartheid. Asked to give a prognosis on the future of Afrikaners and their language, D.J. Opperman, a leading Afrikaner thought leader pronounced it to be sombre. He said that Afrikaner had built his own world and had made himself strong, but in the process alienated the Englishman, the coloured man and the Bantu from him. Quoting another thought leader, Opperman added that 'a people has to develop the power to attract; it seems as if Afrikaners had developed the opposite, the power to repel. Opperman acknowledged that Afrikaners had made phenomenal progress during the fifty years of Union, but also pointed to the darker side. It was one of a 'spiritual life, dominated and made barren by racial tension and racial values, spiritual isolation, spiritual inbreeding, crippled spirituality and ultimately barrenness.
On the other hand it seemed necessary to cling to power in order to preserve the culture. There was every prospect that under a black government the elevation of English to the status of sole official language would spell the end of Afrikaans and the Afrikaans culture - and with that the demise of Afrikaner people. They would need allies since the demographic picture was ominous. The best possible Afrikaner ally was the coloured people, a predominantly Afrikaans-speaking group almost as large as Afrikaners. But apartheid had alienated many of their elite who were turning to English. Whereas eighteen per cent of the South African people spoke Afrikaans as mother tongue in 1970 only fifteen per cent was projected to do so by the turn of the twenty first century.
Finally there were fears about material prospects under black rule among Afrikaners and the larger white community. This was true not only of the skilled and semi-skilled white workers who would be facing direct competition from blacks, but also the white middle class. This white middle class was quite heavily concentrated in government employment. In 1990 some twenty per cent of employment outside of the primary sectors was within the state, and the equivalent figure for whites was a full 46 per cent. For Afrikaners alone the figure was almost certainly over fifty per cent. But black rule also threatened those who were not in the public sector. The apartheid regime developed a network of links with whites business, from the conglomerates at the top to the minor suppliers of services on a municipal level. The lower one went down the level the more the likelihood was that a black regime would displace the beneficiaries of the previous regime. Besides this there were all the subsidies and pensions which were paid on a discriminatory basis to those who were enfranchised.
It is important to stress that general white prosperity reached its the zenith not in 1994, but in the early 1970s. Redistribution by the apartheid government played a very important role in the decline of the general position of whites since the mid-1970s. Between 1975 and 1991 the 'real' income of the lowest 40 per cent of whites dropped by 40 per cent. The process continued as both the public and private sector increasingly drew blacks into the work force and extruded whites. Hence there were good reasons why, from a material point of view, whites would fear a further decline in their material fortunes once negotiations started in 1990 for a democratic system. A poll in 1991 revealed that only fifteen per cent of white South Africans felt that they would be better off in the 'new South Africa'. These fears were not unfounded as successive studies consistently showed a progressive decline in the white household income growth trend.
9. The Failure of 'Power-Sharing' Experiment
Initially the transition proceeded remarkably well as white people's fears were not realized. For instance, there were no truckloads of whites fleeing, no occupation of white houses, no confrontational marches through streets, no land invasions of any significance, no sacking of supermarkets. International diplomatic and sporting contacts were rapidly established, the economy looked strong and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange surged ahead. President Mandela played a remarkable conciliatory role, urging everyone to look forward, not back and entertaining the wives of past NP leaders. In mid-1995 there was the culminating act of Mandela donning the Springbok rugby jersey, for many years one of the symbols of white exclusivity, when South Africa won the World Cup. Only one or two statutes were toppled and except for Gauteng replacing Transvaal there were no major name changes.
For at least the first eighteen months the NP could keep up the pretence that it kept to its promise of building into the constitution careful cheeks and balances and protection for cultural rights. The NP even periodically patted itself on the back and reminded the country that it had abolished apartheid itself and had co-managed the transition so successfully that it could be considered the co-liberators of the country. Spokespeople for the NP told Afrikaners that they could be proud of the fact that they did what no other ruling group had done in recent times: voluntarily relinquished power.
This could not last as Afrikaner leadership carried on as if they were still in total control of the country. As Giliomee puts it, Afrikaners were behaving like Shakespeare's King Lear who, after renouncing power still expected everyone to continue treating him as a king. It soon dawned on Afrikaner leaders that their participation in the Government of National Unity did not mean that their claims to power were being entertained by their ANC-led partners. Thus they increasingly started realizing that their advice and views were being ignored and they were compelled to accept decisions they could not sell.
The ANC members on the other hand considered De Klerk and others as politicians unable to adjust themselves to the loss of power and oblivious to the black demand for better services. When Afrikaner leadership sought the renewal of the Government of National Unity partnership, beyond the first five years, their ANC partners rejected this - calculating that it could handle pressures for black empowerment better if it did not labour under the suspicion of being hamstrung by its coalition partners in cabinet. During Afrikaner leadership's departure from the GNU, De Klerk made a speech in London which ripped apart any pretence of power-sharing. De Klerk said that the 'decision to surrender the right to national sovereignty is certainly one of the most painful that any leader can ever be asked to take. Most nations are prepared to risk total war and catastrophe rather than to surrender this right. Yet this was the decision that we had to take. We had to accept the necessity of giving up on the ideal on which we have been nurtured and the dream for which so many of our forefathers had struggled and for which so many of our people had died'.
This prompted some of the influential thought leaders within Afrikaner community to pose the question whether or not the leader of a party which failed so badly in the negotiations could continue in the leadership position. NP support steadily dropped and widespread constituency discontent with the leadership caused De Klerk to resign six months later. Following on De Klerk's departure from active politics, sections of Afrikaner community felt their worst fears were beginning to come true as levels of crime and lawlessness increased dramatically. Whites, in general, started expressing grave doubts over whether the new democracy had the requisite capacity and will to secure their physical security and safety. Among some whites there was a feeling that security could deteriorate further once Mandela had left the political scene.
10. Afrikaner Cultural Claims
As the implications of their effective loss of political power and privileges began to sink in, Afrikaner leadership turned their attention to the next, and perhaps, most precious claim to self-identity and self-worth: the retention of Afrikaner culture, customs, symbols and language. In typical King Lear fashion, they insisted that their language and customs should continue to enjoy the dominance or high priority they had enjoyed under apartheid. For instance, their language and symbols should not be pegged at equal levels with those of the erstwhile second- and third-class compatriots. Prior to the democratic transition, the leadership of the previous ruling party had repeatedly given their supporters assurances that the constitution would ensure their cultural and ethnic survival. They had also made the retention of Afrikaans as official language a non-negotiable issue. In short, Afrikaners and whites in general were assured that they had no reason to fear that that they would become an impotent minority in the land of their birth.
Given that the ANC had always declared that South Africa belonged to all who lived in it, its leadership never advocated the expulsion of whites or indeed of Afrikaners. However, ANC leadership had, from the start rejected minority rights. Its basic position right from the start of the negotiations was that whites would have to trade political power for peace and that peace would be underpinned by a very firm commitment on the part of the ruling party to uphold the basic freedoms and human rights. Central to the ANC position was a strong opposition to group, minority and cultural rights except a narrowly construed commitment to mother tongue education. At the start of the constitutional negotiations Nelson Mandela insisted that minority rights as a central feature of a new democratic constitution were unacceptable. In his words any form of racialism was a formula for disaster and also that the demand for minority rights implied that white South Africans did not yet respect their black counterparts. Instead Mandela proposed the idea of a compromise between two political positions: the black demand for majority rule and the insistence of whites on structural guarantees that 'majority rule will not mean domination by blacks'
The ANC has adhered fairly closely to this position and it is enshrined in the final constitution adopted in 1996. The provision for individual civil rights is the most progressive in the world but at the same time the constitution clearly reflects the ANC's lack of enthusiasm for cultural rights. It proclaims eleven national languages but few doubt that the aim is not so much to bolster the status of the African or indigenous languages but first to demote and then to ease out over time Afrikaans as an official language in the public sphere. English is nevertheless indisputably the lingua franca of the future, and there is a massive demand black people for education in the medium of English, particularly at secondary and tertiary levels.
Giliomee argues that liberals outside ANC ranks have generally speaking not concerned themselves much with the issue of the cultural rights of Afrikaners. Liberals tend to side with underdogs, like discriminated minorities. They find it difficult to accept that if a claim is sound, one cannot restrict their application on the grounds that a particular group has an unsavoury recent history or because it is wealthy. There are also those who argue that it is not in the interest of affluent minorities, or at least its wealthy stratum, to appeal to minority or group rights. According to this view the wealthy can use their money or institutional autonomy to defend what is depicted as 'their privileges'. It is in this perspective only for the poor members of the group or for underprivileged groups for whom it makes sense to appeal to minority rights.
What we have here is the old assumption of modernization theory that ethnicity and appeals for the preservation of a language and a culture are not really about the intrinsic value of culture or language but about the use of culture for the sake of mobilizing for power and privilege. This view echoes Mandela's suspicion of minority rights as a form of racial privilege. This point is debated in more detail under the section which deal issues of ethnicity and ethnic leadership.
VII. APPENDIX I: "MOVE OVER MARX…."*
A Critical Review of Giliomee's Book The Afrikaners: Biography of a People
Hermann Giliomee's new book appear to be the proverbial tome: it is 698 pages long and to read It while in a semi-recumbent posture - as Oscar Wilde's Lady Bracknell would have said – you require strong wrists. But, If, for these reasons, you are thinking of merely placing it on your coffee table (it is a very attractive book, the cover based on the painting Karoo Landscape by Stanley Pinker), you would be making a mistake. Once you get into it - which does not take long at all - it is a compelling and fascinating read, both for its many strength, including its breadth of information and implicit passion, and notwithstanding its weaknesses.
Giliomee is a scholar - he Is professor of history at the University of Stellenbosch and formerly a politics professor at the University of Cape Town - but he has not focused on primary source. Mainly he has surveyed an enormous volume of secondary material and skilfully stitched together 350 years of Afrikaner history - a biography, as he calls it, of a people. Or, as I would call it, an extended précis of Afrikaner history aimed as much at general readers as scholars.
The book's first eight chapters deal with Afrikaner history front 1652 to the end of the 19th century. They are a prologue to the second eight that cover the 20th century, with the culmination in the 17th chapter, the 'new South Africa". But the book is of course, by no means just a summary. It is also an interpretation. Giliomee's view is that the approaches to Afrikaner nationalism taken by different historians - from the 'liberal" approach (a focus on Afrikaner racial prejudice, Calvinism and xenophobia) and the Marxist one, to Afrikaner nationalist one (the struggles against perfidious British imperialism and establishment of white supremacy) – have neglected several important areas.
One of these is religion as a force in the making or apartheid ideology. Another is the role of Afrikaner women who played a major part in the history of their people, at least until the 1920s. A third is the important role played by the interrelationship between language and nationalism. Giliomee goes into some detail on how Afrikaans was developed into a public language. It thus became one of only four languages - Hebrew, Hindi and Indonesian being the others that during the 20th century became standardised and used in all branches of life and learning, including as a sole medium of instruction at some universities and in science and technology.
Afrikaans language and literature are a particular interest of Giliomee's. He is much enamoured of the work of Nil van Wyk Louw, the creator of much magnificent poetry and author of the 1958 collection of essays, Liberal Nationalism. In a certain sense. Van Wyk Louw may be said to be the spiritual voice of this book, and the development of Afrikaans literature is an important sub-theme. But in my view Giliomee overestimates the influence of Afrikaans writers.
Regarding apartheid, Giliomee shows (it is not a new thesis, but nonetheless an important one) that making South Africa into a "white man's country" began in the late 19th century and that systems or racial segregation were In place by the 1920s. I am not certain that these systems were as elaborate or entrenched in the 1920s as Giliomee would argue, but never mind. In short, the coming to power of the National Party in 1948 was not, Giliomee argues, about the 'attractiveness" of apartheid - but more about the split among whites on the issue of the country's entry into World War 2.
Giliomee also argues trenchantly that the main ideological influences on apartheid were not, as s so often assumed. Nazi racial dogmas but rather the established practice of segregated schools, the theology of the Dutch Reformed Church, racial discrimination in the United State, imperialist ideas about indirect rule, avid emerging theories about social conflict in plural societies. Why Giliomee makes it an either/ or situation, I am not certain. For, while he may be correct that Nazi ideology was not the primary influence on apartheid dogma, it did (by his own admission, as well that or many other people) play as significant a role as the other influences.
So far, so good. We then move into the belly of the beast, the apartheid state of the '60s and '70s, and one comes to realise that Giliomee set himself an unenviable task - In this book as a whole but especially in the latter half. He has tried to find a path between, on the one hand, rationalising the sins of the re and, on the other, simply denouncing the volk. Rationalisation (the step-brother of apology) is difficult for the simple reason that apartheid at its worst was even more heinous than most words can say.
At the end of the day there are few, if any, excuses. And plain denunciation is ultimately pointless. As James Baldwin once remarked, "One has not anything about Castro when you simply proclaim, 'He is a Communist'. This is a way of not learning something about Castro, something about Cuba, something, in fact, about the world."
How has Giliomee handled this situation? His overall policy seems to have been to let the facts do the talking and to keep comment at a minimum. This works fine when there am enough available facts to, as it were, carry the day. I am thinking here of the material on Sir Alfred Milner (1854-1925), high commissioner in South Africa and architect of the South African War (1899.1902), and Hendrik Verwoerd (1901-66), third Nationalist prime minister and architect of apartheid. With a minimum of editorial intervention, the facts demonstrate that these two are the arch villains, albeit in different ways, of the South African story. But then we come to BJ Vorster (1915-1983), the prime minister following Verwoerd, a founder of the pre-Nazi Ossewa Brandwag – and on the whole he is presented as a chap who simply missed his chances. It is merely Vorster's "style of management" that Giliomee finds responsible for the eruption of Soweto in 1976. Vorster was a sort of benign chief executive who allowed too much decentralisation of power, thus making it possible for Andries Treurnicht, the deputy minister of Bantu Administration and Development, to botch things up.
In short, Giliomee does surprisingly scant digging into the dark side of Vorster and his regime. Similarly Giliomee's pursuit of the thesis that, in terms of "impersonal development data" (this means economic growth), Nationalist Party rule was "comparatively impressive" seems to me to have dropped us deep into a species of dangerous rationalisation. Besides it being a fool's errand to try and demonstrate that South Africa would have been economically worse off under non-NP rule (because we cannot ever know), and besides the fact that "economic growth" in the NP era was largely a by-product of the workers being deprived of their rights, it seems dangerously Verwoerdian, if I might use that word, to say, "Well, gee, apartheid was terrible, but, boy, those folks knew how to run an economy....".
Anyway, one ought to read this book. It's well researched, well written, highly informative and always provocative.
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2.. Hermann Giliomee, The Afrikaners: Biography of a People (Tafelberg Publishers Ltd/University of Virginia Press 2003)
3.. Jay Y. Gonen, A Psychohistory of Zionism (Mason/Charter New York 1975)
4.. Robert Gordis, The Dynamics of Judaism: A Study in Jewish Law, (Indiana University Press Bloomington and Indianapolis 1990)
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14.. New York Times Magazine 12 December 1976),
15.. Giliomee, Hermann: The Cultural Survival of Afrikaners/Afrikaans-speakers in a Democratic South Africa - Paper prepared for a seminar on the South African Jewry organized by the Jewish Board of Deputies held on 15-16 September, 1998 in Johannesburg
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24.. Eileen Jensen Krige, The Social System of the Zulus (Longmans Green & Co. Ltd. 1936)
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27.. Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk to Freedom (Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited 1994)
28.. Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa 1876-1912 (Jonathan Ball Publishers 1991)
29.. W. H. Dawson, South Africa: People, Places and Problems (Longmans, Green and Co. 1925)
30.. Eric A. Walker, A History of Southern Africa (Longman, Green and Co. Ltd. 1928)
31.. Margaret Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid: A Trek to Isolation (Juta Co. Limited 1969)
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36.. Janheinz Jahn, Muntu: An Outline of Neo-African Culture (Faber and Faber, London 1961)
37.. Alan Paton, Hofmeyr (Oxford University Press 1064)
38.. J. C Smuts, Holism and Evolution (N & S Press1987)
39.. J. C Smuts, Greater South Africa: Plans for a Better World - The Speeches of General the Right Honourable J. C. Smuts, P.C., C. H., K. C., D. T. D. (Truth Legion 1940)
40.. H. C. Armstrong, Grey Steel: J. C. Smuts – A Study in Arrogance (Arthur baker, Ltd 1937)
41.. Sarah Gertrude Millin, General Smuts, 2 vols. (Faber and Faber Limited 1936)
42.. Tom Macdonald, Jan Hofmeyr: Heir to Smuts (Hurst & Blackett Ltd 1948)
43.. P. B. Blankenberg, The Thoughts of General Smuts (Juta & Co. 1951)