About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

02 Aug 1990: Du Toit, Andre

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POM     I'm talking with André du Toit on 2nd August in Cape Town. André, what are, could you start perhaps by putting what's happening in the context of the myths, the set of myths that support the Afrikaner, whether it's the trek, the story about Blood River, Slagtersnek?

AD     That's a tall order. I wonder how, I mean I suppose it is a question of who we are talking of if we say the Afrikaner because certainly those myths are quite important to the right wing, I think. Well I was present on the occasion ten years ago, well it was a bit more than ten years ago now, when Professor Flors van Jaarsveld was tarred and feathered. You know of the incident? Here is perhaps the senior Afrikaans historian, Afrikaner nationalist historian, and he has had a fairly changeable career. I mean at some points early on he was one of the earliest Afrikaner historians who took the critical look at aspects of Afrikaner history.

     I mean why I am bringing him in here? Also he wrote a book on the Afrikaner's ideas of his history, which is one of his sort of standard statements of the myth, this was in the late 1950s or early 1960s and then at later periods he was himself much more closely associated with Afrikaner nationalists ideals. But then he wrote a piece in the late 1970s in which he questioned some, well actually quite minor aspects of the Blood River myth and the Day of Atonement. I think his main point was sort of a typical point in that the vow did not actually commit people to observing the day as a day for Sabbath.

     He gave this as a paper at a conference in Pretoria, University of South Africa, and there was advance publicity in the Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport and it was, I think, probably one of the earliest occasions when Eugene Terre'Blanche and his people made a public intervention and we were sitting there in this very plush synod of the University of South Africa and he started his speech, and then upwards of five or ten minutes some people started coming in at the side entrance. At first one didn't, it was quite late until I caught on what was happening, but in fact what they did was they tarred and feathered him in public for this sacrilege of criticising an aspect of what they took to be an absolute. So I mean certainly for people like Terre'Blanche and his right wingers it's very important to them. But you know if I think of, say, the students I knew at Stellenbosch over the years or my academic colleagues there, then it wouldn't be important to them. I would be quite surprised to find any of the students over the years at Stellenbosch who would take this sort of approach. So maybe it's become important to a particular segment and one would have to look at who these right wingers actually are.

POM     Well looking at your students and, say, colleagues over the years, what sort of a founding myth would they look to?

AD     Yes, well, did he tell you that personal story of something that was an incident that I was involved in quite recently, this was just after the February 2nd speech of De Klerk which of course put the Afrikaans newspapers and media in somewhat of a difficult position, not only because there had been such a radical change of course by the leadership but also because that change of course had been taken without any sort of broader consultation. I mean, it was one of the most surprising aspects of De Klerk's speech that even in the Cabinet not the full Cabinet was informed of all the steps that he was going to take. So from one day to the other virtually people found themselves in a position they had to make sense of and defend and justify a new policy which went in many respects against much of the positions that they had previously taken. And I think, again, it is one of the more significant aspects of what is the way in which the whole of the National Party has kept together and the Afrikaners press has kept together, the government supporting press, in these circumstances.

     But anyway it was quite interesting to see what sort of line they would take in these circumstances and the senior political column in Die Burger, which is syndicated in the other Afrikaans newspapers, is written by current editor of Die Burger, a man called Ebbe Dommisse, and so about a couple weeks after February 2nd I was very interested to see that he had written a quite bold column in which he used a number of historical precedents and incidents, in particular there which was a speech made by General De La Rey who was a famous Boer War General of the 'bittereinders', he and De Wet are really the two most famous Generals. But De La Rey had before the Boer War been actually part of the opposition in the Transvaal Republic, and there is a famous speech which he made when the Transvaal Volksraad met in more or less their last session to debate the war which was then on the cards. And there was quite a militant party of President Kruger and sort of warlike propaganda that we'll take on and thrash the English and drive them into the sea and so on. And then De La Rey stood up and he made a very passionate speech in which he said that this was all wrong and they didn't know what they were talking about. And there was sort of a - this speech worked up to a climax in which he would say, "Let me tell you, let me predict to you, that when you", and he was talking directly to President Kruger at the time, he said, "When you will long have left the country and be in safety in exile I will still be in the field, defending, I and people like me who oppose the war will still be here because we haven't got any choice but we know where our duty lies."

     And then there was a second incident at the end of the war when they had to sign the treaty of - just before the Treaty of Vereeniging, there was again a very remarkable meeting in which - I mean the war had been going on for three years and the British then allowed a meeting of all the commandants, and the military leaders and the civil leaders who had been spread out, they had been fighting a guerrilla war at that stage, to meet and to debate whether they were actually going to accept the peace conditions. That is a document which I can very much recommend to you because there is a verbatim transcription of that whole debate in which people for three days discussed whether they - there are very interesting arguments on whether and why they would continue the war.

PK     What is the document?

AD     It's called the Negotiations, its published by Kestell and Van der Velden and it's called The Peace Negotiations between the Governments of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State at Vereeniging; I can give you the precise title. One of the major arguments, for instance, was between the people who believed, who argued on religious grounds and said that the war had been an act of faith and that it then also became a test of faith; that even if you would give up at this stage, even if all the conditions were against you, then that would mean that that would be the trial of the faith. That actually in the end was the decisive argument, people like De La Rey, who at that stage was the most effective Boer War General, came out very strongly and said, "Well, it is one thing to put your own life on the line, I and my men have done that many times and we will be prepared to do that again, but it is another thing to pursue a war which will lead to the extermination of the community and putting the lives of the women and the children on the line", and so on. So his time there was very influential. In the end everyone but four people of this meeting decided to sign and of the four people who did not, interestingly enough, one of them was the father of one of the bittereinders. I mean all the people there were the so-called bittereinders but amongst those who were present who had first refused to resign was a man called Reitz who had been President of the Free State some years before and who was in a senior position in the Transvaal Republic and who was a bit of a career politician. And he made a bit of a stand saying he is not going to put his hand to that document and then De La Rey challenged him, and he said, again one has got the verbatim quotes in which he challenged Reitz, and said, "Well you know when the war was on the cards, you were one of the warmongers and I opposed the war at that stage. But when we started fighting the war you were not on the commando with us." And in fact Reitz, I think at one stage, had been with Kruger in exile, "And now you refuse to sign, so I'm not letting you get away with it this time. For once in your life you are going to be a man and you are going to sign there on the dotted line and you are going to accept the consequences."

     So there were a series of incidents like this which after February 2nd Dommisse then used as historical examples bringing that into an argument of why it was necessary to do different things now. Which to me was particularly interesting because ten years ago I wrote a little book called, in Afrikaans, The Sins of the Fathers, in which I dealt with the model and other responsibilities of Afrikaner intellectuals and so on, and had used precisely these three incidents in that order and to some extent they were, I have to ferret around in historical evidence to get hold of them, but at the time I then became the target of a furious political onslaught led by this guy who is the editor of Die Burger, or he allowed it really, some of my colleagues at Stellenbosch who took me to task and wrote, we had a long public controversy in correspondence columns of Die Burger and I was very upset at the time about the way in which Die Burger had abused their position, and Dommisse had abused his position of editor of Die Burger in allowing them all sorts of leeway. So now ten years on, here was the same guy using the same set of incidents which he could have got from nowhere else than from the book which I had written at that time. So I think what I am saying is that there are still things, the one is that I don't think that if, except in the quarters of the far right of Eugene Terre'Blanche and his people that the sort of classical myths of Blood River and Slagtersnek and these sort of things are being used in political discussions and thinking at this stage.

     But there certainly is a need for in trying to make sense and finding your own position, or finding some precedents and material and that may be different ones. I mean in that issue of The Afrikaner, which I gave you today, there is an article in English by Ken Owen in which he comes up with quite an interesting, also historical, precedent that he is trying to make sense of what had happened to De Klerk and the National Party now and he then says what he calls the Boer liberals now. And interestingly enough he then also uses historical precedents and says what one should think of here is really the commando, the kind of institution which in the 18th and 19th century was developed in frontier conflict.

     But this is now a total reversal, I mean, for the last decades Afrikaner identity has been defined by many Afrikaner nationalists and by their critics in terms of rigid ideological principles and Calvinism and that sort of thing. Now Ken Owen says, "Well, if you have got to understand these people you must see where they come from. They come from the frontier, they've got no principles, what they have got is a social institution which can change course in any direction. I mean the commando is a highly mobile thing which works on the basis of tactical alliances which can change from day to day. So again he is trying to use historical precedents, and one which I would myself say is in genuine historical terms, is probably closer to the actual 19th century roots of Afrikaner political traditions and institutions than this notion of the Verwoerdian ridged ideologue. I think that was recent.

POM     How has what has happened challenged the Afrikaner's sense of identity? How the Afrikaner perceived himself or herself and are there, will it require ...?

AD     Well again I think one of the things which is happening is that there is no longer even - I think there was never anything such as "the" Afrikaner but there was a time where many people believed in "the" Afrikaner and in some sort of an identity which was in social and political terms publicly accepted. I think that now is no longer even believed in and one of the things that - well the reasons for that are various sorts of things. In part it is changed circumstances and the old one can, just the implications of changing demographics, both the world historical scene and demographic ratios, I mean the whites in South Africa used to be 20% of the population, we are now down to about 13%. On projections by the first decade of the twenty-first century we will be less than 10% and that then is not just the declining proportion of the overall population. I think the decisive thing is that until about 1970 the proportion of whites were sufficient to provide all the skilled manpower. So all the managerial positions, all the skilled positions, all the intellectual positions, there were enough whites around to fill those slots and to sustain economic growth. And somewhere in the early seventies there was a watershed there and it became clear, and this has now been generally accepted both in the business world and by political planners and so on, that if you want to keep growing economically then all the projections show that the majority of skilled and managerial and technical positions very soon will be filled by blacks.

     So in the beginning of this century people thought of the white man's country and that could be sustained; even if it was just 20% of the population it could be. But we are living in a society where at every level it's clear that that is not on. And that is coupled then with the changes in the external environment. The economisation in Africa and the whole thing that has happened now in Namibia and so on. Now I think we are seeing the same process repeating itself in different levels and context. I saw it first with the students at Stellenbosch. Round about the end of the seventies a very different generation came through who just had no problems with a number of things which had been unthinkable previously. I'm not talking now about the totality of students, I'm talking about the critical intellectual leaders and so on and they were just taking stands on issue after issue which had been enormously problematic and difficult for previous generations but were no longer (problematic) for them.

     When I tried to reflect on that and make sense of what was happening here I came up with a number of things. The one was that these were now, in many cases, second and third generation academic people. I mean, their fathers and certainly their grandparents up until the fifties, people who came to Stellenbosch were first generation academics, they were moving up and coming from rural and different social backgrounds so they were insecure, they had identity needs and so on. These were now the sons of the professors and of the judges and of the business leaders and some of the daughters and so they came from a very much more secure and affluent background and lifestyle.

     Secondly these were the people who had been, when it came to the political consciousness during Soweto 1976 and afterwards, I mean those were the days where they were in high school and first started to take notice of what was happening. And those were the days when blacks were demonstrating in the streets and challenging and these were the people to whom at that time - this was when liberation came to Zimbabwe and so on. So what had happened there was that these people now were assuming that they are going to spend the larger part of their lives and careers under some kind of a black majority government. That it was inevitable that that was going happen. And they didn't know what form it would take or how it would come about, but nevertheless they took it for granted. That's what happened in Zimbabwe and I think what happened in Zimbabwe was very important because Mugabe came to power and that was not the end of the road.

     If you look inside apartheid and under apartheid you think of black majority government or the end of apartheid as somehow the end, there is nothing beyond that, you know. Now you are dealing with a younger generation who are seeing their lives as taking place somewhere on the other side of apartheid and under a majority government and they then begin to make career choices and think about it in those terms. And so the whole student political culture at a place like Stellenbosch changed quite radically from the late seventies and the early eighties. The older people of course lag behind. I think they have a much more difficult time in going through with it.

     But I think what has happened now, and what has happened now with De Klerk, is something similar. And my explanation, you see, De Klerk took all of us by surprise. No-one, I've not met a single person who predicted before what he did in February or who even afterwards claimed that he had anticipated it and was not surprised. And then there is a question now, I mean, how did this happen? Because we have become so accustomed to the leadership of the National Party and the government in this role of ad hoc crisis management and them trying to hold back the floods as long as they can and when they can no longer then they give in and they call it reform. This had been the pattern of leadership for, well as far as one could remember. Now suddenly you had this boat now, how was this possible? I mean what had happened there and you get stories of people who tell, and maybe there is something to it, that he'd had some kind of conversion experience and there are certain religious aspects to his personal story.

     Nevertheless I think what had happened, was a similar sort of thing, a kind of a paradigm shift, like those young Afrikaner kids who suddenly start thinking in terms of a post-apartheid scenario and that's the same sort of thing that had been quite prominent in discussion in opposition and amongst the resistance circles. In the course of the eighties there had been a lot of talk about post-apartheid South Africa and that we should not only concentrate on how we struggle against apartheid and how are we going but we should begin to get to grips with what the nature of the economy and social life and politics after the end of apartheid will be. And I think that is the shift which De Klerk has made. That he is a younger generation, Botha and Vorster were both older, he's early fifties, so he is thinking in a longer time span. And he somehow made that shift to think outside of the apartheid paradigm and in a longer time perspective.

     And then you come back to the other part of the equation and discover that actually, no, this is not the end of the story. Actually if one looks at the position of the National Party and at the government in that perspective they've got some pretty strong cards to play and they've got a strong political base in the state itself and all the resources of the state. They have got a strong constituency in the National Party and so on and if they play their cards right then they can call the shots for a considerable time to come. And he has been doing that quite successfully. So I think that sort of shift.

     But now coming back to your earlier, your first, question, I think these shifts have more to do with coming to some terms of what the actually transitional situation is in which you find yourself rather than with the historical ideas of what you find yourself, what you thought your identities were. Maybe now there is a new need to find, to connect up again, and one will perhaps find the kinds of stories of De La Rey himself.

POM     This is what I'm getting at, how do the myths need to be reconstructed to give a sense of identity? I mean one of the things that has struck me and Patricia, we've talked to a very wide range of members of the Conservative Party and if asked the question of how do they see themselves, first as an Afrikaner or as a South African, it's invariably as an Afrikaner and it's the past and it's the bible and it's the Calvinism and it's the purity all the things. But they are not just a narrow circle of people, they are educated people, they are people of refinement and I'm wondering in some larger sense has the Afrikaner's set of beliefs about themselves been fractured in some way and that it needs to be reconstructed and is any reconstruction going on?

AD     Well I think you're finding a number of different things happening. I think in that group you certainly have a very strong sustained identification with that history and that identity and obviously a need for it. You're also finding many Afrikaners who now have a different kind of social and cultural confidence and who no longer feel the need to identify themselves with that particular, but still see themselves as Afrikaners. I spoke this morning, I'm just thinking now, for instance, of an incident, I spoke this morning about this workshop we had in IDASA - they attract to their staff some of the most able and articulate young, politically conscious young people from different sectors. There are some English guys with liberal backgrounds and there are blacks, very interesting blacks, and but also Afrikaans people and it is very interesting to see how those traditional backgrounds translate into different stands. For instance, in this policy discussion of IDASA - now IDASA had a great problem in defining for itself a role which would not put it into competition with the black extra parliamentary organisations so from the beginning IDASA defined itself that it's primary task was that it could facilitate interaction and communication between all groups in South Africa but primarily it was concerned in educating the whites. Now that was the way it set itself up. One of the interesting things that happens now after February 2nd is that at a discussion like this, one after the other blacks stand up and say, and I mean these are older people and younger people, they say, the time for that is past. IDASA must now address itself to certain areas and issues and no longer worry about just directing itself primarily to the white constituency. At that point there are the different reactions from the white liberal English speaking, NUSAS background. ISASA people had tremendous difficulty with that and they say, no, no, no, that would be a terrible mistake, that would be absolutely wrong, we can't possibly do that, that would be wrong and the Afrikaans people, those with an Afrikaans background and the blacks themselves have no problems with it. They say, well obviously this is what we must do.

     So those kind of Afrikaans people, and one finds them all over the place, still see themselves as Afrikaners, they want to be recognised in terms of their behaviour, that they are rooted in different kinds of culture and political tradition but they have no need or problem for somehow linking that up with this notion of the Afrikaner and that particular sentiment. Maybe, like myself, but I'm particularly interested in historical things so I'm going to find things like De La Rey stories and Stockenstrom (Sir Andries) stories and that. But I think there is a group, significant politically and socially, of progressive and dissident Afrikaners who no longer have got that need to define themselves in those terms but still to give that particular content to it but still are, no bones about it, acting as Afrikaners.

POM     Is there a particular phenomenon of Afrikaner nationalism? Is it a nationalism in its own right?

AD     Well it is a difficult question because in some senses the answer to it is obviously yes, there is no question about it and the nationalist component, I mean the whole history of the National Party and the historical myths and the institutions and the cultural organisations and so on, obviously yes. On the other hand while there are some difficult question marks, let me give you one example; I once had a Canadian visitor here who came from Quebec and he was particularly interested in what he expected to be analogies between the Quebecois, the French cultural and nationalist concerns, and Afrikaner nationalist concerns, and he was totally frustrated because on every single issue which he thought would be a major issue somehow things worked very differently. I mean the Quebecois, they define themselves in terms of language and cultural symbols and so on and then they take very practical steps to ensure that the language community is as large as it possibly can be and that everyone who somehow is French or potentially French that he is locked into institutions and so on.

     Here we have a substantial minority group, the so called coloureds who are Afrikaans speaking and who have historically been excluded in every possible way that people could think of. OK, then you could say well that's just racism, that is the way in which the nationalist things don't go together. But likewise if you take the example for instance of immigrants, there has been quite substantial immigration from European countries in this century, Dutch, and German and so on. The Quebecois would have made very sure that not a single one of them became part of the anglicised community. Here I think it would be interesting to do a survey and find out and my guess would be that the Dutch and German and other European immigrants, my guess would be 85% to 90% of them have become part of the English speaking community. And there were no attempts made, serious attempts, to strengthen that cultural and that language community by drawing in the coloureds.

     Now at that point you have to begin to ask, if you talk to your right wing people they will tell you how important the language is and how important the culture and that sort of thing is. But if that is not translated in practical ways, which it could have been, then one must ask, now just what is going on here? What are the assumptions? I'm not suggesting that they are not sincere or they hypocritical or so on, but certainly in terms of the question of whether it is an unrecognisable nationalist movement in the way in which we understand it in comparable cases elsewhere in the world, there are anomalies and I think yes, well, at the end of the day I would say Afrikaners have always been, in this society, historically a minority group except for a fairly brief and exceptional period since the middle of this century, from 1948 onwards. And you see many of the problems in your question, what about "the" Afrikaner, what about "the" Afrikaner historical identity, is that the notions about who the Afrikaner is, his historical identity was very much shaped and determined at that point, in the fifties, the sixties, the high point, and then people take that as the norm and then anything that deviates from that - I mean I currently had this phenomenon with Afrikaner students, Stellenbosch students, that they would then think that they are the first generation ever to be different from this norm. Whereas if you take a large historical perspective ...

POM     Something very similar took place in Ireland after the founding of the state, since the constitutional tradition, which had always been the minority, had never really had support. Since it won all of history was viewed through the uprising of 1916 and made to fit this particular myth.

AD     And now in that sense there are four periods that could then be - I mean they did get into power and they did use the resources of the state and education and everything else to really imprint that but then they have again been overtaken by events so in the longer historical perspective one can ask whether someone like De Klerk now, whether that is such an unprecedented kind of politics that for the first time ever he is making rules that no Afrikaner previously dreamt of doing or, you say well actually, I mean, there Ken Owen has got his point, if you look at what De Klerk is doing now and if you look at the Afrikaners as a minority group finding themselves in very complex and changing configurations and having tactical alliances ...

POM     Does it surprise you that De Klerk doesn't attempt to put his message in this kind of historical context where he can show that the actions are in the traditions of the people, in the tradition of their history?

AD     I think there's a problem there, I think there is a problem there. I mean, he has been making very few mistakes. I must say over the years I've been fairly critical of De Klerk as a politician as I've know him until this year, but since he has gone into power he has made very few mistakes. But one of the mistakes I think he is making is that he is not, I wouldn't necessarily just emphasise the historical part of it, but I think there is a process of education necessary and that one must think that what he should be doing is use the television, have almost sort of FDR fireside chats and just have a very low key chat with viewers and bring people into some sort of understanding of what is going on and why it is happening and so. And then I think the historical thing would be part of that. I think probably that he himself would find it quite difficult to provide that historical thing.

     Well on the one hand, De Klerk again, when I speak about his confidence, I mean he is a supremely confident politician and that must have something to do with the fact that unlike Botha, I mean Botha was again the first generation politician, Botha was somebody who started off as a party hack. He was a very junior organiser. He spent his early career going around and bashing up people at meetings. He has got no academic background. He hasn't got any sort of social standing and he had to work his way up through the ranks until he got into power. So in Botha there was always a very continuing degree of social and political insecurity. De Klerk comes from a very old and well established political family. His father was Cabinet minister, his father was Senator de Klerk, leader of the party in the Transvaal. His brother is a senior Afrikaans newspaper editor and so on. I think he is very secure of his own Afrikaner and party values and has got no need to justify that. But on the other hand in terms of ideals, certainly of historical ideals, I think he grew up in this period of what Afrikaner history was about, so he probably simply doesn't know any wider history which he himself could use. But he probably then should find people, when you have these fireside chats he should probably be briefed by people who could tell him about De La Rey or Stockenstrom, but he has not been doing that and I think there is a gap.

     You see what is happening, if I say that he has been doing really well in terms of keeping his party with him, I mean it is amazing that since February 2nd there has not been a single defection from the party. I think there was one speech by one member of parliament which indicated some reservations. And there have been very few, as far as I know, resignations at the organisational level. Part of the reason for that, and this is where the problem again lies, is that he has told the members of his caucus that they need not worry about going to fight another white only election, that the next election will be under very changed circumstances. So they are not worried about the backlash and what is happening in their constituency. So he is keeping his party, he is keeping his press and so on. But there is a very real problem in his constituency. I think the overwhelming majority of not just Afrikaners but whites generally are totally nonplussed and overwhelmed by the turn of events. If you had been brought up to believe that people like Joe Slovo are the devil and not only are they the devil but like the devil they were totally unknown entities, I mean it was very interesting when Joe Slovo now came out into public, many blacks were surprised that Slovo was not a black man. I mean they all along assumed that Slovo must be black, and similarly whites. Now if you have been forever been trained on that and suddenly now here is the SACP, it is very difficult for people to make that adjustment and they are not really addressing that.

POM     The government did their own propaganda in the schools. When your children went to school what did they learn about or what books were used, what history books? What I want to get at is one of the things that fascinates me, again going to conservatives, of their saying we were here first, we took nothing, we moved up the country, we took virgin land and the black man moved down and he got his bit and we got our bit but this is our land, we don't need to give it back to anyone. Today what is taught in schools?

AD     Well my own experience, and certainly I think my children as well, is that maybe there are schools and groups in which that sort of history is taught and is effective so you get the new generation of right wing people who believe it. But mostly what happens is that people are just totally switched off. That history is so blatantly serving the cause and propaganda that you are not interested in it. And I had to discover, I took history at school and a year or so at university and it was a major breakthrough and discovery for me later when I started doing some research of my own and actually for the first time discovered all the interesting things and what was going on there. So this is just a deadweight.

     Let me give you a little example; one of the ways in which it worked, you'd get a thing like, say, the Slagtersnek story which at the beginning of the century was used in extremely partisan ways to mobilise Afrikaner nationalists and as such was an effective story, was a good story to tell. Now what happens is that that then comes into the textbooks, but these textbooks had to be rewritten from time to time and people begin to worry that you can't be so blatantly partisan in telling this, so what tends to happen is that the Slagtersnek episode stayed in the history books but it is sanitised. And it loses all of its power and its force and it really doesn't make sense any more. So the poor child who then has to read that, you know there are episodes there in which I can tell, there is one that would say in this Slagtersnek, for instance, in the original partisan version it was very important that the troops, the government troops who came to capture Bezuidenhout that these were the Cape Corps which is Coloured troops. And then in the nationalist version it was clear why he wouldn't let himself be captured because no white man is going to let himself be captured by Coloureds. Now so that the version which makes sense, which was told, it's wrong of course, I mean Bezuidenhout himself was actually part of the Afrikaner community historically, he had a Xhosa wife, I mean he was on the other side of the border and he was a frontier ruffian and so on. So it is just wrong, historically wrong. Now the historians can't in good conscience repeat that part of it so they sanitised it and then you get an episode which to the child who comes at this cold just doesn't make sense. I mean why wouldn't he let himself be captured here? So I mean, that's the way, and I mean their history as such calls for, certainly for our children.

POM     Did your children go to school learning that the Afrikaner was here, with virgin land?

AD     Well one would have to ask them, I wouldn't, on a detail ...

POM     But are there standard curriculum books that are used for examinations?

AD     Yes, we could ask my daughter. She is here, it would be interesting to hear from her on that particular point, what the textbooks say. In her case, early eighties that was still being said. But you know, I think one of the effects of when the Afrikaners came into power they made great use of the schools, Christian national education. Everyone emphasises the significance of this. Now, well, maybe Christian national education in these history textbooks, maybe they did produce large numbers of people, generations who were then, their identities and views were formed in that image. There also could be something else and that is relativist, cultural relativists, people who - I mean children aren't stupid. If they go to school and they pick up that there is an agenda to the history that they are being taught then they draw their own lessons from that. When my son was in middle school they had a fundamentalist religious teacher, there was a period of religious instruction or something of that sort, and this guy literally told them that the earth had been, I didn't know that there were still people who believed this, but he literally told them that the earth had been created six thousand years ago and that all this geology and that was just false. So I asked Andries. Well Andres was a bit outraged by this because they were taking at the same time a school subject, geography and being told about the age of the earth and so on, so I asked Andries, "OK, you know how outrageous it is but what about your school mates, what do the other boys say, who do they believe? Do they believe the religious instruction teacher or do they believe the geography teacher?" And his response to that was that he said, "Well it depends in whose class they are. If they are in the religious instructor's class they know that is what he expects." So when you've got a school curriculum which has got an obvious political and cultural agenda to it, I mean children aren't just the dupes of this. And one of my problems ...

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.