This is the first article in a series of four in which Carel Boshoff shares thoughts about the future of Afrikaners, where they find themselves.
Most Afrikaners currently live in the foreign – the near foreign or the far foreign; the known stranger or the unknown stranger. But it remains the strangest, because we are, exceptionally, not at home.
We will go into the exception, but if one agrees with a broad cross-section of Afrikaner leaders that we have become a stateless people(i), this is because we cannot currently exert sufficient influence on any state to give priority to our preferences. Let alone exercise control over a state so that it reflects our identity.
This does not mean, thank God, that we will be persecuted or exterminated on a national scale – at least “not yet” if we have to listen to certain populists. But it does mean that, except on an individual level and within a limited context, we cannot make and carry out our own decisions.
What we want to do or see happen, we must accomplish with caution, cleverness and diplomacy and, even if it is for the benefit of all, we must not expect thanks or recognition for it. In the eyes of the state, we are reduced to individuals, or at most associations of individuals(ii) and it is not far-fetched to say that Afrikaners find themselves in exile, those abroad as well as those in their native land.
And it did not necessarily come about unjustly, because for almost a hundred years we exercised control over our numbers and did not see a chance to make the economic sacrifices that political freedom required.
(By the way, this is not the whole story, and it is not possible to go into the whole story further here, but it is important to emphasize that there is a continuous line in our history that values the self-government of others as much as attached our own self-government.)(iii)
The exception referred to above is of course Orania, which had its origin in a previous era, and in the sign of the nation-state thinking of that time.(iv) I describe it this way, not because the nation-state thought simply passed away with the era, but because it changed in nature as the question to which it must serve as an answer changed.
This applies to ideas as well as vocabulary, and connects with a comment that the nation-state thinker par excellence, Dr. Chris Jooste, made on occasion when he finally and modestly retired and even in our smaller circle no longer left him out on current affairs.
“The nation state is over,” he said(f), but he did not (as I understood it) mean that the Afrikaner’s quest for political freedom should be abandoned; but that the blueprint with which we faced the transition to majority rule in South Africa at the time was no longer appropriate.
Before 1994, and even for a period after, we still cherished the hope that the image of a united, undivided and centralist South Africa could be adapted to provide for an Afrikaner area with significant self-governing powers. After the 1999 elections, during which the overwhelming majority of Afrikaners voted expressly for their interests within South Africa rather than within a nation-state, it was a vain expectation and those of us who were committed to it ended up in a dead end. Enough has already been written about the death of that grain of wheat that it does not need to be repeated here.(vi)
What should serve as a prelude to what happened in the meantime is that in Orania we started building from the bottom up on what could not be established from the top. The realization that political independence will rest on the recognition of economic and cultural independence that already exists in reality fueled us to establish such an independent community – in all the diverse ways that are unique to community life.(vii)
On the one hand Orania was an almost negligible small phenomenon, on the other hand it turned out to be a brave and increasingly successful attempt to recover and revive something of the ideal of freedom that characterized Afrikaners over centuries. That it also has a political side goes without saying, but how it will play out has yet to be determined. It is especially the relationship between the pioneers (or early movers) who build a new home in Orania, and the large numbers of Afrikaners who do not yet want or can be involved, that will determine when and how our political freedom becomes a reality again become
Of great importance to Afrikaners on both sides of the cast, the Orangemen and the exiles, is that the ideology of South Africanism has passed(viii). After at least three generations of commitment to first the Union and later the Republic of South Africa, it was a painful process to realize that our problem is not to make South Africa work, but to create a new, call it external , to conceive and implement a relationship with this colonial state construct.
The black elite of the twenty-first century, just like the white elite of the twentieth century, embraced the state with all its resources and institutions and made it its own – white and black, black and white in effect always to the exclusion of each other.(ix) Even the slowest, most idealistic South Africanists among us finally had to admit that Afrikaners will have to be content to play second fiddle from now on or leave the country.(x)
Put wittily, those Afrikaners who did not leave the country of their birth behind found that the country had left them behind. The magic has been broken and we stand naked in the cold of our statelessness. We can’t make South Africa work anymore, because even if we wanted to, South Africa doesn’t want it.(xii) To tell the truth, one wonders these days if this construct still exists in reality. Is it not just the memory of a dream of wealth that still only lives in the imagination of a gang of looters? But like an old-fashioned print in too bright light, which fades further daily and is hardly visible anymore.
Among Afrikaners, no one is looking for an alternative anymore, the only question is what it will be – and whether there is an answer that can save us not only as individuals and families, but also as a nation.
This is the question that came squarely in front of me from three quarters in the forms of:
- Strategic reflection between allies building Orania from within and without;
- An opportunity to talk with Namibian Afrikaners about independent Afrikanership; and
- A conversation with a friend who is moving to Orania, about what you should say to your friends who cannot or do not want to move together.
What follows are the thoughts that emerged from each of the three points of view and that were born out of conversation. This means that not so much the author, but the interlocutors are in fact its authors, while the coherence that the three answers show is of decisive importance. Next, each is presented, looking back at the circumstances under which it took shape.
This article was published courtesy of the Freedom Foundation.