Theuns Eloff: ‘I will always be an Afrikaner’

Henry

Dr. Theuns Eloff is a prominent man in Afrikaner circles and over the years has fulfilled several prominent roles in politics, education and the language community. More recently, he acted as the facilitator of the Afrikaner leadership network, which signed the Afrikaner Declaration last Monday.

Eloff has sat on several hot seats in his lifetime and admits himself that at one time he was a fringe figure, who now finds himself again at the center of the Afrikaner network. Something he is very grateful for.

“I am an African. I grew up in Potchefstroom and never stopped being one. When I was a student and came to the realization of what apartheid is and does, I did not want to call myself an Afrikaner, because it is too close to apartheid. We had many debates about whether we are South Africans or Afrikaners, until I came to the realization that the two stand side by side. It’s not one or the other.”

Eloff is chairman of the Dagbreek Trust and the Trust for Afrikaans Education. He also plays a leading role in relation to the Afrikaans 100 campaign, which aims to celebrate Afrikaans’ 100th year as an official language. At the time, Eloff was vice-rector of the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (now the North-West University), the same institution where he obtained B degrees in law and theology and later a doctorate in theology.

Regarding criticism of his involvement in talks with the ANC to bring about the transition from apartheid to democracy, he says with a slight smile:

“I have already sat on hot seats and was moved a bit to the edge of the Afrikaans community. A community wants cohesion and if someone takes a position that is not generally acceptable to the community, that person is expressed. I stubbornly refused to be pushed out and fortunately my path was such that I can make a contribution that is so important for the Afrikaner.”

He feels very strongly that the Afrikaner has a very important place and role to play in South Africa. “It doesn’t help if we just say we do something ourselves. We can do very well for ourselves, but we live in a country with other people. The slogan ‘we are happy to build’ is important to me. We are in a very bad position in the country and we can either immigrate or cooperate.”

He says that if the Afrikaner community and organizations such as Solidarity and AfriForum do not stand together and pull in one direction, they cannot make an impact, “but if we can work together, we can make a very big impact”.

Regarding his role as convener of the organizations, he explains:

“I am not a member of any of the organizations, but am there in my own right. My involvement in the promotion of Afrikaans and because of my rectorship at the NWU, opened the doors for me to act as a facilitator of the discussions.”

Also on a practical level, says Eloff, it is necessary for the Afrikaner to conclude a formal treaty with the government. When Afrikaner organizations are asked to help, as often happens these days, it costs money to solve the problem. We don’t have that money. We have to make an agreement with the government that they give us the money, otherwise we can’t do anything.

“We are not special, we just want to work together.”

He says that by concluding a formal agreement, the organizations also want to ensure that the government remains involved, “because they often withdraw. Then nothing comes of it and it is only an agreement in name”.

And if the government does not want to cooperate with the Afrikaner?

“We are not dependent on the government’s recognition or cooperation to continue to exist,” answers Eloff. “We will just carry on. We will continue to work with communities where ordinary people want us and still remain Afrikaners. There are no real risks for us in this case. We have the competences, knowledge and expertise and we offer them. If the government slaps it back, we will simply carry on.”

See here what else Eloff has to say about the reaction from English, but also Afrikaans, ranks to the Afrikaner declaration, as well as the practical steps that must now be taken to get the government’s recognition. He also talks about what can be done if the government does not want to cooperate.