I’ve noticed in the social media there is currently, in Afrikaans speaking circles, a lively debate about who the “greatest” Afrikaner/s of all time would be. Everyone seems to frantically promote his or her own personal heroes as the one outstanding specimen of Afrikaner DNA. I suppose us Afrikaners are desperately trying to redefine our identity in this “new” society we found ourselves in, and recreating and honouring new heroes is also our collective redesigning of our image and character. You might ask why I raise this rather culturally insular subject in this forum, which is utilised by all the culture groups in South Africa. Exactly for that reason!
I would love to hear what those outside the Afrikaner circle thinks could be the “greatest“ Afrikaner. Sometime those on the outside have a far more realistic few than those with very personal preferences and prejudices.
Currently the debate is raging around whether or not Riaan Cruywagen should be up there in the Parthenon of Afrikaner gods. Well, obviously the guy is in everyone’s minds, because he is calling it the day soon on a career in broadcasting spanning 47 years. As an outstanding professional broadcaster on radio and television, and a news presenter of no equal, he deserves all the accolades coming his way. The standard he has set as news presenter is the standard with which the rest are measured, and his equal has not yet been found.
Some people might think news presenters are mere talking puppets, regurgitating the opinion and writing of others. You couldn’t be further from the truth. News presenting is one of the most specialised art forms in broadcasting, and all broadcasting companies in the world are constantly, and sometimes distraughtly, looking for people with Riaan’s abilities and talent. Riaan is however so much more than just a “news reader”.
Although Riaan can broadcast with equal comfort in Afrikaans, English and even a little Dutch, he has been over the years a true champion of real pure Afrikaans. Not the sad bastardised, so called “politically correct”, “modern” slang that most media houses nowadays dish up as Afrikaans. As such, Riaan became unwittingly the torch bearer for his mother tongue, a real reluctant and unexpected hero. His contribution to the total idea we have of our Afrikaner identity, will still be researched and recognised by future academics, I’m sure.
On a personal level, I’ve been honoured to meet up with Riaan a few times in my life, and a nicer and friendlier human being you can hardly find. He is always ready to give other credit for his own success, and doesn’t have a moment of arrogance and self-righteousness. No star ego here at all and always more than willing to help with advice and more. Anyone can learn from his humility. So, even if Riaan Cruywagen wasn’t a famous broadcaster, I would still have respected the man. A unique individual and most definitely a very special man.
Is Riaan Cruywagen one of the greatest Afrikaners of all time? Who can tell, there are so many we would like to honour and remember. Cristaan de Wet, Koos de la Rey, N.P. van Wyk Louw, Braam Fisher, Wena Naude, Cristiaan Barnard, Beyers Naude, Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, Ralph Radie (Johannes Kerkorrel), Pierneef, Anton van Wouw, Andre P. Brink, Adam Small, Jonathan Jansen, Taliep Pietersen, Ivor Rensburg, etcetera, and yes Riaan Cruywagen! There are many Afrikaners that made a huge positive difference to the world around them!
Who do you think are the great Afrikaners?