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Why I don't want AfriForum at my children's school

2018-10-19 16:48

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Helena Wasserman

This week, a fellow mom pointed out an item on our children's school schedule: "AfriForum gesprek (conversation): Grade 4 – 7."

We pored over the cryptic entry in the school's diary, which all of us print out and stick on our fridge, but often don't have time to consult. Another mom weighed in: "Probably a spelling mistake." Perhaps someone misspelled "Afrikaans"? Yes, we agreed. Probably an Afrikaans oral or something?

At first, none of us believed that AfriForum – the far-right organisation that denies that apartheid was a crime against humanity – would be allowed in our school. Surely the divisive organisation, which has a clear political agenda and bragged about a close association with US president Donald Trump, contributing to a chill in diplomatic relations, wouldn't be seen as an acceptable presence in a state school? No way would AfriForum have the audacity to address children without their parents' consent, right?

As always, giving AfriForum the benefit of the doubt was a mistake. 

I had a look at its website and there – among hysterical missives about racial sport quotas and its gun training of neighbourhood watch groups – it was: AfriForum is currently doing school visits.

This is ostensibly as part of an anti-bullying campaign. They call themselves the "Boeliepolisie" (the Bully Police) and even have a mascot: a pale guy in a suit of armour.

So, AfriForum is travelling to schools across the country with a white knight promoting anti-bullying. From the list of schools they chose, of course only Afrikaans children are bullied in this country, it seems. 

Still – I welcome anyone who take a serious stance against threatening behaviour. Bullying is indeed a serious issue.

It is also an area of some expertise for AfriForum. When Professor Elmien du Plessis dared to criticise AfriForum on News24 earlier this year, deputy CEO of AfriForum, Ernst Roets, responded with a threat about the hanging of professors. 

I've written articles about AfriForum and Solidarity in the past, which have triggered a flood of nasty attempts at bullying. I've been denigrated and photos of me have surfaced on platforms that feature swastikas and disgusting racism. 

Like many other Afrikaners, I'm also constantly barraged by cellphone messages with apocalyptical warnings about South Africa, attempts to bully me into joining Solidarity or AfriForum. 

But of course, AfriForum will claim that Afrikaners are the victims of harassment. 

"Afrikaners are tired of being bullied and criminalised," Solidarity executive Dirk Hermann wrote in an open letter earlier this year. "I am white and I am sick and tired of being bullied because of my race," he wrote in another last year. 

Curiously, his organisation's school visits also include a session with parents to explain "how children are protected by the Constitution if the correct steps are taken". Clearly these events are not sticking to equipping children with tools to deal with playground bullying.

But even if they were, I don't want them near my kids' school. 

I don't want AfriForum normalised. It's a fringe organisation that feeds on people's fears. I don't want my kids to get to know AfriForum through pudgy mascots and kindly ooms and tannies who use their brand of toxic religion to promote an agenda of fear and racial supremacy.

Its 200 000 members will claim the right of AfriForum to enter schools because it is a civil rights organisation. But it's not. It's a political organisation representing sectional interests, which over recent months have moved ever closer to extremist right wingers in the US, Europe and Australia. With their stated aim of ensuring that "the basic prerequisites for the existence of Afrikaners are met", they serve only a sliver of South Africans – those who keep seeking problems, not solutions. 

In the end, our school quickly reacted to parent complaints and cancelled the "AfriForum conversation". 

But its diary entry still sits on my fridge, listed alongside notes on swim galas and music concerts. Completely out of place, like a medieval white knight on a warped quixotic mission in a country he doesn't understand.

- Wasserman is editor of Business Insider South Africa.

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