It is a shame that inequality has become sharper during our constitutional democracy than during apartheid.
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Rock star prosecutor Adv Gerrie Nel’s move to launch an office for private prosecutions for AfriForum has instantly boosted this organisation’s prestige and popularity, at least among Afrikaners.
Nel wouldn’t have done this if the state’s prosecution authority had done its job properly and acted without political agendas.
But he’s going to have an uphill battle to convince the majority of South Africans that the people he is going to prosecute were not chosen by his employer with its set of political prejudices.
Remember, in politics, perception is reality.
I have a lot of respect for Nel, his integrity and his track record, but I think he was politically naive to choose AfriForum as his partner.
AfriForum’s image among most South Africans is that of being a Boer bully opposed to transformation.
The image AfriForum is trying to push is one of an alert democratic South African civic rights campaigner.
Which is closer to the truth?
AfriForum is a non-profit company funded by the membership fees of its about 185 000 members (at R50+ a month) and several associated companies and activities. It is part of the “Solidarity movement” – Solidarity being a “Christian” and “proudly Afrikaans” trade union.
AfriForum calls itself an “Afrikaner interest organization” that wants to “handle the impact of the current political realities facing Afrikaners, and to influence those realities, while working simultaneously to establish sustainable structures through which Afrikaners are able to ensure their own future”.
Read that again carefully. This is not a mission statement of a democratic South African civic rights lobby, as even the Afrikaans media has come to call them.
It is perfectly legal and legitimate to want to be a champion for a particular ethnic group, so why does AfriForum shy away from it? Is it trying to buy cover for itself or deceive the public?
We would all dismiss as ridiculous if Mzwanele Manyi’s Progressive Professionals Forum, Andile Mngxitama’s Black First Land First or the #Fallist groupings presented themselves simply as civic rights groups, not true?
The truth is that AfriForum acts firmly in the political arena and even enters its own candidates for SRC-elections at historically Afrikaans universities.
They have organised many protest actions at universities that have led to ugly racial confrontations at the universities of the Free State, Stellenbosch and Pretoria.
The AfriForum leadership, all with strong right wing backgrounds, makes no secret on social media and elsewhere that they are Donald Trump fans and supports the new narrow nationalistic trends in Britain and Europe.
Kallie Kriel, AfriForum CEO, and his deputy, Ernst Roets, strut the political scene like professional politicians, complete with vicious attacks on their critics and the media. Just last week Kriel labeled the prestigious Huffington Post South Africa as “fake news” on Twitter.
There is no doubt that AfriForum also does good work by fixing potholes and sewerage and water problems, and that they have helped many poor and unemployed Afrikaners.
An important reason for AfriForum’s relative popularity among Afrikaners and other whites is the broad unhappiness with the inefficiency and corruption of the state.
At least someone is doing something, they say.
Well, there’s also Corruption Watch, Section 27, the Right2Know campaign, Equal Education, OUTA, GroundUp, Freedom under Law and many others working for all citizens’ rights.
But it is a fact that there are Afrikaners who are fearful, feel marginalised and out of place in the new open society and have a need for ethnic cherishing.
One would have expected a political party such as Freedom Front Plus to fill this void, but AfriForum has stepped in and monopolised this space.
AfriForum undoubtedly has a right to exist as a lobby and support group for ethnic Afrikaners.
In my view the problem is that AfriForum has been allowed to wriggle themselves into a position where they parade as the representatives and authentic voice of Afrikaners – under the flimsy camouflage of being a civic rights watchdog.
It has its own Christian, Afrikaans university, its own media service and radio station and even a separate, private student residence at the University of Pretoria.
We’re witnessing the peculiar phenomenon of mainstream Afrikaner opinion formers and journalists with a public image of being progressive and non-racial, publicly and privately backing AfriForum.
AfriForum doesn’t have a democratic mandate from anybody and isn’t accountable like elected politicians.
The public isn’t even allowed to see AfriForum’s financial statements to check what it’s really doing and where all its money comes from.
The political temperature is dangerously high and racial divisions stark, but, speaking as an Afrikaner, I still believe it is in the Afrikaner’s (and the nation’s) interest to strive to be more integrated in South African society rather than to campaign for a land-less quasi-volkstaat with parallel ethnic structures.
This will only exacerbate Afrikaners’ alienation and the historic resentments in the minds of so many black South Africans.
And no, you can’t have the best of both worlds. You can’t behave all ethnically separate and insult the dignity of the majority and want to be integrated and accepted as a full citizen of South Africa at the same time.
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