Max du Preez

Whites must 'make an effort to understand the rest of SA'

2016-08-30 07:26

Max du Preez

The wide reaction to my proposal last week that new Afrikaans and English verses replace the bits from the apartheid anthem, Die Stem, in our national anthem brought new insights into the thinking and attitudes of white South Africans, especially Afrikaners.

If we thought that the fact that most whites voted DA meant that all of them have embraced the new realities of our society, then we stand corrected.

I was surprised at the aggression and naked anger in many reactions to my column. Many of these come straight from the apartheid era: you are a k...irboetie; you’re sucking up to blacks, the ANC and the communists; you should be shot as a traitor. Some of these people identified themselves as DA supporters.

But I was also surprised at the wide support my proposal received; on social media, radio debates, letters to newspapers, private correspondence and from an audience of mostly Afrikaans business people I spoke to last week.

There is clearly a healthy segment of whites and Afrikaners who have open minds and are able to adjust to the changing environment in South Africa.

There were also those who opposed my suggestion in a calmer and more decent manner. Decent, perhaps, but still without addressing any of my arguments. More of a knee-jerk reaction: leave us alone, dammit, we have changed enough and sacrificed enough since 1994.

Afraid and insecure

So I’m left with the impression that many whites, especially Afrikaners, feel afraid and insecure and have little or no idea of the real political dynamics in our society.

The only thing they’re sure of is that they hate Jacob Zuma and his corrupt comrades, that black people are making a mess of governing the country and the economy, and that whites are the victims of our new democracy.

These types constantly mutter about a “failed state”, “banana republic” and “another Zimbabwe”.

Many respondents hid their resistance to change by using arguments that we should rather focus on corruption, poverty and education – and then they continue their conversations about potholes, rugby, Steve Hofmeyr and the plight of abandoned pets.

And then I read the most recent column of a prominent Afrikaans columnist and commentator, Leopold Scholtz, reacting to my proposal and I understood this aversion to change a bit better.

My arguments were simple.

1. The verses from Die Stem offend many people because it was the anthem of the apartheid era. This is not my view, it is a fact.

2. Most white South Africans object that they’re still regularly reminded of the apartheid past.

3. If you want to move on from apartheid and focus on the future, why would you have the victims of this era reminded of it every time they sing the anthem?

4. Why would you want the stench of apartheid to continue to stick to the Afrikaans language?

5. A proposal coming from the majority of white voters via the DA that Die Stem should be cut from the anthem could serve as a powerful gesture of reconciliation and goodwill.

6. An anthem should unite all citizens in a shared loyalty to the country, but while Die Stem is part of ours, it isn’t happening.

Scholtz doesn’t address any of these arguments. He does repeat my statement (and offers it as his own) that these verses were included in the new anthem during the negotiations in the 1990s to reassure white citizens, as I put it, that they’re not excluded and are fully part of the new democracy.

Symptom of a broader problem

My motivation is clearly goodwill, reconciliation and national unity. But Scholtz says I sound like Donald Trump – a racist, bigot, sexist, xenophobe and seeker of conflict and disunity. The Trump jibe was his version of the insults I mentioned above.

I mention Scholtz merely because he is a symptom of a broader problem. Too many Afrikaans opinion formers and commentators still live in and reflect an isolated, white, middle-aged and middle class Afrikaner universe, completely out of touch with the rest of the South African reality.

Scholtz might have an excuse, because he left the country years ago and lives in the Netherlands. But others don’t, like the former editor who wet himself recently when I dared question AfriForum’s political role.

How do we expect the average white Afrikaner to comprehend what is really going on in the broader South African society and the different national discourses if they’re bombarded with analyses from reactionaries who see everything through myopic white Afrikaner eyes? When the champions of Afrikaner victimhood, AfriForum, dominate the Afrikaans political arena?

Afrikaners and other white South Africans are not only a minority, they’re a minority resented by many because of the past and because of continuing racism, intransigence and inequality.

We whites don’t have the luxury of a separate, safe comfort zone.

We need to make an effort to properly understand the rest of our nation; we need to be supple and pragmatic and constantly reposition ourselves; not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it’s the best way to make sure our civil rights will remain protected and we remain integrated in South African society.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.



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