Afrikaners have a democratic right to cultural freedom

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Residents of Kimberley help fix a pothole on the corner of Black and Truter Street. AfriForum's national pothole project aims to fix potholes where the state has failed to do so.
Residents of Kimberley help fix a pothole on the corner of Black and Truter Street. AfriForum's national pothole project aims to fix potholes where the state has failed to do so.

The fact that most Afrikaners embraced the new dispensation did not mean we relinquished our historic pursuit of cultural freedom, writes Flip Buys.

Solidarity and AfriForum protect constitutional spaces Solidarity and AfriForum's three-pronged strategy involves promoting the interests of all South Africans, the protection of constitutional rights and the utilisation of the constitutional spaces that exist for language and culture communities like Afrikaners. 

We are not yearning for the apartheid past; neither are we looking forward to a future of permanent subservience in an unsafe, weakening state. We are not aspiring to the unattainable ideas of a so-called volkstaat, nor are we trying to isolate Afrikaners. On the contrary, the aim of the Solidarity Movement is to make it possible for Afrikaners to co-exist in a sustainable way with all South Africans, so that we can make a lasting contribution to the wellbeing of the country and all its people.

The surge of the idea of a volkstaat that featured among many Afrikaners before 1994, emanated from a threefold concern: firstly, that the ANC would not be able to govern a modern country successfully; secondly, that our fundamental interests such as Afrikaans schools and universities would be compromised; and thirdly, many Afrikaners had believed it would be possible to include a federal state ("volkstaat") as part of the negotiated process.

READ: The rise of the right and the coming of the volkstaat

This did not happen because most Afrikaners saw the constitutional settlement as being a fair exchange between majority government and minority protection. The black majority would attain those rights that were their due without the Afrikaner minority losing their rights. But the main reason was that Afrikaners did not have a natural area that could be established as part of the settlement process as a "ready-made" volkstaat or province.

Cultural freedom

The fact that most Afrikaners embraced the new dispensation did not mean we relinquished our historic pursuit of cultural freedom. The new dispensation was simply seen as the best way to realise such cultural freedom and to reconcile the diverse historical aspirations for freedom of all in the process.

However, the euphoria of a new democratic beginning with room for everyone, changed into great disillusionment within two decades. Afrikaners voted for a democratic evolution but many believe we landed up with a delayed revolution. This alienation comes in the wake of the ANC's violation of fundamental parts of the 1994 constitutional agreement.

This includes the fact that so many parts of the state are failing as a result of poor governance, combined with the political choking of constitutional public cultural spaces. Those two factors gave rise to a revival of the pre-1994 concerns that the ANC would not be able to govern the country successfully and that Afrikaners' rightful cultural rights would suffer irreparable damage.

Plan A

However, this conclusion reached by many Afrikaners did not lead to a revival of the volkstaat idea because reality has taught that it is not a feasible quick fix. Therefore, "Plan A", which was pursued initially, was to find solutions through talks with government and by approaching constitutional institutions such as Pansat, the Human Rights Commission and others. 

Afrikaners also participated in elections for university councils, made submissions to parliamentary portfolio committees and participated in other democratic processes, all in good faith. After all these avenues had been exhausted without yielding any results, they approached the courts as a last resort. Although legal remedy was obtained for many individuals, it did not stop the major and radical political tsunami that hit the cultural rights and spaces of Afrikaners and other Afrikaans-speaking persons.

Two million

The accelerating decline of our fundamental interests during the Zuma years led to a regrouping of Afrikaners into strong civil organisations to initiate "Plan B". The Solidarity Movement with its 500 000 members, 18 organisations, of which Solidarity and AfriForum are best-known, and its supporters that count approximately two million, is the strongest of those. That makes us arguably the country's largest member organisation besides the ANC and Cosatu.

In view of the fact that the end of public alternatives was anticipated, "Plan B" is above all a project to realise constitutional spaces for cultural freedom by using "self-help" community organisations as vehicle. Plan B is not just the bonding of Afrikaners but also a bridging with other Afrikaans speaking persons and all other communities. Hence, it is not just projects that focus on Afrikaans that are being undertaken but also municipal service delivery improvements in more than 100 towns in the interest of all residents. 

The sight of AfriForum's teams, hard at work repairing thousands of potholes all over the country to make our roads safer, must surely be the most public face of this broader focus.

Cultural infrastructure

Plan B creates the cultural infrastructure vital to sustaining our continued existence as a culture community. This includes, among others, Afrikaans schools, colleges and private universities, open to all who wish to study through medium of Afrikaans. As patriotic South Africans we want to help address the problems facing South Africa such as poverty, unemployment, inequality and poor governance.

But as "cultural citizens" we also want to create an environment to retain skilled Afrikaans minorities in the country. In so doing it is our democratic right to utilise all constitutional spaces available to culture communities for this purpose. Therefore, we believe communities such as Orania have the room to seek broader municipal self-determination with the aim of developing the town as an alternative to emigration or confrontation. Minorities need spaces where they can be a majority, otherwise all aspects of their lives would be dominated by demographic majorities.

Afrikaners South Africa is a demographic democracy where people vote on the basis of identity rather than policy. The same party that has almost governed the country into the ground is set to get a comfortable majority in the election. That is why demographic minorities have to make other plans. Plan B offers a practical recourse which is in Afrikaner and in South African interest.

In the Human Development Report of 2004, the UN found that if the history of the 20th century proved anything, it is that attempts to wish cultural groups away or to assimilate them into the majority trigger the opposite reaction – that of a vibrant cultural revival – instead. 

- Flip Buys is chairperson of the Solidarity Movement.

Disclaimer: 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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