LETTER TO THE EDITOR | A response to Koos van der Merwe's open letter to Mmusi Maimane

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Herman Mashaba and Mmusi Maimane. (Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24)
Herman Mashaba and Mmusi Maimane. (Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24)

JC Mouton has written a response to former IFP MP Koos van der Merwe's open letter to Mmusi Maimane.

Oom Koos, thank you for your response to Mmusi Maimane's letter to white people.

It was enlightening to read your version of the Afrikaner history and your solutions for our current problems.

Since I am also a white Afrikaner (although I prefer to see myself as an Afrikaans-speaking South African) who wants the best for our country, I thought it applicable for me to share my thoughts and experiences of our history and the crisis we find ourselves in. You are obviously welcome to differ.

Let me start with a story about two South African families.

My grandfather, who was a few years older than you, never went to school. He was taught to read and write by his older sister. As a teenager and a young man he worked as a labourer on a farm.

Later on, he managed to rent a small piece of land, where he farmed with vegetables. He worked hard to provide for his family and this enabled him to secure a bank loan to eventually buy his own property.

With the fruits of his labour, he managed to send my father and his siblings to university and eventually retired comfortably. I am grateful to him because in the long run I also benefitted from his efforts.

A black man's situation

Now, imagine a black man of similar age to my grandfather who also didn't go to school and who worked as a farm labourer.

Although he worked hard to provide for his family, he couldn't rent a piece of land to farm on because of his race. He wasn't able to secure a loan to buy his own property because black people weren't allowed to borrow money and own property. As a result, his children didn't go to university and he couldn't retire comfortably because there was no money to invest in Sanlam or any of the other organisations founded by the Afrikaner.

Although I agree with you about the resilience and creativity of the Afrikaner, my family did not progress because of hard work, determination and the "my doodkry is min!" (I can't be beaten) attitude alone. We became more prosperous than the black family in the story because we benefitted from a system that was designed to favour us in every way. A system that entrenched white privilege and generational wealth. A system that, to this day, is still benefitting my children.

I don't feel threatened in South Africa

That is why I, as a white South African, differ from you about the current status of "us Afrikaners" and whites in general. I see my privilege for what it is and although I don't always know how, I try to use it to make a difference. I don't feel threatened in South Africa. I don't feel discriminated against, treated inhumanely or targeted and attacked. I am not the victim in the current South African scenario.

Let me end with a thought about your solution. You say "forgive, redeem and move on", yet more than 100 years since the end of the Anglo Boer War, Afrikaners are still struggling to "forgive, redeem and move on" from what the British did to them. Maybe a bit more empathy towards all black families like the one in the story would suffice.

- JC Mouton, Cape Town

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