by Mircea Negres
Afrikaners have been under social attack since the early 1990s, and for the most part this is due to at least three factors. First, they have quite a lot of economic clout and second, enough of them are armed that an open confrontation is a bad idea. Third and perhaps foremost, the ANC-led government does not want to make itself the target of accusations of prejudice, although prejudiced is exactly what it is. As such, Afrikaners and white people in general are targeted using Affirmative Action (AA), Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) and Employment Equity (EE), pieces of legislation which are generally viewed as nothing but reverse racism because they impose racial and gender quotas on businesses with more than 10 or 25 employees and turnover above R1.000.000 per year, placing involuntary characteristics above talent and fitness to hold office or a job- all in the name of “redressing past injustices”.
Another way Afrikaners are attacked is through their culture and institutions they’ve built. To that end, Afrikaans language soap operas have quite a bit of English dialogue in them that’s mandated by law in order to supposedly promote cultural diversity, although I’ve never heard a word of Afrikaans uttered in Zulu or Sotho language soapies. Furthermore, there were attempts to move popular Afrikaans language programs to later time slots or other channels and in some cases, do away with them entirely. This didn’t work too well because there was immediate backlash which resulted in loss of advertising revenue for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and outraged letters to the editor. As far as soap operas go, one of the most popular among Afrikaners is “7de Laan” (Sewende Laan or “Seventh Avenue” in English), which normally shows at 18:30 Monday to Friday, followed by Afrikaans language news at 19:00. Afrikaners and Afrikaans speakers watch both programs in droves and while there’s nothing wrong with the soapie, I think getting your news from the mouthpiece of a prejudiced government is not very wise. I’ve tried to get Afrikaners I know to switch to Afrikaans language news on other channels, notably on DStv (satellite TV network owned by MultiChoice, a private outfit), but to no avail.
Attacking Afrikaner institutions usually comes in the form of attempts to oust Afrikaans language tuition at schools and universities which were built on that basis, such as the famous Stellenbosch University and Rand Afrikaans University, which these days is known as University of Johannesburg. This happens when black African students who mostly speak English as a second language run out of places to enroll and register at what are known without doubt as Afrikaans schools or universities, and then cry they are being discriminated against because the teachers or lecturers use a language they don’t understand. Not much later, there are a lot of young, angry black faces parading on campus in front of news cameras and institutions’ leadership find themselves forced to hold a “referendum” that sees the language of tuition changed to the detriment of those who went there to study in Afrikaans, and pretty soon the value of degrees becomes questionable because quality of teaching is perceived to have dropped as a result of hasty changes to the curriculum and/or introduction of lecturers whose only claim to fame is being able to speak English.
This trend has flowed downwards, and is now found at high schools, primary schools and even kindergartens, with black parents who demand that their children be taught in English at Afrikaans medium institutions. However, what’s more interesting is what happens when institutions refuse to back down. Well, in short order they find themselves branded as racist oppressors out to deny black children an education in the language of their choice, and accused of trying to bring back apartheid among other stupidities. So, why is this stupid? Simply put, it is not the fault of the school or university that the language it teaches in is not that which the prospective student speaks, but the other way around. Furthermore, it is an indictment of South Africa’s “democratic” government (which some call “bunglement” for all its failures) because it is supposed to have created institutions that catered to the varied demands out there in terms of constitutional and social obligations, but the sad fact is that there are somewhere between a handful to zero black African language-based universities in the country even after nearly 23 years of democracy, with only one I’d heard recently is being built, probably in the KwaZulu-Natal province. As such, Afrikaners find themselves pilloried for exercising their constitutional and very legal right to build education facilities for those who speak the language and in one case as will be discussed below, even get branded as “Hooligan of the day” by an English newspaper. Akademia was (or still is) an Afrikaans-medium private education institution which refused to change its language of tuition, and admit students who didn’t speak Afrikaans, as was its right to do. Nobody saw the stupidity of the insults heaped upon this institution of learning, which were tantamount to prospective employees attacking a privately funded uranium rod manufacturer for not wanting to build cars just because the people knocking at its doors knew nothing of nuclear physics. To whit, in 2012 Akademia found itself named “hooligan of the day” by The Herald newspaper, and even though I don’t speak Afrikaans very well, I nevertheless rose to defend that privately funded institution’s right to teach in the language of its choice, which although most people don’t think about it, is nevertheless an African language (!)- and so wrote the following:
“Fresh empathy for the Afrikaner.
I tried unsuccessfully for nine years to understand the Afrikaner, only to be rebuffed and rejected at every turn until 2001. It was during my service in the South African army that I finally became friends with one, and over time, managed to get an insight into their psyche.
Before then, they seemed to be obstinate, narrow-minded, ignorant of the wider world and worse, to my way of thinking- proud of their ignorance. Today, the few friends I have are ALL Afrikaners.
Through them, I began to understand who and what they were, as well as how to deal with this unique cultural group.
Through them I distilled the core values of the Afrikaner, which put in their language are Land, Volk, Kerk. This trinity explains everything- they have an almost mystical connection with the soil of South Africa, which in turn defines to a large degree their national character and motivated the covenant they made with their Lord.
Like other peoples, they’ve endured dispossession, harassment, genocide and ethnic cleansing. It’s no surprise they value their identity and language, and fight continuously to keep their cultural identity alive in the face of subtle but determined efforts to denigrate and wipe it out.
To this end, the establishment of Afrikaans schools and universities is logical and as viewed by many of them, necessary. Furthermore, it is a recognised constitutional right the Afrikaners are entitled to as much as Zulus, Vendas or Xhosas, and its exercise cannot be used as justification to call a university “Hooligan of the day” simply because they choose not to teach in English.
If you want to study at Todai, then bone up on Japanese, because it’s not up to the university to teach in your language- you MUST be fluent in the one it uses. I don’t speak die taal very well, and some of the blame is mine. Because of that, not studying at an Afrikaans-medium university is a matter of inability on my part, not of discrimination on the part of the university- something the fools who were rejected ought to understand.
Then again, a university’s choice to teach in Afrikaans is less important than why the government hasn’t done anything to create Zulu, Xhosa or Sotho language-based universities over the 18 years it has governed this country, and what it plans to do about it in the future.
Given its efforts at wrecking the education system, perhaps the “Hooligan of the day” award ought to be given to the state, not the founders of Akademia.”