Outspoken academic, Piet Croucamp has become a focus point for Afrikaner outrage and Dan Roodt, a role he appears to relish.
If pro-Afrikaans activist Dan Roodt has his way, University of Johannesburg academic Piet Croucamp will soon find himself before the Equality Court, explaining why he has such self-loathing as an Afrikaner that he publicly calls them dumb.
If concerned citizen Johann Botha has his way, Croucamp will face some form of enquiry from his university, and perhaps be forced to make a public apology to a fellow academic he seems to have encouraged to quit her post.
If various other groups and individuals have their way, Croucamp will variously shut up (at least about the right wing, Afrikaners and young Earth creationism), go away (or at least stay off radio and television), flee the country (when black people rise up against white people and Croucamp finds the whites he betrayed unwilling to help him), get beaten up (in various creative ways), or die.
The ways in which he should die, according to those detractors who fancy that option, are creative and varied. But all are brutal, and most are also humiliating.
To say that Croucamp elicits strong feelings among white rightwingers would be putting it mildly. In those quarters, Croucamp is rapidly emerging as the target of hate rivalling that aimed at FW "Pink Frikkie" de Klerk, he who sold white people down the political river, or Julius Malema, still considered by them as the most likely leader of a genocidal race revolution.
Croucamp takes the hatred and associated death threats in his stride. "A dog will bark at you as long as you are teasing it," he says. "If you walk away, the dog will bark at the next person who comes along."
Not that he is willing to admit intentionally baiting rightwingers, or to pushing their buttons just for fun. Still, he fails miserably at hiding his glee when returning the fire from his detractors.
Roodt, he says, is a "pseudo-intellectual with French pretensions" who presides over an organisation, the Pro-Afrikaans Action Group (Praag), where racism is the order of the day, if often coded and indirect.
Botha, according to Croucamp, is not worth taking note of.
The trouble with both Roodt and Botha stems from Croucamp's rather militant approach – especially for a man with a day job lecturing politics students – to engaging with those on the other end of the political spectrum from him. As a committed leftist student on the University of Stellenbosch campus of the 1980s, he did not shy away from physical confrontations when rightwingers tried to break up a meeting to be addressed by Nelson Mandela, before he became South African president. There was a photograph in Beeld the next day of the towering Croucamp leading with his fist into some hapless rightwinger's jaw in a way that would have made Bismarck du Plessis proud.
The early 1990s found him facing down right-wing marchers on the streets of Pretoria. If he was not built like some kind of Namibian bear (he hails from that country), there may have been many more fist fights. As it is now, he sees his fair share of verbal battles.
With Roodt and Praag, the battle is about the Afrikaans-speaking Croucamp's views on Afrikaners.
"Piet Croucamp has on several occasions repeated the statement that Afrikaners are dumb and have a lower IQ than other people," says Roodt. "Considering the current circumstances, Afrikaners being an endangered minority, we feel that is something we should take up."
Which is why Roodt wants the Equality Court to examine whether Croucamp engaged in hate speech, possibly in the form of a class action with many complainants.
Croucamp says the whole thing stems from a misunderstanding – deliberate or otherwise – of his position on Afrikaner politics.
"The problem, and this is what I was saying, the problem is that these Afrikaners have a common enemy, mostly black people, but don't have a common consensus. There is no intellectual tradition there, there is no master narrative there outside of fear, so there is no unifying force… Lacking an intellectual tradition is not the same thing as being dumb, but it can make you act dumb."
The complaint by Botha is about Croucamp's handling of himself in the departure of Louise Mabille from the University of Pretoria at the end of August in a different hate-speech matter. Croucamp had complained that Mabille had engaged in hate speech by publishing an opinion piece – on Roodt's Praag website – calling baby rape a cultural phenomenon among black people. The piece was subsequently removed, and Mabille offered several apologies, before quitting the university.
According to Botha, who describes himself as a "concerned citizen" unconnected with these events, Croucamp twisted Mabille's words, and "acted unethically, unprofessionally and with intellectual dishonesty, but also with grave social irresponsibility", among other crimes.
Croucamp is not feeling the heat from that complaint.
"The [university] administration didn't even call me in about it. It's not a big deal."
But the increasing tempo of complaints about Croucamp, who has become something of a lightning rod for sentiment against leftist whites, much as journalist and commentator Max du Preez once was, may point to a broader shift in approach among some Afrikaner cultural and political leaders, and celebrities with a sideline in organising protests.
"If you said something like that about Jews or Muslims, it would be seen as racist, even xenophobic," says Roodt about Croucamp's take on Afrikaners' intellectual capacity. "He gets away with it because Afrikaners have been conditioned to take such insults and propaganda and do nothing."
The "we're not going to take it laying down anymore" sentiment is solidly in keeping with an Afrikaner protest planned for next week. "We can no longer be silent about the brutal torture of the elderly and defenceless, the mothers, fathers and children of this minority group," say the organisers of the strangely named Red October series of events. The irony is probably unnoticed by the rightwingers but the South African Communist Party once had their own "Red October" campaign "inspired" by "the spirit and the victories of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 in Russia, ushering in the first workers' government in the 20th century".
In essence Roodt, Red October and related parties all seem to believe Afrikaners have been bullied into a sort of political hibernation, from which they can be revived. Anger focused on Croucamp, who is all but begging to be a target, can only help in such a revival.
By contrast, Croucamp and other white Afrikaner leftists believe white Afrikaners are, with notable but fringe exceptions, politically comatose because they have it good. Better, in fact, than ever.
"When you talk about these guys, Roodt and Steve Hofmeyr, these are a marginal group," says Croucamp. "Afrikaners are actually bloody well adjusted. They are richer than they ever were, their unemployment is extraordinarily low. They are race-sensitive, they are unhappy about bad governance, but they are not radical."
Croucamp believes, as he regularly tells groups of white farmers and occasionally black mineworkers he addresses in meetings around the country, that the end of apartheid freed Afrikaners from reliance on protectionism and cushy bureaucratic jobs to their enormous and tangible benefit.
His argument finds strength in the reaction he sees from those farmers, who are supposed to be the very heart of white conservatism: tolerant towards liberals to the extent of voting for the Democratic Alliance for lack of another party they believe can offer them political protection.
These, Croucamp says, are the bulk of Afrikaners. Marchers and activists make themselves heard, but "as I told [ANC secretary-general] Gwede Mantashe [while organising an outreach between
the ANC and Afrikaners], most of them just want to watch rugby and braai".
Red October for SA's whites
White people are being murdered and marginalised in South Africa on a massive scale – possibly with some underlying organisation or programme – a handful of Afrikaans celebrities and a slightly larger group of conservative and rightwing groups agree.
Which is why they want to fill the skies with red balloons next week under banners that appropriate a famous communist slogan.
On Thursday October 10, Afrikaans celebrity singers Steve Hofmeyr and Sunette Bridges will lead a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria. In Cape Town, on the same day, there is a planned march on the offices of Naspers, the publisher of newspapers such as Beeld and Rapport (which are considered traitorous rags by much of the right wing). In East London, there is to be a gathering at the Heavenly Pancake House, and in Louis Trichardt, the assembly point is a rugby lapa. There are even events planned in Australia, New Zealand and in Chicago at the Trump Tower.
At all these events, the intent is to release masses of red balloons (biodegradable ones, in the case of Cape Town) and to protest everything these rightists claim has gone wrong under black rule.
"We call on people all over the world to release red balloons into the skies in protest against the inhumane slaughter and oppression of the white people of South Africa," reads the official statement of intent of the organising group. "No longer will we be silent about the oppression of white South Africans!"