Far right looks to political mainstream
Right-wing extremists who have nursed their grievances on the sidelines since the end of the apartheid era are poised to throw themselves into the mix of South Africa’s multi-racial democracy.
Long convinced that Aids and abortion are all part of a plot against the white community, followers of the Boerestaat party are hoping the electorate will start listening to their siren calls once it has delivered an application to the electoral commission to be registered as a party on January 2.
The commission can withhold registration from any party that it regards as discriminatory.
That is a charge rejected by party leader Coen Vermaak, who nevertheless says it is time that white people open their eyes and reject wholesale the concept of the Rainbow Nation.
“We don’t want to become the government of the day. We want to change the system,” Vermaak told Agence France-Presse in a recent interview on the margins of a rally at Krugersdorp, near Johannesburg.
But for all his talk of revolution, the vision of Vermaak and the party is rooted in nostalgia for the period up until 1994.
His address to a group of 50 ageing supporters was made against a backdrop of white, orange and blue—the colours of the national flag that was consigned to the dustbin of history when apartheid fell.
Vermaak said the intervening 12 years had shown the folly of believing that black people and white people could rub along together.
“I don’t believe for a moment there has been reconciliation from the government’s side,” he said.
“They are changing our town’s names and taking our businesses away from us.”
Commitments by the government to rename places such as the capital Pretoria and increase the number of black company directors have fuelled widespread complaints by whites that they and their culture are being marginalised.
However, since it was founded in the 1980s, the Boerestaat party has been unable to shake off its extremist image.
Despite website links to United States-based anti-Semitic, white supremacist organisations, Vermaak said the party does not consider itself racist while conceding that it was possible their views might be perceived as such.
Party chairperson Nicholas Lang said the party was “open to any race, if you agree with our views”.
However, he later remarked that “if you kill the white man everybody dies”.
South Africa may have largely escaped racial violence since 1994, but studies show few people want to reach out to other ethnic groups.
“White respondents, with 19,9%, are the least likely to want to increase their levels of communication with other groups, followed by black Africans with 32,7%,” said the annual reconciliation barometer.
White people account for about five million of the overall 47-million-strong population.
But the Boerestaat party believes an official campaign is being pursued to drive them towards extinction, with Vermaak arguing that the widespread availability of contraceptives was preventing population growth among whites.
“I am convinced the abortion law is aimed at getting rid of white babies,” he said.
Vermaak also claimed that Aids was a hoax designed to promote the use of condoms among whites.
“No Boer [Afrikaner] ever had Aids.
It doesn’t exist.
It’s the biggest scam that can take place,” said Vermaak.
While the party does not actively call for voting rights to be restricted to whites only, it firmly rejects the post-apartheid doctrine of universal suffrage.
For Vermaak, it is ridiculous that a doctor and a vagrant should have an equal say in how the country is governed.
“Any logical person should understand [that] some people’s votes should count more than others,” he said.—AFP