I am an Afrikaner. Things are going very nicely for me, thank you – very nicely – in South Africa. Even though I am Afrikaans, though I am white. Even though my forefathers were among the first colonials here. Even though my parents supported apartheid. Even though I myself supported apartheid in my youth.
Maybe it’s going so well for me specifically thanks to all these things – because, even today, I am reaping the benefits of a system that favoured me, purely on the grounds of my skin colour. This entrenched system prevailed for generations.
It’s going even better – at least economically – for Steve Hofmeyr, Kallie Kriel and Sunette Bridges than with me. This is exactly why I do not comprehend their constant attitude of victimhood.
The overwhelming impression created by their articles and utterances on social media is that they are a bunch of whiners, everlastingly complaining while clutching a loaf of white bread.
They are like a toddler struggling to come to terms with the presence of a baby brother or sister in the family. No matter how much attention or privilege they’re given, the mere fact of having to share is just not acceptable. Even though the attention – and this is the irony – is so much more generous than before.
Hofmeyr’s notorious tweet claiming blacks were the architects of apartheid does nothing to dispel this comparison, although I did notice last week that he tried to recant a little when he said, in a follow-up item in Beeld, that in fact he meant this as an opening to provoke a discussion.
But read his other tweets before and after this infamous one, and his remarks in other forums, and only one conclusion is reasonable: he does indeed mean that the behaviour and habits of black people were the catalysts that made apartheid imperative. Any other interpretation would have to presuppose that Hofmeyr is either stupid, or inarticulate – and this is clearly not the case.
It’s clear which mindset Hofmeyr yearns for
There is nevertheless some merit in analysing his argument and his defence. They are reminiscent of the arguments of mainstream conservatives of the 1980s, which reminds us to be grateful that we have moved on. Hofmeyr’s belief is just like the argument of our former leaders, people who tried for decades to stop the arrival of television in this country – and, when it did come, censored it and made it a whites-only platform.
Just as Korean leader Kim Jong-Un today controls the flow of information via the internet in his country, so the apartheid regime controlled access to information via the media of their day. So it is especially ironic that Hofmeyr and his cohorts use the very freedom that they enjoy in the new South Africa to disseminate the most vile and offensive standpoints. This irony seems to completely escape them.
South Africans did not always enjoy these freedoms, and we must not forget this. In 1979, the historian Floors van Jaarsveld was tarred and feathered by the then leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbegewing (AWB), Eugene Terre’Blanche, because he was preparing to deliver an academic lecture at Unisa that would reconsider the history of the Battle of Blood River. When, years later, Terre’Blanche died, Hofmeyr eulogised him as a “proud cultural icon” and “the last Boer”. It can hardly be clearer which culture and mindset Hofmeyr so yearns for.
Hofmeyr’s argument is a melting pot of the old right-wing myths and fears (minus the “night of the long knives” – that seems to have gone out of fashion). This defence reminds us how inadequate attempts to justify apartheid always were. His words echo the Israeli defence of war crimes in Gaza.
Yet Hofmeyr takes this still further. He has now, 20 years after the end of apartheid, arrived at a point where he considers it appropriate to at least partly blame black people for apartheid. This is because, according to him, they were assimilated into Western culture – almost as though they had a say in the matter! Colonisation, in this country and everywhere, was not a process of negotiation; it was a Western grab for resources, and the cultures of the original inhabitants were either destroyed through the barrel of a gun or they were forced into assimilation.
Hofmeyr furthermore accepts without question that Western culture was inevitably superior to the cultures it violently destroyed. That is simply white arrogance. Western culture was different but not necessarily better. One only has to examine its devastating effect on the planet to know that this assumed superiority is hogwash.
The loss of the knowledge and understanding of original cultures is tragic. The callousness of maintaining that whites can learn nothing from blacks, as Hofmeyr believes, is astonishing. Hofmeyr has built a career on music with roots in the black music of West Africa. There is a direct thread from the music of Africa to the music of slaves in the Americas, to the blues and thus to popular Western and rock music. If white people can learn nothing from blacks, how is it that Hofmeyr makes money out of bad imitations of Neil Diamond hits?
And what about the language for which he is fighting? Afrikaans has deep roots in the homes of the slaves and brown labourers of the Cape. Let’s be honest about apartheid: it was not, as Hofmeyr would like to believe, motivated by a perceived need to redress inequality. It was not motivated, either, by a need to keep our cultures separate. The straw puppets that ruled the homelands are adequate proof of that. It was, just like other forms of social manipulation, designed to benefit one group at the expense of another – such as preventing black people from taking job opportunities from white people.
‘White people live better’
Fundamentally, all the distress of Hofmeyr and his allies is attributable to a sense of loss. It’s the same sense of loss a child experiences when he or she is no longer an only child.
Not one of Hofmeyr’s grievances stems from anything but an unwillingness to accept that there are people other than Afrikaners in this country. That same unwillingness makes it impossible for him to see how fortunate he really is. If you’re angry because your little sister is getting a few crumbs, it’s easy to forget that you are clutching a whole loaf under your own arm.
In spite of the serious social issues in this country – and, yes, blame for many of those issues can be fairly laid at the door of the ruling party – I can say without equivocation that the only problem that affects white people more than black people is sunburn.
So serious is their prejudice that people such as Hofmeyr and groups such as AfriForum dare not examine murder statistics on the same racial basis as they regard everything else. They would rather focus on a statistically tiny group of whites, a group that comprises a mere 1.25% of the total white population – farmers. And then they use the murder statistics involving this minute group to nurture their propaganda and allegations of genocide.
White people live better, are richer, find jobs more easily, are better educated and own more property and investments than black people. Not because they are superior – only the bigoted claim that. The truth is that the benefits conferred on whites for generations have indeed left them with advantages. Afrikaans has more universities, festivals, and TV channels than any other indigenous language.
On Saturday November 1, thousands of whites attended a concert to protest against a possible name change for Pretoria. They were not afraid of being wiped out. There were no water cannons or armed soldiers to intimidate them. They freely sang the anthem that was the symbol of the oppression of the people they were convinced wished to obliterate them.
And, afterwards, they all went home … Safely. It wasn’t always this way.