Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Editorial: White nostalgia, not civil rights

It is not some kind of counterweight to the ANC, Black First Land First, the Economic Freedom Fighters, or any other movement campaigning for redress for hundreds of years of injustice against black people. And despite what you may have read in response to former state prosecutor Gerrie Nel teaming up with them this week, AfriForum is most certainly not a civil rights organisation.

In the bowels of the internet – that great bastion of clarity and legal insight, yes – civil rights are described as a class of rights that protect individuals’ freedom from infringement by governments, social organisations and private individuals. Wikipedia says civil rights are meant to ensure one’s ability to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without discrimination or repression.

Now, we know Wikipedia, or the greater internet, is not exactly reliable – trust us, we’ve been trying to turn a profit from digitally distributed news for years – but the internet as the epitome of an open society shows us exactly how AfriForum exists quite unopposed by society or the state. Instead, they continue to harness a sentiment of loss by white, Afrikaans-speaking people to fuel an ever-widening conglomerate of businesses and charities that distances them from the rest of South Africa.

Theirs is not so much a movement for civil rights as it is a movement for the historical hegemony of the rights of white people to be restored.

Last year, AfriForum’s argument in the Constitutional Court to halt street name changes was revealing. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng lambasted the grouping for being “divisive, somewhat selfish and without much regard for centuries of deprivation black people had to endure.”

He was not alone in singling out AfriForum’s creative interpretation of historical fact. Other judges also tore into AfriForum for referring to colonialism and apartheid as “so-called historical injustices”.

Apartheid was evil. But it is especially jarring when it is being described by AfriForum as some kind of misunderstanding.

Yet responses this week to the launch of AfriForum’s private prosecutions unit, headed by Nel, have revealed the extent to which the grouping has been normalised. The National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) is in a mess, yes. If the saga involving Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was anything to go by, then yes, there certainly appears to be a culture of selective prosecutions. We’ll take Nel’s word for it.

But is AfriForum really the organisation to challenge the NPA? Or, indeed, target the elites that it says it will?

There is nothing normal, innocuous or organically contrarian about AfriForum. It is a grouping that holds the rights of white, Afrikaans-speaking South Africans as more valid than those of the rest of the people of this country. It may style itself as a civil rights organisation, but it is concerned with the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of only one group. In this, it is replicating a pernicious ideology that draws strength from a nostalgia for more separateness, a nostalgia for unimpeded white hegemony. As an ideology driving legal prosecution – the legalities in themselves not withstanding – it is frightening.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

The South African Bone Marrow Registry celebrates 30 years of...

‘It’s not drilling into bones!’: Misconceptions keep donors away, says SABMR, but a match outside of a patient’s family is a needle in a haystack

R500-million Covid-19 Gauteng hospital contract was irregularly awarded — SIU

The bank accounts of Pro Service Consulting and Thenga Holdings have been frozen

More top stories

With its industrial base decimated, SA’s economy needs real change...

Speaking at a book launch on Tuesday, the finance minister said a focus on manufacturing is critical to stem the country’s deepening unemployment crisis

Defence team cagey about Zuma’s health after state advised he...

The former president was absent from court, but his counsel argued that health matters be left aside, so as to hear his case for the removal of Billy Downer

The South African Bone Marrow Registry celebrates 30 years of...

‘It’s not drilling into bones!’: Misconceptions keep donors away, says SABMR, but a match outside of a patient’s family is a needle in a haystack

New clean fuel standards could be the end of refineries...

In the absence of mechanisms to recoup investment into cleaner fuels, refineries may be faced with tough decisions
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×