The moaning Boere, plus 5 highlights from ‘Vrye Weekblad’

Here’s what’s hot in the latest edition of the Afrikaans digital weekly

29 July 2022 - 06:14
Election day 1994.
Image: Raymond Preston/Sunday Times Election day 1994.

In South Africa I often felt I was looking at America in a funhouse mirror, with certain emerging features magnified so I could see them more clearly. I saw how progressives could feel grief about being cancelled, sneered at, or sidelined — just as their society comes to look more like what they had argued for. — Eve Fairbanks, The Atlantic.

There are many parallels between US and SA history over the last three centuries, writes Max du Preez in this week’s edition of Vrye Weekblad.

Fairbanks’ comparisons with white Americans who also experience a loss of political power are illuminating. “As with white South Africans who had celebrated the end of apartheid, their enthusiasm often belied, just beneath the surface, a striking degree of fear, bewilderment, disillusionment, and dread.”

Fairbanks correctly points out that whites mainly benefited from the advent of democracy. Then she writes: “But as time wore on, even wealthy white South Africans began to radiate a degree of fear and frustration that did not match any simple economic analysis of their situation. A startling number of formerly anti-apartheid white people began to voice bitter criticisms of post-apartheid society.”

Her explanation is strange: “Many white South Africans told me that black forgiveness felt like a slap on the face. By not acting toward you as you acted towards us, we’re showing you up, white South Africans seemed to hear.”

That is drivel. I have never heard anyone say that. 

Fairbanks argues many whites condoned white rule by saying black people would ruin the country and take revenge if they took over. “When widespread revenge and ruin never came, many white people felt forced to fabricate it; otherwise, white dominance became all the more shameful.”

Maybe there is an element of truth to that, although our faltering state in 2022 somewhat undermines the argument. Fairbanks then writes anecdotally about whites’ fears for their personal safety and that many have a memory of burglaries that never happened. Wait, what?

She makes much of white South Africans’ victimhood and struggle to acknowledge the injustice of the past. “Sometimes I wondered: Why was it so heavy? Why did admitting past sins seem to come harder even as they receded into history?”

It is a relevant question. Do many whites, including progressives, think their sins and those of their fathers were cleansed when they agreed to cede power to the majority? Over the last few years I have often heard people say: “Why should I feel guilty, I voted yes in 1992?” Others mention how much they loved Nelson Mandela, as if that exonerates them.

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I believe it is liberating to fully acknowledge apartheid as a crime against humanity and #WhitePrivilege. I would, however, like to ask Ms Fairbanks a few questions.

Has she considered what white South Africans’ attitudes and views would have been today had the ANC governments of the past two decades not been so incompetent, corrupt and power hungry; had they only maintained and expanded infrastructure; if they hadn’t shamefully neglected education for black children; if the police service had functioned? If they had prevented the collapse of so many municipalities (and Eskom and Prasa?)  

I wonder if Ms Fairbanks really understands the difference between white South Africans, in particular Afrikaners, and her white American compatriots is that white South Africans constitute only 8% of the population while 60% of Americans are white. The fact that you are a minority impacts on how people think and feel. 

I don’t think there is a single reasonable white person in SA who doesn’t agree that the disparities and extent of poverty among black people are dangerous and unfair. The difficult question, with few workable solutions, is how this poverty and inequality can be erased without destroying the economy.  

Must-read articles in this week’s Vrye Weekblad

>> Browse the full July 29 edition

FROM FACELESS TO BEHIND BARS | The role of (now retired) facial recognition expert Amanda Steenkamp in tracking down suspects is only now getting the recognition it deserves, writes Jessica Pitchford.

ALL ABOARD CYRIL’S STATE MACHINERY | Just as the icy winter wind was at its iciest, C Louise Kortenhoven was called up by the president of this ever-tortured land between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Polar Ocean himself.

BRING THEM BACK | Imtiaz Sooliman says skilled retirees need to return to work to help fix the country. Ismail Lagardien reckons he hit a revolutionary nerve there. 

THE WEEK IN POLITICS | Max du Preez looks for signs that SA isn’t all bad news, and warns against ethnic mobilisation. 

THE STUMBLING BUFFALO | Desmond Tutu said in the final days of apartheid that God is on the side of the oppressed. Piet Croucamp hopes he keeps his word while President Cyril Ramaphosa is stumbling in the face of growing cynicism.