[lg policy] The ConCourt vs Afrikaners: A reply to Ernst Roets

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Jan 16 11:55:31 EST 2018

The ConCourt vs Afrikaners: A reply to Ernst Roets
Richard Mamabolo |
15 January 2018
Richard Mamabolo says Afrikaans can't be allowed to obstruct progress
towards building a non-racial society

*Response to Afriforum’s Ernst Roets*

*15 January 2018*

Last week on the 9th of January 2018, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer
(CEO) of Afriforum, Mr Ernst Roets wrote a piece tilted ‘*What does the
ConCourt have against Afrikaners?’*

As has been the case with many other issues relating to racial relations in
all its forms and manifestations within our 24-year old democracy in South
Africa, he therein attempts to question the logic put forth by the
ConCourt’s ruling on the University of Free State’s (UFS’s) language policy
which was adopted in March 2016 by way of replacing Afrikaans and English
as parallel mediums of instruction, and therefore making English the
primary medium.

In his judgement on the 5th of January 2018, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
denied Afriforum’s application for leave to appeal a Supreme Court of
Appeal (SCA) ruling from March last year, which was also in favour of this
new policy.

It should at this point be noted that the university’s main reason for
departing from the parallel-medium policy was that it had the unintended
consequence of segregating the white Afrikaans-speaking students from black
students who had chosen to study in English, which had by then led to
racial tensions, as well as staff and student complaints.

In his verdict, the Chief Justice indicated that “the university is in
effect saying that the use of Afrikaans has unintentionally become a
facilitator of ethnic or cultural separation and racial tension. Its
continued use would leave the results of white supremacy not being
redressed but being kept alive and well. It is for that reason that a
policy revision or intervention has since become necessary.”

>From a generalised point of view, or through a layman’s understanding, this
might seem an honest and unsuspicious viewpoint raising a genuine
apprehension from a concerned young Afrikaner rightfully eager to defend
and preserve the legacy of his language and culture.

It is for this purpose that before going into the content of his argument,
we must first have a clear but brief understanding of the pre-democratic
and post-apartheid South African society insofar as race and economic
relations are concerned, and the location of each within these two
successive spheres. I believe this will give us the context within which
these continued race debates are borne, and will further give us the much
needed understanding of the broader aims and objectivities attained within
the very Afrikaner nationalist organisational interests Mr Roets so
passionately seeks to champion.

Without simply casting off his long-held views, we must firstly understand
and accept that the organisation he affiliates to was founded in 2006 as a
way to continue with the promotion and protection of Afrikaner culture. It
is rooted within Solidarity Movement, which grew out of the Mynwerkersunie,
an all-white union established after the South African war of 1899-1902.
Among what this Mynwerkersunie was popularly known for was its divisive
acts in and between the exploited black and white workers, which has since
then lost its essence as a genuine union on the very basis that it
organised labour along racial lines.

During the Rand Revolt of 1922 in Johannesburg, in which miners revolted
against the Chamber of Mines and the Jan Smuts government, about 25 000
white miners went on a strike because the Chamber had proposed to dismiss
2000 of them after the ratio of white to black miners had previously been
about one to ten. For mine bosses it made profitable sense because whites
were getting far better salaries than their black counterparts, and for the
same amount, the mines could hire more cheap black labour and generate more

The Smuts government was very repressive on these miners and many were
arrested and sentenced to death. The Young Communist League of South Africa
(YCLSA) at the time supported their plight, but fervently distanced itself
from their racist slogan “Workers of the World Unite for a White South

It was only in the 1990s that its leader, Flip Buys, changed its name to
Solidariteit after new labour legislation made the existence of an
all-white union impossible, yet its mandate remains very much intact.

Just as in the case of the Mynwerkersunie back then, Afriforum claims it is
an organisation nominally committed to the preservation of minority rights,
but in reality it is solely focused on the rights of Afrikaners,
particularly language, cultural and safety and regularly conducts campaigns
to this end, as in the recent case of what was termed ‘Black Monday”,
filled with hateful display of pre-democratic South African era where
blacks were oppressed.

Just a few months ago, its CEO Kalie Kriel defended Afrikaner people’s
right to display the old apartheid flag privately, and said it was okay to
do so as it would not offend anyone. In essence, he was arguing that racism
and the cherishment of all that has been wrong for South Africa should
continue being celebrated, so long as no one outside the Afrikaner can see
them. Mind you, these are the very things that don’t advance the notion of
nation-building, social cohesion or reconciliation.

How then, do we expect an organisation that endorses people to privately
practice racism while publicly pretending to be in the same boat to openly
and genuinely support the transformative agenda in building social cohesion?

We cannot turn a blind eye on the point that Afriforum is deep-rooted in
Afrikaner nationalism, which was the primary driver that, in 1948 when the
National Party under Daniel Francois Malan took power, immediately fought
on the issue of the separation of races and immediately implemented the
policy of racial segregation known as apartheid, designed to ensure the
political and social superiority of whites over non-whites.

The final step in this segregation of the races was taken in 1951 with the
creation of the first Bantustan, a separate homeland for black South
Africans. This Afrikaner nationalism grew until 1978 when mounting internal
and external pressures led to the recognition that Afrikaner nationalism
could not suppress African nationalism and that power had to be shared.
This led to the apartheid system being finally dismantled in 1992 by the
Afrikaner President F. W. de Klerk, who was left with no choice after all.

Here forth, we will demonstrate that the same behavioural patterns that can
be traced back to that era are to this day still characteristic of this
organ, and though under democratic circumstances, failure or the
unwillingness to transform in the process of national unity remains an

In his piece, Mr Roets conveniently interprets differently the context
within which the Chief Justice’s arguments are based; firstly to suit his
own appeal that bears the hallmarks of deep-rooted frustrations and
secondly, that simply ignores or disregard the truth that the redress of
particular social relations should be a pre-condition for nation-building
measures which should in effect be cherished by the constitution.

To the world, the rainbow metaphor might project the image of different
racial, ethnic and cultural groups being united and living in harmony, and
thus representing a symbol of unity among the diverse population of our
country, but in actual fact, there are such organs like Afriforum and
individuals like Mr Roets who are hell-bent on seeing this noble objective
fading into nothingness.

In defence of his and Afriforum’s recent failed court bid, Mr Roets makes,
among others, the following grounds, specifically targeted at the Chief
Justice’s remarks, and against which he believes the ConCourt fails to
appreciate or recognise;

*1.* *Approach to the case*

Mr Roets argues, in summary, that there are two folds to the ConCourt
rulings; one being that which follows the sequential legality framework,
ensuring that there is abidance with the prescripts therein.

This mostly has to do with the outright decisions that when someone or
something is considered to have been done outside the edicts of the law
(legislative decisions, corruption for example), then the ConCourt rules
against such decisions, we all praise it for keeping the authorities that
be in check, something which we all appreciate. In actual fact, most of
these judgements are seen as an expression of the independence of the
judiciary by many observers.

On the other fold, he argues that the ConCourt is part of the ruling elite,
interpreting the Constitution in a manner that is consistently in line with
the ruling elite’s progressive ideas about the Constitution, and further
terming these ideas ‘leftist’.

In essence, his contention is on the active interpretation of the
substantive conditions of the Constitution. He is basically of the view, by
implication of his utterances, that there is no need to change the status
quo, we should continue with life and accept the conditions that are
remnants of a diabolic system which disadvantaged and isolated the majority
from economic and social participation, despite the fact that there is
overwhelming evidence of instances where racial tensions and economic
isolation in most of South African life have been and continue to be

What kind of democracy would that be when supremacists want their continued
legacy unscathed and in place?

I am convinced it would be the maintenance of the very apartheid which many
sacrificed their lives to fight against, and it would be deviant to the
hard-won unity and cohesion we seek to achieve as a diverse nation.

It cannot therefore be that when dealing with a matter such as the one
being discussed, Mr Roets then turns a blind eye on the previous and
continuing related matters where not only language, but ill-gotten
privileges had and continue to be utilised as a tool to undermine and
demonise others.

This is by no way to suggest that the Afrikaans language should not be
defended and preserved, but merely to point out that if it, or any other
language is utilised as a tool to disregard not only other languages and
cultures, but the common objective of building a non-racist society, more
needs to give. A common democratic effort to unite all South Africans can
simply not be realisable when others use their language and culture to
disregard others by way of imposing their language as superior.

The organisation Mr Roets represents can equally not claim innocence on the
approach the courts have taken as it is based on the substantive realities
that have demonstrated to occur throughout society, and their own version
on the approach towards unity building in South Africa has been a rather
sour pill to swallow as it promotes Afrikaner nationalism within the
confines of a country that seeks unity and cohesion by all.

*2.* *Political Slip*

Again, Mr Roets starts off his explanation of a political slip from a
faulty presumption, which always leads to faulty assumptions. This he does
by projecting the Chief Justice’s comments as loosely translating to
suggest that Afrikaans is phased out as a result of the execution of a
constitutionally-inspired transformation agenda, therefore suggesting that
it is the underlying values of the constitution that necessitates that
students of UFS may no longer study in Afrikaans.

>From this we can simply pick up that in Mr Roets we are dealing with a
phenomenon that rejects the observation of reasonable and objective
solution to a crisis of proportional delay or damage to social cohesion.

The very unintended consequence of segregating the white Afrikaans-speaking
students from black students who prefer studying in English have
demonstrated to threated racial harmony and promote racial supremacy at the
university, hence it was the university in the first instance which changed
its language policy, and therefore conditions which suit all who utilise
the services of the university had to be met.

Mr Roets’ aims are revealing themselves in that his arguments border around
driving a wedge between Afrikaans-speaking students by suggesting that they
are viewed with suspicion when they ask to study in their own language, yet
he says nothing of the black students who should also have a right to study
in a language of their preference. This lack of objectivity again stems
from the traceable fact that in its nature, Afriforum is driven by the need
to raise white fears around the transformation agenda, exclusive
self-determination within the republic.

When looking at their litigations to courts of law in recent times, as in
the case with the one against the City of Tshwane Metropolitan
Municipality, restraining the removal of old street names and bringing back
those which had been removed, there was sheer disregard for the victims of
the crimes and atrocities engineered by most of the people whose names hung
around the corners of that city.

Just as the old South African flag is adopted by some white South Africans
as being a symbol of Afrikaner heritage and history, it represents the
oppression that the majority suffered under apartheid, and along with the
old street names should belong in the past. Unfortunately Afriforum sees
these as souvenirs of their conquest and subjugation.

Another aspect that contributes to these attitudes of racism is that there
is a huge gap between the wealth of black people and white people in South
Africa. Racism is a problem, but economic inequality and poor governance
creates that problem as well.

With this organisation referring to apartheid as a “so-called historical
injustice and a “wooly concept”, it just goes to demonstrate they view it
as a past necessity that should have never perished. They need to confront
the fact that apartheid was a crime against humanity.

Through working together with Gerrie Nel, it has become clear that they aim
to target and litigate anything progressive out of government, but also to
directly confront those who might seem a threat to their dominance.

In a country where the levels of women and child abuse have been of great
worrisome, they specifically opted to assist the young lady who was
allegedly assaulted by the former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe. This
was not because they had her interests at heart, but because she could be
used as a pawn to get close proximity in dealing with Mugabe.

Such many instances should be seen for what they are; selectively fighting
societal challenges that only affect whites without care as to how their
black counterparts navigate through past and present challenges which are
dominantly remnants of the apartheid policies and legacy.

Afriforum and the views that they represent are partial in that they only
seek to place white Afrikaners at the centre-stage of all forms of dialogue
and economic activity in preserving the gains made through the
implementation of apartheid, and are using all means available to them to
defend these privileges.

*Richard Mamabolo is POPCRU's Media and Communications Officer.*


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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