An overwhelming response to a call for a leader
A new generation emerges
THE NATIONAL DEBATE has clearly been stirred up by the controversy surrounding the sudden popularity of Bok van Blerk’s song about General Koos de la Rey. Why is this noteworthy? Is it a symptom of the growing alienation of young Afrikaners, who now see themselves as the victims of racial discrimination? Is it just a crowd of young people out to have fun?
There’s probably a measure of truth in everything that has been said and written about this. In the first place, the De la Rey song is a commercial undertaking that has hit the jackpot.
The fact that Van Blerk chose the identity of his Boer hero to fit in with the rhythm and metre of his song shows that he was probably not really concerned with the deeper political meaning of the song.
However, the political relevance of De la Rey doesn’t lie in the intention of the singer – but in the overwhelming response from his audience.
It’s clear that the song has literally and figuratively struck a chord with many – though not necessarily all – young Afrikaners.
And those who respond emotionally to the song do so for a wide variety of reasons. Some of them hang out the old national flag in their longing for the past and don’t even deserve a comment. Others, who feel themselves fully part of the new South Africa, find in it a release for their frustrations.
What does this mean? In the first place, I believe that young Afrikaners who grew up in the shadow of apartheid and the TRC want to hold their heads up high again in the country of their birth. It’s important to bear in mind that they didn’t find their hero in the apartheid era.
The song is not about Hans Strijdom, Hendrik Verwoerd, or more recent generals like Constand Viljoen or Jannie Geldenhuys. None of them is considered “cool” by the new generation.
Instead they’ve gone right back to the Boer War – to what is seen as a nobler past, in which the Afrikaners were the victims and not the oppressors.
Second, the song indicates a clear need for leadership.
Tony Leon and Pieter Mulder, the politicians for whom most of the song’s young fans vote (if they vote at all) clearly don’t fill this need. Most of the Afrikaners who
It disturbs them because it’ll be more difficult for them to get jobs and promotion on merit in a work environment in which all the BEE targets are in favour of their black fellow-citizens.
The greater majority do not want to – or can’t – join the growing diaspora of Afrikaners overseas. They’re here to stay
They see no reason why they should bear the
stigma of apartheid, which was (perhaps) supported by their parents or grandparents.
vote for the DA support the party because of their “fight back” campaign.
But, like Monopoly players who land on the Jail square, they’re probably just visitors.
The Freedom Front Plus is regarded as hopeless and powerless – and is probably too closely associated with the apartheid past.
These parties do not articulate their world view – which lies somewhere between their need for identity, as is reflected in their music, their Ipods, their MBAs and other aspirations in a globalising world.
In the third place, they’ve had enough. They refuse to become second-rate citizens in their own country.
It irks them when they are refused admission to medical faculties, despite the distinctions for which they worked so hard in matric.
They don’t understand why the children of “currently privileged” black South Africans – with whom they may have been at school – are automatically given preference when it comes to affirmative action.
They are unhappy with the way their culture is being increasingly marginalised at the Afrikaans universities where they’re studying. – but they don’t want to stay as members of a morally inferior class.
They see no reason why they should bear the stigma of apartheid, which was (perhaps) supported by their parents or grandparents. They can’t accept that they must remain the victims of the ANC’s racially based policies – according to Minister Mdladlana, probably for ever.
So what are they going to do? They don’t want to start a third Boer War. They don’t want to leave and go to some mythical Afrikaner homeland.
They would rather play an honourable role in an all-encompassing South African nation, with respectful recognition of their language and culture. They want to be treated as political and moral equals. They want to speak their language and practise their culture.
They want to make a contribution to the new South Africa. They are in fact claiming no more and no less than the rights they are entitled to in terms of the Constitution.
I believe that a new generation of leaders will indeed emerge who will insist on these rights for them – new De la Reys who will pave the way for them, along the path of reconciliation, to fairness and meaningful accommodation.