An over­whelm­ing re­sponse to a call for a leader

A new gen­er­a­tion emerges

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - BY FW DE KLERK for­mer State Pres­i­dent and chair­man of the FW de Klerk Foun­da­tion

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.

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