February 11, 2015
Population: Afrikaners constitute nearly three million out of approximately 49 million inhabitants of the Republic of South Africa, plus as many as half a million in diaspora.
Religion: Predominantly protestant (Calvinist)
UNPO REPRESENTATION: Freedom Front Plus
Afrikaners are represented at the UNPO by Freedom Front Plus. They were admitted to the UNPO as a member in 2008.
The Afrikaners are descendants from European explorers who started to settle in South Africa during the seventeenth century. They speak their own language, Afrikaans, which is derived from Dutch. The Afrikaners originate from the first permanent settlement of Dutch colonists in 1652, though their development has also been influenced by the French Huguenots, fleeing from catholic France, and by German settlers. Contemporary cultural traits, such as the language, can easily be traced back to these original settlers, though the traditional way of life has largely been modified over time.
The majority of the Afrikaners live in the Republic of South Africa, though substantive numbers can also be found in other Southern African countries. Already during the colonial period, considerable numbers left to farm in Kenya, yet it was mainly over the course of the past two decades that a significant flow of Afrikaners left their home country to settle elsewhere. Forming part of the greater capital flight of skilled labor out of South Africa, many educated Afrikaners have left towards the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries considered to offer more opportunities than South Africa.
The Afrikaners are descendants from settlers arriving at the Cape of Good Hope during the period of administration by the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC), from 1652 to 1795.
The Dutch first settled at the Cape in 1652, intending to build a strategic rest point for ships from the Dutch East India Company on their way from Europe to Asia. Despite these plans, a permanent settlement emerged, to grow steadily as more settlers came in. The Huguenots increased the community’s size, as they fled from France in 1688, escaping persecution from the Roman Catholic Church. As the years passed, the population of what today comprises the Afrikaners would incorporate settlers from different European nationalities, although the Dutch admittedly remained the most numerous.
The distance and relative isolation of the Cape from the Netherlands caused a gradual transformation of the Dutch language spoken by the settlers. Over time, sufficiently significant changes in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation started to appear, hence giving birth to a new language, to be called Afrikaans. Even though the official language of most formal institutions remained Dutch for many years to come, Afrikaans came to be the common language of the people.
The Cape was administrated by the Dutch East India Company for nearly 150 years, when, by 1795, the Dutch were forced to hand over their African settlement to British control. This led to great resentment amongst the local population. One of the early unpopular measures by the British was the revoking of Dutch as the official language of the area, to be followed in 1824 by an even more resented policy: freeing the slaves. A large number of Afrikaners were Boers, farmers, of whom many held slaves. The discontent amongst the Boers, further fueled by increasing population pressures in the southern cone of Africa, led to the Great Trek. By 1835, the Boers were heading north- and eastwards in large numbers, establishing independent Afrikaner states in different parts of the region.
The Voortrekkers (“those who trek ahead”) were the founders of the republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, allowing the Afrikaners to run their own affairs without British influence. The establishment of the new republics did not go without a struggle however, especially once the Zulus started resisting the influx of settlers. The Zulu leader, Dingane, killed one of the most prominent Voortrekkers, Pieter Retief, provoking a bloody avengement against the Zulus by the Boers in the Battle of Blood River in 1838. Even though the Afrikaners came out victorious from this conflict, they would be less successful in combating the British several decades later.
When gold was discovered in the Transvaal, tensions soon began to arise. Gold seekers, often British, frustrated the Boers. Before long, friction led to conflict, which then ignited the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). The British, must more resourceful and numerous than the Afrikaners, won this costly and deadly conflict. The Afrikaners were left without a self-ruled republic, yet the war had created a stronger nation than had existed before, as it brought the Afrikaners from different parts together. The two Afrikaner republics were annexed to the British controlled Cape colonies, and the convention for a Union of South Africa was called. At this convention, to which no black representatives were invited, a new constitution was ratified and the Union of South Africa was created, in which the equal participation of all blacks and colored’s in society was constitutionally prohibited.
POLITICAL SITUATION - HISTORY
After an extended period of Dutch control, the Cape Colony was taken over by the British in 1795. The Afrikaans-speaking population became discontent with the newly installed British rule, culminating into a large outflow of the Boers (the Voortrekkers) between 1824 and 1838. They trekked deep into the interior of nowadays South Africa, with the purpose of establishing independent republics far from the interfering reach of the British colonial authorities in the Cape. Two major Boer republics came into being: the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Here the Boers might have been left in peace on their farms, were it not for a fateful discovery in the Transvaal: gold.
The influx of gold diggers into the Transvaal led to tensions with the farmers and the Volksraad (People’s Council) who feared that the foreigners would revoke their autonomy. The tensions eventually incited the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), which the Boer republics lost, thereby leading to their final annexation by the British rulers. By 1910, the British decided to combine the Cape colony, the two newly acquired Boer republics, and the colony of Natal into the Union of South Africa.
Even though several of the country’s homelands were nominally self-governed, South Africa’s black majority was excluded from virtually all democratic participation in the governing of their state and country during the decades that followed. Segregation policies, to be traced back to 1905 when the British separated public schools along ethnic divisions, were soon to be complemented by discriminating legislation passed by the British controlled government. In 1923, the Pass Laws were adopted, initiating the enactment of Apartheid laws that would taint the country’s history.
For several decades, a relative status quo was maintained, when in 1948 the freedoms of non-whites were further restricted as political parties led by Afrikaners gained control of the government. The Apartheid system came to an end towards the end of the century through the efforts of State President F.W. de Klerk, Nelson Mandela and others. In 1992, a convincing “yes” in the organized referendum paved way to the democratic elections of 1994, which were to make Mandela the new president of South Africa. In 1999, Jaboc Zuma succeeded Mandela, and is the current President of South Africa. Unfortunately, Nelson Mandela passed away in December 2013.
In recent years, the Afrikaners have continued to play an active role in national politics, aiming to protect their culture and interests. They have continued to prominently put the issue of self-determination on South Africa’s political agenda, as the annexation of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State by the British had left the Afrikaners without their desired autonomous region. Freedom Front Plus currently has four seats in the national parliament. The ANC, however, stays in dominant position after the elections of 2014, with 249 seats.
According to the Freedom Front Plus, the Afrikaner people are experiencing an increasing violation of their cultural, economic and political rights. Especially the latter in considered to be under severe strain, as it is not being reported properly in the media, and as the government pretends to listen, but effectively ignores the Afrikaners. The South African Constitution provides for the right to a cultural life of one’s choice (S.30), for general cultural, religious and linguistic rights (S.31) and for the right to self-determination (S.235).
The South African Parliament has been working for many years on legislation concerning linguistic rights. They have further worked to set up a Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. Problematically enough, however, parliamentary debates have not resulted in any significant action to be taken. Bills are circulating between departments for many years and end results are minimal. More than 50% of the schools that used Afrikaans as the medium of instruction have been dismantled since 1994, despite the fact that a number of English-medium schools in that area were available and under-utilized. The FFP wants the Pan South African Language Board to be given more power and it wants the government to take a decision on the language bill that has been circulating in parliament for years.
Moreover, hate crimes against Afrikaners have not declined since 2012. The murder rate of the entire South African population is still 31 per 100,000. However, the murder rate of (Afrikaner) farmers is four times higher. According to the Institute of Security Studies, the farm murder rate in 2013 was 120 per 100,000. The numbers of Transvaal Agricultural Union, the numbers in 2013 were a bit higher, namely 130 per 100,000. This makes the murder rate in South Africa one of the highest in the world.
UNPO MEMBER PERSPECTIVE
The Freedom Front Plus has been active in South African politics at all levels, aiming to defend the political, cultural and economic rights of the Afrikaners. The eventual objective of the party is to work towards self-determination for the Afrikaners within the South African constitution. In their view this constitution should be interpreted in such a way that it would provide for regional autonomy of all groups that wish self-government. The Freedom Front Plus further claims community rights.
CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT
Although Afrikaans and Dutch are mutually intelligible up until today, the former has undergone a highly interesting transformation ever since the Dutch settlers came to the Cape. Unlike the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands, the language of the settlers was strongly influenced by languages spoken by slaves, as well as by the languages of other settlers and of distinct indigenous peoples. Over the years, Portuguese, English and Zulu, amongst others, have had profound impacts on the pronunciation and the morphology of the language. Vocabulary and syntax would change at a slower pace, and have remained very close to Dutch over time. Today, Afrikaans is one of the eleven official languages of South Africa.
Religion has played an important role for the Afrikaners throughout history. Up until today, a large portion of the population attends church on a regular basis and is member of a Calvinist church. In recent years, the influence of religion on the life of the Afrikaners has been waning slowly, yet it remains of great importance to many.
Freedom Front Plus:
Afrikaans language and culture organization:
Afrikaner youth movement Die Voortrekkers: