Afrikaner: FF+ UPR Submission to the UN Forum on Minority Issues
The Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) welcomes the invitation to make a submission to the UN Forum on Minority Issues.
SUBMISSION: MINORITIES AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
as requested by:
FORUM ON MINORITY ISSUES, 12 AND 13 NOVEMBER 2009
PALAIS DES NATIONS, GENEVA
The Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) welcomes the invitation to make a submission to the UN Forum on Minority Issues (Minority Forum, hence abbreviated as MF), which takes place on 12 and 13 November 2009.
1.2 FF Plus was formed as a political party at the dawn of the new democratic dispensation in the RSA in 1994, to accommodate the political interests of the Afrikaner community, in particular that segment which feels strongly about the maintenance of its cultural heritage and its right to self-determination.
As a political party the FF Plus affords its supporters the opportunity to demonstrate their support for its ideals, by taking part in the national, provincial and local elections as well as elections for Student Representative Councils at University campuses. As such the FF Plus is best suited to serve as a political Representative Body for the Afrikaner as a minority group in SA on all three spheres of government.
1.3 On 23 April 1994, four days before the first democratic election in the Republic of South Africa, the FF Plus entered into an Accord with the then National Party government and the ANC, committing itself to a process of dialogue with the to-be-elected democratic government. This Accord included amongst others the following terms:
1.3.1 The parties agreed to address, through a process of negotiation, the idea of Afrikaner Self-determination, including the concept of a Volkstaat (Territorial Self Determination).
1.3.2 The parties further agreed that in consideration of these matters, they shall not exclude the possibility of local and/or regional and other forms of expression of such self-determination.
1.3.3 They agreed that negotiations should be guided by the need to be consistent with and shall be governed by the requirement to pay due consideration to Constitutional Principle 34, and other provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 200 of 1993 as amended.
1.3.4 There must be proven support for the idea of self-determination including the concept of a Volkstaat.
1.3.5 The parties agreed that a Volkstaatraad shall be established to investigate and report to the Constitutional Assembly and the Commission on Provincial Government on measures which can give effect to the idea of Afrikaner self-determination including the concept of a Volkstaat.
1.3.6 The parties further agreed that they will address all matters of concern to them through negotiations and that this shall not exclude the possibility of international mediation to help resolve such matters as may be in dispute and/or difficult to conclude.
1.4 In the elections of 1994, FF Plus succeeded in accomplishing the requirement for substantial proven support as contemplated in item 3.1.1 of the Accord.
1.5 Furthermore, the so-called Volkstaat Council was indeed established. After its submission to government was finalized, it became functus officio and dissolved in 1999. The FF Plus as well as the Volkstaat Council fully participated in the process to compile a Constitution that would replace the interim Constitution. In the period between April 1994 and 1996 the FF Plus submitted a wide range of proposals to the Constitutional Committee. These proposals were also subjected to intensive debate which was eventually concluded to be reflected in the RSA Constitution of 1996. The relevant sections which now contain our proposals are the following:
1.5.1 Section 30: Language and Culture
Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision with the Bill of Rights.
1.5.2 Section 31: Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities
(1) Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or a linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members of that community –
(a) To enjoy their culture, practice their religion and use their language; and
(b) To form, join and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society
(2) The rights in sub-section (1) may not be exercised in a manner inconsistent with any provision with the Bill of Rights
1.5.3 Section 185: Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities
(1) The primary objects of this Commission are
(a) To promote respect for the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities;
(b) to promote and develop peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance and national unity among cultural, religious and linguistic communities, on the basis of equality, non-discrimination and free association; and
(c) to recommend the establishment and recognition, in accordance with national legislation, of a cultural or other council or councils for a community or communities in South Africa
(2) The Commission has the power, as regulated by national legislation, necessary to achieve its primary objects, including the power to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby, advice and report on issues concerning the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities.
(3) The Commission may report any matter which falls within its powers and functions to the Human Rights Commission for investigation.
(4) The Commission has the additional powers and functions prescribed by National Legislation.
1.5.4 Section 235: Self Determination
The right of the South African people as a whole to self-determination, as manifested in this Constitution, does not preclude, within the framework of this right, recognition of the notion of the right to self-determination of any community sharing a common cultural and language heritage, within the territorial entity in the Republic or in any other way, determined by national legislation.
Please note that the word “minority” or the words “minority group” does not appear in the South African Constitution of 1996.
1.6 Being an ethnic minority – about 2 million out of a population of 50 million – the Afrikaner people is experiencing an increasing violation of its cultural, economic and political rights, the latter being under severe strain, not being properly reported in the media and with a government pretending to listen, but effectively ignoring the Afrikaner’s (and other ethnic, religious and cultural groups) right to self-determination, in a province, a state or any other territorial entity. Although our Constitution provides for the right to use of languages and to enjoy cultural life of ones choice (S.30) and the enjoyment of cultural, religious and linguistic rights (S.31) and allows for the recognition of the right to self-determination (S.235) these provisions remain just mere sections in the Constitution. Efforts by the FF Plus (and other organs of the civil society) to have these provisions applied in practice are being stifled by the ANC dominated government. The future existence of the Afrikaner people, who are living, working and striving in this country since 1652, is increasingly under threat.
1.7 Under the pretext of transformation, many Afrikaners and members of minorities in South Africa are being denied admission to specialised fields of study in academic institutions and occupations (such as medicine). Please take note of the discriminatory rules and regulations proclaimed by the University of Cape Town for the admission of students from the different population groups – these admissions discriminate blatantly against the White minority. In brief these regulations require:
Potential students applying to study a degree in medicine, must prove that they have obtained, in the last examinations of their final Secondary School year, an average total percentage as follows:
Black students to have an average of 74%, Coloured students 78%, Indian students 88% and White students 91%.
Affirmative action is regarded as one of the main reasons for the exodus of Afrikaners from South Africa. According to reliable statistics as many as one million South Africans, mostly Afrikaners, emigrated to countries like the UK, Australia, New-Zeeland, Canada and the USA since 1994.
1.8 Name changing of places with Afrikaner-historical connections (Pretoria, Potchefstrom, Louis Trichard etc) is being forced through at all costs. The local community of the town Louis Trichardt in the northern parts of South Africa recently had to approach the Supreme Court of Appeal at huge costs to overturn a decision by government to change the name of the town to Makhado without prior consultation. The Court upheld the appeal of the local community of Louis Trichardt.
1.9 One of the only few remaining Afrikaans medium state-controlled schools in South Africa, the Ermelo High School, was recently forced to change its language policy to that of dual-medium for more or less 100 English-speaking learners. This happened despite the fact that a number of neighboring English-medium schools is underutilized.
1.10 Disillusioned, frustrated and disappointed, the FF Plus prepared to access an international forum where it could exercise expression and enforcement of its aspirations and rights in order to contribute to the promotion of peace based on genuine mutual respect and understanding in South Africa.
1.11 In May 2008 the FF Plus was unanimously accepted as member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) based in The Hague representing 200 million people and 70 Peoples and Nations. UNPO liaises with the UN and the EU and facilitates through these organisations the attendance of members-peoples and nations- to international events. The expenses for attendance need however to be borne by members of UNPO themselves; something which up to now prevented FF Plus to utilise all the available events.
1.12 Therefore the FF Plus further comments on the indicated issues for consideration:
2. Issues for Consideration:
2.1 Participation and Discrimination
South Africa is a country which has 11 (eleven) official languages which ipso facto is an admission of the reality of eleven minority groups, de facto, however, English , for practical purposes is the dominant language.
The perception exists that the acknowledgement of eleven official languages is not sincere and just pacifies the relevant minorities. A further perception is that in a majoritarian democracy, the government sets the tune and either the other minority groups defer or are excluded from effective and meaningful participation in the political processes and government institutions. The result is that English is regarded as the “Language of Business” which forces all citizens to communicate with the government in English.
2.2 Meaningful Representation and Empowerment
Granting minimum concessions to appease demands or interests of minorities tend to create frustration within the minority. Representation of a minority should be meaningful to the extent that the minority is empowered to achieve something through such representation for itself.
2.3 Obstacles of Minorities Political Participation
The South African Constitution provides adequately for suffrage, citizenship and running for elections. The FF Plus is of the opinion that voter education is up to standard. The location of voter registration points and polling stations should be as far as possible in close proximity of local and minority community’s places of residence. Minorities often become reluctant to participate in the polling process if registration and voting stations are not easily and safely accessible. Some feel estranged and withdraw from the process and any participation in public affairs, particularly if the majority simply overwhelms the minority by numbers.
If the population register is used to compile the voters list and voters can vote electronically, all voters, minorities included, could be lured to vote and a more accurate result of voter’s choices could be achieved.
2.4 Impact of Different Electoral Systems
The proportional system is the only system which could accommodate minorities effectively. If minorities are geographically concentrated, the delimitation of electoral districts could be considered. Fortunately the proportional system of elections is functioning well in the Republic of South Africa. Where apathy amongst voters are experienced, it remains the duty of the Political Parties to mobilize the voters of their own communities
2.5 Possible Institutions/bodies which could Address Obstacles to Minorities Participation in Political life
A ministry of Minority Affairs could be a very applicable solution to impact positively on the issue of minority – interests, while an Ombudsman on minority interests could be a wise decision, provided however that such an Ombudsman really must act as such.
A situation can be envisaged where two or more minorities clash with one another about something in which case the Ombudsman can fulfill a very important function. Representative institutions like Parliament, provincial legislatures and local authorities can indeed reach out to minorities to get acquainted with issues of interest in a minority community, regardless of whether such community/minority has an elected representative or not.
2.6 Role of Political Parties
The only effective way for any minority to determine its support is by means of general and or local government elections. Cultural, linguistic or religious minorities should choose or establish a political party to take part in elections and to represent that minority group on the relevant government level. At the moment the FF Plus is the only Afrikaner Political Party that actively participates in all the elections in all 3 spheres of government in the country.
2.7 Role of Minority Groups
There are areas of minority activity where persons belonging to that minority may and do differ in its convictions and views about issues which transcend party political activities e.g. schools, churches, business associations, farming societies etcetera. If a minority wishes to maintain and develop its own cultural, religious and linguistic heritage the onus will always rest on the minority group itself. These groups therefore have to elect and develop their own leadership in order to maintain itself in a modern state.
2.8 Quotas, Reserved Seats or other Mechanisms Ensuring Representation of Minorities
These mechanisms do not exist in South Africa at the moment. To provide for these mechanisms would require major constitutional amendments which in South Africa is not feasible at all. Those minorities which do not have representation through elected representatives on national, provincial and local levels should be able to elect their own representatives amongst themselves. Fortunately the present Constitution (Section 185) provides the mechanism for the establishment of the specific Councils; minorities should follow this avenue to create a representative body if necessary. Respective governments should be responsible to assist these minorities financially and otherwise.
2.9 Cultural Autonomy and Self Governance
In spite of the good intentions contained in the relevant sections of the RSA Constitution of 1996 regarding Self Determination, very little of these have materialized since 1994. The present ANC government intends to maintain and increase its power in all spheres of life in the country.
2.10 Related Issues
The most important matter in this regard is minority access to the media, printed and electronic. The playing field is not level once access in the media comes to play. Smaller parties representing minorities simply do not get an equitable financial share to fight elections. This explains why in the recent elections the smaller parties generally lost support. They simply do not have the financial means to compete with the stronger and greater parties and thus the interest of minorities are not properly represented and they are too small to determine the outcome of decisions in a majoritarian democracy. This often resulted in a sort of dictatorship of the majority Party.
3. Application of the Indicated Framework Themes to the three Core Elements for Discussion: a Synopsis.
3.1 Challenges and Problems facing Minorities and States
a. Lack of financial and organisational means to create and sustain effective minority organisations.
b. Tendency to withdraw from the political and social fabric of the national/provincial/local activities.
3.2 Good Practices Re: Minorities and Political Participation:
a. Study and internalize all relevant international documentation, especially those proclaimed by the United Nations regarding the Rights of Minorities; governments should ratify all these declarations.
b. Identify minorities in the nation State and acknowledge them by means of legislation/accords/agreements.
c. Start a multi-minority state negotiation process to identify pitfalls, opportunities and solutions, and establish a special permanent commission with the sole purpose of maintaining the Rights of Minorities.
d. Government should always directly consult minorities when policy matters of any sphere of government tends to negatively impact on issues important to any minority such as language policy at educational institutions, name changes, policing services and government offices.
e. Government should always be reminded that satisfied minorities contribute to the maintenance of stability in the country.
3.3 Opportunities, Initiatives and Solutions
These aspects overlap with issues raised in 3.2 above. However, agreements should be honored pacta sunt servanda. To ignore this tends to estrange a minority with unwanted consequences.
4. Ways and means to Increase Effective Participation of Minorities in Policy – and Decision Making Procedures and Institutions.
a. Nation States must commit themselves by means of a political decision to acknowledge minorities and to provide for their participation in policy and decision making.
b. Existing international protocols and agreements regarding minorities must be honoured by governments of Nation States.
c. Engage in a perpetual interaction with the minority groups; minorities must be persuaded and encouraged to form representative Non Governmental Organizations in all sphere’s of life, even if it means government’s financial support.
DR FRIK VAN HEERDEN; DR CORNè MULDER AND COL PIET UYS
COMMITTEE FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: FREEDOM FRONT PLUS