Big Mami stands before the concert hall, and rubs two fingers together.
What is this?
It is the world’s smallest violin playing, “My Heart Pumps Purple Piss For You.”
10 years after end of apartheid
Afrikaners struggle to adapt to new South Africa
PRETORIA — A year after becoming South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela walked onto the field at the final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup wearing the national team jersey.
For Afrikaners, to whom rugby is a passion, it was the high point of post-apartheid reconciliation. But today it has become a moment many look back to with bitterness.
As the country marks the 10th anniversary today of the end of apartheid and swears in its second black president for another term, many Afrikaners feel lost and marginalised in the country they dominated through a web of racist laws for almost half a century.
“Some of the changes are being implemented in a way which runs the risk of putting South Africa back into a sort of new apartheid,” said the last white president, FW de Klerk, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for negotiating apartheid’s end a decade ago.
Afrikaners, the descendants of 17th century Dutch and French settlers, make up 59 per cent of South Africa’s 4.3 million whites. But they are only 5.6 per cent of the overall population of 45 million.
They complain their language is disappearing from schools, courts and government offices, and they feel threatened by affirmative action policies for blacks held back by apartheid.
“They feel there is a risk of white South Africans being relegated to a sort of second-class citizenship,” De Klerk said in an interview with AP.
But during apartheid times it was the blacks who were treated as second-class and even denied South African citizenship. Even now, the white minority, 10 per cent of the population, remains far better off than most of the impoverished black majority.
For all the griping, Afrikaans culture actually seems far from dead. Instead it has thrown off its apartheid trappings and become the vehicle for a new kind of rock music and literature, shared by whites as well as millions of South Africans of Asian and mixed-race descent.
De Klerk and others acknowledge things could have been much worse. On the eve of South Africa’s historic all-race elections in 1994, many whites were stocking up on fuel, water and cans of baked beans in expectation of a bloodbath.
To their surprise, there was no violent revenge. Government continued to function. The phones still worked, the lights stayed on.
Mandela went out of his way to allay Afrikaners’ fears with well-chosen gestures such as travelling to Orania, a town that is one of the last outposts of white separatism. There he had coffee with the widow of Hendrik Verwoerd, the prime minister who was apartheid’s chief architect.
Still, Afrikaners have battled to come to terms with their disempowerment in a country they dominated for 48 years, and which many had come to regard as their God-given right to rule.
The change was all the more painful for having come after they had finally shaken off their own second-class status under the English-speaking whites and started enjoying middle-class prosperity.
“It was quite a dramatic fall,” said Herman Giliomee, a University of Stellenbosch professor who has written a history of his Afrikaner people. “People are still grappling and struggling to redefine themselves.”
Afrikaner nationalism, the political movement that had united Afrikaners since they fought and lost against British hegemony at the turn of last century, has rapidly disintegrated.
The renamed New National Party, which in apartheid times could count on the unquestioning loyalty of most Afrikaners, won less than two per cent of the vote during April 14 elections that resulted in a second term for President Thabo Mbeki.
The Dutch Reformed Church, whose teachings once enshrined white supremacy, is losing members.
Militant white separatists, once the biggest threat to a peaceful transition to majority rule, have become a source of ridicule.
Despite constitutional guarantees, some Afrikaners feel their cultural identity is under threat in South Africa’s new “rainbow nation.”
Under white rule, Afrikaans was one of two official languages. Now it is one of 11, and English is becoming the common tongue.
Afrikaans-speaking schools and universities have had to integrate students who don’t speak the language or identify with the culture.
Some streets and cities honouring Afrikaner heroes have been renamed after black leaders, and new public holidays have replaced those honouring Afrikaner history.
Some Afrikaners have retreated to parties seeking to protect minority rights. Others have thrown their lot in with the majority. Four Verwoed grandchildren have moved to all-white Orania. Another has gone the opposite route and joined Mbeki’s party, the African National Congress.
So has Pik Botha, foreign minister in apartheid times.
Whites too were “liberated from the plague of apartheid,” said Botha.
The world has opened to South Africa, and there are more opportunities than ever before, he said.
The younger generation is showing the way, freed of church elders and government elders who for decades defined Afrikaner culture. (AP)
I had to take this out the comment box:
Okay, let me quantify that by saying I do not feel sorry for the Afrikaaners who are looking back on apartheid as the good old days.
I do not sympathise with their discomfort coming from a place of wrongful occupation, subjugation and hateful behaviour towards the indigenous population of South Africa. I’m not sorry they are fucking having trouble adjusting. As far as I am concerned, they can like it or lump it.
I am glad that there are so many young South Africans of all ethnicities reaching towards greater unity. However, let us not think for a minute that the white Afrikaaners who lived liked fat cats during apartheid, do not hate their current state of ‘equality.’