Scotland wasted an opportunity to become fully independent of the UK, yet the resultant national debate and soul-searching during the referendum had lasting effects on both Scottish and British identity. I was struck by septuagenarian designer Vivienne Westwood’s declaration: “I hate England. I like Scotland because somehow I think they are better than we are. They are more democratic.”
Looking at the kind of ethnic discourse dished up by Jonny Steinberg and Nomalanga Mkhize on what they see as white or Afrikaner identity, it is clear that South Africa is in dire need of an honest debate about what it means to be “South African” (if such a thing exists) and whether we would not relate better at a greater distance from one another. “Devo max” was the term coined during the “Indyref” and Afrikaners definitely require it, at least as far as our schools and universities are concerned.
As I have argued recently in my ebook essay, Raiders of the lost Empire: South Africa’s ‘English’ identity, this society apes everything that Britain and the British do. Even Mandela said that he aspired to be a black Englishman. As Hendrik Potgieter expressed to the Natal governor circa 1840, I can think of no fate worse than becoming English, yet so many people here are absolutely besotted with the British royals and regard South Africa as a Little Britain, smelling of bacon and eggs, especially at the breakfast table. Robin Cook’s speech on multicultural “Chicken tikka masala Britain” would also define how this Little Britain sees itself, although its national dish is probably a Spur flame-grilled hamburger, with that touch of American ambience.
From the English point of view, Afrikaners may be a moribund minority best forgotten about unless they can be slurred with perennial caricatures of apartheid or seeing Oscar Pistorius as an Afrikaner, despite the fact that only his surname is Afrikaans. However, just like “wee Scotland”, we have a right to exist, to speak our language and not to be murdered by the thousands every year.
Until now, our Afrikaans state schools have managed to avoid the depth of the crisis in education, triggered by all the fatal experiments with “outcomes-based education” and other English or Commonwealth fads. Before it gets any worse, control over Afrikaans education at all levels must handed over to us. The notion that an English person could decide what my child should be taught, how and in what language is absolutely preposterous!
As American author Jared Taylor said, there is no such thing as “white identity”. Whites are too browbeaten by constant accusations of racism to have a racial identity. But the Afrikaner nation has a strong and enduring cultural identity, much more so than that of the Scots, in fact.
Great Britain and its leaders were at equally great pains to “embrace” Scotland, lest it flees the union. Locally, Little Britain is so contemptuous of Afrikaners, Afrikaans, boerewors, Steve Hofmeyr, Die Stem and everything that goes with it, that there seems to be a mutual feeling that more separation is not only desirable, but inevitable.
We also want Devo Max, and the first step would be to return our schools and universities to us. We made them, paid for them and still administer them. They do not belong to Little Britain.
A shortened form of this column appeared as a letter in Business Day under the title Afrikaans identity needs autonomy.