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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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VAN DER MERWE, JP. The afrikaner's experience of transformation and nation building in post apartheid South Africa. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2010, vol.50, n.3, pp.313-327. ISSN 2224-7912.

In terms of their numbers, Afrikaners have always been in the minority in their locality (South Africa). During the apartheid years, Afrikaners were the dominant role-players in South Africa, and they created rigid legislation that was stringently prescriptive with respect to the other peoples who inhabited South Africa alongside of them (Slabbert 1999:61-63). In many respects, this legislation was discriminatory and degrading (Du Preez 2000:20). In post apartheid South Africa, Afrikaners have lost their dominance in government; and, moreover, their status was diminished, virtually overnight, to that of a minority group within their locality (Slabbert 1999:104). Afrikaners were thus necessarily constrained to make certain adjustments very rapidly in a post apartheid South Africa. Now that they have a full-blown minority status in the new South Africa, Afrikaners are being confronted with the realities of nation building and transformation. Outwardly, South Africans appear to have made progress since 1994 (and possibly even since 1990), in spontaneously becoming a nation The disappearance of forced racial separation, the peaceful transition to a democratic government, President Nelson Mandela's reconciliation efforts and the achievements of national sports teams all contributed towards this progress. Notwithstanding these positive developments, the ANC government remains determined to drive nation building from above, in a centralistic manner (Scholtz 1999:6). One is tempted to infer that the reason for this is that the natural route would take far too long to follow, and that success is not guaranteed. Although the ANC-in-government has adopted a more accommodating attitude towards nationhood, according to Geldenhuys (2000:13), a strong Jacobinical tendency already seems to have become discernible in this regard. Thus, an ANC discussion document of 1997 refers to the "identity of the South African nation in the making". What is needed - so it is claimed - "is a continuing battle to assert African hegemony in the context of a multi-cultural and non-racial society". In the same vein, reference is also made to "a process of building an African nation" and "our Africanness as a nation" (Venter 1999b:22). The nation building and transformation process has been, and continues to be, a traumatic one for Afrikaners (Van der Merwe 2010:197-199). Many elements of nation building are experienced by them as reverse racism and blatant discrimination. As a result of the fact that the ANC government persists in building racial labels into its legislation, Afrikaners have developed an aversion to nation building, since the racial labelling is primarily aimed at placing white people in South Africa, and specifically Afrikaners, at a disadvantage, regardless of the fi ne words and noble motives contained in the South African Constitution. Despite all of these possible threats that nation building and transformation may hold for the Afrikaner, I would like to make the prediction that Afrikaner ethnicity - notwithstanding the "total onslaught" of nation building and transformation - will come very strongly to the fore in the course of the next ten years. The irony is that it is precisely this process of nation building and transformation that will offer renewed momentum and motivation to Afrikaners to look after and protect their cultural content and values as a precious treasure. The fact that the government continually persists in focusing on the external identity elements of Afrikaners (such as skin colour) in new legislation, leaves Afrikaners with no other choice than to develop a sense of solidarity. The government continues to single out white people in general, and Afrikaners in particular, as people who cannot really be "Africans", or who are not like the rest of the rainbow nation (Buys 2004:15, Slabbert 2006:57-63 and Venter 2004). The rest of the South African peoples are unconditionally considered by the ANC government to be part of the rainbow nation. It is only white people, and in particular Afrikaners, who are first required to carry out penance and to make sacrifices before they can be regarded as part of the rainbow nation (Bornman 2005:366-389). By means of this approach, the ANC government, with its "nation building" initiatives, is in fact achieving the opposite of what is purportedly intended.

Keywords : Transformation; nation building; Afrikaner; post apartheid; new beginning; leadership; culture; acculturation; New South Africa.

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