Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
TERBLANCHE, Otto. The differences between the Netherlands and Flanders with respect to South Africa during the apartheid era: an analysis . Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2010, vol.50, n.4, pp. 447-466. ISSN 0041-4751.
This article will deal with five differences between the Netherlands and Flanders, the northern, Dutch-speaking regional state of Belgium, with respect to South Africa during the apartheid era. The Dutch identity cannot be understood without a knowledge of its Calvinist roots. The Netherlands exercised a profound theological influence on South Africa. The Afrikaans Reformed Churches were greatly influenced by the Netherlands. The religious connectedness would play a vital role in the Dutch criticism of apartheid. Dutch theologians, namely Rev J.J. Buskes and Prof. J. Verkuyl, were outspoken in their condemnation of apartheid. Because of its Roman Catholic character Flanders exercised virtually no theological influence on the Afrikaans Reformed Churches. Moral and ethical motives are deeply embedded in the Dutch national character. The postwar generations of the 1960s and 1970s rediscovered morality. The Netherlands would act as the moral conscience of the world. Action groups would campaign on behalf of the "underdog". The Dutch would have a simplified view of the complex racial question in South Africa. White South Africa would be seen as the negative mirror image of the Netherlands. The Dutch felt a sense of guilt regarding developments in South Africa; that sense of guilt was absent in Catholic Flanders. Belgium and the Netherlands experienced the Second World War differently. In the Netherlands the memory of the holocaust was more vivid than in Belgium. About 41 per cent of the Jews in Belgium were murdered. In contrast 71 per cent of the Jews in the Netherlands were murdered. The Dutch authorities also played an active role in the deportation of the Jews. The Dutch thus felt a deep sense of guilt after the war. That being the case, they would actively campaign against any form of discrimination or racism. South Africa would then be seen as a scapegoat. The Belgian colonial adventure in the Congo lasted for only 75 years. The Congo obtained its independence in 1960; however, the Congo did not persist as a moral problem in Belgium. The Belgians were also not consumed with a sense of guilt. The decolonisation of Indonesia was a traumatic process for the Netherlands that lasted for four and a half years. In 1949 the Dutch government was forced to accept the inevitability of Indonesian independence. Western New Guinea was only transferred to Indonesia in 1963. In October 1961 Dr J.A.H.J.S. Bruins Slot, influential editor of the daily Trouw, came to the conclusion that military action and bloodshed was not the solution to the Indonesian question. Bruins Slot then condemned every form of colonialism and racial discrimination. He condemned apartheid in no uncertain terms. He would also draw parallels between Indonesia and South Africa. He urged the South African government to enter into talks with Mandela and Luthuli. Flanders always regarded the preservation and strengthening of language and cultural ties with the Afrikaner as of the utmost importance. The Flemish could identify with the language and cultural struggle of the Afrikaner because of their own struggle for cultural and political emancipation. The Afrikaners could also identify with the motives of the Flemish movement. The Dutch language, however, was never threatened in the Netherlands. Because of their commercial spirit the Dutch language was never an issue to them. In the light of their history, the people in Flanders were traditionally more sympathetic towards South Africa and the Afrikaners.
Keywords : The Netherlands; Belgium; Flanders; South Africa; apartheid; Afrikaans; Second World War; Indonesia.