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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

GILIOMEE, Hermann. The current troubled state of the Afrikaners and Afrikaans. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.4, pp.571-595. ISSN 2224-7912.

The rise of the Afrikaners as a politicised ethnic group that captured the state, under the leadership of the National Party, and of Afrikaans as a public language was one of the most prominent features of twentieth century South African history. During the 1970s NP rule started to come under severe pressure as a result of its apartheid policy and it handed over power in 1994. Over the next twenty years the civil service was radically transformed, English became the de facto official language. Afrikaners not only had to deal with the sudden loss of state power but a declining demograpic base. Afrikaans-medium secondary schools and universities had to admit large numbers who preferred to receive their instruction in English. An opportunity in 2001 to safeguard Afrikaans at two universities was squandered. In technical and educational colleges the state simply phased out Afrikaans instruction. Whites in the upper echelons became largely selfemployed, while those in the lower echelons managed tofind a job but not necessarily at the level required for the traditional "white" standard of living. Afrikaans-speakers represent more than half of the Democratic Alliance 's support base, but the party's efforts to capture the black vote made it unwilling to speak up on Afrikaans as a public language or aggressive affirmative action in the public sector and large corporations. While Afrikaans has flourished in the cultural sphere, particularly at festivals, the publication of fiction, and in pay television channels, it is losing ground steadily at university level in face of the cultural totalitarianism of the ruling party and the failure of senior academics, administrators and university coucils to back up the language. The demise of both Afrikaans as public language and the Afrikaners as an ethnic group has become a real possibilty over the medium term.

Keywords : Afrikaans; African nationalism; Afrikaner nationalism; apartheid; business leadership; cultural festivals; cultural pluralism; Democratic Alliance; demography; English dominance; political ethnicity; language death; liberal democracy; one-party dominance; socialism; universities.

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