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The New Politics of Afrikaans

Wat Verby Is, Is Verby: Afrikaners and Reconciliation

One of the main themes of Nelson Mandela’s presidency was that of reconciliation. In his inaugural address as President of South Africa in May 1994, he chose to convey this in Afrikaans: ‘wat verby is, is verby’ (what is past, is done with). In the years that followed, he came to embody this spirit, visiting the widow of Dr Verwoerd in the whites-only settlement of Orania, wearing the Springbok jersey to support South Africa during the rugby world cup, and the like.[1]

Mandela’s prison experience played a crucial role in shaping his perceptions of Afrikaner history and politics and the Afrikaans language. He urged his fellow-prisoners - often against their instincts - to study Afrikaans and the history of the Afrikaners, and he himself enjoyed the poetry of Opperman and the novels of Langenhoven.[2] In his political writings in prison, he urged the liberation movement to ‘speak directly to the Afrikaner and fully explain our position,' as ‘honest men are to be found on both sides of the colour line'. He warned against ‘the well-known hostility and contempt of the Englishman' towards Afrikaners, and the dangers of ‘black Englishmen' being too readily influenced by the English ‘who have their own reasons for despising the Afrikaner'. [3]

The negotiated settlement of the 1990s was made possible in part by a rapprochement, specifically conceived as being between the exiled ANC and Afrikaners. Thabo Mbeki played a central role in this process. According to Waldmeir, ‘only the subtlest of ANC minds could recognise this truth: that petting, coddling and cajoling the Afrikaner could pay enormous dividends. And apart from Mandela himself, there was none subtler than Thabo Mbeki.’ [4] Waldmeir describes how Mbeki won the trust of Pieter de Lange, then chairman of the Broederbond, in New York in 1986; the fifty dissident Afrikaners who met a delegation from the ANC in Dakar in 1987; and Willie Esterhuyse, the Stellenbosch philosophy professor sent as P.W. Botha’s clandestine emissary to meet the ANC in London in 1988. In each case, a major part of Mbeki’s strategy was to demonstrate his sympathy with Afrikaner concerns, the cause of Afrikaner culture and the Afrikaans language, and even to identify himself with that cause: ‘My name is Thabo Mbeki,’ he told the visitors to Dakar; ‘I am an Afrikaner.’ Esterhuyse felt he could ‘entrust his life’ to someone who ‘understood the Afrikaners’ predicament’ as did Mbeki. [5]

Mbeki was also the first within the ANC to propose a coalition government with the National Party.[6] This proposal was based, according to his subsequent account, on ‘the understanding that the National Party would be the political representative of the army, the white police, white business, the white civil service, that it would have a hold on very important levers of power. When we came into government, we would come with the numbers, they would come in with the power, and we would need to work together for a certain period instead of saying to those power centres, you are the opposition.’[7] On the basis of similar reasoning, the ANC kept alive the unrealistic prospect of an Afrikaner volkstaat, in order to keep the Afrikaner right wing - and the Afrikaner leader they came to rely on, Constand Viljoen - within the bounds of the negotiation process.[8]

After the adoption of a new constitution and the demise of the government of national unity in 1996, and then the retirement from politics of former president F.W. de Klerk, this reasoning became increasingly redundant. In 1997 Mbeki, as Deputy President, and Mangosothu Buthelezi, as Minister of Home Affairs, began extensive discussions with a wide range of Afrikaner leaders and opinion-makers on their concerns as Afrikaners in the new South Africa. These discussions culminated in a special parliamentary debate, held in March 1999, at which Mbeki reported his findings. Mbeki’s speech and the debate which followed were something of an anti-climax: he made use of the opportunity to include Afrikaners within the fold of the new South Africa, and to indicate that the government was concerned with their interests. Constand Viljoen objected that Mbeki had acted ‘undemocratically’ in consulting directly with Afrikaner organisations and individuals, rather than through his own Freedom Front, which claimed to represent Afrikaners in parliament.[9] Viljoen was surely right in surmising that the event signalled that the days of a representative mouthpiece for Afrikaners at a national level were over.

But the main result of Mbeki’s consultation and debate on the Afrikaners was more or less the opposite of what he had intended. Instead of drawing Afrikaners more closely into a national consensus, it was the starting-point for a new politics of Afrikaans, increasingly conceived as a challenge to the emerging national consensus. Instead of re-legitimating the Afrikaner establishment - discredited by its support for apartheid, and now to be assigned to a new and subordinate role - it provided an occasion for Afrikaner dissidents to re-group, and for former critics of apartheid to take on a new role as critics of the ANC government.

Mbeki’s initial strategy was to neutralise and win over the Afrikaner establishment by acknowledging its power and sympathising with the ‘predicament’ created by its reliance on racial domination. In the new South Africa, this strategy could only be continued by re-consolidating that establishment. But this had the effect of fixing Afrikaner identity in the patterns of the past, and marginalising once again the dissident Afrikaners who had never defended apartheid power, nor shared the predicaments of its apologists. ‘Defeat will save us,’ Breytenbach had said of Afrikaners facing the end of apartheid.[10] Mbeki now sought to block this salvation, by making the defeat of apartheid acceptable to the establishment which had grown up to defend it. In the process, this re-consolidation of the Afrikaner establishment threatened to end the challenge of those Afrikaners who had struggled to free Afrikaner culture and the Afrikaans language from the matrix of apartheid.

Some days before the parliamentary debate itself took place, a letter signed by Breytenbach, André Brink, Ampie Coetzee and van Zyl Slabbert - four central figures in Afrikaner dissent - was published in Die Burger, objecting to the entire process. It developed one of the central themes of Breytenbach’s critique of the negotiated settlement, warning against the capacity of the ANC to find common ground with the apartheid establishment: ‘Apparently it suits the future president to legitimate and stabilise the previous orthodoxy...In our country, power always prefers to choose its own interlocutors and partners in dialogue. This was how the previous dispensation appointed the Hendrickses and Matanzimas and Mangopes as spokesmen for their respective nations.’ But the organisations with which Mbeki had consulted - the official face of Afrikaner culture, the product and bastion of Afrikaner supremacy in the apartheid years - had not been ‘mandated or delegated by us, nor by any other Afrikaners for whom we have respect’. A debate which takes these consultations as its starting-point is ‘unacceptable and perhaps even mischievous’.[11] More than anything that had gone before it, this letter sparked public debate and controversy on the place of Afrikaans in the new South Africa.

For the most part, the debate has focused specifically on state policies regarding language in the new South Africa. The significance of defending the Afrikaans language - rather than Afrikaans culture, or language and culture, as was the most frequent usage before the mid-1990s - is seldom made explicit. The previous, more inclusive usage suggested that Afrikaans-speakers had to hold certain religious or political beliefs in order to be ‘true’ Afrikaners, but seldom specified what these were.[12] In the context of the new South Africa, the defence of Afrikaans language is less ethnically-laden and hence more feasible politically, but does not necessarily exclude literary and cultural products of the language.

The development of policy in relation to language is also clearer than in the ill-defined sphere of culture. In 1992, the ANC adopted a policy of giving official status to eleven languages - preserving the status of English and Afrikaans, and adding nine African languages - until such time as a lingua franca developed ‘spontaneously’.[13] This policy became part of the constitution of South Africa, adopted in 1996. It has never been the intention of this policy that all functions of state would be carried out in all eleven languages, nor could this be done.

In the 1970s, the apartheid government abandoned mother-tongue primary education in African languages, and this policy has been maintained by the ANC government since 1994. African languages are given greater recognition mainly at a symbolic level. In practice, this policy has mostly had the result of putting English in the place of Afrikaans, in schools and universities, in radio and TV, in the public service and the legal system.

In this context, the defence of Afrikaans has gained increasing momentum. A month or two after Breytenbach’s letter appeared in Die Burger, a proposal to establish a private Afrikaans university was launched at a meeting held over several days in Oudtshoorn - a proposal which is still under discussion. [14] Some months later, in November 1999, 24 Afrikaans writers and academics - including Breytenbach, Degenaar, Hermann Giliomee and Jaap Steyn - signed an open letter to President Thabo Mbeki, appealing to him to give greater recognition to minority rights, and those of Afrikaners in particular.[15] Also in November 1999, controversy was fuelled by the call made by an Afrikaans writer of a younger generation, Dan Roodt, for a protest march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, and then by Roodt’s establishment of the Pro-Afrikaanse Aksiegroep (PRAAG) which sought to guide a new ‘language struggle’ for the recognition of Afrikaans.[16]

PRAAG itself soon became something of a personal fiefdom for Roodt, dominated by his relentless debating style and the long-postponed and eventually cancelled march to the Union Buildings. In May 2000, Roodt’s initiative was in some part superseded by the formation of a ‘Group of 63', concerned to defend Afrikaans language rights, with Breytenbach, Degenaar, Slabbert and Steyn as its patrons, and a number of editors and associates of the journal Fragmente in its secretariat. Roodt was part of the Group of 63 at its formation, but withdrew from it a few days later, together with Chris Louw, an Afrikaans radio journalist who, at about the same time, aroused heated controversy in the Afrikaans press with an angry open letter to Willem de Klerk, the former editor of Rapport and leading proponent of verligtheid within the NP.

Since then, an array of initiatives has followed, which will not be examined here.[18] None have achieved pre-eminence within this movement, and the movement itself has often lost momentum, fallen into repetition of relatively general sentiments, or been embarrassed by new incidents of Afrikaner racism. Enough has happened, however, to call into question the idea - in this context at least - that ‘what is past, is done with’. Reconciliation on that basis required that Afrikaner history be seen as all of one piece. It required not only that the book be closed on the assassins and torturers of the apartheid regime and their political masters, but also on the ideals and aspirations of those Afrikaners who sought to develop their language, literature and culture in ways which would serve larger, more humane causes.

Afrikaner Critics of Apartheid and the New Politics of Afrikaans

In what sense does this defence of Afrikaans represent a new political departure? First, it is located firmly in the context of the new South Africa, and takes non-racial democracy as its explicit starting point. It is explicitly concerned with the interests of Afrikaans-speakers without regard to their ethnic background. Second, unlike the initial proposals of the National Party in the constitutional negotiations, it is not concerned with formal means for securing political power for ethnic and other minorities.[19] Indeed, this new politics could probably only take on its own character after the defeat of such strategies. Third, the version of Afrikaner culture it defends is far less conformist than that defended in the apartheid era. It assumes cultural diversity among Afrikaners, and is easily compatible with elements of Afrikaner life - explicit sexuality, rock music, Eastern religion - which Afrikaner cultural authorities previously sought to suppress or exclude.[20] Fourth, it depends on a new political style - drawn largely from the youth culture and new social movements of the West - which opposes hierarchy and dogma, and encourages diversity of opinion and spontaneity of expression.

This political style is manifested in poetry slams and philosophy evenings, web-sites and phone-in radio programmes, rather than parliamentary politics, prayer meetings, or grim-faced men in dark suits. Its philosophical ideas and idiom are drawn from the postmodernism of Derrida rather than the neo-Calvinism of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd.

The novelty of this configuration is easily apparent when contrasted with the traditional Afrikaner nationalist view - taken for granted even by dissenting figures like van Wyk Louw - that political power was essential for the preservation and promotion of Afrikaans language and culture. But it has important continuities with arguments developed by Afrikaner critics of apartheid to the effect that Afrikaner nationalism represented a peculiar distortion of the achievements of Afrikaans language and culture, and that Afrikaner political power was itself the main threat to the survival of Afrikaans language and culture.

The seminal expression of this argument was Breytenbach’s lecture to the UCT Summer School in 1973. However, this was not itself the main argument of Breytenbach’s lecture, and it was not altogether clear to what extent the lecture was concerned to defend Afrikaans against the threat posed by Afrikaner power. As an Afrikaner, Breytenbach asserted, he could ‘not distance himself from this mess’ and had to ‘work for the transformation of my own community’. But this transformation, he argued, should not be an end in itself, but a contribution to a larger project of liberation. For ‘I can only be free to the extent that my fellow human being is free’. He called on his fellow writers to ‘make more spacious our humanity and our language’ and thus escape the ‘traps of Apartaans’ in order to ‘speak Afrikaans: one of the many languages of Africa.’[21]

It was an essential part of Breytenbach’s argument that Afrikaners had to earn the right to defend their language: ‘I myself will only acquire respect for the Afrikaner (for myself),’ he wrote to Brink in 1963, ‘when I learn that “Jan Smit” has been placed under house arrest or has vomited all over himself with electrodes attached to his fingers.’[22] For Afrikaans to live on, Afrikaners must be prepared to ‘become compost, decomposing in order to compose other forms’.[23] The ‘middle ground’ of South African politics could have been established, he wrote in 1985, deliberately using the past tense, ‘only were there to be, by now, say two to three thousand white political prisoners’. A ‘cultural middle ground’ could only have come into existence ‘had the White writers the foresight to break with their own tribal authorities ... along lines of absolute solidarity with their Black colleagues’.[24]

Indeed, until the mid-1990s Breytenbach never explicitly concerned himself with the survival of Afrikaans. In the early 1970s, Breytenbach later recalled, he had ‘dreamed that Africa may be united around two or three major languages, Swahili and Hausa and what then?’[25] After his release from prison in 1982, he was vigorous in disowning any concern with the preservation of Afrikaner culture and identity. ‘To be an Afrikaner ... is a blight and a provocation to humanity,’ he held. ‘To me it is of little importance whether the language dies of shame or is preserved and strengthened by its potentially revolutionary impact.’ Above all, he denounced the idea of struggling for ‘the survival or imposition of Afrikaans’, holding that those who do so are ‘objectively strengthening the ideology of the White rulers’.[26]

The argument that Afrikaner nationalism was a threat to the survival of Afrikaans became increasingly central to Afrikaans literary politics after the establishment of the Afrikaanse Skrywersgilde (Afrikaans Writers’ Guild) in 1975. Its founding constitution recognised Afrikaans as ‘the language of all who speak and write it - bound to no party, dogma or colour’, and committed the Guild to ‘building up Afrikaans as a multinational language’.[27] But Afrikaans literary politics remained largely confined to questions directly relevant to writers: censorship, prescribed books, coverage of literary matters on radio and TV, even the conditions of eminent writers in prison. This self-imposed restriction is evident in Jan Rabie’s round-about call at the Guild’s founding conference for ‘colour discrimination to be removed immediately from our language’, rather than for its removal from society.[28] Jakes Gerwel addressed the political issues around the survival of Afrikaans more directly, developing a perspective for Afrikaans as a minority language in a future South Africa, relying on its own vitality rather than its political connections for survival and growth. But Gerwel deliberately spoke in the role of the outsider, whose own ‘personal efforts at responsibility for the language are negligible next to the collective responsibility of the Afrikaner’, and explored the common ground available to Afrikaans speakers only within the literary terrain. [29]

The same argument came increasingly to be integrated into a larger, more political perspective in Johan Degenaar’s writings of the early 1980s. During an extensive polemic about the lessons of Elsa Joubert’s Swerfjare van Poppie Nongema, conducted in the letter columns of Die Burger in 1978-9, he rejected Sampie Terreblanche’s demand that he identify himself either with the Afrikaner establishment of the NP and Broederbond or with the English establishment of Anglo-American Corporation and the PFP. ‘It is important that Afrikaners can also stand in solidarity with those who have been wronged, and against the holders of power, whoever they may be.’ Later, reflecting on the polemic, Degenaar held that if Afrikaners could not recognise through the Afrikaans of Poppie Nongena ‘a complete person and a full citizen of the country’, then it would be justly deserved if ‘one day, in the process of renewal, they are shifted into the background with their language and all’.[30]

This argument is the central focus of a subsequent short collection of essays, which critically examined the political ideas of the leading verligte intellectual, Gerrit Viljoen. Here Degenaar set out an agenda for the ‘morally critical Afrikaner’, who seeks to base his Afrikaner identity ‘on language and culture, rather than race and blood’. This included openly rejecting ‘the identification of Afrikaner culture and Afrikaner power’, rejecting the nationalist conception of Afrikaner identity, and seeking to establish shared values with non-Afrikaners ‘which can serve as the basis for a common future’. The argument emphasises the active role which Afrikaners have to take upon themselves in order to overcome the legacy of apartheid: ‘There is no necessity and guarantee that [the Afrikaner] will continue to exist. Like all other peoples and population groups, he [sic] will have to find out what role there is for him in the future, for example in helping to build a new nation and in becoming a meaningful part of an over-arching South African nationalism. His continued existence will depend on the manner in which he strives for a just social, political and economic dispensation. Afrikaner survival is only possible as a creative and shared survival in justice.’[31]

In the mid-1980s, Degenaar called for Afrikaans to be transformed from a language of oppression to a language of liberation through Afrikaner engagement with ‘the politics of negotiation’, aimed at creating ‘a more just South Africa in which Afrikaans culture and language will have a better chance of survival’. For ‘the liberation of Afrikaans is inextricably tied up with the political liberation of the brown and black people.’[32]

In all of these contexts, Degenaar’s argument is conducted strictly at a normative level. That is, it proposes a single norm for ‘the Afrikaner’, regardless of whether that norm should be adopted by all Afrikaners, or none, or some number in between. The argument never reflects on the likelihood that Afrikaners will differ with each other on apartheid, or on the need to preserve political power. It does not consider the differing ways in which Afrikaners (or others) could align themselves with the aspirations of the oppressed majority, nor how the meaning of their political choices may change over time. It takes no account of how Afrikaans culture and language have been formed by the context of racial domination, nor of how this legacy would be contested in a post-apartheid context. Within this perspective, the burden of the past could be shaken off through a simple normative choice. The ‘sins of the fathers’ would not be visited upon the generations to come.

In his essay, Die Sondes van die Vaders, André du Toit shares with Degenaar and with Breytenbach - before his release from prison in 1982, at least - a commitment to speaking ‘as an Afrikaner’ even while contesting the Afrikaner nationalist conception of Afrikaner identity. Each of them accepts that, for as long as they remain Afrikaners, there is a sense in which they share a common destiny with those who speak their language, regardless of their political differences. Du Toit’s essay is consciously informed by this spirit of dissident solidarity: ‘Whether he wants to or not,’ he comments, ‘the Afrikaner intellectual forms part of organised Afrikanerdom, and thus of the apartheid order itself.’[33] But it differs from anything that has gone before, in that it is at the same time a critical and historical reflection on that solidarity, and an exploration of its limits and consequences.

Die Sondes van die Vaders takes as its starting-point the failure of the verligte project of reforming apartheid ‘from within’. The failure of P.W. Botha’s reform initiative means that the ‘credibility and integrity’ of the verligte intellectual is itself at stake (18). From this starting-point, the essay reaches back historically to N.P. van Wyk Louw - ‘the archetypal Afrikaner intellectual’ (19). Du Toit rejects the verligte interpretation of Louw - exemplified in the work of Jaap Steyn - which distorts his arguments in such a way as to call for ethnic solidarity, rather than critique, as the main task of the dissenting intellectual (26, 48). He locates Louw’s literary nationalist project in context, in order to demonstrate how by the 1950s he had come to ‘anticipate the dilemma of a new generation of Afrikaans intellectuals whose basic duty could require them to attack the established Nationalist leadership as a serious threat to the survival of Afrikaans culture’ (59). Going back still further in Afrikaner history, he uses the example of General Koos de la Rey to show that the ethos of Afrikaner solidarity had itself been partly formed by acts of dissent (64-8).

Against this historical background, the essay also looks forward, by examining the situation of the emerging generation of Afrikaner intellectuals, whose outlook and prospects are shaped by the likelihood of black majority rule in South Africa during their working lives. No longer able to commit themselves to Afrikaner nationalism, nor to turn to ‘alternative cultural and political frameworks’, they also find themselves in a society too deeply politicised to allow for any retreat into ‘an apolitical concern with purely cultural and personal values’ (45-6). Unlike the generation before them, they cannot avoid the fact that Afrikaner culture and the Afrikaans language - through their association with Afrikaner power within the apartheid order - have become the ‘legitimate target of black rage’ (54). They have no choice but to take on ‘the accumulated burdens of the past’; but in doing so, ‘they forfeit the opportunity to create their own future’ (51).

Nor is there is an easy way out of this dilemma. There is ‘no possible guarantee’ of Afrikaner survival - that is, survival of Afrikaners as a distinct cultural group - after the end of Afrikaner power, ‘except insofar as Afrikaners themselves have the moral and political courage to act in such a way that they convince themselves and others that such survival indeed has legitimate value’ (63). To do this, they would have to act in solidarity with oppressed people - above all, with the victims of Afrikaner oppression - in the cause of justice, freedom and the common good (59, 62). Both ‘the burdens of history and the risks of the future’ must be grasped in ways ‘which can be justified to ourselves and to others’ (68).

This perspective is similar to Degenaar’s in its emphasis of the need for Afrikaners actively to earn the respect of their fellow South Africans, rather than treating such respect as a right to which they are automatically entitled. But it differs from Degenaar’s in two crucial respects. First, it recognises that the verdict of history will be far cruder than that of a ‘heavenly observer, able to weigh up all the nuances of the historical record’ (54). Second, it emphasises that in establishing this historical record, the task of convincing others of the values you stand for is inseparable from that of convincing yourself (60, 62, 68).

The kind of abstract appeal to the rights of a culture and language to survive with which verligtes had deceived themselves, presupposed that Afrikaners themselves could decide the historical meaning of their politics. Against this, du Toit argued that the self is formed through its dialectical interaction with others. No self-conception will endure if it conflicts with the concrete experience of your contemporaries. And the norms by which your contemporaries will judge will themselves be transformed in the process of struggle. This theme had also been developed in du Toit’s earlier interpretation of Black Consciousness in South Africa: ‘The awakening of social and political self-consciousness is a process with its own internal dynamics and emancipatory imperatives, with the primary consequence that social relations which earlier had proved to be in one way or the other tolerable now become utterly intolerable.’[34]

Moreover, the self which is formed in that dialectical interaction has a history which cannot unilaterally be brought to a close. Du Toit was to make this point some years later in response to Sampie Terreblanche’s confession of complicity with apartheid and apology to Degenaar and others for his vilification of them during his days as an NP apologist. ‘For a confession of guilt to have meaning, it must not be easy. It must be earned. It must have consequences. What we confess and acknowledge has implications for the past as well as the future’.[35]

In this respect, Die Sondes van die Vaders was closer to the ideas and assumptions of the mass struggles of oppressed communities in the 1970s and 1980s than to the liberal constitutionalism which informed the negotiated settlement of the 1990s. The negotiated settlement proceeded on the basis of the formal equality of each and every individual citizen, including rights related to language and culture. The new politics of Afrikaans could trace its roots back to the arguments of Afrikaner critics of apartheid such as Breytenbach, Degenaar and du Toit. But it was much closer to the spirit of the new South Africa in its assumption that the rights of a language or culture could be defended on formal grounds alone. In adopting that assumption, it was already altering the self-conception which it sought to defend; and coming to defend the self-conception provided by liberal constitutionalism and the capitalist market.

Post-Apartheid Postmodernism: From Degenaar to Fragmente

The new politics of Afrikaans is characterised by a peculiarly selective continuity with the thought of Afrikaner critics of apartheid such as Breytenbach, Degenaar and du Toit. It continues their argument that Afrikaans language and culture must be defended on a basis of opposition to Afrikaner nationalism and white privilege. It derives its legitimacy partly from the record of Afrikaner critics of apartheid and its association with them. At the same time, it brushes aside a theme which was essential to their critique of apartheid: that of the need for Afrikaners to demonstrate their solidarity with the majority of oppressed South Africans by upholding common principles and values.

Put differently, the new politics of Afrikaans seeks to continue a tradition of dissident solidarity which never treated the individual as responsible for their own acts alone, but always sought to recognise their co-responsibility for the processes which formed them. But it relies on that tradition only insofar as it applies to the apartheid past. In the context of the new South Africa, the defence of Afrikaans more often rests on denying the possibility of collective responsibility for the past, or on the view that ‘what is past is done with’. Those defending Afrikaans have not done so by seeking, as Afrikaners, to develop a common project with other South Africans, nor do they seem set to do so.

This discontinuity has complex sources. One of them is a changed philosophical conception of the historical process within which political and moral responsibility occur. More accurately, we might speak of a changed conception of the possibility of making history intelligible in such a way that any account of it can serve as a real basis for moral and political argument. Postmodernism has played a crucial role in this process. Any account of the new politics of Afrikaans, and its selective continuity with the historical past it invokes, needs to recognise the impact of this philosophical current.

In its initial context, postmodernism occupied a place in the political and intellectual life of the capitalist West which was not replicated in South Africa. First, it served as a critique of modernity in a context in which the project of the modern had been carried through in exemplary form - that is, in the societies in which modernity had been invented and by whose experience it was defined. Second, it served as the sequel to Marxism for many intellectuals of the Left who - in the decade of Reagan and Thatcher - came to see the revolutionary hopes of 1968 as so many illusions. Put differently, postmodernism emerged as a distinctive philosophical current in societies which represented the highest achievements of modernity, and in which there was little apparent prospect of fundamental social change.

The South African context in the 1980s was vastly different. Its experience of modernity had been peculiarly deformed by racial domination, and fundamental social change seemed certain and imminent. Postmodernists in South Africa - or those who adopted its idiom or self-concept - were not always strongly orientated towards the local political and intellectual context. Linear narratives of triumph and disaster had a powerful hold on the South African imagination in the charged years of revolt and repression. Postmodernism might have offered a kind of corrective to these, but could as easily be a means of evading the fundamental conflict at the core of South African society and culture.

In the 1990s, postmodernism has probably been most influential in South Africa in the context of Afrikaner literary and intellectual life. In that context, it has played two main roles: first, it provided a world-historical framework within which arguments for pluralist politics could be developed and extended; second, it provided a challenge to conservative ideologies - particularly within the sphere of culture - which were either resistant to modernity, or at best ambiguous about it. The continuity between older themes in Afrikaner dissent and the post-apartheid assimilation of postmodernism is particularly visible in the writings of Johan Degenaar. Degenaar was not the first South African interpreter of postmodernism, but he played a crucial role during the 1980s in preparing the assimilation of postmodernism into the new politics of Afrikaans. [36]

Degenaar’s political thought of the 1960s - like that of van Wyk Louw in earlier decades - gave a prominent role to the idea of a lewenshouding or ‘attitude to life’. For him, unlike Louw, an attitude to life premised on ‘the acceptance of otherness’ was an essential attribute of freedom. Within this perspective, freedom is conceived as a consciously and actively-acquired attribute of the whole person. It could not be achieved piecemeal, nor conferred on you by another. The process through which freedom was achieved involved gaining self-knowledge, ridding the self of possessiveness in relation to its presuppositions, and engaging with the world. The culmination of this complex process is described as mondigwording (‘coming of age’).

The call for Afrikaners to ‘come of age’ was central to Degenaar’s writings in theology and politics alike. Kant had defined Enlightenment as ‘man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity’.[37] Degenaar built on this conception in his appeal to Afrikaners: ‘Coming of age means that people may think for themselves in all circumstances. And allow them to be at ease in expressing their thoughts... The immature laager mentality is not the cramped characteristic of one group or one people alone, but as an Afrikaner I call upon Afrikaners to be on their guard against it.’[38]

In the 1960s, Degenaar identified this coming of age with the adoption of liberal values. Indeed, he defined liberalism as the ‘attitude to life in which the freedom of individuals, groups and peoples is central’. By 1980, coming of age was identified with a commitment to pluralism, which ‘leaves room for the individual to come of age as an Afrikaner in a way which does not necessarily presuppose a nationalist identity’.[40] Whether described as liberalism or pluralism, however, coming of age is characterised by tolerance of diversity, respect for differing opinions, willingness to reflect critically on one’s own assumptions, and openness to change.

These are also the characteristics which are most conspicuous in Degenaar’s accounts of postmodernism. Postmodernism demonstrates that we ‘lack a metaphysical form which guarantees finality with regard to meaning’, and that ‘self-understanding can never become self-transparency and self-possession’. It ‘protects man from the death of dogmatism and premature totalisation’, and preserves Socratic knowledge of our ignorance. In this perspective, ‘postmodernism assumes that there is a plurality of ways of understanding and that a more tolerant approach to differences is called for.’[42]

In a certain sense, then, Degenaar’s postmodernism can be seen as a continuation of his earlier call for mondigwording, now transposed into a new idiom. But the meaning of that call was at the same time transformed by locating it within a new conception of history. The call for Afrikaners to engage openly with their developing situation, and to reflect critically on their conceptions in the light of new developments, had always raised the questions of the historical direction of those developments, and the conceptual framework within which they should be interpreted and assessed. To the extent that Degenaar left these questions unanswered, his argument left room for dominant conceptions of them to fill the vacuum. But his writings also suggest a specific approach to them, which treated modernity as a value to be endorsed.

In his theological (or anti-theological) writings of the 1950s, Degenaar explicitly appealed to the standards of ‘modern thought’.[43] The ‘coming of age’ metaphor - which was central to his thought in the 1960s and 70s - implied a linear progression in the growth of individuals and cultures alike. His critique of nationalism, sustained over several decades, always emphasised the need to move away from the unquestioned loyalties and divisions of the past. In some of his writings, he was more specific, calling, for example, for the ‘rural attitude to politics’ to make way for the ‘urban way of life in which different cultures meet and influence each other’, for the elimination of global hunger and war, and the creation of a world federation of states.[44]

This picture of human progress is perhaps more reminiscent of Kant than of any 20th century thinker.[45] But Kant’s reliance on humankind’s ‘unsocial sociability’ was less easily available to Degenaar, who was conscious of the world having been brought together by the fear of nuclear annihilation.[46] In his book on the evolutionary theory of Teilhard de Chardin, Degenaar sought to establish a basis for this sense that the movement of human life was in the direction of freedom. He argues that evolution is a ‘process of progress’ which produces human consciousness, self-consciousness and freedom, and that ‘all people should meet each other in conscious participation in the evolution of humanity’.[47] But this way of solving the problem of history through an optimistic metaphysics of nature was unconvincing, and perhaps alien to Degenaar’s own dominant mode of thought. Later, in writing about Marxism, he indicates his reservations about a predominantly economic conception of progress, pointing out how it provides ideological justification for domination and exploitation, but offers no alternative framework for thinking about economic issues.[48]

In this context, postmodernism serves not to provide a basis for grasping the movement of history, but rather for dissolving the need for any such basis. Degenaar’s writings on politics and culture had previously implied a progressive movement from pre-modern to modern, but could provide no clear warrant for his belief that the modern would more adequately embody values of freedom, solidarity and reason than the pre-modern. Postmodernism, however, makes such a warrant superfluous, by virtue of ‘an ironic relationship to all claims of finality whether produced by myth or by reason’. It is ‘extremely critical of totalising ideologies in politics since they are incapable of accommodating a plurality of practices and lifestyles and viewpoints and inevitably impose a unity on diversity’.

This plurality is accommodated, according to Degenaar, when - instead of a pre-modern ‘collision of differences’ or a modern ‘levelling of differences’ - we choose a postmodern ‘negotiation of differences’. Moreover, this is the only choice which corresponds to a correct (that is, postmodernist) view of language. For in language, ‘there is only the open play of differences which remain an unending adventure’.[50]

The need for an account of the historical basis of human progress is removed in this way, by effectively reducing human history to the history of discourse - itself very broadly sketched. That history is then provided with an endpoint - postmodernist discourse - from which all others are accessible. In this way, Degenaar is able to integrate concerns drawn from politics, ethics, culture and aesthetics into an attractive and open-ended philosophical vision, in which the self is always dialectically related to the other, and their interaction retains an element of uniqueness. It enables him to retain the political edge of philosophical critique in a context in which political debate is often reduced to legal or economic technicalities. But he does this by evading the question of the decisive historical forces of our time, rather than engaging with it. The result is that his work is always critical of domination, but never enquires consistently into its systemic sources. It is at its best in examining the ideological bases of largely unquestioned assumptions in contemporary politics - for example, in his influential critique of conceptions of ‘nation-building’ in the new South Africa.[51]

For a younger generation of Afrikaner intellectuals - whose political and intellectual formation took place largely after apartheid had entered its terminal crisis or after negotiations with the unbanned ANC had begun - the issues at stake have been very different. Too young to have a consistent and publicly-acknowledged record of opposition to apartheid during its darkest days, but associated with its atrocities through the accident of their language, this generation has to establish a ‘moral place to stand’ in the new South Africa.[52] Renouncing apartheid has no cost any longer, and no principle is served by disowning Afrikaans - except perhaps that of self-advancement. Among Afrikaners of this generation, a collective intellectual project has taken shape. Although it contains many strands, it draws much of its inspiration from postmodernism. This form of postmodernism has been most systematically articulated in the journal Fragmente.

Fragmente is based mainly in Gauteng, with strong links with Belgium and the Netherlands. Its first issue appeared in 1998, and after its early years it has appeared at erratic intervals. Its contents have reflected a distinctive range of historical, philosophical and contemporary concerns. Historically, it has re-examined the work of crucial figures in the history of Afrikaner dissent - carrying long interviews with Johan Degenaar and André du Toit, a series of articles on van Wyk Louw, and a sympathetic account of the work of Martin Versfeld.[53] It carried a long interview with Jacques Derrida, conducted during his visit to South Africa in 1998, translations of the writings of a number of contemporary Dutch, French and German philosophers sympathetic to postmodernism, and original contributions by Afrikaans writers. It dealt with a range of contemporary issues concerning religion, cyberculture, and the media in society. In the South African context, it has paid particular attention to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Afrikaans language and culture.

In many respects, the postmodernism of Fragmente can be seen as a further continuation of Degenaar’s concerns. Although it is critical of the political culture of individualism, and often of the ‘centred’ self, it seeks to integrate political, ethical, cultural and religious concerns into a philosophical unity very similar to that of Louw and Degenaar’s conception of a lewenshouding. At the same time as taking as its premise the need for the unity and authenticity of the individual’s conception of the world, it is also committed to pluralism in politics, culture and religion. Its pluralism - like Degenaar’s - reflects a defence of local forms of autonomy which is never developed into a larger programme of social change, nor engages in any sustained way with actual historical struggles.

At the same time, there are at least three significant differences between Degenaar’s political thought and the project of Fragmente. First, the project of Fragmente is informed by a far more thorough-going account of the contemporary global order, and a strong sense of the present - in South Africa after the end of apartheid; and globally in the age of the internet - as a moment of beginning and renewal. In this sense, Fragmente’s thought is more consciously historical than Degenaar’s. Second, the historical context to which Fragmente is most responsive is not so much that of racial domination as global capitalism, and its logic of cultural homogenisation. For this generation, it is no longer necessary - as it was for Degenaar - to defend diversity against the now discredited racial dogmas of Afrikaner nationalism. Third, and perhaps as a consequence, Degenaar’s critique of domination is overshadowed, in the pages of Fragmente, by a critique of instrumental reason. That is, Fragmente presents a picture of a social order in which human purposes are not so much thwarted or crushed by coercive force, as misdirected or corrupted by ideas.

Fragmente’s philosophical and political perspective is set out most explicitly in its 1998 opening editorial. According to this perspective, ‘old lines of division have been pushed aside’ by such developments as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid, the digital revolution and the process of globalisation. The new lines of division are conceived as being ‘between the forces which stand for the economisation of lived reality and those who value its multi-faceted character; between those who would subject everything to the demands of a technical rationality, and those who stand for a differentiated conception of rationality; between those who give unqualified support to the globalisation process, and those who, in the midst of the process, lend a voice to the unique and exceptional; between those who subject aesthetic experience to the interests of the culture-industry, and those who hope for the creative disruption it can bring; between those who support liberal democracy with its reduction of political life to “lobbying” and manipulated “dialogues” on TV, and those who want to create an openness for radical forms of democracy; between those who accept the nihilism which is the basis of modernism and those who want to create an openness for the coming of a post-nihilist culture.’ In each of these oppositions, Fragmente sides with the second alternative against the first.[54]

This account includes some elements of a radical critique of global capitalism - or at least of certain aspects of its contemporary politics and culture. These recur in various contributions to the journal and in later editorial statements, in which Fragmente aligns itself with local forms of community against ‘the power apparatus of late capitalist agents of globalisation’, or describes the dialectics of globalisation creating ‘unequalled economic instability in emerging markets, unprecedented ecological damage and new forms of political marginalisation’. [55]

But the nature of this critique is not all that easily apparent. The main difficulty in interpreting it lies in its relation to the new ‘lines of division’ which supposedly characterise the contemporary world: on the one hand, the unbridled onslaught of capitalist power; on the other, not the majority of humankind caught up in the headlong rush to reduce the world to so many opportunities for corporate profit, but rather a cultivated minority, defined by its cultural values, philosophical premises and aesthetic sensibilities. These lines of division are drawn neither at the material nor the philosophical level, but somehow at both levels at once. Capitalism - its beneficiaries and victims alike - is placed in opposition to a philosophical outlook which does not seek openly to challenge its logic.

It is not even clear whether the opposing sides are engaged in a genuine conflict. Fragmente does not identify itself with any larger project to transform the narrow and disabling culture it criticises, or to seek its overthrow. It rejects what it calls ‘the modern fundamentalisms (fascism, communism, liberal capitalism and apartheid)’, and their ‘totalitarian patterns of thought’. Fragmentary thought, in contrast, makes it possible to ‘keep open the space for a borderline existence in the in between’.[56] The metaphor of the ‘in between’ suggests not so much an alignment in a conflict between the powerful and the powerless, but rather an attempt to live on the borders of capitalist power without quite conforming to its terms. The logic of this argument requires that the main lines of division in the contemporary world be drawn along a different axis from that which is developed in Fragmente’s opening editorial.

The lines of division which define the role of Fragmente are not those between the minority which benefits - economically, culturally or otherwise - from global capitalism, and the majority whose indigenous cultures are destroyed or subverted by it, and who are condemned to poverty, hunger and disease, and a working life of mindless routine. Rather, these lines of division run within the culturally and economically empowered minority itself. What is primarily at issue is the scope of the logic of commodification - whether it need be imposed with uniform rigour throughout the cultural sphere. The defence of ‘marginal’ and ‘fragmentary’ cultural values does not itself require opposition to the exclusion of the majority of the world’s population from effective participation in the making of contemporary culture.

Of course, the cultural values defended by Fragmente do not necessarily require the exclusion of the majority from contemporary global culture. Whether it contributes to that end or not, depends mainly on the way in which that defence of cultural values articulates with its specific political and material context. But it depends also on the intellectual basis of that defence, and in this regard, postmodernism has a vital role to play in defining the orientation of Fragmente.

Among the editors and regular contributors to Fragmente, Danie Goosen has most clearly set himself the task of locating the larger, collective project within the philosophical framework of postmodernism, and his contributions are worth examining for that reason. His account of deconstruction defends it against accusations that it maintains an ironic or aesthetic attitude to events. Instead, it has a ‘special relationship with the future, and thus an affirmative structure’; it is ‘a style of thought which lives from a messianic expectation that that which is strange and other can always come from the future to surprise us again’.[57]

In this respect, he contrasts deconstruction with dialectic. The defining characteristic of dialectic, for Goosen, is its aim of assimilating eventuality into its own circularity, thus depriving events of their singularity, restoring ‘normality’, making events ‘at home’, and identifying them with the ‘status quo’. Whereas deconstruction ‘presupposes an affirmative attitude to life’, dialectic seeks to ‘protect itself against intrusion’.[58]

There is a certain truth to Goosen’s charge against dialectic. Dialectical analysis can indeed be circular; there are many instances in which dialectical categories are used in such a way as to prove the validity of the categories themselves, rather than to grasp the course of events. Whether this is their only use is another question. There is a long history of dialectical writing - from Hegel and Marx to Breytenbach’s critique of the negotiated settlement in South Africa - which suggests that it is not. But even against the circular uses of dialectic, Goosen’s defence of the messianic capacity of deconstruction is centrally concerned with its refusal to seek any pattern within historical processes. It is messianic in the sense that it anticipates a future which comes from beyond a horizon of human expectation or action.

Goosen’s treatment of the economy of guilt, in the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, similarly addresses a liberal capitalist ‘philosophy of the hawker’, in which everything is reduced to its economic value.[59] He argues that by embracing a conception of guilt in which ‘we are and remain always already guilty, and therefore at the same time always already addressed from an outside against which we are always already guilty’, we establish the basis for a ‘community beyond nihilism’.[60] In similar vein, Goosen attributes the current crisis of the university to its subservience to the needs of the global economy, obeying the ‘most important law of the process of globalisation’ which is ‘the law of the market’. In this context, it is the task of the postmodern university - including a future Afrikaans university - to ‘break through the monotonous logic of the prevailing economic order’. It does this by ‘creating local spaces in which people are enabled to live the good life in a radically democratic way beyond that which is merely economically feasible’.[61]

But this radical democracy, or republicanism, is not intended to challenge ‘the late modern urge to reduce everything to representable and ultimately consumable object’. Instead, it ‘shelters’ or ‘takes into protection’ its ‘own world’. [62] Goosen’s treatment of the logic of capitalism as the logic of the economy itself, means that there is no alternative to acquiescence. If capitalism is one historically specific mode of economic life, then it might still be transformed. If it represents the logic of economic life itself, we can at most withdraw some part of our energies from its cultural effects. In this manner, the postmodern university can ‘serve the professions as well as possible’ but not make them its ‘highest goal’.[63] Far from being a radical or democratic alternative to capitalism, this is intelligible as an alternative insofar as it is limited to a minority - whether in South Africa or globally - which is able to compete successfully within capitalism.[64]

At the same time, the local and particularistic character of this alternative leaves little room for acting together with other South Africans on the basis of shared principles and analyses. It is as if this possibility has ended with apartheid. In this context, the postmodernist project abandons the arguments made by Breytenbach, Degenaar, du Toit and others, that Afrikaners would have to earn the respect of their fellow South Africans by standing with them, as Afrikaners, in defence of common values. Those critics assumed that there was a collective alternative to the ideology of the ruling party, within which Afrikaans language and culture could be renewed and developed. In contrast, postmodernism has equated the project of constructing such an alternative with totalitarianism.

In some ways, post-apartheid postmodernism can be seen as a reworking of the sestiger project of extending their own freedom of creative expression, on the assumption that this would lead to the extension of freedom for all. The politics of the sestigers required a historical blindness to racial power and privilege, which made them vulnerable to Breytenbach’s charge that their literary attacks were ‘so much grist to the mill of apartheid’, made to ‘shock and excite the attention of a tribe’, not to overthrow its rule.[65] Postmodernism has helped to sustain a similar blindness to class domination and inequality in the context of the new South Africa. The difference, however, is that postmodernists have consciously chosen their cultural and political limits, and chosen to make a virtue of them.

Breytenbach’s Ambivalent Defence of Afrikaans

The new politics of Afrikaans has not been dominated by any single individual. But Breyten Breytenbach was for some time its most celebrated figure, and perhaps the most prominent in defining its new terrain. His own position shifted in the process, from that of hostility or indifference to the defence of Afrikaans under apartheid, to a vigorous defence of Afrikaans, and then later to withdrawal from cultural debates in South Africa. In 1993, before the issue was widely discussed, he called on Afrikaners ‘not to be ashamed of fighting for Afrikaans’.[66] In a 1997 interview, he spoke of his ‘renewed passion for the Afrikaans language’, adding that its ‘official position’ was under pressure: ‘I think the present government would like nothing more than for the people with the obnoxious tongue to disappear’.[67] Since the parliamentary debate of March 1999, he has been central to the growing momentum of this project.

Breytenbach’s positions have shifted in the 1990s, but not towards postmodernism. Among regular contributors to Fragmente, Breytenbach is the only one who has been openly sceptical - even scornful - about the postmodernist project. ‘We live in futile times,’ he writes of a visit to the new South Africa, ‘where the Romantic impulse in gaudy theoretical garb (and a moralist stance), now ever more smothered in the garbage of “postmodernism” and “deconstruction”, reigns supreme over Nomansland ... The fashionable discourse of mind-numbing, nit-picking academics sully the clear waters of saying and singing and painting’.[68] His most recent collection of poems includes a scornful ‘Selfportret van ‘n Poes-modernis’ who ‘tried to do his bit against Apart-hate’ but acknowledges that it ‘was surely not enough’.[69] Breytenbach is not unique in his distance from postmodernism. Insofar as his current role is defined by his philosophical convictions, it is made unique by his having come to the defence of Afrikaans not from a background of pluralist reformism, but from a background of revolutionary politics.

It would perhaps be more accurate to say that Breytenbach occupies two distinct roles in this context that are ambiguous, and even contradictory. In his most conspicuously public role, Breytenbach has identified himself with arguments which quite uncritically assume the framework of global capitalism and liberal constitutionalism, and turn a blind eye to the inequalities created by apartheid and now perpetuated by a non-racial capitalist order. The open letter to Mbeki - signed by him and 23 others - is the most extreme example of this. Its authors announce their commitment to making South Africa ‘a player to reckon with in the global economy of the new century’. They call for minority groups to be given ‘a right to have a fair share of the tax which they pay allocated to their own institutions’ - as if the wealth on which Afrikaners are taxed was a badge of merit rather than the product of massive inequality, sustained by brutal coercion. Their claim that ‘the Afrikaner will simply bleed to death’ without the recognition of minority rights could hardly be more mistaken in its assessment of who the real victims of the negotiated settlement have been.[70]

On the basis of such a text, it might seem as if Breytenbach has simply turned his back on his earlier positions. This is surely the interpretation given to his current politics by those who describe him as part of a ‘new right’.[71] But at the same time, Breytenbach has also taken on a second, somewhat different role within the politics of Afrikaans: not so much publicising issues and causes, but reflecting on their philosophical bases. While his public activities rest on a fairly conventional - even conservative - model of capitalist development, his more reflective writings are sharply critical of this conventional wisdom, and develop a very different conception of human freedom.

Thus, where the open letter to Mbeki treats development in narrowly economic terms - insisting on the signatories’ commitment to ‘prosperity’ - Breytenbach argues elsewhere, in direct conflict with the open letter’s perspective, that ‘humankind strives for more than the satisfaction of urges and desires ... They want justice.’[72] Where the open letter treats globalisation as a benign force to which the South African polity and economy must conform - or even as a kind of trump card, which can be used to force the ANC to concede to Afrikaner demands in order to ensure that their ‘skills and capital’ are not lost through emigration - elsewhere Breytenbach describes globalisation as ‘no more than a code name for American imperialism’.[73] Where the open letter equates freedom with the ‘winning recipes’ of the ‘winning countries’ within the contest of global capitalism, elsewhere Breytenbach develops an account of the Pax Americana centralising global power under the guise of freedom.[74]

In these more reflective writings, Breytenbach’s defence of Afrikaans draws on and develops themes which had long been present in his thought, and in the dialectical tradition in South Africa. The premise of these writings is not the liberal defence of individual rights, but a conception of human autonomy as the outcome of a social process in which the self develops and changes through exchange and argument with others. It is only within this dialectical conception of human autonomy that Breytenbach’s account of language and his critique of the assumptions of language policy in the new South Africa can be justified. At the same time, Breytenbach’s conception of dialectic is re-worked through a particular - and selective - account of the place of language in human experience.

This account of language is first developed in a discussion of his own political goals: ‘the only abstraction I’m interested in struggling for is a community of understanding’. The basis of this kind of community is a shared language, for ‘language is not just a tool, it is perhaps the closest we can come to a communal “soul”’. The defence of Afrikaans, in this context, is not the basis for exclusion and nationalism, he argues, but for ‘the dialectic between the “own” and the larger togetherness’; ‘a process of becoming other which is illuminated, step by step, by an awareness of differences’.[75]

In a remarkable imagining of a ‘middle world’ occupied by the ‘uncitizens’ of the contemporary global village, he returns to this theme. A defining feature of that middle world, he holds, is a specific relationship to language: a resistance to the centralising powers’ attempt ‘to calcify language, to make it “official”, to put it in the place of memory, to make it an exclusive means of “communication and record” - that is to say, order and authority - and to suppress questioning and the creativity of uncertainty.’[76]

In a later article, Breytenbach argues that the mother-tongue provides the ‘conceptual forming through which we experience life, and thus ourselves’, and for that reason ‘any impairment or obstruction of the full use of your mother-tongue is a violation of that human right which ensures that you may be a full and useful citizen, even and especially in a multi-lingual society’. The effect of government language policy is to ‘narrow the functions of language’ to those of communication and manipulation. In this process, language loses its capacities for questioning and creating, remembering and imagining. Above all, for the Afrikaner, ‘language is the thread of self-knowledge’.[77] In this argument, language is essential to a freedom which extends beyond the formal rights of liberal capitalism.

In short, Breytenbach’s defence of Afrikaans is made in two voices. In his role as publicist, his call for minority rights is premised on the existing capitalist order, and disparages attempts to mitigate its inequalities.[78] In his role as thinker, he treats contemporary capitalism as a fundamental constraint on human culture, and seeks to encourage the subversive force of language as a source of self-knowledge. For these two voices to be reconciled, it is necessary for the place of language to be narrowly - even if richly - conceived.

Breytenbach’s account of language consistently focuses on its role in self-knowledge, on its activation of the ‘soul’ of the community. It is an account of language which requires no firm distinction between speaking to yourself or to others. In this respect, it may resemble the poet’s experience of language. But it blurs that distinction, rather than overcoming it by uniting its poles in an account of the dialectical interaction of self and other. For that interaction takes place in historical contexts of inequality, in which unequal access to wealth and power decide whose words will be made to count. Of all areas of culture, the spoken word is perhaps least vulnerable to material inequality. It costs nothing to speak Afrikaans, and all who speak the language are equally able to do so. But that equality conceals many other inequalities; that unity hides deep divisions.

Breytenbach’s writings on South Africa under an ANC government since 1994 have a similar ambivalence, balancing elements of critique from the left and from the right: on the one hand, increasing inequality, the entrenchment of a new elite, the spread of a culture of consumerism; on the other, rising crime, declining standards, affirmative action.[79] In this respect, Breytenbach’s role within the contemporary politics of Afrikaans is reminiscent of his role in the liberation movement in the days of Okhela. Just as his political opponents in the liberation movement welcomed a prominent Afrikaner poet willing to condemn apartheid, so his Afrikaner political opponents welcome a former political prisoner willing to condemn the ANC. It is a small consolation to know that this time his comrades cannot betray him to the security police. The price he pays for this consolation is that he cannot separate himself from their politics.

Race, Class and Language in the New South Africa

The new politics of Afrikaans shares the basic assumption of the politics of the new South Africa: that the legacy of apartheid can be overcome on the basis of capitalism. Both sides of the controversy among Afrikaners on whether it is necessary to campaign actively in defence of Afrikaans share this assumption. In the context of their exchanges it is seldom, if ever, critically examined. Instead, the two sides often appear to compete to see who can embody this assumption more fully.

Afrikaners opposed to actively campaigning for Afrikaans have argued that Afrikaans received special privileges under apartheid, and under white governments before apartheid. Public funds were used to develop Afrikaans schools and universities, provide a market for prescribed books, and ensure that the major academic disciplines developed a modern technical vocabulary in Afrikaans. Afrikaans was used as an official language in courts, the public service and the like while other indigenous languages were not. In this context, to defend the existing status of Afrikaans is to defend its continued preference over the indigenous languages spoken by the majority of black South Africans. It is to preserve the legacy of apartheid and racial domination while disowning that legacy at the same time. Those who are opposed to the domination of English, without wishing to campaign for Afrikaans, have argued that the issue of language rights must either be taken up on behalf of all ten South African languages, apart from English, or not be taken up at all. They hold that Afrikaans can flourish as a literary language, and as a means of everyday communication, for as long as individuals express themselves in it, and for as long as the state does not actively prevent them from doing so.

Those arguing for an active defence of Afrikaans have replied that, by campaigning for Afrikaans and against the domination of English, Afrikaners are defending the rights of the majority of South Africans, whose mother-tongue is not English, to speak their own language, be educated in it, and develop its capacities. They have argued also that, if Afrikaners were to refuse to stand up for their own rights, they would in effect be weakening a democratic culture in the new South Africa, in which all South Africans should be enabled to stand up for rights previously denied. Even a figure such as Z.B. du Toit - former editor of the Conservative Party newspaper, now deputy-editor of Rapport, and the author of a book-length plea for a new Afrikaner politics - treats the end of apartheid as a step forward for the Afrikaner, who is now ‘rid of the albatross of an illegitimate white minority regime’, and argues for a nationalism which he describes variously as ‘post-modern’ and ‘anti-conservative’, and compares to other causes which are ‘centre-left’ or ‘further left’.[80]

Those defending Afrikaans are almost certainly right to argue that its downgrading, and the elevation of English to the de facto language of power, do not benefit the majority of South Africans. This policy does not reverse the legacy of apartheid, and in certain respects perpetuates it. Nor is it in keeping with the tradition of the liberation movement.[81] But this policy does, however, make possible more rapid and effective change in the racial composition of the privileged minority within the inequalities of South Africa after apartheid For the downgrading of Afrikaans makes it easier for members of the new black elite to gain access to positions in economy and society from which they were previously barred on grounds of race. It creates openings - in public life, state media, education and elsewhere - which would not otherwise be available for members of this elite, who are far more likely to be fluent in English both for historical reasons and for reasons of their location in the global economy.[82]

Put differently, if a substantial number of black people are to be included within the privileged minority, this will take place by strengthening the globalising and homogenising tendencies of capitalism in South Africa and weakening its local particularities, its roots in pre-capitalist affiliations of kinship, culture and language. If national unity is to be achieved on a capitalist basis, then at an ideological level, English is the language of unity, the language in which a new national elite can come together. At a material level also, English - or more specifically, the English of CNN, Microsoft and Walt Disney - is the language of economic globalisation and a concomitant cultural homogenisation. The strength of Afrikaans - as Breytenbach and others have reminded us - lies precisely in its retention of its pre-capitalist roots, its resistance to modernisation.[83]

The majority of South Africans do not benefit directly from the elevation of English into de facto sole official language. But this does not mean that they have common cause with the new politics of Afrikaans. For they experience their marginalisation and exclusion in the new South Africa in a very different way from Afrikaners. They are excluded and marginalised not as cultural minorities, but as propertyless people, and people without access to the networks of influence, patronage and state power which would enable them to share in the privileges of the propertied. For as long as the issue of language in the new South Africa is centrally concerned with the racial composition of the privileged minority, within a social order which consigns the majority to poverty and powerlessness, there is no conceivable reason why that majority would opt to support a language policy which favours their former apartheid masters. And the defence of Afrikaans is currently conducted in such a way as to emphasise these differences, and ensure that common ground will not be found with the propertyless majority.[84]

Sometimes this is the result of a particular bias towards questions of consciousness - rather than the material conditions in which consciousness is formed - which characterises the dialectical tradition in South Africa as a whole. When Breytenbach argues, for example, that ‘a conscious life is all we have at our disposal to undermine death’, there is no need to dispute his sense that conscious thought and enquiry are essential conditions for a fully human life.[85] But only a moment’s reflection is needed in order to see that conscious thought and enquiry are not the only conditions for human life. But often, rather than being blind to the material context of their own arguments, Afrikaners are willing to invoke their own relatively privileged place within South African capitalism as the basis for recognition of their cultural rights - most clearly in the open letter to Thabo Mbeki of November 1999, discussed above.

The dependence of this argument on the capitalist model of development can very easily be turned against its conclusion that the state should give greater recognition to the rights of Afrikaans. Gerwel has argued, for example, that the relative strength of the Afrikaner capitalist class is a reason to expect it to support initiatives which will enable Afrikaans to flourish in the new South Africa.[86] The most vigorous answer to the authors of the open letter came from a group of 34 ‘highly influential Afrikaner business leaders’ - led by Willie Esterhuyse - who presented Thabo Mbeki with a declaration of their ‘hope and trust’. According to this declaration, Mbeki has established a ‘sound basis’ for a ‘mutually advantageous relationship between the state, business, organised labour and society’.[87] Afrikaner capitalists have flourished in the new South Africa, with their share of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange growing from 24% in 1996 to 35% in 2000. Pro-capitalist language campaigners have been outflanked by real capitalists.

To the extent that the new politics of Afrikaans has recognised the impact of capitalism, it has done so in the context of the cultural homogenisation brought about by globalisation. The defenders of Afrikaans understand that the globalising ethic considers human activity valuable to the extent to which it produces profit, therefore considers culture valuable insofar as it consists of commodities, and language insofar as it facilitates the efficient production and circulation of commodities, and has very limited need for Afrikaans on either count.[88] But they are at the same time consistently blind to the class forces of globalisation within South Africa, and within the Afrikaner community itself.

But the weakness of any campaign for Afrikaans in the new South Africa does not mean that its Afrikaner critics are on any firmer ground. For there remains a fundamental dilemma which faces Afrikaners, or any other South Africans, who are committed both to maintaining and developing Afrikaans and also to the cause of human liberation, if this is understood as more than formal political rights. This dilemma exists whether they struggle for language and minority rights to be recognised more fully by the state, or do not. In either event, in turning towards the natural constituency for Afrikaans - or for language or minority rights which will benefit Afrikaans in the first place - they come to depend on people who have a strong material interest in defending the fruits of oppression and exploitation, even if they no longer defend apartheid itself, and opposing any struggle for liberation which goes beyond formal equality to ensure that all South Africans can participate equally in the making of their future.

In this context, those defending Afrikaans will find it increasingly difficult to do so on the basis of non-racial capitalism. It is likely that many will turn against non-racialism, even if they cannot seek a return to racial domination. Even if they should succeed in gaining certain concessions on this basis, there will be a considerable price to pay for such gains. Political activism aimed at securing airport announcements or electricity accounts in Afrikaans is perhaps to be preferable to political apathy and withdrawal. But such activism will leave its mark on political ideas. It will leave little room for reflection on its own fundamental assumptions, of the kind which has characterised the dialectical tradition in South Africa over the past 150 years. To the extent that the new politics of Afrikaans require the largely uncritical acceptance of capitalism and its inequalities, it will abandon crucial parts of the legacy of Afrikaner dissent in South Africa, and leave all South Africans the poorer.

It is very difficult to imagine that the new politics of Afrikaans will be conducted on any basis except that of uncritical acceptance of capitalism. But the dialectical tradition has proved to be resilient, and it might have further life in it yet. It is possible that some at least of those who claim the legacy of Afrikaner dissent should understand that it is not non-racialism, but the capitalist form of non-racialism in the new South Africa, which threatens the principles they seek to uphold. The situation of Afrikaners committed to upholding their language and to human liberation differs from that of the majority of South Africans only in that they encounter the defects of our current ‘liberation’ earlier, and in a more explicitly cultural and linguistic form. But their dilemma will turn out to be the dilemma faced by us all.

Dialectical thought has flourished always in the margins and interstices of society. It seeks to follow the movement of contradictions while the major social institutions are designed to resolve or obscure them. This mode of thought seeks out the hidden cracks in prevailing ideas and conjunctures, anticipates the unexpected, imagines a future vastly different from the present, and examines the potentialities of the present to seek a basis for its realisation. The dialectical tradition in South Africa has been no different from this. But the margins and interstices of South African political and intellectual life are under unprecedented pressure today, as ideas and activities are brought into line with the needs of the market. Dialectical thinking is hardly explained or defended, and its vocabulary is easily appropriated by institutions concerned with stabilising and harmonising contradictory interests and outlooks.[89]

And yet the dominance of the market will create new margins and interstices, in South Africa and globally. The next significant reconfiguration of South African intellectual life will surely take place when increasing numbers of black South African graduates - the supposed heirs of the new South Africa - discover that the career paths promised by the market do not materialise. The political and philosophical directions which will be explored in such a context will depend largely on the resources that are available. We can only speculate about the prospect of a political practice in which increasing numbers of the oppressed and exploited are enabled to locate their condition within dialectical analysis, test and develop that analysis on the basis of their experience, and guide their collective action through it.


[1] Cf. Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle, pp. 267-71; Anthony Sampson, Mandela: The Authorised Biography (Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 1999), pp. 520-33. [2] Sampson, Mandela, pp. 229, 286. [3] Sampson, Mandela, pp. 298, 268. The quotations are from Mandela’s unpublished prison writings, to which Sampson had access. [4] Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle, p. 67. [5] Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle, pp. 68-9, 74-5, 77-80; quotations from pp. 74, 78. [6] Sampson, Mandela, p. 467; cf. Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle, p. 214. [7] Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle, p. 272. [8] Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle, pp. 238-40. [9] Beeld, 25 March 1999. [10] Breytenbach, The Memory of Birds, p. 32; cf. Chapter Six above. [11] Breyten Breytenbach et al, ‘Watse, Wie se Afrikaners,’ Die Burger, 20 March 1999. [12] Cf. du Toit and Giliomee, Afrikaner Political Thought, pp. xxvii-xxix. [13] Sybelle Albrecht, ‘Wegwysers na ‘n Tuiste in Eie Taal,’ Die Suid-Afrikaan, August-September 1992, p. 33. [14] Fragmente 5 (2000) includes writings on this theme by Breytenbach, Dan Roodt and others. [15] Chris Barnard et al, ‘Pres Mbeki, Luister Asb na Ons,’ Insig, November 1999, pp. 24-5. [16] Roodt was a student activist at Wits in the 1980s and editor of a short-lived and frequently banned Afrikaans literary magazine. Like Breytenbach, Turner and Cronin, he spent formative years in Paris - in his case, avoiding conscription into the apartheid military. His essays can be found on, and a substantial collection of them have been published under the title Aweregs (Johannesburg: Praag, 2004). [17] Chris Louw, ‘Boetman is die Bliksem in,’ Die Burger 8 May 2000. A longer version has now been published as Ope Brief aan Willem de Klerk (Johannesburg: PRAAG, 2000). De Klerk’s own contribution to the debate - Afrikaners: Kroes, Kras, Kordaat (Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, 2000) - calls for Afrikaners to adopt a low profile in South African politics for a decade or two, in order to allay fears that they seek to preserve the privileges of apartheid. [18] These developments include the reorientation of the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurorganisasies (FAK), formerly a bastion of Afrikaner nationalism and now a mouthpiece of broadly progressive views. Its monthly newspaper Die Vrye Afrikaan collaborated with Le Monde Diplomatique, translating many of their articles into Afrikaans. In general, the arguments for the defence of Afrikaans in the new South Africa, which caused alarm among many in the Afrikaner establishment and media, have come to be more widely accepted, although often in diluted form. [19] The NP’s negotiating proposals included a permanent coalition government, cabinet decisions based on consensus, a rotating presidency, veto rights for minorities and the like; cf. Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle, pp. 149-51. [20] O’Meara describes the ‘alternative’ Afrikaans culture which emerged mainly at Afrikaans universities in the 1980s as a ‘direct and deliberate desecration of the Afrikaner civil religion’ (Dan O'Meara, Forty Lost Years: The Apartheid State and the Politics of the National Party 1948-94 (Johannesburg: Ravan, 1996), p. 369). [21] Breytenbach, Seisoen in die Paradys, pp. 121, 122, 123, 128. [22] Brink, ‘The Breytenbach File,’ p. 5. [23] Breytenbach, Seisoen in die Paradys, p. 123. [24] Breytenbach, End Papers, p. 204. [25] Breytenbach, Return to Paradise, p. 67. [26] Breytenbach, True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist, p. 354-5; cf. ‘Taalstryd,’ in Coetzee, Die Hand vol Vere, pp. 273-4. [27] Bartho Smit, ‘Tien Jaar Afrikaanse Skrywersgilde,’ in Charles Malan and Bartho Smit, eds., Skrywer en Gemeenskap: Tien Jaar Afrikaanse Skrywersgilde (Pretoria: HAUM, c. 1985), p. 8. [28] Jan Rabie, ‘Is Dit Ons Erns - in Afrika?,’ in Malan and Smit, Skrywer en Gemeenskap,p.39. [29] G.J. Gerwel, ‘Afrikaner, Afrikaans, Afrika,’ in Malan and Smit, Skrywer en Gemeenskap, pp. 43, 41, 51; cf. Gerwel, ‘Afrikaans - ‘n Toekomsperspektief,’ in Malan and Smit, Skrywer en Gemeenskap, pp. 189-94. [30] J.J. Degenaar, Voortbestaan in Geregtigheid: Opstelle oor die Politieke Rol van die Afrikaner (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1980), pp. 72, 30. [31] J.J. Degenaar, Keuse vir die Afrikaner (Johannesburg: Taurus, 1982), pp. 22, 26-7, 28. [32] J.J. Degenaar, ‘Afrikaans, die Taal van Bevryding,’ in Hans du Plessis and Theo du Plessis, eds., Afrikaans en Taalpolitiek (Pretoria: HAUM, 1987), p. 208. [33] André du Toit, Die Sondes van die Vaders (Cape Town : Rubicon Press, 1983), p. 7; cf. pp. 51-3. Further page references to this work are indicated in the text. [34] André du Toit, ‘Philosophy in a Changing Plural Society,’ South African Journal of Philosophy, 1:4 (1982), p. 160. This is a translation of a paper first presented in Afrikaans in January 1977, and published in Standpunte 129 (June 1977), pp. 18-32. [35] André du Toit, ‘Was Alles dus maar ‘n Ligte Mistykie?,’ Die Suid-Afrikaan, April-May 1991, p. 47; cf. du Toit, ‘Oor Politieke Pyn, of die Hede as Geskiedenis,’ in du Toit, In Gesprek, pp. 22-31. [36] Degenaar encountered postmodernism at a summer school on literary theory in Chicago ‘during the 1980s’ (‘Om die Wêreld te Ontdek: ‘n Onderhoud met Pieter Duvenage,’ Fragmente 1 (1998), p. 22). Cf. Degenaar, `Die Betekenis van N.P. van Wyk Louw vir My Eie Denke,’ p. 52; Degenaar, Art and the Meaning of Life (Cape Town: UCT Dept of Extra-mural Studies, 1986). [37] Immanuel Kant, ‘An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?’, in Hans Reiss, ed., Kant’s Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), p.54. [38] Degenaar, Moraliteit en Politiek, p. 5. In the original Afrikaans, passages like this are a delicate parody of the rhetoric of the official guardians of Afrikaner culture in state and church. [39] Degenaar, Moraliteit en Politiek, pp. 6-7. [40] Degenaar, Voortbestaan in Geregtigheid, p. 5. [41] J.J. Degenaar, ‘Deconstruction - The Celebration of Language,’ in Bernard Lategan, ed., The Reader and Beyond (Pretoria: HSRC, 1992), pp. 207-8. This article was first published in a series of lectures on Art and the Meaning of Life in 1986. [42] J.J. Degenaar, ‘The Concept of Politics in Postmodernism,’ Politikon 23:2 (December 1996), p. 55. [43] E.g. Degenaar, Die Sterflikheid van die Siel, p. 19; Sekularisasie, p. 41. [44] Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding, pp. 47, 57-8; cf. Die Sterflikheid van die Siel, p. 78. [45] ‘Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose,’ in Reiss, Kant’s Political Writings, pp. 41-53. [46] Degenaar, Op Weg na ‘n Nuwe Politieke Lewenshouding, pp. 48, 57, 58. [47] J.J. Degenaar, Evolusie en Christendom:‘n Opstel oor Teilhard de Chardin (Cape Town: Simondium, 1965), p. 42, cf. pp. 23-4, 71-4. [48] Degenaar, Marxism-Leninism and its Implications for South Africa, p. 30; cf. p. 33. [49] Degenaar, ‘The Concept of Politics in Postmodernism,’ pp. 55, 61, 64. [50] Degenaar, ‘Deconstruction - The Celebration of Language,’ p. 190. [51] E.g. Johan Degenaar, ‘The Myth of a South African Nation’ (Cape Town: IDASA Occasional Paper no. 40, 1990); ‘Beware of Nation-Building Discourse,’ in Nic Rhoodie and Ian Liebenberg, eds., Democratic Nation-Building in South Africa (Pretoria: HSRC, 1994), pp. 23-30. [52] The phrase is that of Pieter Duvenage, ‘Inleidende Opmerkings: Apartheid en Skuld?,’ Fragmente 3 (1999), p. 110. [53] There is also an extremely guarded interview with P.S. Dreyer, who was for many years professor of philosophy at the University of Pretoria and a staunch defender of apartheid (‘Filosofie, Teologie en die Geskiedenis: ‘n Onderhoud met Pieter Duvenage,’ Fragmente 2 (1998), pp. 102-19). The interview is introduced as part of a larger project concerned with ‘Afrikaans philosophy’. [54] ‘Redaksioneel,’ Fragmente 1 (1998), p. 3. [55] ‘Redaksioneel,’ Fragmente 2 (1998), p. 5; Fragmente 5 (2000), p. 4. [56] ‘Redaksioneel,’ Fragmente 1(1998), pp. 4-5. [57] Danie Goosen, ‘Verlies, Rou en Affirmasie: Dekonstruksie en die Gebeure,’ Fragmente 1 (1998), p. 55. [58] Goosen, ‘Verlies, Rou en Affirmasie,’ pp. 60, 61, 63. [59] Danie Goosen, ‘Skuld en Kompensasie: Opmerkings rondom die Ekonomie van Skuld,’ Fragmente 3 (1999), p. 127. [60] Goosen, ‘Skuld en Kompensasie,’ pp. 133, 135-6. [61] Danie Goosen, ‘Die Postmoderne Universiteit: Enkele Spekulatiewe Notas,’ Fragmente 5 (2000), pp. 24, 25, 26. [62] Goosen, ‘Die Postmoderne Universiteit,’ p. 27. [63] Goosen, ‘Die Postmoderne Universiteit,’ p. 30. [64] For a somewhat more detailed account of Afrikaner postmodernism in the 1990s, see Andrew Nash, “The New Politics of Afrikaans,” South African Journal of Philosophy 19:4 (November 2000), pp. 340–64. Goosen has since published a philosophical work of formidable ambition, which does not directly address Afrikaner politics but is clearly intended to provided an intellectual basis for its development, Die Nihilisme: Notas oor Ons Tyd (Johannesburg: Praag, 2007). [65] Breytenbach, End Papers, pp. 58-9; cf. Chapter Six above. [66] Die Burger (second editorial), 23 July 1993. [67] Sunday Independent, 27 April 1997. [68] Breytenbach, Dog Heart, p. 117. [69] Breytenbach, Papierblom, p.76. Elsewhere he is more ambiguous: attempting a postmodernist ‘translation’ of a Chinese fable, with some sympathy (Woordwerk, pp. 176-7); or making a passing reference to the characteristics of ‘our postmodernist environment’ in which ‘shadows are replaced by phantoms and the deep stain of not-being by the fleeting imagery of a continuum’ (‘Andersheid en Andersmaak,’ p. 33). [70] Barnard et al, ‘Pres Mbeki, Luister Asb na Ons,’ pp. 24-5. [71] E.g. ‘Taalstryders op KKNK Erg Gekritiseer,’ Die Burger, 1 April 2000. [72] Breytenbach, ‘Aantekeninge van ‘n Middelwêreld,’ Fragmente 1 (1998), p. 28. [73] Breyten Breytenbach, ‘Brief oor die Kannaland-Projek,’ Fragmente 5 (2000), p. 9. [74] Breytenbach, ‘Aantekeninge van ‘n Middelwêreld,’ p. 27. [75] Breytenbach, Dog Heart, pp. 183, 186. [76] Breytenbach, ‘Aantekeninge van ‘n Middelwêreld,’ p. 28. [77] Breytenbach, ‘Andersheid en Andersmaak, oftewel die Afrikaner as Afrikaan,’ Fragmente 4 (1999), p. 28, 31, 30. [78] E.g. ‘There is more and better legislation to protect the rights of trade union members than the rights of minorities’ (Barnard et al, ‘Pres Mbeki, Luister Asb na Ons,’ p. 24). Breytenbach’s most explicit disavowal of revolutionary politics is made in the context of discussing the role of Afrikaners in the new South Africa. In his foreword to Slabbert’s Afrikaner Afrikaan, he concedes that ‘from the course of events during the previous ten years ... it is clear that van Zyl’s pragmatic approach was better equipped to interpret the situation than my own heights of utopia and depths of pessimism’. On this account, such pragmatism appealed to the ‘better instincts’ of those in authority, prevented ‘chaos and collapse’ and provided the required guarantees to ‘the economic sector’ - by which is meant, presumably, the small minority who own the country’s wealth - as ‘stabilisers of everyday life’ (pp. viii-ix). [79] E.g. Breytenbach, ‘Andersheid en Andersmaak,’ pp. 36-7. [80] Z.B. du Toit, Die Nuwe Toekoms: ‘n Perspektief op die Afrikaner by die Eeuwisseling (Pretoria: J.P. van der Walt, 1999), pp. 356, 332-3. [81] The Freedom Charter adopted by the ANC in 1955 held that ‘all people shall have equal rights to use their own language (Suttner and Cronin, Thirty Years of the Freedom Charter, p. 263). [82] A crucial economic strength of the new black elite is their attractiveness as local partners for foreign investment, especially in areas dependent on state licensing (e.g., telecommunications) privatisation of state assets (tourism, mining) and politically sensitive areas such as the media. [83] Cf. Breytenbach, ‘Andersheid en Andersmaak,’ pp. 42-4. Breytenbach’s frequent use of metaphors of nomadism and polytheism often reinforce this sense of Afrikaans - and perhaps language and culture more broadly - as properly pre-capitalist. [84] There is a significant qualification to this argument which I am leaving aside here: that the non-Afrikaner majority are also marginalised on the basis of not having highly-rewarded business and technical skills, which are usually, but not always, the preserve of the propertied. For this reason, projects such as the short-lived proposal to establish an Afrikaans university at Oudtshoorn could have improved the prospects of a number of Afrikaans-speaking coloureds. [85] Breytenbach, ‘Andersheid en Andersmaak,’ p. 33. [86] Jan-Jan Joubert, ‘Afrikaanse Kapitaal kan Taal laat Gedy,’ Rapport, 10 October 1999; cf. Jakes Gerwel, ‘Dis Tog Beter as Roodt se Ligsinnigheid,’ Rapport, 9 April 2000; Gerwel, ‘Volkskritiek in die Beste Sin,’ Insig, May 2000, pp. 66-7. [87] ‘Afrikaans Business Boost for Mbeki,’ Sunday Times, 20 February 2000; on Esterhuyse, cf. Jakob Regop, ‘Gaan Willie Thabo se Jakes Wees,’ Die Burger, 28 July 1999. [88] On globalisation, cf. ‘Redaksioneel,’ Fragmente 1 (1998), pp. 3-5; Johann Rossouw, ‘Wat Presies Bedreig Afrikaans? Notas oor die Dood in die Parogiale Pot,’ Fragmente 1 (1998), pp. 108-9; Breyten Breytenbach, ‘Brief oor die “Kannaland-Projek”,’ Fragmente 5 (2000), p. 9. In each case, the issue is discussed in passing, and as if the process of globalisation was located somewhere outside of the Afrikaner community, or even South Africa. The most extensive defence of Afrikaans in the new South Africa - Z.B. du Toit’s Nuwe Toekoms - lacks any such critical perspective on globalisation, and identifies itself with the ‘victory of liberal democratic politics and market-directed economics’, and even such tokens of the global power of the capitalist West as NATO’s bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999 (pp. 16, 19, 48 et passim). [89] E.g. Tito Mboweni, ‘Nedlac Needs a Dialectical Approach,’ Cape Times 3 June 1996.


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