Thorough historical deconstruction of the NP and its inevitable demise

Book: White Power & Rise and Fall of the National Party

Book: White Power & Rise and Fall of the National Party

Author: Christi van der Westhuizen

Reviewer: Eric Naki

Publisher: Zebra Press

Christi van der Westhuizen is a very brave writer. Her pen crossed ground rarely traversed among Afrikaners.

This proud Afrikaner is prepared to differ with her tribe in exposing how the National Party used fear and racism to cling to power.

From a young age, she despised what was happening in her community. She was labelled kafferboetie by her high school friends after she wrote an essay saying apartheid damaged black people's lives and that the homelands were a pipe dream.

She also shook the foundations of the Rand Afrikaanse Universiteit and was almost expelled for writing in a student newspaper that Hendrik Verwoerd was influenced by national socialist thinking while studying in Europe.

The book also reveals interesting aspects of Afrikaner culture and behaviour, insight into how the British oppressed blacks, how blacks were divided to prop up white power, similarities between NP and ANC economic policies and most importantly, the birth of democracy.

You will also learn about Afrikaner "denial and deception", how the far right was destroyed, verligte thinking and the politics of "we did not know".

Van der Westhuizen unravels Afrikaner conservatism and denialism about the wrongs committed during NP rule. She is adamant that the Nats stayed in power because of the rhetoric of die volk, Calvinist religion and racism.

But she says that contrary to early liberal writings, segregation did not emanate from the Boer republics because segregation was worse in British-controlled Eastern Cape and Natal.

Van der Westhuizen exposes how the NP instilled fear in Afrikaners. She unveils the subliminal role, then and now, played by some Afrikaans scholars and newspapers to prophesy black Armageddon against the volk.

She disagrees with intellectuals Willem de Klerk and Hermann Giliomee on key issues. She dismisses De Klerk's claim that Afrikaners are depressed and shocked because of loss of power, influence, respect, security, privilege, language and so on.

"Democratisation allowed many to escape the straitjacket of Afrikanerdom. Some used the freedom to demand that Afrikaner institutions such as the media or NG Kerk change to allow for the newly acknowledged diversity in Afrikaner ranks including sexual orientation and racial diversity.

"Afrikaner women are moving into the public sphere," Van der Westhuizen writes.

She disagrees with Giliomee's assertion that "my generation was never conscious of any classes" . She argues: "Unlike Giliomee, I grew up seeing the effects of class among Afrikaners around me."

She says her people were fed nationalist myths and images to mobilise them. But mobilising them was not easy because some of them were not anti-British.

She writes that some Boers were not opposed to fighting on the side of the British in the Anglo-Boer war (South African War) and many continued to vote for the South African Party, an English party.

She sketches how the English and Afrikaners collaborated and formed a bulwark against blacks.

If Afrikaners failed in farming and education, they had a job reserved for them as railway workers. The NP used its power to advantage big business and white workers.

The neo-liberalism adopted by the ANC in the 2000s and which worsened the inequalities is similar to that which the NP pursued to expand white privilege, Van der Westhuizen writes.

She believes that the ANC's economic policy was moderated during the pre-1994 negotiations and that is why the RDP was abandoned.

The book highlights tensions among Afrikaners and how the NP silenced this dissent, and tensions between verligtes and verkramptes are detailed.

It shows how the 1970s Durban strike, urban discontent, the 1976 uprising, international hostility regarding the Info Scandal, among others weakened the NP.

The 1992 split resulted in the birth of the Conservative Party which marked the end of the cross classes in the NP.

Van der Westhuizen writes that the verkrampte-verligte tensions helped to win compromises for the ANC.

It is interesting that FW de Klerk confirmed that his NP contributed to Gear and that it approved the document's final draft during the Government of National Unity (GNU).

The book describes how the GNU fuelled the NP demise.

The TRC was a blow to Afrikaners because it exposed their weaknesses, forcing them to deny known human rights abuses.

Some Afrikaners called the TRC a lieg en biegkommission - lies and confession commission - while Die Burger newspaper vilified it as biegbank - confession bench or rack.

The author describes the 1999 election as "like slaughter for the NP" after it shed 75percent of its 1994 support.

"The election tolled the final bell for the NP," she writes.

The book reveals that even the Nats or former Nats conceded that it was an ill-conceived move for the NP to leave the GNU.

She says replacing heavyweight De Klerk with Marthinus van Schalkwyk was a mistake.

White Power and Rise and Fall of the Nationalist Party is a must for all South Africans and schools.

It is the history of us all.

It will be launched at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg on November 6.