Author says Afrikaners should engage fully

Christi van der Westhuizen, the author of White Power - The Rise and Fall of the National Party, told Eric Naki that Afrikaners should engage with their country and that Afrikaans as a language has a future.

Christi van der Westhuizen, the author of White Power - The Rise and Fall of the National Party, told Eric Naki that Afrikaners should engage with their country and that Afrikaans as a language has a future.

Van der Westhuizen, whose book was launched at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg on Tuesday night, said Afrikaans should not dominate other languages as in the past. Instead, she said, civil society should promote multilingualism.

Q: What is the future of the Afrikaner in a democratic South Africa?

A: Like other South Africans, Afrikaners are not used to democracy, so they are trying to find ways of being in a democracy. Afrikaners have great access to resources, including skills, capital and assets which they can use productively in addressing the primary problem of our society, which is a race-based socio-economic inequality.

Some Afrikaners are already doing this. However, some have withdrawn into a mental laager from where they judge democratic South Africa because of resentment. My call would be for Afrikaners to engage fully with their country, rather than emigrating inwards.

Q: Has Afrikaans as a language got a future in South Africa? Should it dominate other languages as in the past?

A: Though Afrikaans is one among many South African languages, it benefited disproportionately from Afrikaner nationalist dominance between 1948 and 1994. The result is that it is a fully fledged academic, scientific, legal and creative language. It is still the third largest language in the country after isiZulu and isiXhosa.

It will have a future as long as people speak it.

Afrikaans should definitely not dominate as in the past. At this point the state and civil society should be promoting multilingualism to ensure that all South Africans understand and have access to the state and to service delivery.

Q: Is the Afrikaans press playing a role in keeping the Afrikaner in the old laager and in isolation?

A: The Afrikaans press has become highly commercialised after 1994, which goes hand in hand with a downscaling of informational and insightful content and an upscaling in entertainment. A mind-numbing materialism is being promoted instead of an ethos of people claiming their citizenship with all its rights and responsibilities. This does contribute to Afrikaner insulation.

Q: With the old generation of Afrikaners diminishing, what will emerge out of their ashes?

A: Hopefully citizens will emerge who want to engage productively with their country, their fellow citizens and their continent. The De la Rey phenomenon, however, could show that things are going the other way.

There are civil society organisations, media organisations and influential individuals who are trying to find ways to reactivate old Afrikaner nationalist notions and habits, such as Afrikaner victimhood, divisive "us and them" fantasies.

Q: Does your book reflect the kind of a person you are?

A: I would hope so. It was important to me not to just tell a story but to reflect critically on the damage that the NP has done in our country and to our lives.

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