FF+ leader Pieter Mulder lavishes praise on Zuma

The jury is still out on whether or not Jacob Zuma primarily speaks to allay fears and appease his audiences.

But of those he's addressed, and who now seem to want to reward the new president for his kind words is the Afrikaner - or at least that part of the volk represented by the Freedom Front Plus.

Before taking oath of office Zuma had said that of all her people, Afrikaners were the most loyal to South Africa since they did not carry two passports.

Dr Pieter Mulder, leader of the FF+, agrees with this assertion. Their only link to Europe, he says, is lineal. Otherwise they are as African as the flat nose (the emphasis is the writer's). "Hence the colours in our party flag," the leader says, "orange, which is Dutch, and green for Africa."

Later in the conversation Mulder pointed out that the growing number of Afrikaner farmers spreading their wings across the continent was proof of their allegiance to Africa, not Europe.

This is the same Mulder, the scion of Afrikaner political aristocracy, who, in a beautiful little speech last Wednesday in Parliament gave Zuma the thumbs-up.

It was such a huge vote of confidence in the fourth democratic president that the loudest cheers came, not from the four seats garnered by his minority party, but from the 264 members swelling the ruling party benches.

He repeated his humorous oxen and lion analogy:

"On behalf of the Freedom Front Plus I wish to congratulate the Honourable Mr Zuma with his election as president of South Africa. This election also ends the Honourable Mr Motlanthe's term as president.

"When we chose Mr Motlanthe as president a while ago, Mr Zuma sat in the gallery. At the time I told him of the two Afrikaner farmers who had during the night harnessed eight oxen to their wagon. Because it was dark they unfortunately harnessed a lion with the oxen.

"When the sun rose and they saw the problem they did not know how to unharness the lion. Mr Motlanthe, who today retires as president, acted with great dignity and made it easy for the ANC to unharness him as a lion."

Just in case you were wondering how someone from the backwaters of Potchefstroom could be capable of such great oratory and masterful delivery, note that Mulder is a former professor in communications at his home-town university.

It was a textbook speech, light and humorous. Concise.

But it was also a speech ex President Thabo Mbeki would hate to hear repeated anywhere.

"I was in this Assembly on 14 June 2005 when Mr Mbeki announced Mr Zuma's resignation as deputy president. I am today here again to see how Mr Zuma becomes president. A lot has happened between those two dates."

Mulder, amid the din of applause, called on the wisdom of Muhammad Ali, the world's greatest:

"In your pursuit of success there will be hundreds of set-backs. Remember, a heavyweight match is 15 rounds. If you loose (sic) a few rounds, or even get knocked down, it doesn't matter, as long as you get up and eventually win. The same in life."

Ouch, Mbeki!

According to Jeremy Gordin, Zuma's biographer, there are "a number of pictures and other mementos hanging on the wall" of his first wife Sizakele Zuma's rondavel in Nkandla.

One of these, Mulder pointed out to the house, was: "I wish a long life to my enemies so that they may see all my successes."

And why does Mulder make this point? He told the jubilant crowd on May 6: "You will understand the significance of that."

It was a speech that is also sure to have made apartheid architect HF Verwoerd turn in his grave: "Today we choose our fourth president in 15 years.

"I think it is good for South Africa."

Does this mean Mulder's Republic only began with the advent of democracy? What about the idea ofa vaderland - the fatherland for which his ancestors fought?

Mulder is the son of Connie Mulder, now late, who was an archrival of PW Botha, at one point losing the presidency to the Groot Krokodil by a miserly six votes.

Like all good white boys of his day, Mulder did his national service. His was in the navy in 1969.At university he was a member of the Afrikaanse Studente-bond, in most cases a subtle initiation to the Broederbond.

But it was obvious that he was cut from a different cloth. Not only did he excel academically, winning scholarships to the UK and the US - he attained his DPhil in 1978, aged only 26.

He is now 58.

His father was a verligte, an enlightened politician of the apartheid era. He grew up in a household where black people were treated with respect, Mulder says.

Up until today he's still regaled with stories from those who had dealings with his father, like Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

He's written a book called Kan Die Afrikaner Toyi-Toyi?

Mulder says there are two types of Afrikaners - those who, after 350 years here know this is their home too and the others, who were misled into "fighting back in 1999 by the DA".

He represents those who know "there is hope for a future in which every South African will be able to feel there is a place in the sun for him or her".

A great fan of astronomy, he's married to Triena, a maths teacher. They have four daughters and a son named after his father, ranging in age from 31 down to 19.

The new Afrikaner! lThree days after this interview, Mulder was appointed deputy minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.