Is Breyten calling for a Volkstaat or what?

Writer Breyten Breytenbach at the 2009 Brookly...
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This very morning I was chatting to a very good friend.

me: i’m a bit tired of my Mhambi blog, or rather South African politics, but lets see if that lasts…
been meaning to do a mag for a while – my new years resolution is to do creative and interesting stuff!
11:15 Friend: Mhambi is an interesting place, I don’t think you’ll leave it but if you feel tired of it maybe you give it a rest for while. you probably can’t let it go, it’s about you as much as it’s a blog.
I enjoyed reading your story on your TRC experience, one that I haven’t heard before in that way
11:16 me: well perhaps I am ready in some ways to let that part of my life go
Friend: you think so? that’s interesting
me: thanks, its actually the most important thing i have written in a way, in a way the reason why i started the blog
11:17 and now that i have said it, it almost feels like mission accomplished
Friend: yes, I can see it’s the essence really
11:18 me: but like i said, lets see… i’m not overly confident i could leave all that behind easily
but perhaps i could get a way with a less intense relationship

This blog has been many things to me. Therapy is probably the one word that would describe it best. To get all my thoughts about South Africa out there. And hopefully make a difference.

Nobody that follows South Africa or this blog closely will fail to know that it has been a bitter disappointment to anyone hoping for a dispensation that was fair and that respects its people.

In the last year a number of very good friends who had – unlike myself – remained in the country, immigrated. All who – I might add – welcomed the new South Africa with cautious but open arms.

And although certain members of Jacob Zuma’s administration inspires hope (funny enough most of them communists), and although some of his administrations actions have been spot on – far more concerted action is needed to turn round the terminal decline of the state and the fabric of South African society.

Chris Louw, a liberal Afrikaner who was one of those who traveled in 1987 to Dakar to meet the ANC in hope of finding a peaceful end to apartheid, committed suicide last week. He was said to be depressed about the state of the country, and had been concerned about crime in the area in which he lives.

I guess I have begun to feel like I’m pissing in the wind. That the South African situation is hopeless, and that it’s better for me to concentrate my efforts on my own life, and my new business RAAK.

This evening I spotted a link to this article written by Breyten Breytenbach, and it made me rather emotional.

Breyten – the brother of Jan Breytenbach – the founder of apartheid South Africa’s special forces – is the a brilliant poet, writer, painter who amogst other things founded Okhela. Okhela – the still born white armed resistance movement that had planned military action against the apartheid state. He was arrested, and in the end his death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment.

In an earlier period – when he returned from Paris with his Vietnamese wife Yolandi, they were detained for relations across the colour bar and deported.

After considerable international pressure and perhaps fearing another martyr a-la Mandela Breytenbach was released after 7 years in Pretoria central prison.

Later Breyten helped organise the Dakar meeting between Afrikaners and the ANC, which Louw also attended.

Breyten is angry again.

Here is an excerpt of what Breytenbach wrote in Beeld this week in a piece titled Die reënboog is ’n spieël aan skerwe

Ná die aanvanklike oorgangsfase van saambinding was dit gou duidelik dat die Een Nasie as beloofde land gerig gaan word deur hegemoniese Swart Nasionalisme en ’n diepe behoefte om die verlede ongedaan te maak en die geskiedenis te herskryf. Die party aan bewind se eis van, “dis nou ons tyd, dis ons beurt om te eet” – wat na sionalisme gebaseer op huidskleur as die laaste wegkruipplek van die skurk en ’n manier om met die verlede af te reken manipuleer – beteken in die praktyk die meedoënlose verryking van ontplooide kaders ten onkoste van die res van die bevolking.

Trans: Very soon after the original reconciliatory phase it became clear that the idea of One Nation as promised land was directed to hegemonic Black Nationalism, a deep need to change the past and rewrite history. The ruling party’s demand “it is now our time, it’s our turn to eat” – which uses nationalism based on skin colour as the final refuge of scoundrels and manipulates a way to deal with the past – in practice means the unrelenting enrichment of deployed cadres at the expense of the rest of the population.

Daardie “onkoste” – verarming, gebrek aan dienslewering – het die land nou uitgelewer aan misdaad en etniese populisme. En die alledaagse werklikheid maak dit al hoe duideliker dat daar van die Afrikaners verwag word dat hulle hul vaardighede, plase, skole, bankkaarte, aandele, selfone, wapens, drank en tuinvurke stil-skuldig oorhandig voordat hulle verdwyn uit Afrika en die geskiedenis, en dat hulle geen morele reg het om beswaar te maak nie.

Wat nou?

Trans: Those “expenses” – impoverishment, lack of service delivery – has now delivered the country to crime and ethnic populism. And the everyday reality makes it increasingly clear that of Afrikaners it is expected to hand over their skills, farms, schools, bank cards, shares, cellphones, weapons, liquor and garden forks, quietly-guilty before they disappear from Africa and history and that they have no moral right to object.

What to do now?

Ons is al lank nie meer in die paradigma van versoening nie. En al sê dié wat met die lekkerkry van skuld op die knieë kruip in die versugting om “swart”, onsigbaar en monddood te word ook wat, iedere landsburger het dieselfde reg op gelyke en waardige behandeling. Die Afrikaners, net soos al hulle landgenote, het die reg op ’n eie taal wat tot haar volle potensiaal uitgeleef kan word, het die reg op veiligheid en ordentlike skole en hospitale.

Trans: For some time now were are no longer in the paradigm of reconciliation. And no matter what those that get enjoyment from guiltily crawling on their knees in the fantasy for “black”, invisible and dead-mouthed say, every citizen of the country has the right to be treated as equals and with dignity. The Afrikaners, like all their compatriots, have the right to their own language that can be lived to its full potential, and has the right to safety and decent schools and hospitals.

Ons het die reg en die verpligting, as individue en as kultureel herkenbare bevolkingsgroep, om met elke greintjie invloed waaroor ons beskik ons saak aan die internasionale gemeenskap bekend te maak, om die onderskeid duidelik te maak tussen historiese aandadigheid (aan apartheid) en oorlewing, om te veg vir regstelling en transformasie.

Trans: We have the duty and obligation, as individuals and as culturally identifiable population group, to use each little bit of influence that we have to state our case to the international community, making clear the distinction between historical culpability (for apartheid) and survival, to fight for redress and transformation.

Dit beteken dat gesprekke, aangevuur deur ’n morele en praktiese verbeeldingsvermoë, rondom die noodsaak van ’n opnuut geformuleerde Suid-Afrika – gegrond in ’n bestel van funksionerende federale deelstate, met dieselfde regte en moontlikhede vir almal – op alle vlakke aan die orde van die dag moet kom. (So nié, is dit nag.)

Trans: This means that conversations, fueled by a moral and practical imagination, about the necessity of a newly formulated South Africa – based in a functioning federal system of states, with equal rights and opportunities for all at all levels, should be created. (If this does not happen it will be calamitous.)

Maar hierdie keer moet die burgerlike samelewing keer dat besluite gemaak deur skelms en politieke perdediewe en plunderaars en vergelders en komiteekakkerlakke en dié wat in alle skynheiligheid op eie borste trommel, nie weer aan ons opgedwing word nie.

Trans: But this time civil society must make sure that decisions made by crooks and political horse-thieves and raiders and retaliators and committee cockroaches and those that hypocritically beat their breasts are not forced onto us.

These words from the mouth of Breyten are imbued with an entirely different meaning than when uttered by your run of the mill Afrikaner. Precisely because he is one of the few not constrained by the moral glass ceiling he talks about. He has the right to object, without the constraints we feel because of our past.

His words brought tears to my eyes. Corny, I know. But it happened.

Yes, like all our compatriots, we have the right to our own language that can be lived to its full potential, and has the right to safety and decent schools and hospitals.

The energy, vision and organisation needed to make this happen requires that people like Breyten wrest the leadership and voice of the Afrikaner cause from the extreme right, and recast it from a bekrompte chauvism to progressive values like vryheid, gelykheid and broederskap.

I would love to interview Breyten, because although Afrikaners do have this right, and other citizens also do, I can see many practical problems with what he seems to be suggesting. Can it be done in a way that’s not at the expense of others?

But Kameraad Mhambi is ready to help where he can.

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Related deployments:

  1. Would you consider living in a Volkstaat?
  2. Unanswered letters & the second Great Trek
  3. White man assaulted for calling himself an African America

10 Responses

  1. afrikola says:

    “as Afrika oor die kim verdwyn,stryk die ou vrou die bok se oe plat”-Breyten Breytenbach
    Sy klippe val in die see.He has resigned from Afrikanerdom at various occasions,even is on record saying, that he is no longer an Afrikaner.So I am perplexed by this sudden “we”,”us” ! What would ,”culturally identifiable population group”mean ? That the majority of Afrikaners,would suddenly embrace their fellow Afrikaans speakers,would Tsotsitaal and S’camto also qualify,for inclusion? Maybe Liberte,Egalite,Fraternite would become a distant possibillity when most Afrikaners comes to understand what equality really means ! And fraternity is a brotherhood,of a different feather.Petty Apartheid was such a malicious masterstroke(no pun intended),that true fraternalising will not take place for a very long time to come.I have no iota of doubt that Breyten loves his mother tongue,like few other,being the Zanussi of Afrikaans’ toordokters,but the Messiah leading “his” volk to the Promised Land.NO.To get a good insight into the progressiveness of this culturally defined population group ,read the letter pages of Rapport.Pieter Mulder has more of a chance ! Aluta Continua ! So, as you can see from Breyten’s example,Mhambi,leaving it all behind,is not all that easy.
    PS-Would be interesting to find out about other members of Okhela?

  2. You speak a lot of truth Mr. Afrikola. The comments underneath Breyten’s article is a good case in point.

    And yes, perhaps Okhela was a one man band?

  3. At the end of last year we stopped drinking the municipal water. Sometimes it is clear and smell strongly of chlorine, at other times it’s yellow and smell slightly of urine.

    Last night (like at least one night every month) we listened to the usual commotion outside as copper bandits stole electric wires in our street, leaving us without power (unable to run our business) for yet another day.

    Quite a nice display, the shouting, screaming tires and green fireworks of live copper wire coming apart. It messes up router power supplies & hard disks though.

    During these holidays we visited my parents (in Ermelo). On the day before Christmas we went to a friend of my dad’s farm. The directions to the farm was “across the road from that guy who got murdered last month’s farm”, and no-one flinched. My dad never even told me the story, it’s not important enough.

    I’m not an idealist, and I’m relatively apolitical. I don’t even read the news, because it tends to depress me. I’m a bit of a pragmatist though, and the above mentioned circumstances are making life in South Africa quite impractical at times.

  4. “…making life in South Africa quite impractical at times.”

    This is exactly the dilemma that faces many South Africans, and which I feel is being ignored.

  5. Zeetee says:

    I find it quite distatsteful that in this time and era, there are people who want to belong to a Volkstaat. South Africa is a democracy with all systems political and legal in place to adress any social or political inustice that most Volkstaters are complaining about. It seems that proponents are largely defitists perssimists who believe that a cessation from the main constitutional state to a Volkstaat is a workerble solution. This is not sustainable because at the top of it lies racism and secondly it ignores the fact that we are all in a capitalist state, which is affected equally with other nations by market forces. This begins to beg for a question of how is this Volkstaat sustain itself? Why is it that these people opt to divide this country instead of immegrating if the RSA does not serve their needs? An intergrated country can be much more stronger with all working towards a common goal of sel sustenance and development, instead of fighting ourselves to death for something that will never happen, never mind the sentiments expressed. It seems that this idea crops up only when people are disgrundled such as the Aba- Thembu King. A unitary state is the only option, Buthelezi tried, where is he now?

  6. Peter Heyde says:

    Interesting, but quite an important correction.Breyten Breytenbach was not sentenced to death, he was given a seven year sentence, which is far less than many others. I am not trying to take away anything from his achievements, but it certainly is far away from a death sentence.

  7. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Hi Peter, thanks for the correction.

    My understanding is that the prosecution forst asked for the death sentence and that the actual sentence was much longer than 7?

    Or am I wrong?

  8. Bob Morane al says:

    It’s quite fascinating to follow the constant whining of Afrikaner people who are in the same moral position as “nazis” and “nazis” offspring who would have dared after the 2nd world war to complain (in shock really) that Israel or Poland is not an ideal country for them and that they feel not welcome and respected few years after the cease-fire.
    The political changes which occurred in SA without a massive bloodbath didn’t mean really that there is any future, possibility/potential for afrikaners (i don’t say white people) as a distinct population and culture in SA for the weight and stains of their past are too lethal for a common future with the rest of the population.
    Yes, it’s unfair for the young afrikaners who were not born or responsible but life must go on.
    afrikaners did not give away the power for any other reasons than a political/economical dead end on the world scene and a fear of annihilation in an open civil war and a lack of ressources to sustain that war.
    So, it will be easier to make an influx of new occidental immigrants (with modern skills) than to find a place for afrikaners in the new SA.

    Sure, You were
    Electricity shortages, civil service incompetence, criminality, corruption in SA are inherent to a third world country and SA is a third world country and always was.

    But it was easier for afrikaners when all the ressources were aimed quite exclusively at the white population and when the dictatorship of a police/racial state enforced the law by the containment of the vast majority of the population.

    The Volkstaat (Jurassic Park for Afrikaners, reverse bantustan, you name it) fantasies are non practical and dangerous jokes.
    Their only present interest is that they provide solace for part of the most aggressive afrikaners who think of it as an astute device to progressively restore the statu quo ante (curiously it seems that the real model is based on the israeli occupied territories and religious zealot colonies).

    Part of the Afrikaners (around 2,8 milion people) will probably dissolve in the english speaking population, another part will emigrate and disappear in the world melting pot, aging and demogaphics will provide for the main rest.

    Afrikaans as a language will evolve and will at best become a lingua franca for a larger part of the coloured population (but i think that for economic and sociological reasons, they will adopt massively the english language).

    What did the Afrikaners bring to the world:
    1) initially rural then civil servant stubbornness (tyranosaurus redneckus) but with extreme resilience to duress, pragmatism for the menial questions with a touch of far west/trek appetite and christian messianism for the rest,

    2) god fearing, archaic protestant “christian” “values” (hierarchy, obedience to authority, litteral reading of the bible, predestination…)

    3) peculiar kind of extreme racism (biblical, colonialist/economic, paternalistic kind) with the failed attempt to make a symbiotic system of it.

    I don’t think that they will be able to morph in a viable and fruitful life form for the time to be (knowledge, creativity, openness, reactivity…)

    Let it be

    Like the carnivorous dinosaurs, they will not be missed in a modern world

  9. [...] ← Is Breyten calling for a Volkstaat or what? Would you consider living in a Volkstaat? [...]

  10. [...] so Breyten has been making noises of late. But your a bit late Breyten, and a little out of touch. And you are a pain in the [...]