Leave Afrikaans alone!

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Leave Afrikaans alone!

Category : Afrikaans , Education , Racism

Afrikaans is under pressure in our schools and universities with many parties calling for its scrapping as a primary medium of instruction or wanting to incorporate English as a parallel medium. This piece is not aimed at these people. Surprise! It is aimed at the people and groupings who are trying to use Afrikaans as a weapon to defend and maintain white privilege. You are doing more damage than good to my language, Afrikaans. You are trying your utmost to maintain or promote the association of Afrikaans with racism and white privilege. You do not speak for me. Leave Afrikaans alone!

If you listen closely to the parties complaining about the use of Afrikaans at Universities or those who want Afrikaans schools to be opened to less privileged children, you will realise that the language itself is not their main concern. Their concern is with white privilege, their lack of access and their desire to get a better deal. Afrikaans is used as a convenient scapegoat, largely because of its association with the inequalities of the past, the inequalities that remain and the perception that many Afrikaans supporters in general are also supporters of white privilege and often are racist. This is where people are going wrong and where many Afrikaans advocates are fuelling the flames of the fire.

It has not always been this way and there is no reason why it has to be this way going forward. When the ANC took power in 1994, they went to great pains to acknowledge the importance of Afrikaans and to take steps to protect the rights of the language and to actively nurture it in the New SA. The right to mother tongue (including Afrikaans) education is guaranteed as a human right by our Constitution (where it is reasonably practical). When President Nelson Mandela opened the first democratic parliament in 1994, he quoted Ingrid Jonker’s poem Die Kind, expressed his love for Afrikaans numerous times and reached out to Afrikaans speakers (not least in his support for the Springboks in the 1995 World Cup).

In 2009, the Constitutional Court (Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke) noted that when a learner already enjoys the benefit of being taught in an official language of choice at a particular school the state would bear the duty not to take away or diminish the right “without appropriate justification”.

As recently as 2015, President Jacob Zuma stated that “Afrikaans is as African as the rest of the country’s official languages.” He said that transformation criticism should not be targeted at the Afrikaans language, but rather how it’s used in institutions. Even Julius Malema said in 2015 that Afrikaans should be spoken and protected, but not imposed on people, although he also mentioned that Afrikaans “should be put in its place”.

Afrikaans per se is therefore not the problem, it is the association made with the language that is becoming a problem and can eventually manifest itself in active objection to the language. This is what I fear. I fear that the voices of those open or closeted racists with hidden agendas who vociferously defend the language will drown out the voices of progressive and patriotic Afrikaans speakers who want their language protected, but not at the expense of others. People who realise that the only future for SA is one of transformation, reduced inequality and unity. People who are looking for solutions to the challenges that face our country. People who are willing to sacrifice in order to guarantee a long and prosperous future for themselves and the rest of society in this beautiful country. People like me.

So let me ask the following of Afrikaans advocates, do either of the following: 1) admit that your aggressive defence of Afrikaans is a smokescreen for your desire to protect your way of life, to choose the people you or your kids associate with, to avoid integration and to live in a country that is long gone; or 2) throw your weight behind transforming our society, lifting up the disadvantaged and at the same time protecting Afrikaans.

It is your right to choose the former. It is your right to be prejudiced. It is your right to be scared of people who are different to you. It is your right to fear for the future of SA. It is your right to protect what is yours. It is your right to be critical of government, regardless of their performance. It is your right to be racist. Please, just be honest about it. Do not drag my language, the first language of 13.5% of South Africans (most not Afrikaners) and one of the most widely understood languages in SA (the vast majority non-whites) into this. It is not just yours. Leave Afrikaans alone!

If you choose the latter, there is so much you can do. Because there is such a huge pool of Afrikaans speakers and people that have Afrikaans as a first language; and because there are so many of these people that are previously disadvantaged, let us reach out to them. Let us bring them into Afrikaans schools to benefit from the privilege that Afrikaans children experience. I challenge Afrikaans-based institutions such as Afriforum, Solidariteit and the ATKV; universities with Afrikaans as a medium, including the University of Stellenbosch, the University of Pretoria and the University of the Free State; as well as Afrikaans politicians, business leaders and media personalities to start an aggressive fund raising exercise to provide an unprecedented bursary fund to attract previously disadvantaged learners to Afrikaans schools. Give these poor township kids free schooling, free transport, free uniforms and free learning materials. Give them the opportunity to be educated in the beautiful language of Afrikaans, but only if they choose to.

Let us stop the decline in the number of Afrikaans learners in SA, whilst transforming our Afrikaans schools into the racially and culturally diverse entities we need to build our country going forward. Let us build a strong pipeline of diverse Afrikaans learners that want to continue their university studies in Afrikaans. Let us change the narrative from white Afrikaners wanting to hang on to their privilege to Afrikaans being a unifier that offers opportunities and diversity to anyone, regardless of ethnicity or background.

If we took this approach in the early 1990s when the writing was on the wall; if Afrikaans universities at that stage opened their arms widely to every single Afrikaans speaker, regardless of race or creed; if the Afrikaans community donated large amounts of money to develop Afrikaans in disadvantaged communities, we would not be having this discussion now. Afrikaans would be divorced from its racist past. Our country would be much more united. We would be facing a brighter future.

It is not too late. It is time for all Afrikaners to embrace the new SA. It is time for them to share what is great about their culture. It is time to make friends. It is time to unify. And yes, it is time to sacrifice. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution, but please do not bring a language that you do not own into the equation. If you choose to remain an outsider, please do not drag the rest of us into it. Leave Afrikaans alone!

Do you think that Afrikaans is being used as a pawn by racist Afrikaners and objectors alike? Are you tired of Afrikaans being drawn into the debate? Would you like to see Afrikaans divorced from its racist past? Would you contribute to a mass fund-raising exercise to make Afrikaans more inclusive if it will lead to the continued vibrancy and protection of the language? Or are you bitter, disenchanted, unwilling to compromise? I would love to see your opinion.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!


#Afrikaans #WhitePrivilege


Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting



  • Gerhard-Johan Willemse

    You sir, are a tool. Free this free that, fund this fund that. You should start with the basics, get a government in power that creates the foundation to address inequalities from the ground up. The way YOU propose to do it, is putting the donkey in front of the cart. To a degree I do concede that this change has to happen, but you cannot make these changes before the basic services and infrastructure and platforms exist to support it. Get the basics right first THEN have this conversation.

    • Gerhard-Johan Willemse

      If I was unclear above, the basics would be a DA government. It starts there.

    • Truth

      Great! So are you happy with affirmative action and BEE as a means of addressing inequality?

  • Christof Coetzee

    I totally disagree with your article.
    One cannot decouple a language from the heritage and culture its embedded in. This means that when your language is under attack so is your culture, your identity, your future.

    Therefore, when institutions fight for the right to retain Afrikaans as a primary medium they are also fighting for the preservation of the culture associated with that institution.

    I guess this then leads us to the “rainbow nation” unicorn, where an ideology is forced down upon groups of people who are by nature ethnically and culturally very different.

    All over the world we observe segregated suburbs and other areas where people naturally group together based on status, race, culture, religion etc. In these areas we will also find dedicated institutions serving their direct community i.e. In a predominant Muslim area you will find mosques and schools serving the Islam religion, culture, language etc.
    Why are we then denying predominant Afrikaans communities from doing the same, also don’t forget that Afrikaans is the 3rd most spoken language in SA

    There are also cosmopolitan areas in 1st world countries where the language and culture barriers are completely grey and in this situation a standard language and neutral institutional culture is totally acceptable, unfortunately SA’s demographic is very different from this.

  • Mobass

    Where I live Afrikaans is the predominant language amongst the white and coloured population. I am not an Afrikaner but I can understand the anger and frustration engendered by the perceived attacks on the Afrikaans language.
    Unfortunately, the language is tainted by apartheid and our racist past and we can’t escape that fact. Coupled with this is the fact that most blacks do not speak the language and it is therefore perpetuates exclusion and white privilege.
    All state schools and universities should have English ONLY as the teaching medium as this is the language of commerce and preparing people for jobs is the primary reason for state sponsored education.

  • Basil Claassens

    Interessante stukkie, maar kom ons begin by die spreekwoordelike begin…. Hoekom nie die artikel in Afrikaans skryf nie? – Engels is ‘n meer geredelike taal, maar jy rig dan die artikel aan Afrikaner mense?

    Die volgende treetjie is die hele storie oor “Afrikaans as die witman se taal” asook die “rassiste se taal”. Dit is ‘n totale miskonsepsie wat deur partye versprei word om negatiewe propanda teen die Afrikaner te bewerkstellig – lees ANC. Dit is om stemmers te werf en mense opstandig te maak. Daar is wel individue wat Afrikaans praat en verkeerdelik optree asook uitlatings maak wat teen die algemene beginsels indring van demokrasie, maar hulle is net dit – indvidue!! As ons dan moet veralgemeen, moet ons dan se dat alle swart mans is verkragters en moordenaars? Want daar is wel swart individue wat daardie rol vul… Hou in gedagte dat ek dit nie glo nie, maar gebruik as ‘n voorbeeld om jou aanvalle teen wit Afrikaner mense uit te wys as bog! Die hele kwessie oor Afrikaans as ‘n onderrig taal by van ons prestige universiteite is weereens ‘n kwessie van opinie. Die uiteinde van die EFF en ANC se afbranding van fasiliteite by hierdie inrigtings, is duidelik beskryfbaar eerstens as barbaars, maar dan ook as ‘n totale ultimatum – neem Afrikaans as opvoedings taal weg, of ons sal julle verwoes? Daar is nie gevra vir ‘n kompromie nie.
    Hou verder in gedagte dat alhoewel die vakke in Afrikaans aangebied word, studente meestal tog ‘n keuse het om die materiaal in Engels to kry. Alle vraestelle word in beide Engels en Afrikaans uitgedeel. So wat is die eintlike motief?
    Die volgende punt is seker die seerste een van almal. Afrikaner mense betaal – ja, betaal – self hulle tersiere opledings gelde. Baie weinig word beurse aan blanke mense toegestaan, so die ouers moet self betaal. Die swart studente dring aan op bystand of beurse, en kan of wil net minimum fooie bekostig. Tersiere opleiding is nie n reg nie my vriend, dit is ‘n voorreg! So weereens moet die blanke Afrikaner mense die regering se bydraes opmaak. Die ideologie en mentaliteit is nie logies nie, want op watter stadium is die land en sy mense totaal bankrot, want die mense wat “wil he” dra nie by tot die ontwikkeling of lewer nie ‘n diens om die tekort op te maak nie.
    Ek glo dat ons almal wil ook net oorleef, ‘n lewe skep vir onsself en die mense om ons, maar die wyse waarop dit geskied is nie volhoubaar nie. As enigiemand vir my moet se ek is bevoorreg want ek is a wit Afrikaner, moet hy 2 maal dink… Want die aanname is dan dat ek iets verniet gekry het, en dit is bog! Ek het tot nou toe vrek hard moes werk vir elke bietjie wat ek het, myself moes bewys en selfs moes “verkoop” om ‘n lewe te maak (Besigheids gewys, goeie indruk skep!). So is daar menig van ons daar buite wat die mas op ons eie moet opkom, maar daar is ‘n algemene aanvaarding dit is “maklik” . As jy nog nie ‘n duisend tree in my skoene geloop het nie, moet nie aanvaar jy ken my of weet wat my omstandighede is nie!! Ek het oneindig baie respek vir iemand wat ‘n sukses kan maak uit ‘n moeilike situasie – so is meeste van my swart vriende in daardie kategorie! (Asook meeste top suksesvolle individue!)- sonder om iemand anders te benadeel. Jy sal ook vind dat die meeste middelklas swart mense nie met jou saamstem nie, Hulle wil ook eerder net he die regering moet doen waarvoor hulle betaal word om sodoende ons hele land te bevoordeel!

  • Valentine Mo

    Afrikaans as a language and Afrikaner as a group. Over the years the government has scrapped Afrikaans language from public schools and the reasons why number of black learners are increasing in the “white schools is because of the desire to learn the language”. Government policies on language at schools are a serious national problem and forcing parents to send their children to private schools mostly Afrikaans medium schools.

    The problem starts with the white parents attitude towards black learners. The more the school enrol black learners the more white people take out their children from those schools and four five years later there are barely any white learners in the school.

    The problem with th3 attack on Afrikaans stems from lack of racial integration and intolerance. Attitude of some white people towards black people. The attack is not just language but white supremecy towards black . Go to the previously white schools such as Althea in Bronkospstruit, Bronkostspruit primary,Settlers Agricultural school, Christian Hofmeyer learskool you will barely find any white student