Saturday, April 17, 2010

The race war that wasn't

Judging from some international media reports, one could have thought that a race war had finally arrived in South Africa. Some local analysts found that racial tension had heigthened. In contrast, a recent survey found that overall race relations were improving (, despite the murder of neo-nazi leader Eugene Terreblanche and the diatribes of Julius Malema, the leader of the African Congress Youth League.

How should we interprete what is currently happening? I think that all of that has only apparently so much to do with race, but South Africa is foremost dealing with political problems that manifest themselves in leaps and bounds.

In my Phd submitted in 2007, I talked to young Afrikaners in order to get their sense of how they feel about the country, politics, black people, the legacy of apartheid, and so on. There was very little sense of taking up arms in order to defend an Afrikaner nation or ward off a black assault.

All manifested displeasure at affirmative action and almost all denied any responsibility for the apartheid past. In fact, there was not even a sense of belonging to a persecuted white group that required minority status protection.

Some scholars claimed that the minorities in South Africa, read, the white minority (for the other minorities, usually referred to as the Indians and Coloureds, are seen to carry much less weight in terms of numerical clout and organisational power), would more and more organise in order to resist the encroachment on their privileges. Yet I fail to see the evidence that this is happening.

The followers of Terreblanche who received so much media attention are hardly representing Afrikaners. Indeed, Afrikaner nationalism is dead and neither the ghost of Terreblanch nor the success of the song 'De la Rey' will galvanize a people into action to take up arms or to mobilize ethnicity.

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