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A Commie Steps in it…. Blade Nzimande and Afrikaans

Nearly three decades after the advent of majority rule in South Africa race-based polices have become the edifice upon which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) relies to hoodwink the rubes who continue to follow its tragically flawed and failed policies.  While the ANC has intruded into the private sector with significant achievements like extending the power grid to previously neglected communities, ensured access to water and sanitation and built tiny homes for several million South Africans, most of this occurred two decades ago.  But those gains matter little when the national, provincial, and local governments mismanage water resources, the state-owned power utility cannot keep the lights on and the state retains title to most of those homes, creating dead equity, hampering economic progress, and keeping people dependent on the ANC.

An independent, objective observer could be pardoned if they were to look at national policies and conclude that the government dislikes much of its own population, openly targeting culture, language and ethnicity with race-based policies.  Looking at the race-based government tender process, exclusion of qualified minorities from government employment, university admission and the nonsensical revenge re-naming campaign to extinguish the cultural heritage of many who built South Africa, you could be forgiven if you suddenly thought that reconciliation and the rainbow nation were simply bumper stickers held out to boil the frogs in the pot.

This article is not to debate the history of South Africa, the inequities of Apartheid, racism, or past grievances.  Rather this is about the intentional constitutional violations of a ruling party that panders to low information voters it desperately seeks to hang on to.  We can fill volumes on the misdeeds of the past.  But the use of “historically disadvantaged” or “ignored” loses its value after three decades of majority misrule.  Which brings us to the targeting of the Afrikaans language, the world’s newest language, a genuinely South African born language.

Afrikaans grew out of the interaction of a multi-ethnic mix of peoples in the Western Cape region.  The underlying structure was Dutch with Malay, Portuguese, Indonesian and Khoekhoe and San languages making significant contributions.  With over eight million first language speakers, Afrikaans is also the second most widely spoken language in South Africa.  The problem of course is less the language and more the ANC government’s bigotry directed at those who speak it, the overwhelming majority of whom are “people of color.”

Over the past half decade, the ANC government and its bureaucrats have successfully removed Afrikaans from the public sphere, renaming streets and towns that never existed prior to acquiring Afrikaans names.  ANC politicians openly insult Afrikaans speaking members of Parliament, interrupting them to hurl racist hate speech filled insults (in defiance of the law).  The ANC has also successfully undermined the language by having it removed from universities (Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria and UNISA).  However, in September 2021 these unconstitutional actions are now coming under legal scrutiny after the apex Constitutional Court upheld a lower court ruling forcing UNISA to restore Afrikaans as a medium of instruction by 2023.

So why all the energy to hinder a truly South African language?  This of course stems of the false denigration of Afrikaans as a “colonial” language or a language of the “oppressor.”  While the National Party did rule South Africa from 1948 to 1994 under a banner of Afrikaner (not Afrikaans) nationalism, most Afrikaans speakers today were born AFTER Apartheid ended and are not Afrikaners.  Harming millions of South Africans out of revenge for a dwindling number of elderly, largely non-consequential people is not only foolish, it is self-defeating.  Which brings us to the Communist Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande.

In October 2020, Nzimande issued a policy framework for higher education that falsely defined “indigenous languages” in South Africa as those “that belong to the Southern Bantu language family.”  The term indigenous itself is problematic.  What exactly does indigenous mean?  The UN refuses to define it, relying rather on identifying indigenous groups based on pre-colonial origins, culture and language.  If we accept the key pre-colonial basis, the entire Bantu language family must be excluded, leaving only Khoekhoe and San as indigenous.  While permanent European settlement only began in 1652, the Bantu peoples first crossed the Limpopo River approximately 1,500 to 1,600 years ago themselves.  Both Europeans and Bantu peoples are, in effect, “colonizers” who installed alien political systems on the communities of homos sapiens who lived in the region for at least 50,000 years prior.

To exclude a home-grown language as not being indigenous, while claiming Bantu languages are so, is not only disingenuous, but also dishonest.  The Khoekhoe, San and Coloured peoples of South Africa who speak Afrikaans can make legitimate claims to meet the threshold for being considered indigenous:

“Self- identification as indigenous peoples, historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies, a strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources, distinct social, economic or political systems, distinct language, culture and beliefs, form non-dominant groups of society, resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.”  Bantu languages fail on the non-dominant group element of this United Nations description.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party has filed a grievance with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) over Nzimande’s removal of Afrikaans as an indigenous language.  In response to the DA’s allegation, Nzimande recently said “Afrikaans should and must be located in a democratic South Africa and be rescued from a white right-wing agenda.”  This die-hard communist seems trapped viewing the world through a 1980s prism.  In his defense, the minister claims he wants to “enhance the status and roles of previously marginalized languages.”  But that is easily achievable without denigrating or undermining the first truly South African language to emerge since the Khoekhoe and San languages appeared on the scene thousands of years ago.

Chris Wyatt

Chris Wyatt

Colonel (Ret) Chris Wyatt, the Principal & CEO of the Indaba Africa Group, is a retired U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer and Foreign Area Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa and past Director of African Studies at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was previously the Senior Military Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU). He has lived across the continent (eight countries) and working in over 30 African countries.

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