Open Stellenbosch: Beyond the rainbow, towards a change of climate

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Mike van Graan (photo: Naomi Bruwer)

I was in standard 9 (grade 11) in 1976. Post-1994 South Africa’s longest-serving finance minister Trevor Manuel had matriculated from the same school a few years before me. That was when I first experienced teargas, rubber bullets, riot policemen in camouflage uniform. From our school in District 6 to the Grand Parade bus stop, we were to do the Noah walk, in no more than pairs, lest we be considered to constitute illegal gatherings. It was the year in which the National Party government attempted to introduce Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in black schools. It is now part of our collective history that Soweto learners revolted against the idea, and soon the revolt against Afrikaans perceived as a symbol of black oppression sparked broader resistance to the system of apartheid.

In my matric year I was elected chairperson of our SRC. One of our SRC projects was to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1976 revolt. In September of that year, nearly exactly 38 years ago, the black consciousness icon Steve Biko was killed in police detention. While apartheid decreed that there were “Whites”, “Indians”, “Coloureds” and “Africans”, it was under the influence of Biko that the politically conscious among us who weren’t classified white, identified ourselves as black, if we were to label ourselves at all.

I wanted to be a teacher, like some of my teachers who had opened my mind far beyond their academic obligations. I, too, wanted to help to change young minds; that, and because there were not too many other options on the job market back then! My first choice was UCT, an institution that had been open to everyone till the Extension of Tertiary Education Act was passed in the same year I was born, a law that prohibited black people from registering at formerly “open” universities without the express permission of the apartheid state. Thus it was that when I chose to attend UCT rather than the local “bush college” – as the University of the Western Cape (UWC) was referred to – I had to apply for a permit from the Department of Coloured Affairs. To obtain such a permit I was required to do a subject not offered at UWC, the university for “Coloureds”. My permit subject was drama. (Publicly funded careers in the arts were largely the domain of white citizens. CAPAB’s Nico Malan theatre opened as a “Whites Only” venue in 1971, and while it was declared “open” to everyone in the latter years of my high school career, by then, it had been stigmatised and was subsequently boycotted as an apartheid institution.)

I received my permit from a tall, fair-haired Afrikaans-speaking man with a wry smile. The Department of Coloured Affairs was housed in a tall, brown building in Roeland Street, a few blocks down from Harold Cressy, my high school. (In Rhodes-Must-Fall parlance, that building has now literally fallen – in favour of a banal parliamentary car park, much like the less-than-spectacular car park in Berlin that covers the bunker where Hitler spent his last hours.) Unlike my predecessors who used their permit subject as an entry to UCT, and then dropped it from second year, our intake was obliged to do our permit subjects as majors.

My second major was English, and since I was training as a teacher I had to do at least one year of another teaching subject. I chose Afrikaans, a rumoured “soft option” at UCT, as it was also a requirement for all those doing law.

My home language was English. I had English as the medium of instruction from primary to high school. My best school results were achieved in English as a subject. I was a leader at school, with a reasonable degree of confidence and sense of self. By the time I entered university, apartheid had ensured that I had had very limited interaction with white people.

Notwithstanding my whole life and education having been in English, when I sat in seminars during my first year at UCT it struck me that my language skills were not as good as those of my white counterparts, that they sounded more articulate, and were far more able to express their views coherently than I was. As black, politically conscious students we knew that we were not inferior to anyone as apartheid would have had us believe, and yet it was clear that our white peers were far more comfortable in the institution than we were.

But then, UCT was not “our” institution. We were there under duress, having had to suffer the indignity of applying for a permit to attend this university simply because of our skin colour. In some small way, we were resisting apartheid’s designs by attending a “white” university, although we declined to be part of the institution other than to obtain the education which would qualify us for the work we planned to do. We did not participate in the university’s sports teams, nor in the SRCs that governed student life (although black students elected a committee – on which I served – to represent their interests to the university management during the 1980 boycotts) and we refused to attend our graduation ceremonies, which we regarded as symbolic inductions into “the system”.

I graduated in 1981 and returned five years later to do honours in drama (my permit subject major now stood me in good stead!). By then I had had a half-decade of life experience, including a year on an exchange programme in the USA, Brazil and Nicaragua, and, most recently, a position as organiser of an arts festival that was banned by the security police who deemed it a threat to national security!

The country was in the midst of political turmoil with states of emergency, international sanctions, and ever-increasing levels of internal resistance. Yet UCT, among the supposedly more progressive tertiary institutions of the time, still had its primary curriculum genuflecting to European and American theatre. When I decided to do my honours thesis with the title “International models of political theatre: functions, forms and techniques and their relevance to political theatre in South Africa”, in which I sought to research theatre practice in the broader “global South”, the drama department had to source a supervisor from the nascent Centre for African Studies, as there was no staff member in the department who could supervise me.

While we were being taught that the characteristics and values of great theatre were “timelessness” and “universality”, I was learning, largely through self-study, about the common aesthetics of theatre in the slums of India, the favelas of Brazil and the rural areas of Zimbabwe. The university had an idea of excellence that might have been shared by the Parisian, American and South African middle classes, but this was not the only truth; it certainly was not the truth for most of the people in the world, and neither was it the truth for the majority of South Africans, for whom theatre’s relevance required different values and characteristics.

Probably the most valuable element of my honours year was the presence of a fellow student, Deon Opperman, who had been brought up in an Afrikaans home and environment. He had a completely different theatre practice and outlook from mine, and a mind as sharp as a scalpel. We clashed and debated intensely in many seminars, as well as outside of the seminar room, but it was the most stimulating, challenging and rewarding engagement. We still have different theatre practices and worldviews, but when we see each other every now and then, it is like “old times”, rooted – I’d like to think – in the mutual respect we forged at university.

Based on this narrative, I’d like to make a few observations about the current debates regarding language, institutions and learning.

1. Whereas my generation of university attendees did not regard the institutions we were studying at as “our” institutions, and took from them what we wanted in order to serve our broader career or political agendas, in so far as we now have a democratically elected government that provides the major funding for public universities, institutions such as Wits University, UCT, Fort Hare, UWC and Stellenbosch do “belong” to all the students who attend these. (It is not without irony that my sons stand a better chance of university entrance if they tick the “coloured” box on the application form. This is a matter of extreme personal ambivalence as, on the one hand, I do believe that historical inequities rooted in apartheid’s racist ideology need to be corrected, but on the other, the very divisive labels that we rejected under apartheid are now being applied to make such corrections, despite the Population Registration Act’s no longer being on the statute books, and despite the parental desire not to have my “born-free” sons assume an identity constructed primarily by notions of “race”). Institutions today can no longer claim a historical, cultural or other exclusive form of ownership. Universities might once have been made in the image of the apartheid authorities with their paradigm links and canon and knowledge biases towards the West, but they are now – unsurprisingly – being challenged to be remade in the image of the country’s broader demographics and needs, as well as in the context of a globalised world order that includes Africa, Asia and other regions that once were considered less important, or that were off limits to the apartheid state. It is this necessary “remaking” – I’m purposely avoiding the term “transformation” because of the many adverse connotations it has acquired and the many “sins” committed in its name in the past 21 years – that requires visionary, insightful, non-defensive and sensitive leadership.

2. My primary school – Athlone North – located in the working-class area of Kewtown, was a dual medium – English and Afrikaans – school. My mother was a standard 1 teacher at the school from when I was there till she retired. After she had passed standard 8 she completed a teachers’ diploma. My father passed standard 6 before he became a confectioner, and ended his working career in a clothing factory. Their wish for their five children was for us to have the best education possible, with the result that although we lived in Athlone on the Cape Flats with numerous high schools in the area, they two-bussed us to Harold Cressy High in town which, along with Livingstone High, was reputed to be one of the “better” schools (for “coloureds”) at the time.

The demographics at both my primary and high schools have changed dramatically in the last 21 years, with large numbers of learners from Cape Town’s black African townships commuting to these to obtain an education that their parents believe is better than that offered in their township schools. While Athlone North Primary may still offer teaching in Afrikaans, the Xhosa-speaking learners at the school acquire their education in English, as would be the case at most, if not all, formerly “coloured” high schools. Such Xhosa-speaking learners would then be educated in at least their second language.

Like all parents who want their children to have a better education and better quality of life than they had, we sent our boys to schools that were certainly not part of my educational experience; these were former “white” schools where even the primary school had far better educational and sports facilities than my high school. (Harold Cressy High – in 2015 – is about to open a hall that can accommodate all its learners for the first time, built largely with the contributions of its alumni.)

Many educational institutions have had to, and are continuing to, grapple with the challenges of the changing demographics and demands of their learner or student bodies. For those charged with the governance or management of these, it cannot be easy, as different cultures, vastly unequal social circumstances within their learner bodies, varying languages and language competencies as well as competing histories and expectations conspire ever to undermine the “rainbow nation” myth.

I’ve engaged in too numerous school-parent conversations which reflect this myth; for many, it is about “them” (those from marginalised communities) having to learn and come to “our” school on “our” terms, reflected in a superficial position such as “this is a rugby playing school, we will not play soccer here” (and this, in an English medium school!). Too many of those privileged by our past love the idea of the “rainbow nation”, as long as its practice does not challenge them or ask them to forego or even reconsider their ideas of excellence, or their cultural values. Fear, cultural prejudice and ignorance (with fear and prejudice often rooted in ignorance) too often shape or inform our responses, and we are unable to listen, to transport ourselves into the circumstances of others, and come to see that our fellow citizens – though less privileged – have the same human impulses, desires and rights as we do.

If our children were expected to learn in a second language, one that they have come to acquire some proficiency in only from mid-primary school, how would we feel about that? If, for some reason, they were unable to get into an institution where the education was available in that second language, but they were able to get into another – publicly funded institution that required them to learn in a third language – how would we feel about that? Would we not be even more outraged than some appear to be when their children are not able to learn in their first language?

3. While the current Constitution guarantees all South African citizens equal rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to health, etc, we enjoy and practise these rights largely on the basis of our material, educational and related means. We have the same rights, but we “enjoy” them within a society that started off with massive inequities in 1994; and with social and other inequality indices increasing over the last two decades, our capacity to “enjoy” and celebrate these rights is vastly different. So, for example, while we all have the right to freedom of expression, those of us who are better educated, are able to write letters to the newspapers to express our views, or those who feel confident in English or Afrikaans, may phone in to the primary talk radio stations to discuss the issues of the day. We all have the right to education, but those with resources are able to send their children to better schools and so they acquire an education that places them in a superior position to millions of their peers. We all have the right “to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts” according to article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is those with disposable income who are best able to purchase tickets to the theatre or cinema or who are able to buy books, or hire DVDs, as these do not compete with the primary objectives of putting food on the table. In a country where 70% of the national income is earned by 20% of our population and the bottom 40% have to make do with 7% of national income, it is clear that while we all have the same rights in theory, in reality, there is a vast difference between how those of us who are more privileged, experience these rights in comparison with the majority of our fellow citizens. The privileged among us have – largely – had the benefit of being privileged before 1994, and we and our families have been able to build on the opportunities that we had access to then, but which were denied to most. The playing fields may be level now, but we are not all starting with the same skills, equipment, networks and resources, so that our ability to compete on these playing fields varies considerably.

Today, the Constitution gives us all the right to use the language of our choice and we all have the right not to be discriminated on the basis of language.

My experience within an English tertiary education institution when my home and life language was English (one of the two official languages at the time) was of inadequacy. How much more was this the case for my counterparts whose home language was not English, but Xhosa or Sotho? While all of our languages are now affirmed by our Constitution, the experience of most of the “born-free” generation is that they are still required to access higher education in English or Afrikaans, rather than in their home languages. There is no tertiary institution that offers a full education in any of the indigenous languages, other than Afrikaans. It is true that many more black (in the Biko sense) people now come through former “Model C” schools, so that they feel more comfortable at tertiary institutions than might have been the case with my generation, but the point is that while some may claim the right to be educated in the language of their choice, eg Afrikaans, this right is, in fact, not available to the majority of students in practice, although it is a right they may claim in theory.

A divided history of privilege on the one hand and oppression and denial on the other means that today – and for the foreseeable future – it is likely that those whose first languages are English and Afrikaans will better be able to enjoy their constitutional rights with regard to language than the majority of their fellow citizens. This cannot be right.

Educational institutions are not islands; they exist in the context of very real material, social and economic conditions, rooted in a history of division and privileging on the basis of “race”. Constitutions are about the “promised land”; ours is certainly not a magic wand that has wiped out our history and made us all equal. To achieve this “promised land” we need to be pragmatic, generous and human in our approaches to move from where we are, from what we have inherited, to what we would collectively like to be.

What might this mean in practice with regard to language, and the right to learn in one’s language, particularly at tertiary levels?

I doubt that we will ever have tertiary institutions that cater for all our indigenous languages, ie where native speakers of a tongue are able to acquire a degree, let alone a postgraduate degree in their native Tswana, Zulu, Venda or Sotho. I’m not even sure that – given the globalised world in which we live – this (tertiary education in all indigenous languages) is desirable. What I am sure about is that no one who desires and qualifies for tertiary education should be excluded from institutions or prejudiced at institutions based on language.

The African Arts Institute where I work has recently been privileged to work with the Namibian authorities and cultural stakeholders to develop and update their arts, culture and heritage policy. Namibia has more than 25 languages in a culturally diverse – though relatively small – population, but for pragmatic reasons they have determined English as their official language.

Rather than those who enjoy privilege today largely because of inherited (pre-1994) status and privilege and who are thus better able to demand and enjoy the language and other rights postulated in the Constitution, from a pragmatic level I would prefer every publicly funded tertiary institution to provide education in English as its primary medium of instruction – thus making all institutions accessible to everyone - while those who wish to obtain their learning in Afrikaans are able to do so at particular universities, at additional cost if necessary. In other words, rather than Afrikaans being “the norm” at some universities, largely because of history, English should be the medium of instruction for all universities, while undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are made available in Afrikaans for those who wish to do so. This right – to use the language of choice – becomes an extension of privilege, rather than privilege being a guarantee of this right, and which in the process prejudices numerous others who do not speak, or wish to learn in, the language as a second or third tongue. I recognise that this would still place Afrikaans speakers in a better position than speakers of other indigenous languages who would not have the opportunity to acquire a degree in their native language, but this would be a pragmatic solution rather than one of principle, which the objective material and other realities militate against.

Having said that, I would advocate – given our divided history and contemporary divisions – a compulsory foundational course for all students as a first-year course, where issues of cultural diversity, history, inequality and human rights are dealt with. I was greatly enriched not just by textbooks and formal learning, but by engaging with a Deon Opperman and his quite different theatre practice, life experience and outlook, as I would think he was. Much is made of “social cohesion”, and many yearn for the “rainbow nation” of Madiba and Tutu (a notion that is at best middle-class, since it is unlikely that the “rainbow nation” ever included poor, marginalised people who form the majority of our society), but there are so few opportunities within our society for people to cross historical cultural, “race”, language, geographical and class divides in search of a future that is both heterogeneous and mutually respectful. Our universities should be places that break rather than perpetuate these barriers and silos.

4. The Afrikaans first-language community (particularly “white” Afrikaans speakers) is probably the most well-resourced language group in the country. There are more organisations promoting and defending the language and its speakers, more agencies dedicated to developing the language, more festivals, newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations promoting Afrikaans culture and arts (theatre, music, literature, film, etc) than any other language group, including English. There is more passion and commitment to developing, promoting and celebrating the language than in any other language group. It is no wonder, then, that Afrikaans literature, music, film, television, heritage sites and theatre are among the most sustainable and profitable creative industries in the country. There is much that other language or cultural communities could learn from the Afrikaans-speaking community in this regard, and the levels of expertise and experience, and the networks and resources within the Afrikaans community could be of great benefit to the broader development of society generally.

However, the Afrikaans community is also the most anxious about its language, and about its potential decline in the context of increasing English hegemony. The reality, though, is that while these languages have not developed to the extent that Afrikaans has, given the investment in it over the last century, indigenous African languages like Xhosa, Ndebele and Tswana have not died out, despite having been actively suppressed, marginalised and dismissed as inferior to Afrikaans and English, which once were the country’s only official languages. Afrikaans – like other indigenous languages – continues to live on the tongues of Namibians in everyday discourse, despite English being the official language.

It highly unlikely, then, that Afrikaans, given the passion and commitment of its primary users and the resources of is user community to support the language, will die out or decline any time soon.

One of the biggest threats to the Afrikaans language is, ironically, the premise that it is under threat, and that at every level, and using every available avenue – the courts, the streets, the media, parliament, education institutions, etc – it is necessary to defend the language. It is precisely this defensiveness, and the positions taken by its advocates, that range from arrogant self-righteousness and racism to the mainstream claiming of constitutional rights when others do not have anywhere near the capacity to claim such rights, that provokes opposition to – and in some cases, a desire to “punish” – the language.

Clearly, it is not a language that oppresses, or that is arrogant, or that steps on the rights of others; it is people who use the language that do, and so raise vicarious antagonisms to the language. It is not the German language that killed gays, Jews, black people and gypsies en masse, but people who spoke German, and were informed by a particular ideology of supremacy and hate. It is not the French language that colonised Senegal, Algiers and Mali, but the country of France and its people who spoke French, and imposed it as the language of rule. The English language did not suppress the dialects of India, or the indigenous languages of Kenya; it was British people who spoke English who did so, and who did so with absolute ruthlessness.

Yet today, notwithstanding these brutal histories, most Africans speak English or French as their first language or use it pragmatically as a lingua franca in societies where there is a large diversity of languages, such as Nigeria with its more than 500 languages, where English is the official language.

Similarly, could Afrikaans – notwithstanding its history as the “language of the oppressor”, a language associated with brutal repression, with an inhumane system of pass laws and migrant labour that shattered families, with detention without trial, with fundamental racism that denied the full humanity of black Africans in particular – “sins” that are not dissimilar to those committed in the past by Europeans who spoke English, French and German – be broadly embraced as a means of communication, be celebrated as a language of beauty and be enjoyed for its unique expressiveness?

It is unlikely that it will become the lingua franca of our country, but I imagine that the answer to this question lies in how the Afrikaans-speaking community and its social, cultural, education and economic leaders position themselves within broader South African society: Will they employ their significant expertise, networks and resources to contribute to the well-being of all of South Africa’s people and to address the inequities rooted in our divided past (and for which they need to accept significant responsibility), or will their primary approach be one of defending, protecting and promoting their own interests and privileges embedded in pre-1994, apartheid history?

Like all communities, the Afrikaans community is not a homogenous entity; political views, religious beliefs, gender roles, etc are as diverse as in any other. There are some who are deeply engaged in strategies that have to do with the fundamental and progressive remaking of our society, and there are many who are not. But in my experience, there is a common love of and passion for their language – something to be admired.

It might just be, though, that through a counter-intuitive approach, embracing and contributing to the whole, rather than expending energy only on defending “their” part of the whole, the language and cultural interests of Afrikaans speakers will be respected, promoted and protected. When we are concerned about and are active in the pursuit of the rights, freedoms and dignity of everyone, it may be then that our own rights, freedoms and dignity are more sustainably guaranteed.

5. This brings me to my final point about language, about which there are four related points I’d like to make.

First, the primary discussion is about language as a medium of instruction, and about the constitutional rights we have to use the language of our choice and not to be discriminated against on the grounds of language. Much of this article has attempted to deal with exactly the contradiction between these two rights when it comes to Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at (formerly Afrikaans) universities, ie that by ensuring that Afrikaans-speaking students have the right to access their tertiary education in their language, students who speak languages other than Afrikaans (particularly those for whom English and Afrikaans are second and third languages) are discriminated against. Hence my view that all publicly funded tertiary institutions should provide their education in English (privately funded institutions can offer education in the language of their choice), but that Afrikaans-speaking students – and any others – are able to access their education in Afrikaans at particular publicly funded institutions, at additional cost if necessary. This would be a more inclusive approach that takes into account historical and contemporary realities rather than the current approach in some institutions that have Afrikaans as the primary language, with English offered as an alternative, or translation, language.

Secondly, formerly “white” tertiary institutions speak another language, the language of semiotics through symbols (of which the medium of instruction is one) that include statues, architecture and names of buildings. For many new, black entrants into such institutions, this “language” reminds them of their otherness, that they are “footballers in an institution with a strong rugby tradition”, that they are outsiders, present under duress, and on the terms of those who have always “owned” the institution. The Rhodes Must Fall campaign was about addressing this language at UCT as an entry point to engage around course content and knowledge paradigms, and around the relevance of tertiary institutions to the broader remaking of South African society rather than to the perpetuation of elitist privilege.

Thirdly, there is the language of university institutionalism: the language of policy, of rules of governance, of investment and financing, of entrance qualifications, of staffing and resourcing. Who sets this language, who speaks, is articulate in and conversant with this language, and how this language is used to promote and protect some interests, and exclude others – this, too, needs thorough interrogation.

And then, fourthly, there is the language of struggle, of student agency; language that emerges from discomfort, from the constant reminding of otherness in the context of a cultural hegemony within the institution that reflects broader economic power and related inequalities; language that advocates change, language that arises in direct response to one or more of the languages referred to above. This language is often threatening, alienating and polarising, particularly to those in authority whom it challenges, as well as to the many students and staff who engage and participate uncritically in, and who accept the bona fides of, the institution unquestioningly. But it is a language that is spoken, and needs to be seen as a language that seeks to set an agenda for dialogue, as opposed to any of the other three languages which speak in their silence, asserting hegemony.

The longer the perceived intransigence in genuinely addressing the issues of concern, the more radical the fourth language will become, with this “language” including its own symbols and exclamation marks of boycotts, sit-ins and strikes, resulting in ever-increasing polarisation. Yet, no matter how radical the fourth language, ultimately, there will need to be dialogue. How long it takes to get there will determine the spirit and the levels of trust and respect that will be required to resolve the issues sustainably.


Notwithstanding what the Constitution says, English is our de facto lingua franca, in much the same way as the English, French and Portuguese of the former colonisers are the lingua francas – if not official languages – of many other African countries. That we have 11 official languages is at best symbolic, a post-apartheid political affirmation of indigenous cultures and languages that were marginalised and suppressed under apartheid, for there simply are not the resources – nor, it has to be said, the political will – to invest in the development of indigenous African languages to the point that they acquire the same academic status enjoyed by English and Afrikaans.

Language rights, then, cannot be claimed or discussed in isolation from similar rights being afforded to others, nor can they be separated from other fundamental rights and freedoms to which all South Africans are entitled. Language as a medium of instruction is an issue within institutions in which the languages of symbols and institutionalism reflect the inequalities – historical and contemporary – of our broader society.

The fundamental challenge in our society is inequality, an abiding legacy of our apartheid past. The superficial, happy-clappy “rainbowism” of our early years and the politically expedient Truth and Reconciliation Commission, necessary as they may have been for a peaceful political transition, have merely masked and delayed our need to deal with this challenge that threatens the stability of our society and its future. That our government of the past 21 years has largely squandered the opportunities that beckoned at the start of our democratic work-in-progress, and that it has – for all its people-centred rhetoric – shifted substantially to a nationalist, elitist and partisan agenda, has not helped to address this challenge in a sustainable manner.

While government may play a bullying role in issues of language policy – because it can – ultimately it is for South African citizens to find one another, and particularly for those in positions of privilege to listen more, to try to understand the frustrations of their counterparts, to be more generous and act in a less defensive and threatened manner. We need to move beyond the superficial language of the “rainbow nation” and the unreflective, entitled claims which our Constitution affords particularly the privileged among us, towards a more rigorous discourse of anti-racism linked to recognising and addressing the fundamental social, material, educational and cultural inequalities of our times.

Mike van Graan

Executive Director: African Arts Institute, Playwright

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  • Johannes Comestor

    Van Graan se woordryke teks bestaan enersyds uit (dikwels onnodige) selfvererende biografiese besonderhede en andersyds uit holruggeryde politieke propaganda. Dit is daardie soort propaganda wat hy in 'n verpligte kursus wil saamvat, wat aan alle studente opgedring moet word; ook aan daardie studente wat ekstra moet betaal om in Afrikaans onderrig te ontvang.

    • Barry Saayman

      Dit is reeds gedoen. Die ANC se "Strategy and Tactics" dokument spreek vanself. Ek twyfel of hy beter kan doen.

    • Mike van Graan

      Hi Johannes Comestor, I apologise if my writings came across as self-aggrandizing; that was not my intention. I was trying to show that even if I, with English as my home and educational language, and, having occupied leadership positions at school, I nevertheless felt inadequate initially in an English-speaking university. If this was my experience, then how much more would it be the case with the majority of students now who speak English as a second language, and how much more would that be the case for students who speak Afrikaans as a third language, at an institution where Afrikaans was the medium of instruction. Why is it so difficult to empathise with other people? Why - if you would not have your children educated in a second language like English - would you expect Xhosa, Zulu or Pedi speakers to be educated in Afrikaans, or that they should expect - in a publicly-funded institution - that this is the norm? Furthermore, if you believe that a foundational "cultural studies" course in which issues of cultural diversity are addressed at university level is simply a propaganda course, then a university offering such a - propaganda - course would not be able to call itself a university. My point is a simple one: in a society divided (still) such as ours, universities are/should be the point at which those who may have been living and been educated in culturally homogenous communities, should begin to interrogate this homogeneity and be exposed to, and develop the social, emotional and other skills, to operate in a heterogeneous world, for this is the reality of our contemporary lives.

      • Johannes Comestor

        Mike, jy beklemtoon Engels as jou huis- of moedertaal te veel. Dit is moontlik dat jy, soos jou van, van huis uit eerder Afrikaans- as Engelssprekend is. Dit verduidelik dan ook waarom jy aanvanklik aan 'n Engelse universiteit gesukkel het.

        • Mike van Graan

          Thank you, Johannes Comestor, for revealing to me my history, based on the substantial evidence of ... my surname. Clearly, having lived my history, I have no idea of it, since on the basis of my Afrikaans surname, I must have come from an Afrikaans-speaking family, and this was the reason for my struggling at an English university. By the same token, the former unionist and ANC politician, Thozamile Botha, was from an Afrikaans home, and with King George being of British ancestry, Mluleki George must have been brought up in an English home. And I thought that this debate/seminar was for intellectual engagement. It is exactly this kind of arrogance (defining the identity of others) and form of defensiveness - not to deal with the arguments but to dismiss them by finding some fault with the person making the argument - that loses sympathy for the some of the advocates of the Afrikaans language.

  • Barry Saayman

    The contribution of Mr Mike van Graan is in my view comprehensive, honest and very important.
    In my humble opinion it deserves due consideration and comments. Here are some of my thoughts.
    "... it was that when I chose to attend UCT rather than the local “bush college” – as the University of the Western Cape (UWC) was referred to ..."
    This is a foolish childlike attack on the status of a university by South Africans that opted for Anglo cultural assimilation/appropriation under the influence of privileged/elitists Anglophiles. That is how some people rationalise and deny their own worth and they will consequently never be able to decolonise their minds. In my view some compensate by going out of their way to become more English than Her Majesty the Queen and high tea.
    No wonder that decolonisation and Africanisation/indignation top the agenda of Rhodes Must Fall and academics such as Prof Malegapuru William Makgoba et al. I wonder how they plan to Africanise the University of Stellenbosch and whether Afrikaans is supposed to survive the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and their nascent plans. I have serious doubts.
    "Notwithstanding what the Constitution says, English is our de facto lingua franca, in much the same way as the English, French and Portuguese of the former colonisers are the lingua francas – if not official languages – of many other African countries."
    This very far from the ideal situation. Van Graan may accept it as normal but I believe it is abnormal and extremely damaging. It threatens the mental well-being of millions. In spite of "national liberation" hapless people in many jurisdictions unfortunately became the perpetual serves of former colonial powers.
    Sophisticated European languages are the languages of former colonisers (read colonial oppressors). And only those countries/societies that can replace the language of their former colonisers with their own equally sophisticated languages/cultures eg China, India, Pakistan and Afrikaans speaking South Africans will know what freedom is.
    Those societies that have nothing to offer to replace the oppressive influences of former colonial hegemons will forever remain firmly dependent on the so-called "mother countries".
    I respect the choice for Anglo cultural assimilation by fellow South Africans such as Van Graan. It is their right to be whoever they want to be. But they have no right whatsoever to force their choice on me. Van Graan is in my view fiercely biased against Afrikaans and intolerant of diversity.
    "Yet, no matter how radical the fourth language, ultimately, there will need to be dialogue. How long it takes to get there will determine the spirit and the levels of trust and respect that will be required to resolve the issues sustainably ... While government may play a bullying role in issues of language policy – because it can – ultimately it is for South African citizens to find one another."
    South Africans will never find one another if we do not actively explore and somehow find enough common ground that can take us forward ...
    As basis for an agenda for dialogue one must not only recognise the "forth language of struggle, of student agency" and revolution as ably pointed out by Van Graan, but also the fifth language of a rights based counterrevolution whether demonised in a generalised form as "an extension of privilege" or not. This is in fact a cheap ploy that should be seen for what it is.
    Some of us live more blessed lives than others. The students and former students of world class universities should acknowledge that they are extremely privileged. Privilege is in other words not a sin and neither is it a sin to protect one's children, language and culture.
    Moreover, Afrikaans is not a white language and it is a living language used widely by millions of ordinary people that love their expressive language.
    Whites/Westerners/Europeans that somehow believe that they have a responsibility to "educate" black people are in my view the most arrogant guilt-ridden paternalistic supremacists (read racists) imaginable. They are directly responsible for this conundrum and will do everyone a massive favour should they learn to respect other cultures. These supremacists, in some cases very intolerant of diversity, should in my opinion forthwith stop imposing/interfering in the affairs of others and respect Africa's plea as articulated by Roland Tombekai Dempster, an African writer and literary figure from Liberia:
    Africa’s Plea
    I am not you -
    but you will not
    give me a chance
    will not let me be me
    'If I were you' -
    but you know
    I am not you,
    yet you will not
    let me be me.
    You meddle, interfere
    in my affairs
    as if they were yours
    and you were me.
    You are unfair, unwise,
    foolish to think
    that I can be you,
    talk, act
    and think like you.
    God made me me.
    He made you you.
    For God's sake
    Let me be me.”
    Race and culture denialism and forced cultural integration under the thin façade of so-called non-racialism is clearly just as backward and unjustifiable as forced segregation and therefore a miserable failure. It has now become the source of serious and growing intergroup conflict.
    I suggest that the Afrikaans speakers implicated ie school governing bodies and the Council of Stellenbosch University and other councils that govern the notorious higher education institutions that created this perfect storm with haphazard language policies, also realise now that this very serious development of being criticised by among others an important political leader in the person of Mr Julius Malema, that "(t)here are some elements who think Afrikaans is more superior than other... local languages" and that "the Afrikaans language was being used to oppress people in universities across the country" must be faced squarely and cannot any longer be wished away.
    Cool heads are required to serve the best interest of our children and young adults.
    A possible way forward out of this "most terrific clash of interests imaginable" as Prof Hermann Giliomee termed it, is in my view to first find common ground and acknowledge the following-
    [1] In terms of subsection 28 (2) of the Constitution, 1996 a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child and this principle is also applicable on young adults;
    [2] Every child (and young adult) has in terms of subsection 28 (1) (d) of the Constitution, 1996 the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation and that the ongoing running battles against Afrikaans and Afrikaans basic and higher education is a serious form of maltreatment and abuse;
    [3] In terms of the SACPANC Strategy and Tactics the unacceptable objective of the ongoing National Democratic Revolution (NDR) is to eliminate and destroy colonial systems, such as the current education system, and it is impossible to destroy the education system without also destroying the learners, students, parents and educators in the system;
    [4] Everyone has in terms of section 18 of the Constitution, 1996 the right to freedom of association and may therefore disassociate themselves and be protected by the state from revolutionary elements promoting the NDR that aim to destroy them;
    [5] Everyone has in terms of subsection 12 (c) of the Constitution, 1996 the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources and that the NDR disregards these basic human rights;
    [6] Everyone has in terms of section 10 and 11 of the Constitution, 1996 inherent dignity, the right to have their dignity respected and protected by the state and the right to life and that all these basic human rights are disregarded by the NDR;
    [7] In accordance with the Freedom Charter, 1955 all people shall have equal right to use their own languages, and to develop their own folk culture and customs;
    [8] A In accordance with the Freedom Charter, 1955 all national groups shall be protected by law against insults to their race and national pride and Afrikaans speakers require protection against generalised threats and insults such as that we are arrogant, oppressing and failing others and that Afrikaans should be "put in its place";
    [9] It has never been established in terms of subsection 9 (5) of the Constitution, 1996 that discrimination against Afrikaans in any manner whatsoever is fair;
    [10] Afrikaans is in terms of subsection 6 (1) of the Constitution, 1996 a living national treasure and a widely used official language and that Afrikaans is not a white language;
    [11] The state, for more than two decades, neglected its duty in terms of subsection 6 (2) of the Constitution, 1996 to take practical and positive measures to advance the educational use of the following official languages-
    isiXhosa, and
    isiZulu. It is the responsibility of each language group to severally or jointly hold the state accountable if they so wish, should they be uncomfortable with the current reality that eg "Xhosa-speaking learners (are) ... educated in at least their second language";
    [12] In terms of subsection 29 (2) of the Constitution, 1996 everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable - this reality is unfortunately the cause of serious friction between Afrikaans speakers and anti-Afrikaans lobbies engaged in trying to influence legislators or other public officials in favour of banning Afrikaans altogether as a language of instruction in South African schools and universities;
    [13] An obligation rests on the state in terms of subsection 29 (2) of the Constitution, 1996 to consider all reasonable educational alternatives, including single medium institutions, taking into account:
    (a) equity;
    (b) practicability; and
    (c) the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices;
    [14] In terms of section 30 of the Constitution, 1996 everyone has the right to freely use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice and it is an unfortunate practical reality that others may feel excluded and that this reality needs to be accepted and managed without malice;
    [15] In terms of section 31 of the Constitution, 1996 persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members of that community-
    (a) to enjoy their culture, practise their religion and use their language; and
    (b) to form, join and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society;
    [16] Universities and schools are in fact (a) linguistic associations, (b) cultural associations, (c) linguistic communities, (d) organs of civil society and (e) that the Freedom Charter, 1955 rightfully states that the aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace;
    [17] All eleven official languages must be duly respected but it is impractical to honour this obligation in individual schools and universities; single medium institutions, including public funded Universities and schools, are therefore constitutional and should be the rule to prevent Afrikaans being forced on others and English being forced on Afrikaans speakers;
    [18] Parents have in terms of Article 269 (3) of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights an inalienable prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children;
    [19] That the term "transformation" means different things to different people and that intergroup relations are damaged by the "bad transformation" imposed on all by the racist and seditious NDR. The bottom line is that humans need to be themselves to stay healthy;
    [20] Mother tongue education is both a constitutional and a pedagogical imperative - it is my inalienable right to enjoy and develop my culture and use my language to educate my children. The situation that developed on the watch of the Anglo monoculture-leaning SACPANC is unconstitutional, confusing and damaging and need to be promptly resolved.
    "Notwithstanding my whole life and education having been in English, when I sat in seminars during my first year at UCT it struck me that my language skills were not as good as those of my white counterparts, that they sounded more articulate, and were far more able to express their views coherently than I was. As black, politically conscious students we knew that we were not inferior to anyone as apartheid would have had us believe, and yet it was clear that our white peers were far more comfortable in the institution than we were ... My experience within an English tertiary education institution when my home and life language was English (one of the two official languages at the time) was of inadequacy. "
    Thank you for relating this lived experience and reality.
    I am determined that my children will never experience this kind of degradation or that of Boer children labelled donkeys by well-meaning English educators after the South African War of 1899 - 1902 when they used their home language during school hours.
    That is why it is correct that mother tongue education will stay both a constitutional and a pedagogical imperative in our multi-cultural country. The state has no other option but to fulfil its constitutional obligations to all our children that deserves only the best.
    And it is hypocritical to entrench the advantage and "privilege" of out of home English speakers whilst accusing Afrikaans speakers of protecting undue privilege. This ill-conceived strategy and rhetoric are designed to demonise and neutralise those Afrikaans speakers that insist on Afrikaans mother tongue education and prefer Afrikaans single medium institutions to avoid the sometimes violent cultural conflicts damaging to children/young adults. I wish they will stop this vicious assault on Afrikaans speakers and their innocent children.
    Kindly note. Nobody in his right mind can have anything in principle against the English language. The combination Afrikaans first language and English second language served generations of Afrikaans speakers very well. And there is no need to change this practice. Adding another sophisticated language to the curriculum such as Mandarin, as currently undertaken by the Education Authorities, is a bonus and should serve learners even better.
    "But then, UCT was not “our” institution ... The country was in the midst of political turmoil with states of emergency, international sanctions, and ever-increasing levels of internal resistance. Yet UCT, among the supposedly more progressive tertiary institutions of the time, still had its primary curriculum genuflecting to European and American theatre ... The university had an idea of excellence that might have been shared by the Parisian, American and South African middle classes, but this was not the only truth; it certainly was not the truth for most of the people in the world, and neither was it the truth for the majority of South Africans, for whom theatre’s relevance required different values and characteristics."
    Very well-articulated - UCT will in other words never be "your university" unless it is Africanised and decolonised.
    If Africanisation and decolonisation "in the context of a globalised world order that includes Africa........." are successful the English language and culture would afterwards, in my view, enjoy no special status above one or more well developed local vernaculars let alone be the de facto or the de jure lingua franca or criteria for excellence/merit at this or other African universities and institutions of higher education, as is currently paradoxically promoted by certain anti-Afrikaans Anglophiles and Van Graan et al.
    Having said that, take a fresh look at the former Afrikaans single medium institutions. What do you see now?
    One must distinguish between bad transformation in terms of the NDR designed to break down and constructive transformation designed to build and create something new. The ongoing Anglicising of Stellenbosch University and other former Afrikaans universities is patent regression. And those responsible for it will be held accountable for their unprincipled myopia.
    "It is precisely this defensiveness, and the positions taken by its advocates, that range from arrogant self-righteousness and racism to the mainstream claiming of constitutional rights when others do not have anywhere near the capacity to claim such rights, that provokes opposition to – and in some cases, a desire to “punish” – the language ... or will their primary approach be one of defending, protecting and promoting their own interests and privileges embedded in pre-1994 apartheid history? ... with fundamental racism that denied the full humanity of black Africans in particular – “sins” that are not dissimilar to those committed in the past by Europeans who spoke English, French and German."
    What does Van Graan expect?
     That Afrikaans speakers live in denial that he and others intolerable of diversity that promote unconstitutional Anglo monoculturalism, openly threaten or punish Afrikaans and/or wish to recolonise our minds and degrade our children?
     That Afrikaans speakers must be too ashamed of whom we are and forget our many lessons over centuries or our resolve against Anglo cultural assimilation?
     That Afrikaans speakers must become hesitant to enjoy and protect their children, heritage, language and culture and give up their basic human rights?
    Pray tell and if so – kindly think again please. The above expectations of non-Afrikaans speakers are inhumane, irresponsible and unrealistic.
    White guilt and white shame should be reserved for those hegemons that unapologetically share a history of "absolute ruthless" global oppression, war and mass murder of 20 000 plus black and 20 000 plus white non-combatants in among others hellish British concentration camps, exploitation, subjugation and genocide of first nations. My ancestors were on the receiving end of aggressive imperialism and Afrikaans speakers generally do not fit into the mould that Van Graan et al and the NDR manufactured for us to suit their clearly nefarious purposes.
    “Hence my view that all publicly funded tertiary institutions should provide their education in English …”
    This proposal is morally reprehensible and unconstitutional. It promotes the further diminished use and status of Afrikaans. I lack the vocabulary to articulate precisely how much this attitude of Anglophones and others annoys me that feel nothing for my children.
    Afrikaans will never forget the lessons of 1976 and most thinking Afrikaans speakers have long ago accepted the fact that Afrikaans will never become the official lingua franca of South Africa. So be it. It will be inflammatory to suggest anything of this nature to people that hate Afrikaans with passion. It is even sillier of certain paternalistic supremacist Afrikaans speakers to keep on trying to be everything to everyone. Definitely not in my name, thank you very much. Rather stay clear as far as possible and when asked to assist, be very wary. I think Dempster has a valid point - stop meddling and interfering. The best intentions of Afrikaans speakers are wide open to negation by all and sundry and in particular by the drivers of the racist and seditious NDR.

    • Mike van Graan

      Dear Barry Saayman, there is much in your article that I could respond to, but again, I would like to raise the simple question of human empathy raised in my response to Mr Comestor above. If you are determined that your children will never experience the kind of degradation that Boer children suffered at the hands of English educators who labelled them "donkeys"; if you can - two centuries later - feel the anger and hurt of your ancestors, so that you are determined to protect your children, can you not empathise with a contemporary generation of university students whose parents, not only ancestors of two centuries ago, but whose very parents suffered incredible degradation at the hands of the apartheid government (having to carry pass books or face jail simply because they were black), families being torn asunder through the migrant labour policy, communities of people uprooted from their land and dumped elsewhere, their language and culture derided as inferior ... unless you still believe that your fellow (black) citizens and their cultures, languages and indeed, their humanity, are less than yours, and people who look and speak like you, then why is it so difficult to respond and engage as a human being to the aspirations and ideals of other human beings, who, like your ancestors, experienced inhuman suffering at the hands of their respective governments. You say that "Some of us live more blessed lives than others"; if you really believe that, then I suppose you believe in a God that blessed white people more than black people in our country? "Blessings", whether past or present, I'm afraid, tend to have their roots in the political, economic and social structures of the time. As do curses.

      • Barry Saayman

        Dear Mr Van Graan
        What did I say to merit your following insinuation?
        "... unless you still believe that your fellow (black) citizens and their cultures, languages and indeed, their humanity, are less than yours ..."
        That is an unmerited attack on my person and integrity. You apparently missed my point that cultures are equal but different.
        You on the other hand are the one that is intolerant of diversity and wishes all to be like you; think like you; and behave like you because you live a blessed life and know what is best for all of us. You are in my opinion blinkered and ignore South African reality. But I agree with you that true empathy is difficult for supremacists.
        Your rhetorical question whether “can you not empathise with a contemporary generation of university students” also deserves a reply. It is one thing to verbalise empathy and quite something else to live empathy and respect others for who they are. Can you do that?
        If you truly want to take this debate forward you will rationally dissect, criticise and comment on the 20 points of departure that I proposed and show me exactly where I look down on the cultures, languages "and indeed, the humanity" of others without again reverting to ad hominems.
        My empathy for children and young adults that find it difficult to cope in pressure situations knows no boundaries. But Anglicising everything and "destroying diversity" on higher education or any other level of intergroup interaction is in my view destructive and therefore neither the answer nor emphatic. Our idealistic constitution writers knew that much better than you.
        Take again a good look at Sections 143 (1) (b), 211, 212, 219(1) (a) and 235 of the Constitution, 1996 and realise that we have 10 (12 including Lesotho and Swaziland) important Southern African kingdoms and that mono-culturalism is a pipe dream.
        You say: " ‘Blessings', whether past or present, I'm afraid, tend to have their roots in the political, economic and social structures of the time. As do curses."
        It is indeed the objective of the ongoing racist and seditious NDR of the governing alliance to destroy current political, economic and social structures and replace it with an undefined "national democratic society".
        There must be no uncertainty that I disagree fundamentally with any strategy that aim to destroy institutions, people and their traditional way of life.
        Your thinly disguised curse directed at me for being myself and defending my basic human rights, culture and children against relentless unconstitutional attacks by people like your good selves, based only your “monoculture superiority”, whilst ignoring universally accepted human rights and the wishes of others are noted with deep resentment …
        And I will ignore any further hominems with the contempt it deserves. It does not constitute rational debate.

        • Mike van Graan

          Dear Mr Saayman, having re-read what I wrote that so upset you, my statement "unless you still believe..." etc I can see that this statement was open to misinterpretation (I meant it in the sense of "unless one still believes...." rather than if "you, personally, as Mr Saayman still believes...." For that, I apologise. I have realized that with respect to engaging on this subject, it is very difficult to do so rationally in this format, and within a paradigm where some are still living in, or informed by, the ideological era of the Total Onslaught and the diabolical threat of a communist takeover. Do re-read your second article too and count the number of "ad hominen" attacks you yourself indulge in. Finally, your bald statement "Van Graan is in my view fiercely biased against Afrikaans and intolerant of diversity" reflects an imaginative and highly defensive interpretation of my article, simply not given any credence by my having served as a judge in Afrikaans literary competitions, as an adjudicator at numerous theater festivals of new Afrikaans work, as having had plays translated into Afrikaans, etc. What you demand of me - to engage with your postulations rationally - is hardly what you yourself have done. I point this out not because I have any hope of changing your perspective, but to reflect on how the tone, attitudes and hypocrisy of some of those engaged in these debates, speak louder than the content of their debates.

  • Truly, Mike, I can't recall how many times I've read confessions similar to yours that begin with the author broadly outlining a history of personal suffering under apartheid (which I always accept without reserve and with the greatest respect, not having been on the receiving end or even born) but then, like yourself, inevitably basing her/his further observations and conclusions on the truly grotesque non sequitur that all the inequalities and iniquities they faced growing up, were mostly due to either historical suppression by white colonials, or to the 1948-1994 Apartheid State's iniquities. (You're a bit ambivalent about apportioning blame here, by the way: which of the two was worst in your opinion?)
    Truly grotesque, because it naturally couldn't be further from the truth: it's a de facto instance of reverse racial discrimination that not only effectively scuttles their arguments but belittles their own experience of discrimination at the hands of the apartheid-mongers.
    Perhaps understandably, but not excusably, in view precisely of the extent of their sufferings, it was as if their recollection of South Africa's history (already very old long before the arrival of the white man, don't you think?) had been blotted out or put on hold, especially as regards the educational status of the absolutely non-indigenous black communities such as the Xhosas, Zulus, Sotho’s etc. Vanished into thin air were the facts of history: the crushing poverty of the non-indigenous black communities largely as a result of internecine strife between Bantu tribes; the countrywide diaspora and impoverishment of the (actually indigenous) Khoi and San following their land-dispossession by those same invading tribes long before the white colonists arrived; the country's relatively short history of public education; the vast majority of tribal blacks' ground-zero level of education at the founding of the South African state in 1910; the few resources available then - for decades following the devastation of the Anglo-Boer War - for funding the education of even the diminutive Afrikaner community - to mention just a few of the more obvious ones.
    Proceeding from this flawed premise it was a mere formality to open up a handy arsenal of accusations that place the responsibility for, in this case, the educational upliftment of the subjects of that convenient agitprop slogan, the "previously disadvantaged", squarely on the shoulders of the current white community, but preferably those of Afrikaners whose protestations are as a matter of course and without exception branded with epithets such as: elitist, ungenerous, counter-intuitive, intransigent, defensive, arrogant, denialist - you name it.
    Of course, the handiest accusation of all is, as always, a comparison of Apartheid's ruling elite and, by extension, today's and yesterday's Afrikaners by and large, with the perpetrators of the Holocaust, for it is seen as a well deserved reinforcement of their perceived apartheid-guilt complex. Thanks for that one, Mike, but we, the majority of Afrikaners, are in the habit of expecting and ridiculing this targeted, malicious slur anyway, didn't you know? But I nonetheless was pleasantly surprised that you didn't dust off, upfront, that favourite and most toxic of agitprop slogans so beloved of lefties and dreamt up by totalitarians: "Apartheid was a crime against humanity". Thank you for that too, I think.
    And because the conclusions based on this premise somehow don't square with the Constitution, and because they haven't a clue about the actual political nature, motives, crypto educational policies and strategy of the "language-bullying" ANC/SACP Alliance - with whom they will side even so, come hell or high water - they now find themselves only one easy step away from coming up with totally unconstitutional proposals to "remake" the entire educational status quo in accordance with the demands of the "broader majority". In other words, to institute a majoritarian hegemony in line with the Alliance's National Democratic Revolution, Second Phase of The Transition, thank you very much. The Constitution is only "symbolic" in this respect and just a nuisance in any case, and don't you forget it.
    No need even to point out the ill-disguised implication of your take on the Afrikaans higher learning dispensation, Mike: the "remaking" of the Afrikaner community's primary and secondary schooling systems. But never mind, we've taken notice of the ANC/SACP regime's across-the-board disgust at constitutionality long ago and have learnt to accept these types of apparently polite and obliging proposals for what they really are: provocations.
    Cheap shot on the whole, Mike, for of course you are well aware that small languages can't compete with world languages in the same educational institutions and will inevitably flounder; and that it's in our genes to fight verengelsing of our schools and institutions of higher learning at almost any cost.
    But it gets better. The comparatively small Afrikaner community, for example, mustn't enjoy the same educational language rights as the rest of the nation; no way, they should pay for it. The few swiftly diminishing universities available to them out of the twenty five higher institutions nationwide are a few too many, haven't you heard? They're an insufferable obstacle to demographic representivity. But that's not all, hardly. Afrikaners collectively must accept all the blame as well as the burden of solving the dire educational consequences of the black communities' squandered resources and lack of political will. After all, They deserve it, don't They? They are only allowed Afrikaans medium education on our sufferance, for we are the majority. And no, this doesn't mean that we, the majority, are behaving like triumphalist majoritarians. We're just being restitutionally fair. We know what's best for Them.
    For we, Afrikanerdom's rightful accusers, haven't just found the blame-all, Apartheid; we've also found the cure-all: Afrikaners.

    • Mike van Graan

      Dear Jessica, at the risk of being deemed to sound patronizing (which I don't want to be), I think you should re-read my article because I think you've missed some of its fundamental points, and conflated some of what I'm saying with things that others might have said, and that get your hackles rising. Just to say though that mine was not a confessional; it was transparent biography to reflect where my insights - and biases - were coming from, from my own experience and reflection on that experience. In relation to the National Party government of our past and the primarily white Afrikaans (by no means only) constituency that supported them, and your apparent, vehement opposition to accepting any form of responsibility for the inhumane oppression of black people, I'd be interested to know what Boer descendants would expect of their British/English oppressors? An apology? An acknowledgement of responsibility for the abuses they wrought on Afrikaner women and children? Or a British denial of any wrongdoing, blaming it all on the stubbornness and "dumbness" (as the British arrogantly ridiculed Boers to be and as subsequent white governments came to repeat, without irony, with respect to black people) of the Boers? Oh, and if you think you are being "attacked" and need to withdraw into the mental and other laagers of defence BECAUSE you are/may be Afrikaans, then I suggest that you read my article published in January this year: It is clear that for many people, this - the issue of language - is a highly emotive issue; please understand that for many other people who don't speak your language, it is a similarly emotive issue. The challenges with regard to its future in our publicly-funded institutions will not be resolved through emotion though, but through reason and rationality.

      • No, Mike, I don't think you're sounding patronizing at all. I am aware that you are good and kindly in person and, to repeat myself, I accept your bona fides as regards your Apartheid experience unconditionally.
        But no, I've read your thoughts with great attention and don't think I've missed the cardinal points. Actually, in my comments I took great care to be specific about your selective view on the reasons for black suppression, yet you choose to avoid the historical points I make and insist on accusing me by means of vague generalities. Be that as it may.
        First of all, I never even intimated that Apartheid and the colonies weren't contributing factors to black suppression. That would be plain daft. Of course they were, and hugely so - not that I should accept responsibility, however; that would be absurd for I wasn't present during the heydays or the demise of both. Just as absurd as it would be to expect of a person of any age living in Britain or the States nowadays to accept responsibility for, say, the slave trades that, in contrast to the comparatively few killed under Apartheid, killed millions of innocents. Nevertheless, like any normal, sentient human being, I would in my personal capacity like to, and in fact do, assist in their upliftment as far as my means would allow.
        One of my main gripes in this regard is that - understandably but not forgivably - apparently those who suffered Apartheid's iniquities oftentimes not only cherish a blind spot when it comes down to apportioning historical blame for people of colour’s comparative economic, educational and other handicaps, but that they seem to be dead set on usurping, plundering and destroying their white-skinned compatriots' economic and, in this case, their educational heritage and on denying them their educational rights. They've been spectacularly successful so far.
        In the final analysis, therefore, the ANC/SACP Alliance's attempt to sack Afrikaans educational institutions and to undermine Afrikaners' constitutional-educational rights is a crystal-clear bid to exact vengeance by way of majoritarian, triumphalist, reverse racism.
        I also made it clear that Afrikaners find it criminally insulting that they are continually being subjected to the guilty-by-association trick that attempts to link Apartheid to the Holocaust - as you yourself are guilty of in your article - and thereby to condemn them collectively and in perpetuity to an Apartheid guilt-trip that demands of them to be on their knees every now and then, when it pleases their black masters, to plead for forgiveness.
        What makes it even more insulting is that the Alliance and their sidekicks seemingly are stuck in the habit of selectively dredging up the 1971 UN General Assembly dictate that infamously established this purported connection with genocide. For they are fully apprised of the fact that the ICC's Rome Statute effectively repeals the connection.
        That's not only why they are so coy about mentioning the ICC and the Rome Statute, however. The Statute's definition of crimes against humanity, while finally pulling the 1976 Convention's genocide sting, has been extensively broadened to the effect that the ANC's own penal camps were clearly in its breach.
        In other words, the definition has been expanded to such an extent that the Alliance is in the process of being exposed for what it actually is and always has been: just another utopian African kleptocracy with totalitarian tendencies.
        So, in answer to your Anglo-Boer war analogy: Yep, you're spot-on, the Brits owe Afrikaners an apology similar to the apologies made to the black. brown, Indian and other South Africans by our then President De Klerk and several other Afrikaner leaders. But we don't expect of them to be on their knees forever.
        And I can't for the life of me understand why some people who don't speak my language, Afrikaans, are so emotive about my constitutional right to an Afrikaans-language university. Aren't there about two dozen English-language institutions of higher learning available to them countrywide?

  • Barry Saayman

    Well written comments. Well done.

    For the sake of the record one can mention that the Rome Statute of the International Court finally criminalised apartheid. It is regarded by the international community as a crime against humanity.

    What is interesting for me though are the elements of this crime as adopted at the 2010 Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Kampala, 31 May - 11 June 2010.

    Apartheid has nothing to do with segregation as I naively expected.

    It has everything to do with conduct, and I quote, "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups."

    The SACPANC government of the day supported by a tyrannical majority that abuse their power to among others oppress and degrade Afrikaans are in fact guilty of the crime against humanity of apartheid as far as I am concerned.

    • Point taken - but it must be said, though, that the declaration by the United Nations General Assembly I referred to differs radically from the ICC's Rome Statute. The 1976 Convention's definition doesn't distinguish between crimes against humanity and genocide, and is the one always referred to by Afrikaners' detractors with great alacrity and glee, while the Rome Statute makes a clear distinction.
      So, we have two completely different definitions going around, which of course suits the ANC/SACP Alliance and their groupies just fine, for by mixing up the two they are able to perpetuate the perception that Apartheid and the Holocaust are on a par, with the insinuation that Afrikaners are clones of Nazism - yesterday, today and tomorrow.
      As regards your other comments on OS et al, well said. The crisis facing Afrikaners and our fellow Afrikaans-speaking communities is of the sort once described as the " Kulturkampf der Menscheit". But in our case the struggle is complicated by, on the one hand, what can only be described as the doings and the screwings of Apparent Afrikaners with a Cape Dutch mentality, whose only alliance is with Perfidious Albion and the Queen, which is OK by me, but who also secretly cherish a deep hatred for Afrikaans and look with the utmost scorn and schadenfreude down on our creeping educational emergency; and on the other the phenomenon described by my granddad as "hanskaders" ("hanskakies", see?) who are constantly falling over each other in their eagerness to do their Alliance masters' bidding, particularly in our universities - QED our educational predicament.
      Yet, the enforced monoculture you mention is, I think, not really "mono" or "culture" at all but in fact an insidious and extremely dangerous, hybrid ethos that is even poisoning certain circles in the Afrikaans intelligentsia. An Africanist-Communist ethos along the lines of the Alliance's parasitic, revolutionary version of what the country's future educational dispensation should look like.
      This ethos is primped up with cosmopolitanism and made palatable with a liquorice allsortish lucky packet of Britishness and Englishness which can be jettisoned at the first opportunity once the NDR hits its peak. And don't the hanskaders just love it!
      It's in my opinion a potentially fatal, utterly destructive turn of events that must be stopped in its tracks. Especially in the context of the country's escalating anarchy and racial polarization. But isn't destabilization and anarchy exactly what bolshies thrive on?

  • Etienne Viviers

    I wonder if Jessica's non sequiturish comments would be as vituperative if she signed her surname as well. Seems like she's blaming Mike van Graan -- by way of the Holocaust and the Mfecane and the UN's General Assembly -- for anything the ANC, Tripartite Alliance and their perfidious bedfellows (including "poisoned" Afrikaner elite) have ever said. Which is really the missing the point of his essay.

    • Barry Saayman

      You can most certainly do better than this. She is entitled to her views. Defend if you can -

      (a) ANC/SACP Alliance and their groupies;

      (b) Apparent Afrikaners with a Cape Dutch mentality and "hanskaders" who are constantly falling over each other in their eagerness to do their Alliance masters' bidding, particularly in our universities; and

      (c) an Africanist-Communist ethos ... primped up with cosmopolitanism and made palatable with a licorice allsortish lucky packet of Britishness and Englishness which can be jettisoned at the first opportunity once the NDR hits its peak ..."

      The paradoxes of so-called "national liberation" are rife in South Africa as is the case in other jurisdictions and she is in my view acutely aware of some of them.

    • Ag nou ja wat, Etienne, jou troll-agtige nie-kommentaar wat verswyg dat Mike hom openlik en netjies agter die Alliansie se utopies-bolsjewistiese onderwys-strategie skaar, is 'n duidelike aanduiding daarvan dat jy self sy ontboeseming met oogklappe aan of glad nie gelees het nie.

      Want ek het met konkrete voorbeelde sy gerieflike blindekol vir die vernaamste stuk geskiedenis agter swart, bruin en ander gemeenskappe se agterstand, uitgewys.

      Bewys my dan verkeerd eerder as om met vae skinderpraatjies en venynige aantygings te kom.

      Die beste waarmee jy vorendag kan kom, is om jou volslae onkunde oor die gevare van aanlyn blootstelling te paradeer (so saam-saam met die nuwe term wat jy by my geleer het en wat jy so slaphandjie en argumentloos na my kant toe terugslinger: non sequitur).

      Natuurlik sal ek dit nie waag om in die huidige klimaat van politieke geweld, kruipende anargie en anti-wit rassisme polities-kontroversieel te wees, dan ewe how-do-you-do my identiteit aanlyn bekend te maak en daarmee my man en kinders potensieel in die vuurlinie te plaas nie. Gebruik tog jou verstand.

  • Etienne Viviers

    I agree with you, Barry, that Jessica is entitled to her views; and I even think that there needs to be a public space in which to state controversial views anonymously. She confirmed my observation, however, that she wouldn't say many of these thorny things if she had to use her real/full name.

    Barry, I don't have to defend the Tripartite Alliance, the "hanskaders" and the so-called liqourice allsortish lucky packet communists just because someone else grabbed them way left of field, pulled them front and centre, and then insisted that they're relevant to this discussion, and that anyone who doesn't agree with them automatically sides with the enemy.

    • Don't accuse me of pulling in topics irrelevant to this discussion, Etienne. Blame Mike, he's the culprit, as I took pains to point out.

      And kindly specify "thorny things" rather than continuing to behave yourself like a troll. And check your logic, if you don't mind: how on earth am I "confirming" your smears by my statement that I would never use my real name online?

      Mike set himself up for what you are smearing me with, when he grabbed the nicely disguised Holocaust association trick out of left(y) field, quite literally, and used it to justify what boils down to the sacking of Afrikaans universities. (All of this of course presented in nice sounding words as obvious matters of historical fact and the right way to go).

      I merely pointed this out, as well as that by doing so, he's solidly siding himself with the bolshie kleptocrat regime which, in case you haven't noticed, is a parasite that flourishes by stealing and plundering amongst many, many other things, Afrikaans educational institutions.

      One is judged by the ideological company one keeps, even if it is by one remove, as Mike is attempting to do.

      • Mike van Graan

        Jessica, sometimes people read and interpret statements in a manner that reflects more their own sensitivities, anxieties, prejudices, etc than what that the writer may have intended. I presume that your response above is based on the following paragraphs in my article: "Clearly, it is not a language that oppresses, or that is arrogant, or that steps on the rights of others; it is people who use the language that do, and so raise vicarious antagonisms to the language. It is not the German language that killed gays, Jews, black people and gypsies en masse, but people who spoke German, and were informed by a particular ideology of supremacy and hate. It is not the French language that colonized Senegal, Algiers and Mali, but the country of France and its people who spoke French, and imposed it as the language of rule. The English language did not suppress the dialects of India, or the indigenous languages of Kenya, it was British people who spoke English who did so, and who did so with absolute ruthlessness.
        Yet, today, notwithstanding these brutal histories, most Africans speak English or French as their first languages or use it pragmatically as lingua francas in societies where there is a large diversity of languages, such as Nigeria with its more than 500 languages, so that English is its official language. Similarly, notwithstanding its history as the “language of the oppressor”, a language associated with brutal repression, with an inhuman system of pass laws and migrant labour that shattered families, with detention without trial, with fundamental racism that denied the full humanity of black Africans in particular – “sins” that are not dissimilar to those committed in the past by Europeans who spoke English, French and German - could Afrikaans broadly be embraced as a means of communication, be celebrated as a language of beauty and be enjoyed for its unique expressiveness?
        From this, you take strong exception to Afrikaners being equated with those guilty of genocide (when that is so far from the point that I am making); the simple truth is that even though a language may have a particularly bad association because of what people who spoke the language perpetrated in the past (eg slavery, genocide and indeed, apartheid), does not necessarily mean that the language would in future be rejected by the victims - or by their progeny. In our particular case, how people who speak Afrikaans today engage with the broader challenges of our society - many with their roots in our divided, inequitable past - will influence the manner in which the majority of people and those in power will respond to the language and its advocates. I invite you to argue the points being made, rather than the points you imagine are being made.

        • Yeah Mike, you can bet your rapidly depreciating rands on it that I am damn sensitive, anxious and prejudiced - not about what I "imagine" you meant, but against what you yourself claim and propose in clear, elegant English, and also because your claims and proposals in clear, elegant English just happen to perfectly echo the agitprop and militant abuse of Afrikaans communities' constitutional language rights, also in clear, elegant English, by the bolshie kleptocracy, their well funded and organized shock brigades, hanskaders et al.
          So, it's all well and good for you to present your above self-quotation in a positive light, as if its implications somehow belong in a cloud-cuckoo dimension not applicable to the realpolitik of South Africa.
          Just pause for a moment and look at what you are saying. In clear, elegant English it stands there for anyone with eyes and two brain cells to perfectly understand: people who spoke German killed gays, Jews, black people and Gypsies, and the regime that spoke Afrikaans, the "language of the oppressor", committed "sins not dissimilar" to those by Europeans who spoke English, French and German.
          And do you notice how casually the terms "German", "Jews" and Gypsies" are mixed in with others that can't by any stretch of the imagination share their connotations of targeted, systematic genocide on an apocalyptic scale? What's to "imagine" about all this?
          You then go on to claim that this doesn't mean that Apartheid's victims and their progeny would in future reject Afrikaans. Hello, this is the future, have you heard the news and are we sharing the same planet here? Or am I also "imagining" the bolshie kleptocracy and OS?
          I find it surpassingly weird that a person like yourself who for many years had to suffer the utter outrage of racial discrimination on a daily basis, could be so insensitive to the language discrimination currently and with fanatical determination being perpetrated by the powers that be and their interlopers against Afrikaans communities - in the name of language transformation, nogal!
          Now please go back to your article and see if you can find any reference to historical factors other than colonialism and Apartheid that could have had a negative socio-economic impact on South Africa's indigenous and migrant communities. None, see?
          And if it isn't too much to ask, read my first response to it; you've missed several of my main points. I've read yours three times.
          But the cherry on the cake for me remains your - oh-so scrupulously impartial - insistence on demanding of Afrikaners in particular to pussyfoot around "those in power" and "the majority of the people" (presumably their voters) in our response to this assault. (Again, please read my first comments).
          Nah, Mike, I don't think so. You see, this type of proposal smacks of one thing and one thing only: political intimidation aiming to marginalize. (You haven't forgotten that Afrikaners have a sharp nose for language discrimination, have you? We get it in with our mother's milk, remember?)
          You've obviously taken your ideological kindred spirits' anti-Afrikaans agitprop for the literal truth.
          Let's leave sweetness and light to the Mad Hatter's tea party, then. Myself, I prefer vitriol, scorn and vituperation against tyranny. But Afrikaners in general and worthy of the appellation will eventually respond to tyranny in kind, mark my words. Powerfully, but in contrast, peacefully and fairly.

  • Dear Mike - I regard you as one of South Africa's greatest playwrights. "Rainbow Scars" is one of the best SA plays that I have seen and shows remarkable sensitivity and humour - as well as an acute grasp of the complexities, innuendos, cruelties and ironies of post-1994 South Africa. I am accordingly disappointed by the ease with which you have fallen into the "good guy", "bad guy"/"good evil", black white paradigm in your knee-jerk view of the past. Do you really think that everyone in the pre-1994 governments was evil and motivated by some demonic urge to oppress black people? Do you really think that Chris Hani, Jo Slovo and Jacob Zuma were morally superior to PW Botha, Chris Heunis and FW de Klerk?
    Do you really want a university system characterised by majoritarian uniformity and African hegemony? Do you really not think that in an Afrikaans-majority province like the Western Cape at least one of the four universities should offer tuition in Afrikaans at undergraduate level - while making similar provision for English tuition? Do you really think that Afrikaans will remain as a viable language for long - when there are no longer Afrikaans-medium schools (they will be the next target) - or Afrikaans-medium universities where teachers and journalists - and dramatists - can be trained? Indeed, we would like to see similar education for all our language communities - but does the failure of our black indigenous communities to claim their constitutional right to education in the language of their choice negate the right of Afrikaans-speaking people of all races (whites are a minority) to claim theirs?
    Do you want a vibrant multicultural society with numerous loci where our diverse cultures can grow and flourish - or do you want the uniformity of African hegemony and demographic representivity of the National Democratic Society?

    • Mike van Graan

      Dear Mr Steward, thank you for your kind words about "Rainbow Scars"; I do hope that many will get to see it when it features at the Woordfees next year. As a playwright, I've always maintained that South Africa is a much more interesting place to write about now, since there is so much more room for complexity, for irony, for contradiction than during the apartheid era where things were a lot more us-them, goodies versus baddies, whites against blacks. Even though apartheid was much starker as a political and economic system reflected in human lives than what we might experience today, I am aware that even within its stark polarities, there was nuance, difference, etc as reflected in the Beyers Naudes, Nico Smits, Bram Fischers and Pieter-Dirk Uyses on the one hand, and the Matanzimas, Sebes and Mangopes on the other. My article had less to do with individuals and assigning moral superiority than with locating contemporary struggles and debates about Afrikaans in the context of the inhumane, oppressive and unjust apartheid system, reflected in the politics, economics, social mobility, human development, cultural practices and media of the time. Which brings me to the first of your two key questions (for the purpose of this answer at least): should Afrikaans-speakers be prejudiced because other communities are not claiming their constitutional rights to language? One of the main points I was trying to make in my article is that while we all have the same constitutional rights now, we have vastly different means and resources, so that those more privileged amongst us (largely because of an unjust political dispensation of the past that benefited a few), are more able to access, enjoy and celebrate their rights (to shelter, to food, to health care, to a decent education, etc) and their freedoms (to express themselves, to enjoy the arts, to associate as they wish, etc). Only the deliberately denialist will refuse to acknowledge this. My thesis - in the article - is that if it is true that the more privileged are better able to claim their constitutional rights which in theory we all have, then, pragmatically and in fairness, we should offer tuition in English at all universities to make university education accessible to all (affording all their right to education), but that at some universities, teaching and the obtaining of degrees at all levels (under- and post-graduate) in Afrikaans should be available for those who desire this, but at additional expense if necessary ie the right to education in one's language becomes an extension and recognition of privilege, rather than a "rightful constitutional claim" when, in reality, this right is denied to the vast majority of people whose primary language is neither Afrikaans or English. Then, to your second question about whether my wish is for uniformity of African hegemony, etc. In response, I would like to raise two elephants in the room. First, for all the oppression, abuse and brutality that white Afrikaners (Boers) experienced in their wars with the British, Afrikaans and English were adopted as official languages from the early 20th century, and this status quo was maintained after the ascension of the National Party to political power in 1948. Indigenous black communities also experienced the brutality and oppression typical of British (and other forms of) colonialism, yet they and their progeny have not rejected English; on the contrary, they have embraced it, in much the same way as other African countries have embraced English, notwithstanding the adverse impacts of British colonialism on their own languages. If Afrikaans is under threat today from "Anglo/British hegemony", then the question has to be asked: is it not because of the pact that previous generations of Afrikaans-speakers made with their former British oppressors and subsequent generations, and their eventual collusion with each other on the basis of the colour of the skin, against the indigenous black communities? For all the railing against the British, and their English, the truth is that it was politically expedient and in their economic and social interests for white Afrikaans and English speakers to collaborate and form alliances in order to subjugate the indigenous black majority, in their collective interests. Which brings me to the second key point: the contemporary concern of white Afrikaans-speakers to promote Xhosa (in the western Cape) is an opportunistic attempt to protect and defend Afrikaans ie by promoting Xhosa (and other indigenous languages in provinces where Afrikaans may be under academic/institutional threat) is the equivalent of the tricameral parliament, co-option of an indigenous language to create an additional buffer against the perceived threat against the Afrikaans language. This is not necessarily a bad thing and I've said before that other indigenous language groups have much to learn from the Afrikaans community with regard to the development, nurturing and celebration of their language. In truth though, when white people had political power, these indigenous languages were regarded - like the people who spoke them - as inferior, and the investment in the development of these languages, unlike Afrikaans (also an indigenous language), was miniscule. An anti-racist approach to language development in the past would have seen the development of all indigenous languages, to the point where secondary schooling and academic qualifications could be obtained in all such languages, but the apartheid education system - even though it created separate universities for black people - provided education in such institutions through English and/or Afrikaans. That there is not a single university that offers undergraduate courses in indigenous languages other than Afrikaans is a direct consequence of apartheid ideology and practice; to claim that this absence (of indigenous language universities) is the consequence of black people not claiming their constitutional rights in the last twenty years, is disingenuous. There would be greater cultural diversity and greater language diversity today if the apartheid project had really been a "separate but equal" system as its propaganda would have had everyone believe; the reality though is that it was vastly unequal, unjust and prejudicial towards black people, and it hugely favoured white people. That simply cannot continue, not on political, moral or cultural grounds. To argue against or to deny what to many would appear to be obvious and to use terminology and arguments more appropriate to the era of the so-called "total onslaught", are but red herrings that will hold little sway with a contemporary generation of students and sympathetic activists. Acknowledging and dealing with history in relation to creating a fair, just and equitable society now, is - in my view - far more in the interests of the Afrikaans language than a denialist (of history) and simplistic "constitutional-rightist" approach.

  • Barry Saayman

    >>"She confirmed my observation, however, that she wouldn't say many of these thorny things if she had to use her real/full name."

    You make it sound if she was apologetic. Why do you do that?

    The way I understand her, she was not in the least apologetic and stand by her views.

    Jessica is however, in my humble opinion, critical of those that are intolerant of diversity and aggressively promote the Anglo-American model of monoglottism that may violently oppose her views.

    The witch hunt unleashed by the University of Stellenbosch in an ill-contemplated effort to silence the voice of Piet le Roux speaks for itself. I quote Nicholas Myburgh:-

    "Le Roux, a council member of SU, tweeted to the effect that National Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s ‘transformania’ agenda will not succeed, and that people should support some or other Afrikaans language cause.

    This unleashed a vitriol of condemnation from all the usual suspects, amongst others a statement from Nzimande’s office that Le Roux should be investigated. And, lo and behold, what does SU do? They duly listened to the master’s voice and launched an investigation! Into what? The mind boggles…"

    Moreover, ad hominems do not constitute rational debate.

    For all I know Jessica not only fear reprisals but in fact already suffered a similar bad experience at the hands of the "usual suspects" that clearly only respect freedom of expression when one sing from their hymn sheet. This despicable behaviour is in my view the hallmark of intolerant liberals and communists. Are you one of them and if so, you now know precisely what I think of your behaviour?

    Jessica did not break any rule of this platform by posting anonymous and we are fortunate to have the benefit of her thoughts. I am grateful for that.

    May I kindly suggest that you now stop addressing the messenger and start focussing on why you think her views are in your opinion wrong, if you can?

  • Etienne Viviers

    Barry, I don’t really see how I made Jessica sound apologetic. It should be clear to anyone reading this blog that she’s not apologetic. If anything, I made her sound principled.
    Jessica made a statement of principle (not an apology) when she explained that she wouldn’t state politically controversial things while using her true identity in the current political climate: because she wants to protect her family. I agree with you that she didn’t break any rules of this platform by posting anonymously, and I also don't care if she broke any rules by posting anonymously. I reiterate my view that there needs to be a public space in which people can state controversial views anonymously.
    In the bigger scheme, I don’t really think that Jessica’s views are either right or wrong. They are her views, and she is entitled to them. Personally, I find them voluminous and confusing; but that says more about me than about Jessica. And my finding them voluminous and confusing also does not automatically mean that I am persecuting her like a troll.
    With regard to Piet le Roux’s idea of diversity: What I’ve read seems to me like his “diversity” = a collection of diverse national monocultures, each one of them assembled in their own region of the country (ie “Afrikanerdom/Afrikaans” in the Western Cape and in Stellenbosch). Unfortunately that idea of diversity can force unreasonably large numbers of people to subscribe to regional group identities, when actually there could be much greater cultural plurality if “diversity” were allowed to occur within smaller social structures, and even up to the level of the individual.
    Strange that you dismiss ad hominems as not constituting rational debate, and that you then go on to label liberals and communists as despicable and intolerant. And that you already anticipate what you think of my behaviour in the case that I might identify as one of “them”.
    Like you, I also don’t support the hegemonic Anglo-American model of monoglottism. Unfortunately, that monoglottism is a symptom of the culturally intolerant neoliberal policy orientation that is increasingly taking root in South African universities. Ideally, I would like to see muscular Afrikaans and muscular Xhosa adopted as SU’s non-negotiable linguistic markers of cultural identity, and then see English also incorporated as an inevitable cultural bridge that facilitates the university’s much vaunted (and in my opinion overrated) internationalist ethos.

  • Mike, you are contradicting yourself, I'm afraid. You first claim that mother tongue education is an extension and recognition of privilege and that all universities should therefore offer English language tuition in order to accommodate all the historically disadvantaged communities, with the possibility of some offering Afrikaans tuition at extra cost. The operative term here clearly is "disadvantaged communities".
    You then point out that because of vastly different means and resources, the right to mother tongue education is denied the vast majority of historically disadvantaged communities whose primary language is neither Afrikaans or English.
    This raises two major questions: first, why should the Afrikaans speaking members of the coloured community - which suffered as much as any other disadvantaged community under Apartheid and colonialism - be obliged to suffer continued language discrimination by not having the automatic right to mother tongue education? You are using "Afrikaans speaking community" as an umbrella term, as if the coloured community didn't have to bear the brunt of Apartheid's iniquities.
    Or will they be exempted on a racial basis?
    And second, since you are claiming that current English tuition is also an extension and recognition of historical privilege resulting from an anti-black collusion between Afrikaners and English colonials, why only target Afrikaans? Why shouldn't descendants of the English speaking colluders also pay extra for the privilege?
    And why target only Afrikaans for punishment because English was "embraced" by the indigenous and migrant African communities? How does this sanctify English above the only indigenous medium of tertiary instruction, Afrikaans? It just doesn't make any sense.
    But this isn't all. You moreover assert that the absence of "indigenous" language graduate courses is a consequence of Apartheid only and not because of "indigenous" communities not claiming their constitutional language rights during the past twenty years, and that to claim the contrary is disingenuous. Question: why should their lack of means and resources be due to Apartheid only? South African history doesn't start in 1948. This makes as little sense.

  • Die een sê, kom ons wees menslik en gee die geleentheid om in Engels te studeer.
    Die ander een sê, kom ons wees menslik en gee die geleentheid om in 'n moedertaal te studeer.

    Die een sê, een spesifieke moedertaal se onmenslike geskiedenis maak dat hy moet terugstaan en plek maak vir onderrig in Engels vir die ander moedertaalsprekers wat nou deur omstandighede gedwing word om Engels te wees.
    Die ander sê dis teenproduktief. Dit misken moedertaalonderrig. Dit misken diversiteit.

    Om menslik te wees kos fyntrap ...

  • As dit net ’n geval van die een sê/ die ander sê was, sou dit seker fyntrap en selfs eierdanse gekos het.
    Gelukkig is daar die objektief-verifieerbare historiese rekord waarop ons kan staatmaak: ons sit opgeskeep met en word regeer deur 'n misdadige elite - 'n kleptokrasie - wat boonop deur kommuniste beheer word. Hulle maak van al die berugte kommunistiese truuks gebruik om ons oop demokrasie te ondermyn en misbruik.
    Dit sluit in die verdraaiing van Suid-Afrika se geskiedenis ("een spesifieke moedertaal se onmenslike geskiedenis", yadayada) asook destabilisasie - die kommunis se kos - deur studentegriewe en -onrus ideologies, materieel en geldelik te ondersteun en aan te hits, soos in die sg "OS"-geval.
    Deur Afrikaanse onderwysinstellings oor te neem en te plunder, ontbloot dié kleptokrasie maar net weer sy ware aard, want soos die geskiedenis bewys is stéél tog die een ding wat kommuniste en kleptokrate so maklik doen soos asemhaal.

  • Barry Saayman

    "Strange that you dismiss ad hominems as not constituting rational debate, and that you then go on to label liberals and communists as despicable and intolerant."
    Read again. I criticised behaviour that I find unacceptable. Moreover, an ad hominem is a personal attack. I did not attack any person - I attacked your position.
    “With regard to Piet le Roux’s idea of diversity: What I’ve read seems to me like his “diversity” = a collection of diverse national monocultures, each one of them assembled in their own region of the country (ie “Afrikanerdom/Afrikaans” in the Western Cape and in Stellenbosch).”
    "Afrikanerdom" in its diversity does not reside in its entirety in the Western Cape and most probably never will.
    If that is in fact his idea it is not in the least outlandish. Sections 143 (1) (b), 211, 212, 219 (1) (a) and 235 of the Constitution, 1996 mandate self-determination and protect local cultures in more than one way. That reflect reality.

  • Austen Jackson

    Jessica, Johannes and Barry. Julle dra swaar daaraan om met Mike van Graan gesprek te voer op die vlak van idees in sy artikel. Julle word meegevoer deur die emosionele en die persoonlike. Julle reageer nie soos individue nie, maar soos kwesbare mense wie se familie aangeval word. Aan die dinge waaroor julle standpunte het en hoe julle julself uitdruk daaroor neem ek aan julle beskou julleself as Afrikaners. Julle voel hiperbolies sterk oor Afrikaans; tien maal sterker as wat ander eerste taal Afrikaanssprekendes daaroor voel. Die probleem vir my daarmee is dat dit vir julle in ’n baie chauvinistiese verhouding met die taal plaas. Afrikaans is ook my eerste taal en ek hou daarvan, alhoewel ek my kinders in Engels groot gemaak het. Ek het geen oordrewe liefde daarvoor nie. En ek glo dit sal nog vir eeue lank oorleef sonder of met institusionele ondersteuning, want dit het onder die gewone ontstaan en sal deur hulle die toekoms ingaan. Die meeste gewone mense, mag ek bysê, is bruinmense. In my boek is die Afrikaners ook bruinmense, maar bruin "snobs" ten spyte van wat hulle dink hulle is of wat die ou wette hulle help dink het hulle is. Naom Chomsky sê die Amerikaanse politieke elites glo en sê hulle het China in 1949 verloor to Mao Zedong en die kommuniste die bewind oorgeneem het. Vir hom is die implikasie dat Amerikaners glo dat hulle China besit het soos hulle dink hulle besit die wêreld. So ook glo die bruin "snobs" dat hulle Afrikaans besit en dat hulle bang is om dit te verloor.
    Die groot probleem met Afrikaans by US is nie soseer dat klasse in Afrikaans aangebied word waarin nie-Afrikaanse voorgraadse studente genoodsaak is om onderrig in te ontvang nie. Dit is liewer die voorvereiste dat vir elke doserende pos wat geadverteer word die applikant Afrikaans magtig moet wees. Dit ondermyn die idee dat US ’n wêreldklas universiteit is, want dit maak US, in my boek ’n voortreklike universiteit, maar net ’n universiteit met die beste dosente en navorsers uit ’n Afrikaanse dampkring. US kan nie die beste akademiese uit Duitsland, Frankryk, die Verenigde Koninkryk en Amerika werf nie agv hierdie basiese Afrikaanse vereiste. Kyk maar na MIT, Harvard, LSE, Oxford en Cambridge en die getal professore en navorsers uit ander lande. As ons die Afrikaanse vereiste laat vaar sal ons nie net die beste in die wêreld kan werf nie, maar Afrikaans as ’n twispunt in ons klasse sal weggaan en die kernidee van ’n universiteit sal dan meer aandag geniet.

    • Johannes Comestor

      Austen, jy slaan die bal heeltemal mis met die storie dat Jessica, Barry en ek te ondiep is om Mike se standpunt te verstaan. Eersgenoemde twee toon met die reikwydte van hulle kommentaar dat hulle weet waarvan hulle praat. Oor myself gaan ek nie uitwei nie, maar LitNet kan sertifiseer dat ek nie 'n bobbejaan in akademiese geledere is nie. Ek is in elk geval beter as jy oor die US ingelig, want ek weet dat Russel Botman daarvoor gesorg het dat die historiese vereiste dat dosente Afrikaans magtig moet wees of dit magtig moet word, geskrap is. Daar word gepoog om die idee te vestig dat 'n Afrikaanse universiteit nie sy sout werd kan wees nie. Met my eerstehandse kennis van die US oor baie dekades kan ek jou verseker dat die huidige US akademies nie 'n skadu is van die US in die vorige eeu nie. Ek vind dit ook bedroewend dat jou kinders deur jou toedoen verengels word. Dit bring mee dat jou vermoë, soos die van Mike, om akademies verantwoordelik oor die US-situasie te skryf, beperk is.

  • Duidelik het jy nie my, Johannes en Barry se kommentaar en repliek gelees nie - ekself het Mike juis en baie pertinent op die vlak van sy gestelde sowél as geïmpliseerde idees aangevat.
    Verder is dit maklik vir jou om ons (en Afrikaners as sodanig) met aanklagte van chauvinisme, snobisme, hiperbool en emosionaliteit te smeer, want jy het ons klaarblyklik sonder bewysvoering vooraf daaraan skuldig bevind net omdat ons nadruklik op ons taalregte aandring.
    Dit, Austen, is presies wat trolls doen en nié iemand wat ernstig gesprek wil voer nie.
    Boonop strook jou argumente - wat jy as verhewe waarhede en buite kwessie aan Afrikaners wil voorskryf - nie met uitgebreide en intensiewe navorsing oor die mees essensiële oorlewingsfaktore vir tale nie.
    En waarom Afrikaans as 'n twispunt kwansuis sal "weggaan" as nie-Afrikaanstalige dosente et al by Maties aangestel mag word, is onduidelik. Word, byvoorbeeld, 'n Franse navorser aan Yale wat nie Engels magtig is nie, se resultate dan in Frans gepubliseer en word sy lesings in Frans aangebied? Sal ook Engels aan Yale dan eendag 'n kwessie word en "weggaan" as 'n kritieke massa nie-Engelstalige personeel bereik word?
    Klink maar na net nóg 'n ekskuus om Matieland te laat verengels.
    Afrikanerdom must put up, shut up and suck it up. Ain't gonna happen, Austen.
    Correction: at least, not that easily.

  • Etienne Viviers

    Austen, ek ken 'n hele paar dosente by Stellenbosch wat daar aangestel is en daar werk sonder dat hulle 'n enkele woord Afrikaans kan praat of ooit wil leer verstaan. In hulle geval is dit baie jammer hoe die idee dat Stellenbosch wêreldklas moet wees verwar kan word met institusionele verengelsing. SU se morele en grondwetlike plig is om Suid-Afrikaners op te lei om wêreldgehalte denkers te word, en om hulle intellekte te ontwikkel op maniere wat voortdurend kan bydra tot Suid-Afrika se kennis-infrastruktuur. Dit sluit dan noodwendig in dat dosente en studente hulle kennis moet kan kommunikeer in inheemse tale. Dit is BAIE minder belangrik om die wêreld se topgehalte Engelssprekende navorsers na Suid-Afrika te lok as voltyds aangestelde dosente.

  • Barry Saayman

    "As ons die Afrikaanse vereiste laat vaar sal ons nie net die beste in die wêreld kan werf nie, maar Afrikaans as ’n twispunt in ons klasse sal weggaan en die kernidee van ’n universiteit sal dan meer aandag geniet."
    Is dit die beste argumente waarom die Anglo-Amerikaanse model van monoglotisme op Afrikaanssprekers afgedwing moet word? Ek kan my eie oë nie glo nie.
    Afrikaanse akademici is in u oë minderwaardig. En u het geen respek vir die Grondwet, 1996 nie.
    Lees "Uit die argief: Die oorlewing van die nie-dominante tale van Suid-Afrika" deur wyle Prof Neville Alexander en probeer verstaan waarom u na sy oordeel verkeerd oordeel oor onder andere Afrikaans.
    Ek het op my beurt 20 beginsels genoem wat in hierdie debat vir my belangrik is. U het nie een van die beginsels verkeerd te bewys nie.
    Afrikaanse universiteite en skole is kulturele instellings wat reeds ten volle ge-Afrikaniseer is en dit is die model van die toekoms.
    Wat u in gedagte het is na my mening 'n vorm van re-kolonialisering van hierdie kultuur-instellings en van Afrikaanssprekers. Ons het verengelsing vir goeie redes vir etlike dekades aktief vermy. U gesindheid verteenwoordig daarom 'n massiewe irrasionele terugwaartse stap.
    "Julle word meegevoer deur die emosionele en die persoonlike. Julle reageer nie soos individue nie, maar soos kwesbare mense wie se familie aangeval word."
    My taal is nie "familie" van my nie. My taal is my persoonlike identiteit waarvoor ek nie in die minste skaam is nie. My identiteit word aangeval en dit is onaanvaarbaar. Ek is wie ek is en ek kan niemand anders wees nie. Begryp u dit?
    Ek het niks teen enige ander taal nie, Engels ingesluit. Indien u Anglo-kulturele assimilasie by verstek of andersins vir u en u gesin gekies het dan moet u besluit gerespekteer word.
    Maar, wat gee u die reg om diegene wat nie u sentimente deel nie te probeer verkleineer en u "verhewe besluit" op hulle te probeer afdwing?
    Waarom dink u dat u onverdraagsaamheid vir diversiteit ’n navolgenswaardige voorbeeld vir my en my kinders is. Ek wil baie graag weet ...

  • Austen Jackson

    My kernidee van ’n universiteit is nie Afrikaans nie, Barry. Soos ek u volg is dit ook nie u kernidee nie, maar wel emosioneel deel van die kernidee. Die Afrikaans wat u van praat is nie die onskuldige Afrikaans waarmee die moedertaalspreker hulle eerste skree by geboorte en laaste geroggel by die doodsuur gee nie. U sal moet erken dit is ’n Afrikaans waaroor ’n ideologiese spekter sy skadu werp; die spook van Afrikanernasionalisme. Dit is ’n Afrikaans wat nog nie hom ontkoppel het van hierdie Bakhtiniaanse monoglot-stem wat hiërargies in gesprek verkeer met ander variante van die taal. Dit praat net in een rigting. Die ruimte wat dit skep vir gesprek is nie groot genoeg vir ’n identiteit van Afrikaners en Afrikaanssprekendes soos ek wat ons kinders na Engelse skole stuur maar steeds onse moedertaal in die huis behou. Die kanon van Afrikaanse letterkunde met sy monoglot-diskoers het maar net meer Afrikaanse stemme laer af in die hiërargie gekoöpteer maar sonder ’n heteroglot-verpligting en verbintenis.
    Vir my gaan dit nie oor ’n verengelsing en ’n re-kolonisering van ’n kultuurinstelling nie. Met woorde soos "verengelsing" en "re-kolonisering" gebruik u die woordeskat en semiotika van Afrikanernasionalisme en post-kolonialiteit versoenend. Die een is ’n monoglot-indeks, die ander heteroglot. In my boek en in die grondvestingtekste van post-kolonialiteit is hulle nie goeie bedmaats nie.
    So vir my gaan die kernidee van die universiteit oor die skep van nuwe idees en oor navorsing wat die gevestigde orde en diskoerse aan die kaak stel, veral as dit nie antwoorde bied aan vrae oor grootskaalse armoede, ongelykhede en uitsluitings in ons samelewing nie. Dit is tog waaroor Kant se opstelle oor die Conflict of the Faculties gaan. Vir hom is die roeping van die wysbegeerte. Vir hom is ’n taal ondergeskik aan hierdie roeping van interrogasie.
    Ek ken ook ’n paar mense by US wat nie Afrikaans magtig is nie, maar hulle verteenwoordig ’n minderheid van mense wat aangestel is maar net omdat daar amptelik nie onder Afrikaanse applikante mense met die nodige deskundigheid was nie.
    My argument is as die Afrikaanse basiese vereiste vir akademiese aanstellings laat vaar word, sal daar meer oorsese, nie Anglo-Saksiese, akademici aangestel word uit ’n globale poel van die beste navorsers. Nie net sal dit die uitnemendheid verder verhoog nie, maar dit sal in die lesingslokaal die spoke van Afrikaanse monoglotisme besweer waarteen daar die opstand is en waarvan die sosiologie nie begryp word deur die behoudendes nie.

  • Jou kernidee van 'n universiteit is natuurlik Engels, ongeag of nie-Angel-Saksiese akademici aangestel word. Maar die Engels wat jy voorstaan is nie die onskuldige Engels van die moedertaalspreker nie. Dit is toevallig ook die hiërargiese monoglot-Engels van 'n met-die-hand-uitgesoekte akademiese elite wat die ANC/SAKP se National Democratic Revolution voorstaan, 'n ideologiese elite wat 'n orde en diskoers wil vestig waar ideologiese sielsgenote en saamkeffers bloedskandelik net in Engels in gesprek met mekaar mag verkeer - en alleenlik oor onderwerpe wat die elite behaag.
    Dit is 'n ideologies-deurtrekte Engelstalige orde en diskoers wat die ANC/SAKP-Alliansie op Afrikaners en bruin Afrikaanssprekendes wil afdwing. Jy sal dus moet erken dat jou idee van 'n universiteit emosioneel Engelsgesind is, 'n vooroordeel waaroor die ideologiese skim van die ANC-alliansie se beleid van Africanism-cum-Kommunisme sy skadu werp.
    Jip: jou agbare President, sy Eksellensie Dr. Jakob Regop van Nkandla, het dit juis dié week (weereens) van die verhoog af uitgekraai dat dit die ANC en sy vennote se onomkeerbare beleid is om Suid-Afrika in 'n Sosialisties-Kommunistiese utopie te omskep.
    Sien jy Kant se "roeping tot interrogasie" en dié komende utopie se woordeskat en semiotiek as goeie bedmaats, of weet jy nie van totalitarisme se afsku van spraakvryheid, sy afsku van die skep van nuwe idees en navorsing wat die gevestigde ordes en diskoerse ontmasker nie? Kortom, weet jy nie van totalitarisme se ideologiese bekrompenheid en tirannieke regeringstyl nie, of is jy bereid om ons universiteite aan sosiale geniëring deur die ANC/SAKP-Alliansie se behoudende kaders toe te vertrou?
    Jy stem tog met hulle saam oor die gedwonge afskaffing van Afrikaanse universiteite, dan nie? Hulle is mos 'n politieke meerderheid?
    Want dit is ook lankal die ANC/SAKP-meerderheid se openlik verklaarde beleid om letterlik alle staatsinstellings, onderwysinstellings ingesluit, onder hul beheer te kry. Soos dit goeie kommuniste en Africanists betaam, sê die Alliansie se top kaders sonder skroom dat hulle universiteite as staatsinstellings beskou wat aan die Alliansie se ideologie onderworpe moet wees - 'n ideologie wat die verengelsing van Afrikaanse universiteite en alle ander Afrikaanse onderwysinrigtings as 'n voorvereiste stel.
    Is jy van mening dat die komende utopie akademiese uitnemendheid sal verhoog, antwoorde aan vrae oor grootskaalse armoede, ongelykhede en uitsluitings in ons samelewing sal bied, en dat dit sy eie elite se eenrigting, ideologie-gedrewe Engelse monoglottisme sal besweer?
    Of dat hy tot heteroglottisme en kulturele diversiteit verbind sal wil word?

  • engemi ferreira

    Ai tog. As mense net maar sonder ego's kon bestaan - beter nog - daarsonder gebore kon raak, hoeveel makliker sou dit nie wees om mekaar se menings met meer ontsag en begrip te hanteer nie. As dit nie so 'n hengse taak was nie, sou dit my byvoorbeeld veel plesier kon verskaf om aan al die deelnemers in hierdie spesifieke debat te wys hoe min u aller verskil en hoe naby aan die draad u aller staan en skinner.
    Hoe ook al, ek het heelwat geleer en miskien 'n jong antwoord gekry op een van my durende selfondersoeke: hoe kan ék die ander verstaan as ék ly aan my eie ek insluitende alles wat gepaard gaan met hoe die ek ontstaan het, teen watter agtergrond ek groot en oud geword het en al die tekortkominge waaraan ek self deel het, nevermaaind dit wat almal om my klaargekry het om my mee te um ... sê maar, besoedel. Of eintlik maar geslyp het tot die mens wat ek in wese geword het. Ek laat dit liewer om my insigte verder te deel in die o so publieke biegstoel.
    Maar ek wou nie nalaat om my opregte dank uit te spreek aan elkeen van u vir u aller menings wat almal so netjies verwoord is in keurige Afrikaans en Engels. Want persoonlik dink ek nie daar is 'n taal op aarde wat nie 'n eie skoonheid en nut het nie - en nie eens altyd slegs vir diegene wat in sogenoemde taal ontvang en gebore is nie. Maar soos dit duidelik blyk uit dié debat en ook my oorwoë opinie is, kan niemand iemand dwing om lief te wees vir dit wat hy of sy nie wil liefhê nie. Trouens, debatte soos hierdie dryf gewoonlik net die wig dieper in.
    'n Uitstekende oplossing sou wees om alle debateerders liefs saam te snoer in kore en hulle te laat sing. Natuurlik in beide tale. Nog beter, in al elf tale. Plus Namibië se vyf en twintig tale want daar lê ten minste drie van die hartstale waarmee my eie ore heel eerste mee bewus geword het van die melodieuse wonder van 'taal' - Ovahimba, Herero en wat ek geken het as 'Boesmantaal' soos aan my geleer deur my speelmaat, Xui. Die seun van 'n stamhoof en daarom 'n prins wat elke ses maande by ons gewerk het op kontrak, het my leer lees in Afrikaans toe ek vier jaar oud was uit 'n boekie getitel Die jakarras enne die orrekie. En tot vandag vir my veel mooier as die aanvaarde Afrikaans: Die Jakkals en die Otjie. Daar het 'n diep les gelê in die eerste lees wat Prins Johannes my geleer het. Natuurlik het die storie te doen gehad met ego's. Die ego van die Jakkals en die ego van die Otjie. Soos ek die saak verstaan het was die een slim, en die ander was goed. Natuurlik het die goeie gewen op die ou end.
    U sal verstaan dat sover dit taal aangaan dié vroeë herinnering my sterk bygebly het. Ek kan nooit nalaat om meer as een kant van 'n saak raak te sien nie. En dit is waarom ek u almal graag in 'n vier- of meerstemmige koor sou wou hoor, sodat die melodieuse verskille en ooreenkomste in u aller woorde kan sin maak vir die wat daarna luister. Ook dat almal wat nie gelees het nie bewus kan wees van die erns wat so baie mense het oor 'n saak wat so maklik van die tafel afgeswiep word. Dalk sou dit die swiepers verstom ...
    Ek hou niks van die huidige hegemonie waarin die 'entitlement' idee soveel voorrang kry nie. Trouens nie net in Suid Afrika nie maar oral op aarde. Ek glo - want dis 'n waarheid - dat ons wat mense is geen regte het nie; ons het wel voorregte. (En die konstitusie biedêm op daai punt.)
    Ons kom al hoe meer agter dat entitlement 'n gulsige monster is; die wat dit het, kry nooit genoeg nie.
    Waardering vir voorregte daarenteen, kweek vergewensgesindheid en begrip.
    Ten slotte moet ek Jessica uitsonder en bedank vir die juweeltjie van adellik-ikoniese afmetings: Dr Jakop Regop van Nkandla; iets om oor na te dink.

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