Bertus de Villiers, Beeld
“Few subjects upset people as much as emigration. The advantages, the disadvantages. The longings, the new identity. The hatred, the love. The recriminations, the dream. In the ten years since my emigration, I have spoken to hundreds of emigrants to find out what motivated them, what’s going on inside their heads. I tried to get past the stories of violence to probe the underlying psychological motivation.
‘The gap between what white people expected to be happening in the New South Africa, and what is actually happening, simply remains too large. In the cities progressing to revolution, they ‘rebelled’ by leaving.
White people expected South Africa to somehow be ‘different’ from the rest of Africa; that it would be better; that white and black could really enjoy a place in the sun together.
“But it isn’t. And now they’re angry. Hurt, disappointed, rejected, gatvol. And their ‘revolution’ is to move, because it doesn’t help them to fight. It has nothing to do with racism or bitterness. It has everything to do with unfulfilled, subjective expectations. While the Constitution is a world-class document, the manner in which it is being managed repeatedly turns into a world-class mess.
“Within a decade, white people became bywoners in the land of their birth. Now they prefer to become bywoners in other countries which offer them more chances and also offer them acceptance.
The pushing-power moving people to leave South Africa is stronger than the drawing power to the land of their choice. White people leave South Africa with pain. With hatred even.
And it takes a long time to get over this. This makes us (Afrikaners) different from other emigrants. I meet hundreds of Brits, Italians and Kiwis who emigrated because they wanted to, not because they had to.
Yet in my past decade in Australia, I have not met one white (South African) person who wanted to be in Australia out of their own free will. They all would much rather be in Pretoria, Cape Town and Lichtenburg, go to church Sundays, go to Loftus (rugby grounds) and make a difference in their community.
But they feel kicked out. Their skills, expertise and the love for their country are treated with deep contempt. And another country is courting them. It’s like a man who neglects his wife. She will leave him for someone else who makes her feel like a woman.
And once the Boers arrive in Australia and note the appreciation of the people, they fall madly in love with their new country. That’s why the chance that people will remigrate from places such as Australia is about zero.
The lessons for policy-makers is that it is possible to slow down emigration. But forget trying to get back those who are in this country. Rather try and keep those who are still there – by giving them hope. A home. Recognition, appreciation.
Afrikaans is the key:
I once was with prof Pieter de Lange when he told senior ANC-guys before the organisation was unbanned: ““Don’t touch Afrikaans. If you touch it, Afrikaners will lose their fear of English and leave (like the English have done).”
Needless to say, they ignored this tip. And the results are clear. Afrikaners don’t fear English any longer. They arrive in Australia on Friday and start working on Monday. They aren’t ashamed of their accents any longer.
They talk Afrikaans at home but study and work in English. Just as they were in fact already doing in South Africa.
Now they just want to survive
What is a human being without a dream? White people now experience how their dreams about the future, about their advancement, about their children’s future opportunities, have been stolen.
“Of course one can become increasingly windgat about the grand holiday home or the car – but those are not the dreams a guy needs. You don’t want to crawl on your belly to get your dream; you don’t want to bribe a guy for your dream. You don’t want to say ‘comrade’ to a guy, or laugh when he makes stupid jokes, and you don’t want to keep silent about his gigantic mistakes because you want to be politically correct.
People want to know when you can sit back and start planning for your future. You want to know that if your child works hard, he can get out on top. But many have stopped having such dreams. Now, they just want to survive. South Africa has become a dream-breaker for many.
SA brainpower in Perth is formidable
The South African brainpower which has been collected by Perth, is incredible. There’s enough SA engineers to build an entire country. Enough teachers to educate children at hundreds of schools, enough doctors to get Nr 1 Military Hospital kick-started again. Enough nurses to populate countless clinics. And none of them wanted to be in Perth. But all their needs for recognition, for self-fulfilment, are fullfilled. They get acknowledged. They get advanced. They survive. They grow. And they are secure.
Rugby is the new patriotism.
People want to love their country. A land is more than just a place to stay. they call it patriotism. White people’s patriotism was taken away from them because they aren’t allowed to participate in their new country. Their cultural holidays are treated with disdain. Their language is back in the kitchen... They don’t know the names of their Ministers. They don’t know the (new) names of their towns. Their fears are being dismissed as ‘racism’. Their criticism is seen as bitterness. They are being turned into people who are ashamed of their own history.
And they have become visitors to Africa. That’s why they are nearly perverse when it comes to rugby. It’s the new patriotism.
Picture: “I have a rugby-jersey which is half-Springbok and half-Wallaby jersey. (picture) When I wear it to the Subiaco-stadium in Perth the guys laugh and say; ‘mate you have got your bets hedged.’ At Loftus (in Pretoria) a guy snarls at me: ‘take off that f…ng jersey or I will donner you.’
The entire world is on the move. That’s different from two decades ago. It has become very normal to migrate. The emigration-process from South Africa however, is different from this migration-pattern in four different ways:
- White people don’t leave South Africa temporarily. They go, never to return.
- Those who emigrate sell everything. Not one asset remains behind for which they would need to return. That’s disinvestment on a massive scale.
- The numbers leaving South Africa are proportionally very high. One-quarter of the entire white population aged 15 years or higher has already left. Any Western country would be forced to its knees by such a mass-exodus.
- The tendency is that entire nuclear families and extended families leave the country of their birth.
Love/hate relationship between those who stay and those who left
Another unique thing about the South African migration pattern is the love/hate relationship between those who stay behind and those who leave.
Not one other country in the world is so pre-occupied with the emigration-debate, whether it’s in the letters-columns of Beeld newspaper or the sad stories from Sarie relating tales from people who miss the African sunset, or report about people eating biltong in Sydney, salted with their tears…
Other countries don’t talk about emigration that way – New Zealand, Britain, Italy. Nobody talks about it. Only in South Africa does the subject sweep up such massive emotions of hatred, anger, fury, and also jealousy and longing. I don’t know why but I know it’s weird!
Many expats from other countries become a source of economic ties between the old country and the new country. However when it comes to South Africa, there’s no new advantage between the expats and the old country except a Afrikaans CDs and Rooibos-tea. It’s almost as if the emigrants are already written off.
Where are the leaders?
And one thing which really makes me hopeless ab out the future is the lack of leadership in the new generation (of Afrikaners) in South Africa. The old leaders struggle with the past and try and explain that they haven’t given up and sold out. The new leaders drink beer in their lapas and try and remain as small a target as possible so that they won’t endanger their contracts or their jobs. Everybody is lying low.
Leadership amongst whites and especially among Afrikaners is thinner than paper. There’s not one general. On the contrary there’s not even a bleddie corporal. The troopies wander about and everyone goes in their own direction.
A few years ago there were about 5-million white people in South Africa – about 12% of the total population. Now there’s about 4-million – about 9% of the population. Before long, there will only be one- or two-million white people left: the numbers will drop because of emigration, deaths, low-birth rates and low immigration (of whites) into South Africa.
Bertus de Villiers was a Constitutional expert in South Africa, and is now a member of the Bench in Perth, West Australia.
» » » » [Beeld; Translation by Adriana Stuijdt; via Henri Le Riche, of Afrikaans Newspaper Supplement in English]