" YOU cannot argue with an -11' Afrikaner nationalist." That was the impression formed by Major Patrick Wall, M.P., during his recent visit to South Africa, as we reported last week.
That impression was confirmed by the recent press conference which Mr. Eric Louw, Minister of External Affairs in Dr. Verwoerd's cabinet, gave in London to a carefully screened gathering of over 100 journalists, not one of whom was an African.
The most frightening and depressing aspect of Mr, Louw's conference was the complete rigidity with which he defended the principles of apartheid despite the fact that this rigidity stands responsible for the death of over 70 Africans at Sharpeville and the detention of over 19,000 South Africans of all colours today. Mr. Louw's defence was the right and need of all peoples to express their own nationhood.
TT must, in fairness and under-11. standing, be remembered that the history of the Afrikaners is unique.
Over 300 years ago the Dutch set foot on an apparently deserted land and began colonising it. Only a few primitive Bushmen and Hottentots were to be found in a potentially highly fertile soil, The Dutch imported Africans and Asiatics for the menial tasks of the growing plantation.
Then at the end of the 18th century came the British, and the Dutch Afrikaners or Boers trekked north and east, while the great Bantu warrior races came down from the north fighting for domination in a series of Wan.
Thus the Afrikaners developed a deep-rooted tradition of a pioneer farmer race for ever holding its own against the aggressive Africans and the imperialist British. It had been their country before either the British or the Africans had settled in it.
Such elementary rights as the right to use their own language they saw threatened in Milner's policy immediately after the Boer War, a war of self-defence, as they and many others saw it— of self-defence against the incursion of the more unpleasant aspects of industrial capitalism into their way of life.
They have always had the feeling of fighting with their backs to the wall—or, more precisely (since a wall is something which has another side and can be broken through) inside a laager, the ring of oxwagons formed against an enemy attack, a ring from which there is no escape save by victory or death. In many ways it was a noble tradition which evoked admiration, for example from G. K. Chesterton.
It is this tradition which goes far to explain why they are unmoved today when the whole world unites in voicing their condemnation.
A strong factor in the making of this tradition has been their religion.
The voartrekkers, marching away from the British Cape, with a rifle in one hand and the Bible in the other, identified themselves too closely with God's chosen people of the Old Testament as they stood alone against the idolatry with which they were surrounded.'
But great traditions can be vitiated, and indeed too often are vitiated, by a one-sided ideology. Their struggles had caused them to forget the words of St. Paul when he wrote that in Christ "there is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither bond nor free."
Naturally, they were not the only Christians to forget this, but whereas in contemporary times Christianity has generally condemned racialism and bond. age, being often recalled to these truths by the better side of
democratic liberalism, the Afrikaners have stood firm.
BECAUSE they have had them
selves to fight so hard for their own rights as a group, they cannot conceive of a situation where the basic rights of the individual must take precedence over the rights of the group, and it is no accident that the Christian spokesmen of South Africa have explicitly had to condemn as a denial of fundamental human rights such Acts as the Group Areas Act and the Mixed Marriage Act.
It is certain that there can be no compromise between these two altitudes. The forces of history, resting as they do in this case on a fundamental Christian truth and supported by the massive weight of the African "coming of age," must in the end defeat the Afrikaners.
To help doubtless honest and worthy men like Mr. Louw to realise these truths is a much better way of preventing eventual disaster than to oppose the rigidity of Afrikaner nationalism with force, whether direct or indirect.