Volkstaat (Afrikaans: People's state) is a proposal for the establishment of self-determination for the Boer and Afrikaners minority in South Africa according to federal principles, alluding to full independence in the form of a homeland for Boer and Afrikaners.
Following the Great Trek, Boer pioneers expressed a drive for self-determination and independence through the establishment of several Boer Republics during the 19th century. The end of minority apartheid rule in South Africa in 1994 once again left some Afrikaners disillusioned and marginalized by the political changes, and resulted in a proposal for an autonomous Volkstaat.
Different methods exist according to which a Volkstaat can be established. Outside a use of force, the South African Constitution and International Legislation present certain possibilities for establishment. The geographic dispersal of minority Boer and Afrikaner communities throughout South Africa presents a significant obstacle to the establishment of a Volkstaat, as Boer and Afrikaners do not form a majority in any separate geographic area which could be sustainable independently. Supporters of the proposal have established three land cooperatives, Orania in the Northern Cape, Kleinfontein and Balmoral in Gauteng, as a practical implementation of the proposal.
- 1 History
- 2 Support and opposition
- 3 Matters creating support
- 4 Movements for the Volkstaat
- 5 Legal basis
- 6 Governmental response
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Historically, Boer have had a drive for independence which resulted in the establishment of different republics in what is now the modern Republic of South Africa. These republics were proclaimed by the Voortrekkers, of which the most notable were Natalia Republic, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. However, British rule after the Second Anglo-Boer War led to the dissolution of the last two remaining Boer states (Orange Free State and South African Republic).
Under apartheid, Afrikaner and British diasporan culture was protected by government leadership, Afrikaans and English were the official languages, and the majority of the politicians running the country were Afrikaners. The underlying principle of apartheid was racial separatism, and the means by which this was implemented, such as the homeland system of bantustans, were extremely biased against the non-European majority as it excluded them from exercising their rights in the broader South Africa. Afrikaners held a privileged position in South African society, alongside the other Europeans.
In the late 1980s, the Afrikaner-Vryheidstigting (Afrikaner Freedom Foundation), or Avstig, was formed by Professor Carel Boshoff. Avstig proposed a Volkstaat in the Northern Cape province, in a largely rural, and minimally developed region. Avstig bought the town of Orania in 1991, and turned it into a model Volkstaat. Boshoff continues to be a representative of the Freedom Front, a political party advocating the Volkstaat concept. Orania is situated at the far eastern apex of the original Volkstaat state, where the three provinces Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and Free State nearly intersect.
Support and opposition
The Freedom Front in the 1994 general election
During the 1994 general election, Afrikaners were asked by the Freedom Front (FF) to vote for the party if they wished to form an independent state or Volkstaat for Afrikaners. The results of the election showed that the Freedom Front had the support of 424,555 voters, the fourth highest in the country. The FF did not however gain a majority in any of South Africa's voting districts, their closest being 4,692 votes in Phalaborwa, representing 30.38% of that district.
Public opinion surveys of white South Africans
Two surveys were conducted among white South Africans, in 1993 and 1996, asking the question "How do you feel about demarcating an area for Afrikaners and other European South Africans in which they may enjoy self determination? Do you support the idea of a Volkstaat?" The 1993 survey found that 29% supported the idea, and a further 18% would consider moving to a Volkstaat. The 1996 survey found that this had decreased to 22% supporting the idea, and only 9% wanting to move to a Volkstaat. In the second survey, the proportion of European South Africans opposed to the idea had increased from 34% to 66%.
The 1996 survey found that "those who in 1996 said that they would consider moving to a Volkstaat are mainly Afrikaans speaking males, who are supporters of the Conservative Party or Afrikaner Freedom Front, hold racist views (24%; slightly racist: 6%, non racist: 0%), call themselves Afrikaners and are not content with the new democratic South Africa." The study used the Duckitt scale of subtle racism to measure racist views.
A 1999 pre-election survey suggested that the 26.9% of Afrikaners wanting to emigrate, but unable to, represented a desire for a solution such as a Volkstaat.
In January 2010, Die Beeld, an Afrikaans newspaper, held an online survey. Out of 11019 respondents, 56% (6178) said that they would move to a Volkstaat if one were created, a further 17% (1908) would consider it while only 27% (2933) would not consider it as a viable option. The newspaper's analysis of this was that the idea of a Volkstaat was doodgebore (stillborn) and that its advocates had been doing nothing but tread water for the past two decades, although it did suggest that the poll was a measure of dissatisfaction among Afrikaners. Hermann Giliomee later cited the Beeld poll in saying that over half of "northern Afrikaners" would prefer to live in a homeland.
|This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (June 2011)|
The Volkstaat concept has been criticised on the grounds that a fundamental difference allegedly exists between a Boer ethnic state and other modern examples of so-called "stateless peoples" seeking self-determination. The Afrikaner people's history goes back more than 300 years and even after many generations on the African continent, they have not been assimilated into the local African population and still forms a distinguished ethnic and cultural group. They are one of the many ethnic minorities that do not constitute a majority population of South Africa. Some argue that the Afrikaner people has a longer history than the well known Zulu nation, which is the largest ethnic minority group in South Africa. Many state that the Zulu nation came into existence under the rule King Shaka Zulu, in the early 18th century. At a conference on Afrikaner self-determination, held in Orania in October 2005, Afrikaner intellectuals showed "little enthusiasm for territorial separation", and proposed other ideas, such as "cyber-government". The main reasons for this is that Orania is located in an area with no economic development, low rainfall and no access to the sea. By 2011 more than 15% of the Afrikaner population has emigrated. There is an ever increasing number of Afrikaners that support the idea of self-determination, although the political leadership still don't support this concept.
Matters creating support
Dissatisfaction with life in post-apartheid South Africa is often cited as an indication of support for the idea of a Volkstaat among Afrikaners. A poll carried out by the Volkstaat Council among white people in Pretoria identified crime, economic problems, personal security, affirmative action, educational standards, population growth, health services, language and cultural rights, and housing as reasons to support the creation of Volkstaat.
Movements for the Volkstaat
The Freedom Front has been the major political driving force for the formation of a Volkstaat. This Afrikaner-focused political party has representation in the national Parliament as well as several Provincial legislatures in South Africa. Support for this party has however decreased to just under 140,000 votes, being less than 1% of the total votes cast (approximately 20% among registered Afrikaner voters) by the 2004 national elections. The Freedom Front advocates following the Belgian, Canadian and Spanish models of granting territorial autonomy to linguistic minorities, believing it the only way to protect the rights of Afrikaner people. Under this policy, it proposes the creation of an Afrikaner homeland, comprising the area that lies in the North Western Cape between the West Coast and the Orange River.
The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging made headlines in March 2008 for their re-activation and plans of establishing an independent Boer state. Plans include a demand for land, such as Stellaland and Goshen, that they claim is legally theirs in terms of the Sand River Convention of 1852 and other historical treaties, through the International Court of Justice in The Hague if necessary.
Die Boeremag (Boer force/power) was a violent Boer separatist organisation. Most of its members were arrested in 2003, and are facing charges of treason. Similar violent methods towards Volkstaat were employed by the Orde van die Dood in the 1980s.
Orania and Kleinfontein
One Volkstaat attempt is the small town of Orania in the Northern Cape province. The land on which Orania is built is privately owned, and Afrikaners have been encouraged by promoters of the Volkstaat concept to move to Orania, although only a small number has responded, resulting in a population of approximately 600 in 2001, 10 years after being established. Support for Orania recently seems to be growing somewhat with their recent economic "boom". Today, Orania is home to about 546 Afrikaner families (1,523 inhabitants) but has approximately 10000 'uitwoners' or 'ex'habitants who are part of the Orania Movement.
Another attempt is the settlement of Kleinfontein outside Pretoria (in the Tshwane metropolitan area). Both towns fall within larger municipalities, and are not self-governing. Orania is currently petitioning the government to become a separate municipality.
Section 235 of the South African Constitution allows for the right to self-determination of a community, within the framework of "the right of the South African people as a whole to self-determination", and pursuant to national legislation. This section of the constitution was one of the negotiated settlements during the handing over of political power in 1994. The Freedom Front was instrumental in including this section in the constitution. No national legislation in this regard has yet been enacted for any ethnic group, however.
International legislation presents a recourse for the establishment of a Volkstaat over and above than what the South African Constitution offers. This legislation is available to all minorities who wish to obtain self-determination in the form of independence. The requirements set by international legislation are explained by Prof C. Lloyd Brown-John of the University of Windsor (Canada), as follows: "A minority who are geographically separate and who are distinct ethnically and culturally and who have been placed in a position of subordination may have a right to secede. That right, however, could only be exercised if there is a clear denial of political, linguistic, cultural and religious rights." The rights awarded to minorities were formally enshrined by the United Nations General Assembly when it adopted resolution 47/135 on 18 December 1992. However, it is questionable whether this applies to Afrikaners, as there is no municipality in South Africa in which white, Afrikaans-speaking citizens represent a majority, so Afrikaners are not "geographically separate".
On 5 June 1998, Mohammed Valli Moosa (then minister of constitutional development in the African National Congress (ANC) government) stated during a parliamentary budget debate that "the ideal of some Afrikaners to develop the North Western Cape as a home for the Afrikaner culture and language within the framework of the Constitution and the charter of human rights is viewed by the government as a legitimate ideal."
The Volkstaat Council was an organisation of 20 people, created by the South African government, via the Volkstaat Council Act in 1994. This was in accordance with sections 184A and 184B of the 1993 South African Constitution, which state: "The Council shall serve as a constitutional mechanism to enable proponents of the idea of a Volkstaat to constitutionally pursue the establishment of such a Volkstaat…". The members, all sympathizers of the volkstaat idea, were: Johann Wingaard, a retired industrialist and chairman of the council, Dirk Viljoen, a town planner (vice-chairman), Anna Boshoff, daughter of Hendrik Verwoerd, her son Carel, the nuclear scientist Wally Grant, Chris de Jager, Mars de Klerk and Hercules Booysen, three jurists, Ernest Pienaar, former general in the South African Defence Force, "Natie" Luyt, Piet Liebenberg, Chris Jooste and Pikkie Robbertze, four academics, Koos Reyneke, an architect, Douw Steyn, a senior member of the civil defence system, Herman Vercueil from the Transvaalse Landbou-unie, Kobus Visser, a former head of the Criminal Investigation Department, Flip Buys, an executive of the Labor Union Solidariteit, Duncan du Bois, a local politician in Durban and Riaan Visagie, a teacher.
The council's funding was terminated in 1999, without the council being formally disbanded. The council produced a final report, making three key recommendations:
- That areas with an Afrikaner majority should enjoy "territorial self-determination". Areas identified included the region around Pretoria, and a region of the Northern Cape Province.
- That the government establish an "Afrikaner Council", as an advisory board to the government. "Representation in parliament, where numerical power is all that mattered, was not seen as a democratic system for minorities."
- That the government create legislation enacting the other two points. Draft legislation for the Afrikaner Council was provided.
The provisions in the constitution allowing for formation of the council were removed in 2001, by the Repeal of Volkstaat Council Provisions Act, in accordance with the original act.
Johann Wingard, chair of the council, expressed the view in 2005 that he doubted if any government official ever opened any of the reports to read them. Additionally, he stated that only a "civil war" would ever enable Afrikaners to gain independence in any part of South Africa. The opposite is suggested, however, by the fact that then deputy president, Thabo Mbeki, and then Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, quoted figures from Volkstaat Council reports in a report to parliament in 1999. Nelson Mandela, the president at the time, specially requested that the delivery of the report be delayed until he could attend its presentation personally.
Subsequent to the disbanding of the Volkstaat Council, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities was established in 2003. This committee is charged with the protection of the rights to cultural identity of all self-identifying groups in South Africa, including Afrikaners. The committee includes an Afrikaner, JCH Landman, who is also a member of the Afrikaner Alliance. The reports from the Volkstaat Council were to be handed over to this committee.
The ANC government formalised their stance on the issue in 1998-1999, when they declared that they would not support a Volkstaat, but would do everything they could to ensure the protection of the Afrikaner language and culture, along with the other minority cultures in the country.
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