AfriForum’s Ian Cameron: Afrikaans University built to protect culture

AfriForum spokesperson Ian Cameron tells Tim Modise that the gathering of Afrikaner organisations under the ‘Toekoms’ or Future rubric has decided to protect the Afrikaner culture and language through the establishment of a private university. He says the university is partially operational and is registered with the government. He says his organisation embarked on ten-days of reliance where they helped municipalities fix the roads and collect refuse. Cameron argues that their agenda is not racially motivated and that they have attracted membership from other communities.

Ian Cameron, thanks very much for talking to us here at Biznews. I’m very keen to understand what the ‘ToekomsBeraad’ held by the different Afrikaner formations was about, this past weekend.

It’s a great question, Tim. We got together with all of the organisations that fall under the Solidarity Movement, to discuss what future we can build in South Africa. The aim is to look at what we can have developed by 2020, and the reason for this is we see that there’s increasing attack on our culture and of us being in the country. For example, there’s no attention to Afrikaans at universities (a great example to use) where they keep saying things like ‘Afrikaans has to leave. It needs to make way for other things’ and therefore, we decided to start making other plans. We started a project as well – Ten Days of Self-Reliance – where we started to do certain services by ourselves in different areas. For example, fixing potholes and fixing electricity or streetlights, etcetera.

Do you feel that as Afrikaners, you are under attack, that you’re being marginalised in South Africa today?

Definitely. If we hear the utterances made by President Jacob Zuma for example, where he says things like ‘from Jan van Riebeek’s time, we intruded in the country’. It’s the same with Minister Blade Nzimande where they say things like ‘Afrikaans needs to be removed as it’s the language of the oppressor’. The Zulu King as well, said at the beginning of the year ‘white people’s land needs to be taken’ and he encourages people to fight to remove that land. We need to make sure that these types of utterances aren’t taken lightly and we need to make sure that we act upon that.

Have you engaged the Government in terms of these concerns? An argument can be made that South Africa is democratic and free. There are political organisations, which can always agitate on your behalf. You can always go to the Commission that deals with the protection of community rights and cultural rights, etcetera. Have you tried that?

Definitely. I think the most relevant example would be to discuss to police regarding farm attacks throughout the country. Farm attacks are on the increase again this year. If we look at the stats, we don’t see any change happening regarding farm attacks and the police just won’t meet with us to talk about a solution. The only person in the police who has come forward and said ‘let’s meet’ is Lieutenant-General Mothiba, the Gauteng Provincial Commissioner who said ‘let’s talk about this. This is a serious problem. We need to take hands to sort out the problem’. Unfortunately, on Government level, we don’t see any representation regarding minority groups in the country and everything is just about the majority. It’s very important that we start regarding/considering the minorities throughout the country.

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The ‘ToekomsBeraad’ as you call it, is an equivalent of what? Was it in competition with the ANC’s NGC or not?

Not at all. I think it’s actually interesting. The ANC were discussing all the problems they have within the party and the corruption problems. They had so many arguments there while we were actually discussing how we could build a country of success together; how we can take hands with other communities/cultures throughout the country and make sure that we go forward and develop South Africa instead of breaking it down. Therefore, it was more of a planning meeting than a reactive meeting to what has happened in the past.

Are Afrikaners still as influential as they used to be during the Apartheid days? When a meeting of this nature is held, (you can imagine this, Ian), the impression created is that that formation/that group of people wants to bring back the days of Apartheid and they are gone. They are done with. Apartheid will not come back.

It’s excellent that you say that because we agree with you completely. Apartheid is over. It’s not coming back. We don’t want it to come back. We don’t agree with it either. What we are saying is we need to create a space for Afrikaners in the country. We are very proud to be Afrikaners and proud to be South Africans, and that’s the reason why we have held this big meeting. As I said, we took hands with other communities as well. For example, in the Eastern Cape in the last while, crime has gone up in rural areas. AfriForum went and we took hands with the taxi associations there to start patrolling farming and the township areas. Through doing this, we’ve built a relationship with different communities and different cultures, and everyone works together across the board.

What do Afrikaners want? You had your discussions and resolutions were adopted there. In the broader South African context, I detect that there might be a case of being misunderstood in that the Afrikaners feel they are being misunderstood by the South African Government and the public at large. Am I right in that regard?

I think that by Government, you are correct. In general, in the country there is a general consensus throughout the population of the country that people say ‘we need to make space for all cultures and all groups’. Unfortunately, we don’t get the same reaction from government. They make political utterances where we hear them saying these things, but we don’t see them applying it. What do we want? We want a space to live freely, safely, and with a good future in South Africa. We want good education (mother-tongue education) and within the Constitution, we are allowed to have that, and I don’t see that right being protected by Government at the moment. We want mother-tongue education. Institutions where BEE isn’t disqualifying our people just because of the colour of their skin or the language they speak because unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening at the moment.

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Would those be the two main resolutions, which you adopted?

Also, to create higher education in Afrikaans and a future for people to be educated in South Africa… We don’t see Afrikaans universities being protected. In the past week, you could hear utterances made by Professor Dan Kwadi at the Potchefstroom University/Northwest University where he said he encourages students to fight, right after they said they want Afrikaans to be removed. According to us, this is a perfect time for us to start our own university to make sure that we protect our language, our culture, and build a movement that will help each other. If you look at the members of the Solidarity Movement, we have over 350,000 members that belong solely to the Solidarity Movement. If we take their families into consideration, we have just over 1.2 million people involved in the Solidarity Movement.

How are you going to go about establishing your own university? I wonder if Afrikaner business interests in the country support you anywhere.

Actually, the definitely do. We’re already seeing support. We have an organisation called AfriSake, which is growing by the day. They were actually established about two years ago. If we look at the university, it’s already there. We already present three degrees and it is registered with Government as well.

You already have the university.

We already have it. It’s called Akademia and it’s a very unique system. We have six places across the country where people can sit in classrooms and they get classes over video communication right there and then. They cans study part-time or full-time.

What faculties/courses do you offer now?

Currently, it’s mostly focused on business studies. For example, business administration, business management and marketing, and then we are also starting now with a nursing degree. We’re also looking into having an education degree where we can train teachers and people who would like to go and work in schools.

So it’s self-funded and it has all the academics. Are the qualifications there recognised?

The qualifications are recognised by Government. It’s registered at Government and it is self-funded by the Movement.

What has changed, from your point of view, compared to the early days of democracy when President Mandela was still in charge? Remember, he went out of his way to embrace all the communities. As I said earlier, people will have the sense that Afrikaners want to break away from South Africa and restore the old order of Afrikaner domination.

That’s really not the case. We are proud to live in South Africa. We want to be recognised as South Africans. I think that what has change…I wrote down some statistics this morning, just regarding corruption in the country. If you compare the Mandela regime (or the time that he was President) to now in the Zuma years, there’s a drastic change; not only regarding crime but also, if you look at the statistics around corruption in general. Therefore, we need to make sure that we stop that; that we become involved in community structures to influence Government to make sure that we can stop corruption and make sure we build a future for the country.

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Some members of the Afrikaner community probably do not agree with you and would place you as a ‘right-wing formation’ in that you are harking back to right-wing politics.

I think it’s actually the other way around. I think there are people in the Afrikaans culture (and a very small minority in the Afrikaans groups) that would say we’re actually too far left because we work with other groups and we really do encourage working with other groups. As I said in the Eastern Cape, since we started doing that we have so much more recognition in the Xhosa culture/groups throughout that province. It’s the same thing in the Northwest and the Northern Cape. Since we’ve started doing this, there’s no reason to say that we’re an exclusive Afrikaner organisation. It’s not true. We’re an inclusive organisation. All of those Taxi Association members are members of AfriForum. We have members of the trade union as well, right across the country that aren’t white or Afrikaans and we a represent them, too. A good example: about a year ago, (the case is still on with the Department of Correctional Services) we represented nine coloured labourers/people who work for Correctional Services because they have been negatively influenced by BEE. They don’t receive promotions because they aren’t black.

You know that it’s part of the Government policy now – flowing from the Constitution – that we have to have Affirmative Action and we have to have Black Economic Empowerment because of the exclusion/marginalisation of black people during the Apartheid days. Many people would say that’s a reasonable way of bringing about transformation and equality in the nation. There’s a good Afrikaans word for it – regstellende aksie. That’s what Afrikaners should be embracing, saying ‘we do need regstellende aksie and it must be supported all the way’.

I don’t think Afrikaners have a problem with giving other people opportunities. The problem is that nowadays, it’s at the cost of other South Africans. Not only white Afrikaans South Africans, but at the cost of Indian South Africans, coloured South Africans, and Chinese South Africans. They are not going to be recognised in the new legislation coming in, in BEE either and they’re not going to count as black in businesses. For that reason, we need to stop that. We should rather be focusing on education – making sure we educate people from a very young age, that they have decent education, that they can go to universities and get degrees, and in that way, we develop a country. We create opportunities through education. Doors open if someone has a degree. Currently, the amount of money that’s just being lost in corruption… A statistic, which I want to quote for you, if you look at Willie Hofmeyer, he’s the old Head of the Special Investigations Unit.

In 2011 alone (per year), ± 20 percent of South Africa’s Procurement Budget was lost to corruption. That’s about R30bn per year. That’s a massive amount. Imagine the amount of education that we can present to young people in South African with that kind of money and the infrastructure we can build to create a future for all young people across the board (not according to race), throughout South Africa.

Going forward, you’ve had your meeting over the weekend – thousands of people attending that – and you spoke about some of the decisions. What kind of future would you like to help shape for South Africa?

Firstly, we’re going to look at safety. That’s one of our priorities. We need to make sure we stop crime. There’s so much space within the legal framework, for us to create community safety structures and to train people. The Taxi Associations in the township areas and in the city communities as well, we train people in First Aid. We train them in what to do when they arrive on a crime scene. How do they handle it to make sure that it’s protected before the police’s forensic services get there? We specifically look at those kinds of things. We had a mass patrol two weeks ago. More than 3000 people across South Africa patrolled together. No serious crimes were reported in those areas and this proves that through different communities standing together, we won’t see crime. That’s the first part. With the next part, we’re really pushing a lot of funds into education.

We need to make sure that we get bursaries to people who need to study, go to school, go to university, complete their degrees, and to be able to build on the economy of the country and then obviously, to start providing services. Why do we do this? We see municipalities not working/not functioning properly. If you look at the statistics, only 14 percent of South African municipalities had a clean audit in the past year. That shows us that there’s a serious problem. Therefore, in the past ten days we did 200 community projects right across the country. One-hundred-and-thirty-five tons of tar was used to fix roads/potholes. Four-thousand potholes were fixed, 201 streetlights fixed, and 2007 trees were planted. The last one (and it’s a good one to mention); almost 900 tons of landfill refuse was removed in areas where municipalities don’t do that.

Those types of services are helping all South Africans. It’s not about being an Afrikaner, English, Zulu, Xhosa or whatever it might be. This is helping all South Africans.

Ian Cameron, good luck with the whole project and the decisions/resolutions you took, and we hope to talk to you in the future.

Thank you very much, Tim.