Volkstaat (Afrikaans for "People's state") is a proposal for the establishment of a homeland for Afrikaners. Outside a possible use of force, the South African Constitution and International Legislation present certain possibilities for the establishment of such a state. The South African regime declared that they would not support a Volkstaat, but "would do everything they could to ensure the protection of the Afrikaner language and culture". What a fine job they are doing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Afrikaner Homeland as Evolving Symbol

With the establishment of the new government in 1994, provision was made for formal consideration of an Afrikaner homeland by a clause in the new constitution in terms of which a Volkstaat Council was established. The task of this Council is to advise the government about the advisability and practical implementation of an Afrikaner homeland. Even though this Council produced no meaningful results by the beginning of 1996, it was included as part of the final constitution which was adopted in May 1996.

Avstig (the Afrikaner Freedom Foundation,) advocating an Afrikaner homeland in the Northern Cape, became an important partner in the Freedom Front, the major political party representing "right-wing" or "ethnic" Afrikaners in Parliament. The Volkstaat Council, unfortunately, was dominated by ultra-conservative members who still cling to views of a white homeland in the northern part of the country. The Council therefore failed to reach agreement on the geographic location of the proposed homeland.

The retention of the Volkstaat Council in the new constitution is evidence of the prevailing spirit of conciliation and a commitment to negotiation especially between the ANC and the Freedom Front. It is to be expected that this Council will gradually acquire primarily a symbolic role. The idea of an independent state is unacceptable to black leadership. The prospects of an Afrikaner homeland as a geographic and economically viable unit is questionable, but the symbolic importance of an Afrikaner "heartland" is obvious. A symbolic ethnic Afrikaner heartland could be accommodated in the new South Africa. Symbols, often everyday familiar names and images, possess connotations that extend beyond their conventional meaning. As Carl Jung argued (1964:20-21): "Thus a word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider unconscious aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained. Nor can one hope to define or explain it. As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason."

Because symbols provide a link between the visible world and the supra-sensible world, where the most deeply-felt aspirations of humanity reside, they are powerful forces for either unity or division. In the transitional process towards a new South Africa, symbols are undergoing substantial reevaluation. Sectarian symbols that are associated with historical and often violent and destructive divisions in the past are no longer acceptable.

The increasing concern about the future of Afrikaans in the new South Africa reflects the importance of sacred symbols in a time of change and conflict. Afrikaans and English are both official languages, but differ greatly in many respects. Because Afrikaans was the language of the government, it is also seen as the symbol of the National Party and apartheid. This symbolism has political repercussions. The extent to which the new South African flag, however, was widely and enthusiastically accepted by all population groups, speaks well for the spirit of conciliation prevailing at present.



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