I am sitting here, a Friday afternoon and waiting for the sun to rise in California and as I listened to music I thought of the often asked question to me: “What is an Afrikaner?” I recollect when I got serious with my late wife and her with me (I am still grateful) the first question most of her friends asked…”Melissa, is he white? Why is he white if African?” It is a fair question, most uitlanders don’t know we were here in Africa since 1652 and we have our own culture, language and legends second to none.
But what exactly is an Afrikaner? I can tell you what stands in the history books and let me quote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame, who wrote in 1902 what is quoted below in his book "The Great Boer War.”
“Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth.
Take this formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive, place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider. Then, finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism.
Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual, and you have the modern Boer—the most formidable antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain. Our military history has largely consisted in our conflicts with France, but Napoleon and all his veterans have never treated us so roughly as these hard-bitten farmers with their ancient theology and their inconveniently modern rifles."
Damn right, the Second Anglo Boer War was the costliest war the British Empire fought until the First World War and to get the Afrikaner to surrender they created concentration camps, yes, the concept came from the British Army and one third of Afrikaner women and children died in conditions which would become infamous in places like Dachau and Buchenwald in 1945. You will read of the deaths of 37 000 innocents, a war crime, in every fiction and nonfiction book (about 22 or thereabouts now) I wrote. What does this mean? The Afrikaner carries grudges and dislike anything English on principle. Once you get that you have us pretty much figured out. You can also be your last penny we will fight and keep on fighting if pushed too far. We do not live in fear except towards God.
Our record as fighting men cannot be disputed or taken away because it is history for anyone to see (or read my books). It is written and if you know your history you will know the very same Boers captured for Her Majesty (referred to in my books as the British Parasites or Leeches) German South West Africa as well as German East Africa where we ran into the best guerrilla fighter ever, General Paul von Lettow Vorbeck. Yeah, ask around if you don’t name the name, you will be astonished. At the same time see if the words “Delvile Wood” means anything to you. And so I can carry on right through the Second World War, Korea, the Rhodesian Bush War and the South African Border War. It reminds me of that cricket poster in 1992, “Undefeated since…Tobruk in 1942.”
Individually? Well a proud nation with a proud record. Sailor Malan, the highest scoring ace in the Battle of Britain, the commanding officer of the Royal Navy Pedestal convoy to relieve Malta and the creation of the US Navy & USAF Fighter Weapons Schools (Top Gun & Red Flag), yes, all done by South Africans or men born in South Africa. Interestingly, Sailor Malan was in the RAF, the Admiral in the Royal Navy and the last fellow in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. Yet they can claim South African roots. There are many more I can mention.
But what about scientific achievements? We think of Chris Barnard, the first heart transplant in the world, back in 1969. Did you know JRR Tolkien came from South Africa? What about the first MRAP (landmine resistant vehicles) in 1974. Nuclear weapons, home grown, 1978. The Ratel Infantry fighting vehicle, 1980, still with double the range of anything the rest of the world can produce. 1985, the G5 howitzer, 43 miles shooting range with base bleed 155 mm shells, yes almost twice what the West can do, its sister the highly mobile G6. The world has yet to catch up. In 1988, the Mirage Cheetah D fighter jet winning every encounter with the F15 Strike Eagle. The Kukri helmet system with look-down, shoot-down capabilities, stolen in 1983 by Dieter Gerhard and subsequently copied by the Soviet Union and guess what, the East German MIG 31 Fulcrums and Sukhoi SU 27 Flankers won every engagement against any Western fighter because of it during trials in the 1990s.
Then came 1990, the watershed year. The Afrikaner voluntarily surrendered political power. Yes, we were not forced, we lifted our legs (you know what I mean) on sanctions and the armed struggle. Meeting with us meant death, as I explained in my police autobiography “Mean Streets.” We stood back and said, we are all Africans first. We understand your need for the vote and your own leaders and walked away from Apartheid. We knew we would be outvoted and abused and many (wisely) left.
Where are we today? Well, let us look at Afrikaans music as a practical example. When the “De la Rey” song came out in 2006 (I just listened to it), I recall frantic meetings in government (and let us not say which department, they say they don’t exist) over that song. They absolutely believed the Afrikaner will rally and kill them and had a terrible fright. Millions were spent on attending meetings and places where the song was played, videos were taken and studied. We kept saying, the Afrikaner is extremely self-disciplined, he will not rise. He has no need to rise because he has been through worse times before. They did not believe us and the fear went on for another year.
I noted the fear of the Afrikaner, mentioned in the “Mean Streets” books in the Casspir vehicles being sold by the hundreds. Shame, they cannot and are not replaced, why then were they sold? Fear, they see those vehicles and remember a time when the South African Army and Police Force were rampant and victorious and expected to win at every encounter and did. Unlike the Springboks, where we fear even an encounter with Japan, Scotland, Samoa, Argentine, Australia and especially the All Blacks. We never lost a battle, ever and our enemies remember this.
You know, we can trace the Afrikaner history in songs too, yes, going back to oom Ge Korsten’s “Die Hartseer Wals,” Steve Hofmeyer’s “Pampoen,” “The World in Union” (RWC 1995), “Impi,” and so I can go on. And listening to these songs I can tell you what the Afrikaner is, the best in Africa, in technology, in war and whatever else we fancy to do. We are not broken, you have taken our political power, you have taken our anthem, our flag and tried to take our manhood with leaders which turned out to be cowards that run for cover. I have a message for you. As you fear, one day, a real De la Rey will arrive and he will not be a far right whiner, they ran away already. The Afrikaner is here to stay. Make peace, we are white Africans and we are proud. History will repeat as it always does.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.