By Ernst Roets
The ideology of white nationalism is one that should be both exposed and opposed. White nationalism has been described in many different ways, but essentially it boils down to promoting the interests of white people, because they are white. Of course, black nationalism could be equally problematic, but that is not the point of this article.
AfriForum has been and could rightly be described as many things. At its core, AfriForum is a civil rights organisation aimed at the protection of minority rights. Given the fact that AfriForum has been established from within the Afrikaner community, the organisation does have an emphasis on the interests of that particular community. This emphasis is placed under the strong precondition that the interests of one community cannot be advanced or promoted at the expense of another.
AfriForum is founded on the principles of peaceful coexistence and also of mutual recognition and respect between different communities. Promoting the interests of members of a particular racial group – merely because they belong to that group – stands squarely in the way of exactly that which AfriForum wishes to achieve.
AfriForum has a communitarian approach. We acknowledge the undeniable truth that people freely associate with particular communities and that people wish for their communities to flourish. Such communities are naturally and usually organised along cultural, linguistic or religious lines. People can also have multiple identities. I, for example regard myself as a part of the Christian religious community, but also of the Afrikaner cultural community, but also of the Afrikaans language community, but also of the community of people who find themselves to be living in the territorial state that is today known as South Africa. These communities overlap, but each of them is distinct and each of these communities consists of people who associate freely with such communities, but who would also object to being part of the other communities that I regard myself a member of. AfriForum does not have a focus on the rights of the “white community” and would object to such a description, among others based on the fact that membership is not restricted to any particular racial group – and that AfriForum has many members who aren’t white, for example.
Preserving the interests of cultural, religious and linguistic communities and encouraging mutual recognition and respect between such communities is in the interest of the common good. It is also aligned with best practices promoted by the United Nations and many other international bodies. Organising on the basis of the colour of your skin, however, is destructive to social cohesion.
To describe AfriForum as a conservative organisation would not be inaccurate. We regard ourselves, however, as conservative in terms of the real meaning of the word, while we disassociate with the stigma that is today associated with conservatism as an ideology that seeks to return to the past, or that objects to change merely because it isn’t able to deal with change, or that seeks to preserve heritage at the expense of progress. AfriForum is none of these. AfriForum could be regarded as conservative in the sense that we cherish community, culture, tradition, heritage and custom. We have a particular love for these things in our own communities, but we wish for all communities to protect and promote what they hold dear.
We acknowledge that there are intangible things that people cherish as part of their identity and that they wish to preserve. We believe, however, that the promotion of these things could only be sustainably achieved if other cultural, religious and linguistic communities are also given the right to organise their lives in the ways they see fit – even if you disagree with their beliefs.
Race-based nationalism stands in the way of exactly these things that AfriForum wishes to achieve. It is in the pursuit of the above-mentioned things cherished by AfriForum and also in its opposition to a one-dimensional race-based approach, that AfriForum has repeatedly taken action for the protection of the rights of other communities.
Examples of this include AfriForum’s condemnation of white nationalist groups and racist commentary by white nationalists. Other examples include AfriForum’s legal battle with the South African government to build a school for the Zulu community of Nkandla, the assistance provided to the Wallmansthal Communal Property Association and the Ndebele Vaaltyn tribe and many others.
AfriForum does not shy away from taking a firm stand in the public discourse. As is the case with any organisation or movement prepared to take a stance on contemporary issues, AfriForum is also faced with the challenge of malicious commentators attempting to depict the organisation as something that it is not. This is a lazy attempt at discrediting the organisation through false stigmatising and stereotyping without having to respond to the actual positions that AfriForum has taken.
AfriForum has always rejected and will always reject the ideology of white nationalism.
Ernst Roets is head of policy and action at AfriForum