During the time I spend in Johannesburg and neighboring Pretoria, the word “surreal” keeps leaping to mind. It’s just hard to get a handle on this strange place. There is dire talk of continuing Black-on-White crime and even whispers of a coming Rwanda-style attempted genocide, an event supposedly predicted by legendary Afrikaner seer and mystic Nicholaas “Siener” van Rensburg, a kind of Boer Nostradamus who allegedly predicted the assassinations of Koos De La Rey and Hendrik Verwoerd, the advent of black rule in South Africa and the bitter blossoming of the deadly and virulent AIDS epidemic. Though the Afrikaner nation is largely religious, spiritual devotion does not equate to superstitious credulity; not all buy into the “van Rensburg-as-prophet” notion. Yet there are mounting fears of a widespread, racially-motivated Krystallnacht-like “purge” against Whites taking place in the near future, whether provoked by official anti-Afrikaner ANC rhetoric, or merely as the result of uncontrolled mob violence following some galvanizing event (such as the death of Nelson Mandela) or mounting Black frustration over unemployment and poverty (which haven’t improved and have in fact largely worsened since Mandela’s election in 1994, but both of which are still commonly blamed on the “legacy of Apartheid” and White racism and colonialism).
Such fears of a looming mass slaughter strike me as lurid and overblown, even paranoid. Then again, thisis Africa, where terrifying tribal violence has been, and continues to be, commonplace. It’s difficult to picture the world not intervening while Black mobs massacre Afrikaners in the streets all across South Africa… then again, “the world” largely didn’t intervene when Hutus slaughtered millions of Tutsis in Rwanda back in the mid-90s. Nor has the “world” openly condemned the unrestrained violence against the South African farmer since the ascendancy of the ANC. But expectations of such impending horrors would be easier to digest if much of the country didn’t still strike this visitor as fairly “normal,” orderly, and familiar, in a modern, Western sense. You can, after all, find in this country all of the amenities most First Worlders have come to expect as their birthright. South Africa has posh shopping malls, hip coffee houses, state-of-the-art movie theaters (with stadium seating), fast food restaurants, and well-stocked gas stations (though they call them “garages”). It has cable television, Internet service, and operational traffic lights (called “robots”).
Yet if you allow yourself to get lulled into complacency by all of this seemingly civilized Western-style prosperity, you might be in for a nasty shock. For example, if you spend too much time lost in thought at a red-lighted “robot,” you might suddenly find yourself carjacked, kidnapped, or sexually assaulted. This is a country where one is advised to run a red light in certain locations if possible, since to stop, that is to say, to obey the given traffic laws, means to make oneself vulnerable to property theft or bodily harm. It is a country in which many drivers plaster their vehicles with “Baby On Board” bumper stickers, not, as in America, in order to shame other motorists into driving safely around them, but rather to beg potential criminals to allow them to take their child out of his harness in the event of a carjacking!
I only have to imbibe this schizophrenia-inducing atmosphere—whereby, day after day, one hopes for tranquil normalcy while at the same time gravely fearing a sudden spasm of violent calamity—for a mere two weeks, and it nearly wears me out. One night I wake from ambiguously horrifying nightmares, gasping desperately for air, having been briefly assailed with some variation of cerebral shell-shock. If merely visiting South Africa produces such a reaction in a person, then how much more severe must be the psychic response to actually living here?
Dan Roodt, a distinguished writer and long-standing Afrikaner activist, meets me at an upscale “garage” halfway between Jo’burg and Pretoria. As we sit together and munch on our sandwiches, he reflects on what he calls this “extremely bizarre” set of contemporary circumstances in his country.
“In South Africa, we have the most violent peacetime society in the world,” Roodt says. “It’s almost like a low-intensity war. And there is always a risk that some incident could trigger riots and unrest.”
Roodt blames the “climate of hate” created by an ANC-dominated education system, which he holds responsible for much of the virulent racial antagonism raging among the country’s citizens today.
“South African Blacks are more anti-White than any population in the world,” he observes. “It’s a part of this whole ‘victim’ mentality. The ANC has created a fictional past ‘reality’ that feeds the present violence.”
By endlessly harping on the supposed evils of past White rule, and at the same time cynically playing on base tribal superstitions (President Zuma recently told voters that their ancestors would afflict them with sickness them if they voted against the ANC in coming elections), the present rulers of South Africa have “insured that they’ll never be voted out of office,” Roodt owns. At the same time, he says, many Blacks old enough to remember the Apartheid years will admit that, in many ways, things were better for them then than they are now.
“They (the Blacks) had jobs back then, and things were predictable,” Roodt says. “Social services were competent, unlike now,” he adds, noting the collapse of infrastructure and the graft, corruption, and incompetency that runs rampant among members of the current government.
Roodt is a lean, elegantly handsome, rather patrician-looking 54-year old man with a full head of thick silver hair and a gentle, unassuming, soft-spoken manner that seems in some ways at odds with his passionate, at times almost strident rhetoric. Like many Afrikaner intellectuals his age and older, Roodt began his academic career as a man of the Left, furiously critical of the National Party and its Apartheid policies, only later to take a severe Right-ward turn following the ascension of the ANC to power and the troubled times that followed.
“Our generation had the sense that our parents were conformists,” he says, recalling his turbulent adolescent years. “There was a sense of rebellion at the time. At our schools, some of the older teachers were bullies who abused their authority over us… Once I began rebelling against the way things were, I just went further and further.”
In fact, Roodt went all the way to Paris, France, in part to avoid being conscripted into the armed forces and forced to take part in the border wars South Africa was fighting against hostile Communist-backed neighboring regimes at the time. But he eventually became dismayed by the brazen ignorance and despicable malice displayed by many of his Parisian comrades-in-arms at the time.
“That was my first reality check,” he reflects. “These people I came to know looked at South Africa in a completely simplistic way.” Their perspective, in fact, was ludicrously “black-and-white”: that is to say, the Whites were brutal oppressors, and the Blacks were noble and righteous seekers of justice and liberation.
Roodt became irritated by such instances of typically Leftist hive-minded groupthink, and he also began to resent how his home country got assailed with one economic sanction after another by country after country as the years rolled by. “Why should we be singled out for ignominy, when other countries havemuch worse human rights records?” he asked others at the time, never obtaining a satisfactory answer.
Then came the crucial turning point of his self-imposed exile from South Africa. In the late 1980s, Roodt was invited to meet with the cultural section of the African National Congress in a seminar set up by a certain left-wing “liberation theology”-minded church group in Germany. His experiences at this seminar led him to suspect that an ANC takeover would be disastrous to those of his ethnic and racial background.
“Even though I was still a trendy, liberal literary scholar, I felt a sense of rejection from the Blacks and Coloureds present,” he recalls. “That sent me thinking. On the way back from Germany, I realized that I couldn’t betray my own people to become one of these unreconstructed Communists.”
These days, Roodt is contemplating the best way to continue the struggle for Afrikaner self-determination. Among other projects, including forays into politics, he has alighted upon a (literally) novel concept: he is in the early stages of composing a science fiction manuscript, set on another planet in a distant future, that explains the contemporary clash of races in an allegorical sense. Through such an unusual format, Roodt said he hopes to open minds that are currently paralyzed by rigidly enforced PC dogma surrounding the issue of racial differences.
“I’m at the stage where I feel like I need to do something extraordinary to change people’s minds,” he says.