The Afrikaners. Their last great trek. – Graham Leach



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    The Afrikaners. Their last great trek. – Graham Leach

    Post by Nico10 on Sat 12 Nov 2011, 7:46 pm

    Whenever I read a book, and at times I am angry at the author and feels insulted, but at other times I feel that I could not agree more, then I know beforehand that the book is going to make an impression on me. Such was the case with Graham Leach’s The Afrikaners. Their last great trek.

    On the issue of the great trek of 1838, and using it every time in a new context, one should mention that it is a bad idea when writing about the Afrikaners. The same idea was used by FW de Klerk in his autobiography, and since then, the mass emigration of highly skilled Afrikaners to other parts of the world since 1994 because the government of South Africa does not appoint white labour, has also been dubbed a ‘great trek’. So the title, bad idea.

    I have to admit that I am a very critical reader when it comes to journalists and people working in some form of media. Many of these people are not interested in being accurate. They want to sell. Their main aim is to sell and they know how to do it. The fact that mr. Leach is not a South African, also did not ease the suspicion I had when starting with this work.

    And the worst is that some of these suspicions have been confirmed. However, a few things should be said in defence of the author of this work. One has to take in consideration that The Afrikaners Their last great trek was written at a very difficult point in South Africa’s history. It was less than a year before 2 February 1990 that it was published and South Africa was in chaos.

    For witnesses, South Africa is a very confusing place. And in those days, it was fashionable to be involved or write about South Africa. South Africa gave many perpetrators who benefitted from decades of colonialism and neo-colonialism a chance to ‘do something’ about racism. But the people at whom their anger was projected, the aim of their campaign, to end white rule in South Africa, to finish of the Afrikaners, it was different to anything else that has ever been done before since the Afrikaners, however many of them liked the idea or not, are themselves Africans . They were and are part of Africa and as such, they had nowhere to run to like the colonisers ran away from Africa in the end when black rule came to be. They would have to be accommodated.

    Thus, from a philosophical point of view, viewing history through a philosophical glass, the author takes a very dualistic stance. It is often this way when you philosophise, because philosophy has to make generalisations. As such, the author often had to stereotype the Afrikaners as uneducated, backward and stupid people, while at the same time praising liberal whites of the time, especially educated city dwellers and young people as enlightened.

    So the author likes to, at times, attribute some of the problems in South Africa to the ‘inherently backward’ ways of the Afrikaners, and I strongly object to some of the statement in the book, for example, “There was always a yearning for separation, from the moment van Riebeeck and his settlers landed at the Cape”. This is absolute nonsense. In fact, there were many many marriages between black and white. This is a sweeping statement. It contains just enough truth to be passable, but it is infected with lies.

    “...for Afrikaners, ... the next ‘dorp’ is foreign”. In other words, Afrikaners do not have a good perspective. It is impossible to expect them to be liberal in their political outlook, since they are by their very nature used to nothing but their own people and their own places. I found this also to be bordering on hate. Mr. Leach goes on to suggest that many groups of Afrikaners are uncultivated in the way they dress and in their manners, and that these are typical of the racist white South African.

    In many ways, “The Afrikaners. Their last great trek”, was disappointing. But the author can be forgiven for the simple fact that the subject under discussion is very difficult indeed, and also for the fact that it is much easier to look back today upon events of years gone by, while the book was written during those very turbulent times. How hard it must have been for those who have glorified the African National Congress and it’s leaders to experience post-apartheid South Africa. Take for example this phrase:

    “It is, perhaps, one of the tragedies of South Africa’s recent history that Thabo Mbeki, an urbane, gifted man, has been denied a chance of contributing to his country’s unfolding history. His country is the poorer for it”.

    Ah yes. Thabo Mbeki, The shining star of Africa. The Kwame Nkrumah of the 21st century. Thabo Mbeki who appointed a minister of health who wanted to solve the AIDS crisis by encouraging the consumption of garlic and beetroot as an supplement to medically proven medication. Thousands and thousands of people died because of this. But again, how was he to know. Mbeki certainly did not leave people with this impression at that time.

    But Why is Leach’s book good? What is the upside? The downsides have been pointed out very well.

    Without spilling the beans, the most important reason this work is a must read, is because of the wealth of information it provided. “The Afrikaners” gives many facts, and takes one through a journey of the deep divisions that existed amongst South Africans in the 1980’s. Despite its apparent philosophical flaws, this work is rich in historical information. Information that is crucial to our understanding of South Africa’s past. Everybody with a passion for South Africa’s past should read this one. Although the first few chapters was a bit boring, at some stage it just came alive, and the past has haunted around me ever since.

    All in all, the author should be applauded for preserving many important facts about South Africa’s past. “The Afrikaners. Their last great trek” is, despite its shortcomings, a very important book on South African history.

      Current date/time is Tue 18 Sep 2018, 8:17 pm