Following on my recent post where I defend the notion that Afrikaners exist as a minority group in South Africa, it amuses me that we Afrikaners always have to define ourselves in the face of a general scepticism that there is such a thing as an Afrikaner, despite physical evidence to the contrary.
On the other hand, the question is never asked: What is a South African? Is it an ethnic group, a nationality or simply an administrative category? There being no South African language, apart from English which is also spoken in the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, and so on, language cannot define the South African. Having a South African ID book could be a defining characteristic, but what then about those people who have acquired theirs illegally? Are they still “South Africans”?
Many of our compatriots never register their children’s births and so the Dept. of Home Affairs will accept a sworn affidavit by the mother that her child was born in South Africa as proof of South African citizenship.
How many “South Africans”, speaking various languages and belonging to a diversity of cultures, can place their hands on their hearts and swear that they were born here?
What is the difference between a Zimbabwean and a South African, especially since for all practical purposes the border between the two countries has been abolished?
“South Africans” read British and American books, watch American movies and TV programmes, and mostly call themselves “Africans”. On the UNISA building there is a massive poster proclaiming it to be an “African university”.
It seems to me that there is a real lack of any South African nationalism and that the people or peoples who inhabit this land do not have any definable national identity. There are some who claim that the Constitution of 1996 gave South Africa an “identity”. But given that the constitution is flaunted every day – even the right to life, not to mention the right to speak any of eleven “official languages” that are official in name only – does South Africa have a definable identity? Or is it just a relic of “the colonial and apartheid past”, to be claimed by the whole of Africa as its economic and financial hub, just like the SA World Cup is really “the African World Cup”?
To paraphrase ex-president Thabo Mbeki: South Africa, define thyself!