- See other meanings of Volkstaat.
Volkstaat (Afrikaans for "People's state") is a proposal for the establishment of self determination for the Boere-Afrikaner minority in South Africa according to federal principles, alluding to full independence in the form of a homeland for Boere-Afrikaners.
Following the Great Trek, Boer pioneers expressed a drive for self determination and independence through the establishment of several Boer Republics during the 19th century. The end of minority apartheid rule in South Africa in 1994 once again left some Afrikaners disillusioned and marginalized by the political changes, and resulted in a proposal for an autonomous Volkstaat.
Different methods exist according to which a Volkstaat can be established. Outside a possible use of force, the South African Constitution and International Legislation present certain possibilities for establishment. The geographic dispersal of minority Boere-Afrikaner communities throughout South Africa presents a significant obstacle to the establishment of a Volkstaat, as Boere-Afrikaners do not form a majority in any separate geographic area which could be sustainable independently. Supporters of the proposal have established two small communities, Orania in the Northern Cape and Kleinfontein in Gauteng, as a practical implementation of the proposal.
The South African Government declared that they would not support a Volkstaat, but would do everything they could to ensure the protection of the Afrikaner language and culture, along with other minority cultures in the country.
Historical context leading to the creation of the proposal
Boer Republics, pre 1911
- Main article: Boer Republics
Historically, Boere-Afrikaners have had a drive for independence which resulted in the establishment of different republics in what is now the modern Republic of South Africa. These republics were proclaimed by the Voortrekkers
, of which the most notable were Natalia Republic
, the Orange Free State
and the South African Republic
. However, British rule after the Second Anglo-Boer War
led to the dissolution of the last two remaining Afrikaner states (Orange Free State and South African Republic).
- ''Main article: History of South Africa in the apartheid era
Under apartheid, Afrikaner and Anglo-African
culture was protected by government leadership, Afrikaans and English
were the official languages, and the majority of the politicians running the country were Afrikaners. The underlying principle of apartheid was racial separatism, and the means by which this was implemented, such as the homeland
system of bantustans
, were extremely biased against the non-white majority as it excluded them from exercising their rights in the broader South Africa
. Afrikaners held a privileged position in South African society, alongside the other white
citizens. The potential loss of self determination
, when apartheid began to crumble in the late 1980s, caused the Afrikaner right to seek means by which to replace it.
Avstig and Orania
In the late 1980s, the Afrikaner-Vryheidstigting
, or Avstig (Afrikaner Freedom Foundation) was formed by Professor Carel Boshoff
. Avstig proposed a Volkstaat in the Northern Cape
province, in a largely rural, and minimally developed region. Avstig bought the town of Orania
in 1991, and turned it into a model Volkstaat. Boshoff continued to be a representative of the Freedom Front
, the political party advocating the Volkstaat concept. Orania is situated at the far eastern apex of the original Volkstaat state, where the three provinces Northern Cape, Eastern Cape
, and Free State
Case for self determination
Liberalism in the classical tradition has been a staunch supporter of the right to self determination for the inhabitants of particular territories, even if it is only a single town. Ludwig von Mises states that the granting of self determination to people who declare, through a freely conducted plebiscite, their wish to form an independent state, is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars.
During the 1994 general election, Afrikaners were asked by the Freedom Front to vote for the party if they wished to form an independent state or Volkstaat for Afrikaners. The results of the election showed that the Freedom Front had the support of 424,555 voters. These voters did however not form a majority in any of South Africa's voting districts.
Case against self determination
The fundamental difference to other modern examples of so-called "stateless peoples" seeking self-determination such as the Kurds, Tamils or Chechens is that there is no "historical homeland" or even any area in South Africa where Afrikaners constitute a majority population.
The historical homelands often referred to are the old Boer republics, but most existed for less than a hundred years with the Afrikaners never the majority inhabitants. Therefore, a sparsely populated area would have to be arbitrarily chosen as an artificial "homeland".
The other important difference is that the Afrikaner ethnic group can not be easily identified by language (Afrikaans) and race ("white"). According to the 2001 census, there are more non-white first language speakers of Afrikaans than white and only 2.6 million of the total "white" (census terminology) population of 4.4 million spoke Afrikaans as a first language.
In contrast to the Chechens who alone speak Chechen and make up more than 90% of the population of a specific geographic region called Chechnya which they have inhabited for more than a thousand years, the Afrikaner group's history only goes back to about 300 years, they are the minority speakers of their language and they do not constitute a majority population in any area. It therefore becomes clear that the case for the Afrikaner group's self determination is much weaker than some other modern cases, because of their minority population, relative short history rooted in colonialism and non-unique language.
Current support for the proposal and matters creating support
Two surveys were conducted among white South Africans, in 1993 and 1996, asking the question "How do you feel about demarcating an area for Afrikaners and other white South Africans
in which they may enjoy self determination? Do you support the idea of a Volkstaat?" The 1993 survey found that 29% supported the idea, and a further 18% would consider moving to a Volkstaat. The 1996 survey found that this had decreased to 22% supporting the idea, and only 9% wanting to move to a Volkstaat. In the second survey, the proportion of white South Africans opposed to the idea had increased from 34% to 66%.
The 1996 survey found that "those who in 1996 said that they would consider moving to a Volkstaat are mainly Afrikaans speaking males, who are supporters of the Conservative Party or Afrikaner Freedom Front, hold racist views (24%; slightly racist: 6%, non racist: 0%) and are not content with the new democratic South Africa." The reader should however note that no definition for a "racist view" is cited in the survey, and the issue may be confused with a minority group's right to free association.
A 1999 pre-election survey suggested that the 26.9% of Afrikaners wanting to emigrate, but unable to, represented a desire for a solution such as a Volkstaat.
At a conference on Afrikaner self-determination, held in Orania in October 2005, Afrikaner intellectuals showed "little enthusiasm for territorial separation", and proposed other ideas, such as "cyber-government".
Dissatisfaction with life
Dissatisfaction with life in post-apartheid
South Africa is often cited as an indication of support for the idea of a Volkstaat among some Afrikaners. A poll carried out by the Volkstaat Council among white people in Pretoria identified crime, economic problems, personal security, affirmative action, educational standards, population growth, health services, language and cultural rights, and housing as reasons to support the creation of Volkstaat.
Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, quoted an Afrikaner leader with whom he had been engaged in negotiations, "One of our interlocutors expressed this in the following way that 'the Afrikaner is suffering from the hangover of loss of power' resulting in despondency."
Reduction of political power
The Afrikaners, who form a small minority group in South Africa (5.7% of the total population according to the 2001 census), relinquished their dominance of the minority white rule over South Africa during the 1994 democratic elections and now only play a small (proportionally representative) role in South African politics. Some Afrikaners, such as the members of the Volkstaat Council, felt that equal representation did not provide adequate protection for minorities, and desired minority self rule. Self determination in the form of a Volkstaat was proposed as one means of achieving this. (See the Volkstaat Council's proposals below.)
Culture and heritage
In 2002 a number of towns and cities with historic Afrikaans names dating back to Voortrekker
times—such as Pietersburg
—had their names changed, often in the face of popular opposition to the change. In the same year the government decided that state departments had to choose a single language for inter- and intra-departmental communication, effectively compelling public servants to communicate using English
with one another.
Of the 31 universities in South Africa, five were historically Afrikaans (Free State,
Potchefstroom, Pretoria, Rand Afrikaans University and Stellenbosch). In mid-2002 the national Minister of Education, Kader Asmal, announced that Afrikaans medium universities must implement parallel teaching in English, despite a proposal by a government appointed commission that two Afrikaans universities should be retained to further Afrikaans as an academic language. According to the government’s language policy for higher education “the notion of Afrikaans universities runs counter to the end goal of a transformed higher education system".
Crime in general
Crime has become a major problem in South Africa since the end of Apartheid. According to a survey for the period 1998 - 2000 compiled by the United Nations, South Africa was ranked second for assault and murder (by all means) per capita. Total crime per capita is 10th out of the 60 countries in the data set. Nevertheless, crime has had a pronounced effect on society: many wealthier South Africans moved into gated communities, abandoning the central business districts of some cities for the relative security of suburbs.
- Main article: South African farm attacks
Among rural Afrikaners, violent crime committed against the farming community has contributed significantly to a hardening of attitudes. Between 1998 and 2001 there were some 3,500 recorded farm attacks in South Africa. The attacks have resulted in the murder of 541 farmers, their families or their workers, during only three years. On average more than two farm attack related murders are committed every week.
The Freedom Front interprets this as ethnic violence targeting Afrikaners: In mid-2001 the Freedom Front appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Commission to place pressure on the South African government to do something about the murder of Afrikaner farmers, which "had taken on the shape of an ethnic massacre". Freedom Front leader, Pieter Mulder, claimed that most farm attacks seemed orchestrated, and that the motive for the attacks was not only criminal. Mulder further claimed that "a definite anti-Afrikaner climate had taken root in South Africa. People accused of murdering Afrikaners were often applauded by supporters during court appearances".
The independent Committee of Inquiry into Farm Attacks, appointed by the National Commissioner of Police, published a report in 2003, however, indicating that white people were not targeted exclusively, that theft occurred in most attacks, and that the proportion of white victims had decreased in the four years preceding the report.
Rise in unemployment
Despite a deterioration of the situation since the end of apartheid, Afrikaners have one of the highest rates of employment, and of job satisfaction, in the country. White (of whom just over half are Afrikaners) unemployment is low by South African standards: 10% in 2001, compared to a national average of 37%. White unemployment has, however, experienced the greatest proportional increase between 1995 and 2001: 197% compared to a national average of 27%. In 2001 some 228,000 economically active whites were unemployed.
Afrikaner job satisfaction (those who have jobs) is second only to that of English-speaking white people, with a survey in 2001 showing that 78% of Afrikaner respondents were either "very satisfied", or "fairly satisfied", with their employment situation. However, as this is worse than the situation under apartheid, when all whites were afforded special treatment, it is likely that those Afrikaners who are unemployed will tend to support initiatives such as the Volkstaat. In Wingard's words, "They will be easy meat for activists."
One in five white South Africans emigrated during the decade ending 2005 due to crime and Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action is implemented by South African legislation, according to which all business employees should reflect the total demographic make up of the country, placing significant difficulty on white South Africans to enter the job market.
According to the 1999 pre-election survey, 2.5% of Afrikaner respondents were emigrating, 26.4% would leave if they could (the highest proportion of the groups surveyed), and 5.3% were considering emigrating. The majority, 64.9%, however, are definitely staying. The survey suggested that the 26.9% of Afrikaners wanting to emigrate, but unable to, represented a desire for a solution such as a Volkstaat.
A survey released by the South African Institute for Race Relations during September 2006, indicated that a decline in South Africa's white population was estimated at 16.1% for the decade ending 2005.
Current situation for the creation of a Volkstaat
Wingard stated in 2005 that only a "civil war" would enable Afrikaners to gain independence in any part of South Africa. The Freedom Front Plus
continues to support the idea, but commands very little electoral support (1% of the 2006 vote, which includes all South Africans, indicating support upwards of 6% among Afrikaners). (Refer to the "Support" section above for Volkstaat specific support.)
Two mini Volkstaats exist, where towns have been bought as private property, and practice Afrikaner separatism. One minor conspiracy to establish a Volkstaat by force was stamped out in 2003.
Volkstaat by force
) was a violent Afrikaner separatist organisation. Most of its members were arrested in 2003, and are currently facing charges of treason.
The Freedom Front
has been the major political driving force for the formation of a Volkstaat. This Afrikaner-focused political party has representation in the national Parliament as well as several Provincial legislatures in South Africa. Support for this party has however decreased to just under 140,000 votes, being less than 1% of the total votes cast, by the last National elections in 2004
. This would constitute less than 6% of the total population of 2,558,958 white Afrikaans speakers recorded in the 2001 census indicates. Note that no specific data is available on the Afrikaner voter turnout during the election, and that only Afrikaners*** who were older than 18 years of age could participate in the election, therefore the total population in this calculation is grossly overstated, indicating a significantly higher support than the 6% calculated above .
***South African election law allows all South African's over the age of 18 to vote for their desired candidate. To state that "Only Afrikaners who were older than 18 years of age could participate in the election" is at the very least, misleading. At worst, this is plain mischief and dishonesty on the part of the writer
The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging
have recently made headlines for their re-activation and plans of establishing an independent Boer state. He claims the Boers have contracts conferring ownership of areas such as Stellaland
, which the party is prepared to take to The Hague if necessary.
Volkstaats by private property
One Volkstaat attempt is the small town of Orania
in the Northern Cape province. The land on which Orania is built is privately owned, and Afrikaners have been encouraged by promoters of the Volkstaat concept to move to Orania, although only a small number has responded, resulting in a population of approximately 600 in 2001, 10 years after being established. Support for Orania recently seems to be growing somewhat with their recent economic "boom". Today, Orania is home to about 546 Afrikaner families (1,523 inhabitants). Another attempt is the settlement of Kleinfontein
(in the Tshwane
metropolitan area). Both towns fall within larger municipalities, and are not self-governing in any official sense. Orania is, however, petitioning the government to become a separate municipality.
South African legislation
Section 235 of the South African Constitution
allows for the right to self determination of any community, which shares a common culture and language, within a territorial entity within the Republic, or in any other way, as described by national legislation.
This section of the constitution was one of the negotiated settlements during the handing over of political power in 1994 by Afrikaners. The Freedom Front was instrumental in including this section in the constitution. No national legislation in this regard has yet been enacted for any ethnic group, however.
International legislation presents a recourse for the establishment of a Volkstaat over and above than what the South African Constitution offers. This legislation is available to all minorities
who wish to obtain self determination
in the form of independence.
The requirements set by international legislation are explained by Prof C. Lloyd Brown-John of the University of Windsor, Ontario as follows: "A minority who are geographically separate and who are distinct ethnically and culturally and who have been placed in a position of subordination may have a right to secede. That right, however, could only be exercised if there is a clear denial of political, linguistic, cultural and religious rights."
The rights awarded to minorities were formally enshrined by the United Nations General Assembly when it adopted resolution 47/135 on 18 December 1992, entitled the "Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities"
The salient terms of this declaration include the following:
- States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.
- Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (hereinafter referred to as persons belonging to minorities) have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, and to use their own language, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination.
- Persons belonging to minorities have the right to establish and maintain their own associations.
Afrikaner presence in South Africa
The Afrikaner presence
does not represent a geographically separate area within South Africa. This situation rules out any recourse with regards to international legislation for the proponents of a Volkstaat. The Orania
Movement's primary objective is to realise an Afrikaner majority in the Northern Cape
South African governmental response to the Volkstaat proposal
government formalised their stance on the issue in 1998-1999, when they declared that they would not support a Volkstaat, but would do everything they could to ensure the protection of the Afrikaner language and culture, along with the other minority cultures in the country.
The Volkstaat Council
The Volkstaat Council was an organisation of 20 people, created by the South African government, via the Volkstaat Council Act in 1994. This was in accordance with sections 184A and 184B of the 1993 South African Constitution, which state: "The Council shall serve as a constitutional mechanism to enable proponents of the idea of a Volkstaat to constitutionally pursue the establishment of such a Volkstaat,...
The council's funding was terminated in 1999, without the council being formally disbanded. The council produced a final report, making three key recommendations:
- That areas with an Afrikaner majority should enjoy "territorial self-determination". Areas identified included the region around Pretoria, and a region of the Northern Cape Province.
- That the government establish an "Afrikaner Council", as an advisory board to the government. "Representation in parliament, where numerical power is all that mattered, was not seen as a democratic system for minorities."
- That the government create legislation enacting the other two points. Draft legislation for the Afrikaner Council was provided.
The provisions in the constitution allowing for formation of the council were removed in 2001, by the Repeal of Volkstaat Council Provisions Act, in accordance with the original act.
Johann Wingard, chair of the council, expressed the view in 2005 that he doubted if any government official ever opened any of the reports to read them. The opposite is suggested, however, by the fact that then deputy president, Thabo Mbeki
, and then Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi
, quoted figures from Volkstaat Council reports in a report to parliament in 1999. Nelson Mandela
, the president at the time, specially requested that the delivery of the report be delayed until he could attend its presentation personally.
Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities
Subsequent to the disbanding of the Volkstaat Council, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities was established in 2003. This committee is charged with the protection of the rights to cultural identity of all self-identifying groups in South Africa, including Afrikaners. The committee includes an Afrikaner, JCH Landman, who is also a member of the Afrikaner Alliance
. The reports from the Volkstaat Council were to be handed over to this committee.