Afrikaners are paving the way, guided by an alternative post-election vision

Westerners are often astonished by the fact that Afrikaners are not losing hope for the future despite being a tiny minority without any significant democratic representation on a national level.

Westerners are often astonished by the fact that Afrikaners are not losing hope for the future despite being a tiny minority without any significant democratic representation on a national level. A clue to the answer for this apparent anomaly lies in an underlying and largely unnoticed mindset shift that has occurred among Afrikaners. The 2024 South African election is described by many politicians and commentators as “the biggest since 1994”. When one considers the rhetoric demonstrated in the 2024, a busy election year worldwide, the commonality of this sentiment starts to become apparent. Even in the United States, the 2024 presidential election is also being hyped up by many as “the most important in a generation”. But once you pause to consider this rhetoric in its proper historical context, you realise that we have heard this sales pitch before. In fact, every election, whether it be in South Africa, or elsewhere, is often characterised as the make-or-break moment for a nation.

After successive elections in which politicians or parties win or stay in power based on the empty promises made of radical change, only to deliver more of the status quo, voter apathy, and ultimately hopelessness, start to set in. When an election turns out not to deliver the dispensation-shattering changes that were promised, what is the alternative strategy? Do you simply wait until the next “biggest election in a generation” to try to push real change by voting harder, or is there a different route that can be embarked on in the meantime?

More pertinent for Westerners is the question why 30 years of disappointing election results have not had a debilitatingly negative effect on the morale or hope for the future among most Afrikaners to the extent we have witnessed among the electorate in many other Western nations.

Afrikaners have realised, after decades of disillusioning elections, that societal change does not have to occur exclusively every five years through voting alone. Change happens in the years, months and days in between elections as well. When elections do not go your way, the only alternatives left are not violent revolution or stagnating apathy either. One practical, responsible alternative with a positive vision for change, is one of taking back from the state those responsibilities which you are willing and able to. As my Solidarity Movement colleague, Ernst Roets, has emphasised: New realities are not demanded; they are built.

In post-apartheid South Africa circumstances have forced Afrikaners to transition from being state-builders to become organisation-builders again. This self-help (“selfbestuur”) strategy is deeply rooted in our history, and the amazing achievements of the Helpmekaar Movement perfectly illustrate the principle of self-help. The lessons that Afrikaners have learnt through history and again through the successes of 21st century organisations such as AfriForum, are that real sustainable change happens incrementally, rather than suddenly or revolutionarily. AfriForum employees, members and volunteers did not wait for the 2024 election results to be finalised before getting back to making their communities safer, cleaner and more resilient. They were out in their numbers filling potholes, patrolling with neighbourhood watches and more while the votes were still being counted. After casting their vote, they returned to being busy with what is within their capabilities and control to fix, preserve and improve.

Change takes place through communities planting trees, maintaining public spaces and cultural heritage sites and through neighbourhood watch volunteers who patrol their communities. Change can happen every day through parents becoming more involved in their schools, charities and churches. Real change takes the form of a cleaner safer street, thanks to those who live there by not waiting on the government but rather rolling up their sleeves and taking responsibility themselves. Change takes place through AfriForum’s 173 or more branches which fill thousands of potholes, paint road signs, cut grass, pick up litter and clean up rivers, cemeteries and heritage sites. Change is driven by those active, unselfish members of a community who help their neighbours and who make sure that the right values prevail in their own homes. Real tangible change, therefore, has its origins at home, through simple things such as a father teaching his son about their family history, or a mother reading a classic book about folk heroes from their culture to her children.

From these humble beginnings, the more responsibilities families, and by extension communities themselves, take back and take on, the more state-proof, and ultimately “election-proof,” they will gradually become – state-proof in the sense that the failures and even malicious policies of the state affect these communities less and less; and “election-proof” in the sense that elections with undesirable results threaten those communities’ future to a much lesser degree.

Striving towards this resilience against disappointing election results, does not mean that elections are not important and should be written off. Pericles, the ancient Greek politician and general said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you”. Election outcomes will have a significant impact on our lives for the foreseeable future. Therefore, vote when you get the chance, for parties and politicians that create growing spaces for families and communities that want to claim an increasing degree of responsibility back from the state and thereby take their future into their own hands.

The truth is that there is indeed life after elections and power beyond the voting booth. The power for communities to start taking their future back into their own hands is there for the taking. You just need to be willing to roll up your sleeves, organise and get to work. The Afrikaners of southern Africa found the worn-out tools to fix, maintain and improve their communities in the gutter. They simply picked them back up and got to work.

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