The first of my wife's ancestors to arrive in the Cape of Good Hope were Dutch Calvinist settlers who came ashore at Table Bay on the 6th April 1652. The colony gradually grew as, according to Professor Charles Boxer, "It had a healthy, subtropical and partly fertile hinterland, which was virtually unoccupied." Some of the descendants of those Dutch settlers (who came to be termed 'Boer' or farmer) trekked into the interior in the 1830s as a direct result of their rejection of the imposition of British imperial ambitions. They went armed with muskets and carried their entire lives in their ox drawn, covered wagons.* What is paramount to the current debate about land appropriation by the South African government is that these early settlers did not 'steal' the land or 'grab' the land from any tribes. They were simply small groups of frontiersmen and women, hoping to establish farmsteads far from the clutching hands of empire and live in peace with their families and their God. The landscapes they traversed were largely uninhabited or simultaneously being invaded by Bantu tribes sweeping in from the north. When challenged, they often held their own against overwhelming odds and vowed to their stern God that if he granted them victory then they would remember the blessing. When the British expanded their empire of capital into the interior (after the discovery of diamonds and then gold) the Boers fought them like lions. The British only finally broke their resistance by burning down their farms and imprisoning the Boer women and children who died in their thousands in British concentration camps.
As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote:
" ... one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive, place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider. Then, finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual, and you have the modern Boer — the most formidable antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain."
My wife and I left South Africa in 1994. At that time we had been married for about three years and our first child was still young. This decision to leave everything and to start a new life with literally only the suitcases we carried was a difficult one to be sure, not least because my wife's heart and soul as a Boer, belonged to that red earth her forefathers had been taming and tilling for over 300 years. Yet, in my reckoning, the writing was already on the wall, the ANC had just come into power and former ANC guerrilla and senior member of the South African Communist Party, Nelson Mandela, was now the president. Some told told us we were making a mistake, that things in the new 'Rainbow Nation' would be better than had ever been. Many of the people I knew looked forward optimistically to a prosperous shared future. But even as a naïve young man I had my doubts. The road to the elections had been soaked with the blood of thousands. South Africa had a long history of violence between its competing groups but now the internecine fighting was worse than ever before. Ironically it was the Apartheid regime that had managed to contain that violence and enforce (often brutally) the Pax Africana. With the iron hand of the state now increasingly impotent it seemed to me only a matter of time before the 'in group preference' of the new regime would ensure that whites as a minority would not, could not, prosper there. A personal encounter with 'Affirmative Action' (that I won't detail here) cemented my decision. Like many former liberals, these stark experiences started the long process of my own awakening - I had been given my first 'red pill'. As a man concerned for his young family I followed that path that is called in the United States 'white flight'. I had regrets but in hindsight it was the right decision.
Now, nearly a quarter of a century after the ANC took power in South Africa, the political decision (and it will be disastrous) to appropriate the land of white farmers is coupled with an undeclared war and literal genocide against white South Africans and farmers in particular (and that is according to the UN definition of the word genocide). The silence of the western 'mainstream' media on this subject tells a tale all of its own.
Although I no longer live in South Africa the fate and continued existence of this 'white tribe' of Africa is of course important to me. There have been encouraging signs from some more enlightened political circles who recognise the plight of white South Africans (recognising their economic value if nothing else, Hungary, Russia and even Australia have suggested a willingness to resettle farmers in their own nations). However, it can never be so easy. Most of my Boer family and friends would not consider leaving and those few that have miss their homeland terribly. And that word is key. It is their homeland. It is the space that they carved out of the wilderness. Theirs was a hard won frontier. The red earth of that southern tip of Africa is red with their blood, sweat and tears. None have a higher claim to that soil than the 'Afrikaner Volk', the Boers who made it their home centuries before. When I look into the faces of my children and grandchildren I see not only my own blood and the genetic inheritance of my British ancestors but also the generations of Dutch, German, French Huguenot and other European peoples who are their South African lineage. I am proud that they are descendants of that "rugged, virile, unconquerable race" as Conan Doyle put it.
* The story of the Voortrekkers is an incredible tale of bravery, blood and sacrifice and I encourage the the interested reader to any number of texts on their history - one such is Johannes Meintjes The Voortrekkers and the making of South Africa (1973).