Leon Lemmer: Wie het ons vaderland opgedonder?

Deel op

In die Suid-Afrikaanse geskiedenis is daar ‘n Brit (eintlik ‘n Ier wat die groot Ierse hongersnood van 1847 beleef het) wie se nagedagtenis nie in afdoende mate in Afrikanergeledere gehuldig word nie. Op die vooraand van die Anglo-Boereoorlog (ABO) het William Francis Butler (1838-1910), die plaaslike bevelvoerder van die Britse magte, gewag gemaak van “‘n kolossale sindikaat vir die sistematiese verspreiding van valse berigte” (Klaus Dieter Vaqué, Verraad teen Suid-Afrika, Pretoria: Varama Uitgewers, 1989, p 45). Butler was gekant teen die Britse imperialistiese planne om bv die mineraalrykdom (veral diamante en goud) van die Boere-republieke in te palm. “Dit wat hy waargeneem het, was vir hom so walglik, dat hy uit sy pos bedank het” (45). “Die hoofinstrument vir ‘sistematiese verspreiding van valse berigte’ is ook vandag weer die pers [bv Naspers/Media24] (met ondersteuning van radio en televisie [bv die SABC]” (45).

Butler was by die Zoeloe-oorlog (1879) betrokke en het as die Britse hoëkommissaris van die Kaapkolonie waargeneem (Desember 1898 tot Februarie 1899) toe Alfred Milner op besoek aan Engeland was. Milner en die Britse regering wou ‘n insident skep wat aanleiding tot oorlog teen die twee onafhanklike Boere-republieke (die Oranje-Vrystaat en Transvaal) sou gee. Hiermee kon Butler as nasionalistiese Ier wat ten gunste van selfregering vir Ierland was, hom glad nie vereenselwig nie. Voor die uitbreking van die ABO het Butler na Engeland teruggekeer.

In 1877 het Butler met Elizabeth Thompson (1848-1933) getrou. Hulle het ses kinders gehad. Elizabeth en hulle drie jongste kinders het net die laaste vyf maande van William se plaaslike verblyf in 1899 saam met hom in hulle huis in Rosebank naby Kaapstad gewoon. Sy het twee boeke gepubliseer waarin daar interessante inligting oor plaaslike toestande is: Die een is From sketch-book and diary (Library of Alexandria, 1909/2009, 93p; Amazon Kindle $4,59). Die teks kan ook gratis in Kindle-formaat van Amazon verkry word. Hierdie feit word egter in so ‘n mate verdoesel dat ek toe reeds vir my weergawe betaal het. Elizabeth se ander boek is An autobiography (London: Constable, 1922, 238p; Amazon Kindle $0).

Elizabeth het veral bekendheid verwerf vir die oorlogstonele wat sy geskilder het, bv “The defence of Rorke’s Drift” (1880), ‘n gebeurtenis wat tydens die Zoeloe-oorlog plaasgevind het. Sy was nooit in Natal nie en het die toneel so realisties moontlik in Portsmouth probeer rekonstrueer. Hierdie skildery is deel van die Britse koninklike kunsversameling in die kasteel Windsor. Elizabeth het ‘n dagboek gehou en bv tydens haar reise olie- en waterverfskilderye gemaak. Die vyf maande wat sy plaaslik vertoef het, herinner aan die bykans vyf jaar (Mei 1797-Januarie 1802) wat Anne Barnard (1750-1825) ‘n eeu vroeër aan die Kaap deurgebring het. Andrew Barnard (1762-1807), die latere Britse koloniale sekretaris aan die Kaap, het in 1793 met Anne getrou. Soos Elizabeth het Anne in die hoogste geledere van die Britse bewind aan die Kaap beweeg, dagboek gehou, briewe geskryf en omgewingstonele geskilder. Van albei het daar skilderye bewaar gebly.

RM Ballantyne

Iemand anders wat ek hier wil aansny, is nog ‘n skrywer en skilder, Robert Michael Ballantyne (1825-1894). Sy een boek is: Six months at the Cape (1879, 94p; Amazon Kindle $0). Hy was in die tydperk tussen Anne Barnard en Elizabeth Butler aan die Kaap en veral begaan oor die lot van die Britse setlaars van 1820 en hulle nageslag. Hy skryf: “Thus, in 1820, was the land overrun and taken possession of by the ‘British Settlers.’ It had once been the land of the Hottentots, but had never at any time rightfully belonged to the Kafirs, who, after wrongfully entering it and rendering themselves by their thievish disposition and deceit an unbearable nuisance, were finally driven out of it in 1819. The idea of Government in sending the settlers out to occupy these vacated lands was that a convenient buffer might thus be placed on the frontier of the colony to keep the savages in check” (Kindle 300). Deesdae beset die swartes Suid-Afrika asof die hele land histories aan hulle behoort en maak hulle selfs aanspraak op (alles) wat die blankes danksy harde werk besit. “You are aware that Kafirs are terrible thieves? … and the Totties [Hottentots] are just as bad, if not worse” (556). Wat sommige swartes reeds destyds begeer het, was “‘drive the white men into the sea,’ – a favourite fate, in the Kafir mind, reserved for the entire colonial family” (1043). Kontrasteer daarmee die uitgangspunt van die blankes: “[The] only principle is wanted to make them [blacks] a respectable and useful portion of the human family” (1270). Met verwysing na ‘n groep “stout hardy descendants of the English, Scotch, or Dutch settlers” (126) skryf Ballantyne: “These reckless and jovial South Africans – European by extraction … were without a drop of black blood in their veins” (139). Dit is heeltemal anders as wat ons deesdae wysgemaak word, naamlik dat die plaaslike blankes na bewering heelwat nieblanke bloed in hulle are het.

Ballantyne het ook ‘n ander boek, The settler and the savage (1877, 223p; Amazon Kindle $0), geskryf. Daarin word ‘n Boer soos volg aangehaal: “From 1806 the [Cape] colony has been mismanaged by your [British] countrymen” (Kindle 166). Ook: “No savages ought to be trusted, as civilised men are trusted, till they cease to be savages” (183). “The main desire of the frontier settler is peace, while the chief delight as well as business of the Kafir is war” (214). “Have we not learned, when too late … that the black wretches have been at loggerheads with the white men ever since this was a colony, and is it not clear that gentle treatment and harsh have alike failed to improve them?” (999). Let op die volgende misplaaste optimisme – iets wat hom tans in ander gedaantes voordoen: “The land from which the white man comes will never suffer him to be driven out of Africa. England is rich in everything, and will send men to fill the places of those who fall. Besides, I think God is on the white man’s side, because the white man in the main intends and tries to do good” (2399). “A generous and well-meant effort on the part of Christians and philanthropists to give full freedom and rights to the Hottentots resulted to a large extent in vagabondism, with its concomitant robbery” (2958). “The Kafir hordes, variously estimated at from eight to fifteen thousand men, burst across the whole frontier, wrapped the eastern colony in the smoke and flames of burning homesteads, scattered the unprepared settlers, demolished the works of fourteen years’ labour, penetrated to within twenty miles of Algoa Bay, and drove thousands of sheep and cattle back in triumph to Kafirland” (2975).

Toe Nelson Mandela wou hê dat veral die swart meerderheid vir die heillose ANC moet stem, het hy beweer dat Suid-Afrika se bevolking sy grootste bate is. Na aanleiding van Ballantyne se uitbeelding kan ‘n mens jou afvra of bv die ondoeltreffendheid, vandalisme, moorddadigheid en anargie wat so kenmerkend van die nuwe Suid-Afrika is, nie dalk eerder op die teenoorgestelde van Mandela se standpunt dui nie; dat die land nooit weer ‘n voorspoedige, beskaafde land sal wees nie weens onder meer die oorteenwoordigheid van werklose, plakkende, misdadige en parasiterende wettige en onwettige inwoners.

From sketch-book and diary (1909)

Elizabeth Butler se From sketch-book and diary bestaan uit vier afdelings. Elke afdeling bevat illustrasies van haar waarnemings. Sy begin in Ierland. Sy beskryf haar aangetrokkenheid tot bv die landskap. “I have never seen Ireland at all worthily painted. I think we ought to leave her to her poets and to the composers of her matchless music” (Kindle 240). Die tweede afdeling handel oor Egipte. Sy noem bv dat dit baie makliker is om ‘n kameel as ‘n perd te teken (355). Die vierde afdeling word aan Italië gewy, waar sy lang tye deurgebring het. Vervolgens beperk ek my aandag by die derde afdeling, met as onderwerp “The Cape”.

Sy het ‘n kok saamgebring Kaap toe omdat: “You must know that white servants are impossible to find at the Cape” (839). “If an artist wanted to accomplish that apparently impossible feat of painting Fairyland direct from Nature, without one touch supplied out of his own fancy, he would only have to come here. There are effects of light and colour on these landscapes that I never saw elsewhere” (909). Dit is gou duidelik dat Elizabeth haar man se afkeer van Britse imperialisme deel, asook sy teenkanting teen Britse oorlogsplanne jeens die twee Boere-republieke. “Would that all the evil brought to South Africa by the finding of the gold could be gathered together and burnt on that altar as a peace offering!” (925).

Die Butlers het in Rosebank gewoon. “On this Rosebank side there is nothing that jars with the majestic feeling of Table Mountain, but to see what we English have done at its base on the other side, at Cape Town, is to see what man can do in his little way to outrage Nature’s dignity. The Dutch never jarred; their old farm-houses with white walls, thatched roofs, green shutters, and rounded Flemish gables look most harmonious in this landscape. Wherever we have colonized there you will see the corrugated iron dwelling, the barbed-wire fence, the loathsome advertisement. We talk so much of the love of the beautiful, and yet no people do so much to spoil beauty as we do wherever we settle down, all the world over. I respect the Dutch saying: ‘The eye must have something’ – beauty is a necessity to moral health. A clear sky and a far horizon have more value to the national mind than we care to recognize, and though the smoking factory that falsifies England’s skies and blurs her horizons may fill our pockets with gold, it makes us poorer by dulling our natures. I am sure that a clear physical horizon induces a clear mental one” (925).

“I am told the Old Cape Town, when Johannesburg was as yet dormant, was a simple and comely place – its white houses, so well adapted to this intensely sunny climate, were deep set in wooded gardens, a few of which have so far escaped the claws of the jerry builder … But now the glaring streets … are lined with American ‘stores’ with cast-iron porticoes, above which rise buildings of most pretentious yet nondescript architecture, and the ragged outskirts present stretches of corrugated iron shanties which positively rattle back the clatter of a passing train or tram-car. And all around lie the dust bins of the population, the battered tin can, the derelict boot. No authorities seem yet to have been established to prevent the populace, white, brown, and black, from throwing out all their old refuse where they like. Some day things may be taken in hand, but at present this half-baked civilization produces very dreadful results … There is such a rush for gold, you see! No one cares for poor Cape Town as a town” (936). Rommelstrooiing is steeds ‘n lewenswyse by baie plaaslike inwoners.

“Altogether our Eden here is sadly damaged, and I am sorry it should be my compatriots who are chiefly answerable for the ugly patches on so surpassingly beautiful a scene. Our sophisticated life, too, is out of place in this unfinished country and we ought to live more simply, as the Dutch do, and not feel it necessary to carry on the same ménage as in London” (952). “One of the chief reasons, I find, as I settle down in my new surroundings, for the feeling of incompleteness which I experience, is the fact of this country’s having no history. We get forlorn glimpses of the Past, when the old Dutch settlers used to hear the roar of the lions outside Cape Town Fort of nights; and, further back, we get such peeps as the quaint narratives of the early explorers allow us, but beyond those there is the great dark void” (957). Die groter nag wat binne ‘n eeu vir die land voorgelê het, die heillose ANC-regime, kon sy onmoontlik voorsien het.

“This most paintable and decorative vegetation is not friendly to the intruder. These exquisitely toned shrubs with wild strong forms are full of repellent spikes which, like bayonets, they seem to level at you if, lured by the gentle perfume of their blossoms, you approach eye and nose too near. Depend upon it, this country was intended for thick-skinned blacks” (979). Al wat effens troos, is die feit dat die Butler-egpaar se simpatie ongetwyfeld aan die kant van die Nederlanders/Afrikaners/Boere was. “I can well understand the passionate love an Africander-born must feel for this country. I know none that has such strong, saturating local sentiment” (999). “I had sketching expeditions projected which never came off, with a clever Dutch lady, who did charming water-colours of beautiful Constantia and the striking country above Simon’s Bay, and the true ‘Cape of Good Hope’ beyond” (1010). “The wise Dutch who planted them [forests] had a law whereby any one felling one of these pines was bound to plant two saplings in its stead. We are doing a great deal of the felling without the planting” (989). Veral ANC-ondersteuners volg hierdie Britse voorbeeld slaafs na wanneer hulle brandhout versamel.

Elizabeth het die parlementsopening op 14 Julie 1899 bygewoon. “The proceedings were all on the lines followed at Westminster … The opening words of ‘the Speech from the Throne’ sounded hollow. They proclaimed amongst other things urbi et orbi, that we were at peace with the South African Republics. And now … Goodbye, South Africa, for ever! I am glad that in you I have had experience of one of the most enchanting portions of this earth! As you know that experience only lasted five months after all. We left on the 23rd August ’99 on a day of blinding rain, which, as the ship moved off, drew like a curtain across that country which I felt we were leaving to a fast-approaching trouble. The war cloud was descending. It burst in blood and fire a few weeks later and deepened the sense of melancholy with which I shall ever think of that far-away land” (1021).

An autobiography (1922)

Ná afloop van die Anglo-Boereoorlog (1899-1902), die dood van haar man (1910), asook die einde van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog (1914-1918), skryf Elizabeth Butler in hoofstuk 22 van haar outobiografie oor haar verblyf aan die Kaap. Haar man, William, het op 12 November 1898 uit Engeland na Kaapstad vertrek om die opperbevelhebber van die plaaslike Britse troepe te word. Sy vrou en drie kinders het hom op 18 Februarie 1899 gevolg. “We little knew what a dark period in his life awaited him out there, brought about by the malice of those in power there and at home. It is too sacred and too painful a subject for me to record it here further than I have done” (Kindle 3213).

“Though I was filled with admiration for the beauty of our surroundings, I never felt the happiness which Italy, Egypt or Palestine had given me. Very absurd, no doubt, and sentimental, but my love of the old haunts made me feel resentful of the topsy-turvy state of things I found down there … There was, besides, a local melancholy in that strange beauty I cannot describe. All this may be put down to sentimentality, but a very real melancholy attaches to South Africa in my mind in connection with my husband, who suffered there for his honesty and devotion to the honour of the Empire he served. The authorities accepted his resignation of the Cape command which he tendered for fear of embarrassing the Government, and he accepted the command of the Western District in its place, which meant Devonport [Plymouth]. So on August 22nd [1899] we all embarked for Home” (3223). Die Anglo-Boereoorlog het op 11 Oktober 1899 uitgebreek.

“There [in Britain] we found the campaign of calumny, originated in South Africa against Sir William, in its acutest phase. The Press was letting loose all the poison with which it was being supplied, and I consequenty went through, at first, the bitter pain of daily trying to intercept the vilest anonymous letters, many of them beer-stained missives couched in ill-spelt language from the slums. Not all the reparation offered to my husband later on … ever healed the wound. His offence had been a frank admission of sympathy for a people tenacious of their independence and, knowing the Boers as he did, he knew what their resistance would mean in case of attack. He was appalled at the prospect of a war, not against an army but against a people, involving the farm-burnings and all the horrors which our armies would have to resort to. He would fain have seen violence avoided and diplomacy used instead, knowing, as he did, that the old intransigent Dopper element would die out in time, and the new generation of Boers, many of whom were educated at our universities, intermarrying with the English, as they were already doing, would have brought about that very union of the two races within the Empire which has been reached to-day through all that suffering. In case, however, war should be decided on he employed the utmost vigour allowed to official language to warn those in power of the necessity for enormous forces in order to ensure success. Some of his despatches were suppressed. The idea at Headquarters was an easy march to Pretoria. What I have alluded to as the malice which prompted the campaign of calumny had caused the report to be spread that our initial defeats were owing to his wilful neglect in not warning the directing powers of the gravity of their undertaking” (3228).

Slot

Die vraag kan gestel word: Wie het die land wat eens ons Afrikaner-vaderland was, opgedonder? Dit lyk asof daar agtereenvolgend drie groepe was wat die Afrikanerdom skade aangedoen het. Eerstens was daar die Britte wat in 1795 en 1806 met troepe hier aangekom het en later met ‘n leër teen die Boererepublieke opgeruk het om eie gierigheid te bevredig. Tweedens was daar FW de Klerk en sy onderhandelaars (veral Roelf Meyer, Leon Wessels en Dawie de Villiers), gesteun deur enkele ministers, wat ‘n volslae mislukkig van die grondwetlike onderhandelinge gemaak het. Pleks van politieke magsdeling te bewerkstellig, soos aan die blanke kiesers belowe is, is mandaatloos aan swart mag oorgegee. Derdens is daar die heillose ANC-regime wat in ondoeltreffendheid en korrupsie uitmunt. Pleks van self welvaart skep, word die een na die ander maatreël getref om blankes op ‘n suiwer rassistiese grondslag te benadeel en hulle van hulle besittings en selfs lewens te beroof.

Al drie hierdie groepe is in uitnemende mate moreel verwerplik, sodat dit moeilik is om te besluit wie die grootste sondebok is. Die Britte kan as verweer aanvoer dat hulle gedrag ingevolge die kolonialisme en imperialisme van destyds verduidelik (eerder as geregverdig) kan word. ANC-kamerade kan hulle terrorisme en ander gruweldade, asook die voortgesette geweldpleging tot op hede, probeer vergoeilik as gevestigde kultuuruitinge wat eerder instinktief as rasioneel gedrewe is. Die NP-groepie wat aan swart mag oorgegee het, kan kwalik ‘n verweer vir hulle skandalige gedrag uitdink, behalwe miskien dat hulle die “wêreldmening” ter wille was. Wat hulle gedoen het, is en bly vir my die verwerplikste gebeurtenis in die Suid-Afrikaanse geskiedenis. Hulle het in werklikheid niks positiefs bereik nie. Nie vrede nie. Nie ‘n voorspoedige land nie. Hulle het doelbewus en met oorgawe verraad teen die plaaslike blankes, veral die Afrikanerdom, gepleeg.

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