Leon Lemmer: Christopher Hope (Deel 1): Die wit klong wat weggehol het

Anti-Afrikaanse skrywer Christopher Hope
Deel op

Daar is iets waarin ek ‘n groot renons het: Oud-Suid-Afrikaners wat uit die land gevlug het en dan met skryfwerk vorendag kom waarin hulle die blanke politieke bewind in baie groter mate as die huidige swart regime veroordeel. Daar is gevalle soos Anelia Schutte, wat in 1999 geëmigreer het (Praag 5.10.2019), en Philippa Garson, wat in 2008 genoeg van die “bevryde, demokratiese” Suid-Afrika gehad het (Praag 23.05.2020).

Christopher Hope (gebore in 1944) verskil van die genoemde twee omdat hy reeds in 1974 oorsee verkas het. Dit het gevolg nadat twee van sy digbundels (1970, 1974) in Suid-Afrika verban is. Sy eerste roman, A separate development (1977), is ook verban. Ek is teen sensuur gekant, maar Hope se weergawe van apartheid en sy siening van die Afrikanerdom is so buitensporig oordrewe en bevooroordeeld dat ek dit moeilik vind om ‘n verbod op sy skryfwerk te betreur. In wat hier onder volg, is dit meesal onnodig om hom teen te spreek omdat ingeligte lesers weet dat daardie stellings vals is. Ná 1977 het nog van sy romans met Suid-Afrikaanse temas gevolg, soos Kruger’s Alp (1984) en The Hottentot room (1986). “After all writing was a way of showing where one stood” (Hope, bron hier onder, Kindle 3714). Hope se pa is as vlieënier in die Tweede Wêreldoorlog in Noord-Afrika gedood. Sy ma, Kathleen Hope, het weer getrou maar Christopher het nie met sy stiefpa oor die weg gekom nie. Hy het sy ma se nooiensvan as syne aangeneem. Hy het in 1967 getrou, maar geskei.

Hope beskou homself as ‘n Engelssprekende Rooms-Katoliek van Ierse oorsprong. Dit stel hom in staat om hom nie net radikaal van Afrikaners te distansieer nie, maar ook van Engelssprekendes van Britse oorsprong. “The Irish do not understand the English” (1691). Hy het dus ook nie in Engeland wortelgeskiet nie en hom in die middel van die jare negentig in Frankryk gevestig. Dit verhoed hom ongelukkig nie om periodiek besoek aan Suid-Afrika te bring en dan in sy geskrifte oor sy geboorteland gal te braak nie. In hierdie verband misbruik hy sy vaardigheid in Afrikaans; ‘n vermoë wat dateer uit sy skoolloopbaan in Pretoria. Dié skoolonderrig, “Christian National Education,” was glo sleg. “It was not particularly Christian, never national and a travesty of education” (1831).

In 1962 het Hope met sy militêre diensplig in die Suid-Afrikaanse vloot begin. Daarna was hy ‘n student aan die Universiteit van die Witwatersrand (BA-graad, 1963-1965) en aan die Universiteit Natal in Durban (Honneurs-BA in Engels, 1969); ook ‘n MA-graad in Engels aan Wits (1970). In Durban was hy ‘n joernalis. Sy radikaal linkse ideologie toon duidelike spore van sy Wits-agtergrond. Byvoorbeeld, “I write not to change the world but to undermine it” en “It is not for the white farmers to insist they belong.”

‘n Interessante waarneming van Hope, toe hy in 1987 ‘n kroeg op die Wits-kampus besoek het, is: “the race groups split these days into separate tables … It is striking to note how this voluntary apartheid prevails” (3073). ‘n Ander integrasionis, Jonathan Jansen, het tot sy ontsteltenis dieselfde verskynsel op die kampus van die Universiteit Pretoria asook op dié van die Universiteit Vrystaat waargeneem. Dit lyk asof soort-soek-soort ‘n natuurlike verskynsel is; dat dit glad nie afstootlik of misdadig is nie.

In hierdie tweedelige rubriek bespreek ek Hope se twee outobiografiese boeke, wat hy as nie-fiksie aanbied.

White boy running

Hope het in 1987 na Suid-Afrika gereis om die plekke waar hy eens gewoon het, te besoek. Hy het terselfdertyd die algemene verkiesing, op 6 Mei, meegemaak. Daarna is die volgende boek van hom gepubliseer: White boy running (London: Atlantic Books, 1988/2018, 288p; Amazon Kindle $12,06). Hou deurgaans in gedagte dat wat Hope beskryf die ou Suid-Afrika is, dus toe die blankes nog in beheer van die land was,

Sy besoek het doelbewus die aanloop tot die algemene verkiesing en die verkiesingsdag ingesluit. “This election has a peculiar fascination. Almost certainly it will be the last all-White election ever held, and I have an overwhelming desire to be in at the death” (Kindle 275). “Nationalists, Progressives and Conservatives … are united in their rejection of majority rule … no one talks of Black rule” (979). “The President himself now declares that there will never be majority rule in this country, and, therefore, there will never be a Black President” (1009). Hierdie 1987-situasie toon onteenseglik dat dit ‘n leuen is dat die meeste blanke kiesers in die 1992-referendum tot swart meerderheidsregering ingestem het. Die waarheid is dat die blankes en die land in 1994 op die allerskandaligste manier uit ‘n eerstewêreldse Westerse toekoms verneuk is.

In die teks is daar lang literêre beskrywings waarin die outeur klaarblyklik met die oog op buitelandse lesers veral die Afrikanergeskiedenis kriminaliseer. Van die stellings is uiters vergesog maar is blykbaar geskryf in die waan dat hulle eerder gevatte as misplaaste humorsin dokumenteer. Daar word baie van nabaat gebruik gemaak om die indruk te wek dat die outeur reeds vroeg in sy lewe in oorverligtheid uitgemunt het. As romanskrywer gee hy soms vrye teuels aan sy verbeelding. “It was as if the place [South Africa] was so absurd, so incredible, so terrifyingly funny that it was only by putting it into story form that you could believe in it” (1541). Hy misbruik bv die bekende truuk om skynonderhoude met anonieme mense te voer en dan self as die beterweterige orakel op te tree. Hierdie alwysheid ontspring in ‘n mens wat met die eerste probeerslag nie eens sy matriekeksamen kon slaag nie (2049). Geskiedenis was seker een van die vakke wat hy gedruip het, want hy skryf van “the defeat of the republican ideals by the British, not once, but twice in the Boer Wars of 1880 and 1899” (177).

Hope illustreer hoe vreesbevange die blankes is deur te vertel van hoe ‘n blanke in die nag al hoe vinniger geloop en later gehardloop het toe hy agterkom dat hy agtervolg word. Hy het verkeerdelik gedink dat hy deur ‘n swarte agtervolg word. Die agtervolger vra toe vir hom: “Why are you running, White boy?” (1671). Die boektitel is hieraan ontleen. Hope vra: “Who told me the story? Did I make it up myself? I do not know” (1676). As ek reg onthou, is dit Jesse Jackson wat van ‘n soortgelyke ondervinding vertel het: Hoe bang hy was toe hy agterkom dat hy agtervolg word, hoe verlig hy was toe hy vasstel sy agtervolgers blankes was en hoe skaam hy gevoel het oor sy vrees vir mede-swartes in die nag. Waarmee Hope hom in sy outobiografiese boeke besig hou, is ‘n spel wat wissel tussen feit en fiksie. In hierdie geval vind Hope aansluiting by die gewilde polities byderwetse tipering van blankes as swakkelinge wat vreesbevange en broos (“fragile”) is.

Die gevare wat Afrikaners in hierdie “wye en droewe land” (NP van Wyk Louw) deurstaan het, word as mites afgemaak. “I dislike intensely people who support walls, build them, and encourage their use” (3739). Volgens Hope het hierdie bangbroeke in 1652 per skip hier aangekom. In Kaapstad is daar “a castle which the early settlers built to replace their fort. The fort was the first thing they built, and is indicative of the state of their thinking about the indigenous inhabitants of the Cape” (2083). In 1510 is die Portugese ontdekkingsreisiger, Francisco D’Almeida, en 64 van sy bemanningslede aan die Kaap deur Khoi-Khoin uitgemoor. Verwag Hope dat Jan van Riebeeck en sy manskappe hierdie feit liewer moes geïgnoreer het? Ek het die indruk dat Hope die eerste blankes aan die Kaap eerder dood wou gehad het. Dit word bevestig deur sy wens dat Hans Strijdom en Hendrik Verwoerd liewer dood moet wees (kyk hier onder).

Die illustrasie op die voorkant van die boek toon ‘n (bevoorregte) wit seuntjie wat deur ‘n (benadeelde) swart kinderoppaster op ‘n kruiwa gestoot word. Dit verbeeld die tema van die boek. Hope vertel agtereenvolgend van sy besoek aan Balfour, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Kaapstad en Durban. In sy 2018-voorwoord maak hy op objektiwiteir aanspraak: “I tried to portray the surreal [!] heart of the country by collecting evidence from the most expert witnesses, those on the ground, on all sides and from all races” (57). Hy gee (valslik) voor dat sy hervestiging in die buiteland hom help om Suid-Afrika objektief te beoordeel. “I could live at such a remove from my own country; I must say that I found it preferable” (1237). Waarom dan nie eerder permanent wegbly en ophou om laakbaar oor jou geboorteland te skryf nie?

‘n Mens sou verwag dat hy, omdat hy dertig jaar lank in die land gewoon het, van beter sou weet, naamlik dat die onderskeiding van vier hoofetniese groepe op verskille in kultuur (leefwyse, maniere van dink en doen) gebaseer is en nie primêr op velkleur nie. Hy verkies egter om te beweer dat apartheid/afsonderlike ontwikkeling uitsluitlik op velpigmentasie gegrond is, gevolglik noem hy die beleid “a monument to stupidity” (57). “Skin tones [are] the only realities in South Africa” (2759). Hope verwys na “the religion of pigmentation … The result is to create a country more bizarre than anything a writer could dream up. South Africa is a deeply inventive asylum” (3818); “a horrifying comedy” (3823). Die blankes koester glo “secret epidermal consolations” (1640). “Anywhere else colour is no more than an impression of tonal values, but in South Afrika it is the world” (2019). As slegs velkleur die verskil tussen blankes en swartes was, waarom word dit algemeen aanvaar dat geen blanke ooit weer die plaaslike staatshoof sal wees nie?

Die land word soos volg gekarakteriseer: “South Africa does not exist as a place, it is only the expression of policy; it is not a country, it is a condition. It is the result of forty years of social engineering in which it has been hacked about and reshaped according to a wild ambitious dream that maintained that it is only by building fences between groups with differently coloured skins that you could make the Black people free and the Afrikaner people safe” (3513). ‘n Meer akkurate beskrywing van die dilemma is: “How do you acknowledge Black aspirations for majority rule while conceding legitimate White fears of domination?” (2409). Die keuse is óf swart oorheersing, soos ons sedert 1994 ervaar, óf blanke baasskap, soos ons in die goeie ou dae beleef het.

Die “White Right” van destyds (die Konserwatiewe Party, Herstigte Nasionale Party en AfrikanerWeerstandsBeweging) word beskryf as aanhangers van rassuiwerheid, van “the ethnic immaculacy of the Afrikaner tribe” (701). Hulle word as “Neanderthal political thinker[s]” (409) en as “fanatical groupings” (595) uitgekryt. Let op die volgende oordrewe formulering: “The merest tincture of poison introduced into the sacred well of racial purity will kill the tribe” (208). “The National Party represents something akin to the Middle Ages; to its right the Conservative and Herstigte National Parties together yearn for a return to the Dark Ages” (244). Dalk laat Hope se geskiedeniskennis hom weer in die steek, want die Donkereeue word dikwels as ‘n sinoniem vir die Middeleeue gebruik.

Wat het in 1948 gebeur toe die NP aan die bewind gekom het? “The great darkness … fell on the land” (264). “They set out to restore the legend, the potent myth, of trekker heroism” (1551).”The [Afrikaner] tribe … decided that time should be stopped and put into reverse” (294). “It is always yesterday in South Africa” (284). “The new regime of 1948 came in on a programme which declared that the way forwards was the way backwards” (1396). “The best place for the past was firmly ahead of them” (1461). Paul Kruger se woorde aan sy volksgenote word soos volg verdraai: “If they cared for their future they should look to the past” (430). Kruger se stelling was egter selektief oor die verlede en uitdruklik toekomsgerig: (geparafraseer) Neem uit die verlede wat goed is en bou die toekoms daarop. Hope laat nie die kans verbygaan om Kruger sleg te sê nie. “Kruger was so easy to dislike, he presented such a target, an extremely vulgar man, a buffoon, an anachronism” (1570). Later noem hy Kruger “the vulgar, stubborn backwoodsman” (1620).

Afrikanerpolitiek is glo sinoniem met gewelddadige oorheersing. “The true texts, or literatures of this country, are to be read in gunshots, walls and fences” (2505). “What things come down to – a fist, a boot, a bullet … These farmers truly expect the Black man to be the death of them one day” (376). Die swartes word glo saamgehok in tuislande, “casinostans” (2887), “obscure tribal fiefdoms distinguished only by their casinos and their soil erosion” (1974). “Only the police are happy” (1974). “One goes to the police station as one would to the Church, because police stations are, after all, way stations upon the road to Paradise” (2475).”The present Government, through its police and its soldiers, is at war with the rest of the country. It may talk, it may posture, promise, pretend, it may ‘consult’, it may announce ‘reforms’, but it seems to have lost even the last threads of legitimacy” (3158).

“This government is itself the greatest barrier against any sort of meaningful change. It is too much to expect that the men who invented apartheid could begin to understand how it should be dismantled … Consider the dilemma: the Afrikaner cannot effect meaningful change without ceding power to another group” (3296). Elders noem hy dit “real change” (3972). Vir Hope (wat in die buiteland sit) en diesulke is betekenisvolle of egte verandering oorgawe aan swart mag, waarmee hulle nie daagliks sou moet saamleef nie. Dít is iets waaroor daar in regse geledere duidelikheid is. “Nowhere is the dilemma of the present regime more keenly appreciated than among its opponents on the far right” (3300).

Hope, die “Ier”, distansieer hom ook van die blankes van Britse oorsprong wat die NP-regering al hoe meer gesteun het. Oor bv die 1930’s skryf Hope: “This is not to suggest that Englishspeakers … were any less racially prejudiced than their Afrikaner counterparts; indeed, they were often more vulgarly and shrewishly disposed towards the ‘natives’ than the Afrikaner who lived and worked with them” (566). “The Englishspeaking liberal had made a considerable contribution to his own irrelevance … A sense of fairness and tolerance were precisely the qualities which prevented us from attacking the everyday idiocies of our Government with proper ferocity” (3808). “I believed that the only possible response to the system … was … to find a way of attacking it from some new vantage point” (3813).

Oor DF Malan se herstigting van die Nasionale Party, nadat Barry Hertzog met Jan Smuts se party in koalisie gegaan het, skryf Hope: “A new ‘purified’ National Party, a rough, unlovely thing” (580). Die bewindsaanvaarding van die NP in 1948 word “a catastrophe” (731) en “the start of the Afrikaner revolution” genoem (799). “The dogmas of purified Afrikanerdom were spreading like a killing mist … the racial phobias of the dominant tribe” (870). “Henceforth, the country was to be run on the lines of a human zoo with different species confined to their own cages” (1387). Malan se NP was glo verantwoordelik vir “the excoriation and, where possible, extirpation of the English and their influence” (580), “a detested minority” (1332). Eintlik verkondig hy die leuen dat die NP net so harteloos teenoor blanke Engelssprekendes opgetree het as wat die ANC-regime deesdae die blankes, veral die Afrikaners, behandel. “The Ayatollahs of apartheid have reigned now for four decades and the effects of their extraordinary forty-year programme of human engineering will be felt for many generations, whatever political changes may occur” (815).

“They [Calvinists/Afrikaners] were the ones who would someday roast in hell” (1347). “Nationalist politicians believe in the absolute coincidence between tribal imperatives and the wishes of the divine spirit” (1920). Hulle is glo ‘n “demented tribe” (1861). “It is singular that no opposition groups to the left of the present Government have ever emerged among Afrikaners” (1925). Volgens Hope se insig moet jy polities links wees om reg te hê. ‘n Afrikaner, daarenteen, “does not feel it [is] enough merely to be powerful, he wishes to be right as well … His critics are branded communists, subversives, traitors” (1925). “Exploiting people has never been wrong in this country” (3271).

Oor Hans Strijdom se dood in 1958 skryf Hope: “It seemed the brightest news in years” (1655). Oor David Pratt se mislukte sluipmoordpoging op Hendrik Verwoerd in 1960 skryf hy: “It was a tragedy that he [Pratt] had proved himself to be such a bad marksman” (1750). Hy verwys na “the old Show Grounds sacred to the memory of Mr Pratt” (3043). Dit klink asof Hope Dimitrio Tsafendas se suksesvolle aanslag in 1966 op Verwoerd se lewe verwelkom het. Hy verwys na Verwoerd as “a gentle fanatic filled with a sense of divine mission, and an unshakable, bewildering belief in the tribal exclusivity of the White Afrikaners, the apostle of apartheid who believed in the absolute separation of different groups” (2180); “that St Paul of segregation, the theoretician of the system of militant segregation we call apartheid” (2288).

In 1966 “I was rather embarrassed by the anguish of my Afrikaans co-workers and even more by my inability to offer even perfunctory sympathy in the face of their sorrow and disbelief, their grief; being without the least share of their mystical reverence for a man who seemed to me to have been more than anyone the baleful genius of a system of constitutional White supremacy, a man who permitted nothing to stand in the way of the historical imperatives of his tribe” (2195). “Here was a man who had pledged himself body and soul to the most grotesque distortion of human values” (2199). “After Verwoerd, the moral certainty went out of apartheid, fanaticism was replaced by expediency … the granite years were over and the greasy hours were at hand. Balthazar John Vorster, who had a face somewhere between that of a bloodhound and a Renaissance cardinal with dubious predilections, succeeded the Doctor” (2204).

As baba het Hope en sy ma op Balfour in sy oupa se huis gewoon en ná die oorlog by dieselfde oupa in Johannesburg; in Kerryweg, Parktown. Hendrik Verwoerd, die redakteur van Die Transvaler (1937-1948), het toe in dieselfde straat gewoon. Telkens wanneer Hope na Verwoerd verwys, noem hy Verwoerd sy eertydse buurman. In 1952 het hy, sy ma en stiefpa na Brooklyn in Pretoria verhuis; “the Boer capital” (1153), “their holy city … enemy country” (1327), waarin “sad, savage injustices” gepleeg word (1212); “under the crusading racialism practiced as an article of government policy against all our coloured countrymen” (1332), dus “an abnormal society” (1362). “Without some appreciation of the spiritual significance the place [Pretoria] holds for Afrikaners it is not possible to understand the dark symphony of White South African politics: the Whiter the politics, the darker the music” (1461). “Parliament may pass legislation in Cape Town, while the judicial capital is in Bloemfontein, but the real damage is done in Pretoria” (1177).

Die Uniegebou word “our very own Kremlin” genoem. “It has about it the look of a prison or an asylum” (1183). Sou Hope die Uniegebou steeds so beskryf noudat die ANC-regime daar ingetrek het? Ek dink nie so nie. Die Voortrekkermonument is glo “this immense bulky granite bunker” (1470), “the great granite mausoleum” (2559). “The place is a gigantic exercise in vulgar triumphalism and it looks like an inflated model of those radio sets they used to build in the ‘thirties” (1480). Blykbaar is Afrikaners nie eens in staat om sonder om skande te maak monumente te bou nie. Oor die monument by Bloedrivier skryf Hope: “Opened in 1973, built at enormous cost, it caused something of a scandal, but then that has been the way with most of the sacred monuments to the Afrikaner faith” (2559). In Pretoria het Hope die Transvaal Museum besoek om ‘n uitgestorwe olifantvoël van Madagaskar en ‘n Mauritiaanse dodo te sien. “White Calvinists … were really the Elephant Birds of South Africa. And their nervous, English-speaking accomplices were the Dodos. Surely it would be simply a matter of time before both faded into oblivion” (1521).

In 1987 was daar “endemic violence” in Suid-Afrika (1103, 2460). Hope verwys na die veiligheidsmaatreëls wat die blankes tref (1103). “What is interesting is the way in which what one might call the politics of the barricade is being increasingly reflected in the architecture of the cities, in the pill-box or bunker style of many commercial buildings” (2374). Dwarsdeur sy boek versuim hy egter in groot mate om te sê watter vorme daardie misdadigheid aanneem, bv terrorisme, en wie hierdie misdade pleeg. Hy distansieer hom van die aanvaarding van medeverantwoordelikheid vir die politieke situasie in Suid-Afrika. “The sense of exile we [liberals/Catholics] felt within our own country is something which has never left me. We were a generation who went into exile before we left home. Leaving does not increase the sense of loss, returning does not cure it” (1356). Waarom dan nie eerder permanent skoert nie?

In 1962 het Hope na Simonstad verhuis vir sy militêre diens in die vloot (2093). Ná sy studiejare aan Wits het hy in 1966 na Kaapstad teruggekeer om redaksionele werk te doen (2140). In 1987 het hy Kaapstad herbesoek. Dit gee aan hom die geleentheid om gal te braak oor die opruiming van die krotbuurt en misdaadnes bekend as Distrik Ses. Die bruin inwoners is (in bekende geykte terminologie) na “the windswept, desolate flat lands” (2135), Mitchells Plain, verskuif. “There is nothing but an open space where Distict Six used to be … The place looks like a bomb site” (2149). “I hope they will never build on it … This gaping hole … where people once lived” (2159).

In 1987 het Hope ‘n NP-verkiesingsbyeenkoms op Stellenbosch bygewoon wat deur PW Botha toegespreek is. “He is prepared, he says, for negotiation but not for surrender” (2313). “The vinger begins to wag” (2323). “The forefinger stabs the air” (2333). Die nie-terroris, PW Botha, mag nie sy voorvinger gebruik ter beklemtoning van wat hy sê nie. Die terroris, Nelson Mandela, mag egter sy vuis in die lug rondswaai en word dan as ‘n versoener en vredemaker geloof. Hope het ook ‘n byeenkoms van die onafhanklike politieke kandidaat, Denis Worrall (Praag 23.03.2019), bygewoon. “Perhaps most damaging is the inability, or the refusal, of Denis Worrall to specify his programme, or to say where the differences between himself and the National Party really lie” (2354).

Volgende keer skryf ek oor Hope se siening van die nuwe Suid-Afrika.

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