Afrikaners hold out for full Boer War apology

ROYAL VISIT: Queen embroiled in controversy as right-wingers protest and street urchins are swept out of sight for Commonwealth summit
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The Independent Online
SOUTH AFRICAN ultraright-wingers reacted with fury yesterday to the Queen's failure to apologise for Britain's role in the death of 28,000 white women and children in concentration camps during the Boer War.

Saying "the war is not over in British minds'', Louis Van der Schyff, general secretary of the Herstigte Nasionale Party (Reformed National Party), which demonstrated in Pretoria, said British gestures to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war "mean nothing''.

In a speech last night at a banquet in Pretoria the Queen not only stopped short of a formal apology but failed to echo regrets for the war expressed by the Duke of Kent during a visit to grave sites last month.

"It is fitting that we should remember that tragic chapter in the history of both our countries," she said. "We should remember with sadness the loss of life and suffering, not only of British or Boer soldiers, but of all those caught up in the war - black and white, men, women and children ... It is surely right that we commemorate the centenary of this war in a spirit of reconciliation."

On Saturday the Duke of Edinburgh will lay wreaths at British and Afrikaner graves at the Spioenkop battle site in KwaZulu-Natal, but is not expected to speak.

Britain is echoing the new government's inclusive commemorations of the war, which ended in May 1902, and claimed not only British and Afrikaner lives but at least 14,000 black casualties. Most of the blacks who died were women and children confined to camps in which the conditions are said to have been worse than those faced by whites.

Mr Van der Schyff said: "In 1995 the Queen apologised to the Maoris in New Zealand. We do not see why we cannot have the same thing. We asked for a meeting with the Queen but the High Commission just sent us a copy of the Duke of Kent's speech.

"It is not sufficient to talk about all the peoples in South Africa. This war was between the British and the two Boer republics, the Free State and the Transvaal. There were very few blacks carrying arms and they were on the British side. It means nothing to say you are sorry about the war.

"The new focus on all South Africans in the war is part of the leftist propaganda of the new South Africa. The reason the British will not apologise is that the war is not over in their minds. The African National Congress did not go to Moscow for support, it went to London. The British still see the Afrikaner as their enemy.''

Another Afrikaner party, the more moderate Freedom Front, did not demonstrate, but its chairman, Pieter Mulder, called on the Queen to lay a wreath at a concentration camp site. "That would be even more meaningful than an apology."

The Queen arrived in South Africa on Tuesday from Ghana and will move on to Mozambique next week after opening the biennial Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Durban.

She was last in South Africa in 1995 and this is only the second time she has been away from Britain on Remembrance Day.

She will mark it on Sunday in Durban, whose cenotaph is a replica of the one in London.