South African Elections: White right-winger awaits call to go to war for 'volkstaat': Niek Deetleefs tells John Carlin in Orkney, Western Transvaal, why his Christian beliefs do not allow him to vote on 26 April
The question is: can the Deetleefs of this world still change the course of South African history?
Barely a month ago South Africa was bracing itself for the 'civil war' they were going to unleash. Then the warriors of Eugene Terre- Blanche's Afrikaner Resistance Movement were routed by a handful of black soldiers in Bophuthatswana and General Constand Viljoen announced he was taking part in the elections. The right wing dropped off the political landscape.
Or had they? Mr Deetleefs provided some of the answers. Chairman of the Conservative Party in Orkney, a gold-mining town in the Western Transvaal, he is revered in local right-wing circles. Attempts to see others drew a blank. 'Talk to Deetleefs,' they said.
He is 55, works as a senior clerk in a local mine, lives in a large bungalow with a medium-sized garden, a swimming-pool, two dogs, six cockatiels and a pleasant wife. Like most Afrikaners, he is polite and hospitable. You might be a journalist from Britain, the nation that locked away 26,000 women and children in concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer war - in which Mr Deetleefs' father fought. But he'll offer you a cup of tea.
Gaunt, straight-backed, firm- jawed, he is also a man of plain, severe principles, an elder in the whites-only branch of the Dutch Reformed Church. His politics, he said, were an extension of his Christianity. 'As far as I am concerned it is morally wrong to integrate blacks and whites. I'm not saying the black is less important than the white. But we are two different nations completely, two different races. That is why, as a person, I have nothing to do with this election. As a Christian, I cannot go and vote with a Communist. My Bible tells me I must fight Communism.'
Would he fight? Would there still be a war? 'At one stage I was under the impression we were well- organised and we'd create a hell of a war. Now with Constand Viljoen running one way and the others the other way, I'm not so sure. But what I can say is white terrorism will start after the elections. The white man won't just sit back and lose everything.'
Was he in favour of white terrorism? 'As a Christian, I cannot partake of that but I don't know to what extent I might be forced.' Forced? 'I will go to war, I can assure you. It's only the terrorism part that worries me because sometimes innocent people get killed. But if Ferdi Hartzenberg (the Conservative Party leader) calls us to a war, I'll be one of the first. Terrorism, that's different.'
What would he fight for? 'Our first priority is a volkstaat with its own territory. If we can't get that, we must settle for second best: a canton system like Switzerland. We'd have a constitutional structure that represents the people at national level and a federal government only for Afrikaners.'
Where would he mark out the Afrikaner canton? Were not blacks in the majority everywhere? 'The problem is that the government scrapped the influx control laws in the Eighties because now, all over, Afrikaners are in the minority. If we had kept that, we wouldn't have this problem.'
Yes, but given the demographic realities, where would he find his canton? 'We could have had it. If they had really wanted to find solutions we could have had it.' A note of regret, of resignation was beginning to creep into Mr Deetleef's conversation. The talk of war receded. 'I feel we've done what we could have done. I cannot really say whites will stand together and start a revolution. I am going into a period where I want to make the best of what is coming my way. I am not afraid of the future or standing up for my viewpoint. I'm a believer. God is a reality in my life. God is my strength.'
But could he contemplate living with a black ANC government? After all, surely he didn't really believe, at this point in history, that they were going to establish Communism in South Africa? 'If the ANC prove to me they've really broken with Communism and prove to me they see God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, then I will follow them.'
Did others share his views? 'I would say the greater part of the Afrikaner nation think like me.'
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