Olive Schreiner Maak Voorspraak Vir Afrikaners En Afrikaans

Olive Schreiner Het Cecil John Rhodes Ontmasker
Junie 25, 2013
Ons Vir Jou
Junie 25, 2013

Olive Schreiner het vir Afrikaans, die Afrikaanse kultuur en Afrikaners voorspraak gemaak

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Só is Olive Schreiner en ds. A.I. Steytler, leraar van die Groote Kerk in Kaapstad, deur die Engelse pers in Kaapstad en Londen van anti-Britse propaganda en rassehaat beskuldig omdat hulle dit durf waag het om in die openbaar beswaar te maak teen Brittanje se oorlogsmisdade teen die Afrikaners.

Deur MARTHINUS VAN BART

Afrikaans, die Afrikaanse kultuur en Afrikaners word toenemend gemarginaliseer soos wat allerlei owerheidsmaatreëls sedert 1994 daarteen ingestel word.

Maar dit is in werklikheid niks nuuts nie: In 1905 het die eensame stem van ’n Engelssprekende intellektueel, Olive Emilie Albertina Schreiner (1855 – 1920), verras deur in die openbaar voorspraak vir Afrikaans as staatsdienstaal te maak.

Pas ná die Vrede van Vereeniging op 31 Mei 1902, toe Boer en Brit die driejarige Anglo-Boereoorlog gestaak en plegtig onderneem het om saam Suid-Afrika onder die Britse vlag te herbou, het die pas aangewese administrateur vir Transvaal en die Vrystaat, sir Alfred Milner, die volgende nasiebou-raad aan die Afrikaanse gemeenskap gegee: “Let your language and your culture go.”

En in eie geledere het hy verklaar: “It is no longer a war of bullets, but it is a war still. We must knock the bottom out of the Afrikaner nation for ever an ever, Amen.”

Terwyl die oorlog nog gewoed het, het hy in ’n brief aan ’n imperialistiese lid van die Liberale Party, Richard Burdon, lord Haldane, geskryf: “The Boers must be completely beaten. You must give us time to thoroughly anglicize the Transvaal.”

In 1906, toe hy reeds na England teruggekeer het, word Milner in ’n tydskrif aangehaal: “. . . the cultivation of distinctively Dutch traditions and ideals of Dutch version of South African history, inevitably makes, if not for separation, yet for estrangement from Great Britain and from the Empire.” En daarvoor moet ’n teenwig gevind word.

Milner se uitsprake was tekenend van die indertydse onverdraagsame tydsgees van die Britte. Die huidge swygsaamheid van die Engelse gemeenskap, soos weerspieél deur sy media, oor die voortgesette aanslag op Afrikaans en die Afrikaanse kultuur, laat die vermoede dat dié gees nog lewend is. Dit is tog geen geringe saak as die Afrikaanse taal en kultuur uit die parlement, howe, universiteite en skole, stads- en dorpsname, padborde en straatname verwyder word nie – tensy Milner se soort nasiebou voorgestaan word.

In 1905 het The Cape Times oudergewoonte anti-Afrikaanse sentiment aangeblaas deur die taal in sy visier te kry. Dit is bestem om onder Britse heerskappy uit te sterf, het die koerant gepropageer, en ’n kwaai aanval geloots op senator F.S. Malan, wat dit gewaag om in die parlement voor te stel dat Afrikaans as verpligte vak vir kandidaat-staatsamptenare ingestel word.

Malan was die voormalige redakteur van die Kaapse koerant Ons Land wat gedurende die ABO in die tronke in Roelandstraat en Tokai gevangenisstraf moes uitdien omdat hy die oorlogsmisdade van die Britse leër in sy blad onthul het.

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Olive Emilie Albertina Schreiner in 1898 afgeneem.

Olive Schreiner het ’n brief aan The Cape Times geskryf waarin sy nie net die blad se anti-Afrikaanse standpunt aanval nie, maar sterk voorspraak vir Afrikaans, die Afrikaanse kultuur en Afrikaners in die algemeen maak.

Hierdie brief is vandag nie wyd bekend nie, en ingeligdes verwys selde daarna. Voorkeur word eerder gegee aan haar rassistiese roman, Story of an African Farm, wat sy in haar jonger dae geskryf het toe sy nog sterk onder die invloed van haar anti-Afrikaanse gemeenskap verkeer het. Dit was voordat sy eerstehands met formidabele Afrikaners, soos haar broer, William, se swaer, die Vrystaatse president F.W. Reitz, en dié se skrywer-seun Deneys Reitz kennis gemaak het. William het met Frances Hester Reitz getrou. F.W. Reitz was een van die merkwaardigste Afrikaners in die geskiedenis.

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Olive Schreiner in die tyd toe sy The Story of an African Farm geskryf het.

In Story of an African Farm maak Olive karikature van die Afrikaners en die Iere, gewilde slaansakke van die Engelse jingo-establishment. En hierdie boekie is al ontelbare male herdruk en bekroon, selfs verfilm, en dit word steeds op woordfeeste evangelies vertroetel.

In haar brief aan The Cape Times vertel sy hoedat ’n Engelssprekende stasiemeester in sy onvermoë om met ’n Afrikaanse vrou, met ses kinders by haar, te kommunikeer, byna daarvoor gesorg het dat sy en haar kroos tien ure lank op die stasie op ’n volgende trein sou moes wag terwyl die een wat sy moes haal, juis toe op die stasie gestaan het en gereed was om te vertrek. Olive het toevallig gehoor wat die vrou vra, en hoedat die Engelsman haar verkeerd verstaan. Sy het haar reggehelp en gesorg dat sy en die kinders betyds in die trein klim.

Schreiner vervolg dan in haar brief: “If I might be allowed to suggest, I should say, that for them (civil servants). . .  a working knowledge of the colloquial Taal, which would enable a man to give and answer questions, and write and read ordinary letters in it, would be very easily acquired, and would meet the practical difficulties of this case, I think, and not press heavily on any of our Civil Services.”

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F.W. Reitz. Hy was president van die Boererepubliek van die Oranje Vrijstaat en later staatsekretaris van die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek van Transvaal onder pres. Paul Kruger.

Schreiner skryf voorts dat die Afrikaner sy land hartstogtelik liefhet, en in geen mindere mate nie, óók sy taal: “Hardly less dear to him than South Africa itself is his speech, the language his forefathers themselves shaped; in which Boer mothers for generations have sung their children to sleep, and Boer youths spoken the first words of courtship to the women who were to be their wives, in which the old Voortrekkers prayed over the dead whom they left in their solitary graves in the wilderness, and which is associated with every sacred and domestic emotion of their lives.”

“You cannot deal with the Taal as though it were a commercial asset – a thing to be weighed and calculated over! It has its roots deep in the hearts of thousands of our fellow countrymen; and it demands from us that respect and consideration which the wise head and the broad heart are always ready to give to that which has become an object of veneration and affection to the hearts of its fellow-men.

“It is for this reason I should have been glad if the little practical measure we are discussing had been brought into the House of Parliament, not by a descendant of Taalspeaking South Africans, but by one of my fellow South Africans of English speech and blood who sit on the right side of the Speaker’s chair. For it is by such seemingly small act showing sympathy not merely with each other’s material needs, but with each other’s emotions and ideals, that we in this strangely complex little South African family of ours must ultimately be drawn close together.

“It is a small thing to step aside to avoid treading on the grave of a man’s father; yet, if he sees you do it, he may remember that act when much larger benefits are forgotten.”

“If there are any persons in South Africa today who believe that, by scheming or by legislative enactments or by force of any kind, they can supppress the Taal, they are mistaken. The Taal is watered by the affection of too many strong hearts in South Africa to allow of its destruction. Every time you try to nip off the tip of a shoot, it sends down a root six feet into the ground. Men and women have died before this for the sake of wearing a strip of green ribbon on their hat or their breast, not because the ribbon was anything, but the right to wear it everything; it is a dangerous thing to allow any name to be inscribed on a banner of human freedom unless you mean to confer upon it immortality.

“If there should be any persons so purblind as to believe that it they could forcibly suppress the Taal (which they will never do), and could substitute in its place from Zambesi to the sea, as the only form of speech of every man, woman and child, English, that they would of necessity produce a race servile to external dictation, submissive to internal over-centralisation and autocratic rule, they are mistaken!

“It is not by teaching men to use this speech, nor by giving them the command of the traditions embedded in this language, that you will ever convert them into poltroons or submitters!

“The day is coming, not in the far future, but the near, when Taal-speaking and English-speaking South Africans will stand shoulder to shoulder guarding the rights of the land which is theirs. And when that day comes, the first step will have been taken towards the realisation of that for which we labour and for which we wait – a South Africa, not mighty in wealth nor in numbers, but great in freedom, not merely in the freedom from external control and interference, but in that deeper and much more important internal form of freedom which gives to every man and woman in the land, irrespective of race or sex or speech or colour, the largest amount of liberty and justice accorded to men and women anywhere. It is a long row we have to hoe before we get there – but I believe we shall.”

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