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"Heart of Whiteness: Afrikaners Face Black Rule in the New South Africa"
By June Goodwin and Ben Schiff
413 pp.; $27.50
On November 5, 1994, the Reverend Johan Heyns was seated in the living room of his Pretoria home with his wife and grandchildren when an assassin, standing only six yards away, fired a high-powered rifle through an open window. The bullet, modified to wreak maximum havoc, blew off Heyns's head.
So begins this timely, informative, and often painful account of the postapartheid mentality of the largest white "tribe" in the new South Africa. Heyns's assassination is a particularly graphic symbol of contemporary divisions within Afrikanerdom, for in the years before the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, Heyns had been a foot-dragging spokesman for the main Dutch Reformed church and the once-secret Broederbund who offered endless, theologically grounded reasons for maintaining the white-dominated status quo. Finally, however, he had given in to the tide of events and accepted an all-race political nation. For that malfeasance, and despite his earlier positions, he was condemned to grisly death by a radically reactionary fringe group of Afrikaners.
It is indeed gratifying that most of the individuals profiled by Goodwin and Schiff--capable reporters who carried out their interviews in 1992--do not evidence the extremism that led to Heyns's assassination. Rather, Afrikaners now seem spread out along a broad spectrum, with a few "liberals" joyfully welcoming the recent changes in South Africa, a few "extremists" fighting them to the bitter end, but most (including large numbers of what can only be called "moderate traditionalists" and "moderate progressives") making the best of the new situation. As always, the Afrikaners' gritty Calvinism bulks large in any assessment of their attitudes, actions, and expectations. Sadly, there are all too many examples here of the prostitution of the faith to tribal absolutes. Happily, there are many examples of the ...