Being politically active in Afrikaans is a tough gig. For white Afrikaans speakers, politics is an abandoned territory vacated in shame and self-preservation in the aftermath of apartheid. For coloured Afrikaans speakers, politics is a low priority after the socio-economic challenges inherited from centuries of being neither white enough or black enough – and still today weighted under the ever-present threat of the judgement of “better” or “proper” Afrikaans speakers. For black Afrikaans speakers, the mere participation in political discourse brings the threatening possibility of isolation – too Afrikaans for traditional black politics, too black for traditional Afrikaans politics. An overarching handicap for all Afrikaans speakers is the association this unique African language carried with it into the twenty-first century: it was and will apparently always be the taal of the apartheid government and a cruel history.
Yet, we at Podlitiek are convinced that it does not have to be this way. These narratives of Afirkaans embarrassment, Afrikaans exclusion and Afrikaans isolation have gone on for too long. For too long it has been the case that Afrikaans must play the role of mere one-dimensional dutiful and whimsical language of certain arts, some culture and some sports. For too long it has been the case that Afrikaans must continually be on the backfoot and humiliated defensive, irrespective the skin colour of the speaker. For too long have Afrikaans speakers been trapped in frustration at exclusion, denial of linguistic purpose, and shamefaced ignorance over whether this African language of diverse origin can play an important role in the politics of this country.
Afrikaans is the most diverse African language through its reach across borders of class, race and demographics. Afrikaans is the language in which the well-off white businessman, beneficiary of all the trappings of an economy rigged in his favour, can converse with the poverty-stricken coloured mother, victim of a century of being initially too black and then too white. Afrikaans is a language that can play a unique unifying role in a time of incredible division. As mother tongue, but even more so as second language. The cruelty of historic injustice has left us a language, tainted by division, but equipped to unify in discussion.
The time has come to let Afrikaans have its day as a serious African political language of a democratic South Africa. And even if this task is enormously ambitious in its ends, it is imminently practical in its first steps. Podlitiek is a podcast set on taking these first steps. It is an initiative to take the inaccessible discourse of South African politics, and make it the arena of a proud African language that can build a future South Africa by crossing over lines that have historically separated South African form South African. But not only to talk the talk for the sake of talking, but to nurture fresh and untried ideologies – ideologies that have never received the attention of Afrikaans speakers.
Away, therefore, with the obstacles to discussion between white, coloured and black in Afrikaans. Away with the inhibitions that have disqualified Afrikaans as a language of full political participation. Away with the idea that Afrikaans is the tool and taal of the apartheid government and its statist, centralized, undemocratic, anti-liberty and simplistic oppression.
Join us at Podlitiek to usher in this new vibrancy of Afrikaans as a language of social and economic liberty and the honest pursuit for honest solutions. Join us to discuss the ideas that have too long been shut out from political discussion in Afrikaans. Join us in asserting the simple truth that any barrier to freedom is a barrier to overcome. Join us in overcoming the linguistic barrier of Afrikaans being seen as too white, too NP, too old, too statist, too left, too right, too wrong.
Afrikaans has been called a kombuistaal – a kitchen language. Well, then join us at the kitchen table. We all know that is where the real discussions take place.
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