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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Europeans in South Africa

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South Africa Facts
Area:    1,219,912 sq. km.
Capital:    Pretoria
Total Population:    42,942,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Europeans in South Africa face a low risk of rebellion and protest. They face no repression; nor do they face any significant political, economic or cultural restrictions or disadvantages. The government is democratic, stable and accommodative, thereby reducing the potential for future group discontent. There is no history of past protest to indicate grave concerns. The only factor that might foster future protests is if Europeans face the same form of harsh land distribution policies that are prevalent in Zimbabwe. Given the nature of the South African regime, this is unlikely, although in April 2006 the government began enforcing land resettlement policies, requiring Europeans to agree to acceptable selling prices for their land or risk losing it. There is a minority group of extremist whites who may perpetuate isolated acts of rebellion and/or protest; such groups have limited support among the European community.


Analytic Summary

During South Africa's long colonial period, the country was occupied by both Britain and the Netherlands, and thousands of Europeans migrated and established themselves as permanent residents of South Africa. There are two main groups of European descent in South Africa: the Afrikaners who are of Dutch descent and make up about two-thirds of the white population and the English-speaking whites of British descent who make up the other one-third. Both live mainly in urban centers or on their commercial farms (GROUPCON = 1). English-speakers dominate the industrial and commercial sectors of cities.

Due to historical factors, Europeans continue to enjoy significant economic advantages, despite the ongoing affirmative action policies in favor of blacks, coloreds and Asians. Nonetheless, the group is concerned with a possible loss of economic benefits due to government redistribution policies. This, coupled with high rates of crime in the country, has encouraged a migration abroad among the community. A survey in 1998 found that 78% of whites had considered emigrating. Such migration continues to the present (EMIG04-06 = 1), although to a lesser degree.

South African Europeans are focused on protecting their property and economic position (ECGR04-06 = 1). While the group still enjoys strong economic advantages, some group members, particularly poor Afrikaners, are resentful of affirmative action policies in favor of non-Europeans. In March 2004 the Broad-Based Economic Empowerment Act became law, with the purpose of promoting economic equity and integration for blacks, causing fear among whites that they will face discrimination. There is also concern among Afrikaners regarding protection of group culture and language, specifically regarding changing the names of cities from Afrikaans to traditional African languages, like the capital of Pretoria being renamed “Tshwane”. While Afrikaans is one of the country’s officially recognized languages, the Afrikaners are concerned that the language has come to be neglected. Another major area of concern is the high crime rates in the country, particularly attacks against white farmers. Many farmers believed that they were targeted for racial and political reasons; however, according to police and academic studies of farm attacks, most perpetrators are common criminals motivated by financial gain. Nonetheless, tensions between the minority whites and the majority blacks make European South Africans fearful about their safety. A small minority, with very limited support, has called for complete independence (Volkstaat).

Whites in South Africa primarily rely on conventional parties to represent their interests. Of the two white groups, the Afrikaners have historically been the more radical element. They were responsible for implementing Apartheid policies after they took over the National Party from English-speaking whites in 1948. The more liberal English-speaking whites were in opposition to the government, and the most liberal of these agitated for an end to apartheid in the decades after its implementation as state policy. Currently, there are some extremist Afrikaner parties, such as the Voortrekeers and the Boer National Warriors; however, these have very limited appeal (GOJPA04-06 = 3). Most whites support parties with a broader base. In 2004-2006, there were a few instances of intra group conflict between radical separatist Afrikaner and those who are less extreme, specifically in the all-white Afrikaner town of Orania (INTRACON-05= 1). In addition to the attacks on white farmers, there were a couple of attacks on white rugby players by colored spectators (INTERCON06= 1). There were also a few instances of white violence against blacks. There are a few recorded instances of limited protest against government policies (PROT04 = 2, PROT05 = 3) and no group rebellion.

The relationship between whites and the government is stable. The 2004 re-election of the ANC marked the 10-year anniversary of the first government with a black majority; however, whites have continued to be represented (LEGISREP04-06 = 1; EXECREP04-06 = 1). Although there are reports of human rights abuses in South Africa, nothing indicates that whites are specifically targeted. In the past, there have been reports of racial tension, and even violence, on farms, at schools, in the military and police forces; however, the severity of these seems fairly limited. The South African government has been very accommodative and the implementation of land redistribution policies has been slow and cautious.



Africa Research Bulletin, published monthly in Exeter England.

Africa South of the Sahara, published by Europa.

Beinhart, William, 1994, Twentieth-Century South Africa, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lexis-Nexis news reports, 1990-2006.

Saunders, Christopher, 1983, Historical Dictionary of South Africa, Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.

South Africa Institute of Race Relations. 2007. “South Africa Survey 2004/2005.” Paarl, South Africa: Paarl Print.

van Rensburg, Heila Janse (Ed), 1994, South Africa Yearbook.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006