Afrikaner vs Afrikaner amid fallout from Steve Hofmeyr boycott
Singer is proving divisive – again – this time over his claims that he is defending an ‘attack on all white people’
Moves to shame right-wing Afrikaners and their supporters have been made in recent weeks – and Steve Hofmeyr is at the centre.
Lines have been drawn, as Hofmeyr claimed to be defending an “attack on white people” and to be representing all whites.
Hofmeyr, purporting to be the last bastion of SA whites, Afrikaans and Afrikaners, has pitted liberal and right-wing Afrikaners against each other through his calls for help after multinational businesses MTN, Media24 and Toyota withdrew their sponsorship from the Afrikaans Is Groot [AIG] festival in Cape Town.
Support for the annual event was pulled after Hofmeyr was named as part of the artist line-up, with AIG organisers refusing to drop him.
In response, Hofmeyr and his supporters, who have called for the companies to be boycotted, slammed the move, claiming it an affront to Afrikaans and freedom of speech and association, and launching the #JouAIG (Your AIG) social media campaign. #JouAIG was launched to secure private funding for the event by the original organisers, but has received full support from Hofmeyr and some of the other performing artists.
Among his supporters are AfriForum, Solidarity and the anti-poverty NGO, Helping Hand.
Explaining his reasoning behind the #JouAIG campaign, Hofmeyr told Times Select that with 80,000 tickets sold before sponsorship was pulled they could not claim poverty.
“But with additional funds we can maintain the greatest show on the continent. As an unsponsored individual I’m partial to more independence, and a bonus show could cover losses,” he said, explaining that they were looking at holding more shows.
He compared MTN and Toyota’s sponsorship withdrawal to “unrest control and state capture”.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi spearheaded the calls for the big companies to boycott the AIG series over Hofmeyr’s inclusion in the line-up.
“Lesufi heads the government interference. And the gagging of poets as clarion cry for their communities. Killing free speech is a South African tradition [sic].”
Asked about his social media comments that the withdrawals were an attack on white people, Hofmeyr said: “All minorities are targeted. The coloured and Indian minorities too. But primary victims of the race-based policies of BEE [Black Economic Empowerment], AA [Affirmative Action] and quotas are whites.”
He told his followers on social media he would not be “bullied”.
“Bully us all you want, take our schools, universities, heritage and language, but you will not close down our last cultural institution. We do what we have always done and needed most: we go independent. Our primary sponsors are our people. Their souls are untouchable,” he tweeted.
‘It was reckless’
But the support for Hofmeyr is not universal, not even among Afrikaners.
Author and journalist Max du Preez said pulling the sponsorship was legitimate activism.
“The organisers should be taking flak over their decision to involve Hofmeyr. It was reckless and did Afrikaans a huge disfavour. It perpetuates the perception that Afrikaans is the language of white Afrikaans racists,” he said.
Du Preez said Media24’s withdrawal of its sponsorship was significant.
“The remaining sponsors and Hofmeyr should be isolated. We need to be intolerant of the intolerance. Hofmeyr, possibly for his own commercial interests, is hugely provocative in his racism in his remarks on social media.
“The pulling of sponsorship is not about silencing or locking anyone up. It is just saying: ‘This is bad for our language, white people, Afrikaans people, and that it is bad that a hardcore racist like Hofmeyr is treated as an honorary celebrity’,” he said.
Stellenbosch University education professor Jonathan Jansen said the corporations’ decision to withdraw was a no-brainer due to Hofmeyr’s status as an “unabashed racist”.
He said Hofmeyr did not represent as many Afrikaners as was often suggested.
“There are plenty of Afrikaans folk who abhor him.”
He said Hofmeyr’s statement that the festival’s lack of sponsorship was an “attack on white people” was outrageous, and that some white people found him repugnant.
“Sponsorship is voluntary. It signals what you approve and what you don’t approve (as a company) ... They sided with the broader public and are choosing to move away from this particular market share.”
He said the radical Afrikaans market was also not as wide as some would suggest, and companies like Media24 would most definitely have “done their homework” about whether or not their choice to remove sponsorship would affect their readership.
Author and former University of Cape Town political studies professor Hermann Giliomee said while Hofmeyr sometimes made “outrageous” political statements, he had every right to do so as part of his freedom of expression.
Saying the decision to withdraw from the festival was “over-cautious”, Giliomee added that the companies were probably concerned about a poor response from black consumers.
Marketing analyst Chris Moerdyk said there was pressure on corporations in terms of doing, saying and being associated with the right thing.
“Immediately when there is controversy in regards to anything the corporates tend to close the door and walk away from the situation.”
He said questions of morality and doing the right thing didn’t come into corporate culture these days.
“This is, in part, drawing the line in the sand against extremism, but really what they are doing is to try and offend as few people as possible.”
Ernst Roets, AfriForum deputy CEO, said their main issue was with MTN’s double standards.
“Sponsors have the right to withdraw or decide to sponsor whosoever they wish. But, with MTN their double standards are glaring.
“They say they took issue with Hofmeyr’s personal views, yet they sponsor an EFF gala dinner. If the measure for MTN to sponsor an event is that they have to agree with the views of everyone involved, then by that logic one can conclude that they agree with the views of the EFF.”
He said the decision to pull sponsorship could be equated to drawing a line.
“Pressure is mounting on sponsors. It is becoming increasingly acceptable and popular to take a stand against minorities in this country in a way that it would be unacceptable if you to do or say the same with regards to people in the majority.”
MTN spokesperson Jacqui O’Sullivan said the company supported the development of Afrikaans.
“MTN chose to withdraw due to the festival’s continued association with Hofmeyr. MTN sponsorships help associate MTN with events, teams or people that help promote the values of MTN. AIG’s continued association with Hofmeyr did not serve those goals.”
She said MTN had always driven a transformation agenda.
“Afrikaans culture is rich and diverse, represented by many different platforms that do not claim to be the last bastion of Afrikaans music and culture. MTN will keep investing in the growth and development of Afrikaans culture but it will not invest in people or platforms whose claims of cultural protection are nothing more than barely veiled and defiant racism.”
Helping Hand spokesperson Ernst Vorster said while they would not necessarily agree with everything people do or say, they believed AIG should have its own creative freedom and be able to invite whoever they liked to the festival.
“Sponsors should not have influence over the creative freedom of AIG.”
He said they had a stake in the AIG cultural icon and wanted it to succeed, “as it promotes and stands for freedom of speech”.
“We have called on our more than 40,000 members, along with Solidarity’s 500,000 members, to help support and keep this icon alive.”
He said that while they were not raising funds for AIG, they were supporting the festival.