Meet the Afrikaner
Question: How do we currently define typical Afrikaans families?
Answer: They have two children and earn a combined salary of R200 000 per year. Their house costs between R800 000 and R1 million and they drive either a Volkswagen Polo or Toyota Corolla. They dream of outdoor holidays in Africa, while they count their pennies to be able to afford their own SUV. At times they dream of going overseas. They love soaps and Afrikaans musicians such as Steve Hofmeyr, Theuns Jordaan and Bok van Blerk.
As easy as that? That’s the statistics. DEKAT pricked up its ears at the statistics by agencies like Markinor, South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF) and Unisa and compiled the image that marketers ascribe to contemporary South African families.
“You could say we fit the image of a typical Afrikaans family,” says Riëtte Malan, mother of an Afrikaans family on Johannesburg’s East Rand. “Two children, a Polo in the garage and yes, we finally bought Bok van Blerk’s CD last week.”
But are the Malans a truly typical family? It appears that way when you read the annual statistics on what Afrikaans-speakers in this country are up to. But statistics only form half the picture. Is it in any way possible to determine the psyche of today’s Afrikaans family by only looking at statistics? DEKAT dug deeper.
The previous census reported close on six million Afrikaans people, or 1,7 million Afrikaans households, in South Africa. Afrikaans speakers formed 13,6 percent of the South African population of 12,6 million households. Statistics South Africa adds that 60 percent of white people and 80 percent of Coloureds are Afrikaans. But Afrikaans-speaking families are becoming smaller and fewer. Fifteen years ago Afrikaans couples had 2,2 children per household. Nowadays the figure has dropped to 1,6 children per household.
The majority of today’s Afrikaans families have at least matric, according to a Markinor survey. Almost 93 000 Afrikaans speakers have a degree, 40 000 an honours degree and almost 47 000 a master’s degree or higher, which shows that Afrikaans-speaking people are relatively well qualified. Just less than 223 000 Afrikaans people have a diploma. Just over 1,1 million Afrikaans speakers of the six million have a matric without further qualifications.
When you dig between the LSMs and Statistics South Africa, you realise that the typical Afrikaans family with two children has a combined income of around R200 000 per year. In between are the filthy rich and far more with less. However, the SAARF figures indicate that the Afrikaans middle-class family now lives on between R200 000 and R350 000 per year. Research by Ads24 shows that Afri-kaans families have the biggest buying power, even 13 years after 1994.
While some may cling to the image that Afrikaans is the language of rural areas and that the Boer family is the yardstick of the Afrikaans family, the statistics paint another picture. Almost 40 percent of all Afrikaans-speaking people live in the Western Cape and 23 percent in Gauteng. But a 2004 presidential report on the identity of South Africans shows that Afrikaans families are also the most widely spread – you can find an Afrikaans family anywhere in South Africa. According to Markinor statistics Gauteng and the Western Cape also have the most learned Afrikaans speakers.
If you should walk in on the Malans at around 18:30, you’ll find a scene similar to that playing out in almost three quarters of Afrikaans-speaking households. They are watching a television soapie and it’s probably 7de laan, although M-Net’s Binnelanders has also got its fair share of viewers. But 7de laan is free and since March this year open viewing no longer exists. SABC’s research proved last year that 7de laan attracted up to 75 percent of the Afrikaans market. Only Generations has a higher viewer figure in South Africa.
DStv’s statistics indicate that close to 4 million people have satellite TV. Of these 4 million people, 900 000 were Afrikaans speaking. While this represents a substantial portion of Afrikaans families many of them decided against DStv.
“We can do much better things with our time; it takes up our family time,” says Fanus Malan who lives in the Boland. “We can afford it, but we try to protect our time shared as a family. That’s valuable.”
Engela Pretorius and her family in Bloemfontein, on the other hand, enjoy family time by watching rugby together.
“That’s our time together as a family. We also watch movies on television together,” she says. Rugby is a huge favourite among Afrikaans families and there are very few who don’t have a favourite team. Tim du Plessis, editor of the biggest Afrikaans newspaper in South Africa, Rapport, says that if the Bulls or Springboks win, sales go up, a sign of the obsession Afrikaans speakers have with that oval ball.
The braaivleis, rugby and sunshine of the old Chevrolet ad of the past haven’t really changed much…
Afrikaans families’ love for nature and holidays in the bush can be seen in the phenomenal success of the magazine Weg. Last year the magazine’s circulation figures just touched 100 000, exceeding expectations. When you ask Afrikaans families where they would like to go for a weekend, many are quite content to pack a tent and camp somewhere under the stars.
“There’s just something about hitting the road to the bush with your family,” says Dawid Marais, an attorney from Durbanville. “We’re crazy about the Cederberg.”
Europe is a dream holiday destination for most families that DEKAT chatted to, but Disney World was also mentioned a few times.
And what happens when Afrikaans-speaking people switch on the radio? Almost 1,8 million turn the knobs to Radiosondergrense (RSG), but in Gauteng Jacaranda is the king and in the Cape they prefer Kfm 94.5. In the Free State Ofm is a favourite, says Markinor.
Twelve years ago a man named Leon Schuster ensured that a whole generation of mostly white Afrikaans speakers would never forget Hie’ kommie Bokke. Even today this CD remains the Afrikaans bestseller, although it might have been dropped off at the nearest Cash Converter or be gathering dust in a cupboard by some. But the teens of then are today’s parents and breadwinners, and seeds planted then are flowering now.
Bok van Blerk shines on the hit parade and, with a bit of luck, might better Schuster’s record, while Robbie Wes-sels also does very well. And then there’s the ever-popular Steve Hofmeyr.
“You’ll find them all in my CD collection,” says Johan Pretorius from Nelspruit. “And although I’m not crazy about Nicholis Louw, my son of three loves shaking his little body to the rhythm. We bought it after he’d listened to it at daycare.”
Many Afrikaans families admit that the children decide what gets bought at the end of the day.
“You have to adapt,” laughs one of the dads. “Years ago I listened to heavy metal and hard rock, but my two-year-old daughter has changed all that.”
The coffee table in a typical Afrikaans family’s lounge holds a folded Rapport, its torn corners evidence of a thorough read, and the Tydskrif supplement with either Bok or Steve on the cover. Markinor has found that Rapport is the most popular newspaper, followed by Son. Beeld in Gauteng and Die Burger in the Western Cape are also very popular, while the Sunday Times also ends up in the Spar trolley after church.
The age-old favourite, Huisgenoot, still remains a friend to Afrikaans speakers, while the Edgars, Clicks and Jet club magazines will also be found somewhere next to the couch. The TV Plus! also does well (apparently the soap summaries are a huge bonus).
Sarie and Rooi Rose are favourites among Afrikaans women, with Rooi Rose just slightly ahead. For the men Car and FHM do well. Measured against sales and the number of times a Polo or Corolla flashes past you on a daily basis, those are what you’ll find in the Afrikaans family’s garage. Research among the different motor manufacturers also shows that a second family car is very popular among Afrikaans families.
Johan van Vuuren, who works for an electronics com-pany in Boksburg, only has one car, however, a 1999 Audi, which he believes is sufficient for his family. But almost half of the families DEKAT spoke to say that they dream of driving an SUV.
Pretoria engineer Pieter van Aardt is one of them. His family currently owns a Volkswagen Polo and Corsa bakkie, but their dream car is a Toyota Prado or Volkswagen Touareg.
Van Aardt’s engineer friend, Gawie Botha, also dreams of a Toyota Land Cruiser. Both engineers feel that television takes a big chunk out of their family lives, but both are also convinced that their Christianity holds the family together.
Faith has long been a bastion of the Afrikaans family. Markinor research shows that almost 1,9 million or 31 percent of Afrikaans speakers define themselves as part of the NG Church, in contrast to the 10 percent who belong to charismatic churches and the 12 percent belonging to other Apostolic churches. Only 0,02 percent of Afrikaans people, mostly in the Western Cape, listed themselves as Muslims.
But in spite of its many members, statistics in the various NG churches indicate that some Afrikaans churches are lucky if 50 percent of their congregation fill the pews on Sundays.
And yet the majority of families DEKAT spoke to prized faith as the cement with which their families are kept together.
“We are both Christians,” a young married couple in Pretoria answered. “We went through a difficult and challenging time in our marriage recently and this has brought us closer to God again. Faith helps you to continue and gives you something to cling to when everything around you is falling apart.”
But is today’s family better off than the family of 20 years ago? Some of the families think so, but others are less positive. Van Aardt from Pretoria believes that material success has its price.
“We might be financially better off than my parents were, but life was much more peaceful then,” he says. “My mother stayed at home while we all attended school, something that we as a family cannot afford.”
Where most of the learners in grade one in an Afrikaans school in Pretoria 20 years ago had non-working mothers, the picture is very different today. Most of the children attend an after-care centre or go to a day-mother, while other mothers might only work half-day. But the majority of mothers work.
“We live in a secure complex,” says one of the mothers who collects her child from an after-care centre. “It’s more expensive than a street address, but I need the safety, and we can’t afford it on one salary. That’s why I work.”
With material success come the small problems, the ‘necessary evil’. Every year between 30 000 and 40 000 marriages in South Africa end, a figure that doesn’t leave Afrikaans families unscathed.
“I think we are too rushed. We don’t make time for family and friends any more. Money has become too important, we watch too much TV and seldom go to church,” says Pierre Britz, a 29-year-old engineer from Pretoria. “The important things in life are no longer noticed and appreciated.”
He and his wife, a dietician, say they spend about two hours a day in front of the television, but they also love reading. Another Pretoria resident, Lynette Swanepoel, says that although they don’t have DStv, television takes up too much of their time. Their favourite programme is also 7de laan.
Carina Fourie, a family therapist in Centurion, says that the problems experienced by most of her clients, who are mainly Afrikaans families, can be traced back to time management.
“Too little time for one another,” she says. Both parents work. The financial pressure and work pressure increase. Children are being dropped off at 7:00 in the mornings. At five or six everybody gets back home, tired. In the three hours until the children’s bedtime supper must be made and eaten, homework checked, children bathed and don’t forget to fit in the soaps in between. Weekends look much the same.”
She says that children’s emotional needs are not met and very little effective communication takes place between children and parents, and between man and wife.
“We’ve become strangers,” she says.
The high divorce rate also leads to many more reconstituted families than earlier, Fourie explains.
“Problems about my children, your children, our children are part of daily life,” she says. “It sounds like a cliché, but unfortunately it is not something we can get around.”
Fourie is the mother of two toddlers and has given up her job as social worker to open her own practice. Their family decided against DStv to spend more time together, but she admits that the whole family watches 7de laan together at night.
Anton le Roux, an artisan in Rustenburg, has the last say: “I am now married to my second wife and our combined family consists of seven people. Not everyone is at home at the same time. Are we a typical Afrikaans family?
“Yes, I enjoy Steve music and Bok is doing wonders for the Afrikaans people. I drive a Corolla, but sometimes it doesn’t want to start and I have been through a divorce. I really don’t know whether I am a true Afrikaans guy or whether we are the perfect or even typical Afrikaans family. But it’s my family and who is anybody to put my family into a box and tell us what is typical of our type?”
Not all the same…
When you read through the research on Afrikaans audiences it could be so easy to relegate Afrikaans families to boxes. But won’t that negatively affect all the individualistic, crazy families found in every city, town, neighbourhood or farm? There is also the other picture – the alternative Afrikaans speakers.
Those who swim upstream, who won’t be caught dead at a Bok van Blerk concert and who don’t own a single Steve Hofmeyr CD. Their Afrikaans music collection includes Fokofpolisiekar, Somerfaan and Foto Na Dans, and with some you’ll even find the new Kobus! Other alternative families would much rather listen to World Music and grab every new Café del Mar CD that they can lay their hands on.
Chris Vermaak, a freelance photographer and his family, who recently added a baby to their numbers, enjoy Damien Rice’s 9 at the moment, while his wife is crazy about The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife.
Stefaans Brummer, a journalist who recently relocated from Joburg to the Cape, describe his family’s tastes as diverse, ethnic or World Music.
“My current favourites are two compilations: one of Africa women artists and the other Brazilian,” he says.
Marie-Louise Louw, a chartered accountant from Johan-nesburg, who became a mother a year and a half ago, tells us that she was raised in a liberal family and the roots of her current family can be found there. Her husband is a businessman, and although they are Afrikaans they regard themselves more as world citizens.
“While the rest of the children at my parents’ school burnt The Beatles records, my parents felt John Lennon and co were way too tame and listened to Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and Uriah Deep. The Rolling Stones were their heroes. Today I still love the ’70s rock of my parents, while I can’t get enough of new alternative music like Muse and Radiohead.”
The Nagtegaals, the well-known writers’ family in Melkbos, also regard themselves as very alternative, says writer Jackie Nagtegaal. She says her family doesn’t really have a hierarchy and that concepts like children and grandchildren defining the family, don’t exist.
“We are more bound together as friends than as a family,” she says. The Nagtegaals all live close to one another in Melkbos and Jackie says Dirk Nagtegaal has built a theatre in her parents’ house and now the whole family watches way too many movies.
“We adore art movies… and dogs,” she says.
Market research done by DEKAT has shown that the so-called alternative, other-thinking Afrikaans speakers regard themselves as individualistic and non-materialistic, even though they love aesthetic items with intrinsic value. They normally have a tertiary education and a working income. Like the Nagtegaals, alternative Afrikaans speakers like movies, especially art movies, and have an interest in antique furniture, wine and the Internet.
And not everyone dreams of owning an SUV. Brummer does own a six-year-old Jeep Cherokee, but says the car is too expensive and environmentally unfriendly.
“This SUV is possibly our last – we don’t aspire to another,” he says.
The Nagtegaals are a family of sport cars. Every one of them drives a black number.
“It looks like a mafia gathering,” laughs Jackie.
But Afrikaans families like the Nagtegaals also attach huge value to time together and developing their relationships.
Brummer agrees that these days everybody is much more materialistic than in the past.
“Yes, we have more possessions, but less time,” he says.
Vermaak feels that a problem with the Afrikaans family is “that they’re too obsessed with Afrikaans and too busy making money to care about anything other than themselves”.
Research has also shown that the ‘alternative family’ loves reading and travelling. Vermaak says his family reads a lot and belongs to a book club. His wife, Karen, will read anything by Robert Crais or Michael Connelly, while his favourite is Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion.
Brummer says he and his wife have little time for reading in between the bustle of raising children, but every now and again they will steal sleep hours to enjoy a few books during the year. He prefers to spend holidays with a back-pack or bicycle in far-off places (a bit difficult now with the children). His wife, Karen, would rather rent a cottage on the beach, whether it’s here or on a Greek island.
The Nagtegaals also love travelling. Jackie and her partner Vera love travelling to third-world countries like Thailand or Mexico, while Dirk and Reinet like going to Europe. They have also just returned from Russia.
Although Jackie believes that most Afrikaans families are better off today because there are many more opportunities and because South Africa is now part of the global village, she is disappointed that some Afrikaans families are still caught in the same rut as their parents.
“Mothers and daughters look the same, and fathers and sons feel the same about politics.”
By Yolandi Groenewald Illustration Ronel van Heerden
Do you agree with this depiction of the Afrikaner? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax us at 011-728-7967.