In One Azania, One Nation, his classic study of the National Question, discussed elsewhere in this volume, Neville Alexander (1979) relies heavily on my early work, The Rise of Afrikanerdom, to argue for the impact of Afrikaner nationalist understandings of the world on what he calls the apartheid ‘bantustan strategy’. My book posits that for Afrikaner intellectuals separate development theory relied greatly on their experience of their own struggle to free themselves from the demeaning and condescending attitudes of English-speaking white South Africans by asserting their own national identity.
Later, Aletta Norval (1996) also picked up on this, arguing, memorably, that Afrikaner discourse around ‘the Afrikaner myth’ fed directly into ideas of ‘the apartheid imaginary’. Debates among Afrikaners about their own cultural calling, then, provided a model to impose their understanding of ‘national identity’ on coloureds, Indians and the various African ‘cultural entities’ – themselves to a large extent creations of colonial imagination about ‘tribal identities’.
Thus, despite the misery wrought by the South African state's pursuit of white racial interests, the origins of apartheid ideology in what I called ‘the Afrikaner civil religion’ meant there were always those who sought to justify apartheid's fundamental precepts in moral terms (Moodie, 1975). However cruel apartheid was in its effects, and however blind its adherents were to the suffering it caused, many Afrikaners (especially Afrikaner intellectuals) saw the policy as tackling a moral dilemma rooted in their own experience of colonial domination. Indeed, some of the very ruthlessness of apartheid's implementation may be attributed to wilful avoidance of the moral predicament it evoked. Much of it, of course, was simply self-interested blindness.
From its inception, the full implications of separate development ideology engendered intense debate among Afrikaner intellectuals. This chapter makes no attempt to argue that debates among Afrikaner intellectuals caused the transition of the 1990s (there were many much more concrete causes), but F.W. de Klerk clearly articulated his direction and marshalled his support along the lines of those debates, both for and against separate development.