DAKAR, Senegal — The leader of a neo-Nazi movement hoping to carve out a whites-only republic in South Africa sent Donald Trump an enthusiastic message of support and congratulations, a member of the organization tells BuzzFeed News.
“On behalf of tens of thousands of members of the AWB, as a white resistance movement against suppression of white people in South Africa, we want to congratulate you,” wrote Steyn von Ronge, who leads the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, or AWB. “Thank you for your ... support of the white nation in South Africa. We wish you all the best for the future, and you can rely on our support,” the message ended.
The AWB was founded by white supremacist Eugene Terre'Blanche, who notoriously beat a black worker for eating on the job, and set his dogs on a black gas station worker. Thousands of white South Africans flocked to the AWB when talks began to end apartheid in the 1990s. The group carried out bombings in an attempt to stop talks, but its membership declined once South Africa eased peacefully into a nonracial democracy, and it’s now isolated among the country's roughly 8% white population.
Morale among the movement, which boasts a paramilitary wing and an insignia that resembles a Nazi swastika, had been boosted by Trump’s win, said the division leader who passed BuzzFeed News the message.
Like their global counterparts, South African extreme right-wingers see the tide of nationalism sweeping across the globe as a growing boon for their causes. “I must admit - it took a while for me for the Trump victory to sink in. One is so used to constant setbacks,” one commentator posted on a popular alt-right website.
"Where most people in their own country deride them as atavistic idiots, these groups may now feel that they belong to something bigger — a tide of white rage," Nicky Falkof, a professor at Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University, told BuzzFeed News. "They are nothing new in South Africa, of course. What is new is the ideological legitimacy that may be conferred on their extreme positions by Trump’s victory.”
They share the same DNA as Trump’s extremist supporters, which range in size and temperament from France’s far right Marine Le Pen to the Ku Klux Klan. On Alternative Right, a website that labels itself “the founding site of the Alt-right,” South Africa crops up reverentially as an example of a nation once successfully under white-rule, while in 2007, a notorious South African white supremacist became a key player in the US’s leading neo-Nazi group.
South Africa’s alt-right movements are headed by white Afrikaners, who held power until apartheid fell in 1994. Like those in the US who idealize a “real” America before the Civil Rights movement, many feel hard done by the fall of apartheid, and fret that “western” civilization is at risk of being swamped by outsiders — a fear that includes South Africa, which they see as a white nation.
South Africa’s most well-known alt-right activist is Dan Roodt, and his Facebook page is familiar to anyone who has browsed alt-right pages: it dwells at length on how white people are embattled around the world, and suggests plans to “save” the West.
“Regarding South Africa, we are really hoping that Trump will do something to save us from being simply wiped out after almost 400 years in our country,” Roodt told BuzzFeed News by email. He said this included helping out against the “many” black politicians in South Africa who hoped to “perhaps even herd us into concentration camps.”
On Tuesday, he wrote on his Facebook page: ‘“#trumpwins With the Donald in the White House, we just need Marine Le Pen in the Elysées palace in 2017 and the West might pull through!”
“And Geert Wilders in Holland,” another poster said.
“[Nigel] Farage in Whitehall,” a third commentator urged.
Not everyone is as enthusiastic, as might be expected from largely insular movements. “Trump’s win doesn’t affect me. I’m not interested in what’s happening abroad,” an AWB member told BuzzFeed News from Cape Town.
But on praag.org, Roodt's website, there was a lively discussion about what a Trump victory would mean for South Africa.
“Would we be over run by the Liberals that are running away from Europe and America?” one commentator worried.
“[We] will have to perhaps hook up more intensively with the Alt-Right movement in the USA, so as to make their voices heard,” came the reply.
“Best case scenario [for South Africa] is a Hong Kong type city …independent from the SA Government. You can use drones to guard the farms,” another poster said.
Similar discussions unfolded on Twitter. When Steve Hofmeyr, a popular Afrikaans singer who has previously led marches against "white genocide," on Thursday denounced a satirical article which said he wanted to be "South Africa’s Donald Trump,” a fan replied: “So why is that such a bad idea? We need a Trump, for that matter!!"
"We’ve always had groups of people who are essentially white supremacists, who feel that their lives were so much worse than under apartheid," Gabriele Mackay, a researcher at South Africa’s Institute of Race Relations, told BuzzFeed News. "They’ll hold small marches and complain about so-called white genocide but hopefully it won’t escalate beyond what it’s been."