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HNP burns ‘slanderous’ Great Trek novel

Dagga-smoking womaniser hero of novel too much for some rightwingers

By DAVID MACGREGOR Port Alfred Bureau

AN EPIC Great Trek novel that has a dagga-smoking womaniser – who even has sex across the colour line – for a hero has got some rightwing Afrikaners so hot under the collar that they burned the book.

Days after Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) leader Andries Breytenbach and a group of placard-wielding supporters publicly burnt a copy of Canvas under the Sky, author  Robin   Binckes  said he still could not understand what all the fuss was about.

“I doubt they even read the book,” the respected tour guide and historian complained.

“If they had, they would appreciate that the book was written out of admiration for the Afrikaner people.”

But Breytenbach is not convinced the novel – which mixes fact and fiction as it charts the mythical Great Trek exploits of hero Rauch Beukes from the Cape Colony to the Battle of Blood River – paints Afrikaners in a good light.

Instead, the rightwing leader sees the novel as yet another attack on the dignity and identity of the under-fire Afrikaans minority.

A statement on the HNP website said the book-burning was a symbolic act to show liberals that the attacks on the Afrikaner nation must end.

“The self-respect of Afrikaners has to be protected and our children must be taught to honour folk heroes.”

The HNP claimed the book was slanderous and eroded their self-respect.

But  Binckes  challenged Breytenbach and his supporters to find a single negative reference in his book to long-dead Great Trek leaders like Piet Retief, Sarel Cilliers, Andries Pretorius and other folk heroes.

Although the Eastern Cape-born author, who went to Mthatha High, admitted his hero was a “bit of a stud” who enjoyed a little bed-hopping and dagga puffing, the 70-year-old raconteur said it was not unusual behaviour – even during the Great Trek.

“Every society has people like this.

“I wrote the book not to be critical of Afrikaners but out of admiration.

“They displayed tremendous bravery, fortitude and persistence on the Great Trek … what they did is one of the most incredible stories in the history of this country.”

Although  Binckes  does not have conclusive proof that some Afrikaner trekkers were high on dagga during their cross-country trip in ox-wagons, he says the fact they interacted with indigenous peoples who puffed the weed made it probable.

“They lived among the Khoi, who smoked dagga and had dealings with the Xhosa, who also smoked dagga … and they did not smoke dagga themselves? Come on.”

References to the Voortrekkers’ use of dagga – including recipes – are believed to exist in Rhodes University’s prestigious Corey Library archives.

“I am sorry they only bought one book to burn – they should have done it properly and bought 1000 and built a bonfire,” he quipped.

 Binckes ’ “gobsmacked” publisher Kerrin Cocks yesterday said she found the book burning “mildly alarming”.

“The HNP said books like this chip away at the Afrikaner nation – is it that fragile that a book like this can chip away their identity?

Cocks said a non-fiction account of the epic voortrekker migration by  Binckes  would be released later this year.

“If Canvas Under the Sky has wrought such anxiety among the ‘Afrikaner people’ then what will  Binckes ’ non-fiction account of the Great Trek, provisionally titled The Great Trek Uncut, due for release in September this year, do?

“Also one would think that a true Afrikaner could make a fire without the help of firelighters.”

 


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