Knitting Red Barets

Post ’94, the Afrikaners, as a group, did not contribute much to reconciliation and restitution. Mandela extended grace and we, as a group, gave nothing in return. Yet, it seems we did now, 20 years later, actually create something of significance. So, before complaining about what you see on TV, consider this:

With every passing week of indifference and ignorance

With each passing payment of private healthcare and private security

With each racist joke and remark

With each cheap criticism of the ANC and government

With each complaint about BBBEE

With each look of disdain at a poor black face

We unconsciously, unknowingly

collaborated in unintended unity

to the knitting of the thing, the movement, the sentiment

that is know by the letters:



Een Drag maak Mag

My journey of generosity flowing from gratitude

began long before the words white privilege became popular.

My dislike of selfish enrichment and my struggle with moderate consumption

was not inspired or forced by populists wearing red barets.

My sacrificial habits and the joy of vulnerability

was born without a hashtag.

My commitment to grow in love

was not originally inspired by Mandela.


Yet, all these things come together,

in an unlikely, ironic fusion

where content and context

pulls and pushes forward, together.

Humanity and I

At heart I am a humanist, not classical, but in the sense that I believe that there is something beautiful and special in every human being and that we are human in a sense that we reach and act above an animal level of self-preservation. I believe that humans have the capacity to transcend themselves in creating beauty, goodness, sacrifice and a love that is larger than self-interest. Love wins.

I believe the above. But unfortunately, although I believe in the inherent capacity, I also believe that it is unlikely that the beautifully human will ever realise in the majority of human beings. Collectively, we have messed things up so bad, created such unhealthy systems and ways of thinking that the great majority of humans will never become human. Mere animals, cute and happy when they get their way, and nasty and cruel when they don’t. The majority of human beings I encounter are utterly uninspiring.

I fail in my humanity, not because I dont care, or because I dont try. My problem is that my naive good faith gets me hurt so bad that instead of having the courage to keep on opening up, I decide to withdraw and settle for the life of safe solitude. Where Im a true skeptic, is that I’m not sure that I really miss anything. Daai magic moments en magic people raak al hoe minder en minder. En ek besef dit sou dalk die moeite werd wees, maar dit sou nie die pyn en seer werd wees nie.

En ek kies die roete van bang en lafhartigheid, maar ek kies dit met ‘n smile wat berekend en eerlik is.

Jy kies die donker, kies die hartseer;

En skielik is jy vry…

Take Your Pick

We give things away because we need to,
we literally learn to give gifts
to strangers, with labels
to fix ourselves.
We do this as a process
until we are ready to be the gift.

I give and give and give
until I learn to be the gift.

This is not clever word play, it is the normal path.
Small kids are taught to share, we celebrate when they share food and toys.

Then we lose it, for pragmatic justifications of comfort and safety.
Life becomes small as we become big.

As a youngster I used to be very active in church life.
In my twenties I lived in a rural Mozambican village for six years.
I got a Masters in Development Studies.
I’m leading a large national non-profit.

Yet, I’m learning most, seeing most, from ordinary people around me
ordinary people being extra-ordinary generous.

I present four life giving, mind blowing examples:

Thulani, picked up a disabled abandoned baby in Umlazi, he and his wife took this baby under their care, despite living in a RDP house and having very little themselves.

My sister Sunelle and her husband, after having three amazing biological kids, Adopted a black baby called Joshua. They too are not wealthy. Much wealthier than Thulani, but on a tight budget and vulnerable compared to other Afrikaans families.

Thulani and Sunelle might be so good and courageous that we don’t associate with them, we
play games in our heads that call them special or gifted, unlike us…

My other sister Irma and her husband went on holiday in December and took a young white girl from their kid’s school with them. The girl, Leanne lives with a single mom, has never seen the ocean and never had a Christmas gift. She is very poor, by any standard, but enjoyed a fantastic December with our Van Heerden family, and she was a gift to us.

My friend Adri-Marie van Heerden, opened up their fancy family home in the bushveld, and not only invited Anathi (from Zandspruit Informal settlement), but allowed him to pick who goes away to the house for Easter weekend. Luckily I got invited. As I drove the open Toyota game viewer by myself, between wild animals, I felt privilege, free and lucky. So did Anathi. He told me that usually everything has to go right, and then after 30 years of work one might be able to enjoy such a weekend.

That is when I was reminded, not just of heroes like Thulani and Sunelle, but smart courageous
non-assholes like Irma and Adri-Marie who chose to realise a human hospitality that pulls ubuntu out of dictionaries, power-points and philosophy books and cleaned our eyes with it, wiped our faces fresh and folded around our hearts.

It is that easy.

So, take your pick.
Too scared to adopt an abandoned baby?
Take someone on holiday, your holiday.
give the kind of love that smells of respect and looks like dignity…

We have to give,
until we learn
how to be
the gift.

Sunelle's child
Sunelle’s child
At the beach in Port Alfred
At the beach in Port Alfred
near Thabazimbi at an Afrikaner holiday home...
near Thabazimbi at an Afrikaner holiday home…


Thulani's adopted baby
Thulani’s adopted baby
Thulani coaching a community female football team
Thulani coaching a community female football team