On 9 May, controversial posters appeared at Stellenbosch University promoting a white-supremacist group called “The New Right”, encouraging “Anglo-Afrikaner” students to “Weg vir Stellenbosch”. Exactly what the fight is about isn’t mentioned, but a quick glance at the imagery speaks volumes. Both posters feature a young blonde, blue-eyed women and man holding red flags, easily recognisable as Hitler Youth propaganda posers. But the images have been photo-shopped to remove the Nazi symbolism and instead use a Proto-Germanic rune known as “Algiz”, which symbolises protection. The flag itself is likely the creation of this new Nazi-sympathiser group.
Despite these cosmetic changes the message is clear. In the South African context this conjures images of the AWB – a far-right Afrikaner nationalist organisation founded in 1973. Stellenbosch has come under fire for its history of racism in the past few years, with movements such as #OpenStellenbosch- which sole purpose is to try to remove the remnants of Apartheid. Stellenbosch is considered to be a bastion for conservative Afrikaner culture, but there has been strong opposition to this from marginalised groups at the university and the country. Far-right ideologies are often the choice of people who feel scared and threatened by what they see as outside forces and use xenophobic nationalism as a response. Adopting this extremist symbolism is used as a shock tactic to horrify and scare others and has been used many times since the end of World War Two, especially in the current socio-political climate of rising neo-Nazism and fascism.
Some members of Stellenbosch still see it as a white Afrikaner institute of learning that will happily accommodate their oppressive views to the detriment of everyone else. And perhaps they’re right. The university’s management certainly hasn’t done the best job of transforming the space. Although the Stellenbosch management has said they are aware of this and claim there is no official booking for the meeting, the venue and date have been set according to the posters. Even if this “Fight for Stellenbosch” event does not take place the posters alone are enough to stir up racial tensions on an already tense campus, and the entire country.