Kurt Darren draws criticism and then mass support

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South African singer, songwriter and television presenter Kurt Darren poses on January 25, 2010 in Cannes, southeastern France, during the MIDEM, the world's biggest and most influential music trade fair, which takes place until next January 27.

PRETORIA - Afrikaans singer Kurt Darren has triggered a rightwing backlash, drawing both mass criticism and support, because he performed at President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration on Saturday.

Darren performed with other musicians including Zahara, Mafikizolo, DJ Vetkuk, Matthew Mole, Selaelo Selota and Rebecca Malope at the inauguration concert at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The concert on the lawns was attended by about 18 000 people and was broadcast on television.

But rightwing Afrikaans fans reacted in anger, including a closed Facebook group with 728 members called the Volkskommissie van Ondersoek na Afrikaanse Sangers (The People&39;s Commission of Inquiry into Afrikaans Artists).

The group claims it was established to address the “rotten cancer” within the Afrikaans entertainment industry. The group claims that many Afrikaans singers, who have made their fortune from white Afrikaans-speaking audiences, have betrayed their fans by supporting a “government which seeks to have us impoverished, murdered, robbed and dispossessed”. The aim of the group is to target specific artists and boycott them.

The vicious attacks launched on Darren prompted him to write an open letter in which he defended his performance at the inauguration.

He said he had expected some criticism, but the hatefulness of some of the comments made against him on social media were disturbing.

“I realise it’s only a small group of people who have not moved on and don’t realise they live in a democratic South Africa,” he wrote, adding that he was a proud South African.

“For someone to write that they wish Dunay’s (his partner) and my baby is stillborn is the worst thing anyone can say.”

But the criticism in turn led to a wave of support, as scores of people came to Darren’s defence, particularly on Twitter, tagged handsoffkurt.

Even young ANC supporters pledged their backing.

Bandile Masuku, spokesperson for the ANC Youth League, said the response was spontaneous and not part of any orchestrated effort by the league.

“People should realize that Afrikaans was invited to be part of the inauguration. It shows we have a place in South Africa. One of the highlights for me was when an a capella group from Soweto sang “Stuur groete aan Mannetjies Roux”. Afrikaans is not their first language, but they sang confidently – as South Africans!"

“I was on that stage … as a South African artist sharing the stage with fellow South African artists in a concert for all South Africans,” Darren wrote.

As he thanked those who had supported him, he ended his message: “I know deep in my heart that those of us who want to make South Africa a better place are in the majority. I will never lose my love for South Africa. Regards, Kurt”.

It wasn&39;t the first time that an Afrikaans singer was caught up in controversy. Although for an entirely different reason Steve Hofmeyer had somewhat of a Twitter-war over his comments last year for marching for farmers.