That pesky Echo MD Peter Langschmidt demands accuracy in research and in claims about how South Africa is toddling along. And so he’s having none of the claim made by WHAM! in introducing our “Changing Destiny” radio programme of 1 July that SA has 600 000 people of Portuguese descent. Langschmidt describes the claim as a myth of “complete and utter nonsense”. Here is his riposte:
No matter what census data you look at, never mind every random probability ever conducted in South Africa, the Portuguese community never has and never will be 600 000-strong. As you’ll see in the AMPS 2012 cross-tab, the maximum number of people with any Portuguese link is 131 000, which is higher than the results of the census which only asks about home language.
Think about it logically: there are only 4.6 million whites and 4.2 million adults. Therefore:
- If there really were 600 000 Portuguese, then one in every seven whites you met would be Portuguese. This is patently not the case unless you don’t move out of Jo’burg South.
- The incidence of newspaper readership and TV viewership would be the same (or slightly higher than other whites). So why was Portuguese M-Net such a flop, and why has the circulation of O ‘Seculo never been more than 2 000 to 3000?
- Portuguese would be one of the 11 official languages, and we all know there are less than 500 000 Ndebele speakers.
The roots of this very powerful urban legend (that has had me thrown out of the Radium Beer Hall for even questioning) go back to the mid-70s when Mozambique and Angola gained independence and Portuguese refugees streamed into SA. The Portuguese government stated at the time, and still does, that if there were ever more than 500 000 Portuguese stranded anywhere in the world then they would be looked after or repatriated.
Miraculously, the meticulous counts being conducted at embassies suddenly morphed into this 600 000 figure for SA. And this magical figure (“magical” since, like all myths, it has not changed by even one thousand either up or down for almost 40 years! ) has stuck ever since. But it isn’t true.