Afrikaner Nationalism

Afrikaner people have, from the initial days felt threatened internal to their borders and externally. Sometimes the threat was real thus existing and other times it was an illusion. The fear of domination rose from the presence of a majority of what they labelled as undeveloped indigenous races all which were non-white (Wilson and Thompson, 365). With this fear rose nationalism. Afrikaner nationalism is a political ideology that was born in the late 19th century around the idea that Afrikaners in South Africa were a chosen people. It was also influenced by anti-British sentiments that grew among Afrikaners especially because of the Boer Wars which did more to unite Afrikanerdom and infuse it with purpose and determination (Wilson and Thompson, 367). The notion that Afrikaners are direct descendants of the Dutch are somewhat distorted. The Afrikaner nationalism places emphasis on the unity of all Afrikaans speaking white people, the Volk (folk – common people), against foreign elements such as blacks, Jews and English speaking South Africans.

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Another factor that held Afrikaner people together was that of Calvinism. Religion played an instrumental role in the development of nationalism. The Dutch Reformed Churches of South Africa throughout the 18th century were in a battle against modernism and modernity aligning themselves with views that divided the human race broadly into the elect and the rest (Wilson and Thompson, 371). These spheres led to belief that the State is divinely ordained and created and had to be preserved and protected from liberalism and revolutionary ideas (Wilson and Thompson, 372). Anyone seen to indulge in human rationality was seen as challenging God’s authority. This Christian-nationalistic ideology was tailored to fit Nationalist Afrikaner prejudices. In the 19th century Du Toit put forward the notion that Afrikaners were a distinct nationality with a fatherland (South Africa) and their own language (Afrikaans) and that the Volks’ destiny was to rule South Africa.

Although there was never really an official relationship between the church and party, the church became in a sense the National Party at prayer (Wilson and Thompson, 373). Afrikaners could thus refuse a British designed South Africa which they could co exist with other ethnic groups as a minority (Wilson and Thompson, 373-4). To them, as long as Afrikaner existed, as a minority in a racially and culturally different environment, they could not allow the black majority to develop economically or politically because this would lead to black domination. Afrikaner Nationalism had a personalized political philosophy. The Union of South Africa was created in 1910 (Wilson and Thompson, 377) and eight years after the 2nd Boer War, Hertzog broke ties with prime minister then , and formed the National Party in 1914. The media in those days had a party affiliated with it, hence Nationalist minded Afrikaners persuaded Malan to be an editor of their newspaper and thus he left his position as a church minister. A Cape branch of Hertzog’s National Party was founded in 1915 and Malan was elected as its provincial leader, elected to parliament in 1918.

The National Party came in power in 1924, and Malan was Minister up until 1933 (Wilson and Thompson, 379). In 1934 the United Party was formed out of a merger between Hertzog’s National Party and rival, Jan Smuts with the South African Party. Malan strongly opposed the merger. He and nineteen other members of parliament formed the Purified National Party which he led for the next fourteen years as opposition. Malan also opposed the participation in WW2 which was already unpopular with the Afrikaner population (and led to the split in governing party) this dramatically increased his popularity and he consequently defeated the United party in 1948 in elections (in which only whites and coloreds could vote) (Wilson and Thompson, 380-7).

Malan retired as leader in 1954, and the National Party chose Strydom as successor overriding Malan’s choice of placing Havenga as his successor. Choosing a non-Hertzog path, the National Party chose a path which Afrikaner Nationalism had to follow. Ossewabrandwag movement was formed largely on National Socialist lines which opposed South African entry in WW2 because of South Africa’s fight for independence from British rule. The movement emphasized national unity and was able to integrate a multitude of different nationalist organizations because it lacked a clear ideological profile. Only when leadership began to define ideology and had its own policy from 1941 onwards, did membership decline (Wilson and Thompson, 387).

In the end, Malan outmaneuvered the movement and his rallying cry became that of bringing together all who from inner certainty, belong collectively. Nationalism was taken further at elections of 1953, 1958, 1961 and 1966 until Malan’s ideal had been realized (Wilson and Thompson, 388). However, there remained a small hard core Afrikaners who refused to throw their lot with Afrikaner nationalism thus internal political struggles in the disgruntled and essentially impoverished Afrikaner community. The tide however appeared to be flowing in favour of the more enlightened element in the National Party in the late 1960s (Wilson and Thompson, 390). This began the road to South Africa’s eventual isolation from a world that would no longer tolerate any forms of political discrimination or differentiation based on race only. Afrikaner Nationalism’s attitude to sovereign independence falls in two periods namely, the drive to attain dominion status and independence of South Africa within the Commonwealth of Nations (Wilson and Thompson, 390-1). Hertzog led a freedom deputation in France to advocate for an independent reign of South Africa.

An outcome for this task was a suggestion by the Federal Council of the Nation Party to recast the agenda of principles of the party in such a way that the sovereignty ideal was undoubtedly formulated. The party used constitutional means to be emancipated and handed rights to make decisions about the future of South Africa (Wilson and Thompson, 391). There was agitation from the Nationalist Party and Hertzog resisted it within ranks for secession from Britain after the First World War. Hertzog then entered into an election agreement with the Labour Party (supported by English speakers) and gave assurance that he would not withdraw from the Commonwealth. On the other hand, the Nationalist Party decided on a change of strategy in an effort to alleviate uncertainties of those South Africans that feared republicanism meant the dismissal of all ties of the Commonwealth (Wilson and Thompson, 393).

After WW2, the demand for a return to a Kruger-type republic had been dropped with emphasis placed on South Africa’s relations with the rest of the world. Simultaneously, the internal colour problem had become extraneous in the face of more pressing issues (Wilson and Thompson, 394). Broederbond was a secret, exclusively male and white Protestant organization in South Africa dedicated to the advancement of Afrikaner interests. Their role in Afrikaner Nationalism was never possible to establish with exactness. The work of the Bond was to maintain the unification of the Afrikaner members, recognising their language and cultural community (Wilson and Thompson, 395). Neither of the two leading Afrikaners of their day, Hertzog or Smuts, was considered eligible for membership of the Broederbond, for their policy of co-operation with the English speaking section of the population was felt to be inimical to the interests of the Afrikaner nation.

Hertzog and Smuts had opposing opinions about the aims and activities of the organization. Smuts saw the organisation as a danger to the position of the country and the national policy as it only catered for the interests of a single resident and was not concerned in the interests of other inhabitants and the outcome was for Smuts to forbid any individual to become a member of the organisation. Hertzog was well aware of the scheming of the Broederbond behind the scenes, and in a forceful attack on the organization in a speech at Smithfield he stigmatized them as a grave menace to the rest and peace of our social community, even where it operates in the economic-cultural sphere (Wilson and Thompson, 397-8). Hertzog maintained that the establishment of the Bond organisation was caused by the refusing of the fusion of the National and South African Parties. The Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Organisation (F.A.K) was established in 1929 on Broedebond initiative which was to exercise an influential positive and creative image which impinged on the political sphere.

The educational field was also vital as it was seen as a primary field of work in their attempt to build a nation in order to prevent the de-Afrikanerazation of the young. Division between Afrikaans and English speaking children was to be maintained in their education. An instruction of the mother tongue language secured the goal of the Afrikaner people’s motive to separate the two white groups with different mother tongues (Wilson and Thompson, 398-9). Economically, the F.A.K did significant work before and after WW2. Because of their work, Afrikaner Nationalism had been given further powerful foundation to provide it for the task of governing South Africa as the senior and dominant white partner (Wilson and Thompson, 400). In South Africa race is always equated with the colour of one’s skin. The race policy was implemented by the Afrikaner Nationalism to separate the populations according to their skin colour.

The population Registration Act had definitions for each different race groups namely Whites, Coloureds, the Natives and the Indian person. They asserted that language and traditions are to be in the blood of an individual (Wilson and Thompson, 403). In Nationalism’s black manifesto, Hertzog officially committed South Africa as a white man’s land. When Malan came to power in 1948, he abolished the Natives’ Representative Council claiming that it had become an anti-white forum. A party under chairmanship of Sauer produced a report in time of 1948 election which put in motion the word apartheid (Wilson and Thompson, 406).

The application of segregation will furthermore lead to the creation of separate healthy cities for the non-whites where they will be in a position to develop along their own lines, establish their own institutions and later on govern themselves under the guardianship of the whites. Domination in South Africa was the purpose of the Afrikaner Nationalists to secure the safety of the white man. The survival of the white men meant that white men (White Afrikaners and English speaking whites) had to come together in order to fight the threat of the black people.

Wilson, M. and Thompson, L. The Oxford History of South Africa. Oxford University Press.

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