The Afrikaner-Broederbond, often referred to simply as the Broederbond, stands as a pivotal institution in the history of South Africa.
Founded in the early 20th century, this secret society played a crucial role in shaping Afrikaner Nationalism and securing the interests of Afrikaners in the aftermath of the devastating defeat in the Second Anglo-Boer War.
We look into the origins and history of the Afrikaner-Broederbond, with a particular focus on its aims, the rise of Afrikaner nationalism, and its role in sustaining Apartheid South Africa.
Additionally, we will explore the achievements of the Broederbond in providing employment opportunities for Afrikaners through institutions such as schools and banks.
I. The Historical Background
1.1 The Second Anglo-Boer War and Afrikaner Defeat
To understand the rise of the Afrikaner-Broederbond, we must first examine the historical context in which it emerged. The late 19th century saw the British Empire expanding its influence across southern Africa, leading to tensions between the British colonial forces and the Afrikaner population, primarily descended from Dutch settlers who arrived in the region during the 17th century.
The culmination of these tensions was the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), a brutal conflict between the British Empire and the two Boer republics, the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State. Despite their valiant efforts, the Afrikaner forces were eventually defeated by the superior British military machine, and the Treaty of Vereeniging (1902) officially ended the war. This defeat left a deep scar on the Afrikaner psyche and fueled their sense of national identity.
1.2 Birth of Afrikaner Nationalism
The aftermath of the Second Anglo-Boer War marked a turning point in South African history. The Afrikaners, demoralized by their defeat, sought to forge a united and self-reliant identity. It was during this period that Afrikaner nationalism began to take root. Afrikaner nationalists aimed to promote and protect the interests of their ethnic group, advocating for cultural preservation, political representation, and economic independence.
II. Founding and Aims of the Afrikaner-Broederbond
2.1 Founding of the Broederbond
In this climate of Afrikaner awakening, the Afrikaner-Broederbond was established on 17 January 1918 in the Western Cape town of Stellenbosch. Founders included prominent Afrikaner figures such as Dr. Nicolaas Havenga, J.C. de Villiers, and H.F. Verwoerd, who would later become South Africa’s Prime Minister and a key architect of apartheid. The Broederbond was conceived as a secret, exclusive organization with the primary objective of advancing Afrikaner interests on multiple fronts.
2.2 Aims of the Afrikaner-Broederbond
The Afrikaner-Broederbond had a multifaceted mission, encompassing political, economic, cultural, and educational spheres. Some of its key aims included:
2.2.1 Political Influence: The Broederbond aimed to secure political power for Afrikaners within the framework of South Africa’s evolving political landscape. They believed in Afrikaner self-determination and sought to create a separate Afrikaner state.
2.2.2 Economic Empowerment: To uplift the Afrikaner community economically, the Broederbond promoted the establishment of Afrikaner-owned businesses, banks, and other financial institutions. This was essential in countering the economic dominance of English-speaking South Africans.
2.2.3 Cultural Preservation: The Broederbond recognized the importance of preserving Afrikaner culture and language. They supported initiatives to promote Afrikaans as the primary language of instruction in schools and universities.
2.2.4 Education and Ideological Influence: Through its influence in educational institutions, the Broederbond aimed to shape the minds of young Afrikaners with their nationalist ideologies. They played a significant role in molding future leaders who would uphold Afrikaner interests.
III. The Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism
3.1 Language and Cultural Revival
The Afrikaner-Broederbond played a pivotal role in the revival of Afrikaans as a symbol of Afrikaner identity. They advocated for the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools and universities, challenging the dominance of English in education. This linguistic resurgence was central to forging a unique Afrikaner identity.
3.2 The Afrikaner National Party
In 1948, the Afrikaner National Party (NP) won the South African general election, marking a significant turning point. Dr. Daniel François Malan became the Prime Minister, and this victory was seen as a triumph of Afrikaner nationalism. The Broederbond’s influence was instrumental in shaping the NP’s policies, particularly the implementation of apartheid.
IV. Securing Afrikaner Interests in Apartheid South Africa
4.1 Apartheid Policy and Legislation
The Afrikaner-Broederbond was at the forefront of the apartheid regime’s formulation and implementation. Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination that aimed to maintain white minority rule in South Africa. The Broederbond members held key positions in the government and were instrumental in crafting apartheid laws and policies.
4.2 Educational and Ideological Influence
One of the Broederbond’s most effective strategies was its influence over educational institutions. They ensured that the principles of apartheid were embedded in the curriculum, shaping the beliefs and values of generations of Afrikaner youth. This ideological indoctrination helped sustain apartheid for decades.
4.3 Economic Empowerment
The Broederbond’s efforts in economic empowerment bore fruit with the establishment of Afrikaner-owned financial institutions and businesses. These institutions provided employment opportunities for Afrikaners and helped counter the economic dominance of English-speaking South Africans. Afrikaner-owned banks like Volkskas and Sanlam played significant roles in this economic transformation.
V. Achievements of the Broederbond in Providing Employment
5.1 Educational Institutions
The Broederbond’s influence in the educational sector led to the creation of Afrikaner-centric schools, universities, and cultural organizations. These institutions not only promoted the Afrikaner language and culture but also served as avenues for Afrikaner employment. Teachers, professors, and administrators were often Afrikaner nationalists who subscribed to the Broederbond’s ideals.
5.2 Financial Institutions
The establishment and growth of Afrikaner-owned financial institutions had a significant impact on Afrikaner employment. Volkskas, for example, not only provided banking services but also offered job opportunities to Afrikaners in various capacities, from tellers to executives. Similarly, Sanlam, an insurance and investment company, contributed to the economic empowerment of Afrikaners.
The Afrikaner-Broederbond played a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of South African history in the 20th century. Emerging in the aftermath of the Second Anglo-Boer War, it sought to secure the interests of Afrikaners through political influence, economic empowerment, cultural revival, and educational indoctrination. The rise of Afrikaner nationalism and the implementation of apartheid were closely tied to the Broederbond’s activities.
While the Broederbond achieved many of its goals, its legacy is a complex one. It was instrumental in promoting the Afrikaner identity and securing economic opportunities for Afrikaners but also played a central role in perpetuating a system of racial discrimination and segregation that brought immense suffering to South Africa’s non-white population.
The end of apartheid in 1994 marked a significant shift in South Africa’s history, and a decline in the overt influence of the Afrikaner-Broederbond in Post-Apartheid South Africa.