Erfurt’s Boer House:

Contextualizing the Commemoration of Apartheid’s Ideological Founders

Douglas Booth

First published on July 25th 2019

The Boer House in Erfurt stands on Bahnhofstraße, marking a double corner, both to Juri-Gagarin-Ring and Schmidtstedter Straße. Paul Funk, a mason who became rich as the city industrialized, constructed the building in 1901-02 to commemorate Boer participation in the South African War (1899-1902).

Variously known as the Boer War, the Second Boer War, the Anglo-Boer War and the Second-War-of-Independence, the South African War was fought between Britain and the combined forces of the South African Republic (SAR) and the Orange Free State (OFS). At the time SAR and OFS were governed by Boers (Dutch for ’’farmer’’ and referring to South Africans of Dutch, German or Huguenot descent), subsequently known as Afrikaners. In the early nineteenth century about a quarter of the Boer population were of German descent.

There is general agreement among historians that control oft he gold-rich Witwatersrand within Transvaal, the world’s largest gold-mining complex at a time when the value of a country’s paper currency was directly linked to gold, provides the broad context for the South African War.[1] Nonetheless, historians continue to debate the precise causes of the war. Textbook narratives typically underscore British manipulation and provocation. While Britain claimed that conventions in the early 1880sguaranteed their ’’suzerainty’’ over the SAR,[2] the Boers controlled gold-mining in the Witwatersrand and were developing an effective and modern state that challenged British domination in Southern Africa. On the eve of the war, leaders from the OFS and the SAR offered concessions, most notably concerning British immigrants (referred to as ’’uitlanders’’ — Afrikaans for foreigner) living in the Transvaal. Not only did the British reject these compromises, but responded by reinforcing their Southern Africa garrison with additional troops. The Boer leaders offered further concessions, which too were rejected. On 9 October 1899 the Boers issued an ultimatum to the British government, declaring that a state of war would exist unless Britain removed its troops. The ultimatum expired with the war commencing two days later.

Britain’s military strength (500,000 men compared with less than 100,000 Boers) ensured its victory but the guerrilla tactics adopted by the Boers were effective in the hostile terrain. Britain responded with a scorched-earth policy and what many have described as the world’s first concentration camps. These actions produced what Boer general Jan Christiaan Smuts called ’’indescribable destruction’’: ’’all houses were burned down, all fields and gardens utterly destroyed, all cattle and foodstuffs carried off and all males taken prisoner—invalids, greybeards of over 70, even children of 11. In some cases … even the women and children are carried off’’.[3] The South African war ended with the Boer leaders surrendering. The terms of the surrender were signed in May 1902 at the Treaty of Vereeniging. In 1910 the former Boer republics were incorporated, along with the British colonies of Natal and the Cape, into the Union of South Africa.

Although Britain recruited many troops from its colonies, international opinion was generally critical of British actions. Given their roots, the Boers not surprisingly garnered widespread sympathy in Germany which also provided assistance in the field through the Red Cross. Anecdotic evidence of German support is reflected in the actions of Willi Münzenberg, who was born in Erfurt and became one of the leading organizers of the Comintern’s anticolonialism policies in the 1920s. Münzenberg left his home in 1900, at the age of eleven, hoping to join the Boers in their fight; he only made it to Eisenach.[4]

The Boer House in Erfurt contains high-relief busts of five prominent Boer figures: Stephanus Johannes Paulus ’’Paul’’ Krüger (1825-1904), Marthinus Theunis Steyn (1857-1916), Louis Botha (1862-1919), Schalk Willem Burger (1852-1918), and Christiaan de Wet (1854-1922). These Boer figures are joined by that of the British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914). Whereas the busts of Botha, Burger and de Wet are placed on the two sides of the Boer House facing Gagarin-Ring and Schmidtstedter Straße, Krüger, Steyn and Chamberlain form an ensemble laying at the front of the house in Bahnhofstraße. This ensemble encapsulates the central message of the house: the noble Boers (Krüger on the left and Steyn on the right) looking down on Chamberlain, portrayed as greedy for gold. Chamberlain is depicted with a gold bag on his head, supplemented by a quote from Roman poet Virgil: Auri sacra fames (O accursed hunger of gold).

Who were the Boer figures represented as noble and innocent and what was the context that marked their lives and actions?

Paul Krüger, one of the most celebrated Boer figures, developed an early interest in politics and in 1855 helped draw up the constitution of the independent Transvaal. Krüger championed the Boer nation in its struggle with the British and came to be known as the ’’father of the Afrikaner nation’’. His life was characterized by a ’’strong faith and … obedience to … God’’ and he held a ’’firm belief in the destiny of the Afrikaner’’. In 1883 he was elected president of the SAR, the role in which he negotiated for territorial independence from Britain. Krüger remained in Pretoria, the capital of the republic, during the early part of the South African War, leaving just before the British occupied it in May 1900. Later that year he went into exile. While Europe offered Krüger moral support, it provided little material support for the Boers. Krüger died while in exile in Switzerland.[5]

Marthinus Steyn, the other Boer looking down on Chamberlain was a judge of the high court. He was elected president of the OFS in 1895 after his predecessor, Francis William Reitz, resigned from ill health. Steyn worked to find a peaceful settlement to the differences between the Boer republics and Britain. As an example, he initiated a conference in Bloemfontein between Krüger and Sir Alfred Milner, the British High Commissioner for South Africa and Governor of the Cape Colony. Steyn, however, was not prepared to sacrifice Boer independence and gave his wholehearted support to Krüger and the SAR when war came. Bloemfontein, the capital of the OFS, fell to British forces in March 1900 and the seat of government moved a couple of times before it finally became ’’homeless’’. Steyn remained in the field with de Wet and is acknowledged for raising the morale among the Boers. When Krüger went into exile, Steyn became the leader and symbolic figurehead of Boer defiance. In April 1902 illness forced him to hand power over to de Wet.[6] Acknowledging the sympathy bequeathed by the German people during the South African War, Steyn recorded that ’’my people … consider that they are under a debt of obligation to the German race’’.[7]

Louis Botha, the third figure marking the Boer house, traced his ancestry to Thuringia. He led the SAR army. Although opposed to the war, he was nonetheless prepared to fight for what he deemed the integrity of his country.

Botha adopted guerrilla tactics that enabled the Boers to live off the land and disrupt British lines of supply and communication. After the South African War, Botha converted to a conciliatory tone. He declared Afrikaner loyalty to the British Empire and worked to unite South Africa under one government. In 1907 Botha became prime minister of the Transvaal and three years later he became the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa.[8]

Schalk Burger. In 1886 Burger was elected as a member of the volksraad (people’s council) in the SAR and became a member of its executive council a decade later.

In the latter role, he sought closer relations with the OFS. When president Paul Krüger went into exile in Europe in 1900, Burger was appointed acting-president. He remained in this position until the end of the South African War.[9]

Christiaan de Wet, the final figure on the Boer House, had moved throughout his life between farms in the OFS and the SAR. He fought in the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881)[10] and was elected to the OFS volksraadin 1889.He became a Boer legend as a guerrilla fighter, during the South African War.

As the acting president of the OFS, de Wet attended discussions among representatives of the SAR prior to the Treaty of Vereeniging and declared his willingness to carry on the struggle to the bitter end. After the war, de Wet joined Botha in Europe to raise money for women and children left destitute by the conflict. He was a delegate at the National Convention of 1908-09 that produced the Constitution of the Union of South Africa and ostensibly retired from politics after Union in 1910.[11]

So, how should Boer House with its Boer figures be remembered today? Should the structure be commemorated as Funk intended at the turn of the twentieth century, or has that context—which is always a matter of authorial choice—long ceased to have legitimacy?

The Historiography of Remembrance and Commemoration

Historians are quick to claim that they study the past purely on its own terms. In this regard they frequently cite the British writer Leslie Poles Hartley for whom, ’’the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there’’. Indeed, one wonders which of the five Boer figures Funk would have included had he constructed the building the following decade, or the decade after that, two quite different periods in Afrikaner politics.[12] For example, Botha’s conciliation after the South African War promoted accusations among some Afrikaners that he was too anglicized. Similarly, the First World War deeply divided Afrikaners. Botha, now prime minister, supported Britain. De Wet, on the other hand, advocated armed revolt against the British while Steyn opposed both de Wet and Botha. Incensed at South Africa’s participation in the First World War and a proposed invasion of German South West Africa by South African forces, de Wet joined a group that planned a coup d’etat. In October 1914 he inspired a rebellion in which over ten thousand Afrikaners occupied towns and seized property in the north-eastern Free State. Botha, who wanted to incorporate South West Africa after the war, and who considered the German army in that territory a threat to South Africa, declared martial law and suppressed the revolt. The following month, de Wet was captured, sentenced to six years in prison, and fined £2,000 (he was reprieved after 6 months and his fine paid by supporters).

Nevertheless, I suggest that the questions most people ask of the past are shaped by the present. In the case of Boer House and its Afrikaner figures, I propose that questions of contemporary commemoration and remembrance better reside in an ethical context framed by postcolonialism and anti-racism. The context of British military force in the late nineteenth century configures a narrative of Boer victimhood that extends into the early twentieth century and ongoing attempts to Anglicize the Boers by, for example, moves to eliminate Afrikaans language and Afrikaans schools. However, this story largely overlooks South Africa’s Black majority, claiming at best that ’’the bloody conflict … brought … little change’’ to the ’’situation’’ of the indigenous population ’’shaped by colonialism and racism’’.[13]

By contrast, an ethical context framed by postcolonialism and anti-racism configures a narrative in which the relief figures on Boer House symbolize an aggressive cultural nationalism with a concomitant political system that treated Africans far more harshly than did the British colonial power. In this alternative narrative, Afrikaner nationalism intensifies after the South African War as does the struggle between Afrikaans- and English-speakers over Black political rights. During the first half-of-the-twentieth century, Black political rights were progressively diluted; shortly after the Afrikaner-led National Party achieved power in 1948 Black political rights were removed completely. This history, I argue, offers the best and the most accurate context for understanding Boer House and its relief figures.

Afrikaner Nationalism and Black Rights

The history of Afrikaner nationalism begins in the early nineteenth century when Britain took permanent control of the Cape of Good Hope.[14] This history is the tale of two competing racial ideologies that profoundly impacted Black political rights in South Africa for two centuries.

In keeping with Enlightenment ideas, and especially the idea of equality between all races, British authorities at the Cape pursued a civilizing mission. This included laws that prevented ownership of slaves and any harsh treatment of indigenous peoples. In 1828, the Extension of Hottentot Liberties Ordinance gave indigenous Khoisan full legal and civil rights.[15] The Cape governor declared that all native inhabitants were to have the rights of ’’citizens’’ with respect to security and property ownership.

The Boers deemed this ordinance yet another grievance; they were already incensed by official imposition of the English language. The British replaced Dutch with English in the Cape’s judicial and political systems; in so doing, they disadvantaged the Boers, few of whom spoke English. In 1834Britainabolished slavery in all its colonies. This decision further amplified Boer disaffection and precipitated an exodus of voortrekkers (Afrikaans for ’’those who go ahead’’) and trekboers (a class of Boers who pursued semi-nomadic pastoral activities)who left the Cape for the interior of South Africa to escape British rule.

Among the numerous groups of voortrekkers was one led by Piet Retief which included 10-year-old Paul Krüger and his family. Retief produced a “Manifesto of the Emigrant Farmers” (1837) which explained the reasons for leaving. It included a complaint about ’’severe losses which we have been forced to sustain by the emancipation of our slaves’’.[16] Anna Steenkamp, Retief’s daughter, offers important clarification of this complaint: ’’it was not so much their (the slaves’) freedom that drove us to such lengths as their being placed on equal footing with Christians’’.[17]

In these comments we find an ideology that resides in an abiding belief in the will of God. It is an ideology that derives from literal interpretations of the Old Testament where, for example, Noah curses unto eternity the descendants of (Black) Ham’s son Canaan for whom there is no salvation, redemption, or forgiveness. The real curse (Genesis 9:25) is not that Canaan’s descendants are forever the ’’servants of servants unto his brethren’’; rather, it is that they can never attain true spirituality. Blacks can adopt the ritual and ethos of Christianity but they will never be (real) Christians. The SAR expressed these sentiments in its constitution which stated, inter alia, that ’’the people will admit of no equality of persons of colour with the White inhabitants, either in state or in church’’.[18]

The discovery of diamonds near the confluence of the Orange and Vaal Rivers in the late 1860s produced a new set of material conditions that had a profound effect on Afrikaner ethnic consciousness.[19] Mineral wealth precipitated new forms of state politics and British territorial ambitions which had crucial social effects for the embryonic Afrikaners. On the one hand, development of the diamond fields and its hinterland provided revenue for new state institutions in the OFS. They helped break up traditional patron-client relations and factional disputes among trekboer leaders, and became important sites for Afrikaner mobilization and organization. On the other hand, the development of the diamond fields facilitated a new class structure among the Boers. At the bottom of this structure were poor and often destitute small farmers and bywoners (tenant-farmers or squatters). They

were unable … to do anything but farm—almost an underclass that in Marx’s terms was ’’passively rotting away’’. Some of the most desperate of these … began to migrate to the towns where they found casual employment, but others resorted to vagrancy, begging and crime. In towns all over South Africa, Blacks and Whites were working and living together and, in small but growing numbers, sleeping together.[20]

Another key site in the mobilization of Afrikaners was in the Cape where Die Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners(the Fellowship of True Afrikaners) enhanced cultural awareness and exclusivity. The Fellowship restricted its activities to White Afrikaans-speakers and excluded the large Coloured community that also spoke Afrikaans but who retained the taint of servants. In contrast to the English-speaking upper classes, Afrikaners never relaxed rigid norms in their relations with Blacks. Stephanus du Toit, one of the founders of the Fellowship, is widely regarded as the first to articulate the notion of Afrikaners as a ’’Chosen People’’. He compared Afrikaners to the Israelites of the Old Testament; they were chosen and covenanted people who had ’’a divine mandate to smite heathen peoples and reduce them to their preordained position as perpetual hewers of wood and drawers of water’’.[21]

However, it was Paul Krüger who, after the First Anglo-Boer War, propounded a new history of Boer consciousness. Krüger’s revised history consisted of a tabulation of grievances, ’’injustices’’ and ’’oppression’’ and stories of clashes between the Boer and the ’’despicable and cowardly’’ English. According to Krüger, the voortrekkers expressed the Boers’ ’’sacred passion for freedom’’ and it was they who opened the interior for ’’Christendom and Civilization’’. Prominent in Krüger’s historical mythology was the Battle of Blood River. In this battle a small group of voortreekers, massively outnumbered, defeated the army of Dingane, the Zulu leader, in Natal.[22] Within 50 years this mythology would produce its own ethnic and nationalist ’’realities’’.[23]

Britain hoped that the discovery of gold in the mid-1880s and the subsequent rush to the Transvaal would dilute Afrikaner influence. But Krüger imposed stringent franchise qualifications on uitlanders; he also rejected British overtures to join a South African common market and political union.

The South African War (1899-1902) extinguished the independence of the Afrikaner republics. But Britain’s ongoing policy of anglicization continued to aggravate tensions between English-speakers and Afrikaners and fuel resentment among the latter. Over the following two decades, former Boer war military leaders, Afrikaner workers and the secret Afrikaner Broederbond secured an Afrikaner nationalism with it own distinct and cruel race policy.[24] One early example of this policy emerged from the question of the ’’native vote’’ in the new Union of South Africa. The four colonies sharply disagreed over what political rights should be afforded to Africans. The South Africa Constitution Act (1909) produced a compromise in which each Colony retained its status quo: Blacks kept the vote in the Cape, subject to property qualifications, although they were forbidden to sit in the Union parliament. The other three provinces denied Africans the franchise.

Among the most racist legislation in South Africa were the Natives Land Act (1913) and the Natives Urban Areas Act (1923), both of which were passed by Botha’s South African Party (SAP). The Land Act began the process of segregating Blacks in tribal reserves; initially these constituted seven per cent of the total area of South Africa but were later increased to 13 per cent.[25] The Urban Areas Act extended segregation to the urban environment and denied Blacks permanent residence in ’’White’’ cities; Africans would only be welcome in urban areas while serving White needs.[26] But the most virulent racism emerged among Afrikaner workers, many of whom were unskilled or semi-skilled and who had been driven from rural areas into the cities where they shared a common class position with Africans. Afrikaner workers, however, successfully organized a racial division of labour that secured for them an aristocratic status, known as the job colour bar, which they justified in the name of the volk.[27]

A key player in the racial division of workers and the job colour bar was another general in the South African War, James Barry Munnik Hertzog (1866-1942). The descendant of a German immigrant, a signatory to the peace treaty of Vereeniging, and a supporter of de Wet’s rebellion, Hertzog left the SAP and formed the (Afrikaner) National Party in 1914. Among Hertzog’s issues with the SAP were Afrikaner cultural aspirations, South Africa’s international independence, dual medium education, and bilingualism in the public service. After the bloody Rand revolt in 1922,[28] Hertzog declared his support for White workers who sought to entrench the job colour bar. Hertzog’s National Party entered into an alliance with the South African Labour Party. The two parties successfully fought the 1924 general election and Hertzog served as South African prime minister from 1924-1939.[29] The new government adopted a ’’civilized labour policy’’ to protect Whites from Black competition and ensure that unskilled Whites received ’’civilized’’ wages. The Wages Act (1925) and the Mines and Works Amendment Act (1926) gave the policy substance and forced mining companies to comply with a rigid classification of (White) skilled and (Black) unskilled workers.

Lastly, this history requires some consideration of the Broederbond’s views on Afrikaner nationalism and race. The power of the Broederbond cannot be underestimated. For example, all but two of the cabinet in the apartheid government elected in 1948 were Broeders.[30] In the late 1920s and the early 1930sintellectuals within the Broederbond debated Afrikaner nationalism. These debates produced a general agreement that ’’nations are products of Divine Will, each with an allotted task, distinguished from each other by culture in the broadest sense’’. Thereafter, the Broederbond asserted that ’’the Afrikaner nation has been planted … by the Hand of God, destined to survive as a separate nation with its own calling’’.[31] This is what became known in South Africa as Christian-nationalism, and is a further reminder that Afrikaner nationalism was more of a religious, than a political, ideology.[32]

In 1944 the Broederbond convened a volkskongres (people’s congress) to consider the ’’Racial Policy of the Afrikaner’’. Among the topics explored by the congress were religious foundations and miscegenation.[33] The poet and theologian J. D. du Toit argued that racial separation was Divine Will. Racial differences were grounded in the ordinances of creation and integration is sinful, he said.[34] Geoffrey Cronjé, who taught sociology at Pretoria University, presented scientific evidence that he insisted proved miscegenation led to racial decline. In his influential ’n Tuiste vir die Nageslag (A Home for Posterity) (1945), Cronjé cited studies by Eugen Fischer (the principal architect of Nazi anthropology) of Coloureds in South West Africa as ’’proof’’ that they were ’’inferior’’ people. Cronjé also referred to ’’medical researchers in Johannesburg’’ who, he claimed, had ’’discovered physical anomalies in ’bastards’, such as undersized (African) internal organs in large (European) frames’’.[35]


Historians always choose their context, which is a matter of authorial judgment (rather than predetermined by incontrovertible facts). Funk’s Boer House with its high-relief busts of prominent Boer figures can be contextualized in numerous ways. In this essay, I placed the building in what I call the ethical context of postcolonialism and anti-racism which, I argue, offers fuller pictures of:

     – events in South Africa around the time Funk constructed the building,
     – the broader socio-political conditions leading up to the South African War, and,
     – the racial implications of the South Africa War.

Afrikaners were undoubtedly victims of British imperialism and global capitalism.[36] However, in their determination to create an independent nation, Afrikaners pursued policies and strategies that brutally oppressed tens of millions of people purely based on the colour of their skin. Herein lies the value of Boer House and its window on the larger story of racism which is still relevant today in both Germany and South Africa.

[1]    The Witwatersrand (from Afrikaans for ’’ridge of White waters’’) plateau forms a continental divide with the run-off to the north draining into the Indian Ocean and that from the south (ultimately) into the Atlantic.

[2]    A largely historical term that predates contemporary international law in which states are said to either be sovereign or not, suzerainty refers to conditions in which one state (in this case Britain) affords technical independence to another (in this case the SAR) but continues to regard it as a tributary territory.

[3]    W. K. Hancock and Jean van der Poel (eds.), Selections from the Smuts Papers (Cambridge, 1966), Vol. 1, Document 137.

[4]    Babette Gross, Willi Münzenberg: Eine Politische Biographie (Stuttgart, 1967), 21-22. Gross ironically comments on this episode: ’’That was the first, but also the last time, that Münzenberg wanted to become a soldier.’’(Ibid.)

[5]    Stephanus Johannes Paulus Krüger, South African History Online (Cape Town, 2011),üger, accessed 13 June 2019.

[6]    Martin Evans, Encyclopedia of the Boer War (Santa Barbara, 2000), 241-43.

[7]    Louis Botha, South African History Online (Cape Town, 2011),, accessed 13 June 2019.

[8]    Ibid. See also, D.W. Kruger, The Age of the Generals: A Short Political History of the Union of South Africa, 1910-1948 (Johannesburg, 1961).

[9]    Schalk Burger, South African History Online (Cape Town, 2013),, accessed 13 June 2019.

[10]    The First Anglo-Boer War followed Britain’s annexation of the SAR in 1877. First Anglo Boer War, South African History Online (Cape Town, 2011),, accessed 26 June 2019.

[11]    Christiaan de Wet, South African History Online (Cape Town, 2011),, accessed 13 June 2019.

[12]    Likewise, it would be interesting to know Funk’s criteria for selecting these five figures from what is a long list of potential candidates. One noticeable absence is Koos ’’Lion of the West’’ de la Rey (1847-1914). See, Jacobus Herculaas de la Rey, South African History Online (Cape Town, 2011),, accessed 23 June 2019.

[13]    As advanced by Steffen Raßloff, Burenhaus Bahnhofstraße. Zu Ehren von Ohm Krüger (In honor of Ohm Krüger),, accessed 20 July 2019. Interestingly, the Nazis used the name Ohm Krüger in a propaganda film of the same name (1941), available at, accessed 14 June 2019. See, Christian Hallstein, Ohm Krüger: The Genesis of a Nazi Propaganda Film, Literature/Film Quarterly, 30, 2 (2002), 133-39. Pro-Nazi views were prevalent in South Africa during the Second World War and were notably expressed by the Ossewa-Brandwag (Ox-wagon Sentinel) which opposed South Africa’s participation in the war. See, Patrick Furlong, Between Crown and Swastika: The Impact of the Radical Right on the Afrikaner Nationalist Movement in the Fascist Era(Hanover, N.H., 1991).

[14]    Britain seized the Cape settlement from the Dutch in 1795 as a strategic move to limit French access to the Indian Ocean. At the time France was an ally of Holland. Britain returned the Cape to the Dutch in 1803 but seized it again three years later. After the defeat of Napoleon, Europe underwent a political reorganization and the Dutch ceded the Cape to Britain.

[15]    Khoisanis a composite term for Khoikhoi (nomadic pastoralists, historically known as Hottentots) and San (hunter gatherers, historically known as Bushmen) who occupied the Cape at the time of European arrival.

[16]    Colin Tatz, Shadow and Substance in South Africa (Pietermaritzburg, 1962), 3.

[17]    Ibid., 3.

[18]    The Constitution of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, South African History Online (Cape Town, 2012),, accessed 26 June 2019.

[19]    Hermann Giliomee, The Beginnings of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness, 1850-1915, in Leroy Vail (ed.). The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (London, 1989), 22. See also, Geoffrey Eley, State Formation, Nationalism and Political Culture in Nineteenth Century Germany, in Raphael Samuel and Gareth Stedman Jones (eds.), Culture, Ideology and Politics: Essays for Eric Hobsbawm (London, 1982), 278.

[20]    From this group emerged South Africa’s Coloured population. Giliomee, The Beginnings of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness, 32.

[21]    André du Toit, No Chosen People: The Myth of the Calvinist Origins of Afrikaner Nationalism and Racial Ideology, American Historical Review, 88, 4 (1983), 920-52.

[22]    F. A. van Jaarsveld, The Afrikaner’s Interpretation of South African History (Cape Town, 1964), 40-2. In February 1838, Dingane murdered the voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his party and attacked other Boer settlements in Natal. On 16 December 1838, the voortrekker scout Andries Pretorius and a commando of 470 Boers defeated Dingane at the Battle of Blood River. Over 3,000 Zulu died with only three minor casualties in the commando. Pretorius’s forces, however, numbered nearly 800. They included 120 Black scouts, armed with muskets, and another Black group of over 200 comprising ’’leaders’’ for the oxen and agterryers (after-riders) who cared for the horses. The 16 December subsequently became known as the Day of the Covenant, in Afrikaner life. At a public lecture in 1979, van Jaarsveld suggested that it was time that the Day of the Covenant became less of an exclusive Afrikaner festival. A group of protesters stormed the stage and daubed him with tar and feathers.

[23]    Giliomee, The Beginnings of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness, 37-8.

[24]    Like its prototype the Fellowship of True Afrikaners, the Broederbond sought to mobilize Afrikaners’ economic, cultural and electoral power. It aimed to end Afrikaners’ dependence and develop their hegemony in all spheres—language, culture, politics, administration, and finance. Formed by 14 railway clerks, clergymen and policemen in 1918, the Broederbond claimed that British capitalism endangered Afrikaners’ language, culture and nation. Afrikaners thus had to take control of what was their rightful share, by mobilizing ethnic resources to foster Afrikaner accumulation and volkskapitalisme (people’s capitalism). The Broederbond’s constitutional aims were ’’to effect a healthy and progressive unity between all Afrikaners who strive for the welfare of the Afrikaner nation, to stimulate Afrikaner national consciousness and the inculcation of love for its language, religion, tradition, country and people, and to promote the interests of the Afrikaner nation’’. On race, the constitution referred to the ’’segregation of all non-Whites under White guardianship’’. See, Dan O’Meara, The Afrikaner Broederbond 1927-1948: Class Vanguard of Afrikaner Nationalism, Journal of Southern African Studies, 3, 2 (1977), 163, 165 (quotes) and 168, and Shula Marks and Stanley Trapido, The Politics of Race, Class and Nationalism, in Marks and Trapido (eds.), The Politics of Race, Class and Nationalism in Twentieth Century South Africa (London, 1987), 18.

[25]    The South African Native Affairs Commission(1903-1905) recommended territorial segregation as the answer to the future Union’s racial policy; ironically, ninety percent of the Commissioners were English-speakers not Afrikaners. See, Adam Ashforth, The Politics of Official Discourse in Twentieth Century South Africa (Oxford, 1990).

[26]    In 1936, the United Party, the result of a (re)merger of the SAP and the National Party (see below), passed the Representation of Natives Act of 1936 that finally disenfranchised Africans living in Cape province by removing them from the common voters’ roll. Tatz, Shadow and Substance.

[27]    For example, the Mines and Works Act (1911) forbade Blacks from working in several occupations.

[28]    Toward the end of 1921 the Chamber of Mines unilaterally announced that from February 1922 it would restrict the job colour bar to skilled work and employ Blacks in semi-skilled occupations. An estimated 20,000 (White) members of the Industrial Federation in the coal and gold mines, power stations and engineering shops went on strike early in January. The Federation proposed new negotiations in early March but the Chamber of Mines refused to negotiate. At a mass meeting on 5 March, members of a militant Council of Action and Afrikaner commandos took control of the Industrial Federation. On 10 March White workers seized much of the Witwaterrand. The government ended the revolt within four days using aircraft and artillery to bomb the workers’ positions. At least 220 workers died. On 16 March the strikers returned to work unconditionally.

[29]    James Barry Munnik Hertzog, South African History Online (Cape Town, 2011),, accessed 16 June 2019. Of the three Boer War generals who ruled South Africa for its first 38 years, only Herzog had a modicum of fairness in dealing with Blacks. For example, he insisted on Blacks having 13 percent of the land and that they receive compensation for the loss of the vote.

[30]    A coalition of the Herenigde Nasionale Party(Reunited National Party) (HNP) and Afrikaner Party won the 1948 election with broeder Daniel François Malan (1874-1959) as prime minister. The HNP formed in 1939 after Hertzog and a group of Afrikaner nationalists left the United Party and joined up with the Gesuiwerde Nasionale Party (Purified National Party) under Malan’s leadership.The HNP and the Afrikaner Party merged as the National Party in 1951.

[31]    O’Meara, The Afrikaner Broederbond 1927-1948: Class Vanguard of Afrikaner Nationalism, 176.

[32]    After the Boer generals came the devotees of the Dutch Reformed Church: Daniel François Malan (prime minister from 1948-54), Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom (1954-58), Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (1958-66), and Balthazar Johannes „B. J.“ Vorster (1968-78).

[33]    Dan O’Meara, Volkskapitalisme: Class, Capital and Ideology in the Development of Afrikaner Nationalism, 1934-1948 (Johannesburg, 1983), 173.

[34]    T. Dunbar Moodie, The Rise of Afrikanerdom: Power, Apartheid, and the Afrikaner Civil Religion(Berkeley, 1975), 248.

[35]    John Coetzee, The Mind of Apartheid: Geoffrey Cronjé, Social Dynamics, 17, 1 (1991), 12.

[36]    Of which they continue to remind themselves. In 2007 Afrikaans singer Bok van Blerk released ’’De La Rey’’ ( as a tribute to the Boer general Koosde la Rey (see note 12). Many Afrikaners embraced the song, which included the lyrics ’’De la Rey, will you come lead the boers?’’ as an anthem for a persecuted nation seeking to rise again. See, Afrikaans Singer Stirs Up Controversy With War Song, The Guardian (26 February 2007),, accessed 23 June 2019.

The Author:

Douglas Booth has a PhD in politics from Macquarie University, Sydney. He is the author of The Race Game: Sport and Politics in South Africa (London 1998) and taught South African History at the University of Otago (New Zealand) for a number of years. He is currently at Thompson Rivers University (BC, Canada) and was recently a Visiting Professorial Fellow in the History Department at Erfurt University. The author extends his thanks to Colin Tatz and Sebastian Potgieter for their helpful comments on the initial draft of this essay.