Monday, March 04, 2013

The Origin & Divergent Uses of the Amorphous Afrikaner Desigation.

There is a lot of confusion as to the origin of the term Afrikaner as well as general ignorance to how this term has been used & applied [ sometimes arbitrarily ] to different peoples within southern Africa over the course of a few centuries. The term originally used was Afrikander: a Dutch word for African [ & used well into the nineteenth cent. by authors ] - by the Dutch East India Company to loosely describe the White & mixed race [ proto Coloureds: who were significantly descended from Asians ] peoples who were born in Africa. There was no sense that it was being used to describe any single emerging ethnicity being formed on African soil, as it was simply a geographical term / descriptor similar to the use of the term European to describe those who were born on European soil. To this day there is no ethnic group in Europe named after the term used for the continent. 

The term Afrikaner was first used in open court in 1707 when a defendant named Hendrik Biebouw was referring to himself as an African & as such could not be judged by the European power. The Afrikaner Broederbond of the 20th cent. later used this as a pretext to co-opt all White Afrikaans speakers under the rubric of the amorphous Afrikaner designation.

The term was however used prior to 1707 & referred to anyone who was born in Africa from the various peoples & races the VOC dumped at the Cape during the 17th cent. The term was used in a general geographical context & was not reserved for any singular ethnic group. Thus under the original usage of the term: the Coloured population as well as "free Blacks" were a section within the Afrikaner designation. It was not used to describe just White people born on African soil.

The term Afrikaner has always been a complex term whose definition has changed from time to time. It was initially used by the VOC to describe anyone who was born in Africa of White & mixed race descent & it was of course first used in a public context in 1707 when the aforementioned Hendrik Biebouw was in court asserting the he was an African [ Afrikaner ] who does not want to be ruled from Europe. There were Trekboers & Boers who called themselves Africans [ Afrikaners ] but they also simultaneously saw themselves as distinct from the Cape Dutch of the Western Cape [ 1 ] ie: the bulk of the folks who later appropriated [ & or were assigned to ] the term Afrikaner from the late 19th cent onwards. During the early 19th cent a group of mixed race Basters used this term calling themselves Afrikaners led by a one Jager Afrikaner. [ 2 ] It was not until the late 19th cent & 1875 in particular when the term Afrikaner was now being used by the Cape Dutch descendents when a few intellectuals from Paarl [ & two from Holland ] started a language rights movement. [ 3 ] These newly baptized "Afrikaners" then attempted to export the term Afrikaner in a dispossessing political context onto the Boers mainly via the Afrikaner Bond: an Afrikaans speaking Cape political party with an aim of creating a loose pan White Afrikaans nationalism. [ false nationalism: as lumping two ethnics into one is the opposite of nationalism. ] President Paul Kruger of the ZAR & President Marthinus Steyn of the OVS rejected the overtures of the Afrikaner Bond [ 4 ] & the Boers of the Boer Republics generally rejected these overtures. The high ranking F W Reitz being a notable exception. Therefore the term Afrikaner is not an ethnic term as it includes Cape Dutch / Griquas / Boers / Basters & Cape Coloureds in general. Thus referring to someone as an Afrikaner is an amorphous description & is akin to referring to someone as British which covers Scot / English / Welsh & Northern Irish. The term Afrikaner is a geographical term & everyone in Africa is technically an Afrikaner. Those who insist that Afrikaners are only those of Cape Dutch & Boer descent are in fact clinging to revisionist post 1930s artificial official definition of which most Cape Dutch & Boers never consented to as it was a political decision made on behalf of the Afrikaner Broederbond: a then semi secret organization generally unknown to most folks. 

None other than JBM Hertzog [ the founder of the original National Party & later Prime Minister ] asserted that one does not have to be an Afrikaans speaker in order to be an Afrikaner as he recognized English speakers as Afrikaners too. [ 5 ] Further demonstrating the amorphous nature of the term Afrikaner as it includes not just Afrikaans speakers of varied cultural / racial groups but also English speakers who identify with Africa more than with Britain. This is all the term Afrikaner ever meant - therefore those who promote it are also promoting the marginalization of the constituent groups who fall under the macro designation. The Afrikaner Party of the 1940s itself was started by the followers of JBM Hertzog who promoted his pan Afrikaans speaking & English speaking coalition of the term Afrikaner. No one for example would call Acadians "French Canadians" as it would marginalize the actual Acadians even though they are also French speaking Canadians because the term French Canadian is historically applied to the French speaking inhabitants of Quebec & Ontario. The Quebec portion of which since the 1960s now often refer to themselves as Quebecois. The folks of Boer descent are similarly marginalized & dispossessed under the macro / umbrella term Afrikaner as the Boers are outnumbered by the Cape Dutch portion. 

Now of course someone can indeed be of Afrikaans ancestry who no longer speaks Afrikaans & thus not viewed as an Afrikaner just as one can be of French ancestry but not necessarily speak French. Like many of the modern era Cajuns of Louisiana. J M Coetzee is a perfect example of someone of at least partial Afrikaans ancestry but would be rejected as an Afrikaner by those who define Afrikaner as an Afrikaans speaking person. Though someone like JBM Hertzog would accept Coetzee as an "English Afrikaner" along with his "Afrikaans Afrikaner" designation to describe the macro Afrikaans speakers. When attempting to refer to someone's ethnicity one should avoid the term Afrikaner as its definition is amorphous & ever changing & has been used by Afrikaner Nationalists [ political group of Afrikaans Collectivists who were the twentieth cent manifestation of the Afrikaner Bond & run by the Afrikaner Broederbond ] to describe both Cape Dutch & Boer descendents. The Afrikaners are not a single ethnic group but a diverse & heterogeneous continental / geographical group - whereas Boers / Cape Dutch / Griquas / Basters & Cape Malays are ethnic groups. Further someone can be of Boer descent but speak English or be of Griqua descent but speak German. 

The following is from Cape Slavery Heritage. [ ] Demonstrating a gradual change in definition. Quote: [ As the ‘Regte Afrikaner’ (True Afrikaner) movement  grew stronger amongst the white descendents of the early European colonists, so the term ‘Afrikaner’ receded in usage amongst the people that the British labelled Coloured. For the new Afrikaner nationalists, ‘Bruine-Afrikaners’ (Brown Afrikaners) were not ‘Regte Afrikaners’ but ‘Kleurlinge’ - ‘creatures of colour’. And so the Cape Creole Coloured cousins of the ‘Regte Afrikaners’, through new political movements, began to reach out to their indigene African cousins. ]

Quote: [ The early emergence of the term Afrikaner and Afrikaans as a language is rooted in the emergence of a coloured Cape Creole people. In the early 1700s the term Afrikaner was generally used to refer to mulatto Cape born slaves and Free Blacks. It was only in the mid 1800s that the term found favour with the forebears of present day White Afrikaners. ]

Quote: [ This was the world in which 17 year old Hendrik had grown up. This young man`s world was sans identity boundaries and disconnected from the establishment world. He saw himself as one of those local Afrikaners, like his sister born of a slave mother and other mates of mixed roots. He certainly would have been aware that at the time the word Afrikaner was not generally used by members of polite white society to describe themselves no matter what gripes they had with the VOC. The story further illustrates that the Afrikaner identity first emerged as an identity within the coloured and mixed working class community outside of the powerful colonial establishment and respectable classes. ]

This is how author Augustus Henry Keane describes the term Afrikander / Afrikaner. 

Quote: [ Afrikander: at first an African-born White with a strain of native ( Hottentot ) blood; later, any African-born White, Dutch or English, as in Afrikander Bond. ]

From: The Boer States: Land and People. Augustus Henry Keane. Page xv. 

The distinct nature of the Boers was noted as well in Chapter One of The Great Trek by Oliver Ransford. 

Quote: [ More and more Boers followed the pioneers into the interior where conditions suited them so well that they experienced a minor population explosion and formed the nucleus of a new nation. They were as nomadic as the Hottentots, or as the antelope they hunted. Trekking for them became a way of life. ]

Now if the Boers are supposedly part of the "same" nation as the Cape Dutch then one would expect that Cape Town would be the "nucleus" of this nation. The fact that the Trekboers of the Cape frontiers became the "nucleus of a new nation" & also had "a population explosion" DEMONSTRATES that the Boers are a distinct people / group from the Cape Dutch whom the Boers moved away from starting 150 years before the Great Trek. 


1. Quote: [ Trekboers certainly recognised the differences in language, religion, etc. between themselves and the British. They had certainly developed a way-of-life and a set of values that were distinctive, but they were also significantly different from people of Dutch descent in the western province areas of the Cape. The latter regarded the Trekboers as rather wild, semi-barbarous frontiersmen and the sense of common identity was limited and incomplete. The westerners followed the Trek with interest and probably with a good deal of sympathy, but they certainly did not see the trekkers as the saviours of some mystical Afrikaner ‘nation’. ] 

From: Professor Wallace Mills. The Great Trek.

Quote: [ when the British invaded in 1795, a number of trekboers were in rebellion and had declared themselves a republic. It is important to remember that this tradition predated the coming of the British. Trekboer political notions were very close to anarchy. Please note that ‘anarchy’ is not a synonym for chaos. Anarchy involves a desire for little or no government or authority; it is a social and legal system where law and order are maintained by social pressures and informal means rather than authority figures or structures. ]

From:   The VOC Period.

2. Quote: [ The most famous of the Orlam (Malay for 'wise guys') was Jager Afrikaner, an escaped Khoisan farm worker. His group called themselves "Afrikaners" after him. When they migrated to central Namiba, the Afrikaners stole sheep from the Nama. In retaliation, the Nama called them "Gu-nu", 'sheep stealers'. ]

From: Disparate Cultures: Shock Of the Other, Collision, Apartness, and Resolution.

3. Quote: [ The Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (Afrikaans for "Society of Real Afrikaners") was formed on 14 August 1875 in the town of Paarl by a group of Afrikaans speakers from the current Western Cape region. From 15 January 1876 the society published a journal in Afrikaans called Die Afrikaanse Patriot ("The African Patriot") as well as a number of books, including grammars, dictionaries, religious material and histories. Die Afrikaanse Patriot was succeeded in 1905 by today's Paarl newspaper. ]

From: Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners.

4. Quote: [ In the republics the Bond did not flourish. Neither President Brand nor President Kruger wanted his authority questioned ] Page 44 of The Anglo-Boer Wars. Michael Barthorp.

5. The definition of Afrikaner has changed numerous times. The JBM Hertzog definition was anyone regardless of language who saw Africa as their home & wanted to build an Afrikaans / English coalition. During the early 19th cent the term was  reserved for the mixed race folks of the Cape. The Malan definition stressed White Afrikaans speakers only which was mainly a coalition between Cape Dutch & Boer. Those who cling to this definition are in fact clinging to an outdated pre 1950s definition of the term as more Boers & even Cape Dutch have opted out of the designation & other non-White Afrikaans speakers have opted into the designation.

Quote: [ Hertzog had always recognized that there were two groups both deeply rooted in South Africa, the English and the Dutch. he accepted them as "twin streams", equal but separate, and believed that both could be called Afrikaners in the widest sense. He insisted that each group should educate its children in its own language - although each group should learn the language of the other. ]

Page 59. The White Tribe of Africa. David Harrison. 

The manner in which the mid 20th cent version of the term Afrikaner was adopted was telling as it was adopted without much critical thought by those who were promoting it. One of the founders of the Afrikaner Broederbond - Henning Klopper - even admitted as much after he attended speeches by JBM Hertzog. 

Quote: [ Immediately after the speech, nineteen year old Henning Klopper now a railway clerk in his first job, attended a meeting with seven others at Oogies station, where they passed a resolution supporting Herztog. Klopper was elected secretary and sent off a telegram "saying we would stand firmly behind him... It just came out of your whole being. You couldn't suppress it. You were an Afrikaner and that's all about it". Hertzog's inevitable confrontation with Botha came when he was dropped from the cabinet. ]

Page 61 The White Tribe of Africa.

Here is more on Hertzog's definition of an Afrikaner. 

Quote: [ Even as Dr. Malan, [ continued Hertzog ] they have taken an oath secretly to permit no co-operation from the English side with an eye to national unity, and in this way they stand in direct racial conflict with our English fellow Afrikaners, striving by means of Afrikaans-speaking domination to place the foot on the neck of the English speaking South African. ]

JBM Hertzog. Page 100. The White Tribe of Africa.

The term Afrikaner was not defined to refer to all White Afrikaans speakers until the early to mid 20th cent when the Broederbond began to rewrite history after they took / usurped control of the history books. The Human & Rouseau publishing company in Cape Town was instrumental in this endeavour. The term Afrikaner was redefined to refer to those of Cape Dutch & Boer descent under one umbrella thus marginalizing the distinct & smaller Boer Nation.

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