Afrikaner nationalism and the policy of apartheid (PART I)

The National Party (NP) was established in Bloemfontein in 1914 by General J B M Hertzog after a nationalistic Afrikaner faction had split from the South African Party (SAP), a coalition of Afrikaner parties in power since the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The Union enjoyed dominion status under Britain, and the SAP supported a policy of close co-operation with the British in general, and English-speaking white South Africans in particular.


Its mandate was to strive for political independence within a Christian perspective. At first taking up the role of official opposition, a surprise victory at the whites-only general election of 1948 saw the NP becoming the ruling political party – and remaining in power, albeit increasingly by force, for more than four decades until the democratic elections of 1994. During its reign, the NP developed and implemented its policy of racial segregation known as apartheid, through which blacks were oppressed and marginalised.

By the late eighties/early nineties, it had to concede that apartheid was unsustainable and sought to initiate a democratic dispensation. Black majority rule was established, and the struggle to undo the effects of apartheid and establish equal rights and opportunities for all South Africans commenced. The NP, after a brief resurrection under the name of the New National Party (NNP), dwindled to the point of irrelevance.



The NP had its roots in the fierce Afrikaner nationalism that developed out of a history of conflict with the colonial powers, resulting in the Great Trek, the establishment of the Boer republics, and the Anglo-Boer War. As one of the leaders of the South African Party (SAP), the others being Prime Minister Louis Botha and General Jan Smuts, Hertzog created discontent within his party by overtly promoting South Africa’s interests above that of Britain, and by pursuing his vision of cultural segregation of English and Afrikaans whites in the country. In 1912 Botha omitted Hertzog from his new cabinet, and on July 1, 1914, Hertzog founded the National Party in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, where his support base was strongest, followed by the Transvaal (August 26, 1914) and the Cape (June 9, 1915). The party created a mouthpiece by establishing the Cape newspaper Die Burger, with D F Malan as editor, on July 26, 1915.

The NP continued to draw supporters from the SAP due to South Africa’s controversial participation on Britain’s side in the First World War (i.e., its invasion of German South West Africa), the Rand Rebellion of 1922, and the death of Botha in 1919. By 1920, the SAP was forced to form a coalition with the NP, although sharp differences about South Africa’s relationship with Britain persisted. After the Rand Rebellion, the NP and the Labour Party (which also protected the rights of white labour) entered into a pact that saw the SAP defeated in the general elections of 1924. Afrikaans was consequently raised to the status of official language, along with English, and a new national flag was accepted.

Re-blogged from:  My Fundi 


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