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1— The Beginnings of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness, 1850–1915
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The Institutionalization of Ethnic Consciousness in the Cape to 1915

It was in the Western Cape, and in particular the Stellenbosch/Paarl region, that the first viable Afrikaner ethnic movement took root and grew. For various reasons, Du Toit and the GRA in the 1870s did not appeal to the intellectual class of Dutch-Afrikaners. Du Toit was a controversial figure, disliked by the church hierarchy, and The Patriot's Afrikaans was considered too vulgar and banal to have any appeal. Nevertheless clergy and teachers in growing numbers recognized the need for an alternative culture. The modernizing colonial state was obliterating the old distinction between the public sphere and the private life of family and church, posing the threat not only of anglicization but also of undermining the authority of Dutch-Afrikaner clergy and teachers. What made the matter all the more pressing for the clergy was the state's decision in 1874 to disestablish the church. Ministers of religion could no longer look to it for their salaries but had to rely instead upon their parishes. It can hardly be a coincidence that from 1874 onwards the church took a greatly increased interest in the education of Dutch-Afrikaner children and in ethnic issues. Clergymen figured prominently in the establishment of BBV and Bond branches. And in the early 1880s the church was suddenly prominent in the agitation for the recognition of Dutch as an official language. In growing numbers ministers of religion and teachers rejected the inclusive definition of Afrikaner and asserted a close link between language and nationality.

In the 1870s and 1880s Hofmeyr had argued that Dutch was merely of instrumental value in educating the Dutch-Afrikaners to enable them to claim equal rights with English-speakers. Always sensitive to any movement in his constituency that might outflank him, Hofmeyr from the 1890s began to emphasize the close links between language and ethnic identity and argued that they were mutually dependent on one another. But Hofmeyr's bland ethnic formulations were already overtaken by a more radical ideology espoused by a new generation of relatively well-educated ministers of religion and teachers who were eager to invent and elaborate an ethnic culture. By the turn of the century they were taking a leading role all over South Africa in commemorations of the Battle of Blood River and the founding of debating societies. Both served to heighten ethnic consciousness on a grassroots level among the rural population.[85] In the Cape Colony the new movement would find its leader in Daniel François Malan, a DRC clergyman who returned to South Africa in 1905 after studying theology in the Netherlands and who was to become leader of the Nationalist Party in the 1930s. In the Netherlands Malan had watched Abraham Kuyper implementing the verzuiling (segmentation) of Dutch society along religious and class lines. Once back in South Africa, Malan spread the new gospel that religious, cultural and political separatism could be the only basis for cooperation between the Afrikaners and the English.

In isolation these clergymen and teachers could not achieve much. For their ethnic movement to acquire momentum it was necessary to link up with farmers, in particular men of some wealth, who also found ethnic identification both


materially and psychologically rewarding. Obvious candidates were the wine farmers who belonged to the 'best of families' and who were possessors of old wealth. There were two main reasons why the wine farmers of the Western Cape by the turn of the century were increasingly attracted to ethnic strategies, and not only in the economic field.

First, the structural relationship between the Dutch-speaking farmers and the English-speaking merchants virtually built an ethnic dimension into the political process. Before the BBV was formed in 1878 some wine farmers and wine merchants had been joined in a wine producers' association but it soon fell apart because of the conflict of interests: the merchants did not buy enough wine, which they considered inferior, and they failed to protest against the Excise Bill, which they did not see as a threat to them. Conflict within the wine industry continued in the decades before Union. Although there was generally a huge local wine surplus, the wine producers had to endure strong competition from wine and brandy imports which the merchants found more profitable to handle. Figures for retail sales of foreign spirits were 44 per cent of that of Cape wine and brandy in 1892, rising to 69 per cent in 1895 and over 80 per cent in 1897 before declining to 72 per cent in 1904.[86] In that year the Jameson government, known for its lack of sympathy for Dutch-Afrikaner causes and interests, imposed a tax on Cape brandy that was 67 per cent higher than the import tax on the foreign product.[87] Wheat farmers found it equally difficult to compete with cereals imported from Australia and the regions north of the Cape Colony.[88] The Bond constantly sought governmental protection for wine and other agricultural products. The desire for agricultural protection was one of the main reasons why the Dutch-Afrikaner farming population supported the Afrikaner Bond almost to a man in the last election before Unification.

Second, the farmers' financial situation prompted them to turn to local banks and trust companies. From the 1890s these local institutions began to attract a growing flow of funds from both the rich and the poor, the farmers and the professionals. As local sentiment turned into ethnic sentiment, these institutions facilitated the encapsulation of classes within the ethnic group and the accumulation of resources that was necessary before major ethnic projects could be launched. By the turn of the century an ethnic establishment comprised of some affluent farmers who were also shareholders or directors of local financial institutions, professional men, and leading figures in the DRC and the university college in Stellenbosch had emerged.

It is necessary to elaborate briefly. The British-backed Standard Bank, which started doing business in both Paarl and Stellenbosch by 1880, did not covet the average wine producer as a client. In general, wine farmers were heavily in debt as the bulk of the wine fetched prices not much higher than production costs. Increasingly farmers began to turn to local financial institutions. It is sometimes suggested in the literature that Afrikaners were manipulated by ethnic entrepreneurs into supporting ethnic enterprises. The Paarl Board of Executors, the Stellenbosch District Bank and other institutions, however, in fact offered real services. Because they were small and ran a risk of collapsing, they had to offer much better rates than the Standard Bank in order to compete. In the 1880s the District Bank was paying 5 to 5.5 or 6 per cent on fixed deposits and 2 per cent on current accounts, compared to the Standard which paid an average of 3. 5 per cent on fixed deposits and no interest on current accounts. In contrast to the Standard, the District Bank made no charge on country cheques and ledger fees. The same applied to credit. The branch manager of the Standard Bank had to apply the head office's well-tried general rules in extending credit. In general it preferred to


extend long-term credit to sound commercial and speculative enterprises. In this respect a district bank suited the farmers' needs much better. The farming operations of Stellenbosch and Paarl did not require long-term credit but short-term, seasonal credit based on the assumption that the harvest would cover production costs. This introduced the factor of risk, which the manager of a local bank could better assess than his Standard Bank counterpart.

All this worked to the disadvantage of the Standard Bank. On top of all this came the Jameson Raid of 1895–96 and the Anglo-Boer War which were not only major blows to Hofmeyr's political collaboration with imperial policies but also greatly strengthened financial anti-imperialism. The District Bank, which had weathered a serious crisis in the late 1880s, capitalized on this and on the economic boom which the colony enjoyed from 1895 to 1904. It was patronized by both large and small farmers, professionals, the university college and the town council. In 1904 the Standard Bank inspection report noted that the District Bank had the best of all the advance business and all farm mortgages. It described the directors of the bank as local magnates. In the 1880s, the Standard Bank had expected the imminent collapse of its local rival. By 1908, however, its own branch was running at a loss and District Bank showed a profit of £2400 for the first six months after writing off £4000 for bad debts. An inspection report blamed it on the bitter feelings towards the British and 'the few loyalists of their own nationality'. The report of 1909 was more explicit:

At the present time we can hardly hope to do much here, our rivals the Stellenbosch District Bank receiving a large measure of support from the local populace and institutions. The causes of this support appear to be largely in sentiment and the clannishness of the Afrikander under the lead of a few influential men. No doubt they often accept risks also which we ourselves would never care to take.[89]

This mobilization of financial assets along ethnic lines was accompanied by a large-scale cultural mobilization. The Anglo-Boer War, the disenfranchisement of the rebels from the Cape and the retrogressive post-war policy regarding language rights stung Dutch-Afrikaner politicians and intellectuals into action. In 1905 Hofmeyr delivered a major speech in Stellenbosch in which he attacked the neglect of Dutch in schools and among Dutch-Afrikaners. Language equality was a fiction, he declared. The younger generation of intellectuals vigorously sympathized with the call for equal language rights, but they no longer had any enthusiasm for Dutch. Even in the 1880s and 1890s there had been a growing belief among the clergy and teachers that to insist on Dutch as an educational instrument would mean writing off the large lower class of Dutch-Afrikaners who would never be able to master the language properly. They now believed that the answer lay in making Afrikaans a respectable spoken and written language by professionalizing it, by using simplified Dutch spelling rather than the ultra-phonetic spelling of the GRA, by creating a true literature rather than a collection of rhymes, and, in general, by shedding its image of being the language of the poor. In 1908 Malan stated: 'Raise the Afrikaans language to a written language, let it become the vehicle for our culture, our history, our national ideals, and you will also raise the people who speak it.'[90]

In founding the South African Academy for Arts and Sciences in 1909, the Dutch-Afrikaner leaders still compromised by promoting both Dutch and Afrikaans. But among students from Stellenbosch Afrikaans had already won the day and they would enthusiastically carry it forward as the ethnic language of a new people, 'the Afrikaners'. This new concept had still many bastions to


conquer, but the merger of culture and economic concerns had created a formidable force. A key figure in the new ethnic establishment was J.H. (Jannie) Marais. He had made a fortune on the Kimberley mines before returning to Stellenbosch in 1891 to take up farming just outside the town. After the war he became the largest shareholder of the Stellenbosch District Bank. Marais's financial backing provided a vital breakthrough for institutions that were to play an indispensable role in the development of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness in the Cape's political arena. One such institution was the University of Stellenbosch. After the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910, there was a strong move to establish a single, overarching teaching university in Cape Town. This would have posed a severe threat to both Stellenbosch's Victoria College, which was in danger of becoming merely a high school, and to Afrikaner ethnic aspirations. It would also have entailed a devastating blow to the town of Stellenbosch generally and to the District Bank in particular, as it was estimated that by 1915 £130,000 was spent in Stellenbosch by the various educational institutions as compared to the £60,000-£ 100,000 brought in by wine and brandy production. Local businessmen and leading figures in the Dutch Reformed Church and the University of Stellenbosch strongly protested against downgrading Victoria College. But the move to establish 'an authentic Dutch-Afrikaans university' in Stellenbosch only acquired real momentum after Marais (who died in 1915) bequeathed £100,000 to Victoria College.

Marais—and to a lesser extent the District Bank—also played a decisive role in the establishment of Nasionale Pers and its newspaper, Die Burger . The decision to start a publishing house and a nationalist newspaper was taken at the end of 1914 in the house of Hendrik Bergh, manager of the District Bank. Apart from Bergh, fifteen men were present—including four academics, two lawyers and Bruckner de Villiers, a businessman who also served as Marais's private secretary. The remainder were active or retired farmers. As far as can be ascertained the twelve Stellenbosch men were all clients of the District Bank. Unable to raise the £8000 required to start a newspaper, they approached Marais who took out 5000 one pound shares. Six months later the first issue of Die Burger appeared with D. F. Malan as editor.

There was no immediate swing in the Western Cape to the new National Party of James Barry Hertzog, founded in 1913. Farmers in this region had consolidated behind Hofmeyr's Afrikaner Bond which at Unification in 1910 was absorbed into the South African Party of Generals Smuts and Botha. As both this party and Hertzog's breakaway party based their programme of principles on that adopted by the Afrikaner Bond in 1889, the National Party initially failed to make headway in the Cape Province. But the rebellion in 1914–15 of dissident Afrikaner generals who objected to South Africa's participation in World War I and its suppression by the government prompted Marais to take a stand against the pro-Empire policy of the government and to support a newspaper which would give priority to the rights of 'eigen land en volk ', as he put it, and not to demands and wishes emanating from Johannesburg and elsewhere.[91]

The growing support for the National Party between 1915 and 1929, when it captured the Stellenbosch and Paarl seats, was complementary to the channelling of Afrikaner farming capital into Afrikaner institutions such as the Paarl Board of Executors and the Stellenbosch District Bank. They had been turned into vigorous enterprises by the 1920s. Political anti-imperialism thus had its parallel in financial anti-imperialism. At the same time the difficulties wine farmers experienced in marketing their wine made them increasingly inclined to support parties and schemes which favoured intervention on behalf of the farmers. In


1918, two years after the wine price had slumped to an average of £2 per leaguer, the Kooperatiewe Winjwbouwers Vereeniging van Zuid-Afrika (KWV), an overarching wine cooperative, was founded.[92] However, the KWV had only limited success until the promulgation of the Wine and Spirit Control Act of 1924 which prohibited the purchase of wine for distilling purposes without the permission of the KWV or below a price fixed by it. The fact that the tasks of marketing and distilling were now taken out of their hands freed the wine farmers from the necessity of incurring large capital expenses. On a far larger scale than before they could now invest their savings. A considerable share of this capital found its way to the District Bank and institutions like Sanlam and Santam which unambiguously projected themselves as specifically Afrikaner enterprises.[93]

These developments point to the socio-economic base of the 1929 Nationalist electoral victory in the 'wine seats' of Paarl and Stellenbosch. The active involvement of Stellenbosch and Paarl farmers in local financial institutions and ethnic projects laid the groundwork for the Cape Afrikaner economic and cultural advance during the 1920s and 1930s. This was the main support base of the 'purified' Afrikaner nationalist movement that was launched in 1933 under the leadership of D.F. Malan and other Cape Afrikaner nationalists and for the southern wing of that party.

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