An analysis of an instance of collective behaviour as it relates to the: Afrikaner Weerstand Beweging

Sociology according to Weber seeks to make sense of an “infinite multiplicity of successively and coexistently emerging and disappearing events”1 furthermore Weber argues that we undertake analysis as it is relevant to the interests of our own cultural generation”. In today’s world, terror and the use of force to achieve goals has become a global problem. It is therefore with interest that I present this report which undertakes an analysis of collective behaviour as it relates to the: Afrikaner Weerstand Beweging (AWB).

From a suburban garage the Afrikaner Weerstand Beweging AWB (Afrikaner Resistance movement) burgeoned into an organisation that attracted worldwide attention to its cause and became a thorn in the side of the South African Government to an organisation which is now almost obsolete. The report will scrutinize the motivations, and driving force which created the formation, development, and eventual iconisation of the AWB into a resistance movement prepared to use severe force to achieve their goals.The methodology I employed in this study investigates the growth of the Afrikaner nation, through the structured initiatives of its historical actors and events, plotting the developments of Afrikaner nationalism through the phenomena of religion and language, highlighting parallel organisations such as the Broederbond, and drawing links to the incrementalization of the far right Afrikaner frustration, accumulating in the presence of the AWB. This report links the frustration and sense of deprivation that Afrikaners have expressed experiencing, in achieving their “god given ‘goals, to the development and growth of the AWB. The characteristics, goals and words of the AWB are analysed showing how the AWB framed history to suit its own goals.

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The charisma of the AWB leader is investigated and his imprisonment is linked to the demise of the AWB. To end the words of four active actors of the apartheid era are used to represent the role and demise of the AWB.Afrikaner: HistoryIn 1652, Jan van Riebeeck and ninety of his countrymen arrived from Holland to set up a way station for ships of the Dutch East India Company on the Southern tip of Africa. Religious upheavals in the Netherlands between Catholics and Calvinists led more settlers to flee their homeland.The Dutch were followed in 1688 by an influx of French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution. They provided a wide variety of skills, improving the settlement’s chances of survival.

But under the rule of the Dutch East India Company, the Huguenots were forbidden to speak their own language; within a generation of their arrival, French had disappeared from the Cape Colony. Virtually all that remained of their roots were their family names. It was the first round in the language war, and the Dutch won it soundly.By the end of the seventeenth century, the Dutch community numbered about 37,000. Their farming settlement enjoyed a century of peace and stability. Then, in 1795, French armies invaded the Netherlands.

The English took the opportunity to protect their shipping lanes around the Cape of Good Hope by seizing the territory and colonizing Cape Town.By 1806, the British had firm control of the colony and had established English as the official language. English speakers took jobs that were once the sole province of the Dutch; for example, English teachers filled positions in Dutch schools. In 1820, the pressure increased as the arrival of British settlers in the eastern part of the colony doubled the number of English speakers, including British missionaries, intent on improving the conditions of the Khoi, the people who occupied the land when the first Dutch arrived. Also present in the region were the Xhosa. The Boers (Dutch for “farmers”) had frequently engaged in skirmishes with the Xhosa, and rival claims for land caused hostilities and anxieties among them.

When the British passed laws abolishing discrimination on the basis of colour, the Afrikaners (people of Africa) were determined to put themselves out of reach of British law. The result was the Great Trek, the defining moment in the Afrikaners’ history, mythology, and character, exemplifying their determination to live as they wished and do whatever it took to be left alone.The Great TrekIn 1834, explorations of the territory beyond the limits of the colony yielded reports of vast, unoccupied lands. A year later, the first of the Afrikaans families loaded their ox-drawn wagons and set out for the interior. Several groups, leaving from various points, slowly made their way north. Piet Retief, one of the trekkers, wrote of their reasons for going:”We are resolved, wherever we go, that we will uphold the just principles of liberty; but whilst we will take care that no one shall be held in a state of slavery, it is our determination to maintain such regulations as may suppress crime and reserve proper relations between master and servant”2.

There was no question as to who should naturally and properly fill the roles of master and servant. By the time the Voortrekkers, as they came to be known, were on the move, many Boers were living far from Cape Town. Afrikaans communities had been established as far as four hundred miles to the east.The Boers encountered tremendous hardships during their trek over the Drakensburg Mountains. And, as they soon discovered, the land they were moving into was not empty of people. The Boers engaged in bitter battles with the Zulus, an aggressive and well-disciplined fighting people who did not see the Afrikaners as their masters.

In fact, the Zulus had chased other black tribes out of the region.Additionally, the Boers were unable to elude the British colonial office, which refused to allow them their independence and moved to reclaim any region that they established as independent republics. Not until 1854 were they granted their independence in two regions, the Transvaal and Orange Free State. But this was not enough to put the Boers out of reach of the British and their laws.When diamonds and gold were found in the Boer republics, the British annexed some of the territory, setting the stage for the two Anglo-Boer wars. In 1899, the Second Boer War began, with the Boer commandos well prepared to fight a guerrilla war suited to their skills and intimate knowledge of the land.

With no more than 80,000 men, they challenged 450,000 soldiers sent from various parts of the British Empire. Initially, the Boer fighters achieved many successes, helped by the sympathy and support of the Afrikaners.When the guerrilla war was at its height, the British resorted to destroying Afrikaans homesteads that had been supplying the soldiers with food and shelter. And then, in another of the defining moments of Afrikaans history, the British rounded up Afrikaans women and children and placed them in concentration camps to prevent them from aiding the soldiers. Conditions were so harsh that 26,000 died.

As a result of these deaths, the Afrikaners agreed to end the war, signing a treaty at the town of Vereeniging on May 31, 1902.The Afrikaners were at the lowest point in their brief history. They were defeated, their homes and farms were devastated, and they were virtually without resources. Both in the Great Trek and the wars that followed, their culture and language were widely diffused. Isolated groups developed independently, without cultural support or exchange.

Viewpoints and ideas became stultified.At this point Afrikanerdom revived itself and the pillars to that revivalism were nationalism, religion and language. The fight to establish and maintain Afrikaans as a alternative language and the “calling” a, particularly strong belief in their being blessed by God in their endeavours, drew Afrikaners together. Contributing towards the strengthening of Nationalism was the strong feelings grown out of the English divide. Revivalism also saw the formation of the Broederbond, a guiding force in the rebirth of the nationalist spirit.

Nationalism and the English divide.Because the Dutch of the Netherlands supported the French and American revolutions, the British declared war on the Netherlands and began seizing their trade routes. They landed at the Cape of Good Hope in 1797. After the Dutch declared bankruptcy, the British annexed the Cape and appointed British land administrators there in 1805, who were zealous propogators of the Enlightenment. They loosened the trade and labor regulations, speaking of the blacks as ‘noble savages’ whose untainted natural souls they professed to admire, finally outlawing slavery in 1835. They called the blacks equals, and gave them access to the courts in suit against white landowners.

And, they professed to believe in their own autonomous Reason above all else.A more antithetical message could hardly be imagined, as the English Enlightenment forced itself upon the Afrikaners. From the Boer point of view, the Enlightenment invaded their shores, seized their properties, annexed their farms, imposed alien laws, liberated their slaves without compensation, justified these actions by appeal to Reason alone, and claimed in all of this to be more virtuous than God. They were exposed to the Enlightment, and it appeared to them to be a revolution against God.The new Boer states which arose after the Great Trek needed a comprehensive philosophy upon which to organize a genuinely Afrikaner society.

Voortrekker ‘Uncle’ Paul Kruger, first president of the South African Republic, adopted the Doleantie in its political form, called the Doppers (lamp snuffers), and formulated the Afrikaner cultural mandate based on the neo-Calvinism of the Doleantie. The Doppers waged an intellectual war against outlander culture which was flooding into South Africa through the mass settlements of foreign squatters lured by gold and diamonds, accompanied by British armies. To the Afrikaner mind, the British represented imperialism, viciousness, outlander oppression, covetousness, envy, and unbelief. When the Anglo-Boer wars broke out, Paul Kruger’s idealized version of Afrikaner history and alienation by the hostilities of all other peoples forged the Afrikaners into a united force. They were utterly crushed by the British, at great expense of life for the British, Afrikaners, and natives.

But the Doppers won the war for the hearts of the Afrikaners, and left them absolutely committed to their laager mentality, to preserve themselves and their way of life against the British melting pot.