WHO ARE THE BOERS ?
THE TRUTH AT LAST
Dedicated to the 24,000 Boer Children and 3,000 Boer
died in the Great Boer Holocaust of 1900-1902.
THE cries of the dying children have been scattered
by time, but the message of sacrifice and struggle which they carried can still
be heard, the sound of distant drumming, the march of feet, the legions of the
dead marching on. They beckon on those left behind: find the strength to carry
on, for we died not in vain.
( 50 % [ half ] of all Boer CHILDREN were killed )
work has in essence to do with the difference between culture, race and
nation-hood. Too often, either through ignorance, indifference or
between these three concepts are blurred, obscuring the real drivers of history
and preventing an understanding of the true causes of events.
race can be defined as a group of individuals who share broadly the same common
genetic characteristics. In this way, broadly speaking, the peoples of Europe
common genetic inheritance which can be seen through their physical appearance.
same applies, broadly speaking, to the other main racial groups around the
world: the Black (Negroid); the Mongolian (Asian) and so on. This common
not only the different races' physical appearance, but also (and more
controversially), their intelligence and cognitive abilities.
can be defined as the feeling of unity experienced by a group of individuals,
and not necessarily racially defined. It is possible for a collection of
individuals from different races to
claim a common nationhood, depending on how that nation defines itself.
is linked to the concept of culture: for example, although the peoples of
Europe share more or less a common genetic heritage, no-one in their right mind
Irish culture is identical to that of, say, Austrian. The fact remains that
amongst virtually identical racial groupings.
is this difference in culture which forms the basis of this paper.
is important to note that culture is transferable. An example: if a German born
baby is taken at birth and raised in a Scottish household, that child will,
culturally speaking, be a Scotsman first, and then a White person second. Being
a German will not even rate as a
this way a nation known as Boers has come into existence in South Africa. The
Boers are a collection of peoples originating in Europe who have coalesced into
a culturally, and even ideologically, uniform group which has set them apart
from others in Africa
including Whites who have not made the cultural shift.
Dutch, German, French, Belgian, Danish, English and Irish surnames one
amongst this group testifies to the transferability of culture - and also to
process which has given rise to one of the most hardy indigenous peoples of
is towards a greater understanding of the drivers of culture, race and
nationhood, that this work is presented to the reader.
note: the outline
of this paper started life as a submission to the United Nations Sub Commission
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when the Commission held its annual meeting
in Geneva, Switzerland in June 1995.
3. White Settlement
4. The Cape Dutch Settlers
5. The British South Africans
6. The Boers
7. The Afrikaners
8. An Indigenous People
is a conception held by the outside world - and indeed by many within South
Africa - that all the White inhabitants of South Africa are a uniform group -
all united and until very recently, all wished to dominate other peoples under
the banner of Apartheid.
is a misconception, a factual inaccuracy, perpetrated by those who had either
absolute political power in South Africa as their aim, or who wished to see the
White people of Southern Africa, the Boers, be taken up and destroyed in a
are Whites in South Africa who are not part of the colonial heritage; who are
not part of the "white South Africans" who until recently were
regarded as the polecats
the world. This group of people is known as the Boers.
to the Oxford Dictionary, "indigenous" is an adjective meaning
"native, belonging naturally to the soil," (from the Latin indigena).
indigenous people is therefore a people occupying a territory whose roots can
be shown to have come from that particular territory, and not some other part
This is a crucial definition to bear in mind when the Whites of South Africa are
the outside world has now for many years wrongly regarded the Whites of South
Africa as a single ethnic group, there are in fact three distinct ethnic
the White population:
the British South Africans,
the Afrikaners, and
distinction between these three ethnic groupings, and particularly the last two
and the "Boers") is of crucial importance in determining the Boers'
rights as an indigenous people.
the first Whites landed at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652, they did not come as
settlers. They were Hollanders who came to set up a refueling station for their
traveling to and from the east. The first White Hollander ashore, Jan van
Riebeeck, in fact left Africa shortly
afterwards and never returned.
was however a number of other Europeans who came to the Cape shortly after this
Dutch supply station had been set up, who formed a core of real settlers, based
the Western Cape. These settlers came from various European countries such as
Holland, Germany, France and a number of other smaller nations.
of these people were members of the Protestant Churches in Europe, and
as religious refugees. This wave of Protestants firmly established a Protestant
ethic in South Africa to the extent that to this day Protestantism is the
dominant Christian religion in the country.
Cape was all this while under Dutch rule, which became increasingly autocratic
Slowly but surely a section of these white settlers, many of whom had already
once fled persecution and therefore had an already established tradition of
began to agitate against the Dutch colonial rule. This agitation resulted in the
"Vryburger" movement (the "Free Burgers") which pressed the
Dutch colonialists for more and more independence.
Free Burgers were the first Whites in South Africa to make the transition from
"settlers" to an indigenous people growing "out of the soil".
Most of the Vryburgers had
born in Southern Africa, and many were two or more generations removed from
Europe already. It was members of this community which started migrating away
from the Cape, motivated by a desire to escape Dutch Colonial rule.
agitation against colonial rule can be said to be the first origins of the only
White indigenous people of Africa. It
is therefore crucial to bear in mind that the very first anti-colonial movement
in Africa was the White Vryburger movement - which was the Boer nation in
germination. These attempts to escape colonialism were the origin of the Boer
its is also equally true that a large number- in fact the majority - of White
settlers at the Cape did not support the Vryburger movement. Most of them were
quite happy with the colonial situation, and perfectly happy to stay under the
people formed the core of what is today known as the "Afrikaner"
people - mainly Cape based. This group is dealt with in detail below.
third wave of White settlers arrived in South Africa in large numbers after
1820. The British Empire had by this stage occupied the Cape during the
Napoleonic wars in
to protect the eastern Sea Route.
result of the British occupation of the Cape, a large number of English speaking settlers arrived in the Cape, bringing with them
their language, religion and other
4. The Cape Dutch
the White population at the Cape split over the colonial issue - as detailed
above, those who wanted to escape colonial rule migrated away from the Cape,
while those who had no nationalistic zeal and who wished to keep their links
with Europe stayed behind.
people who stayed behind were all Dutch citizens, and when the British occupied
the Cape, were perfectly happy to become loyal British vassals.
who stayed behind in the Cape became known amongst the independence
Boers as the "Cape Dutch" - symbolizing their attachment to Europe.
supported any European colonial government, and vehemently opposed all attempts
by the fledgling Boer population to break ties with the colonial governments.
group stood in strong opposition to the fledgling Boer population and differed
with them on all levels - starting with their approach to colonialism and
extending all the way through even to language. It is not widely known for
example that there are for example
accent and pronunciation differences between the Boers and the "Cape
vehemence with which the Cape Dutch opposed the Boer population was underlined
when the Boers were excommunicated from the Cape Dutch Reformed Church when
they moved away from the Cape.
group of Cape Dutch settlers therefore always opposed the Boers' drive for
independence and anti-colonialism, and, along with the British settlers, were
masters of Southern Africa, while the Boers always tried to escape from this
mentality and state of affairs.
5. The British
the British occupied the Cape for the first time in 1795, the British decided
that Africa should be added to the then expanding British Empire. For this
government engaged in large scale settlement of its citizens in South Africa.
first large wave came in 1820, and these people settled in first the Cape and
then later in what became known as Natal. While a few of the British settlers
themselves in the mindset of the Boer frontiersmen, a large number retained the
reaction of the Boers to the British occupation of the Cape is important
because it provided an impetus for the
continuation of the migratory process away from the
Cape, a process which had already started in protest against the White Dutch colonial
Boer rebellion against British rule in the Cape reached a high point with an
armed rebellion in 1812\1813, known as the Slagtersnek rebellion. Although this
it did exemplify what the difference between the Boers and the White settlers -
both Dutch speaking and English speaking - was all about).
Boers wanted independence and not to be part of a colonial expedition, while
the other settlers were just colonists and nothing else.
British settlement in South Africa formed the second major ethnic grouping of
Whites in South Africa. To this day they have retained their British heritage
and affinity for their homeland, even down to the extent of most of them having
dual nationality or at least access to such dual nationality - South African
British element, for the greatest part, has remained loyal to Great Britain
throughout their history in South Africa, and needless to say, actively opposed
the Boers' anti-colonization drive as
well. The culture of these British settlers is still firmly part of
does not however counteract that fact that a portion of English speakers
actively identified themselves with the Boer cause - then and now. Those who
did, and do today,
assimilated into the Boers as quickly as other nationalities are.
6. The Boers
the first anti-colonialist drive began under the Dutch colony in the Cape, so
did the most zealous "Boers" (the word originally means a farmer)
begin to move away
the Cape in search of freedom and independence. These people were continually
moving further and further away from the Cape and eventually met the first
great Nguni migrations - the Xhosa people - who were moving South at the same
time. This meeting took place in what is today known as the Eastern Cape.
the two great migrations - Boer and Xhosa - met at the Fish River in the
Eastern Cape, so did these two migrations stop for a while. In the interim
however, the British
occupied the Cape Colony, and the Boers, who had sacrificed so much to escape
their White colonial Dutch masters, once again found themselves under White
was from the Eastern Cape that the first of what has become known as the Great
started. This Great Trek was in fact the migration of the Boer people away from
the British Empire - proof yet again that the first anti-colonial movement in
Africa was a Boer movement - an indigenous people trying to escape colonization
power. In many ways this of course mirrored events in North America.
main cause of the Great Trek was the British colonial masters trying to
colonize the Boers of the Cape frontiers. There were other smaller factors, but
it can be said in summation that it was the Boers' desire to be free and
independent of colonial rule which caused the Great Trek.
is of crucial importance to note that whenever reference is made to the Great
Trek, history writers always refer to the "Boers" who took part in
the great Trek. There
no "Afrikaner" Great Trek, and there were no "Afrikaner"
Great Trek Leaders, just Boer Great Trek leaders. This is an indication that at
this stage already the Boers had developed an identity of their own, as
distinct from the Cape Dutch and English settlers of the Cape.
independence minded Boers packed up their belongings and headed north - into
what today is known as the Orange Free
State, Transvaal and into Natal.
there were scattered Nguni speaking peoples living in these territories,
particularly in Natal where the Zulus held sway, large parts of these
having been decimated by the Difaquane, or inter tribal wars said to have
originated with the Zulu King Shaka.
first Boer movement into Natal attempted to negotiate land from the Zulu King,
Dingaan. These attempts to trade land with the Zulu ended in failure and the
Zulu army was however defeated at a Battle which became known as the Battle of
Blood River in 1838, and the first Boer Republic was established in Natal
Battle of Blood River is regarded by Boers as the symbolic birth of their
of course in reality the Boers had established an own identity long before this
event. The reason why the Boers however regard the battle as being the symbolic
their nation was that they felt that their victory against overwhelming odds
The Boer Trekkers had taken an oath to the Christian God that if they were
given the victory that day they would hold the day as holy - and the
Boers have held this tradition ever since.
after the Battle of Blood River - and the defeat of Dingaan - the Boers renewed negotiations with the Zulus,
and their new King, Mpande. The new Zulu King
to let the Boers have territory in Natal. It can be seen that from this early
the Boers were recognized by other peoples in Southern Africa as an independent
nation and not part of the colonial governments - in other words already then
they were recognized as an indigenous people.
the British Empire still wished to colonize the Boers, and in 1840 annexed
Natal. After a few skirmishes with the
British, the Boers once again packed up their
and left Natal, leaving behind only a small number in Northern Natal.
Boers from Natal then went and joined their fellow Boers in the Orange Free
State and the Transvaal, which had in the meantime been put on the road to
of the major clashes of this period took place at a place called Vegkop in
1836, where a Boer party was attacked by an advance army of Matabeles, many
miles before the Boers hade actually penetrated Matabele territory. The
Matabele were defeated, and fled across the Limpopo river, where they are to
this day, in what is now called
there were scattered Black indigenous tribes living in the territories which
became know as the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, there were very few
between them and the Boers. When such clashes did take place, they were usually
over matters such as stock or grazing rights - things over which indigenous
peoples would clash, rather than the battles of conquest which conventional
1852 the British Empire recognised Boer independence at the Sand River
Convention. This year marks the firm establishment of the Boers as an
indigenous people in international law, in the same manner in which American
independence was achieved.
this early stage not one, but two independent Boer Republics were recognized by
the international world, and were granted contractual capacity as with any
nation. The mere fact that the British colonial masters accepted this state of
shows that even the European powers recognized the independence of the Boer
nation, and also accepted that this independent was not a colonial experiment.
Boers had in the interim developed their own culture and language - in fact the
language spoken by the Boers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State Republics
the newest languages on earth. Many of
its words have origins in Africa - and not in
then, the language of the Boers was created in Africa - yet another indication that the Boers and their
culture are indigenous to Africa, and not a colonial
is also of crucial importance to note that when any mention is made of the
is made, they are always called "Boer Republics" - and never
"Afrikaner Republics". This
is of course confirmation that the Boers had a separate identity from
Cape Dutch and British settlers. This separate identity was confirmed in
International Law by the Sand River Convention of 1852.
the Boers though they had at last found freedom from colonialism, they were
wrong. The British Empire launched two more attempts to recolonise them - the
time being successful.
first attempt to colonize the Boers came with the occupation of the Transvaal
by a small British contingent in 1877. This event led directly to the First
Anglo Boer War (note again that it is called an "Anglo Boer War" and
not an "Anglo-Afrikaner" war) and by
the British forces had been defeated by the Boers to such an extent that the
forced to once again recognize the independence of the Boer republics. This recognition was given formal effect by
the London Convention of 1884 - the second
time that the Boers had been recognized
as an independent and indigenous people in international law.
is a sobering thought to realize that the very first liberation war against
colonial masters was in fact fought by the White Boers against the White
British colonialist - preceding any Black liberation war by many decades. It
can be argued that only an indigenous
can wage a liberation war, and that this therefore shows once again that the
Boers had by this stage firmly established themselves as an indigenous people
second attempt by the British to colonize the Boers resulted in the Second
Anglo Boer War of 1889-1902 (once again note that it is called the Anglo-Boer
war and not
Anglo Afrikaner war). This war resulted in the development by the Boers of the
guerrilla warfare method, since used by many liberation movements in all parts
of the world. Although the Boers fought bravely against overwhelming odds, the
British used a cruel and till then unheard of measure of fighting - they
rounded up as many Boer
and children as they could find and put them into concentration camps scattered
around South Africa. In these camps, as a result of judicial executions,
starvation, disease and ill treatment,
some 27,000 Boer women and children died - some 20 percent of the total Boer
population of the time.
such inhumane methods the Boers could not fight, and eventually the British
succeeded in their dream of colonising the entire Southern Africa in 1902, when
of Vereeniging, ending the Second Anglo Boer War, was signed. Even in defeat, the Boers were recognized
under international law.
position of the Cape Dutch and British settlers during this conflict also goes
to show that these people did not associate themselves with the Boers. Although
a few Cape Dutch did take up arms and fight on the side of the Boers, (they
became known as the "Cape rebels" for this reason - and they were
severely punished if caught) the vast majority of the Cape Dutch and British
settlers in the Cape and Natal supported the British colonization of Southern
Africa, which then also included today's Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and
territories even further north.
treaty of Vereeniging therefore marks the subjugation of the Boers by White
European colonial masters - a fate shared by countless other indigenous peoples
the British and other European empires still regarded Africa and other parts of
the world as their personal possession. The Boers were however unique in that
they were the only White indigenous people to be subjected in this way.
7. The Afrikaners
at the time of the ending of the Second Anglo Boer War, there were three
distinct ethnic groupings amongst the broad White population of South Africa:
(i) the internationally recognized and
indigenous Boer people;
(ii) the Cape Dutch Settlers, loyal to the
British Empire; and
(iii) the British settlers, also loyal to the
British Empire realized that it had to bring the Boers under control for once
and for all, and therefore devised a plan to neutralize the Boer Republics - a
plan to make
join up with the other two White segments of their colonies in South Africa.
British masters of Southern Africa therefore engineered the National Convention
of 1908, which saw the creation of the Union of South Africa. This union
consisted of the former Cape Colony, the Natal colony, and the two former Boer
Republics. This union was not merely a geographic convenience, but a deliberate
plan to try and destroy the
minded Boers by mingling them with the Cape Dutch and British settlers.
is worth noting that the British Empire
used their technique in other parts of Africa as well - reference can be made
to the short lived federation of Nyasaland (Malawi);
Rhodesia (Zambia); and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) to name but one.
prime representative of the British Empire in South Africa, Sir Alfred Milner, put
it this way: "The new tactic (to subjugate the Boers) must be to
consolidate the different areas of British South Africa into one nation.
Although unification will initially put the Boers into political control of the
entire South Africa, it will, ironically, eventually lead to their final
was of course precisely what happened - but not until a new name had been
developed for the new "nation" which Milner spoke about. They could
not continue to call
new nation a "Boer" state, because the Boers had been subjugated.
could not call it a "Cape Dutch" state, as the Dutch colonialists
were now British
and they could not call it a British state, for obvious reasons. The answer then was to give a
general term to all the White inhabitants of the new union -
"Afrikaners". Although the word originally meant "African" it
as politicized by a group of Western Cape Dutch propagandists under one SJ du
Toit in 1880 (the same year the Boers in the Transvaal took up arms to fight
the British colonialists) in literature of the time. It was then decided to try
and blend the Boers into the Cape Dutch and British populations by calling them all Afrikaners instead of
referring to their real cultural bases.
then is how the world began to hear of "Afrikaners" - although only 80 years ago there was no
such word in the international
the concept of an Afrikaner is all embracing is underlined by the fact that in
1998 the former Afrikaner Broederbond (now called the Afrikaner Bond) announced
all those sharing a broad Afrikanerism to be Afrikaners - to this end they
that many Cape Coloureds, also known as the Brown People, who speak Afrikaans
and who attend a Dutch Reformed Church are Brown Afrikaners. In reailty they
are of course correct.
illustrates the difference between Boers and Afrikaners in a very vivid way: A
Coloured will readily agree with the definition that he is an Afrikaner, but
will emphatically deny being a Boer. If Boers and Afrikaners are the same
thing, why the differentiation in the view of other groups?
forcing the Boers into the Union of South Africa, the British made them co-responsible for the policy of
racial segregation, which had of course been established and legislated by the
British colonial government.
new "Afrikaners" - in fact a coalition of Cape Dutch, British and
some Boers - tried as best they could to come to grips with the racial and
geographic legacy left to them from the British colonial times - and it was
from this disaster that the policy of Apartheid
is supreme importance to note here that the Boers were dragged unwillingly into
the Union of South Africa - and at the first opportunity which presented itself
they tried to extricate themselves by force of arms. This was the unsuccessful
1914 Boer rebellion,
ended when some Boer war era generals were killed or imprisoned by the
pro-British Union of South Africa government.
is a little known fact that the manifesto which was issued by the 1914 Boer
rebellion leaders contained as its primary demand the restoration of the Boer
dissolution of the Union of South Africa.
is thus unfair of the international world to regard the "Boers" as
having been responsible for what happened in South Africa during the second
part of the 20th century - the Boers were just as much victims of the colonial
powers as were any other indigenous people of Africa.
words were true - by forcing the Boers into the Union of South Africa, he was
forcing them to be subjugated by the broad South African British colony, and
led directly to the situation the Boers find themselves in today.
8. An Indigenous People
Union of South Africa led directly to the attempt to extend and hold the
British originated policy of racial separation in South Africa - an attempt
which ended with the election of April 1994 and the coming to power of the
African National Congress in South Africa.
change over of the reins of power does not however mean that the underlying
causes of the downfall of the Union of South Africa (later the Republic of
been removed. They are still there - namely the reality that there are numerous
different ethnic groupings in the greater Southern Africa, all wrestling to
establish their own territory and space.
Boer nation is one of these groups. The Boers have not disappeared - the
British Empire and their unitary state merely tried to define them out of
existence - in vain.
existence of the Boer nation has nothing to do with racism or apartheid - the
Boers existed long before Apartheid, and continue to exist after Apartheid, for
that matter. The Boers are a well
established indigenous grouping who fought the first anti-colonial
wars in Africa.
the Boers were, as the world might like to view them, just "white
racists" then they would never have come into conflict with the White
subjugation of the Boers does not however negate the fact that they are a
people all by themselves - they have their own unique history, their own
traditions, own festival days, political dispensation, political philosophy,
they had their own territory (state),
symbols, own flags, anthems and so on - all developed in Africa.
then is truly an indigenous people - in contrast to the Afrikaners and British
South Africans, who developed nothing new or original but remained loyal to
emblems and traditions.
Boers do not want a state or territory for the "Whites" of South
Africa. This is a falsehood which must
be dispelled for once and for all. All the Boers want is an own
territory, just as they had before the White colonialists took it away from
them. Nothing more and nothing less will do.
has nothing to do with race or racism - merely the desire of an indigenous
people to be themselves and to rule themselves in their own territory - a right, incidentally, enshrined in the
United Nations charter.
summation then it can be clearly seen that there are differences between the
cultural groupings making up the White South African population.
is important to note that the cultural differences are to a large extent
determined by the groups themselves, with no force or law creating these
English speaking South Africans, for example,
will never agree to being defined as Boers, while equally some Afrikaans
speaking Whites will never agree to being
as Boers. The multi-racial nature of
the Afrikaner grouping, as evidenced in the 1998 decision by the Afrikaner Bond
(and discussed above) is another differentiating characteristic.
one of the clearest differences in the cultures of Boers, Afrikaners and
British South Africans is illustrated by the political divide. At the time of
the referendum over the republic of
South Africa, the Transvaal and Orange Free State voted overwhelmingly in
of breaking ties with Britain, while
the Cape and Natal voted in favour of staying on as a British vassal. Because
of this division, it was only by the slimmest margin (51 percent) that the
Republic was created. It was only the
vote of the inhabitants of the former Boer republics of the Transvaal and
Orange Free State which clinched the Republic.
north/south division continued to present times, with the north always being
known as more conservative than the south.
does not mean that only the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Boer
Republics qualify as Boers. The concept of a Boer (as opposed to an Afrikaner
South African) is a cultural concept
and is as such transferable.
assimilation must however be mutual - i t is possible for anyone to become a
member of any of the groupings mentioned - providing they are amenable to the
notion, and providing the group they are assimilating into fully accept them as
such. In this was
is possible to Afrikaners to join the British group (Sir Laurens van der Post
being a prime example) and for British South Africans to join the Boer grouping
in the same way that many Irish or other European nationalities have done.
Boers then can ultimately be defined as a group with a common genetic heritage
(European) and a common cultural heritage, which has its roots in the desire to
of a new and independent nationhood.