Afrikaner Broederbond

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This page refers to the Afrikaner Broederbond. For its later incarnation see Afrikanerbond. For the political party formed in 1881 by Rev S.J. du Toit, see Afrikaner Bond. For the unrelated company, see Brøderbund.

The Afrikaner Broederbond (AB) (meaning Afrikaner Brotherhood) or Broederbond was a secret, exclusively male and Afrikaner Calvinist organization in South Africa dedicated to the advancement of Afrikaner interests. It was founded by H. J. Klopper, H. W. van der Merwe, D. H. C. du Plessis and Rev. Jozua Naudé[1] in 1918 and was known as Jong Zuid Afrika (Young South Africa) until 1920, when it became the Broederbond.[2][3] Its large influence within South African political and social life, sometimes compared to that of Masons in Freemason conspiracy theories,[citation needed] came to a climax with the rise of apartheid, which was largely designed and implemented by Broederbond members. Between 1948 and 1994, many prominent figures of South African political life, including all leaders of the government, were members of the Afrikaner Broederbond.[2]


Described later as an "inner sanctum",[4] "an immense informal network of influence",[5] and by Jan Smuts as a "dangerous, cunning, political fascist organization",[6] in 1920 Jong Zuid Afrika now restyled as the Afrikaner Broederbond, was a grouping of 37 white men of Afrikaner ethnicity, Afrikaans language, and the Calvinist Dutch Reformed faith, who shared cultural, semi-religious, and deeply political objectives based on traditions and experiences dating back to the arrival of Dutch white settlers, French Huguenots, and Germans at the Cape in the 17th and 18th centuries and including the dramatic events of the Great Trek in the 1830s and 1840s. Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom recount how, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, a leading broeder (brother or member) said:

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for understandable reasons it was difficult to explain [our] aims…[I]n the beginning people were allowed in…who thought it was just another cultural society.

(Wilkins & Strydom, 1980, p. 45)

The precise intentions of the founders are not clear. Was the group intended to counter the dominance of the British and the English language,[7] or to redeem the Afrikaners after their defeat in the Second Anglo-Boer War?[8] Perhaps it sought to protect a culture, build an economy and seize control of a government.[9] The remarks of the organisation's chairman in 1944 offer a slightly different, and possibly more accurate interpretation in the context of the post-Boer War and post- World War I era, when Afrikaners were suffering through a maelstrom of social and political changes:[10]

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The Afrikaner Broederbond was born out of the deep conviction that the Afrikaner volk has been planted in this country by the Hand of God, destined to survive as a separate volk with its own calling.

In other words, the traditional, deeply pious Calvinism of the Afrikaners, a pastoral people with a difficult history in South Africa since the mid-17th century, supplied an element of Christian predestination that led to a determination to wrest the country from the English-speaking British and place its future in the hands of the Afrikaans-speaking Afrikaners, whatever that might mean for the large black and mixed-race population. To the old thirst for sovereignty that had prompted the Great Trek into the interior from 1838 on, would be added a new thirst for total independence and Nationalism. These two threads merged to form a "Christian National" civil religion that would dominate South African life from 1948 to 1994.

This was the historical context in which the Broederbond emerged. The scorched earth policy of the British during the second Boer War devastated Boer (that is, rural Afrikaner farmer) lands. In British concentration camps, 27 000 Boer women and children had died. The Boer surrender at Vereeniging, though pragmatic, was deeply humiliating. Lord Milner's inflammatory policy of Anglicization simply rubbed salt into Afrikaner wounds, and a backlash was inevitable. The National Party and ultimately the Broederbond were the long-term and powerful results.[11]

The National Party had been established in 1914 by Afrikaner nationalists. It first came to power in 1924. Ten years later, its leader J.B.M. Hertzog and Jan Smuts of the South African Party merged their parties to form the United Party. This angered a contingent of hardline nationalists under D. F. Malan, who broke away to form the ’’Purified National Party’’. By the time World War II broke out, resentment of the British had not subsided. Malan's party opposed South Africa's entry into the war on the side of the British; some of its members wanted to support Nazi Germany. Jan Smuts had commanded the British Army in East Africa and was amenable to backing the Allies a second time. This was the spark Afrikaner nationalism needed. Herzog, who was in favour of neutrality, quit the United Party when a narrow majority in his cabinet backed Smuts. He started the Afrikaner Party which would amalgamate later with D.F. Malan's ’’Purified National Party’’ to become the force that would take over South African politics for the next 46 years, until majority rule and Nelson Mandela's election in 1994.[3]


Although the Press had maintained a steady trickle of unsourced exposés of the inner workings and membership of the Broederbond since the 1960s, the first comprehensive exposé of the organisation was a book written by Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom, The Super-Afrikaners. Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond, first published in 1978. The most notable and discussed section of the book was the last section which consisted of a near-comprehensive list of 7500 Broederbond members.[12] The Broederbond was portrayed as 'Die Stigting Adriaan Delport' [The Adriaan Delport Foundation] in the 1968 South African feature film ""Die Kandidaat"" [The Candidate], directed by Jans Rautenbach and produced by Emil Nofal.


The chairmen of the Broederbond were:[3](p48)

Name Title From To
Klopper, H. J. 1918 1924
Nicol, W. Rev. 1924 1925
Greybe, J. H. 1925 1928
Potgieter, J. W. 1928 1930
du Plessis, L. J. Prof. 1930 1932
van Rooy, J. C. Prof. 1932 1938
Diederichs, N. Dr. 1938 1942
van Rooy, J. C. Prof. 1942 1952
Thom, H. B. Prof. 1952 1960
Meyer, P. J. Dr. 1960 1972
Treurnicht, A. P. Dr. 1972 1974
Viljoen, G. Prof. 1974 1980
Boshoff, C. W. H.[13] Prof. 1980 1983
de Lange, J. P.[13] Prof. 1983 1993
de Beer, T. L.[14] 1993

The Broederbond and Apartheid

Every Prime Minister and State President in South Africa from 1948 to the end of Apartheid in 1994 was a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond.[2]

Once the Herenigde Nasionale Party was in power...English-speaking bureaucrats, soldiers, and state employees were sidelined by reliable Afrikaners, with key posts going to Broederbond members (with their ideological commitment to separatism). The electoral system itself was manipulated to reduce the impact of immigrant English speakers and eliminate that of Coloureds.

The Afrikaner Broederbond continued to act in secret, infiltrating and gaining control of the few organisations, such as the South African Agricultural Union (SAAU), which had political power and were opposed to a further escalation of Apartheid policies.[2]

Companies with Broederbond credentials

  • ABSA, formed by amalgamation of United, Allied, Trust and Volkskas banks, the latter of which was established by the Broederbond in 1934 and whose chairman was also the Broederbond chairman at the time.
  • ADS[domain is parked], formerly Altech Defence Systems
  • Remgro, formerly Rembrandt Ltd., former holding company of Volkskas.

Notable members

  • D. F. Malan Former Prime Minister.
  • H. F. Verwoerd Former Prime Minister.
  • J. G. Strijdom Former Prime Minister.
  • B. J. Vorster, Former Prime Minister and State President.
  • Dr J. S. Gericke, Vice-Chancellor Stellenbosch University
  • Pik Botha, former Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • H. B. Thom, historian and former Rector of Stellenbosch University.
  • Tienie Groenewald, retired Defence Force general.
  • Barend Johannes van der Walt, former ambassador to Canada.
  • P. W. Botha, former Minister of Defence and Prime Minister.
  • Anton Rupert, billionaire entrepreneur and businessman; a member in the 1940s, but eventually dismissed it as an "absurdity", and allowed his membership to lapse.[15]
  • Marthinus van Schalkwyk, former member of the youth wing of the Broederbond, the last leader of the National Party and former minister of tourism in the ANC government of Jacob Zuma.
  • Tom de Beer, recruited 30 years ago, now chairman of new Afrikanerbond.
  • Nico Smith, Dutch Reformed Church missionary who, as a former insider, wrote retrospectively about the Afrikaner Broederbond in a book[16]
  • F. W. De Klerk Former South African State President and leader of the National Party
  • "Lang" Hendrik van den Bergh The South African head of state security apparatus during the Apartheid regime, and close friend of former South African Prime Minister B. J. Vorster.


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  12. Wilkins,I & Strydom, Hans. (1978). The Super-Afrikaners – Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond. First edition. ISBN 0552115169
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  15. The Guardian. Monday 23 January 2006. Obituary: Anton Rupert.
  16. Smith, N. (2009) Afrikaner Broederbond: Belewings van die binnekant. Lapa Uitgewers. Pretoria ISBN 978-0-7993-4496-7

Further reading

Dr JS Gericke/Kosie Gericke Vice-Chancellor Stellenbosch University