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South Africa Holiday: Afrikaner & Afrikaans

Three million of the people of South Africa (7%) trace their roots to Dutch, German, Belgian, and French forebears. Their Afrikaans language, European heritage, and membership of the Dutch Reformed Church, are the most widespread common features of this population.

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The origins of the Afrikaner people can be traced back to the first permanent settlement of Dutch colonists in 1652, to the French Huguenots (Protestant refugees from Catholic France) and to the early German settlers.
 Afrikaner:
During the period when the Dutch East India Company dominated the trade routes to the East, via the Cape of Good Hope, the settlers who had made their way from Holland, France and Germany were alternately neglected and interfered with. In defence they developed a sturdy independence of spirit, further strengthened by the need to ward off intermittent attacks by indigenous African tribes.
Although the different communities of white settlers fiercely maintained their separate identities, it was inevitable that they would start to cooperate and combine their efforts.
Their thirst for independence from State interference (which had led them to southern Africa in the first place), frequent social contact, common European interests and exposure to similar dangers, engendered a patriotism and identity that rose above all cultural differences. A new people was born - the Afrikaner.
After the British had assumed control of the Cape in 1805, their colonial governing principles started to cause immense resentment among the settlers. The final straw - the British decree that English would be the only official language - became too much to bear and many Afrikaner farmers (boer is a Dutch word meaning farmer) decided to pack up and leave for the interior of southern Africa.
Thus began what is known in history as 'The Great Trek' and the participants in search of their freedom, the Voortrekkers (Dutch word meaning those who "move ahead" or "hike before".)
The Great Trek was long and arduous and the Voortrekkers faced many challenges, chief among which were internal squabbles, and much resistance by the African inhabitants of areas they thought would be free for them to occupy.
The Battle of Blood River in December 1838 in what is now northern KwaZulu-Natal is one example of the kind of strife encountered. The massacre marked the end of hostilities between the Boers and Zulus in Natal. When things settled down some 6,000 Boers settled in the area, which they named the Republic of Natal (or Natalia).
Other Voortrekkers continued on to form the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic.
Towards the end of the 19th century diamonds and gold were discovered in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republics.
The British colonial powers in the Cape cast an envious eye towards the Afrikaner republics and trouble followed in the form of the Anglo-Boer War from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902. This war was fought principally for control of the rich diamond-fields of Kimberley and the gold-fields of Johannesburg. It is now generally accepted that the British colonial government were the aggressors in this war against the Afrikaner settlers.
The Boers won many battles against the British in the early stages of the war, supported by their wives, children and African servants left behind on the farms. Yet even this support and their intimate knowledge of the terrain were no match against the main British force that arrived in Cape Town in January 1900.
The British erected concentration camps in which they incarcerated Boer and African women and children, destroying their homes, livestock and crops. The Boers, driven to their knees, surrendered in May 1902.
Nevertheless the British granted generous terms to the Boers, arguably at the expense of the African people,  allowing them political control over both of the former Boer republics.
Furthermore, Britain did not object in 1909 when the white-dominated South African National Convention opted to form a union of the two British colonies Cape and Natal) and the two former Boer republics (Transvaal and Orange Free State). A constitution for the new Union of South Africa was drawn up that left political power firmly in the hands of the Afrikaner.
During the 1920s and the 1930s, Afrikaner cultural organisations were important vehicles for reasserting Afrikaner pride in their cultural identity. The most important of these was the Afrikaner Broederbond, an association of educated elites
By the 1940s, the National Party had gained widespread appeal among Afrikaners by emphasising racial separation and Afrikaner nationalism.
The National Party's narrow election victory in 1948 brought apartheid (Afrikaans for separateness) into all areas of social and economic life in South Africa.
Although a small number of Afrikaners worked to end apartheid almost as soon as it was imposed, most strongly supported the government's 1960s and 1970s campaign to stem the spread of communist influence in southern Africa. Known as the Total Strategy, it was based Afrikaner suspicion of strong centralised government and on their strong religious beliefs.
Many Afrikaners were critical of South Africa's military intervention in neighbouring states during the 1980s, and of escalating military costs in the face of the receding threat of what had been called the communist "Total Onslaught".
By the late 1980s, enforcing apartheid at home was expensive. The unbalanced education system was in disarray and could not produce the skilled labour force the country needed. Most Afrikaners welcomed the government's decision to try to end apartheid as peacefully as possible during the late 1980 and early 1990s.
After the release of Nelson Mandela by President FW de Klerk in 1990, the African National Congress (ANC) won the 1994 national election and political power passed from Afrikaner hands to black majority rule.
Today the Afrikaners are known for their steadfast commitment to the home, family and church. Their love of the outdoors and the land has been passed down to many successive generations.
Traditionally the Afrikaner had great respect for the elderly and anyone in a position of authority. Although husband was deemed the head of the household, the women were often the driving force behind the men. Legend has it that it was the Afrikaner women who declared that they would rather trek over the Drakensburg barefoot than be subject to British rule.
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