The Afrikaner Bond

Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr of the Zuidafrikaansche Boeren Beschermings Vereeniging that formed the Afrikaner BondImage Source

The Origins of the Afrikaner Bond

The Afrikaner Bond, an Afrikaner political organisation that was effectively the first political party in South Africa, was founded in 1880 in the Cape Colony, which had reverted to English rule in 1806.

The Bond was launched as a reaction to the alienation of Afrikaners by the English rulers, and first emerged as a force to promote Afrikaner economic, political and cultural interests, especially the interests of Afrikaner farmers in the Cape. The Bond also wanted to forge country-wide Afrikaner unity, and although it emerged in the Cape Colony, it sought to unite Afrikaners in the four ‘states’: the English colonies of the Cape and Natal, and the two republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. 

Until then, Afrikaners had little or no representation in the Cape Parliament, and the Boers had not paid attention to securing such representation. The Bond made the first attempt to address this lack, and it became an effective mobiliser of Afrikaner political power from its beginnings in 1880 to its dissolution in 1911. 

It became the earliest proponent of an Afrikaner nationalism that would culminate in the victory of the Nationalist Party (NP) in the election of 1948, when the NP began to institute the apartheid programme.

Two figures dominated the emergence of the Bond: SJ du Toit and Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr (aka Onze Jan). Du Toit was a nationalist and a populist, with anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist tendencies. He saw the Bond as a body that would prevent ‘the sacrifice of Africa’s interests to England and those of the Farmer or Merchant’. He wanted to see South Africa united as a republic, under the control of Afrikaners, and free of British imperialism.

Hofmeyr, in contrast, was an astute politician who preferred to play a role behind the scenes. He sought to temper tensions between whites of English and Dutch origin, and tended towards a liberal capitalist stance. By 1883, Hofmeyr prevailed over Du Toit and it was his vision of the Bond that informed the organisation until it was dissolved, but the tension between a pro-British and an anti-British stance would run throughout the organisation’s history and take different forms in each of the states.

Afrikaner Politics in the Cape Colony and South Africa, 1806-1880

When the British took over the Cape in 1806, Afrikaners had to live under a new political dispensation. The British sought to replace local governance by institutions resembling those in England. When slavery was curtailed by Ordinance 19 in 1826 and finally abolished in 1834, many Boers who practised slavery felt aggrieved, and thousands soon left the colony in the Great Trek, to establish independent republics in the north, the Orange Free State and the Zuid Afrikaansche Republic (ZAR, or Transvaal).

In the Cape Colony Afrikaners continued to live under British rule, subject to a form of cultural conquest, in which the English language replaced Dutch as the official language of the legislature, the courts and the civil service.

The Cape Colony was allowed to establish its own parliament in 1853, replacing an earlier system in which it was governed by advisory and legislative councils under a British governor. In 1872 the colony was granted responsible government, and the colony’s domestic affairs now came under the control of a locally-appointed cabinet and government.

Political developments outside the Cape stoked Afrikaner anger. The British imperial government saw the emergence of the ZAR under Paul Kruger as a threat to its interests in the region, and it annexed the Transvaal in 1877. Earlier, in 1868, the British had annexed Basutoland, an area the Boers of the Transvaal had plans to take over. And in 1871, the British annexed the diamond fields in Griqualand West, a move that was later deemed illegal.

Cape Afrikaners engaged in a campaign of passive resistance after the annexation of the Transvaal, amid some agitation to take a more aggressive stance.

In the Cape, the only official language of Parliament was English, and Afrikaners had been largely unable to participate in its proceedings. Among the Bond’s first tasks was to secure recognition for the languages of the Boers, Dutch and Afrikaans, thereby making it possible for Afrikaans speakers to take part in Parliament and government.

The language question was particularly important for the Afrikaners, as they were excluded not only from government, but their Afrikaans-speaking children were denied educational opportunities because of laws that made English the lingua franca of the Colony. Afrikaans and Dutch were being abandoned even by many Afrikaners, many of whom began to speak English in their homes.

While the Afrikaners were united in their desire to see their language flourish, they were divided over which language should be the volkstaal – the language of the people. Some wanted to see Dutch adopted as the Boer lingua franca, while an opposed group sought to develop Afrikaans as the language of the people.

The Precursors of the Afrikaner Bond

In August 1875, SJ du Toit was part of a small group that launched the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaners (the GRA, the Fellowship of True Afrikaners). The association was launched to promote the Afrikaans language and its literature,  and to secure its official recognition in church, Parliament, public life and in schools.

The GRA began publishing a newspaper, Die Afrikaanse Patriot, in January 1876, and published a history of the Boers, Die Geskiednis van ons Land in die Taal van ons Volk (The History of our Land in the Language of our Nation), in 1877.

The GRA sought to create an Afrikaans literature and literary tradition, but it also initiated a political project that developed the basis for an Afrikaner nationalism

Similar sentiments were very much in the air, and a rival campaign for the recognition of Dutch – instead of Afrikaans – was initiated by JH Hofmeyr, who as editor of the Zuid Afrikaan published a series of articles in favour of Dutch. 

Hofmeyr also launched the Zuidafrikaanse Boeren Beschermings Vereniging (BBV, Afrikaner farming associations) in 1878, an association to represent the interests of Boer farmers in the Cape. The BBV was more than a farmers’ organisation, as it took on cultural issues, especially the language question.

The Launch of the Afrikaner Bond

The Genootskap, according to TRH Davenport, ‘paid next to no attention to the question of political organisation during the first three years of its existence’. But on 20 June 1879, SJ du Toit published an editorial in the Patriot calling for the establishment of an Afrikaner Bond, ‘in which any Afrikaner can feel at home and work together for the good of a United South Africa’.

Du Toit called for the Bond to include ‘everyone who recognises Africa as his Fatherland’, whether of English, Dutch, French or German origin, but to exclude ‘those who talk of England as their “home” or of Holland and Germany as their Fatherland, and only want to fill their pockets with African wealth in order to go and spend it in Europe’.

He further called for: the Bond to put forward patriotic candidates for election to positions of political influence; the ‘development of the whole population’; the education of the Afrikaner, which was being neglected at the expense of ‘one section of the population’; the development of trade and industry that would benefit the local population – and not English speculators and banks; and for Bond branches to be established in the Free State and Transvaal Republics.

While Hofmeyr ‘paid tribute’ to Du Toit’s call, he was reticent about the anti-English tone of the call. He was also aligned to business interests that preferred a policy of free trade to Du Toit’s anti-imperialist protectionism, and argued his position in the Zuid Afrikaan.

Du Toit replied to Hofmeyr in the Patriot, and on 4 July 1879 he published a draft constitution for the proposed Bond, which reiterated the points made in his June editorial.

Hofmeyr’s response to Du Toit reflected the divergence of views between the two men, and this fault-line would be a feature of the ideology of the Bond. Davenport points out that ‘the surprising feature of Du Toit’s proposals, for all Hofmeyr’s unwillingness to accept them, was their moderation’ – compared to Du Toit’s earlier publications, such as the Geskiedness van ons Land.

Du Toit saw a lack of coordination in the activities of the various Afrikaner organisations – his GRA, Hofmeyr’s BBV, the Zuid Afrikaansche Tijdschrift, the Transvaal-based Volks Comite, and the Albert Boeren Vereeniging (see the article on The Boerenvereenigingen: precursor to the Afrikaner Bond) – and wanted an organisation that would forge unity across Afrikanerdom.

Du Toit’s first call was by and large ignored, but he reiterated his call in November and December, and three branches were formed in 1880, in Hopetown and Petrusville. By the end of the year it appeared that Du Toit’s call for the recognition of Afrikaans had lost out to the call in favour of Dutch.

But the next year proved to be a success for Du Toit. Much of the success was due to the ‘war of independence’ against the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877. In 1881 the Boers prevailed in the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1). By late 1880, after British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone had made it clear that his government would not consider independence for the Transvaal, the Patriot had changed its policy of passive resistance, and called for military resistance against the British.

There was competition between the Bond and the BBV, especially in the Western Cape, where Hofmeyr was trying to establish branches of the BBV. Their respective newspapers, the Zuid Afrikaan and the Patriot, urged their readers to form branches. In the Patriot, Du Toit argued, in populist mode, against the BBV, saying it appealed only to farmers and not to other Afrikaners. Its name, he said was too long and could not be pronounced or spelt by ordinary people, and it lacked drive, was organisationally top-heavy, and could not awaken national feeling.

In February 1882 Du Toit moved to the Transvaal to take up an appointment as inspector of education under Paul Kruger, and the Patriot was from that point edited by his brother, DF du Toit. His move would have consequences for the presence of the Bond in the Cape and in the Transvaal.

Before he moved, Du Toit drew up a draft constitution for the Bond, titled Program van Beginsels (programme of principles). It was, according to Davenport, an adaptation of the programme of the ‘anti-revolutionary or Christian historical party in the Netherlands’, the party led by theologian Abraham Kuyper, which espoused a ‘theocratic view of the relations between Church and State, and a doctrine of divine sovereignty’.

Du Toit adapted this monarchist position to his republicanism, and called for a South Africa united under its own flag. He argued that loyalty to the Queen and the British flag was an obstacle to a confederation of South African states, but proposed that South Africa would need the protection of the British fleet and would maintain good relations with Britain.

According to Davenport, Du Toit’s programme was narrower than his July 1879 draft constitution, but ‘revealed marked differences from the political outlook of Jan Hofmeyr’. He used the term ‘Afrikaner’ in a restricted sense as applying to people of Dutch or Huguenot descent; he showed a ‘marked distaste for liberal institutions of the British type’; and he ‘took cognizance of Afrikanerdom beyond the Colonial frontiers’. 

The Spread of the Bond

The rivalry between the BBV and the Bond continued, but the Bond seemed to secure more support than the BBV. By 1881 it began to have branches in the Orange Free State, and at the inaugural meeting of the Bloemfontein branch on 11 May 1881, held at Grey College in Bloemfontein, Chief Justice FW Reitz was elected chairman.

The Bond’s presence in the OFS was largely a result of the work of Carl Borckenhagen, the German-born editor of the Express, who came over to the cause of the Bond by January 1881. He produced ‘an extremely tidy proposal for a constitution’, which was published on 7 April 1881 in his newspaper. 

According to Davenport, the ‘Express constitution set out the aims of the Bond in the broadest terms, without any reference to the fact that the Afrikaner had special interests to protect. Its chief importance lay in its provision of an integrated pattern of committees, from that of the ward at the base of the pyramid, rising through those of the district and the province to a central bestuur (administration) at the apex.’  

But OFS President Henry Brand was suspicious of the Bond, and declared that their activities appeared to be an attempt to create a state within a state. When John X Merrimen made similar remarks in a speech a few days later, suspicion towards these critics mounted, and in reaction more branches sprang into existence. By September 1882 there were branches in Bloemfontein, Smithfield, Philippolis, Fauresmith, Jacobsdal, Winburg, Kroonstad, Heilbron, Harrismith and Ladybrand.

The Transvaal, according to Davenport, lagged behind the OFS, even though the influential General Piet Joubert supported the Bond at a meeting in Heidelberg in April 1881. A branch was established at Rustenburg in August 1881, and a meeting of the provincial bestuur (administration) took place on 12 January 1884, attended by delegates from Standerton, Potchefstroom, Lydenburg, Pretoria and Middelburg.

Moves towards amalgamation

The BBV and the Bond were competing to mobilise the same electorate, and their rivalry proved to be unproductive for both. Du Toit suggested on a few occasions that the two should merge. It was the Albert Boeren Vereeniging that made the first serious moves towards a merger in 1881. 

The Albert Vereeniging had established links with the BBV and it also joined up with the Bond in April 1881. In May Daantjie van den Heever wrote to the Patriot urging people to hold a congress of the various vereenigingen (associations). After some prevarication a congress was organised for March 1882 in Graaff-Reinett. The Patriot ran an advert on 17 February 1882 calling for members of both the vereenigingen and the Bond to attend the congress in Graaff-Reinett.

The Graaff-Reinett congress was held on 1 March 1882, and was attended mainly by delegates of the Vereenigingen from the eastern and central districts of the Cape. Hofmeyr did not attend the congress, but his outlook informed the decisions taken at the congress, according to Davenport. He was ‘lavishly complimented’, and a unanimous resolution was passed expressing confidence in him as the ‘leader of the Afrikaner party in the Cape Colony’.

The delegates overlooked Du Toit’s Program van Beginsels, a programme that called for a more radical Afrikaner Bond. They resolved to hold a larger congress in Cradock on 12 September 1882, deciding to send special invitations to Hofmeyr, DF du Toit (the brother of SJ du Toit), D de Waal, and HP du Preez.

The Cradock Congress 

The Cradock congress took place on 12 September 1882 as planned. Bond delegates outnumbered the total number of delegates from the east and west vereenigingen. The congress was attended by up to 36 delegates from the vereenigingen, and up to 67 from the Bond, almost double that of the vereeniging delegates. It was viewed as a significant event, and ‘at least half a dozen’ newspapers sent reporters to cover it.

Chaired by JJ Janse van Rensburg, the congress dealt with a number of controversial issues, the most important being amalgamation, the other being Du Toit’s Program van Beginsels. There was much argument about a suitable name for the merged body, and a constitutional commission was elected, consisting of Hofmeyr, DF du Toit and JM Hofman, a doctor from Paarl. A standing executive committee was also elected to convene a further congress, consisting of DP van den Heever, Jeremias van Heerden and TP Theron.

After the constitutional commission was appointed, Theron moved to abandon SJ du Toit’s Program van Beginsels, arguing that the commission was the proper body to consider it.

Hofmeyr, according to Hermann Giliomee, told the congress that independence for South Africa could not be attained before ‘a sane feeling of nationality had developed’. He argued that ‘it was not language that bound members of such a nationality, but mutual respect between the two white groups and their ability to act as a cohesive force’.

Hofmeyr infiltrates the Bond

DF du Toit, who did not attend the Cradock congress, criticised the outcome in the Patriot, writing: ‘To be brief, the Bond suffered total defeat at the congress, and the Vereeniging obtained a great victory. Bondsmen present there yielded up everything… We repeat that we do not see the necessity for amalgamation; (we) expect no good from it, and we have already suffered disadvantage from the resolution.’

A small grouping loyal to the Du Toit brothers took shape around the country. When Hofmeyr went to Ceres to form a branch of the BBV, he encountered strong opposition, according to the Patriot. Instead, a branch of the Bond was established and it voted to oppose amalgamation.

NP van der Meuling, editor of Opregte Afrikaner, reported to about 60 Bedford Bondsmen that at Cradock he had found ‘a far from friendly attitude towards the Bond’, and he suggested that another congress be held in Richmond no later than 27 November 1882. He was applauded by the Bondsmen at the gathering.

Noting the hostility towards him from the Du Toit faction, Hofmeyr decided that he had to join the Bond in order ‘to effect from within the Bond what it seemed impossible to accomplish from without’, according to his biographer (quoted by Davenport). 

Hofmeyr formed a Bond branch in Cape Town on 28 October 1882, and was elected chairman on 2 November. The editor of the Cape Argus, FJ Dormer, was also a member of the branch, and according to Victor Sampson, ‘Dormer explained privately that their intention was to get hold of the organisation and control it’.

The move allowed Hofmeyr to attend Van der Meulen’s Richmond congress as a delegate. 

The First Richmond Congress

The Richmond congress was poorly attended, and delegates, the press and observers were unsure of Van der Meulen’s right to call a meeting, as well as the right of the meeting to make decisions. When  JSO Brink of Richmond, who chaired the meeting, declared it legitimate because accredited members had attended,  he was opposed, and a stalemate ensued.

It was Hofmeyr who broke the stalemate, after suggesting that the three office-bearers of the congress confer with the standing executive committee elected at Cradock to convene a central bestuur. His proposal was accepted by 15 votes to five. 

Van der Meulen, who wanted to constitute a provincial bestuur there and then, was one of the five dissenters. According to Davenport, Hofmeyr ‘had prevented an unrepresentative congress of the Bond from asserting an authority which it obviously did not possess’. 

Meanwhile the constitutional commission elected at Cradock produced a draft constitution for the united organisation and a draft for the Cape branch. They set out the aims and objects of the combined Bond and Vereenigingen that closely followed the constitution drafted by Borckenhagen and published in the Express.

The introduction read: ‘The Bond knows no nationality of any kind save that of the Afrikaners, and considers as belonging to it everybody, of whatever origin, who aims at the welfare of South Africa.’ (Of course, this referred only to the white population, and Blacks were outside the purview of the Bond and the BBV).

It listed the object of the Bond as ‘the formation of a South African nationality, through the nurturing of a true patriotism’, and it would strive to encourage ‘Afrikaners to assert themselves as a nation both on political and on social grounds’. 

The constitution was signed by all three members of the constitutional commission, which issued its report on 3 February, 1883. It put forth a version that was largely based on the Express constitution, which included a broad notion of Afrikanerdom, and made no reference to a colour bar.

Amalgamation – the Second Richmond Congress

Thirty nine Bondsmen arrived in Richmond to attend, first, their own congress, before attending the amalgamation congress of the Bond and the BBV.

Meeting on 22 May 1883, the Bondsmen constituted themselves as a provincial bestuur and elected a set of office-bearers.

On 24 May the amalgamation congress began. It was attended by 40 Bondsmen and 24 members of the two vereenigingen, and was once again chaired by JJ Janse van Rensburg. DF du Toit was elected as his deputy, and TP Theron as secretary.

The draft constitution was discussed clause by clause. Debates arose when the Du Toit camp tried to replace clauses with points from the Transvaal constitution, and failed to get a colour bar approved. But they succeeded in having the congress vote for the support of Christian education.

There was disagreement over amendments to the proposed aim of the Bond, the issue being whether the Bond ultimately aimed for a united and independent South Africa. The draft read: ‘The object of the Afrikaner Bond is: the formation of a South African nationality, through the nurturing of true patriotism.’

Chief Justice Reitz wanted to add: ‘as preparation for the achievement of the final goal’ to end the sentence. DF du Toit wanted to add ‘under its own flag’. DP van den Heever and JS Marais objected to the amendments, and the debate became acrimonious. Hofmeyr intervened by suggesting that Reitz’s addition be changed to ‘final destiny’ instead of ‘final goal’, and the majority voted for this move, overwhelmingly rejecting DF du Toit’s proposal.

The meeting gave three enthusiastic cheers for the anniversary of their ‘honourable Queen’, according to Giliomee, and Daantjie van den Heever, ‘the heart and soul of the Afrikaner movement in the eastern district’, declared: ‘I am, I hope, a patriotic Dutch-Afrikaner but if anyone dares to touch the English flag I shall shoot him point blank.’

The BBV dissolved itself on 29 May so it could merge with the Bond. From this point on, the Afrikaner Bond would become a powerful and effective organisation representing Afrikaner interests, both in Parliament and outside. (see part two)

The Afrikaner Bond, Part Two

The Politics of the Afrikaner Bond

Having combined the various Afrikaner organisations at the second Richmond Congress, the Afrikaner Bond was by 1983 shaping up to be a formidable political force.

Before amalgamation, JH Hofmeyr’s Boeren Beschermings Vereeniging (BBV) had seats in the Upper House and the Assembly, and it had always been Hofmeyr’s aim to build Afrikaner political power. With the Bond’s expansion and consolidation, it could use its newfound might to win seats at subsequent elections, eventually to win a controlling influence in the Cape Colony’s legislature.

But the interests of each colony would prove to be different, which prevented the Bond from becoming a truly pan-South African body.  The Bond was also not as unified as it wanted to be: there were different factions that held to different ideologies. 

The Hofmeyr faction rejected the separatism of Paul Kruger and some in the OFS, and wanted to construct ‘a new identity in which the two white “nationalities” were envisaged as growing into a composite nationality that recognised each other’s language, culture, education and religion’, according to Giliomee. Hofmeyr, by no means a liberal, nevertheless held to some liberal values – separation of church and state, secular education, freedom of the press and an independent judiciary.

The other main faction, aligned to SJ du Toit and his brother DF du Toit, was anti-English, anti-imperialist, populist and, crucially, republican. SJ du Toit saw the Bond as a body that would prevent ‘the sacrifice of Africa’s interests to England and those of the Farmer or Merchant’.  He believed the money from trade should not ‘be dominated by English banks’. He also denounced the neglect of the Afrikaner while, he said, great sums of money were being spent on the education of English speakers, and he demanded equal recognition for Dutch as a public language.

The Bond in the Cape used its power to influence the policies of the colonial government. It played the role of kingmaker and only rarely was it effectively in power, although it was the major bloc in Parliament. It used its influence to secure benefits for Afrikaner farmers and for an envisaged Afrikaner nation (language and cultural issues). 

The Bond developed policies regarding native and labour affairs, relations with the other South African states, confederation and allied issues such as customs and free trade, and railway issues, among others. But it failed to become a national party, and came into conflict with Paul Kruger, who was opposed to a union of the four states.

The Cape Bond was, largely due to the influence of Hofmeyr, tied to imperialist and capitalist policies, while the Transvaal Boers, particularly Kruger, were anti-imperialist but not anti-capitalist so much as inefficient capitalists. Transvaal Bond members fell in with Kruger’s isolationism.

Bond members were tainted by corruption and accused of a pro-Imperialist stance after the organisation allied with Cecil John Rhodes. But this would change after the notorious Jameson Raid.

Politics before Bond Amalgamation: The Sprigg administration

Even before amalgamation, Hofmeyr’s Western Cape-based BBV had made inroads into representative politics when it secured firm support in the general elections of 1878-9.

It first fought the Council elections, in which it secured nine seats in an Upper House of 21 seats. In the Assembly elections of 1879, the BBV gained a third of the seats of the Lower House. Twelve members of the BBV were elected, including Hofmeyr, who won the Stellenbosch seat. An additional six candidates, although not members of the Vereeniging, got the support of the Bond.

JG Sprigg, appointed prime minister in 1878, did not include a single Afrikaner in his cabinet. He was committed to a plan for the confederation of South Africa, the extension of railways and, according to Davenport, an ‘energetic pursuit of rebellious African tribes’ (the Peace Preservation Act, also known as the Disarmament Act). He imposed a tax on brandy producers to cover the costs of railways and wars.

One of the springs to action in the Afrikaner revival was the excise duty on Cape brandy, a move which farmers and wine and brandy producers saw as deeply detrimental to them. They also thought the Peace Preservation Act, which sought to disarm African tribes, was unenforceable, and rejected talk of confederation until the Transvaal, annexed by the Imperial government in 1877, regained its independence.

In April and May 1879, Transvaal leaders Paul Kruger, Piet Joubert and Dr Jorissen held meetings with Bond leaders in Cape Town and Paarl.  Hofmeyr and his followers, responding to an appeal from the Transvaal Boers, organised a petition and collected over 7,000 signatures against confederation. They were willing to consider confederation, they told Governor Sir Bartle Frere – who had been tasked with promoting plans for confederation – only if the Transvaalers were allowed to express their feelings towards annexation in an election. But Frere ignored their proposals.

When Sprigg introduced a motion in Parliament on 22 June calling for a conference to discuss confederation, his motion was soundly defeated, and Frere was recalled in September.

After the Transvaal Boers defeated the Imperial army at Majuba in the First Anglo-Boer War, the Imperial government became more cautious in its relations with Afrikaners.

Sprigg was eventually unseated after attempting to disarm the Basuto in July 1880. His call-up of burghers was deeply resented, and Hofmeyr’s followers piled on the pressure. Even the new members of parliament for the recently incorporated Griqualand West – Englishmen Francis Orpen and Cecil John Rhodes – turned on Sprigg, who resigned in May 1881.

The Bond and Scanlen’s government

Sprigg was succeeded by the leader of the opposition, Thomas Scanlen, in May 1881. Scanlen formed a government with strong support from Hofmeyr and the Bond, with Hofmeyr playing kingmaker. Hofmeyr accepted a position in Scanlen’s cabinet. Always reluctant to take office and wary of Afrikaners labelling him an English collaborator, Hofmeyr assured his followers and readers of his newspaper, the Zuid Afrikaan, that he was independent as he accepted neither salary nor portfolio.

Hofmeyr’s anxieties soon proved to be well founded. After he failed to secure the recognition of the Dutch language in Parliament – as cabinet did not support the motion – the Patriot, the newspaper edited by Bond founders the Du Toit brothers, mounted an attack on Hofmeyr and the Zuid Afrikaan, and accused Hofmeyr of working in the interests of the British. This was happening at the time that the rivalry between the BBV and the Bond was intensifying before their amalgamation.

After further attacks in October from the opposite direction – from Liberal James X Merriman, a cabinet colleague opposed to the introduction of Dutch in Parliament – and a conflict waged in newspapers, Hofmeyr resigned from the cabinet late in November. He published an article in the Zuid Afrikaan setting out his reasons for resigning, and declared that he would continue to support the Scanlen government.

Hofmeyr’s support was crucial, as his fellow BBV officials could scupper the government if they withdrew their support. He was rewarded when, at the end of March 1882, the government granted recognition of the Dutch language, and abolished the brandy excise, giving Hofmeyr victory in the two central issues at the heart of BBV and Bond demands. 

According to Giliomee, in 1983 knowledge of Dutch ‘became compulsory for a certain class of civil servant. Within a year or two Hofmeyr secured recognition of Dutch at schools and in the public service.

The Bond backed Scanlen, who reigned from 1881 to 1884, but withdrew its backing when, in 1883-4, Scanlen called for the Imperial government to take control of the Transkei, Basutoland and Bechuanaland.

After Amalgamation: The Upington Ministry

The 1883-4 elections were fought by a united post-amalgamation Bond. In the Council elections of 1883 it secured a majority of 12 against 10 seats, and in the Assembly it won half the seats.

Thomas Upington replaced Scanlen as prime minister in May 1884. He supported Bond economic policies and brought Tembuland under the control of the Cape Government.

The Warren expedition annexed the territory south of the Molopo river, Bechuanaland, west of the Transvaal, and denied the Transvaal Boers the opportunity to take Bechuanaland. The move re-established the Imperial factor west of the Transvaal.

The Central Bestuur

For the first time, in early 1886, the Bond had provincial bestuuren (administrations) operating in the Cape, OFS and Transvaal. It was set to become an inter-territorial party once a Central Bestuur (administration) promulgated a general constitution, as agreed at the Second Richmond Congress.

In February 1886 six Bondsmen met at Bloemfontein to constitute the first Central Bestuur. They ratified and amended the constitution, reintroducing the notion of the ‘final goal’ of a South African union.

But by now interstate rivalries emerged because the economic interests of the various colonies began to diverge, and the Bond became riven with provincial factions.  Cape farmers stuck to a protectionist policy in response to Transvaal tariff policy, which raised walls against imports from other colonies. Brandy from the Cape was subject to excises.

The Central Bestuur, after their meeting, issued a brief to all the branches that criticised the tariff policies of the Cape, and called for a customs union. The Zuid Afrikaan questioned whether such a small Central Bestuur could make such drastic proposals, and Bondsmen from Murraysburg called for the Central Bestuur to be replaced by liaison committees from the various provinces, but the Central Bestuur survived a vote, although it wielded little influence after this.

Depression, railway and customs politics

An economic depression hit the Cape hard in the early 1880s. Wool and ostrich feather exports fell drastically and scab was rampant, while wheat imports increased. The banks set about a credit squeeze, and insolvencies increased in 1882, many of the farmers.

According to Andre du Toit: ‘In numerous attacks on the (Standard) bank the Patriot suggested that these insolvencies were part of a scheme to reduce the Afrikaner to dependency. In April 1883 this mouthpiece of Du Toit's Bond portrayed the bank as a 'gigantic devil fish' which had virtually everything in its power.’

The Bond called for the government to help farmers. The depression fuelled calls for heightened economic activity, especially between the Cape and the independent republics.

The need for a customs union was felt by the Orange Free State (OFS) and the Transvaal, but the Cape held back, Upington coming under the influence of Governor and High Commissioner Hercules Robertson and Sprigg. Cape farmers, especially wheat growers, were against a customs agreement. Wheat from the OFS was perceived to be flooding the market at Kimberley, which had been taken over by the Cape after the discovery of diamonds.

President JH Brand of the OFS insisted on free trade across the borders and demanded that port customs be equally shared if railways were to pass through the OFS.

The early 1886 period was crucial for the forging of a free trade area and a customs union, but the opportunity was lost after gold was discovered. Upington rejected overtures from the OFS, which argued that inland states had a claim on tariffs levied at the ports for goods headed to these states. The Bond was largely quiet on the issue.

Transvaal Bond leaders wanted Kruger to agree to a rail link with the Cape, opposing his alternative line to Delagoa Bay in Mozambique. His railway line to Delagoa Bay was half finished, with the section from Delagoa Bay held up by problems in the Netherlands South Africa Railway Company, delaying completion.

In 1886 Upington resigned due to ill health, and Sprigg became prime minister, to serve his second term.

A shift took place in the Cape Bondsmen’s attitude to the Transvaal and to a customs union. Kruger, after the discovery of gold in 1886, was in a changed position, with more leverage.  Now the Cape was keen to foster links with the increasingly wealthy Transvaal, which was becoming the political and economic centre of South Africa.

The Bond held an extraordinary congress on the issue in November 1887 in Potchefstroom, but the rank and file favoured Kruger’s railway policies, although they approved support for a customs union.

Sprigg sent a deputation to the Transvaal which included Colonel Schermbrucker and David de Waal in August 1887. Schermbucker returned from the Transvaal and reported that Kruger refused to consider a customs union or the extension of the Cape railway into the Transvaal. 

Sprigg called for a conference in Cape Town on customs and railways to be held in January 1888, but Kruger turned him down.  Free State and Natal delegates attended the conference, but by now Free State Bondsmen had been turned by Kruger, and were against railway lines going into the OFS. Sprigg considered a route that would bypass OFS heading to Bechuanaland to force Kruger’s hand, but Hofmeyr was anxious not to go against Kruger.

SJ du Toit, generally loyal to Kruger, agreed with Sprigg and considered forcing Kruger’s hand. He wrote to Hofmeyr in August 1988: ‘We are not doing this out of a desire to be awkward. But until the neck of Kruger’s policy is broken all your beautiful plans are so many soap bubbles. Sprigg’s policy will undermine Kruger’s; but the policy now followed among our people gives Kruger and his Hollanders a dictatorship not only over the Transvaal but over the whole of South Africa.’

Kruger had alienated his countrymen with his concessions policy, through which he dished out favours to his own circle, and there was also resentment at his policy of hiring Dutch civil servants instead of Afrikaners from the Cape.

There was intense competition to forge alliances: the Cape tried to woo the OFS over to its side, as did Kruger. On 4 March 1889 Kruger concluded a defensive alliance and a commercial treaty with FW Reitz, the new president of the OFS. Kruger said he would only allow a Cape railway line to Transvaal after his Delagoa Bay line to Pretoria was completed.

A customs union was agreed between the Cape and OFS in 1889, a first step toward economic federation.

Corruption in the Bond after the discovery of gold

With the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886, the fortunes of the Transvaal changed radically. Transvaal Bond leaders urged Kruger to set up a rail link with the Cape, rather than to Delagoa Bay in Mozambique, raising suspicions that Bond members were pursuing their own interests.

SJ du Toit and Piet Joubert had interests in Lewis and Marks, a firm involved in the construction of a rail link to Kimberley, while Hofmeyr had argued that Kruger should work with the Netherlands Company, which was building the rail link to Delagoa Bay.

Many of the Bondsmen began to speculate on the Rand, getting involved in ventures to cash in on the gold boom, buying shares or starting mining companies, including DF du Toit, Charles Kohler, Daniel Malan, Thomas te Water, and even Hofmeyr himself.

Hofmeyr’s involvement came to light later – he was beginning to collaborate with Cecil John Rhodes, investing through a broker in Kimberley.

These involvements had an influence on Bond policies, and in January 1887 the Cape Town branch approached the government, urging it to enter into negotiations with the Transvaal for the extension of the Kimberley railway and for a customs union. 

A Bondsbrief was issued  on February 17 1886 by SJ du Toit and TP Theron, informing Bondsmen that the gold discoveries would not  threaten the Bond’s ‘youthful highly promising nationalism’ or divert it from its goal of a united South Africa. The pamphlet said that the Bond had striven to achieve such a goal in the past without much success, ‘but now there comes a Higher Hand, which governs the destinies of Peoples and States, and wills to bind us to each other with a golden chain’.

The railway issue affected the plans for a united South Africa, with Kruger holding out for a more independent Transvaal that would remain beyond the reach of British Imperial power. But his isolationism also meant that he was at odds with the Bond and with their project for a united South African Afrikanerdom, which only the Bond was capable of achieving.

Davenport sums up the situation: ‘Before the discovery of the Witwatersrand’s gold, Republican Bondsmen had been interested in a customs union and Colonial (Cape) Bondsmen had not. After this discovery, the Colonial Bondsmen became unity-minded, the Free State Bondsmen found an affinity with the Transvaal and turned their backs on the Cape, and too many of the Transvaal Bondsmen found peace of mind in the isolationist policy of the President to support the cause of South African unity to which they were in theory committed.’

The Bond, writes Davenport, ‘had missed a favourable opportunity for a railway and customs agreement in 1886, and nothing they tried to do subsequently could make up for this initial error’

To sum up the situation towards the end of the 1880s, the Bond found itself in disarray, with provinces ranged against each other, and no clear leadership emerging. According to Davenport, the interests of the provinces were too diverse, and the Afrikaner Bond was transformed into a Cape political party.

The Bond, race and Franchise

The politics of the Bond were a reaction to domination by the English, but it was equally influenced by an idea of nationalism that was race-based, and indeed racist. The Bond never considered itself racist, and racism was only mentioned with regard to relations between Afrikaner and English. Their assumption was that Blacks did not belong to the nation, even though in the Cape the Bond never moved to disenfranchise the Black voters who did qualify to vote, although it raised the level for the franchise in 1887. 

The Bond wanted to eradicate African squatting in white farming areas and to abolish African locations. They pushed for the reduction of the money spent on African education and resented the educated African.

Hofmeyr supported political ‘equality of the civilized’ in 1892, and did not object to a Malay, Ahmed Effendi, being a parliamentarian. But the Bond stressed communal ties, excluding nonwhites and, as a farmers’ party, backed employers over employees. Hofmeyr believed blacks had to be kept powerless for the sake of economic development, and he sought to turn them into ‘assistants of a civilized and civilizing race’.

The Cape Bond needed some Black votes to secure marginal constituencies. At the Richmond congress in 1883, they left Bond membership theoretically open to all races – but the bestuuren wielded the right of admission to membership.

Hofmeyr claimed he had some Coloured support in Stellenbosch, where almost half the voters were Coloured, and when Coloured voters were seen to reject Dutch candidates, he said in November 1882 that Afrikaner politicians had failed to appreciate the power of this bloc.

The Bond made no attempts to win Black voters until Assembly elections in 1889, which failed to garner African votes.

John Tengo Jabavu, editor of Imvo Zabantsundu, attacked the Bond, noting that African votes had ‘consistently been employed to strengthen the English or the party of right and justice in the House’. African voters were thought to have accounted for victories in 1888 by WJ Warren in King William’s Town, Mackay in Uitenhage and Orpen in Wodehouse.

The Bond later tried to raise qualifications for the franchise. Upington’s incorporation of the Transkei in 1885 brought the possibility of a huge increase in the number of enfranchised African voters. Thus in 1886 Bondsmen approved a higher qualification and literacy test, and limited this opening only to Transkeians ‘of considerable substance’. They also pushed for owners of communal land to be excluded from the franchise. 

Upington proposed that the Transkei be represented by two members, one elected by whites and one by Africans worth £500 in individual tenure. But the resulting Bill was defeated by the liberals.

In 1887, the Bond supported legislation to reform the Cape franchise. While retaining the formal colour-blind nature of the franchise, the new laws made it more difficult for blacks to qualify for the vote.

Sprigg, again premier, pushed for the Bill in 1887, and succeeded. Jabavu wrote that the Bill had been put forward to ‘weaken and silence the English party in the Legislature by disenfranchising its devoted allies, the Natives, and …. to seal the supremacy of the Bond in the land’. 

For Hofmeyr, according to Giliomee, the 1887 Bill ‘still left far too many black voters on the roll. He warned that the white population would be “utterly swamped” if no further measures at all were enacted.’ He proposed a franchise and ballot bill, raising the franchise qualifications from £25 to £75 and included a literacy test which would establish ‘civilized’ status.

In the Transvaal and Orange Free State, Bond branches were not as liberal as the Cape Bondsmen, and included a colour bar in their constitutions.

The Bond and the English

Hofmeyr’s faction wanted an inclusive white nation to come into being. In 1887 the Bond pledged its loyalty to the Queen on the occasion of her jubilee year. The Bond held a congress in Paarl in 1888 and drank a toast to the Queen, singing God Save the Queen.

Hofmeyr identified with the Boers in the republics, and occasionally stressed that ‘blood was thicker than water’. Yet he wanted colonial Afrikaners to be loyal to Empire, and saw the protection offered by the British as essential for the security of South Africans.

Even the more republican members of the Bond occasionally stressed their loyalty to the Empire. In 1890, DF du Toit, brother of SJ du Toit and leader of the nationalist wing of the Bond, told a London newspaper that the Bond was loyal to England and he spoke little of a Republic.

Hofmeyr’s attitude would leave him open to collaborate with the British, especially with Rhodes. But even SJ du Toit eventually dropped his republican stance and came over to the side of Rhodes.

The Bond’s election commission

After rivalries between Bond nominees saw Bond candidates rejected in the 1888 election, the Bond appointed a disciplinary committee, the Comissie van Toezicht op Elekties (Commission on Elections), to oversee Bond candidate selection.

It consisted of three Bondsmen who would oversee the nomination process and decide who Bondsmen would vote for if no Bond candidate stood in any constituency.  Hofmeyr, RP Botha and NF de Waal were elected to the committee. Hofmeyr was made chairman of the committee, and he wielded enormous influence in the Bond through his powers.

The Bond in Alliance with CJ Rhodes

Hofmeyr was initially against the expansion of the Imperial government into the north – Bechuanaland and Zambesia – especially because the Boers in the Transvaal were considering moves into the territory west of their Republic (Bechuanaland). But around 1888, after the Transvaal government let him down in his attempt to establish free trade between the Republic and the Cape and to forge a customs union, he shifted his position.

Cecil John Rhodes was poised to move into what would ultimately become Rhodesia, in his quest to extend British rule ‘from the Cape to Cairo’, and he was convinced that the northern territories would yield even greater riches than the Rand. His British South Africa Company, formed in 1889, was to be the vehicle for expansion into what would become Rhodesia.

Rhodes returned from England in August 1889 determined to extend a railway line from Kimberley to Bechuanaland. He needed the support of Hofmeyr, who could have stopped the project with a special Act of Parliament.  Hofmeyr visited him in Kimberley, and was won over when Rhodes revealed that his British South Africa Company, which was about to receive a charter from the British government, would be placed under the control of a board appointed in South Africa.

The Cape government undertook to share the costs of building the railway, and by January 1890, Hofmeyr declared his support for the northern railway. The move deprived Transvaalers of the right to cross the Limpopo into the north, and Hofmeyr’s relations with Kruger’s government soured.

With Hofmeyr as mediator, the British allowed the Transvaalers scope to move into Swaziland and take Kosi Bay on the agreement that they would not cross the Limpopo.

Rhodes and Hofmeyr appear to have forged their alliance before the fall of the second Sprigg government, which had lost Bond support over railway plans, in July 1890. 

After Sprigg’s fall, the choice of a new prime minister was between Hofmeyr and Rhodes, but Hofmeyr, as always, would not accede. Rhodes, who would have preferred to serve under Hofmeyr, became the premier in July 1890, forming a cabinet of liberals and Bondsmen. 

The Bond came under the sway of Rhodes, who presented expansion as ‘an Afrikaner as well as a British imperial project’. In 1890, the Zuid Afrikaan wrote: ‘Under the British flag and with the help of British capital we are marching to the north.’

Rhodes secured the support of  Bondsman TP Theron for his British-approved Charter, and met with Bond parliamentarians on July 16, asking for an assurance of ‘fair play’, which he received. He explained his thinking to business associates, saying that forging links with the Bondsmen would lessen tensions in the colony and facilitate his plans for the north.

Rhodes attended the Bond congress of March 1891 in Kimberley. He travelled to Kimberley by train with Hofmeyr, attending a Bond ‘love feast’ (vriendschaps maaltijd), explaining his vision of a unified southern African region to the Bondsmen, a vision, he said, if realised would be beneficial to the Cape without threatening its relationship with Great Britain.

Rhodes effectively bought off many Bondsmen, offering them £1 Charter shares not available on the market, both before and after he assumed the premiership. Evidence shows that Hofmeyr himself made a large purchase of De Beers shares later, in August 1895, which Rhodes would later use as ammunition to force Hofmeyr to do his bidding.

In 1891 Bondsmen were lured by the possibilities of farming north of the Limpopo River. Earlier, in October 1890, Rhodes took two Bondsmen, DC de Waal and MM Venter, on a trip to Mashonaland.

There were attempts by some Bondsmen to wreck the Rhodes-Bond alliance during 1891 – they were associated with a rival attempt to colonise the north (the Adendorff trek), and by another group from Barkly West which tried to get Bondsmen to denounce De Beers.

Rhodes had by the Kimberley congress also won the support of SJ du Toit, who had returned to the Cape in 1890. Du Toit helped Rhodes neutralise the Adendorff trek, using the Patriot, as well as to prevent Bond denunciation of De Beers. However, the latter’s brother, DF du Toit, was associated with the Adendorff faction, causing Rhodes some concern.

By mid-1892 Rhodes was secure in Charterland, and his railway reached Vryburg. He had a strong majority in Parliament and had the support of the Cape for his northern plans.

According to Davenport, the Bond as an organisation also benefited from the partnership, recovering the political initiative it had lost. ‘A new spirit overtook Bond thinking,’ writes Davenport, ‘a spirit which echoed the enthusiasm of the early 1880s – less intense perhaps, but decidedly more tolerant in outlook, and guided by a real sense of purpose.’

SJ du Toit renewed his attempts to form a national bank, and the Taalbond was launched, taking the struggle for the Dutch language outside Parliament. The Bond experienced a rapid growth in membership, with some Englishmen joining the organisation, and it enjoyed success in 1891 Council elections, winning 16 of 22 seats. 

According to Davenport, the most outstanding success of the Bond in this period was in growing Dutch newspapers. New newspapers included Ons Land, De Paarl, Onze Courant, Philipstowsche Wekblad and Het Oosten. Some of these were suspected of having been funded by Rhodes.

Rhodes geared his economic policy to that of the Bond, with suitable tariff policies, rail links to and from markets, scientific farming and the development of an agricultural industry, and ‘solutions’ to labour problems.

After Bond insistence, Rhodes in 1982 appointed a commission to investigate the presence of Black residents in Glen Grey, west of Tembuland. The report recommended a new form of land ownership for urban blacks, but Rhodes adapted the findings to implement a policy that later became a model for apartheid governance. The policy would have the effect of limiting ownership and driving blacks off the land to work as labourers, for white farmers or the mines, in order to be able to pay taxes.

Bondsmen, on the other hand, had hoped to drive blacks out of the area as they themselves wanted to settle in the area.

A political crisis developed when cattle in the country were hit by a scab epidemic between 1886 and 1896. While English cattle farmers complied with a programme to wipe out the disease by cattle dipping, Afrikaner farmers objected to the intervention on religious grounds. With about 1500 Afrikaner farmers being prosecuted in 1893 and after, a political crisis exploded with a revolt against the Bond leadership. Some suspected the crisis made Hofmeyr resign his seat in Parliament in 1895.

The Bond trod a cautious line on the Scab Act, which would make dipping compulsory, and tried to water down the act to leave it to local authorities to implement in a differential manner, thus averting more antagonism from the farmers.

Then the Jameson Raid changed everything.

Fallout: The Jameson Raid

Kruger’s republic began to take desperate measures in the battle for the control of the Transvaal economy. With rail links reaching the border by the mid-1890s, Kruger upped customs duties on goods entering his territory, especially if these were transferred to his trains. When traders tried to avert the tax by switching to ox-wagons at the border, Kruger closed the bridges that the wagons used to enter the Transvaal.

Rhodes was increasingly frustrated with Kruger’s stranglehold over the Transvaal and its goldfields, as were other mining magnates and the British authorities, including Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain. Rhodes conspired with Chamberlain in London in the planning of a coup to topple Kruger.

He appointed Leander Starr Jameson to lead the revolt, while Chamberlain and others mounted a press campaign in England vilifying Kruger, who was portrayed as a dictator oppressing English uitlanders in his republic. Rhodes wanted the uitlanders in the Transvaal to mount an uprising that would be joined by Jameson, who would be seen as the uitlanders’ saviour.

Jameson began the raid into the Transvaal from Mafeking, arriving in the Transvaal on 29 December 1895. It was an abortive coup, clumsily implemented,  and the uitlanders had failed to mount an uprising in the Transvaal. Jameson and his crew were arrested by Kruger’s police before firing a shot.

Bond members were astonished, and could not believe that Jameson had made the attempt without Rhodes’s approval, and they were outraged that Rhodes had not consulted with his Cabinet, many of them Bondsmen.

Hofmeyr was devastated after his investigations revealed that Rhodes was behind the debacle. According to Davenport: ‘Not only were his dreams of cooperation destroyed, but his authority would be undermined among his own people unless he took prompt and unequivocal action to dissociate himself from the events which were taking place, and if possible unearth the guilty party. He wasted no time, therefore, before sending a message of encouragement to President Kruger.’

An unsuspecting Hofmeyr called on the High Commissioner, Hercules Robinson, to issue a proclamation ‘publicly repudiating Jameson’s action on behalf of Her Majesty’s government and calling on all British subjects to refrain from aiding or abetting him in armed violation of territory of a friendly state’.

Hofmeyr soon began to suspect that the High Commissioner and other officials were in on the conspiracy, and met with Rhodes. He urged Chamberlain to conduct a thorough investigation, and met with Rhodes again, advising him to resign as prime minister.

Rhodes left for Kimberley on the day of their last meeting, further fuelling Hofmeyr’s suspicion. 

Davenport writes that Hofmeyr was a moderating influence on all the parties concerned, ‘counselling the victors (Kruger) to clemency and the Imperial authorities to honesty, and telling the rumour-mongers to hold their peace’.

‘He had succeeded to some extent in softening the indignation of the Government and people of the Transvaal; he had tested Rhodes’s sincerity and found it lacking; and he had forced the Imperial Government and its local representative into the position of having to declare not only their opposition to the Raid but also their intention of holding a public investigation into the causes of it. Here, at least, was some achievement to offset his bitter disappointment.’

The entire debacle closed a chapter in the history of the Bond, which would have almost nothing to do with Rhodes after the Raid, and which set South Africa on a path of great turmoil, resulting in the Second Anglo-Boer War and the Union of South Africa in 1910.


References:
• TRH Davenport, The Afrikaner Bond: The history of a South African Political Party, 1880-1911. Oxford University Press, Cape Town; 1966
• Giliomee, Hermann; The Afrikaners: Biography of a People; Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, 2003
• Giliomee, Hermann and Mbenga, Bernard, New History of South Africa; Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, 2007

Last updated : 02-Jun-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 26-May-2017