Nicholaas Frederic de Waal

Posted by Leander on

Biographical information

First name: 
Nicholaas
Middle name: 
Frederic
Last name: 
de Waal

Born in Rotterdam in 1853, De Waal was the son of a banker who received a commercial education in Brussels and studied law. He travelled to Europe and America before settling in South Africa in 1880.

He met JH Hofmeyr and formed a friendship with him.

He moved to Graaff-Reinet and then to Middelburg, where he opened a news agency in November 1881, propagating his political ideas. He took over a newspaper owned by Heathcote on December 20 1881, renaming it De Middelburg Getuige, and increased coverage of Dutch news and comment.

He became active in the Middelburg Boeren Vereeniging and was elected secretary and treasurer in March 1882. He supported Hofmeyr’s moderate stance and used his newspaper and position in the Vereeniging to popularise Hofmeyr.

De Waal became a member of the Afrikaner Bond in 1883 after the boeren vereenigingen amalgamated with the Bond.

After his newspaper’s three-year lease ended, De Waal had to return the Middelburg Getuige to its owner, Heathcote. But he started a newspaper called the Nieuwe Middelburger in 1885, which became popular enough to force Heathcote to close down his paper.

Following disputes between candidates of the Afrikaner Bond before and during the 1888 election, the body formed the Commissie van Toezicht, which was charged with overseeing the nomination of electoral candidates. De Waal was part of the first Commissie, together with Hofmeyr and RP Botha.

At the Bond’s Worcester conference in December 1897, elections were contested for the Commissie for three positions. Hofmeyr retained his position, but SJ du Toit and De Waal lost theirs to JM Hoffman and TP Theron respectively.

When Chamberlain weighed in in favour of life disfranchisement of those accused of breaking martial law during the Anglo-Boer War, the South African Party met to decide the issue of disenfranchisement on June 8 1899. De Waal sided with the majority, who rejected the view that offenders receive harsh punishments. They rejected in particular the recommendation made by Oliver Schreiner that the offenders be disfranchised for five years.

De Waal wrote: ‘Point three … had admitted of no compromise, for it was one upon which the party could not join hands with (Schreiner’s) Ministry. Every member said it was a measure of which the party could not approve. They felt that they could not go to Parliament and bring in a Bill providing for disfranchisement of those men who had taken up arms against her Majesty’s troops, well knowing that these men had been forced into rebellion; well knowing that they would never have taken up arms if they could have helped it; well knowing, too, that the Opposition would dearly like to take away or curtail the electoral privileges of as many of the Afrikaner party as possible.’

The caucus accepted other points made by Schreiner in order to avert the dissolving of the government.

At a Bond congress in Paarl in June 1900 a commission was appointed to draw up a comprehensive statement on the war, composed of De Waal, TP Theron, DJA van Zyl, JH Schoeman and FS Malan.

During the Cabinet crisis, Merriman identified De Waal as having ‘displayed a tact and great ability, and [he]evidently leads his party’, and he was regarded as one of the new leaders who could succeed Hofmeyr.

When Malan and others began to organise a mass meeting in Worcester, to be held on December 6 1900?,  Merriman was afraid that ‘political agitators were behind the move. De Waal, who later claimed to have disapproved of the meeting, nevertheless at the time said Merriman was being unduly apprehensive, and that it would serve as a safety valve for angry Afrikaners.

Theron rejected the hensoppers (hands-uppers). De Waal and Theron claimed to have drawn up and signed an appeal to all rebels to lay down their arms in July 1901.

In September 1902 De Waal asked for a select committee to investigate charges against the Bond during the war, which was limited to Bond parliamentarians. Under the chair of HT Tampin, the committee had an equal number of supporters and opponents of the Bond.

When Chamberlain visited the Cape, De Waal made a speech in Middelberg, being its mayor:

He agreed with Chamberlain that the Cape make increased naval contributions, but when Hofmeyr was more circumspect, Chamberlain dropped the idea.

De Waal was appointed Colonial Secretary in Merriman’s cabinet.


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

Last updated : 19-Jul-2018

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

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