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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

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Afrikaner-Broederbond (AB)

The Afrikaner-Broederbond is an extremely exclusive, secret Afrikaner nationalist organisation which, in a symbiotic relationship with the National Party, has played a determining role in the political development of South Africa. Its aim is the promotion of the Afrikaner's political, cultural and economic interests.

The Broederbond emerged from a group called "Jong Suid-Afrika", established in May 1918. Two months later the organisation was renamed the Afrikaner-Broederbond. Its motto was "Wees Sterk" ("Be Strong"). In 1921 it became a secret organisation.

The Afrikaner-Broederbond is organised as follows: at ground level it consists of branches varying in number from about 5 to 20 members. The main aim at this level is to formulate plans to promote the organisation's aims. In towns and cities with more than one branch, a central committee, consisting of delegates from the different branches, may be established to coordinate the operations of the different branches. At regional level, a regional council co-ordinate activities. The highest authority and policymaking body is the national congress (Bondsraad), which meets every two years.

The prominent positions of people elected chairman of the Broederbond indicate the status and influence the organisation enjoys. Professor Pieter de Lange, former rector of the Rand Afrikaans University, is the present chairman. Previous chairmen include Dr Andries Treurnicht (leader of the CP), Professor Carel Boshoff (chair-man of the Afrikaner-Volkswag) and Dr Gerrit Viljoen, Minister of Constitutional Development. Other prominent names that have been associated with the AB are Dr Beyers Naudê and Wynand Malan, former co-leader of the Democratic Party.

Membership of the Afrikaner-Broederbond is limited to men. New members are recruited on a personal basis, and the names of potential members are circulated countrywide. Screening takes place according to a complicated system of references and cross-references. Only one well-motivated objection is needed to disqualify a potential member. The Broederbond demands high cultural, family-related, religious, moral and political standards from its members. To qualify, a person must meet the following requirements: he must be a member of one of the traditional Afrikaans churches or the Apostolic Faith Mission of SA; he must have attended an Afrikaans school; he must have married an Afrikaans-speaking wife; and he must support the "right" party, the National Party. Definite disqualifications are being divorced and irregular church attendance.

The Afrikaner-Broederbond (Source: Wilkens & Strydom, 1978)

Chairman: Elected by majority vote in the national congress's election of executive council.

Executive council:Highest executive authority. Serves for 2 years and comprises 10 members.

National congress: Highest authority in Broederbond. Meets every 2 years to elect executive council.

Regional congress: A number of branches can be bound together by the EC to coordinate regional activities.

Central committee: In towns/cities the EC may determine that a central committee be formed to coordinate local activities.

Branches: Consist of not less than 5, generally not more than 20 Broers. Meet once a month.

Chairmen of the Afrikaner-Broederbond

H J Klopper 1918-1924: Later

Speaker of the House of Assembly W Nicol 1924-1925: Later Administrator of the Transvaal

J H Greybe 1925-1928

J W Potgieter 1928-1930

LJ du Plessis 1930-1932: Later Professor at the University of Potchefstroom

J C van Rooy 1932-1938: Professor at the University of Potchefstroom

N Diederichs 1938-1942: Later State President

J C van Rooy 1942-1952

HB Thom 1952-1960: Later rector of the University of Stellenbosch

P J Meyer 1960-1972: Later chairman of the SABC board

A P Treurnicht 1972-1974: Later leader of the CP

G v N Viljoen 1974-1980: Currently minister

C Boshoff 1980-1983: Chairman of the AV

J P de Lange 1983: Former rector of RAU

This elitist organisation's membership list, of which a section was published in 1978, reads like an Afrikaner Who's Who. The great majority of National Party Members of Parliament and all Afrikaans-speaking members of the Cabinet are members of the Broederbond. The over 17 000 members are highly placed within their respective professions. Through its membership network the Broederbond is able to significantly influence the political process. Since 1948 every Prime Minister, all State Presidents and both executive State Presidents have been members of the AB.

Although the constitution of the AB excludes party politics from its activities, it has become clear over the years that the organisation does have significant political clout. Prior to 1948 the AB mostly concerned it-self with the promotion of the Afrikaner's cultural and economic interests. Numerous support organisations were established to broaden Afrikaner interests. These included the FAK, Voortrekkers and economic institutions such as the Reddingsdaadbond, Volkskas, Dagbreekpers and the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut. The Goudstad Teachers' Training College, RAU, and University of Port Elizabeth were established as a result of the AB's direct involvement. After the NP came to power, the Broederbond's political role was expanded. It was increasingly used as a "think tank" and subsequently as "legitimator" of new policy directions undertaken by the NP.

The Afrikaner's cultural and economic interests are also directly promoted by the Broederbond. It not only dedicates itself to establishing organisations and institutions at a national level, but makes it its business to appoint, promote and protect the "right man". An important strategy is that of gaining control of school committees, school boards, church councils and boards of directors in order to achieve its aims.

Tensions within party politics have affected the AB. With the breakaway of the HNP in 1969, and of the conservative faction within the NP leading to the formation of the CP in 1982, dissatisfaction with the pro-NP political nature of the AB became apparent. Although members of these two political parties were not intentionally forced out of the AB, the political climate made their continued membership practically impossible.

During the Vorster era the AB played a significant role in determining the NP's racial, sport and foreign policies. The organisation was used by Vorster to subdue conservative reactions within Afrikaner ranks against new policy directions. Information was confidentially passed on to the AB's executive council to create the right "political climate" for policy changes. When Angola was invaded, for example, the executive council of the AB was kept informed while Parliament did not enjoy the same confidence. Some of the most important initiatives to establish the tricameral parliamentary system were taken by the AB.

During the Botha era there was a slight estrangement between the AB and the highest authority in the land. The election of arch-conservative Professor Carel Boshoff as chairman in 198o did not improve the relation-ship between Botha and the AB. After dissension over Boshoff's leader-ship and his subsequent replacement by the present chairman, Pieter de Lange (former rector of RAU), in July 1983, relations between Botha and the AB improved somewhat.

Recent important policy initiatives have stemmed from the Broederbond. This breaking of new ground was possibly necessary because of the political dead end reached under Botha's leadership.

In 1986 a working document entitled "Basic political conditions for the continuing survival of the Afrikaner" was circulated among members. Important statements for discussion included:

All political groups must be involved in drawing up a new constitution, which by implication includes the ANC.

Blacks must be admitted to the highest level of government.

The Cabinet must be able to have a black majority.

A black must be able to become President.

Although an attempt would be made to protect minority rights, no guarantees could be built into a new constitution. The document put it as follows: "The above participation, and therefore powersharing, must be such that there is no domination of one group over another . . . It means that there can no longer be a white-entrenched government. But neither can there be a black-entrenched or Zulu-entrenched government, for example."

In 1989 the "Basic conditions" document was followed by a document entitled "Concept guidelines for political dialogue". The purpose of this was to build on its predecessor and to formulate specific constitutional guidelines. It was discussed in depth at branch and regional level. Experts in the field of political studies within the organisation were invited to ex-plain the different political dispensations. In some cases ministers and even the present State President were called upon to answer critical questions relating to the document.

During 1990 a further document, "'n Moontlike staatkundige model vir Suid-Afrika" ("A possible constitutional model for South Africa"), was released. According to press re-ports, this was formulated by the Broederbond, but in actual fact was the work of the Ruiterwag. It contained proposals for a possible constitutional model for South Africa and was presented to the Ministerial Committee on Negotiations of the Cabinet. The most important characteristic of the model was the proposal for a bicameral parliament, a lower house with a general voters' roll and an upper house with regional and group representation.

The extensive debates within the AB about possible constitutional models ensured that it was not caught unawares by the new direction taken by F W de Klerk. His close ties with the organisation (one of his confidants, Gerrit Viljoen, is a former chairman of the Broederbond) enable him to use the AB as a "political messenger" for the Afrikaner community in general. Whereas the Broederbond preceded the NP in the past, De Klerk has now synchronized

NP policy with the mainstream ideology within the AB. This symbiotic relationship between the NP and a chosen elite group of Afrikaners may be of great value to De Klerk during the transition from apartheid to a more democratic dispensation in South Africa.

Other organisations or institutions within the AB's sphere of influence include:

The Ruiterwag a totally secret organisation, created by the Broederbond in 1958 as a youth wing. Selected young, male Afrikaners under the age of 35 can become members of the organisation.

The Voortrekkers a movement launched in 1931 as counterpart to the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.

The Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge (FAK) a federation of cultural organisations created in 1929.

The Rapportryers this group was launched as counterpart to the Lions and Rotary organisations. The Rapportryers are often used for recruiting and screening potential members of the AB.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.