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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

South African Bureau for Racial Affairs (SABRA)

The South African Bureau for Racial Affairs was established in September 1948 at the initiative of the Afrikaner-Broederbond to provide an alternative to the liberal South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).

The organisation united those who provided academic justification for the apartheid policy, and National Party theoreticians. Their brief was to come up with an ideological underpinning for the NP's apartheid policy.

During the fifties, Sabra made an important contribution to the development of NP policy. A number of Sabra members also made a major contribution to the Tomlinson commission, which was planning a strategy for the development of the homelands. But the then Minister of "Native Affairs", Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, opposed the most significant recommendations of the commission. He even ordered that certain recommendations be scrapped and that the report should not be published in its entirety. According to Verwoerd, some of the commission members were too liberal in their approach. When he became Prime Minister in 1958 he launched a concerted effort via the Broederbond to "purify" Sabra. Subsequently Sabra became the intellectual power base of those NP members who supported a policy of "pure apartheid".

Sabra played a significant awareness and socialization role among Afrikaner youth. Numerous pro-grammes, conferences and lectures were offered at schools and universities. There was close cooperation between Sabra, the churches and Afrikaner cultural organisations. This network of programmes was largely developed and coordinated by the Afrikaner-Broederbond. In the early seventies Sabra, under the leadership of Dr Gerrit Viljoen, developed the notion of separate parliaments for the different "national groups". The political struggle between the verkramptes (conservatives) and verligtes (enlightened Afrikaners) was evident in Sabra as well. From 1974, under the leadership of Professor Carel Boshoff, the organisation made a systematic shift away from NP influences. The verligtes in the NP and the Broederbond were unable to re-gain control of the organisation, since many of the more enlightened Nationalists were no longer prepared to be openly associated with Sabra.

Sabra devoted itself to the notion of a "white state". Project "Oranje" was launched in 1980 with the object of developing an area where no blacks lived. With Sabra's rejection of the concept of a tricameral parliament, the government finally broke with the organisation by withdrawing its state subsidy. Subsequently Sabra openly aligned itself with right-wing organisations such as the Conservative Party and the Afrikaner-Volkswag. It employs prominent right-wing academics such as Professor Hercules Booysen, to research the economic viability of different partition models for South Africa.

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.