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Chapter 3: The Broederbond

The character of the Nationalist Party underwent a considerable change during the years of wandering in the wilderness. It became more bitter, more exclusive, more aggressive - and it gained steadily in strength all the time It began to appreciate that politics could not be confined to the parliamentary arena, and devoted more and more attention to extra-parliamentary activities, not only in the political, but also in the social and economic spheres. Attention was paid to the all-round development of the Afrikaner people, to Church affairs and social welfare work among the growing army of poor Whites, to education and sport, to culture, trade and industry. The Nationalist forces were intensively active on all fronts. The work of a small number of well-organized and dedicated cadres brought about a complete transformation in the national scene.

Guiding force in the rebirth of this nationalist spirit was the Afrikaner Broederbond (Association of Brothers), a secret society which has gradually come to assume a dominant position in the affairs of the volk. The Broederbond was formed in 1918 and maintained an open existence until 1924, when it went underground and its affairs became largely a matter for conjecture. An elite organization, its membership was stated in 1944 to be 2,672, of whom 8-6 percent were public servants and 33-3 percent teachers. In 1952 the Rev. V. de Vos, who had broken away from the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk in 1944 and formed a Reconstituted Dutch Reformed Church because the N. G. Kerk, he alleged, was dominated by members of the Broederbond, gave the following breakdown of Broederbond membership: 357 clergymen, 2,039 teachers, 905 farmers, 159 lawyers, and 60 M.P.s. Today the membership of the Broederbond is estimated to be in the region of 7,000. Its general mode of operation has been to co-ordinate activities among Afrikaners and to ensure that Broeders are placed in key positions which can then be utilized for the advancement of the volk.

In an article that appeared in the Johannesburg Star on 12 October 1948, a former member of the Broederbond, L.J. du Plessis, described its early days of existence up to the time it went underground. He then wrote:

What happened since, I can only surmise when hearing of prominent members like Bosman becoming Manager of Volkskas(1) and Prof. L. J. du Plessis, Chairman; Erasmus, Secretary of the Transvaalse Onderwysers Vereniging;(2) Diederichs, Chief Organizer of the Reddingsdaadbond;(3) Albert Hertzog, 'protector' of the mineworkers; Rev. W. Nicol, Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church for three consecutive synods: Klopper, head of the Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuur Vereniging;(4) and last but not least Dr Verwoerd, Editor-in-Chief of Die Transvaler.

In an article in the Sunday Times on 8 March 1964 Mrs Janie Malherbe, wife of South Africa's war-time Director of Military Intelligence and herself a Captain in Military Intelligence during the war, described the forces which had been at work in the Broederbond during the thirties:

This terrifying, octopus-like grip on the South African way of life was made possible by reorganising the Broederbond on the pattern of Hitler's highly successful Nazi state, complete with fuehrer, gauleiters, group and cell leaders, spread in a sinister network over the whole of South Africa. This was initially planned by a high-ranking Nationalist and two Stellenbosch students who were sent to Germany, at Nazi expense, to study the Nazi cell system.

The man who planned this in consultation with the then Nationalist leader Dr Malan was Graf von Durckheim Montmartin.

The Nazi government had sent Montmartin to South Africa in 1934, ostensibly to attend an educational conference, but in reality, as was subsequently discovered from captured German documents, to consult secretly with Broederbond leaders, in order to foment a plan which would ensure that South Africa would side with Germany in the world war which Hitler was then already engineering.

Mrs Malherbe writes:

The immediate result of his visit was the reorganisation of the Nationalist Broederbond on the Nazi system, the main difference being that where Hitler re-invoked the rites of the German pagan Gods to promote his ideologies, the Nationalists' Broederbond declared that their plan of complete domination of white South Africa, and absolute subjugation of the non-whites, was an implementation of South Africa's 'God-given destiny'. This was a clever ruse, for by its means the powerful Dutch Reformed Churches could be roped in.

In the climate of opinion prevailing in the middle thirties, the pronouncements of the Broederbond became much more aggressive. In a circular issued by the Broederbond of 16 January 1934, the Chairman, Prof. J.C. van Rooy of Potchefstroom University, and the General Secretary, I.M. Lombard, wrote:

Let us focus attention on the fact that the primary consideration is: whether Afrikanerdom will reach its ultimate destiny of domination (baasskap) in South Africa. Brothers, our solution of South Africa's ailments is not whether one party or another shall obtain the whip hand, but that the Afrikaner-Broederbond shall govern South Africa.

Neither of the two leading Afrikaners of their day, General Hertzog or General Smuts, was considered eligible for membership of the Broederbond, for their policy of co-operation with the English-speaking section of the population was felt to be inimical to the interests of the Afrikaner nation. But Hertzog was well aware of the machinations of the Broederbond behind the scenes, and in a trenchant attack on the organization in a speech at Smithfield - reported in The Star of 7 November 1935 - he stigmatized the Broederbond as 'a grave menace to the rest and peace of our social community, even where it operates in the economic-cultural sphere'. Its members 'are sworn not to entertain any co-operation with the English-speaking population and thereby they stand in direct racial conflict with our fellow English Afrikaners, and are striving by way of domination on the part of the Afrikaans-speaking section to put their foot on the neck of English-speaking South Africa'.

Hertzog attacked Dr Malan for pursuing 'a course of national division and strife' through his opposition to fusion, and he claimed that this was due to Malan's having joined the Broederbond in 1934. In particular, he said, the Broederbond had acquired a dangerous hold over education in the Orange Free State. 'I know of few towns and villages in the Free State where the Broederbond has not established for itself a nest of five, six, or more Broeders to serve as a focal point for Bond propaganda, and I also know that there is hardly a single nest in which there isn't at least one teacher sitting as a hatcher.

In a speech at Victoria West one week later, Dr Malan replied to this attack. The essence of the Broederbond was, he admitted, that it should consist of Afrikaans-speaking Afrikaners alone, but he claimed that there were at that time as many U.P. Members of Parliament in it as Nationalists. 'The Broederbond is nothing more than a non-political Afrikaans society which, where it is necessary, will take action for Afrikaans interests and will positively help up the Afrikaner, just as there are many other societies, each in its own sphere.

He referred to Hertzog as a broken-down politician and renegade who was trying to whip up the race feeling of the English by making them afraid of Nationalist Afrikanerdom.

In 1944 General Smuts banned membership of the Broederbond to public servants, calling it 'a dangerous, cunning, political Fascist organization'.

Subsequent to Smuts's attack, I. M. Lombard wrote a series of articles for Die Transvaler (on 14, 20, and 30 December 1944, and 3 January 1945) in which he laid down the seven-fold ideal for which the Broederbond was striving: (I) the removal of everything in conflict with South Africa's full international independence; (2) the ending of the inferiority of the Afrikaans speaking and of their language in the organization of the State; (3) separation of all non-white races in South Africa, leaving them free to pursue independent development under the guardianship of the Whites; (4) putting a stop to the exploitation of the resources and population of South Africa by strangers, including the more intensive industrial development; (5) the rehabilitation of the farming community and the assurance of civilized self-support through work for all White citizens; (6) the nationalization of the money market and the systematic co-ordination of economic policies; (7) the Afrikanerization of public life and teaching and education in a Christian-National spirit, while leaving free the internal development of all sections in so far as it is not dangerous to the State.

'The Afrikaner Broederbond', declared Lombard, 'is born from a deep conviction that the Afrikaner nation has been planted in this country by God's hand and is destined to remain here as a nation with its own character and its own mission.'

As will be seen later, these aims of the Broederbond bear a striking resemblance to the notorious draft constitution for a future South African Republic which was drawn up by Nationalist-orientated organizations during the war and the basic principles of which have underlain the policy and actions of the Nationalist Party ever since it came to power in 1948.

Controversy over the Broederbond continued to rage, and in 1949 the Dutch Reformed Church Council decided to conduct an investigation. The committee that was entrusted with the task came to the conclusion that the Broederbond was a healthy organization run on non-party political lines to further the interests of the Afrikaner nation. Among the subjects which had been discussed were immigration, usury, mother-tongue instruction, libraries-and the native question, which, it is the fond delusion of many South African parliamentarians, is a subject outside the confines of 'party politics'. Membership of the organization was open to Afrikaans-speaking Protestants of good character who regarded South Africa as their only fatherland. The names of members and the proceedings of the organization were secret, but anyone could reveal his membership if he pleased.

The report of the committee hardly satisfied the critics of the organization, for the Broederbond was supposed to be firmly in control of the Afrikaans churches, and would naturally have ensured a favourable verdict. The Minister of Lands in the Smuts government in 1946, Senator Conroy, spoke in Parliament of the 'hundreds of ministers of religion in the Dutch Reformed Church who had dragged politics into the Church' and claimed that ninety percent of the Afrikaans churches had been brought under the influence of the Broederbond.

It is known that at least sixty members of the Broederbond stood as Nationalist Party candidates in the 1948 elections, amongst them Dr Malan himself, Dr Diederichs (now Minister of Finance), Dr Donges (elected to be State President as from 31 May 1967, but prevented by a stroke from taking up office), Albert Hertzog, son of General Hertzog (later Minister of Posts and Telegraphs and of Health), Dr Jansen (later Governor-General), Prof. A.I. Malan, H.J. Klopper, and W.C. du Plessis. The last-named had been a senior official in the South African diplomatic service who was dismissed because he refused to resign from the Broederbond in terms of the order from General Smuts. He got his revenge in 1948, when he defeated General Smuts at Standerton in the general election which brought the Nationalists to power.

After becoming Prime Minister Dr Malan was pressed by the United Party opposition to investigate the affairs of the Broederbond, which was alleged to be ruling the nation from behind the scenes.

According to a report in the Cape Times on 7 September 1949, he said:

I belong to the Broederbond, and I have attended many of its meetings. All I can say to you is that all the matters which are discussed there are in the interests of the people. No enmity towards the other sections of the community has been apparent at any of these meetings I attended. No pressure is brought to bear on the government of the country from the Broederbond. I have always been able to discuss these matters of importance to all aspects of the life of the people and I have come away from these meetings feeling a better man than before.

He offered to conduct an inquiry into the Broederbond, provided that a similar inquiry was also conducted into the affairs of the Sons of England.

Considering the number of Cabinet Ministers who are Broeders, Malan's testimony is unimpressive. And in recent times members of the Nationalist Party itself have joined the critics of the Broederbond. After a political row culminating in a court case that rocked the Free State town of Dewetsdorp in 1962, four people described as 'prominent Nationalists' told the Sunday Times:

We are good, sincere, life-long, and convinced democratic Nationalists. As Nationalists of that order - the real substance of the party - we have come to share the view held by increasing thousands of our party members that the Broederbond secret society has become a menace to all that is most dear to the patriotic Nationalists and to the South African who loves his country.

In our view it has ceased to be Nationalist. It adopts the outrageous, insufferable attitude that it and its secret congregation are the cream of the Nationalist Party and we are the skimmed milk.

It skims the cream of benefit and privilege in our country while we, the true democratic and patriotic Nationalists, are in its cynical view merely here to ensure at election times that it is returned to power.

Here in this town and district the small coterie of Broederbonders, with their secret meetings, attempt to run our destinies. We, as the real Nationalists of South Africa, reject and refute them. (Sunday Times, 16 September 1962)

The Sunday Times won a reputation for itself in the succeeding months with a series of exposures of Broederbond activities, based on possession of apparently authentic Broederbond documents, photographs of which were published in its columns. These gave lists of Broederbond members, together with an analysis of their position in public life. They also demonstrated the methods used by the Broederbond in promoting its membership to key positions in State and local authorities.

Alarmed by the continuing exposures, the government circulated the notion that Broederbond offices or the homes of its officials had been broken into, and the documents stolen. But suspects found that they were being interrogated not by members of the police investigating an ordinary case of 'housebreaking and theft' (to use the phraseology of South African law), but by the security police. Questioned on this point, the Chief of Police said that the Head of the Security Branch had investigated the matter in the course of his duty as an ordinary policeman. He was contradicted, however, by his own Minister of Justice, Mr Vorster, who said that the alleged theft had security implications.

Eventually, in a sensational statement issued on 19 November 1963, the Rev. C.F. Beyers Naude, Director of the Christian Institute of Southern Africa and former Moderator of the Southern Transvaal Synod of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, announced that he was the source of the Broederbond documents. He disclosed that he had been a member of the Broederbond for twenty-two years until his resignation the previous March. He had been impelled to make his disclosure following an interrogation by the chief of the Security Police, Lt Col H.J. van den Bergh, in connexion with the alleged theft of the Broederbond documents.

The Rev. Beyers Naude, whose acts in founding and directing the non-racial and interdenominational Christian Institute had earned him the enmity of the Dutch Reformed Church hierarchy, said that he had shown the documents to a fellow theologian, who was not a member of the Broederbond, 'because I wanted his advice in choosing between two loyalties and about which I could not think clearly at the time. ... The documents, in my opinion, confirmed my personal deep concern that the Broederbond, contrary to the Scriptures, wants to use the Church of Christ to further its own interest'.

Unknown to him, said the Rev. Naude, his colleague had had photostats made of the documents and had handed them to a newspaper for publication.

The Rev. Naude attached to his statement a copy of his letter of resignation from the Broederbond, in which he expressed

very serious misgivings about some of the legislation, views and practices of the State and the Church which concern our relations with other population groups.

From the political standpoint, I wish to mention the Immorality Act, the Race Classification Act and the new Bantu Laws Amendment Bill, all of which contain stipulations that violate the demands of the Bible for neighbourly love, justice and mercy.

I also wish to mention the impossibility of implementing total apartheid without seriously endangering the existence of the Afrikanervolk as well as the injustice perpetrated on millions of non-Whites. ... The Broederbond creates a rift between minister and minister, church member and church member, Afrikaner and Afrikaner on matters where there should not be a rift between us.

Two days later Dr Albert Geyser, a Nederduitse Hervormde Kerk minister and at the time Professor of Divinity in the University of the Witwatersrand, disclosed that he was the person to whom the Rev. Beyers Naude had shown the documents. Formerly Professor of New Testament Theology at the University of Pretoria, Dr Geyser in 1962 had been convicted of heresy by a Synodal Commission of the N.H.K. because of his opposition to apartheid in the Church. Professor Geyser contested the Commission's findings in the Supreme Court, but before the evidence had been completed, a settlement was reached in terms of which the commission's findings were set aside, and Dr Geyser was reinstated as a minister of the Church.

In his statement on 20 November 1963, Dr Geyser said that he had decided to make the documents public because he wanted to frustrate the aims of the Broederbond. The documents showed unmistakably, he said, that the Broederbond was using the Church for political ends. 'My immediate observation was that these people were making the Church, which is the bride of Christ, a servant girl of politics.' Amid the public clamour raised by these revelations, the Leader of the Opposition, Sir de Villiers Graaff, in a speech on 30 November 1963 challenged the Prime Minister, Dr Verwoerd, to resign from the Broederbond, ' to demonstrate that he at least owes his first loyalty to the people of South Africa and not to a secret society'.

Graaff pressed his challenge again at the opening of the following session of Parliament in January 1964, when he moved a vote of no confidence in the Government. This time he succeeded in provoking Verwoerd to a reply.

Dismissing Graaff's challenge as 'stupid', Dr Verwoerd refused to resign from the Broederbond, of which he admitted to having been a member for twenty-five years. All sorts of organizations held secret discussions, including the Oppenheimer organization, he said. 'One's membership of any organization does not necessarily mean that one is more loyal to that organization than to one's own country. I deny that I cannot fulfil my duties as Prime Minister satisfactorily as a result of my membership of this organization.'

However, said Dr Verwoerd, to show his good faith, and also to test that of the Opposition, he would agree to appoint an inquiry provided that it also investigated in addition to the Broederbond, the affairs of the Freemasons and the Sons of England.

Possibly Dr Verwoerd thought that the Opposition would be reluctant to accept such conditions, or that the Freemasons and the Sons of England might refuse to subject themselves to an inquiry. But on 27 April 1964 Sir de Villiers Graaff announced 'amid cheers from Opposition benches' that he was in a position to accept the Prime Minister's offer. Though he had no complaint against the Freemasons or the Sons of England, if this was the only way to get the Broederbond investigated he would agree to their inclusion in the inquiry.

On 9 July 1964 Dr Verwoerd announced that he had appointed Mr Justice D. H. Botha of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court to conduct the inquiry. The hearings would be in secret, and the terms of reference stated that the commission should investigate whether any of the organizations were guilty of treason, subversion, or nepotism; improper influence in the public service or on Cabinet Ministers or officials of state; efforts to damage relations between English- and Afrikaans-speaking people; 'undermining the morals, customs and way of life of the people of South Africa'; and a number of similar offences.

Dr Verwoerd told the House of Assembly that he had failed to get the approval of the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment of the Commission, and in a statement issued on the same day Sir de Villiers Graaff explained that he rejected the commission 'because it amounts to a secret inquiry into a secret organization', with terms of reference so 'extravagant' that 'they seem to ensure that a verdict of not guilty will be returned'.

Sir de Villiers said: 'I have the highest regard for the appeal judge who has been appointed, but it should be remembered that he will not be sitting in a court. It appears that he will be detective, inquisitor, advocate and judge at the same time.' The Commission would not have the 'manifest appearance of justice', and the Opposition would not cooperate with it.

On 4 March 1965 the report of the Commission was tabled in the House of Assembly. It freely exculpated the three organizations of all the charges covered in the terms of reference.

The judge described the Broederbond as a national and not a political organization, and said its aims were: 'the attainment of a healthy and progressive unanimity among all Afrikaners who strive for the welfare of the Afrikaner people, the kindling of national self-awareness in the Afrikaner, and the instillment of a love for his language, religion, traditions, country and people; and the promotion of all the interests of the Afrikaner people.'

The judge said that the Bond had a membership of 6,768, divided in 473 divisions. 'Its highest authority is an annual congress (Bondsraad), and its highest executive authority is a 15 member Executive Committee.' Membership was restricted to Protestant Afrikaner men over twenty-five, who must belong to one of the three Dutch Reformed Churches, not be Freemasons, and have a clean character and firm principles. Candidates are chosen for membership and then invited to apply.

Exonerating the Broederbond of all the charges laid against it, the judge commented: 'Through its resistance to communism and other ideologies inimical to the nation, the Bond has already done much to steel the will of the people to fight for its survival with all the means at its disposal.' Asked to comment on the report, Sir de Villiers Graaff said it was of little interest or significance to him or his party.

But the findings, even in the circumstances under which the inquiry was held, clearly indicate that the Broederbond is a secret, sectional organisation, whose membership is confined to Afrikaners belonging to one of three Afrikaans Churches, and an organization which is dedicated to the promotion of the interests of the Afrikaner and makes representations to the Government on matters in which it is interested.

Though the judge did not specifically say so, his own report and the history of the organization leave little doubt that the Broederbond has been and still is one of the main driving forces behind the Nationalist Party. The cares and power of office may have diminished the attention which leading Nationalists have been able to devote to the organization, but it remains a fact that most leading Nationalists are Broeders. So are the editors of most Nationalist newspapers, and the officials of the Afrikaner cultural societies, charitable associations, teachers' organizations, and financial institutions. The chairman of the Broederbond, Dr Piet Meyer, is chairman of the Board of Governors of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which the Nationalist government openly claims as its strongest weapon against the ' lies and slanders' of the English press. The general secretary of the Broederbond, Dr Piet Koornhof, was appointed a member of the Johannesburg Advisory Panel of the S.A.B.C. in 1963 and is now M.P. for Primrose.

Under the influence of the Broederbond, Afrikaners have been encouraged to withdraw everywhere from organizations in which they mixed with the English-speaking, and to establish their own organizations run on their own lines instead. Where this was impossible, a Broederbond circular of 1ŠAugust 1962 stated: ' We must do everything in our power to persuade English-speaking people to cooperate with us on the basis of the principles of the National Party.... We should constantly be on guard that this does not result in the Afrikaner becoming more Anglicized as the English-speaking person is Afrikanerized.... It is not they who must assimilate us in their circles, but we who must assimilate them in our circles.'

True, the segregation of the Afrikaners in separate cultural organizations has a long background and, with the Kerk as its fulcrum, has been a prominent feature of Afrikaner national development ever since the nineteenth century. The S.A. Akademie voor Taal, Lettere en Kuns, was formed in 1909, the Afrikaanse Christelike Vrouevereniging in 1902, the first of the Afrikaner economic organizations (Die Burger, SAS bank, K.W.V., the winegrowers' cooperative and the burial society A.V.B.O.B., and so on) in the period 1915 to 1921. But the Broederbond gave this whole process of separatism a new impetus and perspective. The Broederbond was directly responsible for the establishment in 1929 of the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuur Vereenigings (whose committee members in 1946 included Professor J.C. van Rooy as chairman and I.M. Lombard, both leading Broederbonders); the Reddingsdaadbond in 1939 (leading figure Dr Diederichs); the reform groups in the trade unions (leading figure, Dr Albert Hertzog); and the Ossewa Brandwag (led by Dr J. F. J. van Rensburg). In 1924 when the National Union of South African Students was formed it represented all students in all universities. It was partly the work of the Broederbond that it split in 1932, and the main body of Afrikaans students set up the rival Afrikaanse Nasionale Studentebond. Today parallel Afrikaans and English organizations exist in almost every sphere of life. The Voortrekkers are separate from the Scout movement, the Noodhulpliga from the St John's Ambulance, SABRA from the Institute of Race Relations. In the schools the Nationalist stands for mother-tongue instruction and separate schools for English- and Afrikaans-speaking children wherever possible. There are separate Afrikaans universities and teachers' organizations. The Chambers of Commerce and Industry are paralleled by the Afrikaner Handelsinstituut. Even in sport the Afrikaner has his volkspele and jukskei, from which the English-speaking are excluded, if not by regulation, at least by sentiment and tradition.

The Broederbond has thus sponsored a sort of spiritual Great Trek of the Afrikaners in the twentieth century, by which they have removed themselves from 'dangerous' contact with other elements of the population and withdrawn into cultural isolation. Once behind the wall, they have become easy victims of the Nationalist virus.

Perhaps this is the process described by Mr Justice Botha in his report as 'the attainment of a healthy and progressive unanimity among all Afrikaners ...'. By the non-Nationalist majority of South Africans, however, the workings of the Broederbond are regarded less favourably.

The Rand Daily Mail commented on the Broederbond report in a front-page editorial on 6 March 1965:

We repeat the view we expressed a year ago - namely, that the Broederbond is an arrogant, self-chosen elite, operating by stealth and intrigue, its early cultural aspirations swamped by neo-Fascist ideas on race and colour. It is a cancerous growth in the living body of South Africa and, as such, its influence is deadly.

There is no sign that opinions on either side have changed since that time.

1. A large and powerful bank.

2. Transvaal Teachers' Association.

3. lit. Rescue-work Society, an association originally dedicated to rescuing Afrikaners from poor Whiteism and subsequently devoted to building Afrikaner capitalism and attacking the trade unions.

4. Association for the Afrikaans Language and Culture.

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