The National Socialist Rebels and the Ossewabrandwag
Not frequently referred to in the Nazification of the Afrikaner right is Robey Leibbrandt’s own organisation for even more radicalised Afrikaners seeking more militant action than that offered by the Ossewabrandwag – the National Socialist Rebels.
So how did that come about? Simply put, when Robey Leibbrandt was put ashore in South Africa by the Nazi German state for ‘Operation Weissdorn’ he was under the impression that he was to meet with the Ossewabrandwag leadership and inform them that he was now the only legitimate leader of the Afrikaner nation and take over control of the Ossewabrandwag.
Such was his megalomania, thuggery and aggression that even the radio operator who was earmarked to come ashore with him refused to do so, citing fear for his life and remained on-board the yacht instead (the Captain and crew were also relieved to get rid of Leibbrandt such an annoyance he had become). Naturally when Leibbrandt was finally able to get to the leader of the Ossewabrandwag to inform him of the leadership change as specified by his German handlers, Dr Johannes (Hans) van Rensburg, the leader and Kommandant General of the Ossewabrandwag would have none of it and refused to recognise Robey Leibbrandt outright, a row broke out and the two became irreconcilable.
So, no matter, Robey Leibbrandt would find within the Ossewabrandwag supporters who staunchly followed National Socialism, start his own organisation and he would overcome the leadership crisis by getting them to swear alliance to him in person – in blood. Taking a leaf out of his hero’s book, Adolf Hitler who used a similar oath to get the German military establishment to swear sole allegiance to him as the sole and legitimate leader of the German Volk by name, so too did Robey Leibbrandt get his followers to swear allegiance to him as the only legitimate Afrikaner leader, by name.
The blood signature oath read as follows:
“I stand before God and swear this sacred oath that I, as an Afrikaner, will faithfully serve my Volk and Vaderland with my whole heart, body, soul and mind, along the lines indicated to me by the leader of the National Socialist Rebels in the person of Robey Leibbrandt and no one else, from now until death. The deep seriousness with which I recognise myself as a National Socialist Rebel finds expression in the blood with which I forever bind my person through the medium of my signature. I am nothing. My Volk is all. God be with us. The Vierkleur on High.”
Not to miss out on the legitimacy of Adolf Hitler as the supreme leader (can’t usurp the Führer), the blood oath also partly read as follows:
“All my fight and striving is for the freedom and independence of the Afrikaner people of South Africa and for the building up of a National Socialist State in accordance with the ideas of Adolf Hitler.”
The enemy of my enemy is my friend
Posing a significant threat to the Ossewabrandwag – both in terms of drawing members, ideology and in leadership and overall control of the Afrikaner right-wing, the Ossewabrandwag would engage the tried old philosophy of the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ and sell out the National Socialist Rebels and Robey Leibbrandt to the British. Yup, they used the British, their stated enemy, to get rid of them, and given the oath they only need to get rid of the leader.
According to Dr Garth Benneyworth, British Intelligence documents he uncovered in the British National Archives, whilst in the UK in 2005, revealed that Hans van Rensburg sold out Robey Leibbrandt’s base of operations to the British SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) who in turn tipped off General Jan Smuts, which in turn led to Leibbrandt’s capture by the Union of South Africa’s security forces on Christmas Eve, 1941.
Charged and found guilty of High Treason, Robey Leibbrandt was sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life in prison by General Jan Smuts, the South African premier, some sources say it was because Smuts and Leibbrandt’s father served together during the South African War (1899-1902) and Smuts had a high regard for Leibbrand’s Dad, other sources point to Smuts not wanting the blood of yet another Jopie Fourie martyr on his hands. In any event, when the National Party government came to power in 1948, Leibbrandt was officially pardoned and walked out a free man – much to the disgust of the hundreds of thousands of South African’s who had fought against Nazism during the war.
Now, for those out there who still believe the Ossewabrandwag was just a ‘cultural’ organisation, anti-British only, think of it this way – what if Johannes van Rensburg had abided the Nazi German requirement that Robey Leibbrandt, a pure Nazi thug, take control of the Ossewabrandwag and ultimately leadership of the Afrikaner right. What if he stepped aside? Could have happened, only it did not – but why?
The answer simply is both Robey Leibbrandt and Johannes van Rensburg where equally megalomanic – both admired Adolf Hitler, both admired National Socialism and both abided the ‘Blut und Boden’ principle and the ‘Führer’ principle, both had Stormjaers (Stormtroopers) as followers, both were Afrikaner Christian Nationalists, both were anti-Semitic, both were fierce anti-Communists, both were anti-British/Judaeo Capital, both had secret oaths and ceremonies and both were wired into the Nazi spy network directly supporting the Nazi war effort. The only difference; Leibbrandt was a thug and Dr Hans van Rensburg was a skilled politician.
It was always going to be bloody power struggle for sole dictatorship such is the nature of the National Socialist ideology (like Adolf Hitler – the ‘skilled politician’ exterminated Ernst Röhm – the ‘thug’) – and that’s exactly what happened – the Ossewabrandwag wanted Robey Leibbrandt dead (the inner circle of the Ossewabrandwag even issued the instruction for his ‘liquidation’) and no doubt Leibbrandt and the National Socialist Rebels wanted Dr Hans van Rensburg dead.
Written and researched by Peter Dickens
For more on the South African organisations flirting with Nazism, here are some easy links to previous Observation Posts;
So what does the 1938 Great Trek Centenary have in common with Sailor Malan’s returning war veterans anti-apartheid movement – The Torch Commando?
Well, it’s all in the name – ‘Steel Commando’ – so what is a Steel Commando and what the heck does it have to do with the famous 1938 Great Trek Centenary defining Afrikanerdom and Sailor Malan’s later ’Torch Commando’ in 1951.
So here’s the backdrop:
The 1938 Great Trek Centenary
In 1938, the Broederbond under the directive of its Chairman, Henning Klopper sought to use the centenary of Great Trek to unite the ‘Cape Afrikaners’ and the ‘Boere Afrikaners’ under the symbology of the Great trek. In this endeavour artificially creating a shared heritage. He started a Great Trek re-enactment with two Ox-Wagons in Cape Town and addressed the large crowd of 20,000 spectators by saying;
“We ask the entire Afrikanerdom to take part in the festival celebration in this spirit. We long that nothing shall hinder the Afrikaner people as a whole from taking part. This movement is born from the People; may the People carry it in their hearts all the way to Pretoria and Blood River. Let us build up a monument for Afrikaner hearts. May this simple trek bind together in love those Afrikaner hearts which do not yet beat together. We dedicate these wagons to our People and to our God.”
By that he hoped to combine the ‘Cape white Afrikaners’ with the ‘Boer white Afrikaners’ in the symbology of the Great Trek under a fabricated Nationalist ideal of Christian Nationalism – and only meant ‘White’ Afrikaners in the Broederbond’s definition of what constituted ‘Afrikanerdom’ and not really the Afrikaans speaking peoples as a ‘whole’ – certainly not the Coloured and Black Afrikaners. The Trek celebration would be pitched as an assertion of Afrikaner white power in South Africa and the Trek as the true path to a overall South African nationhood and identity and ignore the histories of everyone else – black and white – in creating a future South African identity.
In any event the trek re-enactment was very successful in re-aligning white Afrikaner identity under the Christian Nationalist ideal. In the end eight wagons from all around the country threaded their way to Pretoria to lay the cornerstone of the Voortrekker monument – in front of a crowd of 200,000 people. Whilst at the same time, four ox-wagons went to the site of the battle at Blood River for a commemoration service on the 16th December. The wagons stopping in countless towns and villages all around the country along the way to re-name street after street after one or another Voortrekker hero, and laying imprints of the wagons wheels in freshly laid cement at many halts (there are still ‘imprints’ at my hometown in Hermanus).
Images: Henning Klopper’s Ox-Wagons named – The ‘Piet Retief’ and the ‘Andries Pretorius, leave Cape Town from the foot of Jan van Riebeeck’s statue to commence the 1938 Centenary of The Great Trek.
The Broederbond had staggered onto the ideal way to ‘unify’ the Afrikaner – a round the country travelling carnival – from the cities to the platteland, on to far flung corners and everything in between. Henning Klopper himself amazed at the reaction and the success of it all – so much so he turned to divine intervention and called it a “sacred happening”.
A mere two short years after the Centenary Trek, South Africa was at war with Nazi Germany. Leading up to the war, the South African government was a ‘Fusion’ coalition party between the National Party under Prime Minister Barry Hertzog and General Jan Smuts’ South African Party as his deputy – in an entity called The United Party. The decision to go to war was won by Smuts and a majority vote. Hertzog, whose National Party was already splitting along more radical right lines with the advent of the ‘Pure’ National Party resigned and Smuts became the wartime Prime Minister.
Another one of the primary reasons for the National Party gravitating to radical right-wing lines was the Ox-wagon Great Trek Centennial of 1938. One of the wagon group’s leaders during the trek was Dr Johannes Van Rensburg, a lawyer who had served previously as National Party ‘Secretary of Justice’ in 1933 and was a part-time Union Defence Force officer – he had been to Germany in his capacity as Secretary and met both Hitler and Göring as well as other Nazi officials, he was deeply impressed with both the leadership and discipline offered by Nazism and became an admirer.
So, from the Centenary event in celebration of this coming together of Afrikaner identity under a white-only Afrikaner Nationalism came a cultural movement called the Ossewabrandwag (meaning Ox Wagon Sentinel or ‘Fire Watch’) – abbreviated OB – eventually led by Dr Johannes van Rensberg. Formed in 1938, the ‘Fire’ part of the OB name referred to the rapidly spreading “wildfire” of Christian Nationalism and ‘white’ Afrikanerdom set off by the 1938 Ox-Wagon Centenary Trek, eventually gaining about 250,000 – 300,000 members in total.
The Ossewabrandwag at the on-set was loosely associated to Dr D.F. Malan’s ‘Pure’ National Party. However so as not to tread on one another’s feet, the relationship between the Ossewabrandwag and National Party needed to be formalised. So Dr D.F. Malan met with OB leaders on the 29th October 1940 which resulted in declaration known as the ‘Cradock Protocol’. It specified the two operating spheres of the two respective organisations. They undertook not to meddle in each others affairs and the National Party endeavoured to work for white Afrikanerdom and Christian Nationalism in the “political” sphere while the OB would operate on the “cultural” front.
Images: Ossewabrandwag members on parade and taking a Nazi styled salute
Resigning from the Union Defence Force, when war was declared, Dr Johannes Van Rensburg moved to promote the edicts of Nazism in the OB and even directly support the Nazi Germany war effort-ordinating espionage activities for German submarines, the OB under his leadership also evolved away from being a mere ‘cultural movement’ forwarding Nationalist Afrikaner identity, to an active domestic para-military movement with strong Nazi convictions.
Dr Van Rensburg, having resigned as an officer in the Union Defence Force at the start of the war, had always professed been a National Socialist, and as an open admirer of Nazi Germany and Adolph Hitler, the ideas and rituals of membership of the OB had a distinctive Nazi leaning as a result.
Officially, the National Party – when under Hertzog and then under Dr D.F. Malan took the position of ‘neutrality’ as to South Africa’s wartime involvement, but in reality hundreds of thousands of Afrikaner Nationalists were joining openly pro-Nazi Germany movements like the Ossewabrandwag (OB) and its ‘Stormjaers’ (Storm Troopers) military wing, the Nazi Party of South Africa – the South African Christian National Socialist Movement (SANP), the National Socialist Rebels under Robey Leibbrandt, a Nazi Germany insurgent and the Nazi world expansionist order in South Africa – The New Order (NO) under Oswald Pirow who had served as a National Party Defence Minister under Hertzog.
The Steel Commando
The recruitment of white Afrikaners to volunteer for war service became paramount to Union’s Defence Force wartime objectives. On the other side of the Afrikaner coin stood Afrikaners like General Jan Smuts and Dr Ernest Malherbe, who had also been swept up in the enthusiasm of 1938 Great Trek Centenary and the establishment of a unified Afrikaner identity, but not buying into its underpinning Christian Nationalism ideology.
The Malherbe family, for example, being descendants of a French Huguenot and Afrikaners to their core had nothing in common with the Broederbond but had been caught up with all the Afrikanerdom of the 1938 Centenary Trek. At Blood River on 15 December, in the shade of one of the Centenary trek wagons, Dr Ernie Malherbe’s father-in-law, Dominee Paul Nel, baptised their daughter Betty-Jane with water from the Blood River.
When South Africa declared war, Dr Ernie Malherbe and a group of academics, notably Alfred Hoernle and Leo Marquard, persuaded General Smuts to set up, under Malherbe, a corps of information officers to counter subversion in the armed forces generated by the likes of the Ossewabrandwag and the Broederbond and to stimulate the Afrikaner troops and potential white Afrikaner recruits to consider what they were fighting for. Smuts then made Malherbe Director of Military Intelligence with the rank of Colonel. Henceforward South African propaganda which had just been focused on countering Nazi propaganda became much more positive and more South African in its orientation.
Images; World War 2 recruitment posters targeted at white Afrikaners – note the poster drawing on the ‘the road to South Africa’ commencing from The Battle of Blood River to the Boer War Commandos to the South African Union Army – the title “Still loyal to the path of South Africa” is a direct play on the 1938 Centennial Trek which the Broederbond pitched as “Die Pad van Suid-Afrika,” a symbolic ‘path’ to South Africa’s nationhood taken by the Voortrekkers. This poster attests that joining the Smuts appeal to war is the true path to nationhood.
Critical to Smuts’ call for volunteers to serve in combat regiments was the white Afrikaner nation (as ‘whites’ and ‘coloureds’ were only deemed eligible to carry firearms in the military per segregationist policies and not ‘blacks’). The Union’s Defence Force at the beginning of the war was woefully under strength. Simply put, without the white Afrikaners volunteering for war-time service, South Africa’s wartime commitments for combatants would be ineffectual.
Colonel Malherbe would take a leaf out of the Broederbond’s 1938 Centenary Trek used to ‘unify’ the Afrikaner – a round the country travelling carnival covering just about every town and village in the remotest areas. Only this time Colonel Malherbe intended that the travelling carnival ‘unify’ the Afrikaner behind Smuts’ call to arms to fight with Britain and France on the side of the Allies. He would use armoured cars instead of ox-wagons and his message was almost diametrically opposite to that of the Broederbonds’.
Colonel Malherbe would call his countrywide travelling carnival – The Steel Commando, added to this would be a propaganda and recruitment pamphlet dropping campaign from SAAF aircraft called the Air Commando. The Steel Commando would consist of vehicle to carry a full military band, various armoured cars and a truck converted into a mobile recruitment station. Critical to the Steel Commando would be a contingent of old Republican Boer War veterans (South African War 1899-1902) to give it a sense of ‘Afrikanerdom’ and ‘duty’ to South Africa. The term ‘Commando’ would be given to the convoy – solely because it resonated with old Republics ‘Kommandos’ of the Boer war and as a result had Afrikaner appeal. Isie Smuts (called ‘Ouma’), Jan Smuts’ wife and very popular amongst Afrikaners, young and old, was also positioned as a volksmoeder (people’s mother) a term originated in the Boer War and was initially drawn upon by Afrikaner nationalists to represent ‘the mother of the nation’ connected to the concentration camps – Isie Smuts would become a volksmoeder for the Union’s wartime cause comforting the Afrikaner men and women in uniform and the country’s ‘First Lady.’
This convoy would enter small rural and farming towns with the fanfare of the marching band ahead of it, flanked by the Boer War Republican veterans and the recruiting station behind.
Was it effective in capturing the Afrikaner hearts and minds as the Centenary Trek had been? The truthful answer is – yes. In all the South African standing forces in WW2 comprised 334,000 full-time and voluntary service personnel, 211,000 were White, 77,000 were Blacks and 46,000 were Coloureds and Indians. Of the 211,000 whites, 60% were estimated by Malherbe as being white ‘Afrikaners’ – 126,600 – the majority ethnic group in the South African Union’s Defence Force during World War 2.
To see the effect of a Steel Commando parade, this video outlines one addressed by Smuts as a demonstration of the achievements of recruitment is very telling – note the extensive use of Boer Commando veterans.
What the Steel Commando and Colonel Malherbe’s recruitment drive also did was literally spit the Afrikaner ‘hearts and minds’ in two, one half supporting the National Party’s call to neutrality or the Ossewabrandwag’s call to directly support Nazi Germany – and the other half of white ‘Afrikanerdom’ – supporting the ideals of Union between English and Afrikaans, General Smuts’ policies and the Allied war against Nazi Germany.
The dynamics behind the National Party’s accent to power without a majority vote in 1948 have been vastly researched but suffice it to say that for returning War Veterans from WW2, fighting against Nazism, the advent of a political party with numerous leaders who had been directly and/or indirectly flirting with Nazism during the war as a net result of organisations like the Ox Wagon Sentinel (Ossewabrandwag) and other Neo Nazi factions merging with The National Party was an abhorrent idea and an insult to the sacrifice of their comrades in arms.
The War Veteran’s Action Committee
The outrage to this and the implementation of the first Acts and Bills that would become ‘Apartheid’ would result in a merger of war veteran members of the Springbok Legion veteran’s association and war veterans predominant in the United Party’s political structures in April 1951 – the ‘War Veteran’s Action Committee WVAC (the WVAC was to eventually evolve into The Torch Commando) under the leadership of the charismatic war-time fighter ace – Sailor Malan, a veteran with Afrikaans heritage. Pains were taken to ensure the make-up of the WVAC was 50/50 English/Afrikaans.
The WVAC kicked off their mission with a protest at the Johannesburg Cenotaph on 21st April 1951 during a commemoration service – laying a coffin draped in the national flag as a symbol to depict the death of the Constitution. They ramped their protests up with three torchlight protests in Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Durban. At these protests, comprising over 30,000 people in total, a set of resolutions were ratified to take to Cape Town and present to Parliament. The resolutions basically were a warning to the government that the military veteran community would embark on a political struggle unless the National Party government resigns.
Steel Commando (version 2)
But how to whip up support for their cause, and how to whip up the planned mega-torchlight rally in Cape Town to hand over the demands? Here the WVAC took a leaf out of Colonel Malherbe’s Union Defence Force ‘Steel Commando’ recruitment drive. They would not even change the name, the WVAC’s ‘Steel Commando’ would be run along the same lines with military precision. All around the country from far flung places vehicles would converge with the Steel Commando and the Commando itself would drive through multiple towns and villages whipping up publicity and support.
The Steel Commando of the WVAC (Torch Commando) would, as a primary objective also look to recruit, all the Afrikaans war veterans who in their minds may have erroneously voted for the National Party in 1948 and call them back to Smuts’ more moderate politics. To this end, as Colonel Malherbe had done using Republican Boer War veterans, the WVAC would do exactly the same with their version of the Steel Commando and use the old Boer War Veterans. Kommandant Dolf de la Rey, a Boer War veteran whose Commando had been involved in capturing Winston Churchill and national hero was appointed to lead The Steel Commando with Sailor Malan as his 2nd in Command – two Afrikaner war heroes leading the convoy. They would also keep the term Commando when the WVAC formed ‘The Torch Commando’ later as a nod to Afrikaner heritage. Kommandant de la Rey was also affectionally given the term ‘Oom’ by the publicity machine to conjure up respect from the Afrikaner community. This sentiment can be seen in the newspaper reporting outlined as follows:
Of the Steel Commando trip to Cape Town, wrote one newspaper correspondent: “Cape Town staged a fantastic welcome” for Kmdt de la Rey and Group Captain Malan, he related the enthusiasm of the crowd to the same that liberation armies received in Europe. The Johannesburg Star said: “The Commando formed the most democratic contingent ever to march together in the Union. Civil servants found themselves alongside the colored men who swept the streets they were marching so proudly upon.”
“In the front jeep rode Oom Dolf de la Rey, a white-haired old Boer of seventy-four, who looked so startlingly like the late General Jan Smuts that people looked twice at him and then cheered wildly. Oom (Uncle Dolf) was the man who, as a young burgher on commando fifty years before, had captured Winston Churchill, then a war correspondent with the Imperial forces in South Africa.In the second jeep stood a younger man with tousled brown hair, his hazel eyes cold and angry, the man who had been the most famed fighter pilot in all the RAF — Adolph Gysbert Malan, known all over the world as Sailor. He was the real hero of the hour. The people tried to mob him. Men and women, white as well as brown, crowded round his jeep and stretched out their hands to touch him.”
Video: The Steel Commando on-route to Cape Town – note the use of Boer War Kommando veterans.
The ‘Steel Commando’ convoy gathered media attention and grew in size as it converged on Cape Town on the 28th May, a crowd of 4,000 greeted it as it converged in Somerset West before heading to Cape Town that evening. In Cape Town, the Steel Commando arrived to a packed crowd of protesters on The Grand Parade outside the City Hall of between 55,000 to 65,000 people – consisting of whites and coloureds, supporters and veterans alike (veterans were estimated at 10,000). Many holding burning torches as had now become the trademark of the movement. Spooked by it all the National Party were convinced that a military coup was on and as a precautionary measure placed manned machine gun positions around the rooftop of the nearby Houses of Parliament.
Sailor Malan was literally carried on shoulders by cheering crowds to give his speech. Joined by Dolf de la Rey and even future Afrikaner anti-apartheid activist and fellow war veteran Mattheus Uys Krige as well as the English speaking South African war-time soprano and heroine who led them in song – Perla Gibson. In Sailor Malan’s speech to the crowd famously accused the national party government at this rally of;
“Depriving us of our freedom, with a fascist arrogance that we have not experienced since Hitler and Mussolini met their fate”.
Images: Kommandant Dolf de la Rey and Group Captain Sailor Malan addressing crowds at the Steel Commando in Cape Town
Buoyed by the success of The Steel Commando, The Torch Commando would officially form and would in the course of time rise to 250,000 plus members – so if one asks – was The Steel Commando as successful as its original concept – the pre-war 1938 Ox-Wagon centennial staged by the Broederbond, and whose idea was drawn on by Colonel Malherbe for the Defence Forces’ Steel Commando’ wartime recruitment drive, the answer is yes, and here’s why;
The white population voting base in 1951 was estimated about 1,000,000 whites. 250,000 whites had polarised to Ossewabrandwag radically politically right on the back of the 1938 Great Trek ‘Ox Wagon’ Centennial .. and 250,000 whites had gravitated radically politically left on the back of The Torch Commando. Literally driving a dividing line between the white voting base (English and Afrikaans) – half in support of Apartheid and half against Apartheid.
It would also splinter the white Afrikaner voter base and the Broederbond’s attempt at a shared Afrikaner National identity, the majority would be swayed by Christian Nationalism as an ideology and keep the National Party in government on a slim margin, becoming more entrenched as the National Party engaged gerrymandering and jack-boot totalitarian politics going into the future – however a significant portion of white Afrikaners would remain ‘Smuts-men’ and resist Christian Nationalism for many years to come – they simply would not buy into the Broederbond’s initial tenants of bringing ‘Afrikanerdom’ under the singular banner of ‘white’ Afrikaner Nationalism and saw it for what it was – a corruption of Afrikaner history, exclusive, hateful and divisive.
The irony, all this fracturing would be caused by the same vehicle to ‘unify’ the white Afrikaner – a travelling carnival appealing directly to the hearts and minds of far flung rural white Afrikaners, initially conceived by the Broederbond to drive an Apartheid agenda starting in Cape Town and picked up in the end, a tad over a decade later, by the Torch Commando to drive an anti-Apartheid agenda – to the same far flung rural white Afrikaners and in a twist of fate ending up back where it all started – Cape Town.
What! No way, where are your meds .. everyone knows the first colonial power to colonise the Cape were the Dutch in 1652 ... not the British. We all have the history of Jan van Riebeeck and his five ships bravely making their way into Table Bay, a landing party of Dutch settlers carrying a Dutch Prinsenvlag (Prince Flag) coming ashore in peace and to trade with a smattering of local Khoikhoi (Hottentots), planting the flag and declaring the region as Dutch.
This painting by Charles Davidson Bell says it all, it depicts the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck, first Commander of the Cape, to Table Bay on the 6th April 1652. With the Dutch came a stoic religion and a civilising mind, set to colonise the region and establish a refreshment station, mainly for the Dutch East India Company’s trading ships passing the Cape.
South Africa’s epicentre of its civilising history had begun! The event burned into South African lore by the Nationalists, commemorated for decades and on countless bank notes, statues, emblems of state, the late national flag and postage stamps.
British – 1st attempt
The British were first! … What’s wrong with you? So, here’s a little inconvenient truth. and this next bit reminds me of the Eddie Izzard’s comedy sketch “do you have a flag”. The fact is the British colonised the Cape BEFORE the Dutch, in fact 30 odd years before … to quote Izzard “no flag no country” – huh! You lie! All true I’m afraid, read on.
The first flag to fly over the Cape in a colonising ceremony was NOT the Prinsenvlag, the first flag was that of King James the 1st of England and Scotland – the very first Union Jack (known then as the British Flag without the Ireland inclusion – Ireland was not part of the Union then). The flag was planted on Signal Hill in 1620 – long before the Dutch did it in 1652.
That’s how insanely biased the old Christian Nationalism Education policy was and how much the conscious narrative of the country’s history has become thanks to it. If you think I’m telling ‘Porkies’, look it up for yourself, 27 March 1620 – The HMS Unitie, one of three British ships, arrives in Table Bay from England, a small settlement had already existed there to furnish passing Spanish, British, Portuguese and Dutch traders. Two of the Commanders of these ships, Captain Humphrey Fitzherbert and Captain Andrew Shilling hoist the Union Jack on the slopes of Signal Hill calling it King James Mount and take possession of the entire countryside in the name of the British Monarch. Here they planned a plantation similar to that established by the Virginia Company at Jamestown. The settlement would have provided a revitalising stop on the way to the East for all the British trading ships, mainly the British East India Company.
But nothing came of the plan, it does not seem that King James the 1st acted on it, maybe he was too concerned with uniting England and Scotland at the time, who knows? What we do know is that the British left it to be settled by the Dutch, 32 years later. As historians we don’t really know what the British did with their Colony in intervening years between the two flag planting ceremonies, nobody has really studied it. We do however know it’s been ‘written out’ of the South African narrative – however the good news I can assure you there are now some serious historians ‘on the case’.
But, and this is a BIG but … neither the British, nor the Dutch can really lay claim to be the first European nation to plant a flag under Table mountain, or even the first people to start a trading station in Cape Town. The first European nation to set up trading posts at the Cape where the Portuguese. The truth is the ‘local’ Khoikhoi (the original inhabitants) were not too happy with them and saw them off in two famous instances. In 1503 (over 100 years before the British and the Dutch) Antonio de Saldanha, a Portuguese fleet commander, sailed into Table Bay and then disembarked to follow the freshwater stream to the foot of Table Mountain. During the visit, the Portuguese attempted to barter with the Khoikhoi. It failed and a group of Khoikhoi warriors ambushed the sailors wounding De Saldanha in process.
The Portuguese tried again in 1510 to colonise the Cape when Francis de Almeida the first viceroy of Portuguese Indies sailed into the Table Bay with a fleet in search of fresh water and trade. Some of his crew went to a nearby Khoikhoi settlement in the area around Salt River to trade for cattle and sheep. An armed conflict ensued. The sailors were driven back to their ships.
On hearing of the defeat de Almeida joined in with an armed expedition to deal with the Khoikhoi directly. The Portuguese force was overwhelmed and defeated, leaving 67 Portuguese sailors including de Almeida dead. These conflicts with the Khoikhoi ended any Portuguese aspirations around Table Bay and Colonising it.
As to laying a ‘claim’ the Portuguese did however erect stone crosses (padrão) at prominent points along the coast to proclaim sovereignty of the Portuguese realm by right of discovery. Dias erected his first cross on Dias Point (since renamed Lüderitzbucht in what is now Namibia),and at Kwaaihoek on the easternmost limit of Algoa Bay and on his return voyage at Buffels Bay near Cape Point.
As to the Khoikhoi, their history in the region goes back a very long way, Khoikhoi migrants reached the Western Cape and Overberg region and began settling it good and proper by 1100 CE (that’s 400 odd years before the Portuguese). Here’s a real fun bit and inconvenient to the traditional narrative of Dutch (or even the British) idea of ‘establishing’ a trading station at Cape Town, there was one there already – the Khoikhoi had already established one.
In 1600 (52 years before the Dutch and 20 years before the British) a small community of Khoikhoi established the port of ‘Camissa’ in Table Bay. The ‘Camissa’ meaning ‘sweet water for all’ people established their port near to what is now the Cape Town waterfront/foreshore. They were known to the passing European shipping by the Dutch term for them ‘Watermans’ (water people). From what can be gathered from ship records, this indigenous people’s port serviced over 1071 ships with fresh produce and other trade; Dutch, English, Danish, Portuguese and French shipping. Stay overs in the port are recoded as been about 3 weeks and even up to 9 months. The Camissa settlement and port was seized by the Dutch in 1652 and over the next eight years the Camissa people were forced out of the area, particularly after the first Dutch-Khoi war in 1659.
As to whether the Khoikhoi were favourable to the ‘benevolent’ Dutch taking over their land, think again. Unlike the rather benevolent painting of the first Dutch interactions with the Khoikhoi for trade, some rather serious disputes broke out over land ownership and livestock. This resulted in attacks and counter-attacks by both sides which were known as the Khoikhoi–Dutch Wars that ended in the eventual defeat of the Khoikhoi, and the destruction of their society. The First Khoikhoi-Dutch War took place from 1659 – 1660 and the second from 1673 – 1677.
At the end of these wars, a ‘peace treaty’ between the Dutch and Khoikhoi was drafted and ratified by a party of Dutch and defeated Khoikhoi at the newly established ‘Castle’ in Cape Town, and it would guarantee trading terms between the two antagonists in favour of the Dutch, the KhoiKhoi were to supply a free pre-fixed quota of livestock and farm produce to the Dutch annually and stop the theft (also read land dispute) from settler’s farms . Bound to these terms the ‘original’ inhabitants of the Cape literally ‘traded’ their way into irrelevance, the gradual assimilation into the ‘servant’ sub-culture and the Smallpox epidemic in 1713 saw the destruction and eventual disappearance of their society and culture. Their legacy and DNA can still be found in the modern day Cape Coloured community.
As to the British and the Dutch, and the swings between the two. Here’s another inconvenient truth to dispel the old Nationalist folklore of nasty British Imperial intentions in ‘their land’; the ‘British’ did not invade the Cape and snatch it from the ‘Dutch’ in 1806 – they attacked the ‘French’. Huh! On drugs again eh! … No, read on.
The British – 2nd and 3rd attempt
By the time the Napoleonic Wars kicked off in 1803, the ‘Dutch Cape Colony’ was not really Dutch anymore, it was under the control of the French. The Dutch had full sway in Southern Africa for 143 years but in early 1795 in Europe, intervention by the French Republic in the Netherlands region led to the downfall of the old Dutch Republic and it was replaced with a French vassal state called the Batavian Republic. The Batavian Republic, run by the French, comprised an amalgamation of what is now Belgium, Holland and bits of Germany.
The British were at war with the French and they took the opportunity to seize the Cape Colony from the Batavian Republic (read French). Two British invasions against the Batavian Republic in the Cape, the first in 1795 (settled by the Peace of Amins in 1802 and return of the Colony to the Batavian Republic) and the second in 1805 as part of the British campaign in the Napoleonic Wars. In July 1805 a British fleet was urgently despatched to the Cape, to forestall French troopships which Napoleon had send to reinforce his Batavian Republic garrison there. The arrival of the British led to a small but significant battle between the Batavian garrison and the British called the Battle of Blaauwberg on 8 January 1806.
Here’s a painting to commemorate it, the HMS Diadem at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope, by Thomas Whitcombe. What’s interesting about this, and to quote Eddie Izzard again “we stole entire countries with the cunning use of flags!” – it’s the same Union Jack without the Ireland inclusion that the HMS Unitie had when it arrived to colonise the place in 1620, although nobody bothered to commemorate that very first colonisation of the Cape with a painting.
The Batavian garrison lost the Battle of Blauuwberg and subsequent skirmishes, over 700 dead and wounded compared to the relatively light butchers bill for the British of about 200 dead and wounded. British victory at the Battle of Waterloo and the end of French Napoleonic era effectively ended Dutch and French aspirations in Southern Africa as Colonisers.
The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 and the Treaty of Paris 1814 to end the Napoleonic wars would see the British gain official control of the Cape Colony and also remunerate the Dutch for the retention of their ex-Colony (£6 million) along with favourable Dutch trading rights, with the exclusion of Dutch slave traders, from 15 June 1814 Dutch ships for the slave trade were no longer permitted in British ports.
This brings about another inconvenient truth, the British anti-slavery position in the Cape started well before their official abolition of slavery proclamation in the Cape Colony in 1834, and this was to have a marked impact and resentment of British rule by some of the local Dutch/French inhabitants in the region – kicking off the Great Trek in 1835, but that’s a story for a different day.
The British would then have absolute influence, and a bloody one at that, in the region for the next 142 years (the same time period as the Dutch) until 1948, and finally bowing out of all influence in 1961 when South Africa was declared a Republic by the National Party who then went on to withdraw it from the British Commonwealth of Nations completely.
Even though the European colonisation of the Cape can be evenly split 50/50 between British and Dutch in its time period – 300 odd years, we are still appraising things through an idea of ‘European history’, there’s evidence of discovery and trading by Chinese and Arabic explorers in Africa along the Indian Ocean coastline long before the Portuguese. The ‘European’ part of the story remains but a blimp in the actual historical timeline of human settlement in the Western Cape, at the end of the day the land belongs to the origin people’s the San and KhoiKhoi. As to ‘civilising’ – that depends on what you regard as a civilisation, the Khoikhoi had a system of communication, farming, animal husbandry, commerce, art, dance, music and laws by which their society was structured.
If anyone thinks they welcomed the Europeans to their lands .. history shows they did not. If you want to see that in a communication – go and look at the KhoiKhoi paintings in the Cederberg, here’s my photo – KhoiKhoi giving their fellow travellers advise as to dangerous and ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ European colonisers in the area.
Dangerous colonisers are depicted with guns above their heads – ‘bad’ colonisers in the area are painted upside down, ‘good’ are upright … many of them are upside down.
Written and Researched by Peter Dickens
Sources include the Cassima Museum, wikipedia, Day to Day Naval History of South Africa by Chris Bennett and The South African History Association (SAHA).
What I personally find rather funny is when everyone bangs on about Jan Smuts’ politics, when even Jan Smuts admitted that in his heart he was simply a botanist. It’s not an area people often associate with Smuts, but it’s central to understanding his philosophy of Holism, and therefore central to his political philosophy. Smuts himself often lamented that all he really wanted was to left alone and record the wonderment of our environment and our spiritual place in it.
Smuts loved, simply loved Botany, and at many points in his life would be off on this or that botanical excursion in Southern Africa. Central to Smuts’ view in Botany is grasses, not the pretty stuff, the simple grasses of the veldt. To Jan Smuts the grasses are the ‘origin’, the epicentre of the circle of life, the key that unlocks evolution and even creation. Simply explained the grasses nourish animals, other animals nourish on them, and when an animal dies it simply returns to the soil in some form or other and in turn nourishes the grasses.
Now, I’m sure there are Botanists all over going what about ‘water’, what about ‘gasses’, what about ‘insects’ and I’m sure Smuts would have loved the arguments, but I’m no botanist. I would however say Smuts’ love for grasses even brought him a little Botanical fame as he ‘discovered’ a grass.
Smuts Finger Grass
This is it, in 1924 Smuts, an amateur botanist, identified a group of Digitaria plants on his farm Doornkloof at Irene near Pretoria and brought this under the attention of Sydney Margaret Stent, a famous South African botanist. Stent’s main interest was grasses, and according to Smuts, this group of plants differed from other finger grasses in the area because of its acceptability by animals. Material collected from these plants brought upon a new species named after Jan Smuts called Digitaria smutsii. Or, as it simply is now known ‘Smuts Finger Grass’.
The grazing value of Digitaria smutsii became very popular in the early 1930’s under the influence of research done by Dr Pentz and Dr Pole-Evans. Although considered a new discovery in its time, much later on the grass was discovered to have the same properties to a previously discovered grass called Digitaria eriantha and in 1981 the botanical name of Smuts’ grass was changed to Digitaria eriantha cultivar Irene. It is still available for animal feed today.
Smuts summed up this love he had for Botany and grasses perfectly when he said “Myself, when young, loved nature rather than sport, and took to Botany as a hobby. Gradually I began to realise that the Family of Grasses was the most important of all, and did my best to become acquainted with that perhaps most difficult of all plant families. … it is one of the largest of all families in botany, and the flowers are mostly very small and insignificant, and often call for the use of lenses to distinguish them properly. No wonder that other easier, more gaudy and attractive families are preferred by botanical beginners. But once you take a little trouble … their attraction and their glory grow on you, until at last you surrender completely to their charm.”
This cycle of life bit is best explained in Smuts’ holism philosophy – all things are in a ‘whole’ (Holism) and inter-dependent on one another. Like animals and grasses are a cyclical ‘whole’, so to are human individuals dependent on another forming groupings or ‘wholes’ and these groupings work with other groupings to make up nation states – which become inter-dependent on other Nation States and ta dah! We have the United Nations – Jan Smuts’ ultimate political goal, and organisation he wrote the mission statement for, and it calls for political emancipation of all human beings and a bigger purpose, a more peaceful union of Nation States dependent on one another to progress the shared ideals of liberty and freedom. The fact that the United Nations today focusses a lot of its energy on climate change and the importance we as individuals and nations have in the protection of our fragile environment, this alone would have pleased Smuts no end.
No point trying to expose Smuts as a bad politician or give other politicians credit for one-upmanship over Smuts. Even Smuts admitted he was not great at politics, he left the ‘people skills’ needed for it to Louis Botha and willingly took a back seat, circumstances and fate would push him to the front again.
So, getting Smuts all bogged down in party political racism issues, or more bogged down in the Boer War, Martitz Revolt, Jopie Fourie, Rand Revolt and even Afrikaner Nationalism issues, is merely a rabbit hole, a diversion away from the big picture of what Jan Christiaan Smuts was really all about … the cycle of life and that cycle’s relationship with the human condition and mankind as a whole.
Don’t take my word for it on the oscillating relationship between botany, cycle of life and spiritualism, here’s Jan Smuts in his own words “… evolution is the gradual development and stratification of progressive series of wholes, stretching from the inorganic beginnings to the highest level of spiritual creation.”
The fact is, then and now, no Politician in South Africa, present and past, not one (Nelson Mandela included) – can hold a flame next to Smuts, and it is little wonder when Smuts died King George VI wrote to his wife Isie and said “the force of his intellect has enriched the wisdom of the whole human race“.
So often whenever Smuts is mentioned someone invariably accuses Smuts of selling out to the British Empire and furthermore accuses him of being a ‘puppet’ for the British monarch doing the deeds of Empire. So, here’s a fun proposition, Smuts was by no means a puppet of Empire in fact he destroyed the British Empire! ‘What the heck are you on’ comes the universal chorus, bold statement I know but here’s the reasoning, bear with me.
Like we bonked the concentration camp and Smuts issue on the head with a tree, I’m going to bonk this issue on the head with a small book.
A Century of Wrong
That Smuts was no fan of the British Empire is obvious to anyone studying Smuts, obvious because his sentiment and dislike of the British ‘Empire’ is found in a simple little book he wrote called ‘A Century of Wrong’, here’s my photo of it at the Smuts House museum in Irene.
A Century of Wrong was co-written by Jan Smuts and J. de Villiers Roos in Dutch. Smuts’ wife Isie, no academic slouch herself assisted in its translation to English and it was issued by the ZAR State Secretary, Francis William Reitz .. and it’s an outright critique of Britain, her ambitions as an Empire Builder worldwide and her ambitions and policies in Southern Africa. It was written and published before the South African War (1899-1902) to plead the Boer Republics case and to expose British Empire policy making as nothing more than a “spirit of jingoism” as Smuts put it. Smuts pulled no punches in exposing Britain’s empire policy, it’s a scathing criticism which denounces the British policy of empire building in Southern Africa. It shows British policy to be nothing more than jingoistic advancement with the aims of securing more mineral wealth for the empire builders.
Some researchers allude to a ‘Century of Wrong’ as being a bit of an embarrassment for Jan Smuts in his later dealings with the British and the British Monarchy whilst both a Minister and Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa. But I don’t believe Jan Smuts was embarrassed at all, his sentiments and critique on Empire were never really changed and it’s seen in Smuts’ next move on the matter, which happens after the Union of South Africa was declared in 1910.
During World War 1 in 1917, whilst Hertzog and the Nationalists called Smuts a ‘Afrikaner traitor’ and a ‘Reincarnation of Rhodes’, Smuts was invited to join the Imperial War Cabinet and attend the Imperial War Conference. With Smuts was his agenda to change the edicts of empire and on departure to Great Britain he said, “through our own efforts and sacrifice (the South West Africa and East African campaigns) we have secured a voice in the ultimate disposal of this sub-continent (Southern Africa).”
At the conference, the British made it known that they were not only concerned with how the war would be run, but also concerned with expanding their influence over the Empire. Smuts’ former Boer War enemy, Alfred Milner, now a MP was set on consolidating the Empire as a ‘federal imperium’ run centrally by the British Parliament and a singular Executive.
Smuts put forward an alternative to Milner’s proposal, he moved on a resolution which would recognise the Dominions as “autonomous nations of an Imperial Commonwealth” self-governing and in control of their own laws. He argued that any changes to this be dealt with at a separate congress after the war ended.
Smuts was set on independence and transforming British Imperialism ‘from the inside’ and looked to a post WW1 new order. Whilst Smuts accepted the Empire’s roots as always been British, he argued on the principles which appealed to the highest aspirations of mankind, the principles of “freedom and equality”.
In a later address to both houses of the British Parliament, Smuts argued that “the Empire was not a state but a community of states and nations” and he went on to say “if we are not an Empire, why call ourselves one? Let us rather take the name of Commonwealth”.
Smuts’ argument won the day, he had come up with replacement to Empire and went on to say “the British Commonwealth of Nations does not stand for standardisation and denationalisation, but for a fuller, richer more varied life of all the nations which are composed of it” and his argument paved the way to the 1926 Imperial Conference, which secured the independent status of the Dominions and the establishment of ‘The British Commonwealth of Nations” to replace Empire.
1926 Imperial Conference
The outcome of the Imperial Conference was the 1926 Balfour Declaration which read Britain and its Dominions as “equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations”. The term Commonwealth was officially adopted to describe the community.
In a rather thick irony, as Prime Minister it would be Smuts’ chief detractor in WW1, none other than J.B.M. Hertzog who would replace Smuts and be the representative at the 1926 Imperial Conference along with King George V. Hertzog would ultimately turn pro ‘Commonwealth’ and it would split his National party over the issue of remaining a Dominion or whether to take Dr D.F. Malan and his breakaways position on South Africa, which was to become a Republic and then leave the Commonwealth.
During the Second World War, Smuts was again Prime Minister of South Africa having ousted Hertzog and the National Party. Smuts was paired with Winston Churchill as his confidant and advisor. Churchill was gleefully happy when he wrote to Smuts they were once again “together on Commando”, however whilst Churchill was busy giving speeches about the British Empire lasting a thousand years, Smuts was busy bending the new King’s ear, King George VI, on ‘The Commonwealth of Nations’ and the establishment of ‘The United Nations’. Both institutions concerned with a new world order based on human rights and equality of both individuals and nation states, and on 1 May 1944, Smuts was again in the pound seats and part of the very first ‘Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference’ alongside his ‘sidekick’ this time .. Winston Churchill.
If at this stage you may still think that Smuts, having been born under the banner of ‘Empire’ and knowing no different merely went with the flow of historic events, think again. Smuts in applying the concepts of Commonwealth and that of a United Nations is applying his personal philosophy, conceived many years ago whilst walking in the veldt as a young man, and it’s his philosophy of holism. Holism refers to an interdependency of things in a ‘whole’ and Smuts viewed nation states as no different, states are independent but dependent on one another to function as a whole – the Commonwealth of Nations is a whole, so too is The United Nations.
The 1926 Imperial Conference in turn resulted in the 1931 Statute of Westminster, which spelled the end of Empire and its replacement by an independent community of states called ‘the Commonwealth’, free to be associated with Great Britain and free to go.
This statute is the beginning of the end of British Colonialism in almost every sense of it. So, back to the emotive headline and my bold statement, proof positive … Jan Smuts, whilst working the problem from the ‘inside’, ultimately ended the British Empire, and in a sense, rather than been a ‘puppet’ of the British, Smuts proved himself to be the ultimate ‘puppet master’.
Written and Researched by Peter Dickens
References include – A Century of Wrong – Jan Smuts. Jan Smuts – Unafraid of Greatness – by Richard Steyn and Wikipedia.
My last blog covered The Broederbond, and unsurprisingly out came the OBB waving vocal few to tell me it was a vicious attack on Afrikandrdom, my urge to them to look at Afrikaans heroes like Field Marshal Jan Smuts and Colonel Ernst Maherbe conveniently (and predictively) glossed over. So here’s a fun fact … the white supremacist history sprouted by Dr D.F. Malan and his supporters is a bastardisation of Afrikaans history … there, I said it!
Not only are the proven sinister aims of the Broderbond’s purposeful bastardisation of this education and history plain to see in the public domain now, but there is also nothing that better represents this fact than this man – Kommandant Dolf de la Rey.
By 1950, two years into National Party rule, Dr Malan was beginning to flex his party’s electoral promise, and implementing Apartheid. Two predominant Afrikaners would have none of it, both of them very respected military veterans, for different reasons and in different wars. One Afrikaner was an old grizzly South African War 1899 – 1902 (Boer War) veteran, a Commando Commandant, the other one was a handsome Battle of Britain fighter ace, world famous after World War 2 (1939-1945), Group Captain Adolf ‘Sailor’ Malan.
Two proud Afrikaners on their way to lead a Torch Commando rally against the Nationalists in Cape Town in what was called a ‘steel commando’. Here’s the AP clip:
No small initiative either, The Torch Commando would become South Africa’s very first mass protest movement against Apartheid (the ANC’s Defiance campaign was to come a couple of years after the Torch). By ‘mass’ it was also by no means small – 250,000 members at its zenith, unparalleled at its time. The inconvenient truth to the modern ANC narrative – it was made up of mainly of ‘white’ returning service personnel.
Of the Steel Commando trip to Cape Town, wrote one newspaper correspondent: “Cape Town staged a fantastic welcome” for Kmdt de la Rey and Group Captain Malan, he related the enthusiasm of the crowd to the same that liberation armies received in Europe. The Johannesburg Star said: “The Commando formed the most democratic contingent ever to march together in the Union. Civil servants found themselves alongside the colored men who swept the streets they were marching so proudly upon.”
“In the front jeep rode Oom Dolf de la Rey, a white-haired old Boer of seventy-four, who looked so startlingly like the late General Jan Smuts that people looked twice at him and then cheered wildly. Oom (Uncle Dolf) was the man who, as a young burgher on commando fifty years before, had captured Winston Churchill, then a war correspondent with the Imperial forces in South Africa.In the second jeep stood a younger man with tousled brown hair, his hazel eyes cold and angry, the man who had been the most famed fighter pilot in all the RAF — Adolph Gysbert Malan, known all over the world as Sailor. He was the real hero of the hour. The people tried to mob him. Men and women, white as well as brown, crowded round his jeep and stretched out their hands to touch him”.
Sailor Malan had even gone as far as warning the National Party and its Apartheid policy that they would meet the same ignominious end as Mussolini and Hitler, and warned that their intention was to implement a facist state and create ‘race hate’ as he put it. In hindsight his warning and prediction would prove right. During that rally in Cape Town, Dolf de la Rey took the microphone and laid into the National Party, as a respected Boer War vet he pulled no punches. Also, this is a inconvenient truth, Dolf de la Rey headed up an entire contingent of Boer War Afrikaner veterans who did not feel that removing Cape based black and ‘coloured’ votes from the voters roll and relegating them to secondary citizenship was a good idea, nor was it reflective of them as Afrikaners, and nor was it the ideals of freedom for they had fought for in the Boer War.
So, what did the Afrikaner ‘Pure’ National Party make of these two Afrikaners? They quickly sprung into gear positioning the Torch as a national threat attempting a violent overthrow. Quickly regarded as nothing but shameful rhetoric by the National Party’s official opposition – the United Party. So the Nats went further and started at the personalities of Malan and de la Rey, Malan was easy, he was the product of a Afrikaans father and English mother – he quickly became “the King’s poodle” and “an Afrikaner of a different kind” – not welcome in the Afrikaner laager. But, problem with ‘Oom Dolf’, here was a Afrikaner Boer War hero pure and applied, beyond the National Party’s criticism and reproach, so what did they do? .. They played on his ‘Oom’ status, dismissing him as a senile old man, paying nothing but lip service to him, positioning him as somehow irrelevant, a patronising .. Ja Oom!
The National Party would go onto banning the Torch Commando in effect using legislation in the form of the anti-Communist act to gag it and force all the senior officers and judges in it to resign. They would wipe out the legacy for the Torch from all things public, when Sailor Malan died they refused to allow any service personnel to attend his funeral in uniform, they even forbade the SAAF from laying a wreath – all official obituaries were changed to remove anything to do with The Torch. As for Kmdt de la Rey, simply cast away into obscurity, nothing in his obituary – nothing at all, nobody would be researching him and writing him into the folklore and history of the ‘2nd war of independence’ as they phrased it, nor has anyone written him into the anti-Nationalist narrative – that was reserved for ‘the King’s sell-outs’. The capture of Winston Churchill would be attributed to many others, Oom Dolf would be forgotten.
The National Party made it very clear, they did not want young impressionable Afrikaners making heroes of these two Afrikaners. They did everything to discredit Afrikaners who stood against them and even engaged The Broederbond and its influence over the Church and Schools to blind an entire nation on historic ideals which were at best shaky. It would all ultimately drag good liberated Afrikaners, real heroes into the dark morass called ‘Apartheid’.
It is now our job to start highlighting these men and correcting the narrative when it comes to the rich tapestry of Afrikaners against Apartheid, people like Dolf de la Rey, and you’ll find them in the most amazing and unexpected places, and let’s face it – this is that what makes history interesting. Not the OBB and Vierkleur flag waving few still believing in the raft of Afrikaner nationalism fed to them by the Broederbond, still trying to call out anyone not agreeing with their views as been some sort of Anti-Afrikaner.
Written and researched by Peter Dickens
Reference: Sailor Malan fights his greatest Battle: Albert Flick 1952. Sailor Malan – Oliver Walker 1953. Associated Press – video footage of The Torch Commando.
So often, when posting anything on Jan Smuts we get a tirade of slander, often masked as some sort of ‘truth’, certainly to the belligerent group who find themselves in a vortex of anger whenever Smuts is mentioned, or for that matter the same belligerence occurs whenever there is a move to strike at the old National Party and call them out for what they where .. Nazis.
So where does this all stem from? I’ve interviewed people who recall the onset of all this Afrikaner Nationalist inspired history in the past decades under Apartheid. The general opinion .. whose making this stuff up? .. what the heck! Ideas like an empty hinterland rich for the Boer nations taking a legitimate claim to it, migrating black tribes from the north meeting a white tribe migrating from the south in the middle having never met before, small clans of brave Voortrekkers beating back entire armies of treasonous blacks with a holy bible and powder shot, a British inspired Nazi styled extermination camp system in South Africa, an evil traitorous Jan Smuts arranging the British firing squad for Jopie Fourie – where did all this rubbish come from?
In case someone thinks I’m being insensitive at this stage, I’m not, I’m not saying the concentration camp system as was outlined in the South African War 1899 to 1902 did not exist, nor am I saying that it was not painful and tragic – it did exist and its a very painful past, what I am saying is that the education that lies behind it has been shrouded in a very false and flawed package of Nationalist thinking. Here’s why – here’s ‘the smoking gun’:
The culprit for all of this is the Broederbond. There I said it, and I’m not trying to be some conspiracy theory nut job pointing towards a secret society for the world’s problems. No, this is a truth, based on a fact and a real life secret organisation with sinister goals. Here’s how the Broederbond ‘pulled the wool’ over everyones eyes in South Africa and manipulated the entire South African education system to their vicarious objectives, and in the long run successfully implemented ‘National Christian Education’ as the go-to framework for millions of South Africans, of all colours, then and to come in the future.
During Jan Smuts’ time as Prime Minister and the United Party in the pound seats, Smuts proposed the ‘dual medium’ education system – simple really in its idea, he wanted to bring Afrikaans speaking and English speaking coming together, sharing a common humanity and understanding each others cultures. The idea would be that certain subjects for English kids would be taught and written in Afrikaans and certain subjects for Afrikaans kids would be taught in English and examined in English. The classes and education would remain ‘separate’ but the playground would be a common area. The idea was that a natural cultural assimilation would eventually take root. The idea found favour in the thousands of Afrikaner and English service personnel during the war years with a 80% plus approval rating. At that stage in South Africa even in the old British ‘Regiments’ of the Union Defence Force it was becoming ‘good form’ for officers to be commanding and conversing in Afrikaans. Things were generally on the ‘up’.
Then, all of a sudden, the South African Military Intelligence Services started to pick up chatter, kids were returning home from school with concocted slander on Jan Smuts and the ruling party, false senses of national identity and incorrect historical interpretations, sheer hatred of all things British and extreme pro views on Nazism and the nobility of the German war effort, added to this were worrying views on Jewish capital and the Jewish exploitation in South Africa of ‘poor white Afrikaners’. It started up almost everywhere at once and it was ‘taught to them’.
Military intelligence swung into action in an attempt to find the root of all of this, this potentially posed a danger to South Africa’s war efforts. Early in the morning on the 13th December 1943 a small group of military intelligence officers infiltrated the Afrikaner Teachers Training College in Bloemfontein. They placed microphones and eavesdropped on an Afrikaner educationalists congress taking place in Bloemfontein – intelligence revealed it was a front for a Broederbond meeting intent on mapping South Africa’s future in the world of education. They traced vehicle registrations of many in attendance to known Broederbond members and highlighted Albert Hertzog, Nico Diederichs, Hendrick Verwoerd and Henning Klopper as the ringleaders (a line up of some significant heavy-weight National Party leaders).
What they took down whilst surveilling the meeting was nothing short of mind blowing, there was an intensive focus by the Broederbond on the country’s educators to dispel with Smuts’ policy and build both educators and the education system along Nationalist lines, to hit Smuts’ policy at the very basic and very weakest link – the children .. anti-Smuts and nationalist ideals would begin at a early developmental stage, such that the ‘education’ in National Christian dogma was ingrained by adulthood, an undeniable ‘fact’ would be fostered – people would simply know no better.
The investigation, led by the head of intelligence Colonel E.G. Malherbe, opened up more evidence over the years, a massive reservoir of intelligence, papers, transcripts, photographs began to grow – showing especially the Broederbond’s grip on the education systems and the reformed dutch churches. Netted in all this intelligence was also all the secret discussions, transcripts and alliances with Nazi Germany and the use of Nazi dogma in National Christian ideology.
They intercepted Broederbond correspondence calling for the infiltration on the Union Defence Force with aligned brothers from the Dutch Reformed Church to bolster the number of chaplains and start to undermine the war effort at the vulnerable point of dealing with soldiers religious frameworks
It was all presented to General Smuts by Colonel Malherbe with the recommendation to stamp out the Broederbond with immediate effect, cut it away before it really took root. Smuts , as was his nature, took a cautionary route when dealing with this Afrikaner faction. Malherbe asked Smuts to ‘name and shame’ publicly all the members of the Broederbond, warn the public on the influenced education their kids were receiving – issue a public notice in the press. Smuts decided instead to try and round up the ring-leaders and ring-fence them in Koffiefontein, he did not want all the reputable Dominees of the Afrikaans churches named and shamed as well as honourable men in the education and school board systems unduly battered in the media. He felt, much to Maherbe’s disillusionment with him, that a negotiated and moral influence on the matter would be best. He would however ‘ban’ any Brother working in a government job if he did not resign from the Broederbond – many did, and a handful stood firm. He had after all, what Malherbe would later say was “a soft spot for the church”.
The Broederbond in an unprecedented first came out in public and immediately started with the smoke and mirrors, the then Chair of the Bond Professor J.C. van Rooy declared in selected media that Smuts’ attack on the Broederbond as an unjust, unsubstantiated, unGodly attack on honest people in a simple ‘cultural society’ – nothing more. We now all know the aims of this ‘cultural society’ and it was State Capture .. on an epic level, it made the ANC’s attempt in recent years look like a child’s play .. why, the Nats got away with it, the ANC is yet to.
And if you think this program of Nationalist influence on our education small, think again. From the on-set of the historical discourse of the Afrikaner in Africa is a bias – at the very root of the Nationalist mythology, the simple fact that on the curriculum was the ‘discovery’ of a largely empty land and settlement of the Cape by the Dutch, a kind of ‘first rights’ to the country with Jan van Riebeeck nobly leading it. It begins with the famous painting of a benevolent bunch of Dutch settles carrying a Dutch Prinsenvlag (Prince Flag) coming in peace and trade – with a stoic religion and a civilising mind. Now, the fact is the British colonised the Cape BEFORE the Dutch, in fact 30 odd years before – huh! You Lie! Comes the chorus. So here’s some rather inconvenient truth.
The first flag to fly over the Cape was NOT the Prinsenvlag, the first flag was King James the 1st of England and Scotland – the Union Jack (known then as the British Flag without the Ireland inclusion). The flag was planted on Signal Hill in 1620 – long before the Dutch did it in 1652. That’s how insanely biased the National party narrative has become. If you think I’m telling ‘Porkies’, look it up for yourself, 27 March 1620 – The Unitie one of three British ships arrives in Table Bay from England, a small settlement had already existed there to furnish passing Spanish, British, Portuguese and Dutch traders. Two of the Commanders of these ships, Captain Humphrey Fitzherbert and Captain Andrew Shilling hoist the Union Jack on the slopes of Signal Hill calling it King James Mount and take possession of the entire countryside in the name of the British Monarch. Here they planned a plantation similar to that established by the Virginia Company at Jamestown. The settlement would have provided a revitalising stop on the way to the East but nothing came of the plan .. so what happens next? As historians we don’t really know, there is a conflicting account, we do however know it’s been ‘written out’ of the narrative – I can assure you there are now some serious historians ‘on the case’ now.
But the long and short is that the Cape was obviously left to the Dutch to also settle on the 6th April 1652, and even that is nothing but a footnote, it was neither the Dutch or the British that settled the Cape, it was the Khoi and San and as inconvenience goes there is proof of their farming and permanent settlements here which date back 2000 years … to the time of Christ – the Colonial period is but a ‘blip’ in the original peoples account of things. Bottom line, our understanding of our conjoint history of South Africa – white, black, Afrikaans, Coloured, Indian etc etc was off to a very bad start – the absolute beginning chapter 1 is so flawed you can drive a truck through it – the funny bit, this nationalist folklore made it onto our banknotes, into monuments, into textbooks and net net into our shared psyche as South Africans .. and its all not worth the paper its written on.
Left to their devises with their hatreds, bias and convoluted history, the Broerderbond carried on with influencing key institutions moving ‘brothers’ into key positions and pivots and pockets of power. Their activities given a massive boost in 1948 when the Nationalists unexpectedly won a General Election. Snapping up the opportunity to cover all their tracks, and distance the new government and many of its elected officials from their nazi ideologies and alignments during the war – they sprung into immediate action.
In July 1948, mere months after the National Party won the election, Colonel Malherbe’s successor Colonel Charles Powell (Colonel Malherbe was by the time the Vice Chancellor of the University of Natal), was sitting in the National Intelligence archive and in came none other than the National Party’s new head of Defence – F.C. Erasmus – who promptly dismissed Colonel Powell on the spot with a 24 hours notice. He then proceeded to remove “two lorries” worth of Broederbond documentation from the archive – never to be seen again. Formal complaints to the new Minister of Justice to reinstate the military intelligence archive were just ignored. Luckily and I mean luckily for us much of this was recorded in Malherbe’s book ‘Education in South Africa’.
Later, to the continued amazement of all, whenever there was a press conference and B.J Vorster taken to task on any of his Nazi or Broederbond past he would often smugly turn around to any young whippersnapper trying to set a record straight and simply say “prove it”.
Nothing like the art of deniability and the art of deception, the tragedy now is a ever growing and ever more deceived Afrikaner sub-culture, forever set to grind an imaginary sword against an imaginary injustice, and to forever come out and yell ‘veraaier’ and ‘Kings puppet’ at arguably the best of the Afrikaner nation – from Jan Smuts to Sailor Malan. Tragic, because its in these men, Smuts et al that the salvation of modern white Afrikaners lie, in the pro-democratic forward thinking Afrikaner ‘liberals’, the ones that fought Apartheid with every bone in their bodies – not their detractors, this little band of radical right wing nationalists and their ‘point of view’ on history needs to be left in the dust – or there is no moving on and all that white Afrikaners hold dear to their culture, language and heritage will ultimately be decimated in the march of time and the symbolism of Apartheid becomes intrinsically transfixed to Afrikaaners and Afrikanerdom as a whole.
Written and researched by Peter Dickens
Malherbe, Earnest G ‘Education in South Africa’ 1977 and ‘The Bilingual School’ 1945. The ‘White tribe of Africa’ David Harrison 1987. Day to Day history of the South African Navy – Chris Bennett.
Looking at this image I’m reminded of two things not known to many people about Smuts and Churchill and both are equally bad. That Winston Churchill invented some bizarre things, including the rather unflattering ‘siren suit’ and Jan Smuts as a family man, whose entire family would vanish whenever he got close to his automobile.
Taken on the 23rd August, 1942 in the gardens of the British Embassy, Cairo, this photo shows Winston Churchill in his infamous siren suit and wearing yet another odd hat. The small boy is Victor Lampson, the son of the British Ambassador to Egypt, who seems uncertain as to whether he wants to pose for Jan Smuts’ camera (seen in his left hand) as Churchill looks on in cheerful mood. Photo: Birmingham Mail and Post
Jan Smuts and automobiles
So, lets kick off with Jan Smuts’ ability to make his family collectively disappear whenever he proposed driving them somewhere in his car. Simply put, this Reformer, Prime Minister, Lawyer, Philosopher, Military Strategist and Botanist – with all his unsurpassed intelligence just could not get his great intellect around the simple idea of safely driving a modern automobile.
Smuts used to head off from his home in Irene, just outside Pretoria, with his grandchildren on the back seat of his car. Whilst driving along some or other interesting idea would enter his mind and he would take his hands off the steering wheel, turn around – taking his eyes off the road completely and address the kids on the back seat on the subject at hand. Much to the collective terror of everyone in the car except Smuts, the car would then veer off the road and careen into the veldt and fields until Smuts paid attention to it again and brought it back onto the road.
So whenever Smuts proposed going anywhere in the car, with him driving it, his family, in fear of their lives would suddenly make themselves very scarce. Clearly he was more comfortable riding a horse, which by all accounts during the Second Anglo-Boer War he was very good at.
Jan Smuts’ Cars – taken at the Smuts House Museum near Pretoria. The black car is his 1946 Cadillac which he used when he was Prime Minister. The other car looks like a 1948 Buick, photo thanks to Brian Parson.
Thank you to Philip Weyers, Jan Smuts’ great grandson, for that interesting insight into his family.
Winston Churchill and siren suits
As to another intellectual giant, Sir Winston Churchill, note Winston Churchill’s “siren suit” and wide-brimmed hat (he loved hats) which he used when resting to totter around the garden in, building walls, painting but he also unabashedly wore them meeting Presidents, Cabinet Ministers and Generals.
Similar in style to boiler suits or overalls worn by many workers including mechanics, brick layers and tank crews to protect their standard clothing, the ‘siren suit’ was a more upmarket version of a boiler suit and is said to be invented by Churchill as an original leisure suit in the 1930s.
Churchill played a large part in popularising his all-in-one suit as an item of clothing during World War 2, wearing it regularly, including when meeting other important people such as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Dwight Eisenhower and even Joseph Stalin.
During the Second World War it was marketed as a one-piece garment for the whole body which is easily put on or taken off, originally designed for use on the way to and whilst in air-raid shelters. The suit solved the problems of warmth and modesty encountered when seeking shelter during night-time air raids. It was said to be roomy and could be put on over night-clothes quickly when an imminent air raid was announced by the city’s warning sirens. Hence the term ‘Siren Suit’.
They are perhaps more commonly associated with pop starlets and reality television stars – but the true pioneer of the onesie was Winston Churchill. Photo Life Magazine
Winston Churchill had a number of these gormless ‘onesie’ siren suits, and some of them were even designed for him by the best tailors of his time – a pin stripe version which he wore during the war years and then for portraits was made by Oscar Nemon and Frank O. Salisbury. After the war in the 1950s another siren suit, made of bottle-green velvet, was created for him by Turnbull & Asser. It is also claimed that Austin Reed made a siren suit for him.
So there you have it, the awful ‘onesie’ was pioneered by Winston Churchill and Jan Smuts was an awful ‘driver’. For all the intellectual brilliance both these men represented, both men were just that – men, and they both had the usual flawed human traits and odd quirks.
We know that Jan Smuts around the world has a Kibbutz named after him in Israel, but did you know he also a Mountain named after him? This ‘mountain’ of a South African, with his love for Botany, Nature and Mountain hiking in addition to his credentials as Statesman, Philosopher, Reformer, Lawyer, Botanist and Warrior – also has his own Mountain – and its located in the Canadian Rockies.
It is for good reason that Smuts has a mountain in his name, he once said of his love for mountains when unveiling the Mountain Club War Memorial at Maclear’s Beacon on the summit of Table Mountain in 1923;
“The Mountain is not merely something eternally sublime. It has a great historical and spiritual meaning for us … From it came the Law, from it came the Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount. We may truly say that the highest religion is the Religion of the Mountain”
Canadian Rockies – Mount Smuts
A number of peaks in the Canadian Rockies in the vicinity of Kananaskis Lakes in Canada carry the names of Admirals, Generals and others directly related to the military during the two World Wars.
Mount Smuts is exceptional and very special as it was named after a Field Marshal and Prime Minister of South Africa who had a very special feeling for mountains. For this reason it was argued that Mount Smuts is a particularly appropriate name for a mountain peak, and this honour does not only extend to the mountain peak, the peak is located between the upper Spray River Valley and Smuts Creek Valley and the North buttress to Mount Smuts is also named Smuts Pass.
Mount Smuts is also not for the weak hearted, the mere mention of this peak is enough to make a serious mountain scrambler weak in the knees. This peak is debatably the most difficult scramble in the Canadian Rockies as it represents more of a mountain ascend than a scramble, many climbers attest its closer to an Alpine lower 5th class rated climb. For a fit climber the accent time takes 5 hours and the total trip time about 8 to 10 hours. The peak stands at 2940 meters.
View of Mount Smuts from Smuts Pass
The ‘Oubaas’ liked a challenge in his mountain scrambles – Smuts would disappear for hours on end with long treks in the wilderness and he climbed Table Mountain more than 70 times, even at the age of 70. There is no doubt Smuts would have sprung at the opportunity to climb Mount Smuts and disappear for a day to do it.
Holism and Mountains
Consider this when reviewing Smuts and his attraction to Mountains. As a young boy Jan Smuts had a mystical experience on the Riebeek-Kasteel mountain top (near the farm on which he was born in the Western Cape). He described it as a feeling of complete unity with all of nature around him.
Jan Smuts on Table Mountain, South Africa
Jan Smuts experienced his surrounding nature so intimately that it felt like an extension of himself. And yet he experienced at the same time a distinct sense of ‘self’. It was this idea of ‘transcendental self’ that was to form the base of his philosophy of holism. To Smuts, the ‘transcendental self’ was the tendency of nature to cohere into greater hierarchies of unified wholes. The holistic process would culminate in its fullest expression in the human personality. To this revelation on a mountain top Smuts once said:
“When I was young I saw a light, and I have followed that light ever since.”
His focus on unification of wholes led Smuts to reconcile the Boer and British nations after the bitterness of the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. It would cumulate in the Union of South Africa in 1910, to bring together the former Boer Republics of Transvaal (ZAR Republic) and Orange Free State into union with the former British Colonies of the Cape Colony and Natal. Smuts went further with holism and the unification of wholes when he advocated the transformation of the British Empire into a Commonwealth of self-governing Nations to King George VI (ending the ideals of ‘Empire’ – in fact Smuts coined the phrase ‘Commonwealth of nations’). This same philosophy of joining wholes led to the formation of the League of Nations after World War 1, and subsequently in the formation of the United Nations after World War 2. It was this simple ‘epiphany’ on a mountain top as a boy that ultimately led Smuts to draft he Preamble to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
To his ideals on mountains and holism, on the 25th February 1923 during the unveiling of a memorial to members of the Mountain Club who had fallen in the 1st World War (1914 -1918) on top of Table Mountain, Smuts gave a landmark speech titled ‘The Religion of the Mountain”, take the time to read it in full, it’s a lesson to humankind.
The Religion of the Mountain
Contemporary statue of Jan Smuts at the Company’s Garden, Cape Town
The Mountain is not merely something externally sublime. It has a great historical and spiritual meaning for us. It stands for us as the ladder of life. Nay, more, it is the great ladder of the soul, and in a curious way the source of religion. From it came the Law, from it came the Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount. We may truly say that the highest religion is the Religion of the Mountain.
What is that religion? When we reach the mountain summits we leave behind us all the things that weigh heavily down below on our body and our spirit. We leave behind a feeling of weakness and depression; we feel a new freedom, a great exhilaration, an exaltation of the body no less than of the spirit. We feel a great joy.
The Religion of the Mountain is in reality the religion of joy, of the release of the soul from the things that weigh it down and fill it with a sense of weariness, sorrow and defeat. The religion of joy realises the freedom of the soul, the soul’s kinship to the great creative spirit, and its dominance over all the things of sense. As the body has escaped from the over- weight and depression of the sea, so the soul must be released from all sense of weariness, weakness and depression arising from the fret, worry and friction of our daily lives. We must feel that we are above it all, that the soul is essentially free, and in freedom realises the joy of living. And when the feeling of lassitude and depression and the sense of defeat advances upon us, we must repel it, and maintain an equal and cheerful temper.
We must fill our daily lives with the spirit of joy and delight. We must carry this spirit into our daily lives and tasks. We must perform our work not grudgingly and as a burden imposed upon, but in a spirit of cheerfulness, goodwill and delight in it. Not only on the mountain summits of life, not only on the heights of success and achievement, but down in the deep valleys of drudgery, of anxiety and defeat, we must cultivate the great spirit of joyous freedom and upliftment of the soul.
We must practise the Religion of the Mountain down in the valleys also.
This may sound like a hard doctrine, and it may be that only after years of practise are we able to triumph in spirit over the things that weigh and drag us down. But it is the nature of the soul, as of all life, to rise, to overcome, and finally attain complete freedom and happiness. And if we consistently practise the Religion of the Mountain we must succeed in the end. To this great end Nature will co-operate with the soul.
The mountains uphold us and the stars beckon to us. The mountains of our lovely land will make a constant appeal to us to live the higher life of joy and freedom. Table Mountain, in particular, will preach this great gospel to the myriads of toilers in the valley below. And those who, whether members of the Mountain Club or not, make a habit of ascending her beautiful slopes in their free moments, will reap a rich reward not only in bodily health and strength, but also in an inner freedom and purity, in an habitual spirit of delight, which will be the crowning glory of their lives.
May I express the hope that in the years to come this memorial will draw myriads who live down below to breathe the purer air and become better men and women. Their spirits will join with those up here, and it will make us all purer and nobler in spirit and better citizens of the country.
Mount Smuts can be located at 50.8075N -115.387W for anyone wanting to find it – a Mountain which represents a man who was a mountain in his own right. He once said of holism;
“(Concerning) the principles of holism…in this universe we are all members of one another…selfishness is the grand refusal and denial of life.”
Reference, ‘Peakfinder’Your source of information on the Peaks of the Canadian Rockiesby Dave Birrell and Politics today – exploring Jan Smuts’ transformative ‘Religion of the Mountain’ by Claudius van Wyk. Photo credit ‘Our Journey’ Blog and Peakfinder. A special thanks to Rheiner Weitz who brought this to our attention.
It has been an interesting couple of days with some very quick ‘damage control’ public relations statements in response to The Sunday Times’ article on the University of Cambridge’s decision to remove Jan Smuts’ bust and portrait from its public spaces. The good news in all this media spin-doctoring – reason has prevailed and we are assured the portrait and bust of Jan Smuts will remain in public view in their original places.
The Sunday Times Newspaper in London published two articles on Sunday 5 August 2018. One by Sian Griffiths the Education Editor titled “Cambridge students topple bust of Britain’s wartime ally Jan Smuts” and this was followed up by a related article by Tony Allen-Mills titled “Fall of Boer hero Jan Smuts would have made Churchill squawk”. Sian Griffiths referenced her University of Cambridge source stating that “Cambridge confirmed both Smuts pieces had been moved”.
On Monday morning 6 August 2018 The Observation Post published a blog to the above effect titled “To the University of Cambridge’s eternal shame!”. By Monday afternoon the University of Cambridge was in damage control mode and quickly published a statement to the effect that the bust and portrait are to remain in place, spinning ‘fake news’ by the Sunday Times as the rally point in an article published by Rosie Bradbury titled “Fact check: Jan Smuts portrait and bust were not ‘toppled’ by Cambridge students” in ‘Varsity’ the University of Cambridge’s official news portal.
The University of Cambridge’s joint statement from Christ’s JCR President Grace Etheredge and JCR Vice-President Oliver Jones read “general consensus has been for portraits to remain”, but that historical context of controversial figures should be added outlining “the good and bad of what they did so as to not white wash college history”.
The movement of the portrait was explained by a washy statement which read “the portrait had been temporarily taken down a few years ago, but that the College had swapped it back again.”
They went on with their spin-doctor strategy to still paint Smuts in a poor light by stating; “Smuts publicly denigrated the black population of South Africa” – which is a baseless and unsupported comment. From a balance point of view, if Cambridge was accusing the Sunday Times of peddling falsehoods, they managed to peddle a falsehood in their response, which ironically would now discredit both Cambridge and the Sunday Times in our eyes.
Now, The Sunday Times is a very well-regarded newspaper, both Sian Griffiths and Tony-Allan Mills are very reputable journalists and to date The Sunday Times has not published a retraction and have stood by their articles and their journalists, and there is something to be said for that. It is also clear that the University of Cambridge went into counter measure and damage control mode against the backlash the articles created.
To make sure, the Observation Post approached the Smuts family for clarity, and we are assured that the portrait and bust are currently in their rightful place. We trust and hope that the University takes on board the very negative backlash from the broader community that it serves when considering removing portraits again and continues to be leader in history that it is and serves to honour the people who have served it – especially Jan Smuts.
In this we are glad that for the time being the University has avoided succumbing to the new trend to ‘Revolutionist history’ touted by far left radical ‘anti-colonial’ students. Finally – Reason has prevailed in what has been a sea of insanity, caused by a very violent counter-history movement in South Africa, the ripple effect of which is now spilling over to the Old Schools. We ‘doff’ our caps to the University of Cambridge for rectifying and/or maintaining its artworks of Jan Smuts, whichever way it may be.