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A Segregated Nation, A Segregated Nation

Official politics, black labor, German South-West Africa, British Union Jack, Afrikaans language

In 1914 General J. B. M. Hertzog founded the National Party (NP), which emphasized Afrikaner language and culture. It used as one of its slogans “South Africa First,” in contrast to the SAP, which appeared more strongly tied to the interests of the British Empire. Botha’s commitment to Britain in World War I increased Afrikaner resentment, and in the 1915 election the NP received relatively strong support. Botha himself led the South African forces that conquered German South-West Africa in 1915. This former German colony eventually became a League of Nations mandate under South African supervision in 1920.

While the SAP won the largest number of votes, it only controlled 54 seats in the parliament while the NP controlled 27. Botha was therefore forced to enter a coalition with the smaller Unionist Party in order to govern. After Botha died in 1919, he was succeeded by General Jan Christiaan Smuts.

Official politics in South Africa from the 1920s continued to be dominated by the conflicting positions of the two white groups. Hertzog and the NP insisted that reconciliation between Afrikaners and British be based on full equality between the two groups. His party therefore demanded that the Afrikaans language be given equal status with English, that the country have a separate flag, not the British Union Jack, and that South Africa have the right to secede from the British Empire.

In 1918 a secret organization known as the Broederbond (Afrikaans for “association of brothers”) was established to advance the Afrikaner cause and interests. This organization became a powerful vehicle for the preservation of Afrikaner language, culture, and traditions. Above all, its aim was to find ways for Afrikaners to attain positions of power throughout the society. The Broederbond was exclusively for Afrikaners who were over 25 years old, male, Protestant, and specially invited to join.

In 1921 leaders of the country’s gold-mining industry decided to replace white labor with black labor in an effort to cut costs. This move led to a major uprising in March 1922 called the Rand Revolt. Prime Minister Smuts declared martial law and used the military to contain the revolt. The revolt resulted in 200 dead. The real impact of the Rand Revolt came in 1924 when Hertzog’s NP, with the help of white labor, unseated Smuts at a time of rising black militancy. The result was the protection of white workers and the exclusion of blacks from managerial positions.

During the economic depression of the 1930s a coalition was formed, and Hertzog and Smuts became dual leaders of the new United Party. Britain’s declaration of war against Germany in 1939, however, split the coalition. Hertzog, who tried to keep South Africa neutral, was replaced as prime minister by Smuts, and the Union declared war on Germany on September 6, 1939, thereby entering World War II. Because of pro-German sentiment among Afrikaners, however, the Union did not quickly pass a draft law. All members of the Union’s armed forces were volunteers and their only combat action occurred in East and North Africa and Italy.

Article key phrases:

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