"Afrikaner" redirects here. For other uses, see Afrikaner (disambiguation).
Total population
c. 3.5 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
 South Africa 2,710,461 (2011)[2]
 Namibia 92,400 (2003)[3]
 Zambia ~41,000 (2006)[lower-alpha 1]
 Botswana ~20,000 (2010)[4]
 Swaziland ~13,000 (2006)[lower-alpha 1]
 Australia 5,079 (2011)[lower-alpha 2]
 New Zealand 1,197 (2013)[lower-alpha 3]
 Angola 500 (1958)[7]
 Argentina ~400 (1985)[8]

First language
Second or third language

Calvinism (Dutch Reformed  Dutch Reformed of Africa  Reformed  African Protestant  French Reformed)   Other Protestants  Roman Catholicism  Jewish 
Related ethnic groups

Afrikaners are a Southern African ethnic group descended from predominantly Dutch settlers first arriving in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.[9] They traditionally dominated South Africa's agriculture and politics prior to 1994.[10] Afrikaans, South Africa's third most widely spoken home language, is the mother tongue of Afrikaners and most Cape Coloureds.[10] It evolved from the Dutch vernacular[11][12] of South Holland, incorporating words brought from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Madagascar by slaves.[13] Afrikaners make up approximately 5.2% of the total South African population based on the number of white South Africans who speak Afrikaans as a first language in the South African National Census of 2011.[2][2]

The arrival of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama at Calicut in 1498 opened a gateway of free access to Asia from Western Europe around the Cape of Good Hope; however, it also necessitated the founding and safeguarding of trade stations in the East.[9] Very rapidly one European power followed another, all eager to trade along this route. The Portuguese landed in Mossel Bay in 1500, explored Table Bay two years later, and by 1510 had started raiding inland.[14] Shortly afterwards the Dutch Republic sent merchant vessels to India, and in 1602 founded the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company; VOC).[15] As the volume of traffic rounding the Cape increased, the Company recognised its natural harbour as an ideal watering point for the long voyage around Africa to the Orient and established a victualling station there in 1652.[9] VOC officials did not favour the permanent settlement of Europeans in their trading empire, although during the 140 years of Dutch rule many VOC servants retired or were discharged and remained as private citizens.[15] Furthermore, the exigencies of supplying local garrisons and passing fleets compelled the administration to confer free status upon employees and oblige them to become independent farmers.[16]

Encouraged by the success of this experiment, the Company extended free passage from 1685 to 1707 for Hollanders wishing to settle at the Cape.[16] In 1688 it sponsored the immigration of 200 French Huguenot refugees forced into exile by the Edict of Fontainebleau.[17] The terms under which the Huguenots agreed to immigrate were the same offered to other VOC subjects, including free passage and requisite farm equipment on credit. Prior attempts at cultivating vineyards or exploiting olive groves for fruit had been unsuccessful, and it was hoped that Huguenot colonists accustomed to Mediterranean agriculture could succeed where the Dutch had failed.[18] They were augmented by VOC soldiers returning from Asia, predominantly Germans channeled into Amsterdam by the Company's extensive recruitment network and thence overseas.[19][20] Despite their diverse nationalities, the colonists used a common language and adopted similar attitudes towards politics.[21] The attributes they shared came to serve as a basis for the evolution of Afrikaner identity and consciousness.[22]

Afrikaner nationalism has taken the form of political parties and secret societies such as the Broederbond in the twentieth century. In 1914 the National Party was formed to promote Afrikaner economic interests and sever South Africa's ties to the United Kingdom. Rising to prominence by winning the 1948 general elections, it has also been noted for enforcing a harsh policy of racial separation (apartheid) while simultaneously declaring South Africa a republic and withdrawing from the British Commonwealth.[10]


The term "Afrikaner" presently denotes the politically, culturally, and socially dominant group[23] among white South Africans, or the Afrikaans-speaking population of Dutch originalthough their original progenitors also included Flemish, French Huguenot, and German immigrants.[9] Historically, the terms "burgher" and "Boer" have both been used to describe white Afrikaans speakers as a group; neither is particularly objectionable but Afrikaner has been considered a more appropriate term.[10] The term was in common usage in both the Boer republics and the Cape Colony by the late nineteenth century.[24] At one time, burghers merely denoted Cape Dutch, settlers who were influential in the administration, able to participate in urban affairs, and did so regularly. Boers often referred to the settled European farmers or nomadic cattle herders. During the Batavian Republic, "burgher" was popularised among Dutch communities both at home and abroad as a popular revolutionary form of address, or citizen.[10] In South Africa, it remained in use as late as the Second Boer War.[25]

The first recorded instance of a colonist identifying as an "Afrikaner" occurred in March 1707, during a disturbance in Stellenbosch.[26] When the magistrate, Johannes Starrenburg, ordered an unruly crowd to desist, a white teenager named Hendrik Biebouw retorted, "Ik ben een Afrikaander - al slaat de landdrost mij dood, of al zetten hij mij in de tronk, ik zal, nog wil niet zwijgen!" ("I am an African - even if the magistrate were to beat me to death, or put me in jail, I shall not be, nor will I stay, silent!").[27] Biebouw was flogged for his insolence and later banished to Jakarta.[28]:22 It is believed that "Afrikaner" in question initially indicated Cape Coloureds or other groups claiming mixed ancestry. Biebouw himself had numerous half-caste siblings and may have identified with Coloureds socially.[26] However, this defiant secession from Dutch law and sovereignty was a leap towards defining another consciousness for white South Africa, suggesting for the first time a group identification with the Cape Colony rather than any ancestral homeland in Europe.[29] In 1902, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became the earliest English author to use "Africander" in reference to the Boers' eastward expansion from the Cape.[30]


1691 estimates

Increase of European families in the Cape by year[31][32]
Year Number
1657 - 1675
1675 - 1700
1700 - 1725
1725 - 1750
1750 - 1775
1775 - 1795

The Dutch East India Company did not wish to plant a European settlement at the Cape of Good Hope; until 1679 the only whites permitted to hold land were Company employees who were expected to produce by their own labour the commodities needed to provision passing ships. Nevertheless, after a futile attempt to recruit Khoikhoi slaves, Holland became convinced of the need to grant land to permanent settlers better motivated to raise crops and livestock for their own profit. Although the soil and climate in Cape Town was suitable for farming, willing immigrants were in short supply; the Company often secured orphans, refugees, or foreign exiles accordingly.[10] Beginning in 1685, Dutch orphan girls found themselves dispatched in small parties. They were swiftly joined by Huguenots, driven from France by the Edict of Fontainebleau, who had accepted free passage to Africa.[9]

South Africa's white population in 1691 may be regarded as the matrilineal Afrikaner parent stock, as no remarkable effort was made to secure more colonist families after 1688. Although some two-thirds of this figure were Hollanders, there were 150 Huguenots and a nearly equal number of Low German speakers identical in racial characteristics to the Dutch. Also represented were Swedes, Danes, and Belgians.[31]

White population in the Dutch Cape Colony, 1691[9]
Ancestry Percentage
Dutch 66.67%
German 14.29%
Scandinavian, Belgian 2.37%
Note - Figures do not include expatriate soldiers, sailors, or servants of the Company.

1754 estimates

In 1754, Cape governor Ryk Tulbagh conducted a census of his non-indigenous subjects. White free burghers, now outnumbered by slaves imported from West Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and the Dutch East Indies, only totaled about 6,000.[33]

1806 estimates

Following the defeat and collapse of the Dutch Republic during Joseph Souham's Flanders Campaign, William V, Prince of Orange escaped to the United Kingdom and appealed to the British to occupy his colonial possessions until he was restored. Holland's administration was never effectively reestablished; upon a new outbreak of hostilities with France expeditionary forces led by Sir David Baird, 1st Baronet finally imposed British rule for good when they defeated Cape governor Jan Willem Janssens in 1806.[10]

At the onset of Cape Town's annexation to the British Empire, the original Afrikaners numbered 26,720 - or 36% of the colony's population.[9]

White population in the British Cape Colony, 1806[34]
Ancestry Percentage
Dutch 50.0%
German 27.0%
French 17.0%
Scandinavian, Belgian, other 5.5%
Note - Figures do not include expatriate soldiers or officials from other British possessions.

1960 Census

The South African census of 1960 was the final census undertaken in the Union of South Africa. Ancestry of some 15,994,181 Union nationals was projected by various sources through sampling language, religion, and ethnicity. At least 1.6 million South Africans represented white Afrikaans speakers, or 10% of the total population. They also comprised 9.3% of the population in neighbouring South-West Africa. This suggested an intriguing 98% increase since 1806.[10]

2001 Census

The South African National Census of 2001 was the first census conducted in post-apartheid South Africa. It was calculated on 9 October. Around 8,288,145 South Africans reported wholly or partial European ancestry - roughly 2,576,184 of whom represented Afrikaners. 2001 census figures indicate that Afrikaner communities represented the eighth largest ethnolinguistic group in the country, or no more than 5.7% of the total population.[35]


Distribution of Afrikaans versus English as home language of white South Africans.
  87.5–100% Afrikaans
  75–87.5% Afrikaans
  62.5–75% Afrikaans
  50–62.5% Afrikaans
  50–62.5% English
  62.5–75% English
  75–87.5% English
  87.5–100% English

Afrikaners make up approximately 58% of South Africa's white segment, based on language used in the home. English speakers - an ethnically diverse group - account for closer to 37%.[10] As in Canada or the United States, most modern European immigrants elect to learn English and are likelier to identify with those descended from British colonials of the nineteenth century.[36] Aside from coastal pockets in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal they remain heavily outnumbered by those of Afrikaans origin.[37]

Percentage of Afrikaners among white South Africans by province[37]
Province Afrikaners % Afrikaners All whites
Eastern Cape149,39548.8%305,839
Free State214,02089.6%238,789
North West237,59889.0%266,884
Northern Cape93,63791.3%102,518
Western Cape461,52255.4%832,899

2011 Census

As of 2011, Afrikaners make up approximately 5.2% of the total South African population based on the number of white South Africans who speak Afrikaans as a first language in the South African National Census of 2011.[2]


Early settlement and colonisation

Painting of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck

The earliest Afrikaner communities in South Africa were formed at the Cape of Good Hope, mainly through the introduction of free Dutchmen, Huguenot refugees, and erstwhile servants of the Dutch East India Company.[9] During the early colonial period, Afrikaners were generally known as "Christians", "colonists", "emigrants", or ingezeetenen ("inhabitants"). Their concept of being rooted in Africa - as opposed to the Company's expatriate officialdom - did not find widespread expression until the late eighteenth century.[38]

It is to the ambitions of Prince Henry the Navigator that historians attribute the discovery of the Cape as a settling ground for Europeans.[9] In 1424 Henry and Fernando de Castro besieged the Canary Islands, under the impression that they might be of use to further Portuguese expeditions around Africa's coast.[14] Although this attempt was unsuccessful, Portugal's continued interest in the continent made possible the later voyages of Bartholomew Diaz in 1487 and Vasco de Gama ten years later. Diaz made known to the world a "Cape of Storms", rechristened "Good Hope" by John II.[9] As it was desirable to take formal possession of this territory the Portuguese erected a stone cross in Algoa Bay. Da Gama and his successors, however, did not take kindly to the notion, especially following a skirmish with the Khoikhoi in 1497, when one of his admirals was wounded.[14]

After the British East India Company was founded in 1599, London merchants began to take advantage of the route to India by the Cape. James Lancaster, who had visited Robben Island some years earlier, anchored in Table Bay in 1601.[14] By 1614 the British had planted a penal colony on the site, and in 1621 two Englishmen claimed Table Bay on behalf of King James I, but this action was not ratified. They eventually settled on Saint Helena as an alternative port of refuge.[9]

Due to the value of the spice trade between Europe and their outposts in the East Indies, Dutch ships began to call sporadically at the Cape in search of provisions after 1598.[10] In 1601 a Captain Paul van Corniden came ashore at St. Sebastion's Bay near Overberg. He discovered a small inlet which he named Vleesch Bay, after the cattle trade, and another Visch Bay after the abundance of fish. Not long afterwards, Admiral Joris van Speilbergen reported catching penguins and sheep on Robben Island.[14]

In 1648, Hollanders Leendert Jansz and Nicholas Proot had been shipwrecked in Table Bay and marooned for five months until picked up by a returning ship. During this period they established friendly relations with the locals, who sold them sheep, cattle, and vegetables. Both men presented a report advocating the Table valley as a fort and garden for the East India fleets.[9]

We say, therefore, that the Honourable Company, by the formation of a fort or redoubt, and also of a garden of such size as may be practicable or necessary at the above-mentioned Cabo de Boa Esperanza, upon a suitable spot in Table Valley, stationing there according to your pleasure sixty to seventy as well soldiers as sailors, and a few persons acquainted with gardening and horticulture, could raise, as well for the ships and people bound to India as for those returning thence, many kinds of fruit, as will hereafter be more particularly demonstrated.
Excerpt from Jansz and Proot's report.[14]

Under recommendation from Jan van Riebeeck, the Heeren XVII wasted no time in establishing a bastion at the Cape, and this the more hurriedly to preempt any further imperial maneuvers by Britain, France, or Portugal. The proposed Fort de Goede Hoop was to be an easily defensible refreshment station serving its ships plying the Indian Ocean. In extent it was to be kept as confined as possible to reduce administrative expense. Residents would associate amiably with the natives for the sake of livestock trade, but otherwise keep to themselves and their task of becoming self-sufficient.[38] However, in order to ensure the viability of the refreshment station, some employees of the Company were freed from their contracts (so-called vrijburgers or free citizens) and allowed to farm. Over time, the boundaries of the colony expanded. The arrival in 1688 of some French Huguenot refugees, who had fled to the Dutch colony to escape Roman Catholic religious persecution following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, increased the number of settlers. Some of the later colonists, such as German missionaries in the employ of the Company, and settlers from other parts of Europe (e.g. Scandinavia, Ireland and Scotland) were also incorporated into what became the Boers (Farmers) and Cape Dutch.

Many of the children born to European fathers, who had settled at the Cape in the 1650-1670s, had slave mothers: "three-quarters of children born to slave mothers had white fathers, during the first 20 years of European settlement".[39]

The pastoral Afrikaans-speakers who developed on the Cape frontier were called Boers (boer is the Dutch word for farmer). They have often been considered a slightly separate people from the Afrikaners.[40] The Boers of Trekboer descent who developed on the Cape frontier from the late 17th century are an anthropologically distinct group from the Afrikaners who developed in the southwestern Cape region[41] who were often known as the Cape Dutch.[42] As a direct result of the Union, a number of the traditions and values of the Boer minority were assimilated within a militant new Afrikaner nationalism.[43]


The mass migrations under British rule collectively known as the Great Trek proved pivotal for the preservation of Boer ethnic identity. The Boers founded a number of self-governing states that were independent of British colonial oversight.

In the 1830s and 1840s, an estimated 10,000 Boers, later referred to as Voortrekkers or "First Movers", migrated to the future Northern Cape, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal/Northern Interior provinces. They wanted to escape British rule and to preserve their religious conservatism. The Trek resulted in a cultural split between the Voortrekkers, later known as the Boers, and the Cape Afrikaners. These distinctions overlapped with economic differences, as the Trekkers generally had fewer material resources on the frontier than those who remained behind. During the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902, a number of Cape Afrikaners assisted the British in fighting against the Boers due to their long historical pro-colonial outlook.[44]

Weenen massacre: Zulus killed hundreds of Boer settlers (1838)

As important as the Trek was to the formation of Boer ethnic identity, so were the running conflicts with various indigenous groups along the way. One conflict central to the construction of Boer identity occurred with the Zulu in the area of present-day KwaZulu-Natal.

The Boers who entered Natal discovered that the land they wanted came under the authority of the Zulu King Dingane ka Senzangakhona, who ruled that part of what subsequently became KwaZulu-Natal. The British had a small port colony (the future Durban) there but were unable to seize the whole of area from the war-ready Zulus, and only kept to the Port of Natal. The Boers found the land safe from the British and sent an un-armed Boer land treaty delegation under Piet Retief on 6 February 1838, to negotiate with the Zulu King. The negotiations went well and a contract between Retief and Dingane was signed.

After the signing, Dingane's forces surprised and killed the members of the delegation; a large-scale massacre of the Boers followed. Zulu impis (regiments) attacked Boer encampments in the Drakensberg foothills at what was later called Blaauwkrans and Weenen, killing women and children along with men. (By contrast, in earlier conflicts the trekkers had experienced along the eastern Cape frontier, the Xhosa had refrained from harming women and children.)

A commando of 470 men arrived to help the settlers. On 16 December 1838, the Voortrekkers under the command of Andries Pretorius confronted about 10,000 Zulus at the prepared positions.[45] The Boers suffered three injuries without any fatalities. Due to the blood of 3,000 slain Zulus that stained the Ncome River, the conflict afterwards became known as the Battle of Blood River.

In present-day South Africa, 16 December remains a celebrated public holiday, initially called "Dingane's Day". After 1952, the holiday was officially named Day of the Covenant, changed to Day of the Vow in 1980 (Mackenzie 1999:69) and to Day of Reconciliation in 1994. The Boers saw their victory at the Battle of Blood River as evidence that they had found divine favour for their exodus from British rule.

Boer republics

Main article: Boer Republics
Boer guerrillas during the Second Boer War

After defeating the Zulu and the recovery of the treaty between Dingane and Retief, the Voortrekkers proclaimed the Natalia Republic. In 1843, Britain annexed Natal and many Boers trekked inwards again.

Due to the return of British rule, Boers fled to the frontiers to the north-west of the Drakensberg mountains, and onto the highveld of the Transvaal and Transoranje. These areas were mostly unoccupied due to conflicts in the course of the genocide Mfecane wars of the Zulus on the local Basuthu population who used it as summer grazing for their cattle. Some Boers ventured far beyond the present-day borders of South Africa, north as far as present-day Zambia and Angola. Others reached the Portuguese colony of Delagoa Bay, later called Lourenço Marques and subsequently Maputo – the capital of Mozambique.

The Boers created sovereign states in what is now South Africa: de Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (the South African Republic) and the Orange Free State were the most prominent and lasted the longest.

The discovery of goldfields awakened British interest in the Boer republics, and the two Boer Wars resulted: The First Boer War (1880–1881) and the Second Boer War (1899–1902). The Boers won the first war and retained their independence. The second ended with British victory and annexation of the Boer areas into the British colonies. The British employed scorched-earth tactics and held many Boers in concentration camps as a means to separate commandos from their source of shelter, food and supply. The strategy was employed effectively but an estimated 27,000 Boers (mainly women and children under sixteen) died in these camps from hunger and disease.

Post Boer War diaspora

In the 1890s, some Boers trekked into Mashonaland, where they were concentrated at the town of Enkeldoorn, now Chivhu.[46] After the second Boer War, more Boers left South Africa. Starting in 1902 to 1908 a large group of around 650 Afrikaners[47] emigrated to the Patagonia region of Argentina (most notably to the towns of Comodoro Rivadavia and Sarmiento),[48][49] choosing to settle there due to its similarity to the Karoo region of South Africa.[47]

Another group emigrated to British-ruled Kenya, from where most returned to South Africa during the 1930s as a result of warfare there amongst indigenous people. A third group, under the leadership of General Ben Viljoen, emigrated to Chihuahua in northern Mexico and to states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas in the south-western USA. Others migrated to other parts of Africa, including German East Africa (present day Tanzania, mostly near Arusha).[46]

A significant number of Afrikaners also went as "Dorsland Trekkers" to Angola, where a large group settled on the Huíla Plateau, in Humpata, and smaller communities on the Central Highlands.[50] They constituted a closed community which rejected integration as well as innovation, became impoverished in the course of several decades, and returned to South-West Africa and South Africa in waves.[51][52]

Afrikaner diaspora in Africa and the world.

A relatively large group of Boers settled in Kenya. The first wave of migrants consisted of individual families, followed by larger multiple-family treks.[46] Some had arrived by 1904, as documented by the caption of a newspaper photograph noting a tent town for "some of the early settlers from South Africa" on what became the campus of the University of Nairobi.[53] Probably the first to arrive was W.J. Van Breda (1903), followed by John de Waal and Frans Arnoldi at Nakuru (1906). Jannie De Beer's family resided at Athi River, while Ignatius Gouws resided at Solai.[46]

The second wave of migrants is exemplified by Jan Janse van Rensburg's trek. Janse van Rensburg left the Transvaal on an exploratory trip to British East Africa in 1906 from Lourenço Marques (then Portuguese), Mozambique. Janse van Rensburg was inspired by an earlier Boer migrant, Abraham Joubert, who had moved to Nairobi from Arusha in 1906, along with others. When Joubert visited the Transvaal that year, Janse van Rensburg met with him.[46] Sources disagree about whether Janse van Rensburg received guarantees for land from the Governor of the East Africa Protectorate, Sir James Hayes Sadler.[46]

On his return to the Transvaal, van Rensburg recruited about 280 Afrikaners (comprising either 47 or 60 families) to accompany him to British East Africa. On 9 July 1908 his party sailed in the chartered ship SS Windhuk from Lourenço Marques to Mombasa, from where they boarded a train for Nairobi. The party travelled by five trains to Nakuru.[54]

In 1911 the last of the large trek groups departed for Kenya, when some 60 families from the Orange Free State boarded the SS Skramstad in Durban under leadership of C.J. Cloete.[54] But migration dwindled, partly due to the British secretary of state's (then Lord Crewe) cash requirements for immigrants. When the British granted self-government to the former Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State in 1906 and 1907, respectively, the pressure for emigration decreased. A trickle of individual trekker families continued to migrate into the 1950s.[46]

A combination of factors spurred on Boer migration. Some, like Janse van Rensburg and Cloete, had collaborated with the British, or had surrendered during the Boer War.[46] These joiners and hensoppers ("hands-uppers") subsequently experienced hostility from other Afrikaners. Many migrants were extremely poor and had subsisted on others' property.[54] Collaborators tended to move to British East Africa, while those who had fought to the end (called bittereinders) initially preferred German South-West Africa.[46]

One of the best known Boer settlements in the British East Africa Protectorate became established at Eldoret, in the south west of what became known as Kenya in 1920. By 1934 some 700 Boers lived here, near the Uganda border.[55]

South-West Africa

With the onset of the First World War in 1914, the Allies asked the Union of South Africa to attack the German territory of South-West Africa, resulting in the South-West Africa Campaign (1914–1915). Armed forces under the leadership of General Louis Botha defeated the German forces, who were unable to put up much resistance to the overwhelming South African forces.

Boer women and children in British concentration camps

Many Boers, who had little love or respect for Britain, objected to the use of the "children from the concentration camps" to attack the anti-British Germans, resulting in the Maritz Rebellion of 1914, which was quickly quelled by the government forces.

Some Boers subsequently moved to South West Africa, which was administered by South Africa until its independence in 1990, after which the country adopted the name Namibia.


Scholars have traditionally considered Afrikaners to be a homogeneous population of Dutch ancestry, subject to a significant founder effect.[56] This simplistic viewpoint has been challenged by recent studies suggesting multiple uncertainties regarding the genetic composition of white South Africans at large and Afrikaners in particular.[56]

Afrikaners are descended, to varying degrees, from Dutch, Frisian, German, and French Huguenot immigrants, along with minor percentages of other Europeans and indigenous African peoples.[57][58] Although the Cape Colony was administered and initially settled by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), a number of foreigners also boarded ships in the Netherlands to settle there. Their numbers can be easily reconstructed from censuses of the Cape rather than passenger lists, taking into account VOC employees who later returned to Europe.[9] Some Europeans also arrived from elsewhere in Holland's sphere, especially German soldiers being discharged from colonial service.[59] As a result, by 1691 over a quarter of the white population of South Africa was not ethnically Dutch.[9] The number of permanent settlers of both sexes and all ages, according to figures available at the onset of British rule, numbered 26,720,[9] of whom 50% were Dutch, 27% German, 17% French, and 5.5% other blood.[34] This demographic breakdown of the community just prior to the end of the Dutch administration has been used in many subsequent studies to represent the ethnic makeup of modern Afrikaners, a practise criticised by contemporary academics such as Dr. Johannes Heese.[12] It is likely that the genetic representation of various European groups has reached equilibrium due to intermarriage.[56]

Based on his genealogical research of the period from 1657 to 1867, Dr. Johannes Heese in his study Die Herkoms van die Afrikaners estimated an average ethnic admixture for Afrikaners of 35.5% Dutch, 34.4% German, 13.9% French, 7.2% non-European, 2.6% British, 2.8% other European, and 3.6% unknown.[12][28]:18[60] Heese achieved this conclusion by recording all the wedding dates and number of children of each immigrant. He then divided the period between 1657 and 1867 into six thirty-year blocs, and working under the assumption that earlier colonists contributed more to the gene pool, multiplied each child's bloodline by 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, and 1 according to respective period.[56] Heese argued that previous studies wrongly classified some German progenitors as Dutch, although for the purposes of his own study he also reclassified a number of Danish and Russian progenitors as German.[31] Drawing heavily on Christoffel Coetzee de Villiers's Geslacht Register der Oude Kaapsche Familien, British historian George McCall Theal estimated an admixture of 67% Dutch, with a nearly equal contribution of roughly 17% from the Huguenots and Germans.[31][61]

The degree of intermixing among Afrikaners may be attributed to the unbalanced sex ratio which existed under Dutch governance.[62] Only a handful of VOC employees who sailed from the Netherlands were allowed to bring their families with them, and the Dutch never employed European women in a full-time capacity. Between 1657 and 1806 no more than 454 women arrived at the Cape, as compared to the 1,590 male colonists.[59] One of the most fundamental demographic consequences was that white South African women, much like their counterparts in colonial North America, began to marry much younger and consequently bear more children than Western Europeans.[62] Another was the astonishingly high occurrence of inter-family marriages from the matrilineal aspect. These were reinforced by the familial interdependence of the Cape's credit and mortgage obligations.[62] Afrikaner families thus became larger in size, more interconnected, and clannish than those of any other colonial establishment in the world.[62] Some of the more common Afrikaner surnames include Botha, Pretorius and van der Merwe.[63] As in other cases where the establishment of a population group has been propagated by many of the same progenitors and their children, Afrikaners have also experienced a dramatic increase in the frequency of some otherwise rare deleterious ailments, including Variegate porphyria.[56]

Black Afrikaners

Approximately 100 black families who identify as Afrikaners live in the settlement of Onverwacht established in 1886 near the mining town of Cullinan. Members of the community descend from freed slaves accompanying Voortrekkers who settled in the area.[64][65][66][67]

Modern history

Apartheid era

In South Africa, an Afrikaner minority party, the National Party, came to power in 1948 and enacted a series of segregationist laws favouring whites known as apartheid. These laws allowed for the systematic persecution of opposition leaders and attempted to enforce general white supremacy by classifying all South African inhabitants into racial groups. Non-white political participation was outlawed, black citizenship revoked, and the entire public sphere, including education, residential areas, medical care and common areas such as public transportation, beaches and amenities, was segregated.

Apartheid was officially ended in 1990 after widespread unrest, led by supporters of the United Democratic Front, Pan-African Congress, South African Communist Party and African National Congress and a long embargo against South Africa.[68] The factual end to apartheid, however, is widely regarded as the election of 1994. After a long series of negotiations involving the apartheid government under President Frederik Willem de Klerk the ANC under Nelson Mandela, and other parties[69] a democratic, multi-racial election was held, transitioning power from the National Party to the African National Congress.

Post-apartheid era

F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake hands in January 1992

Efforts are being made by some Afrikaners to secure minority rights even though protection of minority rights is fundamental to the new 1996 post-apartheid Constitution of South Africa. These efforts include the Volkstaat movement. In contrast, a handful of Afrikaners have joined the ruling African National Congress party, which is overwhelmingly supported by South Africa's black majority. However, the vast majority of Afrikaners support South Africa's official opposition, the Democratic Alliance.

Employment Equity legislation favours employment of black (African, Indian, Chinese and Coloured population groups, white women, disabled people) South Africans over white men. Black Economic Empowerment legislation further favours blacks as the government considers ownership, employment, training and social responsibility initiatives which empower black South Africans as important criteria when awarding tenders. However, private enterprise adheres to this legislation voluntarily.[70] Some reports indicate a growing number of whites suffering poverty compared to the pre-apartheid years and attribute this to such laws — over 350,000 Afrikaners may be classified as poor, with some research claiming that up to 150,000 are struggling for survival.[71][72] This combined with a wave of violent crime has led to vast numbers of Afrikaners and English-speaking South Africans leaving the country.

Genocide Watch has theorised that farm attacks constitute early warning signs of genocide against Afrikaners and has criticised the South African government for its inaction on the issue, pointing out that the murder rate for them ("ethno-European farmers" in their report, which also included non-Afrikaner farmers of European race) is four times that of the general South African population.[73] There are 40,000 white farmers in South Africa. Since 1994 close to three thousand farmers have been murdered in thousands of farm attacks,[74] with many being brutally tortured and/or raped. Some victims have been burned with smoothing irons or had boiling water poured down their throats.[75]

Afrikaner diaspora and emigration

Afrikaner farmer in Georgia, Caucasus region, 2011

Since 1994 there has been significant emigration of white people from South Africa. There are thus currently large Afrikaner and English-speaking South African communities in the UK and other developed countries. Between 1995 and 2005, more than one million South Africans have emigrated, citing violent and racially motivated black on white crime as the main reason.[76] Farmers have emigrated to other parts of Africa (e.g. North Eastern Congo) to develop efficient commercial farming there.[77]



There were 133,324 speakers of Afrikaans in Namibia, forming 9.5% of the total national population, according to the 1991 census. However the majority of these speakers come from the Coloured and Baster communities. Afrikaners are mostly found in Windhoek and in the Southern provinces and have a population of around 100,000 in Namibia.[78]

Global presence

A significant number of Afrikaners have migrated to Commonwealth nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Other popular destinations include the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

A large number of young Afrikaners are taking advantage of working holiday visas made available by the United Kingdom, as well as the Netherlands and Belgium, to gain work experience. The scheme under which UK working holiday visas were issued ended on 27 November 2008 and has been replaced by the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa. South Africa is unlikely to participate in the new initiative.

As of 2011, Georgia is encouraging Afrikaner immigration to assist in reviving the country's agriculture industry, which has fallen on hard times.[79]



Main article: Afrikaner Calvinism

Traditionally Christian, Calvinism of Boers in South Africa developed in much the same way as the New England colonies in North America. The original South African Boer republics were founded on the principles of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1985, 92% of Afrikaners were members of Reformed churches. However, an opinion poll conducted among Afrikaners in February 2015 found that only 38% of Afrikaners claimed to attend church on a weekly basis.[80] Another online poll conducted in February 2013 by a newspaper revealed that just over 30% of Afrikaners read the Bible at home.[81]


Main article: Afrikaans

The Afrikaans language changed over time from the Dutch spoken by the first white settlers at the Cape. From the late 17th century, the form of Dutch spoken at the Cape developed differences, mostly in morphology but also in pronunciation and accent and, to a lesser extent, in syntax and vocabulary, from that of the Netherlands, although the languages are still similar enough to be mutually intelligible. Settlers who arrived speaking German and French soon shifted to using Dutch and later Afrikaans. The process of language change was influenced by the languages spoken by slaves, Khoikhoi and people of mixed descent, as well as by Cape Malay, Zulu, British and Portuguese. While the Dutch of the Netherlands remained the official language, the new dialect, often known as Cape Dutch, African Dutch, "kitchen Dutch", or taal (meaning "language" in Afrikaans) developed into a separate language by the 19th century, with much work done by the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners and other writers such as Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven. In a 1925 act of Parliament, Afrikaans was given equal status with Dutch as one of the two official languages (English being the second) of the Union of South Africa. There was much objection to the attempt to legislate the creation of Afrikaans as a new language. Marthinus Steyn, a prominent jurist and politician, and others were vocal in their opposition. Today, Afrikaans is recognised as one of the eleven official languages of the new South Africa, and is the third largest mother tongue spoken in South Africa. In June 2013, the Department of Basic Education included Afrikaans as an African language to be compulsory for all pupils, according to a new policy.


Afrikaners have a long literary tradition, and have produced a number of notable novelists and poets, including Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee, Eugene Marais, Uys Krige, Elisabeth Eybers, Breyten Breytenbach, André Brink, C. J. Langenhoven and Etienne Leroux.


Music is probably the most popular art form among Afrikaners. While the traditional Boeremusiek ("Boer music") and Volkspele ("people games") folk dancing enjoyed popularity in the past, most Afrikaners today favour a variety of international genres and light popular Afrikaans music. American country and western music has enjoyed great popularity and has a strong following among many South Africans. Some also enjoy a social dance event called a sokkie. The South African rock band Seether has a hidden track on their album Karma and Effect titled Kom Saam Met My ("Come With Me"), sung in Afrikaans. There is also an underground rock music movement and bands like the controversial Fokofpolisiekar have a large following. The television Channel MK (channel) also supports local Afrikaans music and mainly screens videos from the Afrikaans Rock genre.[82]


Rugby, cricket, and golf are generally considered to be the most popular sports among Afrikaners. Rugby in particular is considered one of the central pillars of the Afrikaner community. The Springboks won the 1995 and 2007 Rugby World Cups.

Boere-sport also played a very big role in the Afrikaner history. It consisted of a variety of sports like tug of war, three-legged races, jukskei, skilpadloop (tortoise walk) and other games.


The world's first ounce-denominated gold coin, the Krugerrand, was struck at the South African Mint on 3 July 1967. The name Krugerrand was derived from Kruger (after President Paul Kruger) and the rand monetary unit of South Africa.

In April 2007, the South African Mint coined a collectors R1 gold coin commemorating the Afrikaner people as part of its cultural series, depicting the Great Trek across the Drakensberg mountains.



The Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV) ("Afrikaans Language and Culture Association") is responsible for promoting the Afrikaans language and culture.

Die Voortrekkers is a youth movement for Afrikaners in South Africa and Namibia with a membership of over 10 000 active members to promote cultural values, maintaining norms and standards as Christians, and being accountable members of public society.[83]


An estimated 88% of Afrikaners supported the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition party, in the 2014 general election.[84] The Democratic Alliance is a Liberal Party and a full member of Liberal International.

Smaller numbers are involved in nationalist or separatist political organisations. The Freedom Front Plus is an Afrikaner ethnic political party in the Republican tradition, which lobbies for minority rights to be granted to all of the South African ethnic minorities. The Freedom Front Plus is also leading the Volkstaat initiative and is closely associated with the small town of Orania.[85] Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Mulder served as Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the Cabinet of President Jacob Zuma from 2009 to 2014.

Only approximately 2% of Afrikaans-speaking white South Africans vote for the ruling ANC,. Some prominent Afrikaner ANC Cabinet Ministers include the Minister of Science and Technology Derek Hanekom, the Minister of Tourism and former leader of the New National Party Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation Gert Oosthuizen and former ANC Spokesman Carl Niehaus.

In an online poll of the Beeld newspaper during November 2012, in which nearly 11,000 Afrikaners participated, 42% described themselves as conservative and 36% as liberal.[86] Although social conservatism prevalent, social attitudes have become increasingly liberal since the disestablishment of apartheid in the 1990s, and in a 2015 poll only 57% of Afrikaners claimed to oppose abortion on demand while 46% claimed to be opposed to Homosexualism.[80]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Afrikaners.


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  3. The 2013 New Zealand Census records 1,197 New Zealand residents who explicitly identify as Afrikaner (that is, excluding those who identified as "African" or "South African"), while 27,387 identified as Afrikaans speakers.[6]


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Further reading

External links

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