Published on November 24th, 20122
The Origin of the Afrikaners
By Tor G. Jakobsen
Afrikaners were once the dominant ethnic group in South Africa, and are still considered one of the corner stones of the new South Africa. In sum, they number about three million worldwide, the lion’s share residing in southern Africa including Namibia and Zambia.
These Dutch-sounding people with European appearance have made their mark on the world scene as well. Most readers know of the actress Charlize Theron who has won both the Academy Award
When it comes to science the name Christiaan Barnard springs to mind. After several years of testing animal heart transplants he finally performed the world’s first human heart transplant in 1967. Barnard became an international superstar, though he never received the Nobel Prize for his contribution to medicine. This he later blamed on the international reputation of the South African Regime.
Who are the Afrikaners?
The first Europeans came to settle in South Africa in 1652. They arrived in what is today the city of Cape Town.
This colony was founded By Johan Anthonisz van Riebeeck. In ten years the European population at the Cape counted 243 heads. In the start all male immigrants were single Dutch males, most of these are described as being of a peasant background, or being laborers employed by the Dutch East India Company as sailors or soldiers. Few free men of the Netherland would choose to emigrate unless it was of the uttermost necessity due to poverty or hunger. From the Dutch settlers came surnames like Vorster, Botha, Coetzee, Merwe, and Jacobs.
In 1688 a group of French Huguenot families arrived, their numbers totaled at 180 persons. These were people fleeing religious persecution following the 30-years war in Europe. This influence is why many South Africans today have French sounding names, like Blignaut, Cronje, de Klerk, de Villiers, and du Plessis.
Apart from these, the female share of the settlers was of Dutch origin. In the 18th century most new arrivals were German males, who had entered a ship in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, or any other Dutch harbor. From the German contingent came names like Kruger, Pretorius, Smit, and Schoeman.
Even so, it was Holland rather than Germany that influenced the Cape settlement. There was also an element of racial mixing, mainly due to the gender imbalance within the white population. One could often see marriages between white men and colored women of a fair complexion.
So in sum, todays Afrikaners can be said to mainly a Dutch-German mixture, with a solid presence of French Huguenots, and also drops of other European groups as well as around five percent of none-white ancestry.
Giliomee, H. (2003). The Afrikaners: Biography of a People. London: Hurst & Company.
Le May, G. H. (1995). The Afrikaners: A Political History. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.