Updated: Jul 15, 2021
A brief look at the dark history behind the day that Apartheid South Africa became a Republic.
Republiekdag or 'Republic Day' refers to the day on the 31st of May 1961 when the Union of South Africa (which was a British dominion under the crown) became an independent republic.
After the British Empire defeated the Afrikaners and their Republics back in the Second Anglo Boer war (1899-1902) the British took over the whole of South Africa and installed their King as its head of state. Every South African became a subject of the British Crown. The vanquished Afrikaners who loathed the British hated being British subjects and sought to break away from the Crown and form a new Afrikaner Republic. This finally happened in Republiekdag or Republic Day when South Africa became a republic. That is the history that many Afrikaners are taught. Pro-afrikaner groups like Afriforum, the Nasionale Konserwatiewe Party (which was pro-apartheid during the 1992 referendum) and others regularly commemorate this date as an important day in Afrikaner history.
However, Republiekedag is not just about Afrikaner freedom and culture. So, what is wrong with people commemorating this history? The problem is this history is often darker than many of them would care to admit.
History of Republiekedag
A Pro-Republic poster during the 1961 Referendum
The history many often don't hear is that the shift in power between the British Empire and Afrikaner Republic made little difference to the vast majority of black South Africans. Blacks also had no say before and after Republiekdag either and suffered tremendously under both the British dominion and the new Afrikaner-dominated republic. Some people believe that it was the British who started apartheid, and that the Afrikaners under the Broederbond sought to help save black people from the British tyranny. Yes, the British Cape colony and Union of South Africa had legislated many racial laws to exclude and subdue black people. However, when the Afrikaner Nationalists came into power in 1948, they immediately expanded the many racial laws already put in place by the British colonial government.
This new republic that was declared on 31 May 1961 was seen as a revival of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (or Transvaal Republic). Established by the Voortrekkers who left the Cape in search of freedom, the Transvaal Republic never recognized the rights of black people who found themselves within its borders. It was established as a whites-only state, a prelude to the modern apartheid state. The constitution of the old Transvaal republic had stated in Article 9 "The Volk are not prepared to allow equality of the non-white with the white inhabitants, either in the church or the state".* Fast-track to 1961 when before the declaration of the new South African republic, Die Transvaler newspaper proclaimed "Our republic is the inevitable fulfilment of God's plan for our people... a plan formed in 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape... for which the defeat of our republics in 1902 was a necessary step".**
After restoring the Afrikaner republic, the NP government intensified its already existing racial laws. Verwoerd, who was then Prime Minister, sought to unite English and Afrikaner whites together to strengthen white minority rule in South Africa. Republiekedag was seen by the Afrikaner Nationalists as the beginning of a permanent whites-only republic in which all Europeans in South Africa would finally unite behind the National Party and their policy of Apartheid to secure white domination over all the other races forever.
Thus, Republiekdag symbolizes a day of victory for the Afrikaner Nationalists who were able to consolidate white power and enact even harsher racial laws against people of color. The new Republic saw more forced removals "resettling" millions of people of color and increasing state repression against many dissenters. It was also after this time that many freedom fighters and anti-apartheid activists were either forced into exile or arrested by the National Party’s security apparatus. Republiekedag & ‘Stop Farm Murders’
At the end of May, we saw several popular posts about "Republiekdag" on many far-right pages, including some "Stop Farm Murders" pages.
Having posters of this apartheid-era holiday on a Stop Farm Murders page might seem a bit odd as it doesn't seem to have anything to do with farm murders. In fact, it just comes to show that so many people on these Stop Farm Murders pages are still living in 1960s. Many are still nostalgic for a time in which a vast majority of South Africans were stripped of their rights and dignity so that they, the White South Africans could enjoy a prosperous life.
The fact that so many people in the Stop Farm Murders movement joyfully celebrate a day that heralded many dark days for millions of Black, Coloured and Indian South Africans reveals much about the movement.
This is the same reason there are no white crosses for any black victims of farm murders at the PLAASMOORDE monument (picture below). This movement is not about human rights or justice. It is about the restoration of white power. It is about putting white interests and white lives above every other life in South Africa's past, present and future.
The Witkruis Monument (or white cross monument) outside Polokwane with the flags of old Afrikaner republics
You can be against rural crime, as we and millions of South Africans are. We strongly condemn all forms of violent crime, including farm murders. We also condemn the injustice that is racism.
Rural crime and farm murders affect South Africans of all races. The moment anyone insists on racializing a problem affecting all South Africans by calling it a "White Genocide" or a targeted white "ethnic cleansing" then it is no longer about crime. It about white nationalism and apartheid nostalgia masquerading as activism.
*Dreyer & Botha (1995). Kerk, volk en owerheid in die 1858-grondwet van die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, Universiteit van Pretoria, p548 ISSN 0259-9422
**Christian Nationalism and the Rise of the Afrikaner Broederbond in South Africa, 1918-1948, Charles Bloomberg, Macmillan (1989)