It is regrettable that Ms Ngwenya for political purposes chose to write this article on a subject which is far more complex than a simple comparison between the Afrikaner-Broederbond and the deployment of ANC cadres, as testified to at the Zondo State Capture Committee and based on the minutes of the ANC’s deployment committee. Of more concern, still, is the outdated sources Ms Ngwenya chose to base her article on.
Any researcher can, with prior permission, obtain access to the documents and original minutes of the Afrikaner-Broederbond. This information is accessible in our archives, which have been open since 1995. To rely on a book written in 1979 and to refer to articles written in 1970 by two editors who appear to have had personal grievances is, to our mind, not proper research. We went to the trouble of publishing the history of the Afrikaner-Broederbond in 2018, followed in 2021 by a very comprehensive work based on meticulous research by Prof. Ernst Stals – all in an effort to open the window on our past with sincerity and honesty (see reference below).
Let us also, however, refer to two eminent authors, who more recently wrote on the parallels drawn by some commentators between the Afrikaner-Broederbond and the ANC with regard to the deployment policy of the latter.
“Some commentators compare the ANC’s cadre deployment policy with what the Broederbond did during rule by the National Party (NP). The comparison is hardly flattering, but, again, the Broederbond did not lay waste to the state. Irrespective of whether those running them were Broeders or not, state-owned enterprises, including those on which poorer people were heavily reliant, such as trains and postal services, actually worked. Whatever else they might have done, the Broeders did not loot the state. In 1994 the ANC inherited a functioning state, large parts of which the comrade cadres then proceeded to loot or otherwise destroy. For this they show little remorse, still less any intention or ability to fix what they have broken.”
A month later, as recently as 25 October 2021, RW Johnson wrote an article on Politicsweb titled Afrikaner and ANC achievement compared on the role of Afrikaners in the period between the Union and 1994, during which South Africa was led by Afrikaners. Although the Afrikaner-Broederbond is not mentioned by name, the sterling indirect work by the Afrikaner-Broederbond is there for all to see:
“That period saw the enormous economic growth of South Africa, the industrialisation and urbanisation of the country, and the building of a hugely impressive infrastructure without parallel in Africa – not just roads and bridges and dams, but ports, airports and a sophisticated system of water articulation and distribution. In addition, thousands of schools, hospitals and clinics were built and staffed, as were more than a dozen universities. By far the largest and best integrated railway system in Africa was built and maintained, as was Africa’s leading airline. The country’s housing stock was immensely expanded – including the building of a number of African townships with buildings to a much higher standard than occurred in the RDP period. The highest rates of economic growth ever seen in South Africa occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Johnson then deduced that “such developments depend on meticulous planning, vision, investment, management and a driving determination to carry them through: those, rather than the existence of a plentiful labour force, provide the decisive factors.” It is clear from our recorded history that the Afrikaner-Broederbond was in many, if not most, instances the incubator of ideas and, in some cases, the driving force behind identifying the people with the necessary skills to initiate these developments. Many of them were not even members of the Afrikaner-Broederbond.
Ms Ngwenya, head of policy at the Democratic Alliance, is not the first person to make a connection and look for similarities between the Afrikaner-Broederbond and the ANC with regard to its deployment committee and policy of deployment. It is easy to hastily cobble together some thoughts on the matter and to join the string of commentators who have made allegations that the ANC's cadre deployment committee operates in similar fashion to the Afrikaner-Broederbond in the past. In the same way, the Afrikaner-Broederbond is often accused of creating jobs for pals and of reserving positions in the public service and semi-state organisations for members, friends or family.
It can be unequivocally stated that the Afrikaner-Broederbond had no policy nor any mechanisms or procedures whatsoever for identifying members and recommending them for appointment in the public service. The Afrikaner-Broederbond never followed a policy of appointing members of the Afrikaner-Broederbond to senior or influential positions, nor did the Afrikaner-Broederbond's highest structures or head office decide on appointments in the public service. Never were judges or their appointment discussed or even hinted at during meetings. The government’s Public Service Commission was responsible for appointing officials in the public service. This commission would simply not have tolerated being prescribed to about whom to appoint and whom not.
One only has to look at the number of directors-general who were not members of the Afrikaner-Broederbond to see that the Afrikaner-Broederbond was not powerful enough to have people appointed to top positions. Not only that, but some of those in key positions were even antagonistic towards the Afrikaner-Broederbond. Similarly, several editors of Afrikaans newspapers were not members of the Afrikaner-Broederbond either. It is often they who contributed to the “exposition” of leaked documents of the Afrikaner-Broederbond.
Admittedly, the Afrikaner-Broederbond's confidential modus operandi led to it being accused of manipulating all kinds of appointment, from school principals to town clerks and officials, and of creating jobs for pals in the process. It is true that a significant number of members of the Afrikaner-Broederbond could be found in the top structures of the public service and as leaders elsewhere in society. However, this cannot be attributed to "cadre deployment".
In the past, the Afrikaner-Broederbond was certainly very closely involved in all spheres of Afrikaner cultural and economic life. It was active in politics, the church and the economy, and its involvement and membership therefore frequently overlapped. Its point of departure was to canvass Afrikaner leaders within these spheres of Afrikanerdom into membership of the Afrikaner-Broederbond — and not the other way round. Those who were actively involved in their community and otherwise excelled as leaders were invited to apply for membership.
The Afrikaner-Broederbond's recruitment approach was to identify younger people who were willing to render selfless service to their community. Leadership potential was high on the list of sought-for qualities. It follows that members with leadership potential were bound to progress to the highest levels. “Ons maak lede van leiers en nie leiers van lede nie / We make members of leaders and not leaders of members" was very often the mantra within the organisation.
The close relationship between party leaders and the Afrikaner-Broederbond was illustrated by the Chairman of the Afrikaner-Broederbond, Prof. HB Thom, during his speech at a Federal Council on 4 October 1955 while discussing the topic of the membership recruitment process: "For the first time, leading politicians of the National Party are being absorbed into the Afrikaner-Broederbond and they are also beginning to play an active role in the AB.”
It goes without saying that membership could have been used to promote self-interest, sometimes at branch level, but this would have been inherently contrary to the membership declaration that each member made and that was presented as a code of honour at each meeting: “To make our God-given talents, individually and collectively, congenially subservient to the cause in which we believe. To serve - not to be served. To give - not to receive.”
To use the terms ‘Afrikaner-Broederbond’, ‘deployment’ and ‘jobs for pals’ indiscriminately and even link them in defence or mitigation of the state capture by the ANC is pure deflection. Incompetent ANC cadres have been appointed on a large scale, leading to the decay of state entities and functions. It is sad and ironic that these are the very same entities that were created during the previous dispensation and set up with clever expertise and experience, hard work and determination to be used to the benefit of all. This made South Africa the industrial powerhouse of Africa, and of this fact the Afrikaner-Broederbond is not ashamed.
In our publication “Bearer of an Ideal 1918-1997", which the Afrikanerbond, the successor of the Afrikaner-Broederbond, compiled in December 1997 as an informal submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the following is stated:
“The disadvantage of confidentiality was that it could brand the AB as a colluding organisation - an organisation allowing dark and sinister activities that cannot be made public. This created problems for churches, ministers, political parties and politicians. Most often, the AB was accused of pushing members for public office, discrimination against non-members and the manipulation of decisions and power. Some journalists made it their hobby to "disclose" the unholy "scheming and corruption" of the organisation. In this process many sensational reports containing half-truths or distorted information were published world-wide. This helped to create a negative perception of the AB. The AB seldom attempted to set the record straight - on the one hand, because it would have been difficult for a confidential organisation; and on the other hand, because the organisation believed so strongly in its ideals and principles, as well as the integrity of its members, that it avoided any public corrective measures or reaction to these misrepresentations.”
An important aspect to keep in mind is that the Afrikaner-Broederbond, as voluntary member organisation, could in no way give instructions to its members. The Executive Council of the Afrikaner-Broederbond did not have that kind of power. This is completely different from how the ANC instructs and deploys its members. The modus operandi of the Afrikaner-Broederbond is practically demonstrated in the 1997 Bearer of an Ideal document:
“The AB (Afrikaner-Broederbond) is primarily an opinion-forming, thought-provoking institution that offers its members the opportunity to voice and hear current and dynamic points of view, to gain new insights, and then to verbalise and further disseminate those insights and perspectives within their particular sphere of influence, according to their own judgement and initiatives. Members are thereby individually empowered to influence political, religious and economic areas from within the environment and culture of the Afrikaner-Broederbond. What the Afrikaner-Broederbond cannot be accused of, though, is cynicism, malice and conspiracy.”
Where mistakes were made, the Afrikaner-Broederbond acknowledged it, but there were also times when the Afrikaner-Broederbond, and the Afrikanerbond too, took a fearless stand against the National Party government – just as the Afrikanerbond is currently taking a stand against the ANC government. The centralisation of political power, and control and appointments from within the chambers of political headquarters, is wrong.
Cadre deployment must be condemned: it exacerbates the problem of an unequal society with unequal opportunities and affirms party loyalty above the values of merit and individual achievement. It is unconstitutional and undemocratic in its very nature. It provided individuals intent on capturing the state with an ulterior motive, obscene levels of corruption and enrichment, and no accountability.
There is simply no comparison to be made, as the Afrikaner-Broederbond was born from the ideal to uplift Afrikaners from the extreme poverty that followed after the Second Anglo-Boer War. This we achieved with the hard work of a collective of individuals who worked with the meagre saving investments of the impoverished Afrikaners to create education opportunities, creating vehicles of development through which economic empowerment and, later, also political empowerment would follow.
The Democratic Alliance is correct to work with the minutes of the ANC’s deployment committee and to make valuable deductions from the unholy National Democratic Revolution ideology which is ruining South Africa. Transform, deploy and destroy is the factual conclusion one must draw. When there is a need to make comparisons, Ms Ngwenya is invited to consult our archives in Pretoria and not to rely on work published decades ago by people with grievances. These archives include the minutes of the Executive Council of the Afrikaner-Broederbond. Then only can valid comparisons and similarities, if any, be voiced. If she is really interested in this course of action, we will also make available a free copy of the 720-page historical and factual book launched in May 2021 titled "Die Broederbond – Die geskiedenis van die Afrikaner-Broederbond 1918-1994" by Prof. Ernst Stals. More details can be found on our website: https://www.afrikanerbond.co.za/ab-boek-elp-stals
Jan Bosman is Chief Secretary of the Afrikanerbond.