The Boers are an Afrikaans-speaking people whose ancestors are mainly Dutch, Huguenots and German Reformed Protestants. Boers are also commonly called "Boervolk", "Afrikaner-Boers", "Boere-Afrikaners" or sometimes merely "Covenant Afrikaners". They should not be confused with the larger Afrikaans-speaking ethnic group in South Africa, commonly called the Afrikaners. The Boers number approximately 400,000 people today.
The Great Trek
The origin of the Boer people began among the nomadic pastoralists known as Trekboers who trekked inland during the late 1600s & throughout the 1700s but became renown during a series of mass migrations later called the Great Trek (1835-1845), which was the northern migration of 12,000–14,000 Boer settlers from Cape Colony in South Africa when the British arrived and took control of the government. They sought freedom and self-determination in their own homeland. The leaders of the "Trek" was Andries Pretorius, Piet Retief, Piet Uys, Hendrik Potgieter and Gerrit Maritz. The Boers migrated northward into what became known as the Orange Free State and later into the Transvaal (South African Republic). Although the Boers found no indigenous people at the time of settlement in these areas, Retief chose to settle in Natal, where he came into conflict with the Zulus. After various battles in Natal in 1838, help from the other Voorttrekker leaders arrived in December. Some 438 Trekkers made a Covenant with God, that they would give the glory of the victory to Him. Charl Cilliers was the author of the Covenant. On 16 December 1838, the Trekkers defeated nearly 12,000 Zulus during the Battle of Blood River. Various Boer Republics were founded after the "Trek": in 1838, the Republic of Natalia was founded, but it was short-lived, it ceased to exist in 1843. The South African Republic and the Orange Free State gained independence from Great Britain in 1852 and 1854, respectively.
The Anglo-Boer Wars
Two Anglo-Boer wars were fought during the latter part of the 18th century, both the result of British Imperialism. The first was won by the South African Republic in 1881, the second, spanning from 1899 to 1902, was eventually won by the British. On May 31, 1902, both the South African Republic and the Orange Free State conceded their independence to Great Britain. Over 27,000 Boer woman and children died in British concentration camps during the war.
The Maritz Rebellion
After the Union of South Africa was formed by the British colonies of the Cape, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal in 1910, a few thousand Boers participated in a rebellion, under leadership of Manie Maritz, against the government in 1914, after the government declared war against Germany. The aim of the Rebellion was to found a new Boer Republic. The rebels were suppressed by the government forces, however, and many received jail sentences.
After the formation of the Union, there was a deliberate attempt to assimilate the Boers with the Cape-based Afrikaners. Although this had some success in the 20th century, recently it became increasingly clear that the Boers and Afrikaners have remained distinct cultural groups. Many Boers were represented in the National Party that ruled the country from 1924 to 1934 and again from 1948 to 1994. It was the influence of Boer Nationalism that led to the formation of the independent Republic of South Africa on May 31, 1961 under leadership of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd. In the late 1980s, most Boers left the National Party and joined the Conservative Party of South Africa and some already joined the Re-constituted National Party some 15–20 years earlier. In the 1992 referendum, virtually all Boers voted against the transformation of South Africa into a multiracial state.
The Boers today
Some organizations were created in the early 21st century to promote Boer Nationalism and strive towards achieving independence along religious lines, since Boers believe that they are completely dependent on the will of God for their existence and seek to glorify Him, should they receive self-determination. Here is a list of some of the groups promoting the ideals on the Boer people:
- Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB)
- Boere-Afrikaner Freedom Inisiative
- Boer state Party
- Boerevolk Vryheidstigting
- Federation for Afrikaner simbols
- Federation of Covenant Comitees
- Freedom Front Plus
- Re-constituted National Party
- Sekretariaat vir Volksbou
- Transvaal Agricultural Union
The BCVO ('Movement for Christian-National Education') is a federation of 47 Calvinist private schools, primarily located in the Free State and the Transvaal, committed to educating Boer children from grade 0 through to 12.
- See also: Boer Nationalism
Nationalism is one of the main distinctions of the Boers. The Boers originated from a northward migration in the 19th century, in order to escape British Imperialism, and since then they have had a continuous struggle for self-determination in their own homeland. Boer nationalism also supports a Republican form of government and strongly oppose Communism in favour of Capitalism. Boers still celebrate the Covenant made at Blood River on December 16, 1838, annually. This is often regarded as their biggest distinction as a separate culture group.
- See also: Boer Calvinism
The Boers are mainly descended from Dutch, German and French Calvinists, who left Europe between the late 17th and early 19th centuries. The Boers had a distinct Calvinist influence throughout their history, however it has varied from time to time. During the second half of the century, the Dutch Reformed (Hervormde) Church was the state church of the Transvaal and Calvinism was also the national religion of the Orange Free State. Note the "Orange" in Orange Free State: it is named after the Protestant House of Orange in the Netherlands. Most Boers today are members of Reformed Churches and they represent approximately 80% of the members of the Afrikaans Protestant Church. Boer Nationalists also often stress the importance of Calvinism in Boer culture. In recent times, however, many Boers joined the Christian Identity movement. A very small number is also members of Baptist and Pentecostal Churches.