The Star - Johanesburg, South Africa
Afrikanerbond extends friendly hand
August 03, 2007 Edition 3
The once secret organisation that led SA's white Afrikaner minority out of the political and economic doldrums into decades of oppressive rule is battling to find a post-apartheid niche.
Following its dogged pursuit of exclusive white interests under the apartheid system, the Afrikanerbond is finding it hard, 13 years into majority rule, to justify its past or find a foothold in the present.
Despite having changed its name from the Afrikaner Broederbond (league of brothers) and opening membership to women and other race groups, the new-look Afrikanerbond (AB) gets sceptical looks when it claims a new agenda for the common South African good.
"On behalf of our members I extend a hand of friendship and co-operation," chairperson Pierre Theron, a league member since 1968, said at a presentation to the Cape Town Press Club.
"We share a common desire to make South Africa work for all."
But he was met with a barrage of questions about the AB's role in past injustices, its new agenda, membership and the reason for its continued existence.
"I am leading a more liberal Afrikanerbond with a new approach. We are not living in the past now. We are moving on," said Theron.
The once secretive AB, of which every head of state from the start of apartheid in 1948 to its 1994 demise was a member, was formed in 1918 along the lines of the Freemason movement to promote Afrikaners' political and economic interests and resist British dominance.
Although it now denies having determined apartheid government policies, the league is known to have had influential broeders (brothers) in key positions in government and other institutions.
It was closely aligned to the now-defunct National Party (NP), which came to power in 1948 and legislated for racially oppressive white minority rule that came to a formal end with the country's first multi-racial elections in 1994.
AB members, thought to number some 20 000 by 1990, included journalists, clergymen, teachers, farmers, lawyers and MPs.
"We made mistakes," Theron acknowledged, without going into detail.