The Afrikaner Broederbond was founded in 1918 in Johannesburg. In 1929 the Bond founded the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge (Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Associations), or FAK as it was known generally, to promote the Afrikaans culture and Afrikaner economic action in acoord inated way. Almost all Afrikaner cultural
associations eventually affiliated with the FAK. Also in 1929 the Broederbond became a secret organisation.
By 1933 the Bond had 1 003 members in 53 branches, or divisions, of which only four were in the Cape, the rest in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. A quarter of the members were farmers and a third were teachers and lecturers.
The principal influence was wielded by Potchefstroom academics steeped in neo- Calvinist thought. Throughout its history the Bond exercised its greatest influence in the spheres of education and culture. It orchestrated some of the pressures that helped to transform the bilingual university colleges in Pretoria and Bloemfontein into Afrikaans language institutions. It helped to found the Afrikaanse Nasionale Studentebond, an Afrikaans student organisation with a radical nationalist programme.
It took an active part in establishing the ‘people’s bank’ Volkskas in 1934 and in organising an Ekonomiese Volkskongres, or people’s economic congress, in 1939. Several of the future Afrikaner business leaders, such as Anton Rupert, Andreas Wassenaar and W.B. Coetzer, became members. However, they used their membership to exert influence on the Bond and its members, rather than the other way round. The Bond’s efforts to form Afrikaner trade unions or take over the leadership were ineffectual.
When D.F. Malan rejected fusion in 1933–1934, Barry Hertzog focused his wrath on the institutions with which he was associated. Malan had indeed become a Bond member in August 1933, but moved in the circles of the Cape National Party and Nasionale Pers and none of his main advisers was a Broederbonder. Hertzog latched on to a Broe derbond circular of April 1934 in which it was stated: ‘The Afrikanerdom shall reach its ultimate destiny of domination in South Africa . . . Brothers, our solution for South Africa’s troubles is not that this or that party shall gain the upper hand, but that the Afrikaner Broederbond shall rule South Africa.’ He accused the Bond of spreading a ‘Potch efstroom fanaticism’ intent on excluding the English as true citizens of the country.
Hertzog never gave evidence for the influence he attributed to the organisation. It was in fact a small organisation slowly building itself up, struggling to make its influence felt and mostly serving as a debating forum for an elite often far removed from the real political action.
It reflected the divisions in Afrikaner nationalist ranks and encouraged debate until a consensus was reached. It played no significant role in the development of apartheid as an ideology. In the National Party government most cabinet ministers were also members of the Bond and they used it as a sounding board and early warning system about dissent in Afrikaner nationalist ranks. The organisation tried to influence the cabinet but in general the cabinet used the Bond rather than the other way around.