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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


VENTER, Albert. The cul-de-sac of the Africaner Republic of 1961. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.4, pp.533-550. ISSN 2224-7912.

An own Republic for the Afrikaners, the political ideal of the National Party since its founding in 1914, became a reality through the 1960 referendum. The Republic was formally declared on 31 May 1961. This year, 2011, fifty years on, the republic has become a historic artefact that has disappeared from the consciousness of the vast majority of ordinary white Afrikaners. In 1960/61 the ideal of a Republic and apartheid was at the heart of the political theology of Afrikaner nationalism. The main theme of this essay is to offer a possible explanation for the political theology of apartheid and the ideal of a white, Afrikaner republic. Was this political theology in essence based on a theoretical flaw and as a consequence the apartheid Afrikaner republic stranded against the political reality of South Africa within thirty years? In this essay the ideal of an Afrikaner republic as well as its practical realisation is put in the context of the Afrikaner political theology. Drawing on the work of Mark Lilla, Eric Voegelin and John Gray the essay argues that Afrikaner nationalism is not unique in the sense that Afrikaners devised a political theology for themselves. The power and attraction of a political theology is its comprehensiveness. It offers a manner of thought, reflection and action and connects these to the higher thoughts regarding the existence of God, the structure of the cosmos, the nature of the soul, the origin of things and especially, for Christians, the end of Time. Therefore it is a theological narrative on the creation of the cosmos by God and how humankind forms part of it. People specifically use the creation narrative as basis for an authoritative guide to political legitimacy and political life. The essay argues, following Voegelin, Lilla and Gray, that the political theology of Afrikaners was based on a dream world. The core of the Afrikaner nationalist political theology is presented in the essay, especially how it unfolded during the National Party rule between 1948-1994. In the practical application of the Afrikaner nationalist political theology, there were differences of emphasis and it did not have the same connotation for all National Party supporters. The author submits, however, that this essay presents the essence of the Afrikaner nationalist political theology and its practical application. The political theology of apartheid supplied a religious and moral basis for the pragmatic political actions of the National Party government. Moreover, this political theology constituted an imagined reality. Inasmuch as the imagined reality of the political theology of the apartheid republic and the pragmatic political reality drifted apart, the political theology provided less and less of a moral foundation for the apartheid government, until the political theology was discarded. In the process, the political theology was replaced by a progressively repressive and violent regime. This politics of violence demonstrated once more that the immanentisation of a mundane eschaton (Voegelin) is an empirical impossibility. The essay concludes that the political theology of the apartheid Afrikaner republic was based on a theoretical dead end and that it is no wonder that the dream decayed within thirty years.

Keywords : Afrikaner nationalism; political theology; immanentisation of the eschaton; apartheid; National Party government; theological justification of apartheid; separate development.

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