Afrikaans is the first language of 13.3% of South African. 5.7% are White and 7.1% Coloured.


Good day



How are you?

Hoe gaan dit met jou?

I'm fine, and you?

Goed dankie, en met jou?






Brief Background & Ancestry

Afrikaans familyAfrikaans originated in the original Cape Colony which had a diverse population. The base language is Dutch but it was recognised as a separate language in the late 1800's as the grammar differs from Dutch and words from English, Khoi, Xhosa, Asian Malay, Malagasy, San, Portuguese and French though most words sound extremely different from the original. It replaced Dutch as an official language of South Africa in 1925.

Afrikaans is a controversial language as it is often associated with the White farmers (Boers) but is actually spoken as a first and second language by many South Africans. The two main groups are the Afrikaners and the Coloureds.

The Afrikaners do not see themselves as settlers but rather as part of Africa (as the name implies – meaning African in Dutch), having arrived in the Cape from 1652 onwards. This is earlier than Europeans started colonising America and Australia . Although the original migrants came from the Netherlands , German and French religious refugees also arrived in the Cape seeking a new start.

When the British won control of the Cape Colony in 1795, this contributed to the mass migrations starting in the 1830's and termed the Great Trek. Afrikaners moved to the areas of Northern Cape , Freestate and Kwazulu Natal. These migrations led to conflict with various indigenous groups along the way, especially those with the Zulu nation in Kwazulu Natal. The Voortrekkers (as they were known) sought a treaty with the Zulu for land in return for supporting them against the British who were settling in Port Natal (now Durban ). There was lack of trust between the parties and Piet Retief was executed and ongoing conflict resulted culminating in the Battle of Blood River in 1838 where the Afrikaners superior weapons resulted in victory. They declared the Natalia Republic that was later annexed by the British in 1843. Various other Afrikaner Republics were also annexed by the British and led to the two Boer wars (1880 – 1881 and 1899 –1902). The Boers won the first war but lost the second due to the British using scorched earth tactics and concentration camps. The Union of South Africa was created in 1910 under British rule.

The British controlled government implemented Pass Laws in 1923 paved the way for further restrictions on non-Whites social and political freedoms when Afrikaner-led political parties gained control of the government in 1948 (the birth of Apartheid). This segregation along racial lines has further widened the gap between the White Afrikaans speakers and Coloured Afrikaans speakers.

With the referendum on 1992 and the first democratic elections in 1994, the ANC government replaced the National Party (seen as an Afrikaans-dominated political force). This has led to the White Afrikaans population having far less representation and political power than previously due to their comparatively small population. Although a successful application to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation in May 2008 recognises Afrikaners as a stateless nation, many Afrikaners still see South Africa as their fatherland although they may not believe they are adequately valued by current government.


Great TrekAlthough the predominant religion amongst the original Dutch was the Dutch Reformed Church or the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NG Kerk) as the South African branch is known, the German Lutheran Church also had a following in the early Cape Colony (as many of the employees of the Dutch East India Company were German). However, one cannot assume that a White Afrikaans person follows these beliefs as other cultural influences, especially of other European nations, has led to other Christian churches also drawing Afrikaans followers.

Some Afrikaans Coloureds follow the Muslim faith as they are descended from the Malay slaves in the Cape Colony who originally practiced that religion.

Afrikaans music is an important aspect of the culture with festivals celebrating and promoting the language having a strong musical programme of events.

Images:  1886 and 1890’s Photographer: Joseph Raucher    

Photo Source: Swaziland National Archives. National Swaziland Trust Commission