South Africa's secret brothers set agenda for future: The Afrikaner elite society, the Broederbond, is determined to retain its substantial influence, writes John Carlin in Johannesburg

WOMEN, blacks, Jews, Catholics, divorcees and Afrikaners who do not attend church regularly need not apply. Any male white Protestant Afrikaner entertaining the notion of being accepted into the Broederbond (Brotherhood) should ensure, besides, that he does not marry an English-speaking white woman - much less a woman of colour.

The Broederbond, established in 1918 in response to the humiliating aftermath of the Boer War, is a secret society dedicated initially to the promotion of Afrikaner values, cultural identity and political supremacy. Latterly, as internal documents have shown, the emphasis has shifted to 'Afrikaner survival'.

The chosen ones - having successfully risen to the challenge of the organisation's motto, 'Be Strong' - all belong to an elite caste of privileged, powerful, politically influential Afrikaners. Most of the cabinet are Broederbond members, including President F W de Klerk, who was inducted in 1964 at the unusually young age of 27.

In The Super Afrikaners, a book on the Broederbond published in 1978, the authors wrote: 'The South African government today is the Broederbond and the Broederbond is the government.' Then membership stood at 12,000. Today, according to secret documents unearthed last week, the figure is 20,047 and rising.

The Super Afrikaners contained a full list of members. Among them were 143 officers of the South African Defence Force, one of whom, General Andre 'Kat' Liebenberg, is today the country's top military chief. Broederbond membership extended then, as now, to those holding the most senior positions in Afrikaner big business, in the civil service, in the universities, in schools, in transport and telecommunications, in the state broadcasting monopoly, and in the legal system. The latest revelations showed, to the outrage of the Johannesburg Bar Council, that a Supreme Court judge sits on the Broederbond's 18-man executive.

Small wonder that a past chairman of the Broederbond was moved to declare in a speech before the inner circle: 'Do you realise what a powerful force is gathered here tonight between these four walls? Show me a greater power on the whole continent of Africa] Show me a greater power anywhere, even in your so- called civilised countries]'

The steps Mr de Klerk has taken in the last three years, steps wholly in line with earlier Broederbond proposals ('The greatest risk is not taking any risks,' said a document leaked in the late Eighties), mean that the Afrikaner elite will soon have no choice but to relinquish a good deal of their political influence. Multi-racial elections are due within the next 18 months but before then, by the middle of this year, it is expected that the first elements of a transitional government will be in place.

But the latest batch of secret documents, exposed by the liberal Afrikaans weekly Vrye Weekblad, reveal that the Broederbond remains determined to retain substantial clout well into the future, even under an African National Congress (ANC) government.

First, the Broederbond has no intention either of disbanding or removing its cloak of secrecy - this despite continual cries from the government for the ANC to sever its alliance with what they believe to be the sinisterly over-influential South African Communist Party.

Second, only Afrikaner males will be invited to join, although a possible exception might be made for Coloured (mixed-race) males who share 'the same language and values'.

Third, women will continue to be excluded. Husbands, however, are enjoined to make more use of their wives' skills. (A proposal some years back for a 'Susterbond' to be created were turned down by the Broeders for security reasons - women gossip too much, was the consensus.)

Where the wives' skills will come, presumably, into play is in the new survival strategy put forward by the Broederbond executive. The idea is to go local, to accept that loss of national influence is a fact of life but to deepen the Broederbond tentacles at community level.

In 1978, 800 Broederbond 'cells' existed nationwide. At least that many must exist today. 'Sections and members,' the secret document says, 'will increasingly have to expand the interest of the Afrikaner within their local communities.'

The reaction of opposition politicians across the board has been harshly critical. The right-wing Conservative Party, whose supporters tend to come from the less privileged half of the three-million-strong Afrikaner population, said that Broederbond members today were 'a power-addicted elite whose only aim is to salvage something for themselves out of the mess they and their government created'.

The ANC described the Broederbond's aim as 'clearly to secure for Afrikaners, and especially for themselves, disproportionate influence and privilege regardless of the democratic will of the people' - a point, this, on which the ANC is not alone in suspecting that Mr de Klerk's thinking is completely of a piece with that of his fellow Broeders.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album