The Long, Long Trek of the Afrikaners

While acknowledging the need for such crisis assistance, the Commission stressed the danger of indiscriminate giving of State and charitable doles to the Poor Whites.  It stated that “the spirit of dependence on the State on the part of the poor, and even of the more privileged classes, has grown to such an extent that it may almost be called a national malady.”  The opinion was also quite widely mooted at this time that those who accepted Government assistance should forfeit the right to vote.

The Commission did not consider that the best place for Poor Whites was necessarily on the land.  Indeed, the Commissioners stated that industrial work in the towns was “one of the most potent means of bringing about their economic rehabilitation.”

Industrial Salvation

World War Two drew yet further thousands of Afrikaners to the cities.  The huge jump in industrialisation during and after World War Two fully substantiated the opinion of the Commissioners: that it was here the Afrikaners had to look for their economic salvation.

In 1948 the Afrikaners recaptured what they had lost on the battlefields: control of their own country.  Now well and truly back in the driving seat, the Afrikaners began changing their blue collars for white.  They began moving off the farms and into the cities, where most of them now live.  In 1900 only 10% of Afrikaners lived in the urban areas.  By 1970 the proportion was almost exactly the reverse, with only 12% still living on the platteland.  Poor Whitism, as a national problem, slowly disappeared.

The influence of education on the upward mobility of the Afrikaner has been profound.  As late as 1945, there were only some 14 000 White university students in the entire country.  This rose to 30 000 in 1960; 55 000 in 1970; 83 000 in 1980 and 100 245 in 1988.  But even after 1948 the domination of the cities by English speakers persisted.  There was, for many years, no place in that world of business and money for the Afrikaners, whose talented sons instead found success in law, politics, academe and the arts.