The English South African, His History, Culture and Achievements

A monument to the 1820 Settlers
A monument to the 1820 Settlers

The English South African, PDF format

Karl Marx said: “The first battlefield is the re-writing of history.”  Christians should work to preserve and teach true history, and to counter false historical revisionism.  True history should also be a major part of the education of the young.  This is an age when, very rapidly, the truth about the past is being “revised” by Marxists, liberals and others, and unless this wicked revisionism is resisted people will be thoroughly indoctrinated with lies and myths presented as “truth”.  Already vast damage has been done, and even many who lived through more recent historical events have been so well indoctrinated, and conditioned to think along the “party” line, that they actually believe the lies and myths they have been fed.  Very few people think critically anymore.  They do not even know how to do so.  They simply swallow whatever they are told by their Red, almost-Red, and religious-Red heroes and masters.

The purpose of these articles is to counter the deliberate re-writing of history with those stubborn things called facts, and that wonderful thing called truth.  “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).


  I am an English South African.  My people have a magnificent history and a rich culture, and their achievements have been astonishing.

I say this without hesitation.  In South Africa since the Communist revolution which brought black Marxists to power in 1994, and indeed in the world in general, the English South African (along with his fellow white South African, the Afrikaner) is viewed in a very poor light.  He is seen as a racist, an oppressor, and someone who does not belong in Africa.  Everywhere in South Africa since the Marxist victory the history, culture and achievements of these two great African “white tribes” have been ridiculed, suppressed and destroyed.  Prior to 1994 they governed this great country, and for the most part governed it wisely and extremely well; but after the revolution they were made second-class citizens in the land of their birth.  Such lies have been disseminated about English and Afrikaans South Africans, and so frequently and thoroughly, that many of them no longer have any real understanding of or appreciation for their history or culture anymore, and indeed many have even become ashamed of it.

In truth, however, the English South African’s history is a great one, and his contribution to the country has been immense.  It is not inaccurate to say that the English South African and the Afrikaner contributed not only the most, but also that which is best, that which is most useful and beneficial, to this country.  It was not “politically correct” to say such a thing after 1994, but the overwhelming evidence was there for all to see, and so obvious that only those with an anti-white agenda would deny it.  Their achievements could be seen in the country’s great cities; in the organisation and maintenance of its splendid game parks; in its First World infrastructure; in its scientific achievements; in its outstanding judicial system that in a better time lifted this land above the surrounding African states and enabled it to maintain its status as one of the leading countries on earth; in every tarred road, every architectural marvel, every electricity cable or water pipe, every car or train or plane.  The undermining of this history and culture, the contempt heaped upon the white South African’s presence in this part of the continent, was and still is born of envy: envy at his achievements, his astonishing success, his phenomenal ability to take a wild land and transform it into a civilisation.

This article is not written in order to exalt all English South Africans as good, and all other South Africans as bad.  Far from it.  Nor is it written out of any malice or hatred towards others.  But this is an age when history is being re-written by Marxists, liberals, and others.  The truth about the past is being “revised”, and unless this wicked revisionism is resisted coming generations will be thoroughly indoctrinated with lies and myths presented as “truth”.  Already vast damage has been done, with many having been so indoctrinated, and conditioned to think along the “party” line, that they believe the lies and myths.  Very few people think critically anymore.  They do not even know how to do so.  They simply swallow whatever they are told by their Red, almost-Red, and religious-Red Masters.

Christians, above all others, must be concerned with the truth.  A proper understanding of history is vital for every believer.  To distort history is to lie.  To promote a lie is to lie oneself, and Christians are never to be liars.  Furthermore, Christians should be involved in the study and teaching of true history, science, etc., so as to counter the lies of the ungodly, who would call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20), and would say that black is white if it advanced their own agenda.

Despite how they have been rubbished by the Marxists and liberals, the fact is that South Africa’s two “white tribes”, the Afrikaners and the English, by their skill, industry and ingenuity built the country that is South Africa.  They are great nations in many ways.  But their histories, cultures and achievements have been, and continue to be, deliberately “revised” by their enemies.  Modern history saw a tide of anti-white racism engulfing South Africa under its Marxist and Marxist-sympathising rulers.  The cold, hard reality is that both “white tribes” are under threat, and both need to stand shoulder to shoulder and proclaim that they are true South Africans and true Africans.  They need to show what the country would have been like without them, and what it will be like if ever they are completely driven out or annihilated.  There is an epic battle being fought for the very survival of Africans of European descent at the tip of the Dark Continent.  Of this there can be absolutely no doubt.

The English South African, no less than the Afrikaner, has every reason to have a strong sense of belonging, and of his absolute right to be in this country.  He has every reason to hold his head up high, without feeling any need whatsoever to walk around with his proverbial tail between his legs, and to look every other South African in the eye with confidence, without yielding an inch to those who would disparage him or seek to make him feel nothing but guilt and shame.  For there would simply be no South Africa today without him.  It is as plain and simple as that.

Differences Between People Groups and Nations

  In the true Christian Church, “There is neither Jew nor Greek… for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28); but in the world, in God’s sovereignty all men are all born into particular people groups and nations.  This has been so ever since the tower of Babel.  It is the will of God for various people groups and nations to exist, and nationalism and patriotism are natural to us as human beings.  They are not in themselves sinful, provided they are kept strictly within biblical bounds.  There are those who are, nationally, our “brethren, our kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2), and for them we have a particular regard.  Paul the apostle spoke of “my nation” (Acts 28:18), “mine own nation” (Acts 26:4).  Every human being on earth is part of one, and feels some affinity for it – sometimes a very strong affinity.  Christians are indeed strangers and pilgrims on this earth, but even so they have a certain affection for their earthly nations; just as, even though Christians are part of the family of God, they have affection for their earthly families.

There are also nations which are greater than others (Deut. 4:6; Jer. 50:41); more warlike than others (Deut. 28:49-51; Jer. 5:15); wealthier than others (Jer. 49:31); more foolish than others (Deut. 32:28); and more outwardly righteous than others (Prov. 14:34).  In addition, particular sins may characterise particular nations, as a general rule: the people of Crete in biblical times were described by one of their own as “liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” – a true witness against them, wrote Paul (Titus 1:12,13).  We would hear the howls of outrage from the “politically correct” today if we were to characterise any modern nation, or people group, in such a fashion (unless it was a white nation being so characterised – the “PC Brigade” are ever ready to hurl all kinds of derogatory phrases at them)!  Facts, though, are stubborn things.  It is true that all mankind descended from our first parents, and that all men and women are conceived and born in sin, without exception.  But the fact is that there are nations which, speaking generally (to which there are always notable individual exceptions within them), are more idle, or more given to lying, or more violent, etc., than others; and there are nations which may be characterised as industrious, hard-working, generally honest, placid, peaceful, etc.

Christians must treat all men equally, regardless of race, colour or nationality; but this does not mean we must ignore the facts, or fail to acknowledge that the Lord has given to certain nations qualities, skills, etc., which are superior to others, and which would benefit those others, also, if they would just make use of them with gratitude instead of being consumed with envy at the success or skill of those among whom such qualities and skills are present to a marked degree.  Today, because of the liberal and Socialist preoccupation with racial equality, political correctness, etc., almost no one wants to state facts which may be unpalatable to others.  People are so concerned with stepping on someone’s sensitive toes that they avoid stating the obvious, the plainly observable to those without blinkers on, and they sweep the truth under the carpet.  Christians in biblical times had no such qualms, as shown by Paul’s comments about the Cretans, and Christians not that long ago had no such qualms either.  Nor should we.

A Word about Pride

  Before proceeding, a word about pride.

As it is God who in His sovereignty has made all the differences we see in people and in people groups, none of us has any grounds to be prejudiced against others.  The Bible certainly condemns sinful pride.  But let us see the definition of pride:

“A high or overweening opinion of one’s own qualities, attainments, or estate; inordinate self-esteem.”  And: “The exhibition of this quality in attitude, bearing, conduct, etc.; arrogance, haughtiness” (The Oxford Universal Dictionary).  This is sinful pride.  But here is another definition:

“A feeling of elation or high satisfaction derived from some action or possession; especially in to take a pride in.”  This is something very different!  To illustrate:

When a child does something well, better than his peers, and is praised for it, or people speak well of him, the parents will feel this elation, this high satisfaction, that their child has done well, and even perhaps because the parents’ efforts have borne fruit.  One might say, “I’m proud of you”; and if by this one means, “I’m elated; I’m satisfied; you have done well and it pleases me to see that you have” – this is not sinful pride.  But if one says arrogantly and haughtily, “My child is the best, the greatest, and I am a better parent than others because of it, etc.,” this is sinful pride.

Now what is true of one’s elation and satisfaction in one’s children’s achievements may also be true in the case of one’s people, or country.  When I examine the history and the achievements of the English South African people, I feel elated, it is pleasing, and I thank God for these things.  All that we have is given to us by the sovereign Lord of all, but He does not give natural abilities equally to all; and wherever we see achievements which have been good and beneficial we may feel elation because of them, and thank God for them and for the contribution they have made to society, the world, etc.  We may rejoice in them, while as Christians we bless God for what He has given to men.

Let us then look at the English South African nation.  It is as real, as solid, as distinctive, as that of any other people group living within the borders of the multi-cultural country called South Africa.

The English South African: A Distinct Nation Within South Africa

  What is a nation?  It is “a distinct race or people, characterized by common descent, language, or history, usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a definite territory”; “people of a particular nation”; “the whole people of a country” (The Oxford Universal Dictionary).  Thus a nation may mean a distinct people group sharing certain things in common; or it may also mean all the people living within the borders of a country.  A nation in this latter sense may consist of a number of nations in the former sense – distinct people groups – living within it (a multi-national state); or a nation may consist of essentially one people group (a nation-state).  South Africa is a multi-national state.  There are many distinct nations within it; and the English South African nation is one of them.

Not all people who belong to a particular nation (in the sense of a distinct people group) are necessarily of the same religion, dress precisely the same way, or eat the same food; but most of the distinctive traits, customs, characteristics, etc., of that particular nation are found in them.

This becomes clear by taking a look at the Indian South African nation.  It is a good one to use as an example because it is perceived to be more cohesive and unified than many others.  But in reality there is much diversity within the Indian South African people group.  Consider the following, written by Indian South African journalist Gitanjali Pather:

“But what does being Indian mean?  Is it about being born of Indian parents and if that is so what about children from mixed couples?  Are they Indian but less Indian?…. Is Indian-ness related to language and so if you speak Urdu, Hindi, Tamil or Telugu, then you automatically qualify for Indian status which would mean that 80% of Indians of South African descent cannot be Indian since they certainly don’t speak the language.  Or is being Indian about culture and religion?

“Does eating curry… wearing saris and Punjabis or being a practising Hindu or Muslim, make one Indian?  That would certainly make a number of Indians of Indian descent less Indian than others, since our lifestyles have been permeated and influenced by a global culture.  In fact, a Marathi villager walking on the Durban Esplanade would have great problems identifying as Indians some of our mini-skirted, belly-button bearing Indian girls…

“[I]t gets a little complicated this Indian thing especially because India is a land of true diversity, making South Africa’s 13 languages look like a backwoods little village…. Mumbai may be quite a shock [to Indian South Africans]… all those Indians who don’t even look like Indians… slanty-eyed Nepalese or Manipuri girls, tall rugged looking broad shouldered Punjabi women with gruff voices, small, dark wiry Koli women from the fishing village to light-skinned almost European featured Rajastanis?  According to them, they are all Indian including the dark, African featured Naga tribeswomen on the upper East coast!”[1]

The point is that not one of the supposedly “Indian” characteristics given in the quotation above, taken in isolation, defines a person as an “Indian South African”.  Rather it is when many of them are found united in one person that he or she may be identified and defined as an Indian South African.  As Pather pointed out, a great many nations make up the nation of India itself: Punjabi Indians, Koli Indians, Nepalese Indians and many others.  And in South Africa there are also a number of nations (Hindis, Tamils, etc.) which make up the Indian South African nation, which in turn is one of the many nations that make up the South African nation.

And the same is true of other people groups all over the world.

Is there such a thing as a distinct English South African nation?  If so, what is it?  The Afrikaners are a distinct nation; the Indian South Africans are a distinct nation; so are the Zulus, Xhosas, etc.  But does an English South African nation exist?

It most certainly does.  It is a myth that has been perpetuated by other South Africans that the English South African has no distinctive identity of his own, and thus no sense of nationhood.  When the Afrikaners governed South Africa there were some who claimed that the English South Africans did not really belong to South Africa but to Britain; that they were not a distinct nation and not true South Africans.  This was an error.  There are two main “white tribes”, the Afrikaners and the English.  And in the Marxist-governed South Africa which came into existence in 1994, in which only black Africans were made to feel really welcome, English South Africans again heard that they were not really South Africans, and did not belong.  There were two differences this time around, however: the Afrikaners were now in the very same position as the English – both were unwelcome; and the hatred of many blacks for the whites translated into violence against both “white tribes.”

This idea that the English are somehow less South African than their fellow-citizens is a myth.  They are as truly South African as anyone else born and bred in the country.

Why then has this myth been propagated?

There are historical reasons.  The Dutch (from whom the Afrikaners are primarily though not exclusively descended) arrived in this country long before the English did.  The first Dutch arrived in 1652, whereas large-scale English immigration to South Africa began in 1820, although there were people of English descent in the country long before this date.  This is one reason for the myth.  A second reason is that many Englishmen who came to South Africa during the time when the British Empire ruled the country had no intention of staying, and did not stay in fact.  They regarded themselves as British, South Africa was a mere British colony, and once their term of office expired they either returned home or were sent on to other assignments in other parts of the far-flung empire.  And a third reason is that there were British people who immigrated to South Africa and never left – this became their only home – but who always regarded themselves as British and spoke of Britain as “home”.

But let us look at these three historical realities one by one.

It is true that the Dutch arrived long before the English did, at least in large numbers.  But is this really a reason for claiming that the English South African is somehow less of a true South African than his Afrikaner neighbours?  Certainly not!  Whether one’s ancestors arrived three and a half centuries ago, or two centuries ago, makes absolutely no difference: generations have come and gone since then, and the descendants of both nations are equally South Africans today.  The Zulu nation only came into existence in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries, but it is one of the nations of South Africa today.  The Indians only arrived in South Africa in the mid-nineteenth century; yet their descendants are fully South African today.  In the stirring words of Sir James Rose Innes, the founder of what used to be (before the Communist-dominated government destroyed it) the marvellous educational system in South Africa which was the equal of any other in the western world and superior to many of them: “I have neither Voortrekker nor Huguenot blood in my veins…. But I am proud to be a South African and I claim to stand on the same national footing as if my forbears had landed with van Riebeeck or followed Piet Retief over the Drakensberg.”[2]

It is also true that during the time of the British Empire many Englishmen came but did not stay.  But of course these never became South Africans, so their brief stay in this country is of no relevance to the matter at hand.

And yes, it must be conceded that there were many British settlers who immigrated to South Africa and stayed the rest of their lives, with their children being born in their new country, yet they regarded themselves as British and Britain as “home”, never becoming fully South African.  But a few points ought to be made:

Although there were those who had this attitude, there were a great many who did not, and who gave themselves fully and completely to their new country; and their children and children’s children were South Africans through and through.  And even those who did have this attitude were, for the most part, devoted to South Africa and to making it the great country it became.  It must also be borne in mind that when the Dutch (ancestors of the Afrikaners) first arrived at the Cape, they were as devoted to Holland as some of the early British settlers in South Africa were to Britain!  This is perfectly natural, and it still occurs today whenever a man immigrates to a new country.  Usually that man, no matter how dearly he comes to love his new country, and no matter how hard he works in it and for it, never fully, in heart or in practice, becomes a citizen solely of that country.  He remains in many respects a citizen of two countries; of two worlds in fact.  How can it be otherwise?  He has lived in two worlds, and the attachments of youth to one’s mother country are usually very strong and last a lifetime.

His children, however, born in the new country, grow up to consider themselves citizens of the country to a far greater extent than their father.  They know no other.  But again, because of the many stories they hear from their father about the “old country”, the books in the house which come from there, family ties with people still living there, etc., they may indeed still feel some kind of attachment to it, even if they have never been there.

But by the third or fourth generation these ties are either completely severed, or extremely tenuous.  By that time the man’s descendants are fully integrated into the new country, and feel no attachment to the one he left so long before.

My own family serves to illustrate this.  Some of my great-grandparents emigrated from England and Scotland to South Africa.  In so many ways they remained English or Scottish till they died.  Most of my grandparents, however, were born in South Africa.  They were South Africans, and considered themselves to be South Africans, but even so they still retained strong ties in various ways to Britain, a place none of them ever saw.  My parents were both South Africans, but still retained a certain “Englishness” in their outlook, habits, etc.  It was faint, but it was there.  Even I, a fourth-generation South African, feel, through my wonderful childhood memories of my grandparents and great-grandparents, through the story books of my childhood, etc., some strange familiarity with Britain even though I did not visit it until I was forty.  It is my ancestral heritage and I exult in it, for it is a wonderful heritage, a connection to a nation greatly blessed of God in the past, which has contributed more to the world than any other nation on earth since Roman times.  But am I British?  No.  I am a South African through and through.

A Distinctive Collective Name

  There are those who assert that English South Africans have no distinctive collective name for themselves, as their name is the same as that of the citizens of England, and therefore they are not true South Africans.  After all, the Afrikaners are not called “Dutch South Africans”.  The name “Afrikaner” came to be applied to them as they developed a distinctive identity and culture separate from that of Holland.  And so it is argued that as the English have no distinctive name, they have no proper identity.

This may sound like a plausible argument to some.  But it is simply not true.

Firstly, English South Africans do have a collective name: “English South Africans”.  Or even simply, “the English”.  Granted, the first is somewhat clumsy, and the second is somewhat confusing, since the inhabitants of England have the same name.  Granted, it would have been better if they had come up with another name for themselves.  But for better or for worse these are the collective names for South Africans whose ancestors came from England.

Sometimes the English South African is called an “English-speaking South African.”  But this should be discarded as worthless.  Not only does it identify him solely by his language, which in itself is not the sole identifying characteristic of a people; but in addition there are a great many English-speaking South Africans who are not English South Africans!  They belong to other people groups, other nations, in the country.

The English are not merely English-speaking South Africans.  They are a distinctive nation within the borders of South Africa.

Secondly, the English are not unique in this matter of their collective name.  As stated previously, a country is often comprised of various people groups.  A nation-state is one reality; a state made up of many nations is another.  South Africa is the latter.

Paul the apostle called himself a Roman citizen.  He was a Jew by descent, birth, and heritage; but he was also a citizen of the city of Tarsus (Acts 21:39) and a freeborn Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29).  He could be called a “Jewish Roman”.  For the Roman Empire was not a nation-state.  It was a union of many different nations.  There were “Egyptian Romans”, “Jewish Romans”, “Spanish Romans”, etc.

Most nations of the world, in fact, were forged this way. Take Britain.  Within its borders there are a number of nations: English, Scots, Welsh.  Long ago each one of these had its own geographical country.  These were nation-states.  But over time they were merged together as the British nation.

Take the Zulus.  Until the time of King Shaka the Zulus were just one of many small Bantu tribes in their region of southern Africa.  But by military conquest Shaka merged all those tribes into a larger nation, and thus the much-expanded Zulu nation was born.  Zululand under Shaka was not, strictly speaking, a nation-state at first, but a conglomeration of nations (tribes if you will) which had been forged together and were now known collectively as Zulus.  Later still the Zulu nation became part of the South African nation.  The Zulus today are just one of many “tribes” (nations) within what is called South Africa.  They are “Zulu South Africans.”

Take the United States of America.  The original settlers from Europe came to be called Americans.  But immigrants to America from other lands were of two types.  There were those who were similar to the original Americans of English descent, who were able to assimilate into the American population fairly easily.  But then there were those who were in many ways very different from the original Americans in language, customs, culture, etc., who did not easily assimilate and lose their former national identities by melting into the American nation.  And because they were so different, and retained their differences, they began calling themselves, or began to be called by others, by hyphenated names such as “Mexican-Americans”, “Arab-Americans”, etc.

Despite its “melting pot” reputation the United States is not a nation-state.  Many people from different nations live within the borders of America, and not all of them have assimilated so as to lose their identities by becoming, simply, “Americans.”  They do not feel one with those who think of themselves solely as Americans, nor do such Americans feel one with them.  The differences are just too great.

Unlike the Afrikaner nation in South Africa, the nations living within the borders of America did not give themselves entirely new names.  The only ones who really had their own distinctive collective name were the various tribes of “Indians” in America, such as the Apache, Cherokee, etc.  Today they are usually referred to as “Native Americans.”  But even this is far from ideal, for any American who is born in America is in truth a “native” American.  And besides, even the “Native Americans” were not native to America, for they came from somewhere else originally.

Getting back to South Africa: there is another nation within its borders which (as far as its collective name is concerned) is in precisely the same situation as the English, and that is the Indian South African nation (also known simply as the Indian nation).  Actually there are others as well (Jewish South Africans, Italian South Africans, etc.), but we will confine ourselves to this one.  The Indians retained the name of the land from which they originally hailed: India.  But would anyone deny that Indian South African have a distinctive identity?  Surely not!  Their longer collective name may not be ideal; their shorter one may be confusing; and what is worse, it makes ignorant people think they do not really belong in South Africa.  But the Indians most certainly belong.

This was put very well by Nivashni Nair, an Indian South African, in a news article entitled “Indian Crisis”.  She went to study for a while in India, proud of her Indian heritage, but swiftly learned that she did not fit in.  Despite being a Hindu and dressed in traditional Indian garb, she was constantly stared at; for as her Indian friend told her, although she did not realise it she still looked different, her mannerisms were different, etc.  “It was then that it dawned on me,” she wrote, “that I was not Indian and now two months after returning from my four-month stay in India, I have finally accepted my true identity.” [3]

When it was known that she was from South Africa, someone in India even asked her if she was black or white!  “In a confused state,” she wrote, “I went through the first month in India wondering where I fitted in.  All my life I had prided myself on being a South African Indian with links to India.  However, the general response to me in India was that I did not have any links to the people in India.”

In a speech before she left India she said, “I came to India to follow in my great-grandfather’s footsteps but instead I forged my own path.  It was a path that I took as a South African.  I accept who I am and I will always be grateful for a fascinating link to Indian culture but while I look like an Indian, my heart will always be South African.”

Precisely.  And the English South African can say the same thing.  I will always be grateful for a fascinating link to the culture of Britain.  I rejoice in that heritage, for I am descended from people of a great country; but while in some ways I look like an Englishman, I am not.  I am an African, and an English South African.

A Distinctive Culture

  What is culture?  It is “the totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought” (The American Heritage Dictionary).    It is “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group”, and “the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place and time” (Merriem-Webster’s Online Dictionary).  It is language; dress; food; music; art; history; architecture; manners; lifestyle; etc.  In a word, it is one’s way of life, and the way of life of one’s community or people group.

There are those who assert that English South Africans do not have a clearly discernible culture.   They claim that in many ways English culture is merely a “pale reflection or imitation of Afrikaner culture” (to quote one Afrikaner)[4].    Is this true?  Do English South Africans lack a distinctive culture?

Absolutely not!  Let us consider just a few aspects of English South African culture:

There is the language.

The fact that English is spoken by people all over the world is irrelevant.  After all, there are people who speak Afrikaans in Australia, New Zealand, and many other parts of the world, just as there are people who speak Hindi, French, Spanish, and so many other languages in many parts of the world as well.  The English South African speaks English.  This does not make him a foreigner in South Africa, just as speaking Afrikaans in a land to which he has immigrated and become a citizen does not make an Afrikaner a foreigner there either.

With language, a nation has one of three choices: 1) to hold on to the language it spoke in the country from which it came; 2) to develop a new language in its new country; or 3) to adopt a new one in its new country.  All three occurred in South Africa.  The English held on to the English language; the Dutch developed a new language – Afrikaans; and the Indians adopted a new language – English.  Are any of these three people groups somehow “less” South African because of this?

There is music.

Here I certainly do not refer to modern “music” in any of its many forms.  Nor do I refer to folk music, for although Scottish music has been popular with those of Scottish descent, English South Africans did not retain the folk music of England, by and large, nor develop a distinctly South African folk music of their own.  Afrikaners developed a rich folk music; the English did not.  The musical heritage of the English, however, is that of western Europe.  It is not specifically English of course, but it is the music which has defined western Europe for centuries: the timeless, exalted music of the great western composers.  In this, English South Africans are heirs to the same great classical musical genius as are other nations with western European origins.

There is dress.

The dress of English South Africans is predominantly European.  In this they are essentially no different from the Afrikaners.  The Afrikaners have a distinctive folk dress.  But how many Afrikaners actually wear such clothes on a daily basis?  Most of the time they dress just like their English counterparts and indeed like people of European descent all over the world.  It is in fact very hard to tell Afrikaners and English apart in this regard.  Of course, there are adaptations.  Both “white tribes” have adapted European attire and made it more South African.

My wife and I, when travelling in America or Europe, have enjoyed playing a game in airports: “Spot the white South Africans”.  We are often able to guess correctly when we see one.  But to the untrained eye they would look pretty much like any other white person.  What we are unable to do as easily, however, is to distinguish the English South African from the Afrikaner.  They are virtually identical.

In dress as well as in other matters the world has become English.  The British Empire covered a quarter of the globe, and set the standard which subject peoples the world over sought to emulate.  Many peoples of the world even emulated the English military uniform: plumed helmets on cavalrymen, swords and other trappings worn by officers.  Some African countries loved to retain the English wigs worn by judges, even after independence.

Thus English dress is now the dress of much of the world!  Indian South Africans may wear their saris to certain distinctively Indian functions such as weddings and cultural events, but for casual day to day wear and for work the majority of Indians today have adopted European dress.  The same is true of Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Venda South Africans, etc., who are not going about their everyday business in the animal skins which their ancestors wore!  The vast majority of them only wear such attire on certain special occasions.

There is cuisine.

The food of the English South Africans reflects their cultural origins in Britain, but also reflects the influence of various other cultures in South Africa, as is true of all South Africans.

English cuisine in South Africa is often difficult to define precisely today.  But the reason for this is simple: the world has in so many ways become English.  And this is true of cuisine as well.  One just has to think of the good old sandwich, invented by Lord Sandwich and now eaten the world over; English scones, cakes and pastries, the tea-time foods of choice for multitudes of non-English people around the world; bacon and eggs at breakfast; fish and chips.  All these things are English, yet millions of those enjoying them every day would not know it.

English South African cuisine is in fact a very rich one, although many people would not even realise it today.  To mention just a few: foods such as roast beef or lamb, sausages and mash, shepherd’s pie, various cheeses, shortbread, mustard – all these and many more reflect the origins of the nation in Britain.  But other dishes, such as curries, boerewors, etc., show that the English, no less than all other South Africans, have borrowed extensively from the other peoples living within the country and have made these dishes their own.  Cuisine around the world is never a static thing.  Times change.  Tastes change.  This is true of the English South Africans as well.  But even so one can definitely discern an English cuisine.

Although it is true, then, that a distinctively English South African culture is somewhat more difficult to identify in South Africa today than that of other South Africans, this is not because it does not exist. But there are at least two reasons why it is not as immediately apparent as various others:

The first reason, as mentioned previously, is the sheer dominance of the English way of life.  The rest of the country has adopted so much of this that the distinctiveness of English culture has been diluted!

The English language is now the first language of millions of other South Africans who are not English at all.  The language, then, is something which English South Africans have given to millions of their fellow-countrymen.

English cuisine is today the standard fare of millions of non-English South Africans.  English dress is the preferred dress of millions of South Africans who are not English.  One does not see the English South African adopting the dress of his Indian or Zulu fellow-countrymen.  But they most certainly have adopted his.

Thus a distinctively English culture has been diluted, to a large extent, by the fact that so many other South Africans have as it were become English in so many ways.  The English do not aspire to sound, look and act like Zulus or Indians; but these people groups aspire to sound, look and act English.  This means that, far from the English having lost his cultural identity, he has in fact shared it with the whole country.  Therefore it is not surprising that a distinctively English culture is not always easy to discern.  When almost everyone else looks, sounds and even acts English, he is not going to stand out.  Nor is he going to feel a great need to emphasise his “tribe” the way others do.  For his has been the dominant culture, whereas other people groups, not being dominant and feeling that their culture is under threat, seek to protect it by emphasising whatever is unique and special about it.

This is a worldwide phenomenon.  English language and culture is the dominant one today, globally.  This is not just for historical reasons, as some might think.  The truth is that many diverse peoples aspire to that culture.  They view it as superior in many ways to their own.

The second reason why a distinctively English culture is somewhat more difficult to identify today than those of other South Africans is of a more negative nature.  English South African culture and identity were greatly damaged in the late twentieth century and continuing into the twenty-first.  The English were no longer in certain respects as socially cohesive as they once were.  Massive guilt manipulation was responsible.  Black Marxists and the rest of the world told them so frequently that they and the Afrikaners were the world’s worst racists and oppressors, that many of them became ashamed of their great heritage, phenomenal achievements, and all the things that made their nation and culture something which so many millions from other cultures aspired to emulate.  And so, while other nations in South Africa proudly celebrated their heritage and way of life, the English played theirs down, and even suppressed it, in post-1994 South Africa.  There was less of a sense of community, of cohesion, than there used to be.  It was still there, but in the shadows.  It was as if they did not want to raise their heads too high above the parapets, lest they had them blown off.

Of course, what retreated into the shadows could emerge into the bright light of day again.  But it would take a sense of purpose to be restored, strong leadership, and a resurgence of interest in, and gratitude for, the English South African’s wonderful history and culture.

In the aftermath of the black Marxist victory in 1994 the Afrikaner was in precisely the same position.  His identity and culture were also under assault, resulting in a loss of his sense of community and social cohesion.  It was the old tactic of “divide and conquer” which had been used to great effect by the Marxists who were now running the country.

But for the Afrikaner this state of affairs began to change a few years after the 1994 Communist victory.  He started to fight back – but not with military weapons.  “Beginning in 2000… there has been an unusual ferment in Afrikaans, a search for new meaning under black domination and possibly a way out of the political impasse constituted by a biological democracy where racial head counts determine most political outcomes.  Afrikaner cultural response has been even stronger… in a massive privatisation of Afrikaans culture since 1994.  Starting this year [2005], one may discern a new assertiveness among the large mass of Afrikaners who are openly referring to transformation as ‘reverse apartheid’, challenging the dogma of white guilt and subservience, the staple of the mainstream media since 1994.”[5]

The English South African did not perceive the threat as clearly, because – thanks to the fact that he shares a common language, and something of a common history, with millions of people of English descent all over the world – he had to a large extent lulled himself into a false sense of security.  There was no threat to his language, as there was to the Afrikaner’s.  English would not die out, neither in South Africa nor in the rest of the world.  And it would always be much easier for him to adjust and “fit in” elsewhere than it would be for the Afrikaner, because of the common language and at least something of a common history (albeit a now-somewhat distant one).  It would also be easier for him to view himself as a “citizen of the world” than it would be for many others, thanks to the worldwide influence of the British Empire.

Nevertheless, the English desperately need to fully perceive the threat they face.  Their history is threatened (name changes, rewriting the history books, etc.).  Their South African way of life is threatened.  Their place in the sun, their very existence is threatened, via affirmative action, being made second-class citizens, the large-scale murder of whites, and in many other insidious ways.

It will take longer for the English to gather their forces as it were, to regroup, and to resist the destruction of their nation, way of life and history.  It is easier for many of them to simply immigrate to other parts of the once-British Empire than for Afrikaners to do so, and many opt for this route as the country continues to unravel into typical Communist chaos.  But even so most are unable to leave, and sooner or later they must pull together and realise that they do not need to be ashamed of their culture, heritage and way of life, and that it is worth defending and holding.   For truly, the English South African is “heir to a greater tradition and a greater store of precious memories than he knows”.[6]

Let us examine, albeit all too briefly, something of the English South Africans’ massive contribution to their beloved country.

The arrival of the 1820 Settlers
The arrival of the 1820 Settlers

The Contribution of English South Africans to Their Country

  “I have neither Voortrekker nor Huguenot blood in my veins,” wrote Sir James Rose Innes in the nineteenth century, “and the ‘South African spirit’, as understood by those who extol it, implies a view of the Native question which I cannot share.  But I am proud to be a South African and I claim to stand on the same national footing as if my forebears had landed with van Riebeeck or followed Piet Retief over the Drakensberg.”[7]

“An unknown people inhabit South Africa,” wrote John Bond in 1956.  “They are not the Afrikaners, about whom a great deal has been written, in several languages.  They are not the Bushmen, the Hottentots, the Malays, the Cape Coloured, the amaXhosa, the Zulu, the Basuto – their histories are known, their customs described.  They are not even the South African Indians, about whom the United Nations have heard so much…. These unknown people are the English-speaking South Africans [or rather, to use a better collective name, the English South Africans – S.W.]…. They are one of the smallest English-speaking peoples – smaller even than the New Zealanders, whose national history started half a century later, and far smaller than the Australians, whose beginnings came likewise at the close of the eighteenth century.  Yet the English-speaking South Africans have exerted an influence out of all proportion to their numbers.  They have never formed as much as ten per cent of the total population of their country.  But with their arrival in the shank of Africa a creative stimulus stirred in one of the remotest and wildest countries in the world.  The stranded nucleus of older settlers from western Europe [i.e. the Dutch South Africans, or Afrikaners] felt a powerful and disturbing reinforcement.”[8]

Although people from Britain had settled in South Africa before the year 1820, it was in that year that the first large-scale immigration of British settlers to the country occurred, and thus the year 1820 marks the real origin of the English South Africans.  South Africa would never be the same again, and mostly for the better.  Their sheer energy, creativeness, British iron will and orderliness did wonders for an untamed land.  They transformed it into the modern marvel it became, “turning South Africa from a chaos and a wilderness into a thriving modern State”.[9]

As time went by and new generations arose, they took on a distinctly South African identity.  They maintained links with the West, but they ceased to be British and became fully South African, just as the Dutch settlers had done before them.  They saw no reason to break off all ties with Britain, and in this, providentially, they acted wisely, for those ties brought and then maintained the civilised standards of Protestant Britain in this wild portion of the Dark Continent.  They were truly South Africans, but maintained so much that was good and great from Britain, at a time when it was indeed largely still deserving of the name “Great Britain”, that the country which became South Africa was enriched by them to an incalculable degree.  The Afrikaner nation itself, the other “white tribe”, owes more than many of its members realise to the arrival of the English, a fact admitted by candid Afrikaner thinkers.  “‘The fact that the Afrikaner has remained a civilized being, at so great a distance from the countries his forebears came from, must be attributed first and last’, according to Dr G.D. Scholtz, the well-known Afrikaner Nationalist thinker, ‘to the fact that he could rely on the products of civilization in Europe.’  Those products, from education to ammunition, from communications to political stimulus, did not reach the Karroo or the Highveld by magic.  They were put there by his English-speaking fellow-countryman.”[10]

The Dutch settlers who in time came to form the Afrikaner nation had made such a clean break with Europe, and were so isolated at the remote southern tip of Africa, that if English settlers had not come to these shores there is the very real possibility that the civilised standards of Europe, with all its vast and rich culture, drive, genius and progress, would in time have been largely forsaken and forgotten by them, and the Dark Continent would have absorbed them almost as surely as the African bush takes over any abandoned farmhouse that is left too long.  Such was the desire for isolation and independence of the Afrikaners from Europe, and so great was the distance between Europe and South Africa, that the progress, the great advances and developments, taking place in Europe in the nineteenth century could so easily have passed them by, were it not for the fact of the coming of the English in 1820 and subsequently.

As soon as the English settlers arrived in South Africa their contribution to their new country began.  And what a contribution it was!  “They founded new towns and new harbours; they built roads and pioneered trails into the hinterland where none had before existed; they brought news of the outer world, its manners, customs and attitudes to an isolated interior where comfort and culture had been sacrificed to freedom from official interference.  They exercised influence on a rising nation in a thousand overt and mysterious ways.”[11]

They were the driving force behind the founding of a great many towns and cities throughout South Africa, including some of the greatest ones.  Grahamstown (originally Graham’s Town) was one.  “In the decade since their arrival, the settlers had… made of their ‘capital city’ Graham’s Town, a busy thriving place which, set among bare and forbidding hills, presented a pleasing appearance with its rows of neat white cottages and lovely gardens.  Except for a few merchants, no one was rich, the majority being content to live quietly on moderate means, making their own amusements and remaining at peace with their neighbours.”[12]

Port Elizabeth was another English settler city.  This was where the 1820 settlers first disembarked, when it was known as Algoa Bay and there was no city there, not even a town or village.  It could only boast four houses when the settlers arrived.  But within ten years there were 100, and by 1828 Port Elizabeth was a full magistracy.  As shipping increased it developed and grew.  Today it is one of South Africa’s great cities.  It was a disgrace when the metropolitan area was named the Nelson Mandela Metro, and the bay the Nelson Mandela Bay.  Port Elizabeth was built by the genius and hard work of English settlers, not by the likes of Mandela and his fellow-Communists.

Then there was East London.  Lieutenant John Bailie, a leader of a party of 1820 settlers, spent his time seeking out possible new harbours.  It was he who showed the possibilities of the Buffalo River mouth as a harbour and in 1836, as the first brig was brought into the harbour, Bailie raised the Union Jack on shore.  The harbour proved very useful and in 1847 Sir Harry Smith named the village which had begun to grow around the harbour, East London.  Today it is one of South Africa’s most picturesque cities.

Bailie travelled to Natal and opened a trading post at Durban.  He was drowned while helping to rescue passengers from a shipwreck.

Alexander Biggar, the leader of one of the parties of 1820 settlers and a military officer, went to Durban to begin trading.  He organised the first volunteer corps in Natal province, the Port Natal Volunteers.  When the Voortrekker Piet Retief and his men were murdered by the Zulu king, Dingane, it was Biggar who organised a small force of just eighteen men to go to the aid of the remaining members of Retief’s party.  Biggar fought alongside the Voortrekkers at the Battle of Blood River, that great defining battle in Afrikaner history.  He survived, but was killed in a skirmish with the Zulus a few weeks later.

Another 1820 settler, William Robinson, who had arrived as a baby, travelled north to the Boer town of Potchefstroom in the Transvaal and founded the first school there.  Later he became a big-game hunter, and then landdrost of Rustenburg and a colleague of Paul Kruger, the iconic Afrikaner leader.  Robinson, in fact, although English, was appointed as chairman of the committee that drafted the constitution of the Boers’ South African Republic.  He died in 1912 at the age of 93, the last survivor of the original 1820 settlers.

Henry Hartley arrived with the 1820 settlers at the age of four, and despite being handicapped with club feet became an expert horseman and elephant hunter.  On the other side of the Limpopo River, in the land that would later become Rhodesia, he stumbled across ancient gold workings and he, along with the German Karl Mauch, pioneered the great gold mining industry of Rhodesia.

These were just a few of the settlers who did so much for their new country.

Education has been dear to the heart of English South Africans ever since their large-scale arrival in 1820, and the South African education system, which became one of the best in the world, was the product of English South Africans more than anyone else.  And contrary to the anti-white lies and propaganda spread by black Communists and nationalists ever since the Communist victory in 1994, schools were established which gave equal education to white and black children.  For example, a school was established in Graham’s Town not long after the arrival of the English settlers; and, “Following the liberal tendencies of the times, there was ostensibly no distinction between white and black, the child of the Hottentot or the slave being entitled to sit next to the white child and to receive the same education.”[13]

Contrary to the mistaken belief of so many black South Africans, not to mention the world at large, the English settlers were not the black-hating racists they are so often made out to be.  There were those among them, of course, who hated and mistreated people of other races, as there are among all people in all countries and in all ages; but it is not honest to convey the impression that all whites, or even the majority, wanted to annihilate all blacks.  Listening to black Marxists tell it, one would think that white South Africans have done nothing but harm to black South Africans.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but this dangerous myth is deliberately propagated.  Whites even came to the rescue of blacks at certain critical times.  One such moment was when the English saved the Fingoes from annihilation:

The Abambo were the remnants of various Bantu tribes which had been decimated by the Zulus.  They lived among the Xhosa and were known as Amamfengue.  The colonists corrupted this name to “Fingoes”.  Other black tribes employed them as cattle herders, builders of huts, and tillers of their fields.   A black chief, Hintza, treated them very cruelly and referred to them as his “dogs”.

The missionary John Ayliff worked among them and was very sympathetic to their plight.  When in 1835 the Governor of the Cape, Sir Benjamin D’Urban (after whom the great city of Durban was named), came to the Transkei (homeland of the Xhosa nation) and encamped near Butterworth, the eight Fingo chiefs came to see him.  They asked to be taken under British protection as subjects of the King of England, and to be allowed to settle in or near the colony.  D’Urban knew they were terribly mistreated by the Xhosa and agreed to allow them to settle between the Great Fish and the Keiskama Rivers.  When Hintza got wind of this he ordered a massacre of the Fingoes, and in a few short hours many were indeed killed.  But D’Urban threatened to hang Hintza from the tree he was standing under if he did not stop the massacre.

The great Fingo migration to their new homeland began on the 9th May 1835.  They were guarded by a strong force of colonists on commando under Colonel Somerset’s direction.  Ayliff and his family were in the front in their wagon.  The column stretching behind them was a mile and a half in breadth and eight miles in length, and contained 2000 men, 5600 women and 9200 children, with some 15000 cattle.  Colonel Somerset was very kind to the Fingoes on this epic journey.  He stopped the column often so the people could rest.  At night no fires were lit so as to avoid attracting attention from their black enemies.  At the Kei River, as they were wading across, they were attacked in the rear by the Gcalekas.  The Cape Mounted Rifles, who were part of the escort, galloped to the rear and fought off their attackers.  Ayliff later wrote, “I could not refrain from cheering them, hat in hand, as they passed by the side of my wagon, hastening to the protection of the helpless.”

Finally reaching the Gonubie River, they were safe.  On the 14th they crossed the Keiskama River into the area allocated to them.  They had been protected by the English, and under a large milkwood tree where a  national monument was later erected they raised their hands and recited a pledge to be loyal to the British King, to do all they could to support the English missionaries and to educate their own children.[14]

Another historic moment when whites came to the rescue of blacks was after the tragic event known as the National Suicide of the Xhosas in 1857.  “There are those today who will stop at nothing to convince the world that the coming of the white man to South Africa resulted in nothing but misery.  The truth, however, is that the heathen darkness in which the black tribes lived was degrading and cruel; and the preaching of the Gospel by white missionaries was instrumental, under the sovereignty of God, in improving the lot of the black nations in general, in all aspects of life.”[15]  A young Xhosa “prophetess” and her witchdoctor uncle convinced the Xhosa nation that all the white men would be driven into the sea if all the Xhosa cattle were slaughtered and all the corn was destroyed.  Cape government officials and missionaries tried to dissuade the Xhosa from this suicidal act, but in vain.  “The nation began to starve to death.  Many resorted to cannibalism, even eating their own children.  In the territory of British Kaffraria, the population dropped from 104 721 to 37 229.  And if it were not for the fact that whites had gathered supplies of food to distribute among the blacks, the situation would have been even worse.”[16]

As time went by, the descendants of those first 1820 settlers scattered across the length and breadth of South Africa, and beyond.  So much more could be recorded of the English in South Africa.  “The nature of their contribution is enshrined in oft-told tales: how they… fought for the freedom of the Press and for the right to associate, of their determination to achieve representative government for the people generally… of their patronage of the sciences and of the humanities and the great names that they added to the nation’s roster of distinction, of great deeds wrought in South Africa itself and beyond the Limpopo…. Their achievements have been hymned in prose and verse and commemorated in every kind of edifice.  Their names are proudly borne by Afrikaans- as well as English-speaking citizens of South Africa today.”[17]

They gave the country great political figures and administrators, including prime ministers.  There were great missionaries, scientists, authors, inventors, travellers and hunters among them.


How simple, yet how moving and how true, the inscription on a granite memorial in Grahamstown:

To the
to whom South Africa
owes so much

  What is recorded here is just the tip of the iceberg.  So much more could be told, and even after the telling of it so much more would yet remain untold.  The contribution of the English South African to the country he loves – loves as much as any other South African loves it – has been immense, and in a very real sense immeasurable.  What would South Africa be without the English?  Where would South Africa be?  These are not difficult questions to answer.  English South Africans are true South Africans.  This country belongs to them as much as it does to any other nation living within its borders.  South Africa would have been incalculably poorer if they had not come; and with large numbers having left since 1994 the country has been incalculably impoverished as a result.  Together with the Afrikaners, the Zulus, the Indians, the Coloureds, the Xhosas and so many others, the English belong here.  It is a huge tragedy that murderous thugs spouting nonsense about Africa belonging only to black Africans are succeeding in forcing ever increasing numbers of English South Africans to leave, or that Communist revisionists continue with their sinister plot to load them with undeserved guilt and make them regret their presence in the country.  It will also be tragic if some whites continue to promote the false notion about Afrikaners being the only legitimate white South Africans, thereby falling for the Communist tactic of “divide and conquer” by separating the Afrikaners from their natural allies against the Red tide.  The English South African should hold his head up high, resist the forces seeking his downfall, and claim his rightful place in the sun as a true South African!  For that is what he is, and nothing less.

First published 2010

Revised July 2020

Picture on first page: 1820 Settlers Monument, Grahamstown, South Africa

Shaun Willcock is a minister, author and researcher.  He runs Bible Based Ministries.  For other articles (which may be downloaded and printed), as well as details about his books, audio messages, pamphlets, etc., please visit the Bible Based Ministries website; or write to the address below.  If you would like to be on Bible Based Ministries’ email list, to receive all future articles, please send your details.

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[1].Proudly Indian?  Be Human Too! By Gitanjali Pather, The Post, August 1-5, 2007.

[2].They Were South Africans, by John Bond, pg. xiii.  Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 1960.

[3].Weekend Witness, January 27, 2007.

[4].Anton Barnard,

[5].A New Anglo-Boer Entente for the 21st Century, by Dan Roodt, pg.5.

[6].They Were South Africans, quotation from Denis Hatfield (SABC), dust jacket of the book.

[7].They Were South Africans, pg. xiii.

[8].The Were South Africans, pg.1.

[9].They Were South Africans, pg.2.

[10].They Were South Africans, pgs.2,3.

[11].Thus Came the English in 1820, by Dorothy E. Rivett-Carnac, pg.125.  Howard Timmins, Cape Town, 1961.

[12].Thus Came the English in 1820, pg.89.

[13].Thus Came the English in 1820, pg.83.

[14].Thus Came the English in 1820, pgs.100-1.

[15].“Holy War” Against South Africa, by Shaun Willcock, pg.56.  First Century Ltd., Huddersfield, UK, 2003.

[16].˝Holy War” Against South Africa, pg.57.

[17].Thus Came the English in 1820, pg.126.