Sixteenth-century portrait of John Calvin by an unknown artist. From the collection of the Bibliothèque de Genève (Library of Geneva)

Sixteenth-century portrait of John Calvin by an unknown artist. From the collection of the Bibliothèque de Genève (Library of Geneva)

It’s a fact that whenever a fairly large group of foreigners settle in a different country, they will bring along with them part of their parent culture, education, and manner of thinking. Furthermore, through association, it is highly probable that they will influence the population of their adopted country – this is exactly what happened when the Dutch settlers came to South Africa. Indeed, Dutch influence can be found everywhere from wine farms to hotels in Sandton.


One of the most obvious and widespread influences of the Dutch in South Africa is the religious belief and doctrine of Calvinism. This is the legacy of John Calvin although it has been customized and adapted into what has been termed Afrikaner Calvinism.

Calvinism in South Africa is unique in the sense that it did not develop in the same way it did in Europe because it was isolated and far from its original source. However, the basic beliefs remain the same. That is, success is a sign of approval from God and salvation is never assured. It also promoted the idea that there was a line between the chosen ones and those who were “damned” or “not preselected.” Many believe that this was part of the reasoning behind beliefs concerning racial superiority that underpinned Apartheid: that is, the “white Christians” versus pagan blacks and other coloured people. It did lead to the Great Trek which is an historical event where the Boers moved away from the Cape to distance themselves from the English, who were more moderate in their beliefs.

Afrikaner Broederbond

Translated, Afrikaner Broederbond (AB) refers to a group of Afrikaner brothers. Afrikaner is an ethnic group that was established when the Dutch began to settle in South Africa along with the French and Germans. It was formed in 1918 by a group of young Afrikaners who wanted an official recognition of Afrikaans as a language and of Afrikaners as native South Africans. With this done, Afrikaners could take steps to eventually gain control of the country (and be a self-determined state rather than a member of the British Commonwealth). Due to their defeat in the Second Anglo-Boer War many Afrikaners felt as if they were being treated as second class citizens in their home country. Membership to the Broederbond was only open to practicing Calvinists and white males over the age of 25. By the 1930s, they were very political but secretive with umbrella organizations and hidden agendas. By the end of the first half of the twentieth century, it had turned from a “cultural crusade” to a paramilitary force.

AB was also instrumental in promoting segregation of races and by the end of Apartheid in 1994, countless high-ranking government official and many of the elected officials in the country were members. In 1993, AB changed their name to Afrikanerbond and allowed women and other ethnic groups and races to join provided they could speak the Afrikaans language.

Cape Dutch

When one hears the term “Cape Dutch” one usually thinks of a beautiful white house for sale somewhere in the Cape wine lands. It is very much more than that, however: the term refers to descendants of the Dutch and Flemish settlers in the Western Cape. They were different from the “nomadic” Trek Boers since they preferred to remain loyal to their home country. As such, they did not imbibe the Afrikaner culture and lifestyle like the Trek Boers did.

The Cape Dutch were worldlier in the sense that they were not as conservative or nationalistic with regards to black South Africa as their counterpart settlers were. In the 1960 referendum regarding the British Commonwealth, the Cape Dutch were in favour of staying with the British Commonwealth instead of creating a South African republic.

Cape Dutch also refers to the early version of colonial architectural design because of the Dutch influences. The houses and wine estates or farms near and in the Cape are famous for Dutch-influenced structures.