1948 – a time of rough ‘white on white’ politics

1948 was a time of rough ‘white on white’ politics. The National (Afrikaner) Party was determined to take charge of South Africa. It wanted an Afrikaner-controlled government, and to introduce even greater separation of the races than the United Party had – i.e. Apartheid.

The United Party was opposed to apartheid, but was not that much ‘better’. It was also led by Afrikaners, but ones with a wider worldview, like philosopher General Jannie Smuts and intellectual genius Jan Hofmeyr. But it was mainly supported by English-speaking whites. In essence, the divide between the two parties was an extension of the Anglo-Boer Wars (Boer versus Brit).

Toxic mix

It was also a replay of the Second World War during which English-speaking whites, and many blacks had gone to save the world (empire) from Hitler. Most Afrikaners did not, and many supported Hitler

Much of the United Party energy came from the troops recently returned from the fight against Hitler. A lot of the National Party energy came from the rage at the women and children who had died in the British concentration camps in the Anglo-Boer war. It was a toxic mix.

Leaden hose pipes vs plastic koshes

Even as a seven-year-old I was involved. My father was a stockbroker, but he also owned a small plastics factory. The Nats had been attacking UP meetings with lengths of hose pipes filled with lead. My father experimented and produced plastic ‘koshes’ – handheld hard plastic weapons which expanded at the end. They were as effective as the lead-filled pipes,  but left less obvious damage.

Torch Commando and Freedom Radio

This was a time of the Torch Commando (an association of returned troops). The defeat of the ‘English’  and the defeat of celebrated war and United Nations hero, Jannie Smuts,

Freedom Radio blossomed for a while. A cheeky little portable radio station opposing the new government (its call sign was the opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th) . I don’t remember its message. but I do remember listening to its crackling call sign and what followed at (I think it was) 7 p.m. each evening.

Deflating tyres

Election night, 1948. I remember it like it was yesterday (actually better!) We kids set about letting down the tyres of every car with a Nasionale Party sticker on its windscreen. I swear no parent encouraged us, but we just knew it was ‘the right thing to do’. I guess I never lost my interest in politics after that.

My father hated the United Party candidate for ‘our’ constituency, Blaar Coetzee. Said he was a bloody nationalist in disguise. He was right. The United Party won the seat (but lost the election). Not long afterwards Coetzee defected to the National Party.

Rivonia raid on our ex-home!

I have no idea to whom Kingsettle was sold, but it later leapt into the headlines as the target of the Rivonia Raid on July 11, 1963. Renamed Liliesleaf, it had become the headquarters of the ANC underground.

Police reported they had discovered huge radio aerials which, the police claimed, were used to communicate with Moscow. Actually, they were very tall lightning conductors which had been installed to protect the thatched roof house.


P.S. After WWII. For 20 years or more after the war, my mother refused to consider buying a Japanese or German car. She later softened on German cars, but never on Japanese.

P.P.S. after the war Japan excelled at mass-producing cheap products. Amongst these were watches with highly luminous numbers and hands. As kids we loved them. Later I wondered where the luminosity had come from? Nuclear waste from the streets of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Japan’s revenge? One of the few things I never bothered to Google.

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