Movement of the Lost Ten Tribes
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The Dutch arrived on the tip of Africa in 1652 when the Dutch East India Company set up an out post. Soon after, the company began bringing settlers from Holland. They became known as the "Boers" or "farmers." However in 1814, the Netherlands ceded its south African territory to the British. Six years later the first English colonists arrived. From then on, the two European groups were in constant conflict over land, minerals, culture and language, and government power.
The Afrikaners believed the British persecuted Dutch settlers. Finally in 1836, the Afrikaners abandoned the Cape area. They set out for the Transvaal region in the north to establish their own republic. This movement north became known as the "Great Trek." In their minds it "forms the national epic--formal proof of God's election of the Afrikaner people and His special destiny for them."2 As they set out in covered wagons, according to their viewpoint:
They were followed by the British army, like that of Pharaoh, and everywhere were beset by the unbelieving black "Canaanites." Yet because God's people acted according to His will, He delivered them out of the hands of their enemies and gave them their freedom in the promised land.3
Many Afrikaners died during the trek. Others were killed in battles with Africans. The decisive battle was at Blood River on December 16, 1838. 10,000 Zulu warriors attacked the trekkers. Over 3,000 Zulus were killed. No Afrikaners died. The Afrikaners attributed their victory to God's intervention. They said it was a covenant God made with them. They established their own republic, but continued to be in conflict with the British over land and minerals. The Afrikaners defeated the British in 1880-1881 in the first Anglo-Boer War. The second Anglo-Boer War ended with the Afrikaners' decisive defeat in 1902.
This bitter historical experience was perceived as the "sacred saga of Afrikanerdom."4 Old Testament stories, especially from the Exodus and Promised Land traditions, were prominent. They were guiding images for their self-understanding. An Afrikaner poet put it this way:
But see! the world becomes wilder;
the fierce vermin worsen,
stark naked black hordes,
How the handful of trekkers suffer,
the freedom seekers, creators of a People.
Just like another Israel,
by enemies surrounded, lost in the veld,
but for another Canaan elected,
led forward by God' plan.5
The Afrikaners were the Covenant People. Land was central to this self-image. An historian explains, "The very spine of Afrikaner history (no less than the historical sense of the Hebrew scriptures upon which it is based) involves the winning of the 'the Land' from alien, and indeed, evil forces."6 The land had to be redeemed. These alien and evil forces included the British, but especially the indigenous Africans. They were viewed as inferior. They were Canaanites destined to be the servants of the Afrikaners.
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