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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The Leader of the Ossewa Brandwag


Johannes Frederik Janse van Rensburg (known as Hans) was born 24 Sept 1898 and died 25 Sept 1966 at Cape Town. His parents were Johannes Frederik Janse van Rensburg and his wife Louise DE VILLIERS. This Ossewabrandwag leader was the great grandchild of the Loyalist Johannes Frederik Janse van Rensburg.

He completed his schooling at Winburg in 1918 and then went and studied at the University of Stellenbosch, he obtained a MA degree in German. With the ecouragment of advocate Tielman Roos, he went and studied and obtained LL.B in Law at Pretoria.

Rapid Rise to Power

Van Rensburg was born just prior to the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War and this tragic event played a significant role in the formation of his life. The subsequent policy of Anglicization of the Boers had its negative impact on him. After his studies at the University of Stellenbosch where he was very much influenced by his German mentor Dr E. Friedlaender, he went and qualified as a solicitor. In 1924 he became the private secretary to Roos the minister of Justice. In 1925 he became the adviser to the Attorney-General. In 1930 he obtained his doctoral degree at the University of Stellenbosch. In 1933 he became the Secretary of Justice. In this capacity he visited many overseas countries and met Adolf HITLER, Hermann GORRING and other German leaders. Van Rensburg admired the German language and the discipline he observed, as well as the dynamic leadership of Adolf Hitler. He had an attraction to the ideals of national-socialism.

Hans van Rensburg got married in 1925 to Catharina Johanna JOUBERT and they had a son, Jacobus Marthinus and a daughter.

German Nazi's gives impetus for Afrikaner Nationalism

On 1 December 1936, Hans at the young age of 38 years he was appointed the Administrator of the Free State. He was also climbing at the same time the ladder of the military establishment, at the commencement of the Second World War he was a Colonel of the Free State Sixth Brigade. He felt uneasy when Jan SMUTS became Prime Minister, Smuts had very strong British leanings. Van Rensburg was offered the leadership of the Ossewa-Brandwag. This was a movement which rose out of the commemoration of the Great Trek and the focus became more Afrikaner nationalistic. Note their emblem above. They also emphasised the autrocities of the Anglo-Boer War. The war between the British and Germans gave hope to the Afrikaner to have the yoke of the British taken off their shoulders, and ultimately having their own independent republic restored. Van Rensburg resigned towards the latter part of 1940 as Administrator and became the commandant-general of the OB on 15 January 1941. This was a volk movement but soon with the early German success it became more militant in its ambitions. They formed their own private army and was working for a 'sjambokracy'. The OB eventually had a fallout with the political wing of the Afrikaners, they were starting to interfere in what was considered the political domain, subsequently the OB declined in numbers. With the victory of the National Party in 1948 the OB was no longer a major force, van Rensburg remained its leader until 1952. See photo below and note the variation in salute.

The Biggest Mass Movement of Afrikaner Nationalism

To have witnessed gathering of the OB with 20,000 people gathering at Rustenburg, and 30,000 at Springs was no small movement. The OB reached 300,000 membership. There were three factors according to Marx which brought about this mass movment of Afrikaner Nationalism. The Afrikaners had just experienced their second great trek to the cities and they were divorced from the land, this was a calling firstly tovolkseenheid' that is national unity. Secondly they were united in their rejection of participating in the Second World War against Germany. Thirdly they wanted to re-esablish a Republic, which the centenial commemoration of the Great Trek in 1938 sparked. The emphasis was more on Afrikaner Nationalism than Nazi ideology. They promoted getting together at 'braaivleis' barbecues, the promoted 'jukskei' 'n Boer game, and then worked at cultural events, and folk songs etc.

The open Nazi propogators were led by Oswald PIROW, and he had his own movement called "Nuwe Orde" which was a fascist movement.

See Photo of the Cape Leadership of the Ossewabrandwag, note the young later Prime Minister and President - John VORSTER and PW BOTHA. In the Transvaal the Ossewabrandwag operated two organisations: One was a cultural organisation and the other was the Stormjaers the later one was focused on performing deeds of sabotage. In the Cape the Stormjaers was not accepted.

(bottom row second & third from left PW Botha & JB Vorster)

Press Reports of van Rensburg's Speeches

See van Rensburg making a public speech.(77k) Visser p 16,17 reproduces the following press releases:

"The aim of the Ossewabrandwag is to found a one-party, authoritarian and disciplined state wherein the people will not be allowed to say, rwite or do as they please to the detriment of the People and the Government" Eastern Province Herald, 29 May 1942.

""The Stormjaers must be regarded as animals but as soldiers of the future republic" Die Burger, 3 August 1942

"The Ossewabrandwag is of the opinion that a German victory is an obvious condition for and Afrikaner republic to come into existence. Liberation can happen only as a result of a German victory" Die Vaderland, 8 August 1942

"The national authoritarian state will arise in South Africa with the aid of the Ossewabrandwag and the returning soldiers ... If they stand together, democracy will be in a sorry state." Die Vaderland, 22 March 1943

After the victory of the National Pary in 1948, the OB became marginalised. Van Rensburg remained its leader until 1952. Subsequently hy served as adviser to some government bodies with regarding group areas, in Cape Town and also Port Elizabeth. In 1962 he bowed out of public life and went to live on his farm, "Mooi Eiland", Parys, his OB supporters gave this farm to him as a present. He remained a member of the board of SANLAM, SANTAM en Federale Mynbou. Van Rensburg without a doubt was a very popular leader he died on 25 September 1966 at Cape Town, and the state gave him a burial with full military honour on 1st October 1966 at Pretoria.



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