Jaap Marais

Jaap Marais (2 November 1922, Vryburg - 8 August 2000, Pretoria) was a Member of Parliament in South Africa (1958-1969) and the leader of the Afrikaner nationalist South African political party, the Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP), from 1977 to his death in 2000.

Marais was the sixth of eight children. His father was one of the first fighters to enlist in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) against British colonial forces in South Africa. His mother was interned in the British concentration camp at Klerksdorp. Both parents survived the war.

Marais was active in Afrikaner nationalist politics from his twenties onwards. He was elected as a Member of Parliament for the ruling National Party in 1958 and served until 1969. The HNP was formed in 1969 by Albert Hertzog (son of former Prime Minister General JBM Hertzog) and a cabinet minister, Marais, and two other MPs, Louis Stofberg and Willie Marais. The founding of the party occurred three years after the assassination of Hendrik Verwoerd, when his successor BJ Vorster authorised the presence of Māori players and spectators during the tour of New Zealand rugby union team in South Africa in 1970. Marais considered this measure as a concession under pressure that would result in other concessions until the whole political order in South Africa, at the time based on racial and cultural differentiation, separate group areas and white rule, had been dismantled. Jaap Marais was thrown out of the Broederbond shortly after the HNP was formed, and all other identified HNP members or sympathisers were also purged from the Broederbond.

Marais exercised influence as a thinker in rightwing Afrikaner nationalist circles from the 1970s to the 1990s. His thinking was influenced by Hans Strijdom and Hendrik Verwoerd, two Afrikaner nationalist leaders and prime ministers of South Africa. He wrote a political biography of Hendrik Verwoerd and many political articles and booklets. In his writings and speeches, Marais often referred to Richard Weaver, C.J. Langenhoven, Tobie Muller, James Burnham, Alexis de Tocqueville, Edmund Burke, C.K. Chesterton, Alain de Benoist, Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. von Hayek and Ortega y Gasset.

Marais considered identity, continuity and freedom as the three key themes of Afrikaner nationalism. He emphasized that identity rested on each group's preference for its own. Such a group preference implied a related right among members of the group to differentiate and discriminate to exercise a group's preference. Among each people, according to Marais, there was a center of authority that determined who was included and excluded. In the case of Afrikaners, their centers of authority ensured that a racial preference for whites, the Afrikaans language, a distinctive Western culture, traditions and history had formed the Afrikaner identity in southern Africa.

According to Marais, continuity depended on each generation maintaining what had been built up by previous generations and transferring it to the next generation. He emphasized Afrikaners' freedom struggle against foreign domination by British imperialism in the Anglo Boer War, but also against American or Soviet Russian forces during the Cold War or the greater numbers of various black ethnic peoples in South Africa. In his view, this freedom was linked to the fatherland of Afrikaners, which he defined as South Africa minus the Asian and Coloured group areas and the various black ethnic homelands.

The HNP found it difficult to make headway against the entrenched and relatively conservative ruling National Party in the 1970s. It succeeded in winning 18% of the vote in the white parliamentary elections of 1981. However, it did not gain any seat due to the electoral system, which was based on a Westminster system of electoral districts rather than a proportional system. Its electoral growth played a role in encouraging the breaking-away from the National Party in 1982 of the Conservative Party under Andries Treurnicht.

Under the leadership of Marais, the HNP challenged the policy of the National Party to negotiate with the African National Congress and South African Communist Party. He tried in vain to obtain the co-operation of the CP. He proposed a Volksfront, being a coalition of all the right-wing organisations with one objective; to stop president FW De Klerk from handing over the reins of government to the African National Congress. Instead, in 1992, a Volksfront was created from the ranks of the Conservative Party, and after 1993 led by Constand Viljoen.

Today, the party still does not recognise the right of the African National Congress government to rule over Afrikaners in South Africa. The party also has not relinquished its claim to the previously white-dominated part of South Africa. It continues to encourage its supporters not to vote, as part of its policy of resistance.

Jaap Marais claimed that it was the British and not the National Party of 1948 who had invented apartheid. "Is it asking too much of English-speaking South Africans to acknowledge this evident truth?" Marais, who up to his death held to Verwoerdian apartheid ideology, wrote in the "Sunday Independent." Marais also demanded an apology from then UK prime minister Tony Blair for Britain's conduct during the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902, when it had instituted concentration camps in which 27,000 Boer civilians perished (24,000 children and 3,000 women). Blair refused to do so.

Apart from being a politician, Marais studied Afrikaans, Dutch and English literature and translated William Shakespeare's Julius Caeser into Afrikaans. He also was an avid ornithologist and bred birds.

Jaap Marais died on 8 August 2000. He and his wife, Marie Rautenbach, had two daughters and one son.