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Titles in Afrikaans

ROYAL, NOBLE, AND common titles in Afrikaans are, like most of the language, descended from Dutch antecedents which, in turn, come from German. The Cape knew not the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was established after the Dutch relinquished the colony, but was founded as an outlet of the Dutch East India Company (or V.O.C., to give its Dutch acronym). After a brief period of British occupation, Dutch dominion over the Cape returned during the Batavian Republic before finally being seized by the British in 1806 and erected as a British colony in 1814. When the Union of South Africa was created in 1910, the country had its first king, George V, though the sovereign was generally only referred to as ‘King of South Africa’ from 1927 onwards.

The country has had no emperors, though some like to attribute that title to Shaka, the greatest King of the Zulus. Typically, however, he is known as king (as in King Shaka International Airport, Durban’s brand new landing-place). South Africa’s royalty have tended to be either native (like Prince Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela) or German (like Prince Hubertus of Prussia, d. 1950, and a few Blüchers, etc.).


Prince Hubertus with a photo of his grandfather Wilhelm II and with his herd of karakul sheep.

There is some debate over the translation of native titles into English, and they are often left untranslated today. (This can be quite confusing, as some native titles are also used as Christian names). In Afrikaans, a tribal chieftain is a stamhoof, a paramount chief is a opperhoof, and a plain old inkosi or chief can be translated either as hoofman or prins. Thus Prince Mangosothu Buthelezi, the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (Inkatha Vryheidsparty, which obtains many Afrikaner votes in KwaZulu-Natal) is sometimes rendered as Hoofman Mangosuthu Buthelezi but perhaps slightly more often as Prins Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

South Africa has had counts and countesses a plenty (Count Gyula Jankovich-Besan being a memorable example) and barons as well (Baron Pieter van Rheede van Oudtshoorn of Saasveld) and a few baronets and knights (Sir De Villiers Graaf, 2nd Baronet, final leader of the Verenigde Party).

In South Africa, the overwhelming majority of what would, in other countries, be aristocracy are instead gentry. South African prime ministers frowned upon grants of titles and knighthoods by the Crown. Poor George VI repeatedly tried to get Maj. Piet van der Byl a baronetcy but his PM of the day (no less a figure than General Smuts) continually refused. Smuts himself was such a princely character that he really ought to have been ennobled (or, better yet, made a prince), but the Greatest South African was one of those noble fools who mistakenly think it is more humble to refuse honours than to accept them.

The country’s native royalty are gathered in the National House of Traditional Leaders, a group which, while not part of the government, is nonetheless allowed to meet occasionally in the old House of Assembly chamber in the Parliament building. Among its members is Leruo Molotlegi, 36th King of the Bafokeng nation (about 300,000-strong). The Bafokeng lands are in what is now the North-West Province, and under which lies the Merensky Reef, a substantial trove of platinum, ferrochrome, rhodium, and palladium. The Tswana-speaking tribe receives a 22% royalty from the sale of all minerals extracted from beneath their land, making them the richest tribe in all of Africa.


Cyprian, King of the Zulus, with his leige lord, George VI, King of South Africa in 1947.

The most prominent of South African royals, however, remains the King of the Zulus, who even opens the sessions of the Provincial Legislature of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg. King Goodwill presides over the annual Shaka Day commemorations, which provides a rare moment of unity between Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa (and leader of the ANC), and Prince Buthelezi of Inkatha (the ANC’s arch-rivals), under the smiling countenance of the King.

This post was published on Sunday, May 9th, 2010 8:24 pm. It has been categorised under Featured Monarchy Nobility South Africa and been tagged under , , , , .
Comments
  1. K. Dontoh
    11 May 2010
    7:55 pm

    Does the Zulu king really open the legislature? And they have a assembly of Peers of sorts? How far can a republic go until it’s no longer a republic…?
    …which is an excellent thing, of course.

  2. 12 May 2010
    4:14 am

    I am delighted to see that South African culture and heritage is being fetured here, I sincerely thank you Andrew. There is a major negative misconception about South Africa which pervades the international community. However, I must say that there is so much good which goes unnoticed and overlooked, especially our heritage ( Speaking holisticaly )I say this because in the past and even today there is a bias which determines which culture ( amoung South Africans) is superior or because of race, privilage etc has center stage so to speak. This is something I hope to change in my own way, or at least help change for the greater good. South Africa exists under the Patronage of Mary Assumed into heaven and quite honestly when studding the beauty of our Natural Landscape, especially the Cape, one can quite honestly agree that the old addage is true, this is indeed ‘Gods country’.

    God Bless Africa and Her People!

    Sincere thanks once again for the wonderful posts

  3. 14 May 2010
    9:05 am

    Excellent. Excellent. I must furnish an addendum, if I may. The current Zulu king is King Zwelithini; Goodwill is his first name.

  4. K. Dontoh
    31 May 2010
    2:13 pm

    Andrew, you probably would know this, but how could a king be a subject of another king? I don’t see that working.

  5. Andrew Cusack
    1 June 2010
    8:38 pm

    how could a king be a subject of another king?

    I don’t see what the problem is. One king is just a higher king than the other.

  6. Hein de Kock
    2 October 2011
    7:58 pm

    “how could a king be a subject of another king?”

    The author mentions the problem of translation, in black culture a tribal chief of chiefs is called a King as this is the closest translation. This cannot work in a monarchy but it’s no problem for a chieftain. Remember the black cultures identifies with the British titles but not with the structures. Leadership could be taken by force, this was the case with King Shaka, chief over many who intimidated his brothers by killing a lion if not for this he would have had to kill one of them as he was very young. Today we would call him a dictator. I have come across Tribal leaders as far as Nigeria, who deliberately avoid the title King and refer to themselves as chief, however they do call their official residence a palace. Their powers seems to be comparable of old style lords or barons who govern an aria but it’s determined by the tribe, they choose the fittest candidate when the old chief dies to succeed him and only if they find a descendent suitable will he be awarded the title, bloodline does not count for much. This lends itself to communism as ownership does not feature anywhere, you are a member of a tribe and you stay on a piece of land ruled by the chief to whom you pay your taxes willingly as a proud subject of a strong leader who in turn looks after you. That is why there is still a communist party and communistic ideals like nationalization in South Africa. In neighboring countries these ideals are not so prominent but try buying property and youll find yourself applying for 99 year lease with improvement targets reviewed in short cycles. This does not leave white farmers willing to develop or improve land that they will ultimately loose. In these negotiations the real culture gap emerges, no whites want to commit to something as volatile as a lease and blacks don’t understand why the farmers are so obsessed with ownership. In a chieftain the subjects are submissive even appreciative of the use of land and for this privilege they willingly distance themselves from the fruit of their labor if it pleases the chief who they blindly trust will do what is best for them. Inconceivable to the descendants of European countries who criticizes and review their leaders as servants of the nation whose powers are elected and stripped according to performance. As far as titles for Afrikaners, as an Afrikaner I can tell you it was seen as betrayal. The goal was to be a self governed state not to be subjected to the Crown. This divided the Afrikaners with some sighting advantages of being a British colony and others calling it something which can only be translated as Anglicization if at all.

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