This volume, F.S. Malan: A former journalist looks back, provide a popular personal account of his education and subsequent career as a journalist and politician from the I880s to the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, a time when a distinct Afrikaner identity began to burgeon in the Cape Colony, especially under the impact of the Jameson Raid and the South African War. Both significantly impacted on his attitude towards British rule and cultural dominance at the Cape, especially when he was jailed for libelling a British general during the war.

Writing it in 1937, he was keen not to exacerbate the divisions among whites, especially those within Afrikaner ranks. Accordingly, his reminiscences often play down divisions among Afrikaners before Union and portray the British imperial factor as a hindrance to white South African unity.

F.S. Malan’s parents Daniel Gerhardus Malan and Elizabeth Malan

Malan was editor of Ons Land, leader of the Afrikaner Bond, twice-acting prime minister of South Africa, minister of education, of mines and industry and various other portfolios in the early Union government.  He has been described as the last Cape liberal, the man who fought longest in parliament to retain the Cape’s race-free franchise and to extend it to the other provinces. This volume publishes the earlier part of his memoir which first appeared in Die Huisgenoot in the 1930s. It explores the first part of his life, from a young man growing up in the Boland to his role as a leading Cape politician. His defense of Afrikaner interests after the Jameson Raid transformed him from a rookie editor to a leading spokesman for Cape Afrikaners.

Malan was born the year before the Cape Colony gained responsible government at the time when a more aggressive British imperialism led to Lord Carnarvon’s attempt in 1870 to federate the South African states, to the British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877, and to the Transvaal War of 1880-1881, rising against this annexation. At the same time the economy of the Cape was evolving due to the connections with the leading industrial power of the 19th century.

F. S. Malan, circa 1906

This volume traces the influence on his life of his imprisonment by the British in the war that followed, and his role in the making of Union. In Botha’s cabinet after 1910 he played a major role in stablishing the South African university system and in creating industrial legislation which provided better medical care for minors and structures for conciliation, after the divisive miners’ strikes.


“When Smuts and F.S. Malan arrived home in 1895 they returned to a Cape where two personalities dominated local politics. The first was the towering figure of Cecil John Rhodes, diamond magnate, founder of the De Beers Mining Company and the British South Africa Company, twice prime minister of the Cape between 1890 and 1896. Almost everyone who encountered Rhodes was beguiled at first by his personality and his vision of a greater southern Africa. When they were students at Victoria College, in 1890, Malan and Smuts had both been inspired by Rhodes’s address on his vision of ‘My North’, the dream of a nation that would stretch from Cape Town to the Zambezi.

The second great figure of Cape politics was J.H. (Onze Jan) Hofmeyr. The youth who had taken over the editorship of De Volksvriend had evolved into one of the Cape’s most enigmatic political figures, at once urbane and secretive. In 1871 he amalgamated De Volksvriend with De Zuid Afrikaan, of which he had recently become editor. He used his position to awaken Afrikaner self-respect but he was also ambivalent about the nature of Afrikaner ethnicity. Like Lord de Villiers, he preferred Dutch as a language of culture. Despite his political influence he only held office once, as minister without portfolio in T.C. Scanlen’s ministry in 1881. This modesty was largely pragmatic for he recognised that the Bond did not have a majority in either House and he preferred to work behind the scenes to ensure effective alliances with well-disposed English-speaking politicians. John X. Merriman dubbed him ‘the Mole’, ‘an industrious little animal … You never see him at work, but every now and then a little mound of earth, thrown up here or there, will testify to his activities’. But this was a man who could also inspire great affection, as his appellation, ‘Onze Jan’, suggests.

Part of Hofmeyr’s appeal can be seen in his influence on the young F.S. Malan when the latter was still a student at Victoria College. He was particularly inspired in 1889 by a speech given by Hofmeyr in which the latter urged students to be proud of their Afrikaner heritage. He called for a resurgence of Afrikaner self-esteem and an improved share in the political and material wealth of the colony, not for a hatred of things English.

Hofmeyr became politically prominent when economic pressure on Afrikaner farmers increased in the late nineteenth century. Despite their numerical preponderance, in the face of the more politically-active English-speaking merchants and farmers, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Afrikaner farmers had little influence in parliament.”


F.A. (Alex) Mouton was educated at the University of Pretoria and teaches history at the University of South Africa. His publications include Voorloper; Die Lewe van Schalk Pienaar (2002), Prophet without honour. F.S. Malan: Afrikaner, South African and Cape liberal (2011), Iron in the soul: The leaders of the official parliamentary opposition in South Africa, 1910-1993 (2017), The opportunist: The political life of Oswald Pirow, 1915-1959 (2020) and The long obedience: The political career of Zach de Beer, 1953-1994 (2023).

Elizabeth van Heyningen is an Honorary Research Associate in the History Department Stellenbosch. Her research interests include the history of Cape Town, the history of colonial women and the social history of medicine. Amongst her publications are: Cape Town The Making of a City and Cape Town in the Twentieth Century, both with N. Worden and V. Bickford-Smith. Her book, The Concentration Camps of the South African War. A Social History (2013) was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton prize in 2014. In 2017 she was a joint editor of Selections from the Letters of President M. T. Steyn, 1904-1910, published by the Van Riebeeck Society (now HiPSA).