Connect with us
Advertisement

Patrick Van Rensburg (Part 2)

This week we continue our look at the life of Patrick van Rensburg (1931- 2017), with him as a young South African diplomat serving as Vice-Consul in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), in the then Belgian Congo.

It was there that in in May of 1957, he broke ranks by resigning from the civil service in protest against the Apartheid policies of his government. At the time his Afrikaans surname added to the news value of his stance.

Back home Van Rensburg joined the Liberal Party, then a leading political organisation, alongside the by then banned Communists and Congress of Democrats, organising white South African opposition to Apartheid. In September 1958 he became the party’s organizing secretary in Transvaal.

Thereafter he was in the forefront with individuals like Patrick Duncan, in driving the organisation into an increasingly militant direction that culminated in its banning as well as the ultimate participation by some of its members in the emerging armed struggle.

Initially Van Rensburg focused on trying to turn young Afrikaners away from Apartheid. When in 1957 the ANC leader Albert Luthuli was banned for five years under the Suppression of Communism Act, he spearheaded a protest meeting at the steps of Johannesburg Library. Thereafter he frequently joined hands with ANC leaders such as Robert Resha in trying to organise Afrikaner students.

Van Rensburg moved to Britain in mid-1959 and became the “first director” of the campaign to boycott South African goods in Britain and the Netherlands which preceded the Anti-Apartheid Movement. The first edition of Boycott News carried the headline ‘A Direct Appeal from South Africa’. In November 1959 Patrick van Rensburg had written to Chief Lutuli asking him to send a statement calling ‘freshly and clearly’ for a boycott.

The Liberal Party had been split on the issue, but in November the Party’s National Committee passed a resolution approving the boycott ‘both here and overseas, as a legitimate political weapon’.

Thus the message carried in Boycott News was signed jointly by three ANC and Indian Congress leaders Lutuli and Dr G. M. Naicker, along with the Liberal Party National Chairman Peter Brown. It said that an economic boycott was one way in which the world at large could ‘bring home to the South African authorities that they must either mend their ways or suffer for them’.

Continue Reading

Builders of Botswana

Patrick Van Rensburg (Part 5)

28th July 2020

We left off at the end of September 1960 with arrangements having finally been made to allow a Ghana Airway’s flight to arrive at the then WENELA Francistown Aerodrome in order to evacuate Patrick Van Rensburg and eighteen other political refugees to Accra on a two day flight with stops in Elizabethville (Lubumbashi), Congo and Lagos, Nigeria.

After a brief stay in Accra, Van Rensburg was fortunate to get onward passage to London. There he once more became involved in the UK based Anti-Apartheid Movement, while further devoting much of his energy towards writing what would become his bestselling book “Guilty Land”, as an indictment of the Apartheid system.

He also co-authored another publication at the time, an Atlas of African Affairs. With the publications out of the way Van Rensburg was able to focus on an emerging vision of returning to Serowe to establishing a school.

Unable to return to South Africa, he began to think about working in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, which he perceived to be the safest and most appealing of the neighboring, then British ruled, High Commission Territories. By the end of 1961 he had acquired a British passport that would allow him to stay in the territory.

Van Rensburg was further encouraged in his ambition by others both outside and inside of the country, the later including Seretse Khama. Another key supporter was his lover and future wife Liz Griffin, who agreed to join him on an what would be an overland journey to reach the territory.

Thus it was that Van Rensburg took up permanent residence in the then Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1962 with the mission to build what would become Swaneng Hill School. The success of this project would lead him to also ultimately spearhead the  construction of Shashe and Madiba schools in association with the Botswana government, as well as the Swaneng Consumers Cooperative and Brigades Movement.

Photo: Lady Khama, Patrick Van Rensburg, Sir Seretse Khama, and Joe Rammekwe at Swaneng Hill school standing next to Seretse’s 1965 Chevrolet Impala.

Continue Reading

Builders of Botswana

Patrick Van Rensburg (Part 3)

23rd June 2020

This week we continue our look at the life of Patrick van Rensburg (1931- 2017). We left off in 1959 with his becoming the “first director” of the European campaign to boycott South African goods while temporarily resident in the UK.

In this context he had successfully pushed the leadership of the Liberal Party to join hands with the ANC and its Congress Alliance partners in embracing the international boycott movement as one way in which the world at large could ‘bring home to the South African authorities that they must either mend their ways or suffer for them’.

Back in South Africa, there was popular outrage directed at Van Rensburg, particularly from amongst fellow  Afrikaners. The Die Vaderland newspaper labelled him a ‘slangmens’ or ‘snake-person’. Rank and file members of the Liberal Party itself remained divided as to whether to support Van Rensburg’s call for boycott or not.

Upon returning to South Africa, Van Rensburg’s passport was confiscated and, following the Sharpeville massacre, with his own life under threat, he once more left his country. On March 30, 1960 he found political asylum in Swaziland, where he joined other exiles including Adelaide Tambo and the veteran Communist leader Sam Kahn.

Initially he had hoped that his stay in the kingdom would be short, but as the political crackdown within South Africa gathered momentum in became clear that his fate was now long-term exile.

After a frustrating few months Van Rensburg found a lifeline in then collective efforts, spearheaded by Canon Collins Defence and Aid Fund in collaboration with the ANC, to set up an aerial refugee pipeline to Ghana via Bechuanaland.

This effort followed the troubled but successful April 1960 transit of Oliver Tambo and others to safety via Serowe. Thereafter, with the security of prominent refugees in Swaziland being seen as increasingly problematic their evacuation became a priority.

An initial agent on the ground was George Clay, a South African correspondent for the British Observer newspaper and later the US broadcaster NBC, who is credited with recruiting from Southern Rhodesia a celebrated German Namibian pilot named Herbert Batuane, who would go on to set up a Lobatse based air service to facilitate airlifts out of the High Commission Territories (to be continued)

 

Continue Reading

Builders of Botswana

Patrick Van Rensburg (Part 2)

18th June 2020

This week we continue our look at the life of Patrick van Rensburg (1931- 2017), with him as a young South African diplomat serving as Vice-Consul in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), in the then Belgian Congo.

It was there that in in May of 1957, he broke ranks by resigning from the civil service in protest against the Apartheid policies of his government. At the time his Afrikaans surname added to the news value of his stance.

Back home Van Rensburg joined the Liberal Party, then a leading political organisation, alongside the by then banned Communists and Congress of Democrats, organising white South African opposition to Apartheid. In September 1958 he became the party’s organizing secretary in Transvaal.

Thereafter he was in the forefront with individuals like Patrick Duncan, in driving the organisation into an increasingly militant direction that culminated in its banning as well as the ultimate participation by some of its members in the emerging armed struggle.

Initially Van Rensburg focused on trying to turn young Afrikaners away from Apartheid. When in 1957 the ANC leader Albert Luthuli was banned for five years under the Suppression of Communism Act, he spearheaded a protest meeting at the steps of Johannesburg Library. Thereafter he frequently joined hands with ANC leaders such as Robert Resha in trying to organise Afrikaner students.

Van Rensburg moved to Britain in mid-1959 and became the “first director” of the campaign to boycott South African goods in Britain and the Netherlands which preceded the Anti-Apartheid Movement. The first edition of Boycott News carried the headline ‘A Direct Appeal from South Africa’. In November 1959 Patrick van Rensburg had written to Chief Lutuli asking him to send a statement calling ‘freshly and clearly’ for a boycott.

The Liberal Party had been split on the issue, but in November the Party’s National Committee passed a resolution approving the boycott ‘both here and overseas, as a legitimate political weapon’.

Thus the message carried in Boycott News was signed jointly by three ANC and Indian Congress leaders Lutuli and Dr G. M. Naicker, along with the Liberal Party National Chairman Peter Brown. It said that an economic boycott was one way in which the world at large could ‘bring home to the South African authorities that they must either mend their ways or suffer for them’.

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!