Sanlam-amptenare uit die volk gebore om die volk te dien?

Translated title of the contribution: Sanlam officials born from the volk to serve the people?

Wynand Beukes, Anton Ehlers, Grietjie Verhoef

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The South African life assurance company, Sanlam, was established in 1918 as a direct result of Afrikaner ambitions. This ethnic nationalism was inspired by the advances of the Afrikaans language movement and the formation of the National Party (NP) in 1914 as a political home to many Afrikaners. An objective with the establishment of Sanlam as a life assurance company was the economic empowerment of Afrikaners in South Africa. Economic upliftment was the goal. From the beginning, the company was known principally as an Afrikaans institution focusing on Afrikaner interests. Sanlam wanted to establish itself as a South African establishment rendering a service to the entire South African community. That vision made business sense - a successful enterprise in the South African market that also contributed to Afrikaner empowerment. The question is whether that focus resulted in the company relying on an exclusive Afrikaans-speaking NP supporter base in its staff composition. This question is raised especially in view of Sanlam's Afrikaans slogan at that time: “Uit die volk gebore om die volk te dien”. The interpretation of the meaning of the word “volk” is contrasting. Afrikaners of that period understood the word as referring to the Afrikaner people. “Volk” is translated into English as “people” or “nation”. The slogan therefore reads as follows in English: “Born from the people to serve the people” - implying a wider involvement than only the Afrikaners. Pronouncements of Afrikaner politicians contributed to this confusion of tongues. The Afrikaner leader JBM Hertzog, for instance, on the one hand considered the concept “Afrikaners” to include Afrikaans and English speakers. On the other hand, he maintained that the two groups perhaps will be united somewhere in the future. Sanlam leaders' views in this regard varied between a reference to the “Afrikaans-speaking section” of the “Afrikanervolk” and a statement that the company is a truly Afrikaans national institution in the broadest interpretation of the word. Another reference in this regard is the view that Sanlam had developed from service to the section of the population from which it originated and that the staff members are in the service of the Afrikanervolk. Regardless of all the rhetoric, business sense played the determining role eventually. The company indeed saw the light of day with three non-Afrikaners as staff members in its midst. Two Scotsmen occupied senior positions in the new company and a Jewish woman assisted the personnel in the correct use of business Afrikaans. During the establishment years, a number of English-speakers were appointed. However, the staff overwhelmingly remained Afrikaans-speaking. Despite or perhaps as a result of the disparate interpretation of the company slogan, non-Afrikaners were involved in the company from the beginning as well as a senior Afrikaans staff member who openly exhibited his support for a party other than the NP. Although a minority by far, they were accepted as normal staff members. From the preceding analysis it turns out that the Sanlam slogan retrospectively can be rephrased as “Mainly, but not completely born from the Afrikaner people to serve the South African nation”.

Translated title of the contributionSanlam officials born from the volk to serve the people?
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)548-566
Number of pages19
JournalTydskrift vir Geesteswetenskappe
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Afrikaans
  • Afrikaners
  • Confusing views
  • Economy
  • English speakers
  • Life assurance company
  • Nationalism
  • Staff
  • Upliftment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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