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Daniel Francois Malan

Champion of Afrikaner Nationalism and First Apartheid Era Prime Minister

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Date of birth: 22 May 1874, Riebeek West, western Cape Colony
Date of death: 7 February 1959, South Africa

Daniel Francois Malan was born in the village of Riebeek-Wes, on the slopes of the solitary Kasteelberg (Castle mountain), which dominates the local stretch of the Berg River Valley. He studied for his first degree at Victoria College, Stellenbosch, and for his Doctorate at University of Utrecht, Holland.

In 1905 Malan was ordained as a minister of the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK, Dutch Reformed Church) and then travelled for several years as an itinerant preacher through South Africa, the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Malan's election to Parliament
On his return to South Africa Malan developed an interest in politics, becoming a stalwart supporter of JMB Hertzog in 1914 when he established the National Party (NP) in response to being dropped from Louis Botha's new government. Malan's political career started in July 1915 when he joined the National Party and became the first editor of its newspaper Die Burger. The paper actively supported Nationalist causes and opposed South Africa's support of Britain in the First World War. Becoming leader for the National Party in the Cape, Malan was elected to parliament in 1918. He had also, by this time, become a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond (AB).

JMB Hertzog's National Party, in a pact with the Labour Party, came to power in 1924. DF Malan was given the post of Minister of the Interior, Education and Public Health in 1924 – a post he held until 1933. In 1925 Malan was at the forefront of a campaign to replace Dutch with Afrikaans in the constitution, and demand bilingualism throughout the civil service – this opened up a significant career opportunity for Afrikaans speakers, and was fundamental to future political developments for Afrikaner nationalism.

Also in 1925, Malan introduced a bill to the South African House of Assembly to create a national flag – Malan wanted a "clean" flag, free from the Union Jack. A compromise was reached by Hertzog and the opposition leader Jan Christiaan Smuts in October 1927 to include the Union Jack and the two Afrikaner republican flags as an integral part of the design.

Race becomes an election issue
In the approach to the 1929 general election, race was for the first time made a critical issue. Hertzog accused Smuts' party of supporting racial equality, and represented a Nationalist vote as a vote for a "white South Africa" The Nationalists won the election with an outright majority, dropping the Labour Party and the 'pact' government.

In the early 1930s, the Great Depression which swept the world following the Wall Street Crash also took its toll on the South African government. With the shock of abandoning the gold standard at the end of 1932, Hertzog's party faced a severe political challenge – brought about by Hertzog's former Minister of Justice, Tielman Roos. Roos came out of retirement and entered negotiations with Jan Christiaan Smuts, the leader of the opposition, to form a new government. Smuts however turned to Hertzog to form a coalition government, and in the general election in 1934 the new coalition won.

Part 2 - Malan Gains Political Power

This article was first created on 17 March 2003.

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