Lessons from SA’s 1941 insurrection
The violence that gripped the country last month was not the first time a head of state in SA has had to face insurrection and the fallout of factionalism in his own back yard
In late January 1941, downtown Joburg was the stage for violent insurrection. Police, soldiers and members of the fascist Ossewabrandwag (OB) were at the centre of riots that left one person dead, about 300 hospitalised, shops destroyed and vehicles set alight. This outburst of violence was part of what many in the government and military intelligence believed to be an attempted coup.
To provide some background: when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, a huge factional rift tore through the ruling United Party in SA, and the country as a whole. Though Afrikaner prime minister JBM Hertzog wanted SA to remain neutral, his deputy, Jan Smuts, believed fervently that fighting on the side of the British was the right and proper thing to do...