By Kevin Ritchie

On April 18, 1918, three young Afrikaners met on a koppie in Kensington, Johannesburg. Their aim was simple - to form a secret society to "defend the Afrikaner and return him to his rightful place in South Africa".

The secret society would be known as the Afrikaner Broederbond and would ultimately consist of more than 12 000 Afrikaners from all sectors of society.

It would provide every single National Party prime minister and ultimately state president between 1948 and 1994, from DF Malan to FW de Klerk; create parastatals like Iscor and Sasol, universities like the Rand Afrikaans University and the University of Port Elizabeth, and establish newspaper groups and banks.

Sanlam, Santam, the Voortrekker organisation, the Rapportryers, the Federasie van Afrikaansekultuur (FAK) were all created in a bid to "harness political, social and economic forces in South Africa to its cause of ultimate Afrikaner domination".

And when its secrecy was finally breached in a series of sensational disclosures by journalists Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom, later published as The Super Afrikaners in 1978, the shock waves were felt along the length and breadth of apartheid South Africa.

Next month, a week before its 89th anniversary, the bond, renamed the Afrikanerbond in 1994, will be led by a 42-year-old Afrikaner, who intends opening the organisation to all Afrikaans speakers, irrespective of colour or creed, and ensure they are given a fair chance to contribute to the creation and success of a non-racial South Africa.

Jan Bosman, career political official and currently head of the office of the ministry of agriculture in the Western Cape provincial government, takes up the job as the Bond's managing director on April 10.

Educated at Rand Afrikaans University, Bosman was never a member of the bond, although members of his family were. He became interested in politics, he says, after FW de Klerk's announcement in 1990 to unban the ANC and other banned liberation organisations.

After graduating in 1991, he became youth secretary for the Transvaal region of the National Party, becoming NP media officer in 1993. He joined Louis Luyt in 1999 as Luyt's spokesperson, before becoming seconded to the Democratic Alliance as parliamentary director.

Since 2001, he has been employed by the Western Cape provincial government.

Some of his first priorities on taking office will be to rid the Bond of the perceptions he believes people have of it and make it as transparent an organisation as possible.

"In the past, they referred to the Afrikanerbond as 'baantjies vir boeties' (jobs for pals). You got in the fast track if you were a member. In my family there were members, there are still members and that was never their experience but I think that's a perception. It could have happened; I'm not denying that, but there was more good than bad."

He said the Bond has a proud history, mostly in the current era of having been instrumental in changing the views and thoughts of white NP members, preparing them for the momentous change that would happen after 1990.

"The Bond must also be credited for that; there's nothing to be ashamed of," Bosman says.

It is no longer a white Afrikaner organisation. Indeed, Bosman claims the majority of Afrikaans speakers in this country aren't Afrikaners.

"By far the majority of Afrikaans-speaking people are the coloured people.

"From a population of 5,9-million people that speak Afrikaans, only 2,5-million are from the white community, so white people can no longer claim ownership of Afrikaans.

"That's the premise which I want to start off with: to say that I do not represent a majority group in this country.

"The Afrikanerbond cannot really speak for all Afrikaners or all Afrikaans-speaking people and it must never claim to be a mouthpiece for Afrikaners or Afrikaans-speaking people."

Instead, the organisation that wanted to redress the injustices of the Anglo Boer war by creating a state which would never ever allow the subjugation of its people again.

It now wants to build upon its links with the government to ensure that the concerns of Afrikaans-speaking South Africans are heard and attended to.

Times have changed, Bosman says, and the Afrikanerbond has changed accordingly. "It was established to create an Afrikaner foundation which could look after the Afrikaners through various industries, Sasol, RAU, Iscor and so on ... they were all founded through the AB. This was the part of the Afrikanerbond of which I am proud of, that we could rise to the occasion and be part of the growth of this country and build it," he says.

Today the issue is about protecting the Afrikaans language and the people who speak it - yet, paradoxically, given the recent controversy of Bok van Blerk (Louis Pepler)'s hit song De la Rey, he believes the language has never been stronger.

"Walk into any CD shop or newspaper shop, and look at the volume of Afrikaans music available, the amount of Afrikaans literature on the shelves or the number of Afrikaner festivals like Aardklop and KKNK. Afrikaans, I think, has never been as strong as it is now."

But the threat remains. "On certain other levels in government there's a tendency to go the English route and my feeling is that in the Western Cape why not go the Afrikaans, English and Xhosa route? We also have a role to play to protect the Xhosa language and culture and that's also a role the Afrikanerbond can play in the future to help other cultures with their identity and help strengthen themselves.

"It is exactly 300 years ago that a frustrated Hendrik Bibault stood up in Stellenbosch and said 'I'm an Afrikaner'.

"It's no coincidence that my family is celebrating its 300th anniversary in South Africa. I'm no longer from the Netherlands, I'm from Africa. I consider myself to be part of a generation of Afrikaans-speaking South Africans that are in this country to stay, I don't have anywhere else to go, I don't have a second passport, I must take co-responsibility and ownership of South Africa ... just give me the opportunity to be part of the country."