n Journal for Contemporary History - Politieke oortuiging of opportunisme? Generaal Jan Kemp en die naamsverandering van Roberts Heights na Voortrekkerhoogte

Volume 29, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



At present place names in South Africa are changed overnight without real opposition. It is rather a matter of reconciliation and the outcry for an exclusive ideology. In 1938 it was a bird of a different feather and such an event caused a great upheavel in the South African political arena. Acting as Minister of Defence during the absence of Oswald Pirow, Jan Kemp, without the knowledge of the Prime Minister, General JBM Hertzog, and the Cabinet announced on 16 December 1938 that Roberts Heights' name would be changed to Voortrekkerhoogte. As one can expect political repercussions came to the fore. On the one side Kemp's actions placed Hertzog in a dilemma, because if he overruled Kemp, he would have to resign and Africaner emotions would crop up. On the other side a cabinet crisis loomed amongst the South African Party members in the cabinet. A storm also arose in the English press and became so hectic that Hertzog had to step in to calm emotions. For the Afrikaner and its press the incident became a moral victory, seen against the background of British supremacy in the past.

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