From the 1920s to the 1940s J.C. Smuts, J.B.M. Hertzog and D.F. Malan were the most prominent White politicians in South Africa. In 1933 Hertzog and Smuts formed an alliance that culminated in the merger of the National Party (NP) and the South African Party (SAP), to form the United Party (UP) in 1934. They won the general election to form the Pact Government with Hertzog continuing as Prime Minister and Smuts functioning as his deputy. The coalition received strong opposition from a section of the Afrikaner community who perceived Smuts as an opponent of Afrikaner nationalism and pro-British. Subsequently, a new party, the Purified National Party, under the leadership of Malan, emerged as the alternative for the Afrikaner community.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939 Smuts wanted South Africa to participate on the side of the Allied Forces while Hertzog advocated a neutral stance. After suffering parliamentary defeat on the question of South African participation in the war, Prime Minister Hertzog resigned and recommended that an election be held to test the feeling of the electorate. Hertzog's request was rejected by the Governor-General, Sir Patrick Duncan, who ordered Smuts to form a new government. On 6 September 1939 South Africa entered WWII on the side of the Allies.
On 23 November 1939 Malan and Hertzog met in Pretoria in an attempt to reach an agreement for collaboration. A reconciliation committee was set up and assigned with the responsibility to find a formula for unity. On 27 November 1939 a declaration appeared in the press that the Parliamentary caucuses of the two groups had reached a consensus to establish a Herenigde Nasionale or Volksparty (Reunited Nationalist or People's Party). The agreement was endorsed by the provincial congresses of the two parties. On 29 January 1940 the Reunited National Party was officially founded with Hertzog as its leader and Malan deputising him.
This party went on to win the 1948 South African elections and would eventually be known as the National Party.
The history of the National Party
- Liebenberg, B.J. & Spies, S.B. (eds) (1993). South Africa in the 20th Century, Pretoria: Van Schaik Academic.
- In the Shadow of War [online], available at: anc.org.za [ accessed 22 January 2010]
- The Great Depression and the 1930s [online], available at: country-data.com [ accessed 22 January 2010]