The Afrikaners are the descendants of mostly Dutch (as well as German and French Huguenots) who arrived in South Africa in the middle of the seventeenth century (English speakers from Britain came in the following century). They were also the people most associated with establishing and rigidly maintaining the apartheid system for many decades.
Indeed, the Afrikaners have lived in South Africa so long that they regard themselves as Africans or the white tribe of Africa.
One of the bittersweet ironies of Afrikaner culture and history is that -- despite being intimately associated with the philosophy of white supremacy and white ‘purity’ -- many of them are actually mixed-race.
This has to do with the fact that when the original Dutch settlers arrived in South Africa almost four-hundred years ago, they brought almost no women. Consequently, they had to marry and mate with local women, or with Malays and East Indians.
Thus, some of the oldest and most revered Afrikaner families, including the Krugers, Van Riebeecks, Bruyns, Van Rensburgs, and Zaimans are likely the descendants of mixed-race couples.
Professor A.M. Grundlingh of the History Department at Stellenbosch University and an expert on Afrikaner culture, told International Business Times that according to estimates, about 6 percent of so-called “white” Afrikaners are actually of mixed blood.
Allegedly, one of the greatest of Afrikaner heroes, Andries Pretorius, the leader of the Great Voortrek, was himself descended from East Indian slave women on both his maternal and paternal sides.
But it's not just the fact that many of them have a mixed-race background that is threatening the purity of the so called white tribe of Africa. Their numbers are shrinking.
According to data from Statistics South Africa, as of June 2010 only 9 percent of the country's 50-million-strong population were white. Add to that the fact that about 1-million of them have emigrated overseas since the end of apartheid and the birth rate among Afrikaners is believed to be among the lowest in the country, this minority can no longer afford separatist views.