Sanlam-amptenare uit die volk gebore om die volk te dien?

Beukes, Wynand ; Ehlers, Anton ; Verhoef, Grietjie (2018)

CITATION: Beukes, W., Ehlers, A. & Verhoef, G. 2018. Sanlam-amptenare uit die volk gebore om die volk te dien?. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 58(3):548-566, doi:10.17159/2224-7912/2018/v58n3a7.

The original publication is available at http://www.scielo.org.za

Article

Die Suid-Afrikaanse lewensversekeringsmaatskappy Sanlam het in 1918 die lewenslig aanskou te midde van verskeie verweefde ekonomiese, politieke en maatskaplike faktore wat meegewerk het om ’n taamlik stewige stigtingstydperk vir die jong maatskappy te verseker. Op politieke gebied was die stigting aan die opwelling van Afrikanernasionalisme gekoppel (Koen 1986:60- 68; Le Roux 1953:128; Scannell 1968:11). Dié nasionalisme het gepaardgegaan met die stigting van die Nasionale Party (NP) in 1914. Die volksgevoel het ontstaan uit die benarde maatskaplike posisie waarin talle Afrikaners hulle ná die Anglo-Boereoorlog bevind het. Afrikanerleiers het besef dat opheffing slegs moontlik was indien Afrikaners ook ’n aandeel in die sakewêreld verwerf. Dié wete, tesame met die sukses van die Helpmekaarbeweging en die gaping in die bestaande versekeringsbedryf in Suid-Afrika vir ’n lewensversekeringsmaatskappy veral gemik op Afrikaners, het regstreeks tot die stigting van Sanlam gelei. Die maatskappy was hoofsaaklik aanvanklik op die Afrikanermark gemik, maar het uit die staanspoor die hele Suid-Afrikaanse mark bedien. Dit het sakesin gemaak – ’n suksesvolle onderneming in die Suid-Afrikaanse mark wat sy besigheidsfokus direk mik op ’n segment van die samelewing wat grotendeels buite die versekeringsmark gestaan het, en wat terselfdertyd kon bydra tot Afrikaneropheffing. Die vraag wat in hierdie artikel beantwoord word, is in hoeverre dié voorafvermelde konteks en ook veral die Sanlam-slagspreuk “Uit die volk gebore om die volk te dien” in die aanstelling van die eerste amptenare weerspieël is. Het die maatskappy net op wit Afrikaanssprekende NP-ondersteuners staatgemaak om op dreef te kom? Was daar dus genoeg sakekundigheid in eie geledere om dié nuwe Afrikaner-wa deur die eerste drif te kry?

The South African life assurance company, Sanlam, was established in 1918 as a direct result of Afrikaner ambitions. This ethnic nationalism was inspired by the advances of the Afrikaans language movement and the formation of the National Party (NP) in 1914 as a political home to many Afrikaners. An objective with the establishment of Sanlam as a life assurance company was the economic empowerment of Afrikaners in South Africa. Economic upliftment was the goal. From the beginning, the company was known principally as an Afrikaans institution focusing on Afrikaner interests. Sanlam wanted to establish itself as a South African establishment rendering a service to the entire South African community. That vision made business sense – a successful enterprise in the South African market that also contributed to Afrikaner empowerment. The question is whether that focus resulted in the company relying on an exclusive Afrikaansspeaking NP supporter base in its staff composition. This question is raised especially in view of Sanlam’s Afrikaans slogan at that time: “Uit die volk gebore om die volk te dien”. The interpretation of the meaning of the word “volk” is contrasting. Afrikaners of that period understood the word as referring to the Afrikaner people. “Volk” is translated into English as “people” or “nation”. The slogan therefore reads as follows in English: “Born from the people to serve the people” – implying a wider involvement than only the Afrikaners. Pronouncements of Afrikaner politicians contributed to this confusion of tongues. The Afrikaner leader JBM Hertzog, for instance, on the one hand considered the concept “Afrikaners” to include Afrikaans and English speakers. On the other hand, he maintained that the two groups perhaps will be united somewhere in the future. Sanlam leaders’ views in this regard varied between a reference to the “Afrikaans-speaking section” of the “Afrikanervolk” and a statement that the company is a truly Afrikaans national institution in the broadest interpretation of the word. Another reference in this regard is the view that Sanlam had developed from service to the section of the population from which it originated and that the staff members are in the service of the Afrikanervolk. Regardless of all the rhetoric, business sense played the determining role eventually. The company indeed saw the light of day with three non-Afrikaners as staff members in its midst. Two Scotsmen occupied senior positions in the new company and a Jewish woman assisted the personnel in the correct use of business Afrikaans. During the establishment years, a number of English-speakers were appointed. However, the staff overwhelmingly remained Afrikaans-speaking. Despite or perhaps as a result of the disparate interpretation of the company slogan, non-Afrikaners were involved in the company from the beginning as well as a senior Afrikaans staff member who openly exhibited his support for a party other than the NP. Although a minority by far, they were accepted as normal staff members. From the preceding analysis it turns out that the Sanlam slogan retrospectively can be rephrased as “Mainly, but not completely born from the Afrikaner people to serve the South African nation”.

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