Heritage Day 2018: My Christian Roots in SA

As a South African, I am many things. I am a daughter. A sister. A friend. I am a Christian Afrikaner, a descendant of the French Huguenots.

The Huguenot Monument, built by Huguenot descendants to thank God for their freedom. Photo: Andrew Cusack

French Huguenot Heritage

The Huguenots were Protestant Christians who fled from France to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, at the end of the 17th century.


From the mid-1500s until the 1600s, the Huguenots were persecuted by the Roman Catholic clergy in France because of their Protestant faith.

King Louis XIV, who ascended the throne in 1643, gradually increased this persecution of Protestantism. It reached a boiling point when he issued the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685): the edict ended any legal recognition of Protestantism.

As a result, the Huguenots were forced to either convert to Catholicism or flee in a wave of violent dragonnades. Dragonnades were a French government policy: “Dragoons” or horsemen were given permission to intimidate Protestant families into making their choice – convert or flee.


Thousands of Huguenots chose to flee to countries such as Switzerland, Germany, England, America, the Netherlands and South Africa, where they could enjoy religious freedom.

The French Huguenots who settled here in South Africa, in Franschhoek, made a living from farming, business, or practising their trade.

Many of them brought with them the vines and the winemaking skills which have made the Cape Winelands renowned throughout the world.

Most importantly, they also helped to advance the Protestant-Christian religion in the country.

And thanks to them, my family and I can be part of Protestant-Christian religion today, and practise it freely.

My family’s Christian heritage

As a member of the Malan lineage, I am a descendant of the French Huguenots. 

And like the Huguenots before us, I truly believe our family possesses the characteristics the Huguenots were known for:

  • Stamina
  • Individualism
  • A love for personal and political freedom
  • Hospitality
  • Humour and joyfulness
  • Ingenuity

For example, my dad chose to quit his job as a junior at an esteemed law firm. He started his own practice, and today, 27 years later, his business is one of the most successful law firms in town.

All because he valued his freedom and he had the stamina to stick with what he had started, even when times were tough. 

Needless to say, he really inspires me.

Another thing about my parents that inspire me is their faith.

They taught me and my sisters everything they know about the Lord.

Moreover, we’ve gone to church together as a family for as long as I can remember. The teachings I received at church formed me and made me the strong woman of God I am today.

I can honestly say I am proud of where I came from. I am proud of the countless people before me who helped build the present time I get to live in today.

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