Torch Commando

The Torch Commando was a group of former South African soldiers who had served during the Second World War (Robertson 1971, 51). Founded in 1951, the Torch Commando was organized specifically to oppose the introduction of the Separate Representation of Voters Act, which gave rise to the constitutional crisis in the early 1950s. Having recently fought fascism in Europe, Torch Commando members felt that the National Party government was exhibiting signs characteristic of their former enemy: the prioritization of race, extreme nationalism, and dictatorial government.

Pilots and crew of 3 Squadron, South African Air Force, celebrate 101 enemy aircraft shot down on the fuselage of a captured Italian CR 42 fighter. Wikimedia Commons.

The national chairman of the Torch Commando was Louis Kane-Berman, father of John Kane-Berman, the latter of whom became and remains today one of South Africa’s most prominent classical liberals. The Torch Commando was one of the largest resistance movements in the country’s history, once boasting 250,000 registered members (including civilians who were not veterans), including five judges and ten generals, amounting to about 10 percent of South Africa’s white population. Other prominent members of the Torch Commando were its national president, Adolph “Sailor” Malan (1910–1963), and Alan Paton (1903–1988), who would later be a founder and leader of the Liberal Party (Kane-Berman 2018). Sailor Malan referred to the National Party government as “fascist in spirit,” while the Torch was founded on principles of constitutionalism, democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law (Robertson 1971, 52–53).

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