Story: South Africans

Page 3. Culture

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Organisations and religion

South African community groups sprang up in the 1990s. Clubs offered a forum for dealing with homesickness and other issues – many migrants had suffered heavy financial losses because of the unfavourable exchange rate. Some held concerns for family left behind, unable to afford the flight out. Springbok Radio, which played on Sundays in Auckland, helped people maintain a sense of identity.

Springbok or Kiwi?

A young Tauranga father muses on his national identity:

‘You're confused, like I think if South Africa and New Zealand would go to war against each other, I would jump the fences and be a South African again, but I think I expect my children to be New Zealanders and fight on the New Zealanders’ side, because that is who they are. Ja, it is a little bit confusing, you don't know where you are.’ 1

The largest club, the South Africa New Zealand Charitable Trust, had some 6,000 mainly English-speaking members in 2001. Some South African immigrants speak Afrikaans, a language that developed among the mainly Dutch settlers who moved to South Africa in the 17th century. The Afrikaans Club of New Zealand grew from 30 members in 1998 to 800 in 2003 and had followers in Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. From 1996 to 2013 New Zealand’s Afrikaans-speaking community surged by over 180% to 14,629 people (52% of New Zealand South Africans).

One of the most recent associations, the South African Supporters Club, is made up of mainly coloured immigrants. Based in Auckland, it had a membership of around 300 in 2001. There are also South African clubs in Wellington and the South Island.

In 2013 over three-quarters of South Africans had religious affiliations. In Auckland there were three Afrikaans churches offering regular services in Howick and on the North Shore. A North Shore library established an Afrikaans bookshelf and featured Afrikaans story-telling sessions. South African Jews made a significant contribution to Auckland’s Jewish community.


The immigrants introduced Kiwis to their own version of the barbeque – the braaivleis. To cater for those missing the homeland cuisine, Auret and Annie Vorster opened their St Heliers shop Zebra Zu in 1995. A Howick butchery, Beef on the Beach, also began making biltong (dried meat) and boerewors (South African sausage) in the mid-1990s. By 2003 there were at least eight dedicated South African shops and cafés in the country, with supermarkets also stocking authentic produce.

In February 2003, a record 15,000 people of many ethnicities flocked to Howick for the third annual Taste of Africa festival, soaking up traditional African cuisine, music and art.


Keen sportspeople such as netballer Irene van Dyk began to make their mark on courts and playing fields around the country. They welcomed the chance for a new life in a country where they were not constantly fearing for their safety.

  1. From The Herald (South Africa) online, (last accessed 10/06/2003). › Back
How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'South Africans - Culture', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 July 2024)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 25 Mar 2015