The West Rand During the Anglo-Boer War
|Presentation made to the West Gauteng branch of the Genealogical Society of South Africa on 17 April 2004 by Dr Janetta du Plooy, PhD (1999) University of Potchefstoom.
The establishment of Krugersdorp in 1887 was the main event that influenced the social-cultural development of the West Rand. Two major events in the late nineteenth century led to the establishment of the town, namely the First Anglo-Boer War and the discovery of gold. The Paardekraal Monument became the centre of cultural activities, especially of the Afrikaner on the West Rand. Krugersdorp was the only town on the West Rand at the time of the Anglo-Boer War.
The Krugersdorp Diggings were under the jurisdiction of a Mine Commissioner, Robert Gerrit Ockerse.2 Two clerks assisted him with the administration of the goldfields. Act No 8 of 1889 authorised the Mine Commissioner to control and manage the goldfields, which included the issuing of licenses and the collection of license fees.3 But the authority of the Mine Commissioner was restricted to mining-related activities of the goldfields, and not related to a town or district.4 Ockerse was in charge of more than fifty mines and diggings on the West Rand at the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War.
A Special Magistrate with authority to deal with criminal and legal matters was appointed for each goldfield. As in the case of the Mine Commissioner, the authority of the Special Magistrate was restricted to a given goldfield and not related to anything outside the jurisdiction of the goldfields. JC Human was the first Special Magistrate for the Krugersdorp goldfields.
The influx of people to the newly proclaimed diggings necessitated the proclamation of a Stands Town, Krugersdorp in 1887. The first 200 stands in Krugersdorp were sold on a public auction on 31 October1887 under a 99-year leasehold. The condition of the leasehold stated that the lessee could "own the property for 99 years as long as his payment of stand fees was not in arrears."5
The newly established town serviced only the goldfields and mining. People from the surrounding farms had to go to Pretoria, Rustenburg, Potchefstroom or Heidelberg for administrative, military and legal purposes.6 The need for an independent district and town to attend to local requirements led to the proclamation of the Krugersdorp District Town in 1894.7 A magistrate, assisted by a justice of the peace and clerks, was responsible for the district, which included the management and administration of the District Town. The District Town was established opposite the Stands Town, northwest of the Paardekraal Monument. The first 309 "burgher" stands of approximately 400 square Cape rood (±39.65424²m) each was allocated to qualifying burghers in 1896.8
Arising from the establishment of a District Town was the establishment of separate offices for the management and administration of the District Town. By implication, Krugersdorp was serviced at the time by two magistrates, namely JC Human as Special Magistrate for the goldfields and H Hugo as the District Magistrate. Separate Health Committees were responsible for health and the general hygiene of the two townships. The amalgamation of the administration of Krugersdorp happened only after the Anglo-Boer War with the establishment of the Krugersdorp Municipality in 1903.
The original layout of these towns did not make any provision for the accommodation of people of colour. Black people working on the diggings were usually housed in mine compounds. The families of these people and other blacks squatted on the southwestern periphery of the white settlements in an uncontrolled manner. Generally these people were poor and the government gave little attention to their housing and health. The black settlement was proclaimed as a "location" in 1905.
The first Indians came to Krugersdorp in 1897. They settled in the area between the black settlement and the new township for poor white people called Burgershoop. The government established the Burgershoop Brickfields in 1896 to accommodate white farmers who had flocked to the diggings for a living after the rinderpest of that year.9 The settlement of the Indians next to the poor whites and the black people is striking of the settlement pattern of Indian trader of the time, namely to be near their clientele where they provided goods on credit to the poor in competition to the established white traders in town.
The early development of Krugersdorp was overshadowed by the political turmoil and influx of foreigners from all over the world to the gold diggings. The character of Krugersdorp was since its inception very cosmopolitan with the development of social clusters based on income, the nature of labour and where the people stayed. During this period Lieutenant Frederick Tossel from the local police excelled at capturing South Africa's first bank robber, and the young and later famous Danie Theron started his practice as an attorney in Ockerse Street. The so-called foreigners dominated the economic, political and social scene of the day, eg Abner Cohen as hotel owner, Joseff Seehoff and Harvey Greenacre as general dealers, and the Hartley's from Hekpoort. The majority of the people, however, depended on a self-sustainable livelihood, whether as digger, water car-driver, brick maker or vegetable grower. Opportunities for employment were very scarce.
The discovery of gold had brought hitherto unknown prosperity to the ZAR, but also an influx of foreigners. The political turmoil over the political rights of the many foreigners on the Witwatersrand opened the door for Cecil John Rhodes to approach the Reform Committee with his imperialistic ideas.10 With the help of his friend, Dr Leander Starr Jameson, and the Reform Committee he plotted to whip up unrest in Johannesburg to such a level that the overthrow of the ZAR government would be seen as a deed of humanity.11
Various factors contributed to the failure of the Reform Committee to muster the necessary support for their conspiracy. The result was that they were forced to call the Raid off, but contradicting reports and the stubbornness of Jameson to ignore the telegram instructing him to call off the Raid contributed to the failure of the Raid.12
Jameson gathered his force of Rhodesians at Pitsani on the border between the ZAR and Betchuanaland (Botswana), crossed the border on 29 December 1985 and marched in the direction of Krugersdorp where the Reform Committee was supposed to have met him for his march into Johannesburg. His advance towards Krugersdorp was unhindered until he reached the vicinity of the town. Jameson demanded the surrender of Krugersdorp or else he would bombard the town, notwithstanding assurances that the Raid was of a friendly nature.13 In reaction to this threat the Krugersdorp Commando stopped him in a fierce battle at the Queens Battery Gold Mine west of the town.14Jameson was forced to retreat. He then decided to cross the railway line between Krugersdorp and Randfontein in an attempt to reach Johannesburg via the Potchefstroom-Johannesburg coach road, but he soon realised that Boer Commandos under the command of General Piet Cronje had outflanked him. After the Battle of Doornkop, Jameson was forced to surrender to Cronje on the farm Vlakfontein south of Krugersdorp on 2 January 1896.15
The defeated raiders were marched to Krugersdorp where they were treated with "rough consideration" on the Market Square,16 while General Cronje prepared his report to the President. However, on the arrival of the battle-hungry Waterberg Commando, Cronje was forced to send his prisoners to Pretoria on the same day. Historians like Hole17 attributed the total failure of the raid on the impetuosity of Jameson and his failure to listen to reason and the advice of his officers.
A Captain Garraway was responsible to attend to the wounded and dead with the help of ten soldiers. A temporary hospital under Dr AG Viljoen18 was set up for the wounded in the shop of Harvey Greenacre.19 Verbal history relates that Jameson was kept in the cells behind the Magistrate's Court, but it is unlikely that he could have been there for more than a couple of hours. Garraway and his troopers were however kept there overnight after attending to the wounded and marched to Pretoria on the next day.
Verbal accounts attribute various legends to Krugersdorp interweaving truth and fiction to a great extent. One of the stories relates how the women and children were gathered in the courthouse for their own safety, but that they left the shelter later due to boredom and the excessive heat. The inhabitants were told that black people had raided them.20
The contradicting reports on the Raid urged Lieutenant Sarel Eloff, a grandson of President Paul Kruger in command of the local Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek Politie (ZARP), to approach Jameson during a scouting expedition at Boon's shop on the farm Rietfontein. Eloff was captured by the raiders and in an interview with Jameson, questioned the latter on his intensions and purpose of the Raid. Jameson assured him of his friendly intensions and set Eloff free on condition that he remains at Boon's shop for two hours before alerting the commandoes, but in the meantime Eloff's scouts had already alerted Field-cornet Piet Steenkamp, who had mobilised the Commando immediately.21
The Jameson Raid did not resolve the demands of the foreigners, although the government had made some minor concessions to their demands. The Raid, however, prevented any further attempts at a peaceful establishment of a federation of states in Southern Africa. More significantly, the position of people of colour in the ZAR remained unresolved: They were seen as a source of cheap labour for the mines with minimum rights and with little attention given to their living conditions and quality of life.22
Traditional historical accounts of the Anglo-Boer War cite the war as a conflict between the Afrikaners (Boers) and the English (British) and that it is why it is called the Anglo-Boer War. Furthermore, historians concentrated mainly on the military offensives, neglecting the struggle for survival of non-combatants on farms and in towns and in the concentration camps. Recent accounts with a more holistic approach of the war, cites the involvement and suffering all the people in the ZAR and the Republic of the Orange Free State. The involvement of the black and coloured people, supporting both armies, and their suffering in concentration camps has also received attention in more recent accounts of the war.
Krugersdorp was no exception to circumstances elsewhere in the ZAR during the War. Historians relate the victorious and heroic deeds of the Krugersdorp Commando under Generals Ben Viljoen, Jan Kemp, Jan Cilliers and Sarel Oosthuizen, as well as that of Commandant JC Bodenstein and the famous scout Danie Theron.24 Jan Kemp was probably the most famous of the four generals, whereas the Krugersdorp Centenary Album describes Viljoen as a colourful leader.25
In Natal the Commando was always in the thick of things. It fought a brave rearguard at Dundee, and served with distinction at Elandslaagte against the Gordon Highlanders. In the crucial Battle of Modderspruit, which determined the siege of Ladysmith, the Krugersdorpers stormed a hilltop and, with murderous mauser-fire, prevented General French's Fifth Lancers from breaking through the lines. Later, in an attack on an armoured train near Estcourt, the Krugersdorp men took Winston Churchill, a war correspondent, prisoner.
Krugersdorpers also played a great part in capturing General Buller's artillery in the fine victory at Colenso. Then came the Battle for Pietershoogte and the finest feat of arms in the Commando's history. The men from Krugersdorp and Rustenburg stood firm against three fiery Irish regiments, the Iniskillings, the Dublin Fusiliers and the Cornaughts, driving them back twice with superhuman courage and backed by the biggest artillery barrage of the war. After seven days of fighting they were finally overwhelmed by massive forces and bayoneted, as they stood upright in their trenches, stubbornly firing to the last.
Under the leadership of General Jan Kemp the Krugersdorp Commando defended its country in the Western Transvaal at the Battles of Vlakfontein (30 May 1901), Moedwil (30 September 1901), Driefontein (24 October 1901), Yzerspruit (25 February 1902), Tweebosch (7 March 1902), Boschbult (31 March 1902) and Roodewal (11 April 1902). Notwithstanding the depressing defeat suffered at Roodewal, the Krugersdorp Commando told its spokesman, General Kemp, to vote against accepting the British peace terms. They were still in the field and resolved to die rather than lose their independence. But despite a defiant speech by Kemp, only six of the 60 Boer delegates voted at the Peace Meeting to continue the fight. Peace came on 31 May 1902.
Various bigger and smaller skirmishes were fought in the Krugersdorp District. Of exceptional importance were the battles of Dwarsvlei (7 July 1900) and Nooitgedacht (13 December 1900). Major-General HA Smith-Dorien was en route to Hekpoort with his army consisting of Gordon Highlanders, Shopshire Light Infantry, Imperial Yeoman, Royal Scottish Fusiliers and the 7th Battery Royal Field Artillery when his advance was stopped on the farm Dwarsvlei by a Boer contingent under the command of General Sarel Oosthuizen. Smith-Dorien decided to return to Krugersdorp with the main contingent of his force, but left a battalion of Royal Scottish Fusiliers under the command of Captain Trenchard to cover his back and to protect a gun battery. During the following skirmishes Trenchard was seriously wounded.27 General Sarel Oosthuizen was fatally wounded and a Captain Younger killed in the fight for the possession of the gun battery. Oosthuizen died three days later from his wounds. Captain Younger (posthumously) and Captain William Gordon from the Gordon Highlanders received the Victoria Cross for Bravery for saving the gun battery and attending to the wounded at the Battle of Dwarsvlei.
A long guerrilla-struggle followed, with the Battle of Nooitgedacht in the Krugersdorp District as a notable victory. Unfortunately the Boer Armies under Generals Kemp, De La Rey, Smuts and Beyers lost the initiative when they plundered the abandoned British camp instead of pursuing and capturing the running British soldiers under the Command of Major-General Clements. A total of 78 burghers and 332 British soldiers were killed at the Battle of Nooitgedacht.28
The Battle of Nooitgedacht could have been the biggest victory on the Boer side if the Boers had followed through and captured Clements with his whole army. The Boers however lost the initiative due to their "loosely organised armies and ill-disciplined and ill-coordinated conduct".29 The undisciplined conduct of the Boers and the ransacking of the camp cost them the war. Henceforth the war was in the hands of the British and the Boers had to resort to fighting running battles and guerrilla warfare.
British occupation of Krugersdorp
On their way to Pretoria the British troops under Major-General Archibald Hunter, occupied Krugersdorp without opposition from the town's people in June 1900. Magistrate JC Human handed over the administration of the town to the British command. Martial Law was declared and the Union Jack was hoisted on the Government Building at a ceremony in front of the Old Magistrate's Court in Commissioner Street. Krugersdorp was under British military administration.
The British garrison had established its headquarters in Krugersdorp, according to popular belief, in the District Town (Krugersdorp North) in the house known as Kilmarnock House, at the corner of De Wet and Begin Streets.30 A blockhouse was built on the Monument hillside to keep the town under surveillance. Seven soldiers and four blacks that acted as servants and watchmen manned the blockhouse.
The movement of all people in the Transvaal Colony was restricted under Martial Law. Public meetings and gatherings were prohibited. No persons, except railway officers, were allowed on the platform of the railway station unless they were in the possession of a travelling permit. All travellers by whatever means also had to carry permits.31
Information on the conditions in Krugersdorp during the Anglo-Boer War is limited. Archival documentation relates primarily the military offensives. However, the town's people were not spared the distress and misery of the war. The town experienced a shortage of essential provisions and food. The closing of shops at the beginning of the war aggravated the shortages. A few of the bigger shops, eg Hompes and Seehoff, Harvey Greenacre, and McCloskie and Te Water reopened after the British occupation of the town and rendered an invaluable service to the poor. The majority of the town's people who suffered during the war were diggers who previously made a living on the Krugersdorp goldfields. The closing of all mining activities aggravated the need of the people.32 The Krugersdorp Women's League was started to provide poverty relief through a feeding scheme33 and medical support.34 With the establishment of the Krugersdorp Concentration Camp the League extended its work to include the inhabitants of the camp.
A Health Committee was established in October 1901 to take over the administration of public health in the town. The Health Committee functioned under the same regulations and authority that existed before the war. Under Proclamation 21 of 1900 all cases of infectious diseases were to be reported to prevent the spread of such diseases. Medical practitioners were entitled to a fee of twenty cents for each case notified. By Proclamation 10 of 1901 it became the duty of the Resident Magistrate to hold an inquest on any person who died suddenly, or was found dead, or was suspected of having died by violence, or by other than natural causes. All births and deaths had to be registered.35
All Burghers of the ZAR became British subjects with the annexation of the Old Republic. Under Martial Law the Town's people were prohibited from communicating with or supporting the Boer Commandoes. A permit was issued to each household in town that required an audit of their belongings to prevent the town's people from providing the Commandoes with food and other provisions. Notwithstanding this regulation, a few old gentlemen, namely JC Human, MWP Pretorius, S van Blommenstein, A Vorster, A te Water and D Grundlingh, succeeded in passing crucial information about the movements of British soldiers and provisions to the Krugersdorp Commando.36 As a result of this the British put Magistrate JC Human under house arrest, but this did not prevent him from continuing to pass on information he obtained in town.37
General conditions in the town were hard. Town's people suffered immense hardship. Nobody earned a sustainable income and no money was exchanged for trading purposes. Daily survival depended on the ability to sustain oneself with limited resources. No child received any formal education at the time. The local NG Church School closed at the beginning of the War. The British however opened an English medium school in 1901. In response, JH Grundlingh, a patriarch of the town, opened a private school with 100 learners. He employed two Dutch-speaking teachers, Misses F van Binnedyk and H Putten at five pounds a month each to teach the children in Dutch.38
Krugersdorp Concentration Camp
Although one of the smaller camps, conditions in the Krugersdorp Concentration Camp did not differ from that in any of the other camps. The Krugersdorp Concentration Camp was situated against the Monument hill more or less on the site of the current Yussaf Dadoo (Paardekraal) Hospital.40 The camp housed more than 6 000 women and children by the end of 1901. Many of the inhabitants perished in the over-crowded, unsanitary and ill-organised camp.41 Water pollution was a major health hazard, as well as starvation and malnutrition.42 The general unsanitary condition of the camp with exceptionally severe epidemics of measles, pneumonia and dysentery contributed to the high number of deaths the camp experienced in October and November 1901. The more than 1 800 graves in the Old Krugersdorp Cemetery, Burgershoop, are witness to suffering of the women and children in the Krugersdorp Concentration Camp. The following table reflects the situation in the Krugersdorp Concentration Camp at the time:
|Numerous observers pointed out serious shortcomings in the administration of the camp. The mortality rate decreased remarkably after the administration was transferred from the military to civilian authority under the command of a Mr Tomlinson and Dr Aymard.43 During this period the "Ladies Commission" who handled poor relief in town, extended its efforts to include also devastated families in the concentration camp, especially with regard to the improvement of food rations.
Food rations were classified into two categories. Class I rations were issued to the families of Boers who had surrendered or were in the employ of the British Army. Class II rations were issued to families with men still fighting with the Commandoes. The following rations were issued per week:44
|An additional ration of mealie meal was issued when available. Milk was issued to children under the age of two years. The number of people in a family was not taken into consideration with the issue of rations with the result that hunger and malnutrition were rife among many families. The presence of foreign objects in the food was also reported.45 Families were left to fend for themselves in the camp. Records of their struggle to obtain firewood or cow dung for cooking fires are available at the National War Museum of the two Republics. Some of the women had to work for the British soldiers, eg by doing the washing in order to secure a better life for their families in the camp.46
A big marquee tent in the middle of the camp served as church and school. This school was for many of the Boer children the first and only opportunity to receive formal education. Teaching in camp schools through the medium of English formed part of the British policy to anglicise the Afrikaner into British subjects. For this purpose English-speaking teachers were imported from various British colonies to run the camp schools. Many of these teachers remained in South Africa, including Krugersdorp, after the War to form the backbone of the early teaching fraternity in the Transvaal Colony.47
The repatriation of families from the concentration camp received priority after the signing of the peace treaty in May 1902. The Krugersdorp Concentration Camp was officially closed down in November 1902.
Krugersdorp Native Refugee Camp
When the policy of self-sustainment of Refugee camps by way of land cultivation was implemented in November 1901, the Krugersdorp Native Refugee Camp was moved to the farm Waterval No 74 IQ,48 because of the availability of water on this farm. The cultivation of crops on Waterval must have been a success because in September 1902 the Native Refugee Department negotiated with the original farm owner, Mr AHF du Toit, that one third of the crop on the land at that time would be retained by Du Toit. The remaining two thirds would go to the Native Refugee Department in return for the labour and expense incurred.49
A special Native Refugee Department was established in 1901 by the British High Commissioner to provide shelter to homeless blacks, but also to provide labour to the army and soldiers where and when needed. The Krugersdorp Native Refugee Camp housed 3 382 people in December 1901. Of this number, 1 288 males were in the service of the British Army, whereas two males, ten women and nine children worked in private households in Krugersdorp.50
The Krugersdorp Native Refugee Camp was abolished in October 1902, five months after the signing of the peace treaty. Some of the camp inhabitants did not want to return to the Boer farms after the closure of the camp, because they hoped for a better living under the British administration of the Transvaal Colony. The general situation among black people in the Transvaal was so bad that conditions of famine prevailed in many districts. In view of this situation, the grain depot in Krugersdorp was retained by the new Department of Native Affairs to provide in the need of the devastated communities.52
|The aftermath of the war in Krugersdorp
The war changed society on all spheres in Krugersdorp. The Assistant Resident Magistrate, Lieutenant Phillips, took over the military administration of the town. The repatriation of the families in the concentration camp and the returning prisoners of war took up the first six months after the signing of the peace treaty. The return to ruined farms with limited provisions forced many farmers into an impoverished economic position where they lived from the hand to the mouth.
A commission under the control of the Assistant Resident Magistrate attended to applications for compensation from returning Boers. The commission was responsible that proper compensation be given, based on damage to property as a result of the war. According to Esterhuizen53 compensation was awarded according to the extent of the damage and classified into three groups, namely:
Those burghers who had lost everything and needed immediate help;
Food and farm implements were available on credit from the Colonial Government. Several impoverished Boers became vastly indebted, thereby aggravating their devastated and impoverished situation.
Many impoverished Afrikaners settled in Krugersdorp, mainly at the Burgershoop Brickfields where they tried to make a living. The general survival of the families depended on their ability to sustain themselves with limited resources. The extent of the devastation in Krugersdorp at the time is reflected in the high mortality of babies under the age of one year in the period 1903/1904.54
|As opposed to the devastated situation among the returning Boer families, influential traders and professional people settled in the District Town where they were regarded as community leaders and were respected as town managers. They introduced a new British Colonial lifestyle and social order. The Afrikaner was able to come into his own right as community leader only in the late 1920s and 1930s.
Living conditions among people of colour after the Anglo-Boer War remained poor in Krugersdorp. No special provisions were made to better their plight. They were considered to be a source of labour with no political rights.
|Poor social conditions, poverty, unemployment and the lack of proper housing persisted in Krugersdorp among the majority of its inhabitants until late in the 20th Century.|
copyright © 2004 Janetta du Plooy