Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion
Part 6 out of 8
each 30 Pounds, while the Zulus, Tembus and Pondos were still collecting.
At Kimberley the Natives gave concerts for the benefit of
the Mayor's Relief Fund. At their Beaconsfield concert the Kimberley Band
under Herr Carl Rybnikar, known as the best volunteer band in South Africa,
attended and gave selections; and Chief Molala of the Batlhaping
gave General Botha 200 bullocks to feed the Union troops.
In April 1915 the Minister of Native Affairs gave the following
testimony of native loyalty and co-operation. Speaking from
his place in Parliament Mr. Malan said -- "he thought it his duty
to say that the attitude of the large number of the Natives
entrusted to their care, all through the troubles, had been
most exemplary and most patriotic. There was one exception to which
he would refer,* but from the commencement, from all parts of the Union,
resolutions came to the Government of expressions of loyalty
on the part of the Natives, and of their support in the measures
Government was taking in connexion with the war. They (the Natives)
gave oxen and supported liberally, according to their means,
the different patriotic funds which had been established,
and generally gave the Government every assistance. The Government
had been able to enrol between 23,000 and 24,000 Natives for service
in German S.W. Africa, in building railways and in transport work.
The chief of the Tembus had volunteered to send his own son
to German S.W. Africa for the purpose of superintending
the members of his tribe, a large number of whom had volunteered
for the front. All that spoke well for the Natives, and he would be
neglecting his duty if he did not testify to that."
* The "one exception" referred to by Mr. Malan was the Hlubis
of Matatiele district, who forcibly resisted the cattle dipping regulations
because, they said, the frequent dipping killed their cattle.
In opening the Rhodesian Legislative Council, on April 28,
Mr. Administrator Chaplin concluded by saying that the behaviour and attitude
of the native population since the outbreak of the war left nothing
to be desired. All information available showed that any attempts
by emissaries of the enemy to stir up trouble would fail to meet with support.
"Numerous expressions of loyalty to His Majesty have come from leading Chiefs,
taxes are readily paid, and perfect order has been maintained."
What a happy land in which to live South Africa would be if,
instead of the present god of colour prejudice, we had some such confidence
as is reposed in the blacks by the British authorities
in East Africa and elsewhere. The naughty white piccaninnies
who always insult inoffensive black passers-by would be taught
that the Native is a useful neighbour whose strong right arm
may be depended upon in times of trouble, instead of being taught,
as they are taught in Transvaal, that every man Jack of them
is a black peril monster who must not only be discriminated against,
but who must be indiscriminately insulted and repressed.
The following dispatch, published in the `Daily Chronicle',
illustrates the confidence of the British authorities in East Africa
towards the blacks: --
East African Battle won by Native "Non-Com".
About the end of September the Germans advanced 600 strong,
with six machine guns, from the Vanga side. They were held
at Margerini on September 25 by Captain Wavel's Arab Company,
and some King's African Rifles under Captain Stoner arrived from Jubaland
on the 27th, none too soon to reinforce Captain Wavel,
the enemy in the meanwhile having become very aggressive.
The German plan of attack was to destroy the Salisbury bridge,
which connects Mombasa island with the mainland, thus securing
one of the most important strategical positions in East Africa.
The "Koenigsberg" did not arrive, perhaps because of the nearness
of British warships, and the little British force of 300 men
dislocated the land operations of the enemy. "C" Company held off the Germans
until October 2, when they were reinforced by Indian troops.
The Jind Infantry behaved particularly well at Gazi, where they had to face
a very heavy fire from the six machine guns of the enemy.
The King's African Rifles deserve special mention. Major Hawthorn,
who was in command, and all the European officers, were wounded
early in the engagement, thus leaving the little force leaderless.
Colour-Sergeant Sumani quietly took charge, and led on his men as if nothing
had happened. He gave the order to charge, and the enemy broke and fled.
This incident has not yet appeared in the bald official announcements,
but it is hoped the splendid conduct of the native colour sergeant
will receive recognition.*
* Sergeant Sumani has since been decorated with the D.S.O.
Chapter XXI Coloured People's Help Rejected / The Offer of Assistance
by the South African Coloured Races Rejected
The Africans and their descendants in America have proven to the world
that they do not lack courage and military ardour. This the French
have recognized by enlisting them in their present struggle.
We hope for the sake of the Africans that they will give
a good account of themselves, but the coloured race is like the Irish
who are invincible in fighting for other nations, but not for themselves.
An American on the Great War.
The African Political Organization was early in the field.
Dr. Abdurahman, its president, during the first week of the war,
had a force of 3,000 coloured men at Capetown ready to take the field
against the Germans. These men included those who had fought
for the British flag, side by side with the British troops
in the Matabele wars and other South African campaigns in various capacities.
In a few days the number of this force rose to 5,000 able-bodied men
ready to go to the front. A definite offer of the service of this force
was communicated to the Union Government, who replied that the offer
was under consideration.
Mr. William Hosken, the famous Johannesburg politician,
member of the Transvaal Parliament before the unification of South Africa
-- a gentleman whose legislative talents are now unfortunately in abeyance,
because his liberal views on colour are too advanced
for the palates of the lily-white voters of his State --
offered to pay the cost of recruiting such a coloured force.
Application forms were scattered throughout the country, asking volunteers
to send in their names and addresses to the A.P.O. headquarters
signifying their intention to serve as units of the Hosken Division.
Our old friend Mr. N. R. Veldsman, a coloured political organizer
of considerable ability, who had been in retirement for the past year or two,
came forward, took his place among the coloured leaders,
and addressed patriotic meetings at Saron and other Cape districts
on behalf of the recruiting movement.
The City Hall, Capetown, was packed on Monday night, August 31, 1914,
with coloured citizens of Capetown, who had assembled to express
their loyalty to King George and their determination to support the Government
during the present crisis.
Sir Frederick Smith, who presided, thought the coloured people
had taken a wise course in calling that meeting to tender
their assistance to the Government while Britain was engaged in war.
He was confident that that demonstration would receive
the grateful appreciation of the Prime Minister, his Cabinet,
and also of H.M. King George.
Dr. Abdurahman said that the coloured people had met in public meeting
on many occasions, but never in the history of South Africa
had they been called together on a more solemn occasion,
nor at a more critical juncture, and never when the issues were fraught
with greater consequences.
The coloured people had many grievances, but all that must be forgotten
while danger was threatening the very existence of the Empire.
If the Empire fell, South Africa would fall, Capetown would fall,
and Capetown might even be laid in ruins.
Although England was engaged in a life and death struggle,
South Africans felt secure and could sleep in peace. That security was due
to the supremacy of the British Navy. They had met that night to decide
how they could assist the Empire. He moved the following resolution:
"That the coloured citizens of Capetown, in mass meeting assembled,
under the auspices of the A.P.O., hereby express their loyalty
to H.M. King George V, and take this opportunity of placing on record
their recognition of the fact that the security that they at present enjoy
is due primarily to the supremacy of the British Navy; and further,
they pray that Britain's efforts during the war will be crowned with success.
That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to H.E. the Governor-General
for transmission to H.M. the King." (Applause.)
Mr. J. C. Carelse, in seconding the resolution, remarked that that
was not the time to consider their own troubles, but to show the enemy
that they stood together as a united Empire against any foe who dared
to lower the Union Jack. The resolution was adopted with enthusiasm.
Mr. N. R. Veldsman appealed to the coloured people to assist those
who as a result of the war might suffer. The coloured people
should spend less on bioscopes and trivialities, and contribute to a fund
which it was proposed to raise. He moved the following resolution:
"That, in order to alleviate the suffering which inevitably accompanied war,
an appeal is hereby made to the coloured citizens of the Union
to contribute to a fund to be administered by the following committee:
The Rt. Rev. Bishop J. A. Johnson, Mrs. Wooding, Mrs. Abdurahman, Mrs. Gow,
Dr. Gool, Dr. Abdurahman, the Rev. F. Gow, Messrs. C. J. Carelse, S. Reagon,
N. R. Veldsman, S. F. Geyer, P. Grever, H. Hartog, B. Baron, H. Cressy,
A. Arendze, H. J. Gordon, R. Hoedemaker, W. A. Roberts, M. J. Fredericks,
Fred Hendricks, H. A. Gamildien, Pfieffer, and George Fife."
The Rev. Mr. Gow seconded the resolution, and said that
although the spirit of war was in the air, there was also
a spirit of helpfulness in the air. They should at this period
forget race and creed and contribute to the fund.
Mrs. Wooding, who spoke in support of the resolution,
remarked that the coloured women would be found ready to do their duty
whenever the call went forth. The best way to show loyalty to the Empire
was by rendering some service. The resolution was unanimously adopted.
Dr. Gool said that another way of giving practical assistance to the Empire
was by raising volunteer corps for active service. He moved:
"That the offer made through the A.P.O. to raise volunteers
for active service at home or abroad be approved, and that this meeting
tenders to the Union Government its loyal support during the present crisis."
Mr. S. Reagon, who seconded, said that they were excluded
from the Defence Force. But as the Empire was endangered
he hoped an opportunity would be given the coloured people
to take a part in the fighting line.
The resolution was agreed to. The sum of 37 Pounds was raised
during the evening.
Mr. H. Seymour rendered some patriotic selections on the organ.
The meeting concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.
At Johannesburg, Mr. Koopman presided over a crowded meeting
of the Rand branches of the Coloured Organization, which unanimously
endorsed the proposal to raise the corps. Similar meetings,
under the respective chairmanship of Mr. Keiler, Mr. Samuels,
and Mr. I. Joshua, were held by the Pretoria town and country branches
and at Kimberley. At Pretoria, Revs. G. Weavind and Mr. Hanford,
both missionaries, also spoke offering to associate themselves
with the coloured people in any benevolent efforts undertaken
to alleviate the distress that might follow the outbreak of the war.
Port Elizabeth and other district branches also moved
in the same direction. Capetown, the headquarters of the Organization,
was the centre of these activities, and a number of coloured women
wrote to the A.P.O. secretary offering their services as nurses
to accompany the coloured volunteer force to German South-West Africa,
so that the coloured people, as the A.P.O. newspaper puts it,
"have closed their book with its ugly record against the Botha Government,
and offered the Prime Minister their loyal support during the war."
But while these things were in progress, the Union Defence Force,
which had mobilized near the German frontier under Colonel Maritz,
rebelled against the Crown, and with their arms and ammunition
they joined the Germans. This act of rebellion occasioned the greatest alarm
among the coloured population near the boundaries of German South-West Africa.
And they appealed to the Government for arms to protect
their homes and properties. They remembered what happened
during the Boer War, when the Dutch inhabitants of those districts
joined their kinsmen from across the Vaal, and how that Natives who were armed
always remained free from molestation. That their present fear
was not groundless the following declaration shows: --
I herewith declare that my brother and I were on a visit
to the farm Groen Doorn, Cape Province, on the morning of September 16, 1914.
When we got opposite the police camp, we were surprised to see the camp
invaded by Germans. The Germans then beckoned us to come up,
and told us that we were prisoners, and that we must go with them
to the station of Ukamas. My brother on hearing that
turned his horse and galloped back. The Germans called on him
to halt at once, but he did not stop. Then they fired at him,
and shot him dead.
My brother was left lying where he fell. After he was shot
I asked if I could go to him, but the Germans would not allow me.
Afterwards I was taken to the German camp, where I found
all the coloured people of Groen Doorn that were captured by the Germans.
Two old women who were too weak to walk all the way were left half-way
without either food or water; one of the two was a cripple,
and the other an old woman between sixty and seventy years of age.
I stayed at the German camp at Nakob till the first German patrol
went back to Groen Doorn to guard. Then that same evening I ran away
from the German camp, and fortunately got safe home to my house at Nudab.
I again declare that this story is an exact reproduction of what I have seen
with my own eyes.
(X his mark)
Witness: T. Kotzee.
Signed at Keimoes this 6th day of October, 1914.
This statement was conveyed to the Union Government by Mr. M. J. Fredericks,
secretary of the African Political Organization. With it there was a request
by a meeting of coloured people at Calvinia and adjacent districts
near the German frontier asking for arms. General Smuts replied,
regretting the situation in which the coloured residents of
the districts of Calvinia, Kenhardt, Keimoes, and Upington found themselves;
and said that he hoped the Union forces would ere long remove the cause
of their anxiety. He added that the question of arming coloured citizens
had been carefully considered by the Government, but that, for reasons
already published, their request for arms could not be complied with.
Finally General Smuts expressed regret at the shooting of the brother
of Jacobus Bezuidenhout. "Apparently the deceased had been shot
because he attempted to escape, and in the circumstances," added the General,
"the Germans were clearly justified in shooting him."
If General Smuts is right in his concluding remarks, then the Germans are
quite justified in pillaging Belgium, as the reason they ravaged that country
was because the Belgians refused to comply with a plain request
to allow German troops to proceed through Belgium to France. But whatever
the view of the South African Government might be on these subjects,
we would like to point out that it is against a coloured man's grain
to obey the orders of a man, no matter who, if he is at war
with the coloured man's chief. It would be nothing unusual for a German
to order a coloured man about in times of peace, but once war was declared,
it became an outrage upon the traditions of the blacks to obey Germans
who were now the enemies of their country.
General Smuts will no doubt remember his own operations in 1901,
before he became a British subject. How he then invaded Cape Colony,
and got a number of recruits from among the Dutch inhabitants
of certain Cape districts. How eventually, when he came
to the district of Calvinia, his burghers, reinforced by rebels,
found a coloured blacksmith there, by the name of Abraham Ezau.
How the burghers demanded certain information from this man,
and he refused to supply enemies and rebels of the Crown with any information.
That the man was severely ill-treated and tortured, but that
he would not disclose anything. And how that a gang of Boers
dragged this coloured man out of the town and shot him down;
that they also looted Abraham Ezau's shop and took away
the murdered man's tools, which his widow never recovered, and for which
the writer has been informed she never received any compensation.
The Cape Government, prior to the Union, erected a tombstone
over the grave of this man, who sacrificed his life for it rather than betray
his country. And the sight of that memorial stone was no doubt
a grim reminder to the inhabitants of Calvinia of what would happen
if the rebels invaded Calvinia once more.
Burra dur hai Tipperary
Bahoot lumbah koouch wo
Burra dur hai Tipperary
Sakki pas pownchenay ko
Ram ram Piccadilly
Salaam Leicester Square
Burra, burra dur hai Tipperary
Lakin dil hoaye phus-gayah.
"Tipperary" in Hindustani.
The Natives and the Cape coloured Afrikanders were not alone in tendering
loyal offers of service to the Government. The Indians of Natal
and other coloured residents likewise offered their services
to the Government, besides subscribing liberally according to their means
to the various war funds. The St. Helenians of Capetown passed
the following resolutions, which Mr. S. Reagon, the secretary,
forwarded to the Government: --
(1) That this meeting of St. Helenians expresses its unswerving and devoted
loyalty to His Majesty King George and His Governments.
(2) That it expresses its full confidence in the Union Government
in the present crisis through which the Empire and Union are passing,
and congratulates General Botha, and expresses its deep appreciation
of his practical patriotism in having taken command of the Union Forces
in the field.
(3) That the services of the Association and its members be hereby offered
to the Union Government in whatever manner they may be of assistance
to ensure the triumph of the Empire and for the maintenance
of law and order.
Shortly after the outbreak of the present war, Dr. Abdurahman
offered the Government the services of the 5,000 coloured warriors
recruited through the A.P.O., and General Smuts replied that the offer
was under consideration. Meanwhile the A.P.O. recruiting agency
had been continuing its work, and no fewer than 13,000 coloured men
had sent in their names and addresses and signified their intention to take
the field. So Mr. Fredericks, the secretary of the A.P.O., wrote once more
to General Smuts, on October 23, offering the services of these men
in the name of the Coloured People's Organization. This offer brought forth
the following definite reply, which is couched in identical terms
to the one sent on the same date to Dr. Rubusana, who wrote offering
the services of 5,000 Natives: --
Department of Defence,
November 6, 1914.
Sir, -- With reference to your letter of the 23rd ult.,
I beg to inform you that the Union Government greatly appreciates
the offer of service of the Cape coloured people.
I am, however, to refer you to the provisions of Section 7
of the South African Defence Act, 1912, and to state that the Government
does not desire to avail itself of the services in a combatant capacity
of citizens not of European descent in the present hostilities.
Apart from other considerations, the present war is one which has its origin
among the white peoples of Europe, and the Government is anxious to avoid
the employment of coloured citizens in a warfare against whites.
No doubt the Government of British South Africa was actuated
by the loftiest motives in rejecting voluntary offers of service
from citizens of non-European descent; but it is clear that such a reply
at such a time ought not to please many people in Great Britain who had
to offer the cream of British manhood to defend their portion of the Empire,
and then to offer in addition more men to lay down their lives
for the safety of the Colonies, including South Africa,
a land with thousands of able-bodied and experienced warriors
who are willing to defend their own country. For the same reason
this decision ought not to please our French Allies, who,
besides sacrificing men and money on the battlefields of Continental Europe,
must provide more men and money to guard their colonial possessions
in different parts of the globe. This decision ought not also to cheer
any one in Belgium, where fathers and mothers and their children
are separated and starving, a nation living practically in exile,
or in bondage, its brave monarch sojourning in foreign territory.
On the other hand, if there is any one place where this decision
of the Government of British South Africa would be hailed
with the liveliest satisfaction, it is certainly Berlin,
and that particularly after the bitter experiences of German troops
in encounters with native African troops, both in Continental Europe
and in East and West Africa.
Similarly this decision of the South African Government ought not to please
the Boers themselves, inasmuch as, finding the request for volunteers
amongst the whites failed to secure sufficient men, the Union Government
had perforce to resort to coercion, in that some 300 Boers who refused
to enlist for service in the expedition to German South West Africa
were fined or imprisoned. This course, which is practically conscription,
would have been unnecessary had the Union Government accepted
the offered service of the 18,000 and more volunteers whom it curtly rejected.
The coloured people, judging by the letters that many of them have sent
to the Press, felt humiliated to find that during the Empire's darkest hour
a Government to which they pay taxation is publishing decisions
that ought to wound the feelings of the Allies' sympathizers
and give satisfaction to the enemy.
It is just possible that the Government refused the offer
of the coloured people in deference to the wishes of a section
of the white people of the Union; but judging from the African Press,
that section, although somewhat noisy, was an infinitesimal one.
This section, as is shown from the extract below, also discussed
the voyage of the Indian troops to Europe. The `East Rand Express', a paper
published in one of the most important suburbs of Johannesburg, said: --
COLOURED TROOPS AND THE WAR
The news that Great Britain intends to employ Indian native troops
against the Germans has come as a shock to many South Africans.
We can but hope the news is incorrect. In our opinion it would be
a fatal mistake to use coloured troops against the whites, more especially
as plenty of whites are available. From the English standpoint
there is probably nothing offensive in the suggestion. Most Home people
do not seem to see anything repugnant in black boxers fighting whites,
but they have not had to live in the midst of a black population.
If the Indians are used against the Germans it means that
they will return to India disabused of the respect they should bear
for the white race. The Empire must uphold the principle that a coloured man
must not raise his hand against a white man if there is to be any law or order
in either India, Africa, or any part of the Empire where
the white man rules over a large concourse of coloured people.
In South Africa it will mean that the Natives will secure pictures of whites
being chased by coloured men, and who knows what harm such pictures may do?
That France is employing coloured troops is no excuse.
Two blacks in any sense do not make a white. The employment of native troops
against Germany will be a hard blow on the prestige of the white man.
These emotionalists urge the Imperialists against the use of black warriors
for the simple reason that it would give them (the emotionalists) "a shock".
So that the agony of British troops and the anxiety of British
wives and mothers is not to be lessened, nor the perils of non-combatants
greatly minimized, or the war hastened by a decisive concentration
of the Empire's forces on the battlefield, because of the "shock"
it would give the emotionalists for black to fight against white.
The common-sense view would show the advantage in permitting all subjects,
including the coloured races of South Africa, to take part in the struggle
and thus enable the authorities to place more men on the Continent,
instead of sending drafts of Imperial troops to take the places of men
at the outposts of the Empire, who are disqualified solely by their colour.
Last New Year the author received a letter from a well-known British mother
conveying her well-wishes besides the following moving particulars: --
We are almost beside ourselves with grief over this awful war.
My young nephew has been home on a nine days' holiday at Christmas
and he has now returned to the front. He has been awarded the D.S.O. for
blowing up a bridge and so delaying the Germans in the march upon Paris.
My cousin, Mrs. ----, has lost her two only sons -- both killed
on the same day -- December 21. Besides other English friends and relatives
fighting on the British side, I have also a young German cousin
fighting on the other side. He has been so badly wounded in his throat
that the vocal chords have received such an injury as to lead
to the loss of his voice, and his career as a barrister is probably at an end.
His poor mother is a widow and has only one other son, who is very delicate.
The writer has during the past six months come across
instances of the loss of an only son, but all these agonies count as nothing
to your colourphobic emotionalists, who must, at any price,
be spared their "shock" regardless of the sufferings of others.
Now ask these men what they would offer the Empire as a substitute
for the coloured troops whose employment against the enemy
gives them "the shock", and you will find that they have nothing to offer
but their colour prejudice.
What, for instance, could the leader-writer of the `East Rand Express'
offer to the Empire in place of the generous help rendered to it
by the Maharajah of Mysore, a lad of only eighteen years of age,
who besides the services of his men gave the "trifle" of 330,000 Pounds,
or in place of the present of the Nizam of Hyderabad,
who contributed 396,000 Pounds towards the cost of the Hyderabad contingent;
or the Maharajah Scindia of Gwalior, who handed to King George,
as a Christmas present for the troops, a "tiny fleet"
of forty-one motor-ambulances, four motor-cars for officers,
five motor-lorries and repair wagons, and ten motor-cycles;
or to come nearer home, and to deal with a more modest gift,
the two hundred bullocks which Chief Molala Mankuroane, near Kimberley,
gave General Botha to feed the Union troops?
And when these liberal sacrifices are made by black men
for the safety of the Empire, INCLUDING BRITISH SOUTH AFRICA,
one is constrained to ask: Where are those loud-mouthed pen-men who,
possessed of more pretension than foresight, wrote bombastic articles
in the Transvaal Press before the war, threatening that "South Africa
will cut the painter", and "paddle her own canoe", if men and women in Europe
made themselves a nuisance by advocating ideas of justice
in favour of the blacks? General Botha confessed last September
that the South African Government tried to, but could not,
borrow more than 2,000,000 Pounds; that the Imperial Government
had come to the rescue and "helped the Union out of its embarrassment
with a loan of 7,000,000 Pounds" of British money. When from his seat
in the Union House of Assembly the Prime Minister announced this failure,
why did not these secessionists come forward and display
their "paddling" capacity? What has suddenly become of them?
Is it not about time that the Empire recognized the unprofitableness,
and even the ruinous policy, of these gentlemen, and that it ceased
paying so much attention to those whose views are distorted
by colour prejudice, whose object is to inflict unnecessary harm
on the minds, bodies and spirits of loyal subjects of the Crown?
One cannot help saying that if their career in this respect is not checked,
their evil policy will land the Empire in a tangle of difficulties
from which its rescue will require the highest statesmanship,
much expenditure of treasure, if not also the shedding of blood.
We have already stated that coloured men ARE serving the Empire at the front,
but mainly in capacities that do not involve their recognition.
We have recently read of the trial of two coloured men at Willowmore,
in the Cape Province. They were said to have expressed the view
that if coloured persons are not fit to fight for the Empire "in a war
originating entirely among Europeans", they could not be considered fit
to drive military wagons in the same war. Recruiting of military drivers
was in progress at the time, so they were charged under martial law,
and sentenced to nine months, with hard labour, for obstructing
the recruiting work. In this case our difficulty is that, not being a lawyer,
we are not able to draw the fine distinctions between legal phrases.
But to our untutored lay mind it seems that if to give expression
to such logic (whereby ten drivers may think twice before enlisting)
is a crime under martial law, then it should be over ten times more criminal,
under the same law, for a Government to refuse the offer of service,
in the same war, of 18,000 warriors and thereby barring
the enlistment of a possible 80,000.
One of the best replies to colour sentimentalists which we have ever read
on this subject is quoted from the `New York World' by the `Crisis'
(Professor Du Bois's paper) of the same city. Says the `New York World': --
The German Ambassador has announced to the United States
that he is "unconditionally opposed" to the use of coloured troops.
This is a curious prejudice on the part of the diplomatic representative
of a Government that is seeking to bring Turkey into the conflict
and trying to persuade the Turk to instigate a "holy war" in Egypt and India
against all non-Mohammedans.
When Germany went to war with the British Empire she must have expected
to fight the British Empire, and not merely a selected part of the population,
the colour of whose skin happened to meet the approval of Berlin.
It is natural enough that Great Britain should bring up her Indian troops,
who, by the way, are as completely identified with the Aryan race
as the Prussians. But no matter what their race may be, they are
part of the Empire and part of Great Britain's regular military power.
If Germany were at war with the United States her troops would have to meet
our Negro Cavalry, than whom there are no better soldiers in uniform.
German denunciation of the Indian troops is as futile as German denunciation
of the Japanese as "yellow-bellies". It is too late to draw
the colour line in war. That line was erased more than fifty years ago
by Abraham Lincoln in that noble letter to the Springfield Convention:
"And there will be some black men who can remember that,
with silent tongue and clenched teeth and steady eye and well-poised bayonet,
they have helped mankind on to this great consummation."
One South African writer to the Press had humanitarian reasons
against the employment on the Continent of coloured troops from India.
He said that 70,000 of them will be like a morning meal
to the trained soldiers of Germany. This sympathetic view
does not appear to be shared by German writers to the `Berliner Tageblatt',
who have a high regard for the ferocity of "these Eastern devils".
Apparently this is the only German view which is in harmony with
the dispatches of Generals French and Joffre. His Majesty the King has since
been to the front, where, in the presence of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales,
Sir Pertabh Singh and other high Imperial officers, His Majesty personally
decorated Havildar Darwan Sing Negi (an Indian) of the 39th Garhwal Rifles,
with the Victoria Cross, and we need hardly add that V.C.'s are not awarded
On the first Saturday in March, 1915, King George went to Aldershot and acted
as starter in the big military race in which over 500 soldiers competed.
Her Majesty the Queen was also present and graciously distributed the prizes.
The race was won by Private Stewart, a black trooper from Jamaica.
Even the Coldstream Guards have their coloured private in training
for the front; but South Africans inform you that the heavens will fall
if coloured troops are sent against the white Germans,
who, from the beginning, never scrupled to send black warriors
against the British.
In regard to the award of the V.C. to Indians, many writers sent letters
to the Press claiming that it was unprecedented for coloured warriors
to wear the V.C. Whitaker and similar publications might have told them
that a Native African sergeant of the West Indian Regiment wears
the V.C. won on the Gambia River as long ago as 1892.
Chapter XXII The South African Boers and the European War
I slept and had a vision; and what was it about? For lo and behold,
the sky was covered with a dark cloud on which was impressed
the number 15, and blood issued from this cloud. Thereupon I beheld
General Jacobus De la Rey returning to his Lichtenburg home
without a hat on his head, and he was closely followed by a carriage
full of flowers.
Niklaas Rensburg (the Boer Prophet).
When the war broke out, there was no question, as far as
one section of the whites were concerned, as to the duty of South Africans,
but the majority of the unofficial Dutch and German sections
were for remaining neutral and taking no part whatever in the struggle,
either for or against the Crown. Among the Backvelders there appeared
to have been some misunderstanding as to whether the South Africans
were subjects or merely friends of the British Government.
This bewilderment became more confusing during the interval
between the outbreak of the war and the meeting of the Union Parliament.
All kinds of ideas were expressed in the Press. The progressive section,
mainly English, urged not only that South Africa had no alternative
but to join the struggle, but they actually raised volunteer corps,
which they proceeded to equip for service in Europe.
The regular volunteer forces of the country went forward
at an early period of the campaign, and took the German ports.
In connexion with the mobilization of these forces a regrettable catastrophe
must be recorded here. The long train in which the Kaffrarian Rifles,
mostly English, were going from King Williamstown, via Capetown, to the front,
was derailed near the Hex River, and the gallant Riflemen
had eight killed and about a hundred wounded. They are sons
of the old English settlers of the Eastern Province, and some are members
of European families who are very popular with the Natives of the Cape,
so that white and black alike felt deeply the result of the catastrophe.
General Lukin, who was in charge of the advance forces, quickly went up
the South-Western Coast, and forced the enemy to evacuate his ports
and retreat inland towards Windhuk, the capital of the German Colony.
General Beyers and the rest of the Defence Forces which were entrusted
with the land operations also mobilized. The mobilization of this force
took an extraordinarily long time, but it was satisfactorily explained that
the marshalling of the citizen forces had to await the sanction of Parliament,
which did not meet until September 10, 1914.
A special session of the Union Parliament took place on this day,
at which General Botha, the Union Premier, made a great speech.
In the course of his speech General Botha said that the Imperial Government
had informed the Government that certain war operations
in German South-West Africa were considered to be of strategic importance.
The Imperial Government added that if the Union Government
could undertake these operations they would be regarded as of great service
to the Empire. The Empire to which South Africa belonged was involved
in one of the greatest and cruelest wars which had ever befallen humanity.
General Botha continued:
The Government, after careful consideration, had decided to comply
with the request in the interests of South Africa as well as of the Empire.
(Cheers.) There could only be one reply to the Imperial Government's request.
There were many in South Africa who did not recognize
the tremendous seriousness and great possibilities of this war,
and some thought that the storm did not threaten South Africa.
This was a most narrow-minded conception. The Empire was at war;
consequently South Africa was at war with the common enemy. (Cheers.)
Only two paths were open -- the path of faithfulness to duty and honour
-- (cheers) -- and the path of disloyalty and dishonour.
A characteristic of the South African people was their high sense of honour,
and they would maintain their reputation for honourable dealing untarnished.
(Cheers.) To forget their loyalty to the Empire in this hour of trial
would be scandalous and shameful, and would blacken South Africa
in the eyes of the whole world. Of this South Africans were incapable. . . .
With regard to the operations in South-West Africa, General Botha declared
that there could be only one response to the Imperial Government's wishes
unless they wished to contemplate a situation much more serious
than that which now confronted them. The mode of operations
could not be discussed in the House; it must be left
to the commander of the Union forces.* The Government had summoned Parliament
so that the representatives of the people should know exactly
what had happened.
* General Beyers.
He wished them to understand the seriousness of the position,
and to accept the responsibility which they would be called upon to accept.
He placed himself with confidence in the hands of the House.
General Botha detailed the German entry into Union territory at Nakob.
This force was entrenched in kopjes in Union territory at the present time.
He also described an affair at Schuitdrift in August. In addition to this,
armed German forces were on the Union frontier in large numbers
before there was any question of Union mobilization. The Premier said
he quoted the foregoing to show the hostile attitude adopted by Germans
in the neighbouring territory.
He next referred to the White Paper on the diplomatic proceedings
on the eve of war. These documents, he declared, showed that
if ever Great Britain entered upon a war with clean hands it was this war.
It was abundantly clear that Great Britain did not want war,
and did her utmost to maintain peace; but war was forced upon them.
Only when it became impossible, without loss of prestige and honour,
to remain out of war did the Imperial Government take that supreme step.
(Cheers.) By the Imperial Government's decision the whole Empire
was involved in the war. (Cheers.) He emphasized that the war
was not a war of aggrandisement or for the acquisition of land,
but that it was undertaken out of a sense of duty and in discharge of
solemn treaty obligations to defend other nations who were
being trampled upon, and whose territory was being violated.
He wished the House to realize that South Africa's future was being decided
on the battlefields of Europe. . . .
He appealed to South Africans to be tolerant with each other
at the present time. No one could blame the Dutch South African
who did not feel exactly as the British South African felt.
It did not follow that Dutch South Africans were disloyal.
There was no question of disloyalty. Although there might be many
who in the past had been hostile towards the British flag,
he could vouch for it that they would ten times rather be
under the British flag than under the German flag.
Great confidence had been reposed in the people of South Africa.
They had received a constitution under which they could create
a great nationality. Great Britain had given them this constitution,
and ever since had regarded them as a free people and as a sister State.
As an example of how the Imperial Government treated them,
General Botha said that last July the Union Government wanted to raise
a loan of 4,000,000 Pounds. They had raised only two millions.
As things were it would be fatal to go into the money market just now,
so the Imperial Government had now come to the assistance
of the Union Government and had lent the Union 7,000,000 Pounds.
(Loud cheers.) That was the spirit of co-operation and brotherhood
which invariably animated the Imperial towards the Union Government.
Notwithstanding its own difficulties, the Imperial Government had come forward
and helped the Union Government out of its embarrassment. (Cheers.)
In conclusion, the Premier said he felt it was the duty of South Africa
to assist in relieving the sufferings and privations inflicted by the war.
The Government therefore proposed to offer South African products
like mealies and tobacco for the soldiers, and brandy for medical purposes.
The farmers had already come forward with offers of products,
and the Government would undertake their dispatch. General Botha indicated
that the matter would be dealt with more fully later, and closed his speech
with an eloquent expression of his belief that South Africa
would acquit herself honourably in the eyes of the world.
Sir Thomas Smartt, Leader of the Opposition, said the message
which the Prime Minister by his speech had given to the Home Country
would send a thrill of pride through the Empire -- a thrill of pride
at knowing that in the day of danger South Africa had
been true to her trust and had remembered her obligations
as well as her privileges of free citizenship. (Cheers.)
Mr. Cresswell, the Labour Leader, urged that an expedition should be sent
to fight side by side with the Allies on the Continent.
General Hertzog said that General Botha's motion had come as a great surprise,
and moved the adjournment. Other members supported General Hertzog,
but the motion for the adjournment was rejected by 85 votes to 12.
After this short session of Parliament, enthusiastic meetings were held
throughout the country. Those in the cities were mainly attended
by citizens of English descent. Strong resolutions of confidence
in the Union Government, and of approval in the proposed expedition
to German South-West Africa, were passed at these meetings.
At country meetings, however, the enthusiasm was in the opposite direction.
There, the resolutions condemned the Government's military policy,
and General Botha was roundly accused of not taking the country
into his confidence. When the loyalists urged that the Parliamentary
representatives of the critics, who, by the way, enjoy manhood suffrage,
had authorized the Government policy, the growlers replied that their members
did not consult their wishes.
General Botha made it as plain as the Dutch language could put it
that the Germans had been in camp near Nakob in their own territory.
That they left their Nakob base on the German side of the Border and came over
to the Union territory for water, and proceeded to entrench themselves
amongst the ridges and kopjes which commanded the water-holes,
and that in addition to the duty of the Union as part of the Empire,
this military trespass on the part of the German forces further strengthened
the case for an expedition into German South-West Africa.
At these Backveld meetings the story about the Germans crossing the border
was characterized as a bit of ministerial concoction.
Clever geographical students, who mounted the platforms
with maps in their hands, were reported to have demonstrated
to the satisfaction of their auditors that the new map
showing the German position was falsified by the railway surveyors
and that Nakob Sued was clearly depicted in the old maps
as laying in German territory. The Dutch reporters, however,
do not state that the ridges and kopjes referred to by General Botha
were also stated to be on the German side of the line
according to the old maps. So that the position was like this:
at first the Boers would not sanction an expedition against the Germans
until the latter invaded Union territory, and when the Government proved
by means of police reports that the Germans had actually crossed
into Union territory the critics accused the Ministry of telling untruths.
This, then, must have been the cause of so much delay in mobilization,
and which Ministers had to contend against. It must be added, however,
that most of the meetings mentioned took place in Transvaal.
At the Cape the discontent was almost insignificant, whilst as much of it
as had existed promptly ranged itself on the side of the Government
when the "Free" State and Transvaal hoisted the standard of rebellion.
Matters went ahead somewhat after the meeting of Parliament.
But a rude awakening awaited the people of the Union, if not
the peoples of the Empire, when they got up one September morning and read
the following correspondence relating to the resignation of General Beyers,
the head of the Union forces: --
GENERAL BEYER'S EXTRAORDINARY ATTITUDE
Ex-General Beyers to General Smuts
September 15, 1914.
Honourable Sir, -- You are aware that during the month of August last
I told you and General Botha by word of mouth that I discovered
the sending of commandos to German South-West Africa for the purpose
of conquering that territory. I was on the point then of resigning,
but hearing that Parliament would be called together I decided to wait,
hoping a way out of the difficulty would be found. To my utmost surprise,
however, Parliament confirmed the resolution adopted by the Government --
namely, to conquer German South-West Africa, without any provocation
to the Union from the Germans. The Government must be aware
that by far the great majority of the Dutch-speaking people of the Union
decidedly disapproved of our crossing the frontier,
and that two conferences of commandants recently held at Pretoria
bore eloquent testimony to this. I challenge the Government
by an appeal to the people, without making use of compulsion,
to obtain another result.
It is said that Great Britain has taken part in the war
for the sake of right and justice, in order to protect
the independence of smaller nations, and to comply with treaties,
but the fact that three Ministers of the British Cabinet have resigned
shows that even in England there is a strong minority
who cannot be convinced of the righteousness of a war with Germany.
History teaches us, after all, that whenever it suits her interests,
Great Britain is always ready to protect smaller nations,
but unhappily history also relates instances in which the sacred rights
of independence of smaller nations have been violated and treaties disregarded
by that same Empire. In proof of this I have only to indicate
how the independence of the South African Republic and Orange Free State
was violated, and of what weight the Sand River Convention was.
It is said that war is being waged against the barbarity of the Germans.
I have forgiven, but not forgotten, all the barbarities
perpetrated in this our own country during the South African war.
With very few exceptions, all farms, not to mention many towns,
were so many Louvains, of which we now hear so much.
At this critical moment it is made known in Parliament that our Government
was granted a loan of 7,000,000 Pounds by the British Government.
This is very significant. Any one can have his own thoughts about this.
In the absence of legitimate grounds for the annexation policy
of the Government you endeavour to intimidate the public by declaring
that the Government are in possession of information showing that Germany
has decided, should the opportunity arise, to annex South Africa.
My humble opinion is that this will be hastened if from our side
we invade German territory without having been provoked thereto
by the Germans, and as to the alleged German annexation scheme,
this is nothing more than the result of the usual native suspicion
attending such matters. The allegations made in Parliament
-- namely, that the Germans have already violated our frontier --
are ungrounded. See the report of the Information Bureau, corroborated by
Colonel Maritz* and his officers, who are on and near the frontier.
Apparently the Government longed for some transgression by
the Germans of German South-West Africa, and have been disappointed in this,
for so far not a single German soldier has crossed our frontier,
as you know very well. The report is perfectly correct regarding
an involuntary transgression of the frontier some time ago
and the tendering of an apology for so doing.
* Maritz was at this time on active service, nominally as a Colonel
at the head of a British regiment, but in reality as a General
in the German Army, using British arms, stores, railways, and telegrams
in the service of the Kaiser.
Whatever may happen in South Africa, the war will be decided in Europe
in any case, so if Germany triumphs and should decide to attack us,
then even Great Britain would be unable to help us. We shall at least
have a sacred and clean cause in defending our country to the utmost
provided we stay inside our borders. Meanwhile, in case we are attacked,
our people will arise as one man in defence for its rights.
Besides, I am convinced that a commando of about 8,000 Germans,
as at present stationed in German territory, will not be so foolish
as to attempt an attack on our country. I have always said,
and represented at Booysens recently, that if the Union is attacked
Boer and Briton will defend this country side by side,
and in such case I will deem it a great honour and privilege
to take up my place at the head of our forces in defence of my fatherland.
I accepted the post of Commander-General under our Defence Act,
the first section of which provides that our forces can only be employed
in defence of the Union. My humble opinion is that this section cannot
thus be changed by informal resolution of Parliament, such being contrary
to Parliamentary procedure. So the Defence Act does not allow us
to go and fight the enemy over the frontier, and to light the fire
in this way. But should the enemy penetrate into our country
it will be our duty to drive him back and pursue him in his own territory.
In his speech General Botha speaks about the help we had
from the Belgians and French after the South African War.
That assistance is still appreciated by us and by all our people,
but we must not forget that the Germans also were not behindhand,
and have always been well-disposed towards us. So why should we
deliberately make enemies of them? As circumstances are,
and seeing no way of taking the offensive, and as I sincerely love
my country and people, I must strongly protest against
the sending of Union citizen forces over the frontier. Who can foretell
when the fire the Government has decided to light shall end?
For the reasons enumerated above I feel constrained to resign
my post as Commandant-General, as also my commissioned rank.
For me this is the only way of faith, duty, and honour towards our people,
of which mention was made by General Botha. I have always tried to do my duty
to my best convictions, and it sorely grieves me that it must end in this way.
I remain, etc.,
(Signed) C. L. Beyers.
General Smuts to Ex-General Beyers
September 19, 1914.
Sir, -- It was with regret that I received your letter of the 15th inst.
tendering your resignation as Commandant-General of the Union Defence Forces
and as officer of the Union. The circumstances under which
the resignation took place and the terms in which you endeavour
to justify your action tend to leave a very painful impression.
It is true that it was known to me that you entered objections
against war operations in German South-West Africa, but I never received
the impression that you would resign. On the contrary,
all information in the possession of the Government was communicated to you,
all plans were discussed with you, and your advice was followed
to a large extent. The principal officers were appointed
on your recommendation and with your concurrence, and the plan of operations
which is now being followed is largely the one recommended by yourself
at a conference of officers. My last instructions to you
before I left for Capetown to attend the special session of Parliament were
that in my absence you should visit certain regiments on the German border,
and it was well understood between us that immediately the war operations
were somewhat further advanced and co-operation among the various divisions
would be practicable you should yourself undertake the chief command
in German South West Africa. The attitude of the Government after this
remained unchanged, and was approved by Parliament after full discussion.
One would have expected that that approval would make the matter
easier for you, but now I find that you anticipated that Parliament
would disapprove the policy of the Government, and that
your disappointment in this became the reason for your unexpected action.
In order to make your motives clearer the reasons for your resignation
were explained in a long political argument which was immediately
communicated to the Press and came into the hands of the Government
long after publication. I need not tell you that all these circumstances
in connexion with your resignation have made a most unpleasant impression
on my colleagues and myself.
But this unpleasant impression has even been aggravated by the allegations
contained in your letter. Your bitter attack on Great Britain
is not only baseless, but is the more unjustifiable coming as it does,
in the midst of a great war, from the Commandant-General
of one of the British Dominions. Your reference to barbarous acts
during the South African War cannot justify the criminal
devastation of Belgium, and can only be calculated to sow hatred and division
among the people of South Africa. You forget to mention
that since the South African War the British people gave South Africa
her entire freedom, under a Constitution which makes it possible for us
to realize our national ideals along our own lines, and which, for instance,
allows you to write with impunity a letter for which you would,
without doubt, be liable in the German Empire to the extreme penalty.
As regards your other statements, they have been answered and disposed of
in Parliament. From these discussions it will be apparent that neither
the British Empire nor South Africa was the aggressor in this struggle.
War was, in the first instance, declared by Austria-Hungary,
and thereafter by Germany, under circumstances in which the British Government
employed its utmost powers to maintain the peace of Europe and to safeguard
the neutrality of Belgium. So far as we ourselves are concerned,
our coast is threatened, our mail-boats are arrested, and our borders
are invaded by the enemy. This latter does not occur, as you say,
in an involuntary manner and with an apology, which latter, at any rate,
was never tendered to our Government. Under these circumstances
it is absurd to speak about aggressive action on the part of the Union,
seeing that together with the British Empire we have been drawn,
against our wish and will and entirely in self-defence, into this war.
As regards your insinuation concerning the loan of seven million pounds
which the British Government was kind enough to grant us,
and for which the public of the Union, as evidenced recently
in Parliament, are most grateful it is of such a despicable nature
that there is no necessity to make any comment thereon.
It only shows to what extent your mind has been obscured by political bias.
You speak about duty and honour. My conviction is that
the people of South Africa will in these dark days, when the Government,
as well as the people of South Africa, are put to the supreme test,
have a clearer conception of duty and honour than is to be deduced
from your letter and action. For the Dutch-speaking section in particular
I cannot conceive anything more fatal and humiliating
than a policy of lip-loyalty in fair weather and of a policy
of neutrality and pro-German sentiment in days of storm and stress.
It may be that our peculiar internal circumstances and our backward condition
after the great war will place a limit on what we can do,
but nevertheless I am convinced the people will support the Government
in carrying out the mandate of Parliament, and in this manner, which is
the only legitimate one, fulfil their duty to South Africa and to the Empire
and maintain their dearly won honour unblemished for the future.
Your resignation is hereby accepted.
(Signed) J. C. Smuts.
When the war broke out, the Natives of South Africa, who, in many instances,
are much better in touch with the backvelders than the Dutch editors
who reside in towns, fully expected a general revolt among
the unofficial section of the Boers. But when Holland declared her neutrality
the Natives began to breathe more freely, as that declaration
led them to believe that the Boers would not now rise.
When General Beyers's resignation was published, however,
the Natives again felt that the outbreak was only a matter of days.
In the country, especially the Orange "Free" State, our people
are helplessly mixed up with the Boers, and it can readily be understood
that they felt somewhat insecure, notwithstanding the Government's assurances.
One native farmer sent the following letter to the author in England: --
I am glad to find that your newspaper, the `Tsala ea Batho', is as up to date
in your absence as when you are at home. It was the first to publish
General Botha's statement to the Natives (about the war), and again the first
to comment on the treacherous resignation of General Beyers.
The resignation was handed to the Government on the 15th,
and the `Tsala' commented on it on September 19, before the daily papers.
I think that the daily papers were still trying to reconcile
their previous articles about the loyalty of ALL WHITE SOUTH AFRICANS with
the resignation. The fact that General De la Rey was shot while travelling
in the same car with General Beyers on the same day that Beyers resigned
is cited as a further proof of the unswerving loyalty of all the Boers.
One cannot understand how these white folks reason;
but the attitude of the Imperial Government and of the Union Government
is incomprehensible. Fancy telling the loyal Rhodesians to come and fight
under a man like that! General Botha ought himself to go to the front,
if a civil war is to be averted, leaving General Smuts
to watch the next Dutch move and nip it in the bud.
One of the tragedies of the first few weeks of the war
was the death of Senator General De la Rey of Lichtenburg,
who was accidentally shot by a "Rand" policeman on the night of September 15,
while travelling with General Beyers in a motor-car.
His funeral took place on September 20, at Lichtenburg, and was attended
by a large number of Boers, including the Prime Minister, General Smuts,
General De Wet, and other Dutch generals. Mourners and their friends
came to Lichtenburg by the ordinary train and by the special train
which conveyed the body from the Rand. They came in all manner of vehicles
from the surrounding farms, and, for the first time,
the Dutch Reformed Church at Lichtenburg opened its doors to the blacks,
who came to pay their last respects to, and view the body of, a popular Boer,
known among the Bechuana as Koos La Rey. A commando of 400 Burghers
came from Wolmaranstad on horseback. English merchants
from Johannesburg were also present, including Senator Tucker,
representing the Unionist party. The body was draped WITH TWO FLAGS --
the flag of the old Transvaal Republic and of the old "Free" State Republic.
Besides the officiating clergy, three Dutch statesmen also spoke
at the funeral service, viz., Generals Botha, Beyers, and De Wet.
The loyalists returned from the funeral service to their path of duty,
while the sullen section of the Dutch remained at Lichtenburg
to fan the embers of rebellion -- though it must be added
that the operations at Lichtenburg were more or less in camera.
At 8 o'clock on Monday morning, September 21, the day after
General De la Rey's funeral, General Kemp, standing on
General Beyer's motor-car, presided over a gathering of
from 800 to 1,000 Boers. The Rev. Mr. Broeckhuizen opened the meeting
with a short prayer. A verbatim report of this prayer appeared
in the Dutch papers as follows: "Lord, we thank Thee
that Thou rulest our nation through these dark days and stormy circumstances.
We have buried our hero and have gathered to speak in his spirit.
We thank Thee for such a man as General Beyers, beside whom
his friend was shot. We thank Thee also for General De Wet and General Kemp,
and that Thou hast given us such men to lead us. We stand for our people.
Help us, O Lord, towards the salvation of our people and the salvation
of our fatherland. Amen."
The three personalities mentioned in this prayer became active participants
in the rebellion, and so did the reverend gentleman who prayed.
In fact the latter sent a letter to his congregation three months later
from the Johannesburg prison, resigning his pastorate at Pretoria.
In opening the meeting the chairman disclaimed all ideas about a revolution.
They had come to consider calmly a decision by the Union Parliament
to invade German South West Africa; but while he was speaking,
some one produced a flag of the old Free State Republic,
and General Kemp rebuked the person for this puerile action.
Whether the rebuke was due to the fact that the Boers
had not yet then made up their minds to rebel, or because Maritz's plans
with the Germans on the south-western frontier had not yet matured,
we do not know. Anyway, General Beyers, in supporting the chairman,
added that his cause was a clean one and there was no necessity
for nonsensical flag-waving. They were there, he said,
to pass a calm resolution and forward it to the Government.
One Mr. van der Hoff inquired why General Beyers resigned.
The chairman replied that the reasons were clearly set forth
in the letter of resignation. At the request of the gathering
the Rev. Mr. Broeckhuizen read the letter aloud, the reading throughout
being punctuated with cheers. It does not appear, however,
that General Smuts's reply was also read, presumably because
there was no call for it.
General Liebenberg wanted to know what the situation was that morning;
then he proceeded to say: "The enemy is already inside our borders.
Some one had disturbed a beehive and the result is what
might have been expected. We have three generals before us"
-- (apparently in addition to the speaker) -- "yesterday we buried
the dearest of them all. I want a reply from Generals De Wet and Beyers.
We are British subjects, and it is not improbable that the Government
might instruct their officers to call us out to-morrow."
General De Wet, the man of the hour, then stepped on to the motor-car
to speak, prefacing his speech with the remark that he could not help
remembering his brother buried the previous day. Then, in beginning
his speech, he said: "Burghers and Brethren, -- If there be any one present
who is not a brother, let him walk away. Since nobody is leaving
I conclude that we are brothers all. If there be any stepbrothers here,
they are all welcome, but a traitor always reminds me of Judas."
Proceeding, he said that "the Germans had been made enemies by the Government.
The fire was already burning, so let us adopt a calm resolution,
expressing the will of the people. Not that I wish to praise my people,
but we are not going to soil our hands, no not even to show our loyalty.
Let us be cool, remembering that we have many sympathizers
in South Africa and elsewhere. If any one wished to gnash his teeth
and hath no teeth his best course is to consult the dentist for a set.
Better an hour too late than a minute too early. We do not all reside
near a telephone or a telegraph office and cannot be conversant with
what goes on at the frontier. Even when Generals Beyers and Kemp are asleep,
keep a watch and remain cool. I believe there are numerous Christians
among us. When it is time the whole of the people will rise up like to-day."
Some one wished to know if it was possible to recall the forces
already at the border. That, said the chairman, would be decided later.
The Rev. Mr. de Klerk said General Beyers's letter translated
the real feeling of the people. Even though Generals Beyers, Kemp, and De Wet
had resigned, they still remained Generals. They honoured other officers
who had the pluck to resign with General Beyers (whose names the Government
had not published but had suppressed), including Lieutenant Kol Bezuidenhout.
One Field Cornet to the speaker's knowledge had resigned,
but his name had not been announced." The reverend gentleman
then betrayed his flagrant ignorance of South African history when he said:
"Our people were never known to have robbed any one of land.
All (?) their land had been acquired by means of purchase or barter.
The history of South Africa was a spotless one." After stating
that the Afrikander must express his disdain with respect to
the Jameson raid and the unrighteous annexation of the Republics,
he concluded: "Blood is flowing in Belgium, but is it
in the interest of South Africa to draw the sword on that account?
It may be in the interests of the Empire; but the hem of my coat
is nearer to my body than the coat itself. The sending of troops
to Damaraland is nothing but an attack upon a people that had done us no harm.
I believe it to be our duty to sit still."
Rev. Mr. Van der Merwe, who said he spoke on behalf of the young people,
said all their officers should resign like General Beyers and others.
He hoped that any officers present would resign before noon that day.
General De Wet pointed out that the appointment of any Jack, Tom, and Harry
might follow such wholesale resignations, for although he lived in
the "Free" State he held a share in the affairs of that (Transvaal) Province.
General Beyers: "I consider my own resignation a sufficient protest.
The other representatives of our people should remain at their posts."
(Cries of "No, no, no.")
Rev. Mr. Broeckhuizen implored the people to stand by
their Commander-in-Chief, General Beyers, as he himself was going to do,
no matter how barking lap-dogs raved. Despite any letters
that some fellows might write to the papers to the contrary,
the world must know that the people stood behind General Beyers.
Although he was still going to suffer -- (as he truly did) --
they should support him till everything was in order.
As a parting shot General Liebenberg said: When peace was declared in 1902
he had such implicit faith in the late General De la Rey
that he (General Liebenberg) remained quietly on his farm and was always
obedient to him. He expected these troubles since 1912.
And now it had become impossible to keep quiet much longer.
According to the latest accounts the Germans were 150 miles
across the boundary. (A voice: "We will beat them back.")
The speaker: "The same thing was said when they were in Belgium,
but they are now marching on Paris."
A revised resolution was then put: it declared the reported
action of the Government to be "in conflict with --
"1. The wishes of the overwhelming majority of the population of the Union."
(An extravagant assertion considering that there are six million
people in the Union and that the meeting only represented
a section of the half a million Boers.)
A reply was demanded from the Government before September 30, so as to get it
in time for consideration at a subsequent people's gathering.
When this was carried, General De Wet said in parting: "If there be still
a few lap-dogs here, friends, don't take any notice of them.
They have now no teeth. We are now more united than when
the difference between the Government and `the People' first began."
(Obviously General De Wet was here alluding to the rupture
between the Government and General Hertzog in 1912, when,
to the disgust of himself and his followers, the latter was forced
to leave the Ministry. One reason why the Natives' Land Act was passed
was in order to "dish the Whigs" and placate the Hertzogites.)
* * * * *
On September 24, General De Wet held another meeting at Kopjes,
Orange "Free" State. The Resident Magistrate of Parys
attended the meeting and read a telegram from the Government
announcing that no Burghers would be forced to proceed to the front;
that only volunteers would be asked to serve. This wire, however,
did not satisfy the Burghers. They contended that the expedition
to German South-West Africa was a policy of setting the prairie on fire,
and it did not matter who the originator of the fire was,
for when it was raging the Burghers would be called upon to quench it.
After the meeting had passed votes of condolences to Mrs. De la Rey,
General De Wet said he was opposed to a war against a nation
that had done him no harm. Whether or not the Government used volunteers,
"who," he asked, "would be responsible for the harm that is likely to follow
a provocation of the Germans? This expedition is to coax them
into our country. You may go if you like," added General De Wet emphatically,
"but I won't."
Now, the Boers in certain respects are not unlike the Natives; thus when
a grey-haired Native, or a Boer, addresses a crowd of his compatriots
and says to them, "You may do such and such a thing if you like,
but I will not," it is understood by them to be a roundabout way of saying,
"Take my advice and don't." And so when such a declaration is made
by a man as influential amongst his people as General De Wet,
it is not surprising that the crowd shouted in response, "We won't go.
Let the authorities adjust the result of their own bungling.
Ninety-two men in Parliament voted for the expedition
without consulting their constituents, and we are not satisfied."
Thereupon some one shouted, "Where is Mr. Van der Merwe?"
Others said, "Call him; perhaps he is in the crowd."
So the stentorian voice of a Boer equipped with a powerful pair of lungs
called out, "Van der Merwe! Van der Merwe!! Van der Merwe!!!"
and then announced "He is not here."
Mr. Van der Merwe is the Parliamentary representative of the district
where the meeting was held.
In conclusion, General De Wet said: "Here is the Magistrate
and there is the prison. If I have said anything that I cannot substantiate
I will willingly surrender myself into their hands."
The motion against the expedition was then put, 512 Boers voting for it
and only two against it.
* * * * *
Es ist sehr weit nach Tipperary,
Es ist sehr weit zu gehn;
Es ist sehr weit nach Tipperary,
Meinen liebsten Schatz zu sehn.
Leb' wohl, Piccadilly,
Adieu, Leicester Square,
Es ist sehr sehr weit nach Tipperary
Doch dahin sehnt mich sehr.
"Tipperary" in German.
On September 29, General Botha addressed his constituents
at a Transvaal station called Bank, on the Kimberley-Johannesburg line.
A thousand Burghers met the Premier as he left his special travelling saloon
for the place of the meeting and gave him a rousing reception.
Before General Botha spoke, he permitted his opponents
(to the evident displeasure of the majority of the audience)
to unbosom their alleged grievance. Appreciative addresses were read
expressing confidence in the Government and approval of the expedition
to German South West Africa. Addresses opposing the expedition
were also read; they included one that was said to be a petition
from Boer women, strongly objecting to the expedition.
The reading of these addresses took up much time and must have tried
the patience of the Premier's admirers who were anxious to hear
the speech of the day. They called on the readers to "Shut up!"
but the Prime Minister urged them to give both sides a chance.
After these lengthy preliminaries, the Prime Minister amid cheers delivered
a speech justifying the projected invasion of German South West Africa,
in obedience to the desire of the Imperial Government. He reminded the Boers
that the expedition had been voted for by a Parliament elected by them.
He added that he personally would always lead his people
along the white man's path of honour and Christianity,
and that he would never choose the coward's way of disloyalty and treason.
The whole of the speech might be summed up in a few lines
taken out of General Smuts's reply to General Beyers: "I cannot conceive
anything more fatal and humiliating than a policy of lip-loyalty
in fair weather and a policy of neutrality and pro-German sentiment
in days of storm and stress."
The Prime Minister further asked what reliance could be placed
on Germany who ravaged Belgium. He pointed out that when
the late President Kruger arrived in Europe -- a fugitive from his country --
the French and the Belgians welcomed him, while the Kaiser
would not even see the old man.
General Botha made some remarks at this meeting which displeased
the coloured loyalists. Without wishing to defend the Premier, the remark,
in our opinion, was justifiable. It was more of a recruiting speech
than a declaration of policy, and naturally he had to appeal
to the sentiments of his hearers. Nothing goes down so easily
with the northern Boers as colour prejudice, and in the circumstances
General Botha was justified in denouncing the neutrality party, who advocated
a policy of "sitting with folded arms until German South West Africa
fell into their lap like a ripe apple. The Imperial Government,"
he went on to say, "could send a force of 50,000 coolies*
to capture the German Colony, and tell them that, after the war,
they could make a coolie settlement there. Would this have been
in the interest of the country? (Cries of No, no.) But instead,
the Imperial Government had asked the Union to do the work,
and I am proud to have been asked."
* A contemptuous term for British Indians.
Nor could Englishmen, having regard to the circumstances,
very well take umbrage at another remark of General Botha's
in the same speech. It was, we believe, a clever appeal
to the feelings of Backvelders when he said: "Can you rely
on the Kaiser's promises? In the South African war, WHEN I GAVE THE ENGLISH
A SOUND THRASHING at Colenso, what did the Kaiser do?
He sent a telegram to Lord Roberts advising him how to stab me in the back,
by marching across the `Free' State."
The danger that would follow a German victory in South Africa
was so lucidly put by the Premier that many waverers were at once imbued
with the patriotic spirit. Carping criticism, it is true, continued,
but many wobbling defence officers resolved to follow General Botha
to the uttermost. The opposition, on the other hand, told the Boers
that the official element among them who supported the Government did so,
not through patriotic motives, but for the sake of their jobs.
The most credulous section among the Boers seemed to believe that the Germans
would never invade British South Africa. This section at first was baffled
by the contention of the neutrality party that the Government was maligning
the Germans; but they were soon disillusioned.
On September 26, Colonel Grant took possession of some water-holes
on the line of advance. This step was essential to
the success of the proposed expedition. The enemy retired,
but only to mount their artillery on some ridges overlooking
the camp of the advancing British forces. From those positions
the enemy shelled our troops till their ammunition was exhausted.
The British casualties amounted to sixteen killed, forty-three wounded,
eight missing, and thirty-five captured. These figures
would be insignificant on the battlefields of Europe,
but to lose so many men in only one attack in South Africa
was almost appalling. This reverse having brought home to the waverers
the danger of procrastination, a fresh spirit set in
among the passive loyalists. But the opposition was busy.
* * * * *
On the same day that General Botha carried the day at Banks,
Commandant Vermaas addressed over 100 Burghers at a Transvaal farm
called Korannafontein. There were present such notable Dutchmen
as Mr. Sarel Du Plessis and Mr. Cornelius Grobbelaar.
They were so provocative that Commandant Vermaas asked the meeting
with some warmth: "Who do you believe about the occurrences
at the German frontier, the Government who receive all the police reports,
or General Beyers? All I can say is that you will weep
when General Botha gets shot, for I know what he did for this country.
And if you disbelieve the Government, what will be the use of telling you
that the Germans were the aggressors?"
Sensible speeches were delivered by Mr. D. Louw and others.
This speaker deeply regretted the resignation of General Beyers, and said:
"He had charge of all the Defence secrets and it cost us much money
to let him travel about this country and abroad; and at a critical moment,
when we are face to face with trouble he tenders his resignation."
The meeting, however, insisted that the Union Government were the delinquents.
The Germans, they said, had crossed the border accidentally,
for which little relapse they had tendered a suitable apology. Some speakers
said that the Ministry's ambitious annexation policy was actuated
by a desire for posthumous fame regardless of the blood of Afrikanders,
which was more precious than the deserts of German South West Africa.
The issue would be decided on the battlefields of Europe,
so why the premature invasion, and why the forgery of the railway map
in respect to the position of Nakob where the German forces are?
"Supposing the Germans win in Europe," asked one of the speakers,
"what would be our position after the raid? We prefer to follow
While Commandant Vermaas, the Government emissary, was still speaking,
some one shouted: "Three cheers for General Hertzog!"
These were vociferously accorded.
At this stage one of the young bloods came out with a brand-new defence
of Germany's desertion of the Boer cause during the South African war.
Germany, he said, had a ten years' treaty with England and could not go to war
against the British, who were there again too smart for us.
When Queen Wilhelmina was in Germany the Kaiser said to her:
"Tell the Transvaal not to declare war against England just yet ----."
Commandt. Vermaas: "And you call it friendship. Why promise us help
when they had a treaty with England?"
After some dialogues, in which the Bible was quoted on both sides,
for and against the expedition, a resolution was adopted, by eighty-nine votes
to twenty-three, against the invasion of German South-West Africa.
An aged Dutch gentleman remarked that the late Republican Government
made a mistake in first sending an ultimatum to the English,
and in attacking German South-West Africa the Union Government was repeating
the same mistake.
* * * * *
Oom: Who set this ancient quarrel new abroach?
Speak, nephew, were you by when it began?
Neef: Here were the servants of your adversary
And yours, close fighting ere I did approach:
I drew to part them; in the instant came
The fiery Tielman, who swung about his head
And breathed defiance in my ears . . .
While we were interchanging, thrusts and blows
Came more and more, and fought on part and part
Till the Judge came, who parted either part.
According to `Het Westen' of Potchefstroom, over a thousand Burghers
packed the Lyric Hall on Friday, October 2, 1914, to hear General De Wet
speak against the invasion of German South West Africa.
Apparently this was an attempt by the Backvelders to challenge
the enthusiasm of the townspeople in the various centres who had been passing
loyal resolutions in favour of the expedition and of confidence in
the Union Government. Not all the supporters of the Backvelders' cause
could gain admission to the hall, which was packed almost to suffocation
before the hour of meeting. Several prominent "Free" Staters
were on the platform with General De Wet. A rabble of roughs
had been brought from the outskirts of the town by opponents of the cause,
so the paper says, to interrupt the proceedings and to create disturbance.
They waited outside and were "responsible for a state of things
which is wholly unknown in the history of South Africa."
Admission was by ticket, and everything was in order up to eight o'clock,
when Commandant Erasmus took the chair. General De Wet
was carried shoulder high into the meeting amid thunderous applause.
The local police force had had timely notification that the meeting
was arranged for, but the paper complains that only seven of them
were to be seen about the building, and these seven apparently were seized
with a blindness of a mysterious kind, for they saw nothing of the disturbance
that occurred during the meeting, except when it was thought necessary
to arrest an Afrikander.
The chairman having opened the meeting, Professor Duvenage welcomed
the visitors from near and far, including the ladies in the gallery.
The professor, alluding to the English meeting which took place
in the town hall a few evenings before, observed it was not interrupted
by any one. This meeting, he said further, had been called
to discuss the South African aspect of the war. It had nothing to say
about the operations in Europe; all that they wished to protest against
was the invasion of German South West Africa. Hereupon dead cats, brickbats,
stale eggs and other things were hurled into the hall through the windows,
occasioning an indescribable commotion. Angry Afrikanders
jumped out of the windows and seized some of the offenders and administered
such a sound thrashing to one of them that he only escaped serious bodily harm
by lying down.
The dead cats, bricks, etc., were picked up and thrown out of the window;
but, as the interrupted meeting was about to proceed,
some one disconnected the electric cable and plunged the building in darkness.
The confusion became confounding. Matches were struck
in several parts of the hall, and it was with considerable difficulty
Generals De Wet and Kemp were heard suggesting an adjournment of the meeting
to the Dutch Reformed Church Square. The crowd passed out of the Lyric Hall
and marched in the direction of the Dutch Reformed Church Square,
closely followed by the hooting band of interrupters.
A handy carriage procured from somewhere served as a platform and,
under the light of Africa's silvery moon, 1,500 Burghers
crowded round the improvised platform while the turbulent interrupters
screeched some English national airs. General Kemp, who warned the crowd
against the danger of being struck by missiles, asked them to squat
on the ground, so as to be better able to hear General De Wet.
The guerrilla General, having stepped upon the carriage-platform,
said to the audience: "Yes, sit down flat so that those disturbance-makers
may hurl their missiles at me on top of the carriage. (Laughter.)
Some of those who came to interrupt peaceful Afrikanders
may yet become children of death before the evening is far gone.
(Boos from the opponents.)
"That may be European or Downing Street civilization, but it is unknown
in South Africa; but let us hope that folks with such upbringing will yet live
to change their manners. Those who are standing against the wire fence
are asked to come nearer and not be afraid, if not, then let them go
to their homes, wherever those may be, and leave us alone.
I promise you that within a year this disrespectful crowd
will have been taught to respect the rights of Afrikanders.
That I promise you, and the Afrikander will do it with his own hands.
(Loud cheers.) If I am wrong in this, there is your jail,
your police and the Magistrate, and let them punish me if I am guilty."
(Voices: "They dare not touch you!").
Proceeding the General went on to refer to an article of the `Volkstem',
the Ministerial organ of Pretoria. The `Volkstem', he said
"had for long been crowing King, King, but the sun will rise
when the cock will cease to crow. (Laughter.) The Government
has now issued regulations under which we may not speak, but, friends,
bear in mind, and the `Volkstem' must know, that we have not yet a Popedom,
and we are not yet in Russia, for you will search in vain for the truth
in a newspaper." -- (We would very much like to know the opinion hereanent
of the Backveld newspaper organ in which we read of this meeting. -- Author.)
-- "Friends, a newspaper can do a lot of harm, and much of the condition
in which our country finds itself may be attributed to the `Volkstem' --
that Government adulator (`de regeering se vetsmeer' document).
"Whereas our people could freely express their views,
the Government now wants to prevent an expression of their bitter feelings
over the land-robbery now engaged in at German South West."
(At this stage, an egg thrown from the back of the crowd
fell uncomfortably near the speaker and aroused some angry remarks
in the crowd, but the speaker continuing said: "Never mind, friends,
I have another coat. The Government talk of calling out volunteers only;
but many children were surreptitiously torn away from their mothers,
and many were taken against the will of the parents. I am ready
to bow under the law, but not when it is broken by the Government.
Our law authorizes us to defend our borders, not to wage war outside."
After some more quarrels, interruptions, blows and fights
in several parts of the crowd, the police arrested a Burgher.
But some men who surrounded the police rescued the prisoner and, it was said,
assaulted a policeman.)
Proceeding with his speech after the interruption, General De Wet said:
"We can never thank the English sufficiently for their gift of self-government
under a free constitution approved by His Majesty the King;
but it was not implied thereby that we should go and commit a theft."
More interruptions, during which it became impossible for the speaker
to continue. In the turmoil cheers were given for General De Wet,
who, resuming at length, remarked: "You fellows, along the wire fence,
the Lord have mercy on you when I turn my back. You will be responsible
if blood flows in this meeting to-night. As I have had a better up-bringing
I am keeping the people back from tackling you. I have not been brought up
in what they call Waaihoek at Bloemfontein. It was not General Botha's place
to get this country to snatch chestnuts out of the fire for England.
They bluff us with the statement that the coolies* might be asked
to come and take German South West Africa for themselves. Well, let it be so.
They will be in their proper surroundings there amongst the Hottentots.
And if it amounts to that, Kafirs armed with assegais can be sent
against them, for as it now happens the Kafir has got to work for the coolie
* Contemptuous South African term for British Indians.
After more disturbances, the General said he was not so certain
that the police were doing their duty, and he would have to report them
to the Government. These men were paid out of his pocket and the pockets
of other Burghers, but the people got no protection from them.
And when in self-defence an Afrikander remonstrates with the hooligans,
he is arrested. He thought there was a Magistrate present,
and can they not get protection?
Assistant Magistrate Cronin then ascended the carriage and said:
"I expect you all to give the Burghers a fair opportunity to speak."
Concluding General De Wet said: "It was not a question of Hertzog v. Botha.
The burning point was German South West Africa. The reason
why the people were unarmed was because the Government did not trust them.
Things being so, they should not be surprised that the people
had no confidence in the authorities. Many had guns but no cartridges;
how then could the country be expected to defend itself?"
Mr. Paul Schutte moved the resolution which was put to the meeting,
protesting against the expedition to German South West Africa.
"At this time," says the Dutch paper that reported these proceedings,
"the throats of the interrupters, not being made of steel,
had become so hoarse and weak that their interruption was ineffective,
except, perhaps, when they dealt out blows."
Mr. Paul Schutte said, in moving the resolution, that the hand of God
was pressing heavily on the land: poverty, misery, and the drought
finishing the people. Was it not dangerous for the Government
to embark on such an undertaking without the backing of the unanimous will
of the people?
Mr. Serfontein (presumably one of the two members of Parliament of that name)
said he was going to speak the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
He said he would give documentary proof that a map has been forged;
he did not know by whom. It is said that Nakob is in Union territory,
yet according to the original Government map, that place was
on German territory. "There is the map," he said, apparently flaunting it,
Proceeding he said: "General Tobias Smuts had declared that he knew
the Government decision was against the wishes of his constituents,
yet he wanted to support the Government in favour of the war.
General Beyers, who knew all the circumstances, denies that Nakob
is in Union territory. In these circumstances, how can we, as Christians,
ask God to guide us in the undertaking?"
Professor Postma and the Rev. Mr. De Klerk, the two next speakers,
quoted the Bible to show that to proceed against German South West Africa
was forbidden by Providence. Mr. Furstenburg, who followed,
called on the Burghers to maintain the high character of their people.
After a few words of thanks from General Kemp to the audience
for their attendance, the 1,000 Burghers, amid interruptions,
signified their objection to the expedition by standing on one side.
This act closed a most exciting meeting.
One of the opponents, the paper says, smacked a Dutch lady on her mouth
and caused it to bleed. She coolly turned round and gave him
such a heavy blow with her fist that he collapsed, saying in
the purest English accent as she did so: "It takes but one woman
to fight a Britisher." Another of the interrupters had to be taken
to the hospital.
Commandant Els and Mr. Rocco de Villiers, the "Free" State lawyer,
on their way to the meeting, had a mishap with their motor-car,
fifteen miles distant, so that they reached Potchefstroom on foot,
after the meeting.
"Three cheers for our brown people," shouted one of the disturbers.
"You have forgotten the coolies," retorted a Dutch lady.
After the meeting, the opposition formed itself into a procession
and marched through the town. They also delivered short speeches
confirming what had been done at a previous meeting of townspeople,
which supported the expedition. They booed General De Wet and his followers,
and dispersed after giving cheers for Generals Botha and Smuts
and singing the National Anthem.
One item on the programme of the meeting was an address which
should have been presented to General Beyers, the ex-Commander-in-Chief,
but as for some reason or other he was not present, the address
was sent to him instead. It congratulated him on his resignation,
a step which the signatories were sure he would never regret, as it was
in accord with the peace-loving and the most pious part of his people,
who resent the "capture" of German South West Africa.
Further, they thanked him for coming to address them and hoped he would
deliver a speech that would shut the mouths of mischief-makers
who accused him of being a German agent.
A similar drama was enacted at Johannesburg during the following week,
when General De Wet carried his campaign of protest into
the stronghold of the sections in favour of the Government expedition.
His meeting at the Lewis Cinema was only in progress a few minutes
when bricks, etc., came through the fanlights, and the lights went out.
The meeting was adjourned to Church Square, where supporters of the Government
gained the upper hand and overpowered the "neutral" party so completely
that General De Wet, Mr. Serfontein and Rev. Mr. Postma could not be heard.
Cheers were continually given for the King, for Generals Botha and Smuts,
and the speeches were drowned by the patriotic airs sung by the throng,
and the meeting proved a complete fiasco.
Chapter XXIII The Boer Rebellion
Arm, arm, Burghers; we never had more cause!
The Goths have gathered head; and with a power
of high-resolved men, bent to the spoil,
They hither march amain, under conduct
Of Manie, son to old Gerit Maritz,
Who threats in course of his revenge, to do
As much as ever Black Bambata did.
The following telegram was published by the South African Government: --
October 13, 1914.
Ever since the resignation of General C. F. Beyers as Commandant-General
of the Citizen Force, there have been indications that something was wrong
with the forces in the north-west of the Cape Province, which were placed
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel S. G. Maritz.
The Government at once arranged to send Colonel Conraad Brits
to take over the command from Lieutenant-Colonel Maritz.
On the 8th instant Colonel Brits sent a message to Maritz
to come in and report to him. To this message Maritz replied
in a most insolent manner that he was not going to report to anybody.
All he wanted was his discharge, and Colonel Brits must come himself
and take over his command.
Colonel Brits then sent Major Ben Bouwer to take over the command.
On arrival at Maritz's camp, Major Bouwer was taken prisoner
with his companions, but personally was subsequently released and sent back
with an ultimatum from Maritz to the Union Government to the effect that:
Unless the Government guaranteed to him before ten o'clock on Sunday morning,
October 11, that they should allow Generals Hertzog, De Wet, Beyers,
Kemp, and Muller to meet him where he was, in order that he might receive
instructions from them, he would forthwith make an attack
on General Brits's forces and proceed further to invade the Union.
Major Ben Bouwer reported that Maritz was in possession of some guns
belonging to the Germans, and that he held the rank of General
commanding the German troops.
He had a force of Germans under him in addition to his own rebel commando.
He had arrested all those of his officers and men who were unwilling
to join the Germans, and had then sent them forward as prisoners
to German South West Africa.
Major Bouwer saw an agreement between Maritz and the Governor
of German South West Africa guaranteeing the independence of the Union
as a republic, ceding Walfish Bay and certain other portions of the Union
to the Germans, and undertaking that the Germans would only invade the Union
on the invitation of Maritz.
Major Bouwer was shown numerous telegrams and helio messages
dating back to the beginning of September. Maritz boasted
that he had ample guns, rifles, ammunition, and money from the Germans,
and that he would overrun the whole of South Africa.
In view of this state of affairs the Government is taking
the most vigorous steps to stamp out the rebellion and inflict
condign punishment on all rebels and traitors. A proclamation
declaring martial law throughout the Union will appear
in a Gazette Extraordinary to-day.*
* "U. G. No. 10-'15", pp. 22-24.
This treachery was more fully described by a Cape Attorney
-- a subaltern in the Citizen Force under Maritz -- in the following letter
to the `Transvaal Leader':
"We arrived at Kakamas," he writes, "after a long and wearisome trek
through Bushmanland, a company of about eighty, consisting mostly
of raw farmer youths.
"We remained in camp for about six weeks, and, in the first week of October,
orders came from Maritz for 200 troops, comprising the Calvinia, Clanwilliam,
and Kenhardt men, to strike camp and trek toward the German border.
"Two days later the remaining men in camp, consisting of
the Kakamas members of the Defence Force, some Kakamas Volunteers,
and our own troop, altogether about 300 men, likewise trekked
in that direction. After two days' riding, we came to a farm
called Blokzijnputs, where we met the first 200 men.
"The village of Keimoes was crowded with German troops; our men and officers
were walking and talking among them on the friendliest possible terms,
and the German and the old Transvaal Republican flags were flying
side by side.
"In a very short time we were made fully aware of the position.
The act of treachery which led up to it was being freely discussed
by everybody, and then I realized that `we' -- I say `we',
for I never for one second doubted that most of our men would refuse
to turn rebels -- had been caught like rats in a trap.
"But a further shock awaited me. About half an hour after our arrival
we were summoned to fall in before Maritz, who then addressed the crowd.
"He first spoke about the Government wishing to force him over the border
with a lot of untrained and unarmed youngsters, and went on to say
that he refused to sacrifice their lives.
"After a bitter attack on the characters of Generals Smuts and Botha,
he denounced the British Empire as a whole, and wound up by declaring himself
an out and out rebel.
"He stated that he was going to fight against the Union
and Imperial Governments for the independence of South Africa,
and called upon all who were unwilling to follow him,
or `had the English feeling in them', to stand on one side.
"Ten Loyal out of Six Hundred"
"This speech was followed by a short speech in German
by the representative of the Governor-General of German South-West Africa.
"Then followed a scene which can never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
All our men started to shout, cheer, and throw up their hats -- all except
ten of us, who stood there looking, I suppose, more dead than alive.
Just imagine, out of 600 men actually trekking towards the border
to invade German territory only ten refused to turn rebels.
"However, after recovering somewhat, we approached our captain (Beukes)
and told him we were not going to join Maritz, and asked him to see
that we were not sent to Windhuk. This Maritz had given us to understand
was the only alternative to joining him."
The writer proceeds to state that after being kept prisoners for some time
they were set free forty miles from a Union troop frontier post.
-- `Central News'.*
* See also Appendix to the "Report of the Select Committee on Rebellion",
In the "Free" State
General De Wet organized large commandos and took possession
of the town of Heilbron, held up a train and captured
Government stores and ammunition, some prominent Burghers
being among his active supporters; so much so that, a week later,
when President Steyn was endeavouring to get him to Bloemfontein,
in order to persuade him to discuss terms of peace with General Botha,
he had no fewer than 3,000 men under him.
General De Wet publicly unfurled the rebel banner in October,
when he entered the town of Reitz at the head of an armed commando.
Some of his men assaulted the postmaster, who was in the act
of telegraphing the news to the capital, and destroyed his instruments.
The guerrilla General addressed an open-air meeting, which he ordered
the Magistrate to attend. When that official "refused to attend
a rebel meeting" General De Wet sent six men to compel him,
and to use violence if necessary.
Having thus forcibly secured the attendance of the Magistrate,
he proceeded to unbosom himself as follows: "Ladies, gentlemen, and burghers,
I have asked you to come together here to explain to you my position."
Then turning to the Magistrate, he said: "Magistrate, I want you to get
a shorthand writer to take down every word that I am going to say,
because whatever I may do in future I can never commit
a greater act of rebellion than I have already committed.
I am going through to Maritz, where we will receive arms and ammunition,
and from there we are going to Pretoria to pull down the British flag
and proclaim a free South African republic. All those who side with me
must follow me, and those who side with the Government must go to it.
I signed the Vereeniging Treaty and swore to be faithful to the British flag,
but we have been so downtrodden by the miserable and pestilential English
that we can endure it no longer. His Majesty King Edward VII
promised to protect us, but he has failed to do so, and allowed a Magistrate
to be placed over us who is an absolute tyrant, and has made it impossible
for us to tolerate it any longer. I was charged before him for beating
a native boy. I only did it with a small shepherd's whip, and for that
I was fined 5s.* (Here the Magistrate interrupted him and asked him
whether he did not plead guilty. He admitted that he had pleaded guilty,
and ordered the Magistrate to keep quiet, and he would allow him
to say as much as he liked when he had finished speaking,
and if he would not hold his tongue he would make him hold it.)
* General Smuts, after this, christened the rising as
"the Five Shilling Rebellion".
"But," continued General De Wet, "after the Magistrate had delivered judgment,
instead of reprimanding the boy and ordering him in future
to be obedient and do his duty, he looked at the Native as if he would like
to give him a kiss. The Magistrate is a brother-in-law of a man
for whom I have the greatest respect and who is very dear to me
(President Steyn), and for that reason I will give him another chance,
otherwise I would have taken him prisoner and handed him over to the Germans.
The Magistrate's father was one of the staunchest pillars of the church,
and if he were alive to-day he would be heart and soul with me
in this movement, and condemn the dastardly act of robbery
which the Government are going to commit.
"The ungodly policy of Botha has gone on long enough; the South African Dutch
are going to stand as one man to crush this unholy scandal.
Some of my friends have advised me to wait a little longer
until England has received a bigger knock, but it is beneath me and my people
to kick a dead dog. England has got her hands full enough.
I hate the lies which are continually being spread to the effect
that thousands of Australians, Canadians and Indians can be sent to fight us.
Where will England get them from? She has enough to fight her own battles.
"I am going through the town to take the following six articles,
viz., horses, saddles, bridles, halters, arms and ammunition,
and if anybody should refuse to hand to my men these articles,
if they should be found in their possession, I will give him a thrashing
with a sjambok. I now order the storekeepers to go and open their shops
and I will select men to go round and take whatever I require
apart from the above articles, and they will give receipts for what they take;
and if they do not open their shops willingly I will open them in another way.
My advice to you English is to remain quiet in your houses and not interfere
with my men, and if you don't, beware when I come back!
I have got my eight sons and sons-in-law here with me,
and the only people left on my farm are my wife and daughter.
Anybody can go and see if they like, and I request the Magistrate
to give them any help they may require, if he will do so."
Mr. Wessel Wessels, a famous "Free" State politician,
having taken possession of Harrismith in the name of General De Wet,
was alleged to have had the audacity to send letters to Chief Ntsane Mopedi,
of the Harrismith district, and to the Paramount Chief of Basutoland,
informing them that, with the assistance of the Germans, the Boers were going
to drive away the English and re-proclaim a Dutch Republic
in South Africa; and requesting those chiefs to remain neutral
while the annihilation of the English was in progress.
Only in case the English should arm the Indians, were they to mobilize
their warriors (the Basutos) on the side of the Boer-German combination.
Dit is ver weg na Tippererie,
Dit is ver om te gaan;
Dit is ver weg na Tippererie,
Om my hart se punt te zien.
Goen dag, Pikadillie
Dit is ver, ver weg na Tippererie
Maar my hart le net daar.
"Tipperary" in Cape Dutch.
The Dutch, like other people, also had a prophet. Many stories
were told since the outbreak of the war by the seer, Van Rensburg,
and among other visions credited to him he was said to
have dreamt of the impending "removal of the British yoke
from the necks of Afrikanders", and the forthcoming expulsion
from South Africa of the English people and their flag,
with the aid of Germany.
Whatever might be said about what the prophet Van Rensburg
had foretold in other respects, the prophecies attributed to him
in regard to the European War resemble other war prophecies
(credited to French, Russian, and German women), in that the wish, it seems,
is often father to the thought.
The lower middle-class Boers attach great weight to the guesses
of native bonethrowers. It is strange sometimes when a Malay charmer
is prosecuted for imposing on the public to find Dutch witnesses
giving evidence of the healing powers possessed by the accused and emphasizing
the absurdity of prosecuting a man who benefited them and their relatives
more than many a certificated medical man.
Moreover, the forecasts credited to Van Rensburg seemed to have found
ample corroboration in the cabled newspaper accounts of the rapid advance
of the armies of General Von Kluck through Belgium towards Paris,
and in the minds of such gullible patriots as the South African Boers
this telegraphic war news acted like manure on a fertile field.
The Seer Van Rensburg*
* "U.G. No. 10-'15".
The seer was Nicolas van Rensburg, of Lichtenburg, a simple
and illiterate farmer. He was a prophet not without honour
in his own country. On many occasions he had given proof positive
of the possession of extraordinary powers of prevision,
so men said and believed. It would be out of place here
to give examples of the many telepathic forecasts (or happy guesses)
with which he was credited. It is certain that he had a great hold
on the imagination of thousands of his people. During the Anglo-Boer War
some commandos, when Van Rensburg was in their lager,
neglected all precautions. If "Oom Niklaas" declared that the English
were not in the neighbourhood, it was a waste of energy
to post sentries and keep a look out.
His reputation had, strangely enough, not diminished since the war.
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