The first coloniser of the Cape … the British!

What! No way, where are your meds .. everyone knows the first colonial power to colonise the Cape were the Dutch in 1652 ... not the British. We all have the history of Jan van Riebeeck and his five ships bravely making their way into Table Bay, a landing party of Dutch settlers carrying a Dutch Prinsenvlag (Prince Flag) coming ashore in peace and to trade with a smattering of local Khoikhoi (Hottentots), planting the flag and declaring the region as Dutch.

This painting by Charles Davidson Bell says it all, it depicts the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck, first Commander of the Cape, to Table Bay on the 6th April 1652. With the Dutch came a stoic religion and a civilising mind, set to colonise the region and establish a refreshment station, mainly for the Dutch East India Company’s trading ships passing the Cape.

South Africa’s epicentre of its civilising history had begun! The event burned into South African lore, commemorated for decades and on countless bank notes, statues, emblems of state, the late national flag and postage stamps.

The British were first! … What’s wrong with you? So, here’s a little inconvenient truth. and this next bit reminds me of the Eddie Izzard’s comedy sketch “do you have a flag”. The fact is the British colonised the Cape BEFORE the Dutch, in fact 30 odd years before … to quote Izzard “no flag no country” – huh! You lie! All true I’m afraid, read on.

The first flag to fly over the Cape was NOT the Prinsenvlag, the first flag was that of King James the 1st of England and Scotland – the very first Union Jack (known then as the British Flag without the Ireland inclusion – Ireland was not part of the Union then). flag was planted on Signal Hill in 1620 – long before the Dutch did it in 1652.

That’s how insanely biased the old Christian Nationalism Education policy was and how much the conscious narrative of the country’s history has become thanks to it. If you think I’m telling ‘Porkies’, look it up for yourself, 27 March 1620 – The HMS Unitie, one of three British ships, arrives in Table Bay from England, a small settlement had already existed there to furnish passing Spanish, British, Portuguese and Dutch traders. Two of the Commanders of these ships, Captain Humphrey Fitzherbert and Captain Andrew Shilling hoist the Union Jack on the slopes of Signal Hill calling it King James Mount and take possession of the entire countryside in the name of the British Monarch. Here they planned a plantation similar to that established by the Virginia Company at Jamestown. The settlement would have provided a revitalising stop on the way to the East for all the British trading ships, mainly the British East India Company.

But nothing came of the plan, it does not seem that King James the 1st acted on it, maybe he was too concerned with uniting England and Scotland at the time, who knows? What we do know is that the British left it to be settled by the Dutch, 32 years later. As historians we don’t really know what the British did with their Colony in intervening years between the two flag planting ceremonies, nobody has really studied it. We do however know it’s been ‘written out’ of the South African narrative – however the good news I can assure you there are now some serious historians ‘on the case’. 

But, and this is a BIG but … neither the British, nor the Dutch can really lay claim to be the first European nation to plant a flag under Table mountain, or even the first people to start a trading station in Cape Town. The first European nation to set up trading posts at the Cape where the Portuguese. The truth is the ‘local’ Khoikhoi (the original inhabitants) were not too happy with them and saw them off in two famous instances. In 1503 (over 100 years before the British and the Dutch) Antonio de Saldanha, a Portuguese fleet commander, sailed into Table Bay and then disembarked to follow the freshwater stream to the foot of Table Mountain. During the visit, the Portuguese attempted to barter with the Khoikhoi. It failed and a group of Khoikhoi warriors ambushed the sailors wounding De Saldanha in process.

The Portuguese tried again in 1510 to colonise the Cape when Francis de Almeida the first viceroy of Portuguese Indies sailed into the Table Bay with a fleet in search of fresh water and trade. Some of his crew went to a nearby Khoikhoi settlement in the area around Salt River to trade for cattle and sheep. An armed conflict ensued. The sailors were driven back to their ships.

On hearing of the defeat de Almeida joined in with an armed expedition to deal with the Khoikhoi directly. The Portuguese force was overwhelmed and defeated, leaving 67 Portuguese sailors including de Almeida dead. These conflicts with the Khoikhoi ended any Portuguese aspirations around Table Bay and Colonising it, to nit pick a little, the Portuguese never really performed a colonising ceremony claiming the land in the name of their House of Aviz monarchy – the British and the Dutch did.

As to the Khoikhoi, their history in the region goes back a very long way, Khoikhoi migrants reached the Western Cape and Overberg region and began settling it good and proper by 1100 CE (that’s 400 odd years before the Portuguese). Here’s a real fun bit and inconvenient to the traditional narrative of Dutch (or even the British) idea of ‘establishing’ a trading station at Cape Town, there was one there already – the Khoikhoi had already established one.

In 1600 (52 years before the Dutch and 20 years before the British) a small community of Khoikhoi established the port of ‘Camissa’ in Table Bay. The ‘Camissa’ meaning ‘sweet water for all’ people established their port near to what is now the Cape Town waterfront/foreshore. They were known to the passing European shipping by the Dutch term for them ‘Watermans’ (water people). From what can be gathered from ship records, this indigenous people’s port serviced over 1071 ships with fresh produce and other trade; Dutch, English, Danish, Portuguese and French shipping. Stay overs in the port are recoded as been about 3 weeks and even up to 9 months. The Camissa settlement and port was seized by the Dutch in 1652 and over the next eight years the Camissa people were forced out of the area, particularly after the first Dutch-Khoi war in 1659. 

As to whether the Khoikhoi were favourable to the ‘benevolent’ Dutch taking over their land, think again. Unlike the rather benevolent painting of the first Dutch interactions with the Khoikhoi for trade, some rather serious disputes broke out over land ownership and livestock. This resulted in attacks and counter-attacks by both sides which were known as the Khoikhoi–Dutch Wars that ended in the eventual defeat of the Khoikhoi, and the destruction of their society. The First Khoikhoi-Dutch War took place from 1659 – 1660 and the second from 1673 – 1677.

At the end of these wars, a ‘peace treaty’ between the Dutch and Khoikhoi was drafted and ratified by a party of Dutch and defeated Khoikhoi at the newly established ‘Castle’ in Cape Town, and it would guarantee trading terms between the two antagonists in favour of the Dutch, the KhoiKhoi were to supply a free pre-fixed quota of livestock and farm produce to the Dutch annually and stop the theft (also read land dispute) from settler’s farms . Bound to these terms the ‘original’ inhabitants of the Cape literally ‘traded’ their way into the destruction and eventual disappearance of their society and culture. Their legacy and DNA can be found in the modern day Cape Coloured community.

As to the British and the Dutch, and the swings between the two. Here’s another inconvenient truth to dispel the old Nationalist folklore of nasty British Imperial intentions in ‘their land’; the ‘British’ did not invade the Cape and snatch it from the ‘Dutch’ in 1806 – they attacked the ‘French’. Huh! On drugs again eh! … No, read on.

By the time the Napoleonic Wars kicked off in 1803, the ‘Dutch Cape Colony’ was not really Dutch anymore, it was under the control of the French. The Dutch had full sway in Southern Africa for 143 years but in early 1795 in Europe, intervention by the French Republic in the Netherlands region led to the downfall of the old Dutch Republic and it was replaced with a French vassal state called the Batavian Republic. The Batavian Republic, run by the French, comprised an amalgamation of what is now Belgium, Holland and bits of Germany.

The British were at war with the French and they took the opportunity to seize the Cape Colony from the Batavian Republic (read French). Two British invasions against the Batavian Republic in the Cape, the first in 1795 (settled by the Peace of Amins in 1802 and return of the Colony to the Batavian Republic) and the second in 1805 as part of the British campaign in the Napoleonic Wars. In July 1805 a British fleet was urgently despatched to the Cape, to forestall French troopships which Napoleon had send to reinforce his Batavian Republic garrison there. The arrival of the British led to a small but significant battle between the Batavian garrison and the British called the Battle of Blaauwberg on 8 January 1806.

Here’s a painting to commemorate it, the HMS Diadem at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope, by Thomas Whitcombe. What’s interesting about this, and to quote Eddie Izzard again “we stole entire countries with the cunning use of flags!” – it’s the same Union Jack without the Ireland inclusion that the HMS Unitie had when it arrived to colonise the place in 1620, although nobody bothered to commemorate that very first colonisation of the Cape with a painting.

The Batavian garrison lost the Battle of Blauuwberg and subsequent skirmishes, over 700 dead and wounded compared to the relatively light butchers bill for the British of about 200 dead and wounded. That ended Dutch, and then French aspirations in Southern Africa as Colonisers. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 would see the British remunerate the Dutch for the retention of their ex-Colony along with favourable Dutch trading rights, with the exclusion of Dutch slave traders, from 15 June 1814 Dutch ships for the slave trade were no longer permitted in British ports. Here’s another inconvenient truth, the British anti-slavery position in the Cape started well before the official abolition of slavery in the Cape in 1834, and this was to have a marked impact and resentment of British rule by some of the local Dutch/French inhabitants in the region – kicking off the Great Trek in 1835, but that’s a story for a different day. The British would then have absolute influence, and a bloody one at that, in the region for the next 142 years (the same time period as the Dutch) until 1948.

In Conclusion

Even though the European colonisation of the Cape can be evenly split 50/50 between British and Dutch in its time period – 300 odd years, we are still appraising things through an idea of “European history”, there’s evidence of discovery and trading by Chinese and Arabic explorers in Africa along the Indian Ocean coastline long before the Portuguese. The ‘European’ part of the story remains but a blimp in the actual historical timeline of human settlement in the Western Cape, at the end of the day the land belongs to the origin people’s the San and Khoi. As to ‘civilising’ – that depends on what you regard as a civilisation, the Khoikhoi had a system of communication, farming, animal husbandry, commerce, art, dance, music and laws by which their society was structured.

If anyone thinks they welcomed the Europeans to their lands .. history shows they did not. If you want to see that in a communication – go and look at the Khoi paintings in the Cederberg, here’s my photo – Khoi giving their fellow travellers advise as to dangerous and ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ European colonisers in the area.

Dangerous colonisers are depicted with guns above their heads – ‘bad’ colonisers in the area are painted upside down, ‘good’ are upright … many of them are upside down.


Written and Researched by Peter Dickens

Sources include the Cassima Museum, wikipedia, Day to Day Naval History of South Africa by Chris Bennett and The South African History Association (SAHA).

A Rebellious Family Streak

A friend of mine, Dennis Morton is a prolific researcher and he brought up this rather interesting history which highlights the rebellious nature and political dichotomy in white South African families perfectly. So, here’s how a Boer war rebel’s history massively impacted South Africa’s liberal political landscape.

The Irish Brigade

During the South African War 1899-1902 (the Boer War), a number of British, especially Irish found themselves in alignment with the Boer Republic cause. Many of them were working on mines in the Transvaal or had otherwise settled and repatriated in the two Boer Republics prior to hostilities. Not just Irish, these ‘burgers’ also constituted many other Britons – Scots and even the odd Englishman. At the onset of the war they volunteered to join a Boer ‘Kommando’, and this one was special, it was created by John MacBride and initially commanded by an American West Point officer – Colonel John Blake. The Commando was called ‘The Irish Brigade’ mainly because of its very Irish/Irish American slant. After Colonel Blake was wounded in action at the Battle of Modderspruit, shot in the arm, command of the Irish Brigade was handed to John MacBride. The Brigade then saw action in the siege of Ladysmith, however this was not a happy time for Irish Brigade as its members were not enthusiastic about siege tactics. After the Boer forces were beaten back from the Ladysmith by the British the Irish Brigade began to fall apart. It was resurrected again as a second Commando in Johannesburg under an Australian named Arthur Lynch and disbanded after the Battle of Bergendal.

To say the Irish Brigade was controversial is an understatement, the whole of Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom in 1899 (the Irish Republic split came much later) and members of this Brigade ran the risk of high treason if caught, especially if their ‘citizenships’ to the Boer Republics were not in order when the war began, or if they joined and swore allegiance to the Boers during the war itself.

So, at the end of the war there are a couple of Irish Brigade Prisoners of War who were captured and sent to St. Helena (which was the main camp for Boer POW) and they needed to be repatriated, in their case – the United Kingdom. The issue of treason hangs heavily on both of them.

Firstly, Prisoner 3783, Thomas Enright, an Irishman, who at one time was in the British army during the Matabele War and had changed allegiance to the Boer Republics, joining the Irish Brigade. The issue been the date of his burger citizenship which exceeded the amnesty for who was and who was not considered a ‘Burger’. The cut off for amnesty on oaths of allegiance by ‘foreigners’ to the Boer Republics was given as 29th September 1899.

The second is Prisoner 15910, John Hodgson, a Scotsman born at Paisley in the United Kingdom, he emigrated to Southern Africa in 1891. He lived in Rhodesia and moved to the Orange River Colony until 1896. He took the oath of allegiance to the South African Republic – ZAR (Transvaal) on the 28th or 29th December 1899, which was after the amnesty date. He served in the Irish Brigade under Blake and was captured by the British on 19th November 1900.

Luckily for both these men, they are not prosecuted for treason (which carried the death sentence) and repatriated to the United Kingdom after some heady politicking. Here’s where we stop with Thomas Enright and follow the Scotsman, John Hodgson.

On John Hodgson’s repatriation he is immediately ostracised by the British community because of his role on the side of the Boer Republics and six months after his return to the United Kingdom, he illegally boarded a ship bound for Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Here he set up shop working as a book-keeper and by 1904 John Hodgson’s family reunited with him in the Cape. Now, here’s the interesting bit that so often plagues ‘white’ South African families, although John Hodgson joined the Boer forces as a rebel, he, like many other Boer veterans, also harboured liberal political beliefs. He supported legal equality and the extension of a non-racial franchise (vote to all – Black emancipation) in Southern Africa.

Liberalism in South Africa

John Hodgson’s daughter, did not fall far from the tree, John’s rebellious and highly liberal nature rubbed off on her, she was Violet Margaret Livingstone Hodgson, who later married another liberal, William Ballinger. Margarat Ballinger would go down as a powerhouse in liberal politics in South Africa.

Margarat Ballinger would become the first President of The South African Liberal Party when it formed in 1953 and she would serve from 1937 as a Member of Parliament alongside Jan Smuts and his heir apparent Jan Hofmeyr. Highly vocal, she represented the Eastern Cape on the ‘Native Representatives Council’.

By 1947 her plans included new training and municipal representation for South African blacks and improved consultation with the Native Representatives Council. Time Magazine called her the ‘Queen of the Blacks’. Time Magazine went on to say Ballinger was the “white hope” leading 24,000,000 blacks as part of an expanded British influence in Southern Africa. Her Parliamentary career would take a dramatic turn when the National Party came to power in 1948.

By 1953, the ‘liberal’ side of the United Party lay in tatters, both Jan Smuts and Jan Hofmeyr had passed away in the short years of the ‘Pure’ National Party’s first tenure in power between 1948 and 1953. The Progressive Party and Liberal Party of South Africa would take shape to fill the void left by Smuts and Hofmeyr. The Liberal Party of South Africa was founded by Alan Paton and other ‘liberal’ United Party dissidents. Alan Paton came in as a Vice President and Margarat Ballinger the party’s first President. Unlike the United Party, the Liberal Party did not mince its position on the ‘black question’ and stood for full ‘Black, Coloured and Indian’ political emancipation and opened its doors to all races, they stood on the complete opposite extreme to the National Government and Apartheid and to the ‘left’ of the United Party.

Margarat Ballinger strongly voiced her anti-Apartheid views, opened up three ‘Black’ schools in Soweto without ‘permission’ and was one of a vocal few white voices openly defying H.F. Verwoerd. In 1960 she left Parliament when the South African government abolished the Parliamentary seats representing Black South Africans.

The Apartheid government’s heavy clampdown on ‘white liberals’ after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 forced many Liberal Party members into exile and many others were subject to various ‘banning’ actions locally. By 1968 the Apartheid government made it illegal for members of different races to join a singular political party, and instead of abiding the legislation (which the Progressive Party and others did), the Liberal Party stood it’s ground and chose to disband rather than reject its black members.

Not without a passing shot, in 1960 Margarat Ballinger published a scathing critique of Apartheid in a book she wrote called “From Union to Apartheid – A Trek to Isolation”. Ironic considering her family’s journey as a supporter of the ‘Boer’ cause. Regarded today as a ‘must read’ for anyone studying this period of South African history and Liberalism. She also wrote a trilogy on Britain in South Africa, Bechuanaland and Basutoland. Margarat passed away in 1980, before she could see the end of Apartheid.

In Conclusion

So, there you have it, an unusual and very South African family story, a strong minded Brit turned Boer rebel and his equally strong minded daughter, one who would become a pioneer of woman and liberalism in South Africa. It also reminds us as to the complexities and paradoxes of The South African War 1899-1902 and the different political sentiments at play within the Boer Forces, some of which can still surprise many today.


Written by Peter Dickens with great thanks to Dennis Morton for his research and writings.

A Botanist at Heart, not a Politician!

What I personally find rather funny is when everyone bangs on about Jan Smuts’ politics, when even Jan Smuts admitted that in his heart he was simply a botanist. It’s not an area people often associate with Smuts, but it’s central to understanding his philosophy of Holism, and therefore central to his political philosophy. Smuts himself often lamented that all he really wanted was to left alone and record the wonderment of our environment and our spiritual place in it.

Smuts loved, simply loved Botany, and at many points in his life would be off on this or that botanical excursion in Southern Africa. Central to Smuts’ view in Botany is grasses, not the pretty stuff, the simple grasses of the veldt. To Jan Smuts the grasses are the ‘origin’, the epicentre of the circle of life, the key that unlocks evolution and even creation. Simply explained the grasses nourish animals, other animals nourish on them, and when an animal dies it simply returns to the soil in some form or other and in turn nourishes the grasses.

Now, I’m sure there are Botanists all over going what about ‘water’, what about ‘gasses’, what about ‘insects’ and I’m sure Smuts would have loved the arguments, but I’m no botanist. I would however say Smuts’ love for grasses even brought him a little Botanical fame as he ‘discovered’ a grass.

Smuts Finger Grass

This is it, in 1924 Smuts, an amateur botanist, identified a group of Digitaria plants on his farm Doornkloof at Irene near Pretoria and brought this under the attention of Sydney Margaret Stent, a famous South African botanist. Stent’s main interest was grasses, and according to Smuts, this group of plants differed from other finger grasses in the area because of its acceptability by animals. Material collected from these plants brought upon a new species named after Jan Smuts called Digitaria smutsii. Or, as it simply is now known ‘Smuts Finger Grass’.

The grazing value of Digitaria smutsii became very popular in the early 1930’s under the influence of research done by Dr Pentz and Dr Pole-Evans. Although considered a new discovery in its time, much later on the grass was discovered to have the same properties to a previously discovered grass called Digitaria eriantha and in 1981 the botanical name of Smuts’ grass was changed to Digitaria eriantha cultivar Irene. It is still available for animal feed today.

Smuts summed up this love he had for Botany and grasses perfectly when he said “Myself, when young, loved nature rather than sport, and took to Botany as a hobby. Gradually I began to realise that the Family of Grasses was the most important of all, and did my best to become acquainted with that perhaps most difficult of all plant families. … it is one of the largest of all families in botany, and the flowers are mostly very small and insignificant, and often call for the use of lenses to distinguish them properly. No wonder that other easier, more gaudy and attractive families are preferred by botanical beginners. But once you take a little trouble … their attraction and their glory grow on you, until at last you surrender completely to their charm.”

Philosophy

This cycle of life bit is best explained in Smuts’ holism philosophy – all things are in a ‘whole’ (Holism) and inter-dependent on one another. Like animals and grasses are a cyclical ‘whole’, so to are human individuals dependent on another forming groupings or ‘wholes’ and these groupings work with other groupings to make up nation states – which become inter-dependent on other Nation States and ta dah! We have the United Nations – Jan Smuts’ ultimate political goal, and organisation he wrote the mission statement for, and it calls for political emancipation of all human beings and a bigger purpose, a more peaceful union of Nation States dependent on one another to progress the shared ideals of liberty and freedom. The fact that the United Nations today focusses a lot of its energy on climate change and the importance we as individuals and nations have in the protection of our fragile environment, this alone would have pleased Smuts no end.

In Conclusion

No point trying to expose Smuts as a bad politician or give other politicians credit for one-upmanship over Smuts. Even Smuts admitted he was not great at politics, he left the ‘people skills’ needed for it to Louis Botha and willingly took a back seat, circumstances and fate would push him to the front again.

So, getting Smuts all bogged down in party political racism issues, or more bogged down in the Boer War, Martitz Revolt, Jopie Fourie, Rand Revolt and even Afrikaner Nationalism issues, is merely a rabbit hole, a diversion away from the big picture of what Jan Christiaan Smuts was really all about … the cycle of life and that cycle’s relationship with the human condition and mankind as a whole.

Don’t take my word for it on the oscillating relationship between botany, cycle of life and spiritualism, here’s Jan Smuts in his own words “… evolution is the gradual development and stratification of progressive series of wholes, stretching from the inorganic beginnings to the highest level of spiritual creation.”

The fact is, then and now, no Politician in South Africa, present and past, not one (Nelson Mandela included) – can hold a flame next to Smuts, and it is little wonder when Smuts died King George VI wrote to his wife Isie and said “the force of his intellect has enriched the wisdom of the whole human race“.

Empire Slayer … Jan Smuts

So often whenever Smuts is mentioned someone invariably accuses Smuts of selling out to the British Empire and furthermore accuses him of being a ‘puppet’ for the British monarch doing the deeds of Empire.  So, here’s a fun proposition, Smuts was by no means a puppet of Empire in fact he destroyed the British Empire! ‘What the heck are you on’ comes the universal chorus, bold statement I know but here’s the reasoning, bear with me. 

Like we bonked the concentration camp and Smuts issue on the head with a tree, I’m going to bonk this issue on the head with a small book.

A Century of Wrong

That Smuts was no fan of the British Empire is obvious to anyone studying Smuts, obvious because his sentiment and dislike of the British ‘Empire’ is found in a simple little book he wrote called ‘A Century of Wrong’, here’s my photo of it at the Smuts House museum in Irene.

A Century of Wrong was co-written by Jan Smuts and J. de Villiers Roos in Dutch. Smuts’ wife Isie, no academic slouch herself assisted in its translation to English and it was issued by the ZAR State Secretary, Francis William Reitz .. and it’s an outright critique of Britain, her ambitions as an Empire Builder worldwide and her ambitions and policies in Southern Africa.  It was written and published before the South African War (1899-1902) to plead the Boer Republics case and to expose British Empire policy making as nothing more than a “spirit of jingoism” as Smuts put it.  Smuts pulled no punches in exposing Britain’s empire policy, it’s a scathing criticism which denounces the British policy of empire building in Southern Africa. It shows British policy to be nothing more than jingoistic advancement with the aims of securing more mineral wealth for the empire builders.

Some researchers allude to a ‘Century of Wrong’ as being a bit of an embarrassment for Jan Smuts in his later dealings with the British and the British Monarchy whilst both a Minister and Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa.  But I don’t believe Jan Smuts was embarrassed at all, his sentiments and critique on Empire were never really changed and it’s seen in Smuts’ next move on the matter, which happens after the Union of South Africa was declared in 1910.

Imperial Mission

During World War 1 in 1917, whilst Hertzog and the Nationalists called Smuts a ‘Afrikaner traitor’ and a ‘Reincarnation of Rhodes’, Smuts was invited to join the Imperial War Cabinet and attend the Imperial War Conference. With Smuts was his agenda to change the edicts of empire and on departure to Great Britain he said, “through our own efforts and sacrifice (the South West Africa and East African campaigns) we have secured a voice in the ultimate disposal of this sub-continent (Southern Africa).”  

At the conference, the British made it known that they were not only concerned with how the war would be run, but also concerned with expanding their influence over the Empire. Smuts’ former Boer War enemy, Alfred Milner, now a MP was set on consolidating the Empire as a ‘federal imperium’ run centrally by the British Parliament and a singular Executive.

Group photograph of the IWC members in 1917 In the front row is Lord Milner – second left and on the bench opposite on the far end is Jan Smuts

Smuts put forward an alternative to Milner’s proposal, he moved on a resolution which would recognise the Dominions as “autonomous nations of an Imperial Commonwealth” self-governing and in control of their own laws.  He argued that any changes to this be dealt with at a separate congress after the war ended.  

Smuts was set on independence and transforming British Imperialism ‘from the inside’ and looked to a post WW1 new order.  Whilst Smuts accepted the Empire’s roots as always been British, he argued on the principles which appealed to the highest aspirations of mankind, the principles of “freedom and equality”.

In a later address to both houses of the British Parliament, Smuts argued that “the Empire was not a state but a community of states and nations” and he went on to say “if we are not an Empire, why call ourselves one? Let us rather take the name of Commonwealth”.

Smuts’ argument won the day, he had come up with replacement to Empire and went on to say “the British Commonwealth of Nations does not stand for standardisation and denationalisation, but for a fuller, richer more varied life of all the nations which are composed of it” and his argument paved the way to the 1926 Imperial Conference, which secured the independent status of the Dominions and the establishment of ‘The British Commonwealth of Nations” to replace Empire. 

1926 Imperial Conference

The outcome of the Imperial Conference was the 1926 Balfour Declaration which read Britain and its Dominions as “equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations”. The term Commonwealth was officially adopted to describe the community.

In a rather thick irony, as Prime Minister it would be Smuts’ chief detractor in WW1, none other than J.B.M. Hertzog who would replace Smuts and be the representative at the 1926 Imperial Conference along with King George V. Hertzog would ultimately turn pro ‘Commonwealth’ and it would split his National party over the issue of remaining a Dominion or whether to take Dr D.F. Malan and his breakaways position on South Africa, which was to become a Republic and then leave the Commonwealth.

King George V and Dominion Prime Ministers at the 1926 Imperial Conference, Hertzog is standing at the back, second from the right

During the Second World War, Smuts was again Prime Minister of South Africa having ousted Hertzog and the National Party. Smuts was paired with Winston Churchill as his confidant and advisor. Churchill was gleefully happy when he wrote to Smuts they were once again “together on Commando”, however whilst Churchill was busy giving speeches about the British Empire lasting a thousand years, Smuts was busy bending the new King’s ear, King George VI, on ‘The Commonwealth of Nations’ and the establishment of ‘The United Nations’. Both institutions concerned with a new world order based on human rights and equality of both individuals and nation states, and on 1 May 1944, Smuts was again in the pound seats and part of the very first ‘Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference’ alongside his ‘sidekick’ this time .. Winston Churchill.

If at this stage you may still think that Smuts, having been born under the banner of ‘Empire’ and knowing no different merely went with the flow of historic events, think again. Smuts in applying the concepts of Commonwealth and that of a United Nations is applying his personal philosophy, conceived many years ago whilst walking in the veldt as a young man, and it’s his philosophy of holism. Holism refers to an interdependency of things in a ‘whole’ and Smuts viewed nation states as no different, states are independent but dependent on one another to function as a whole – the Commonwealth of Nations is a whole, so too is The United Nations.

The prime ministers of five members at the 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference (L-R) Mackenzie King (Canada), Jan Smuts (South Africa), Winston Churchill (United Kingdom), Peter Frazer (New Zealand) and John Curtin (Australia) 

In Conclusion

The 1926 Imperial Conference in turn resulted in the 1931 Statute of Westminster, which spelled the end of Empire and its replacement by an independent community of states called ‘the Commonwealth’, free to be associated with Great Britain and free to go.

This statute is the beginning of the end of British Colonialism in almost every sense of it. So, back to the emotive headline and my bold statement, proof positive … Jan Smuts, whilst working the problem from the ‘inside’, ultimately ended the British Empire, and in a sense, rather than been a ‘puppet’ of the British, Smuts proved himself to be the ultimate ‘puppet master’.

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Written and Researched by Peter Dickens

References include – A Century of Wrong – Jan Smuts. Jan Smuts – Unafraid of Greatness – by Richard Steyn and Wikipedia.

Ja Oom … The Torch!

My last blog covered The Broederbond, and unsurprisingly out came the OBB waving vocal few to tell me it was a vicious attack on Afrikandrdom, my urge to them to look at Afrikaans heroes like Field Marshal Jan Smuts and Colonel Ernst Maherbe conveniently (and predictively) glossed over. So here’s a fun fact … the white supremacist history sprouted by Dr D.F. Malan and his supporters is a bastardisation of Afrikaans history … there, I said it!

Not only are the proven sinister aims of the Broderbond’s purposeful bastardisation of this education and history plain to see in the public domain now, but there is also nothing that better represents this fact than this man – Kommandant Dolf de la Rey.

By 1950, two years into National Party rule, Dr Malan was beginning to flex his party’s electoral promise, and implementing Apartheid. Two predominant Afrikaners would have none of it, both of them very respected military veterans, for different reasons and in different wars. One Afrikaner was an old grizzly South African War 1899 – 1902 (Boer War) veteran, a Commando Commandant, the other one was a handsome Battle of Britain fighter ace, world famous after World War 2 (1939-1945), Group Captain Adolf ‘Sailor’ Malan.

Two proud Afrikaners on their way to lead a Torch Commando rally against the Nationalists in Cape Town in what was called a ‘steel commando’. Here’s the AP clip:

No small initiative either, The Torch Commando would become South Africa’s very first mass protest movement against Apartheid (the ANC’s Defiance campaign was to come a couple of years after the Torch). By ‘mass’ it was also by no means small – 250,000 members at its zenith, unparalleled at its time. The inconvenient truth to the modern ANC narrative – it was made up of mainly of ‘white’ returning service personnel.

Of the Steel Commando trip to Cape Town, wrote one newspaper correspondent: “Cape Town staged a fantastic welcome” for Kmdt de la Rey and Group Captain Malan, he related the enthusiasm of the crowd to the same that liberation armies received in Europe. The Johannesburg Star said: “The Commando formed the most democratic contingent ever to march together in the Union. Civil servants found themselves alongside the colored men who swept the streets they were marching so proudly upon.”

“In the front jeep rode Oom Dolf de la Rey, a white-haired old Boer of seventy-four, who looked so startlingly like the late General Jan Smuts that people looked twice at him and then cheered wildly. Oom (Uncle Dolf) was the man who, as a young burgher on commando fifty years before, had captured Winston Churchill, then a war correspondent with the Imperial forces in South Africa.In the second jeep stood a younger man with tousled brown hair, his hazel eyes cold and angry, the man who had been the most famed fighter pilot in all the RAF — Adolph Gysbert Malan, known all over the world as Sailor. He was the real hero of the hour. The people tried to mob him. Men and women, white as well as brown, crowded round his jeep and stretched out their hands to touch him”.

Sailor Malan had even gone as far as warning the National Party and its Apartheid policy that they would meet the same ignominious end as Mussolini and Hitler, and warned that their intention was to implement a facist state and create ‘race hate’ as he put it. In hindsight his warning and prediction would prove right. During that rally in Cape Town, Dolf de la Rey took the microphone and laid into the National Party, as a respected Boer War vet he pulled no punches. Also, this is a inconvenient truth, Dolf de la Rey headed up an entire contingent of Boer War Afrikaner veterans who did not feel that removing Cape based black and ‘coloured’ votes from the voters roll and relegating them to secondary citizenship was a good idea, nor was it reflective of them as Afrikaners, and nor was it the ideals of freedom for they had fought for in the Boer War.

So, what did the Afrikaner ‘Pure’ National Party make of these two Afrikaners? They quickly sprung into gear positioning the Torch as a national threat attempting a violent overthrow. Quickly regarded as nothing but shameful rhetoric by the National Party’s official opposition – the United Party. So the Nats went further and started at the personalities of Malan and de la Rey, Malan was easy, he was the product of a Afrikaans father and English mother – he quickly became “the King’s poodle” and “an Afrikaner of a different kind” – not welcome in the Afrikaner laager. But, problem with ‘Oom Dolf’, here was a Afrikaner Boer War hero pure and applied, beyond the National Party’s criticism and reproach, so what did they do? .. They played on his ‘Oom’ status, dismissing him as a senile old man, paying nothing but lip service to him, positioning him as somehow irrelevant, a patronising .. Ja Oom!

Kmdt Dolf de la Rey welcoming fellow Boer War veterans to The Torch Commando rally

The National Party would go onto banning the Torch Commando in effect using legislation in the form of the anti-Communist act to gag it and force all the senior officers and judges in it to resign. They would wipe out the legacy for the Torch from all things public, when Sailor Malan died they refused to allow any service personnel to attend his funeral in uniform, they even forbade the SAAF from laying a wreath – all official obituaries were changed to remove anything to do with The Torch. As for Kmdt de la Rey, simply cast away into obscurity, nothing in his obituary – nothing at all, nobody would be researching him and writing him into the folklore and history of the ‘2nd war of independence’ as they phrased it, nor has anyone written him into the anti-Nationalist narrative – that was reserved for ‘the King’s sell-outs’. The capture of Winston Churchill would be attributed to many others, Oom Dolf would be forgotten.

In conclusion

The National Party made it very clear, they did not want young impressionable Afrikaners making heroes of these two Afrikaners. They did everything to discredit Afrikaners who stood against them and even engaged The Broederbond and its influence over the Church and Schools to blind an entire nation on historic ideals which were at best shaky. It would all ultimately drag good liberated Afrikaners, real heroes into the dark morass called ‘Apartheid’.

It is now our job to start highlighting these men and correcting the narrative when it comes to the rich tapestry of Afrikaners against Apartheid, people like Dolf de la Rey, and you’ll find them in the most amazing and unexpected places, and let’s face it – this is that what makes history interesting. Not the OBB and Vierkleur flag waving few still believing in the raft of Afrikaner nationalism fed to them by the Broederbond, still trying to call out anyone not agreeing with their views as been some sort of Anti-Afrikaner.

Written and researched by Peter Dickens

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Reference: Sailor Malan fights his greatest Battle: Albert Flick 1952. Sailor Malan – Oliver Walker 1953. Associated Press – video footage of The Torch Commando.

Education Whiteout! The Broederbond

So often, when posting anything on Jan Smuts we get a tirade of slander, often masked as some sort of ‘truth’, certainly to the belligerent group who find themselves in a vortex of anger whenever Smuts is mentioned, or for that matter the same belligerence occurs whenever there is a move to strike at the old National Party and call them out for what they where .. Nazis.

So where does this all stem from? I’ve interviewed people who recall the onset of all this Afrikaner Nationalist inspired history in the past decades under Apartheid. The general opinion .. whose making this stuff up? .. what the heck! Ideas like an empty hinterland rich for the Boer nations taking a legitimate claim to it, migrating black tribes from the north meeting a white tribe migrating from the south in the middle having never met before, small clans of brave Voortrekkers beating back entire armies of treasonous blacks with a holy bible and powder shot, a British inspired Nazi styled extermination camp system in South Africa, an evil traitorous Jan Smuts arranging the British firing squad for Jopie Fourie – where did all this rubbish come from?

In case someone thinks I’m being insensitive at this stage, I’m not, I’m not saying the concentration camp system as was outlined in the South African War 1899 to 1902 did not exist, nor am I saying that it was not painful and tragic – it did exist and its a very painful past, what I am saying is that the education that lies behind it has been shrouded in a very false and flawed package of Nationalist thinking. Here’s why – here’s ‘the smoking gun’:

The Broederbond

The 1st executive council of the Afrikaner Broederbond in 1918.

The culprit for all of this is the Broederbond. There I said it, and I’m not trying to be some conspiracy theory nut job pointing towards a secret society for the world’s problems. No, this is a truth, based on a fact and a real life secret organisation with sinister goals. Here’s how the Broederbond ‘pulled the wool’ over everyones eyes in South Africa and manipulated the entire South African education system to their vicarious objectives, and in the long run successfully implemented ‘National Christian Education’ as the go-to framework for millions of South Africans, of all colours, then and to come in the future.

During Jan Smuts’ time as Prime Minister and the United Party in the pound seats, Smuts proposed the ‘dual medium’ education system – simple really in its idea, he wanted to bring Afrikaans speaking and English speaking coming together, sharing a common humanity and understanding each others cultures. The idea would be that certain subjects for English kids would be taught and written in Afrikaans and certain subjects for Afrikaans kids would be taught in English and examined in English. The classes and education would remain ‘separate’ but the playground would be a common area. The idea was that a natural cultural assimilation would eventually take root. The idea found favour in the thousands of Afrikaner and English service personnel during the war years with a 80% plus approval rating. At that stage in South Africa even in the old British ‘Regiments’ of the Union Defence Force it was becoming ‘good form’ for officers to be commanding and conversing in Afrikaans. Things were generally on the ‘up’.

Then, all of a sudden, the South African Military Intelligence Services started to pick up chatter, kids were returning home from school with concocted slander on Jan Smuts and the ruling party, false senses of national identity and incorrect historical interpretations, sheer hatred of all things British and extreme pro views on Nazism and the nobility of the German war effort, added to this were worrying views on Jewish capital and the Jewish exploitation in South Africa of ‘poor white Afrikaners’. It started up almost everywhere at once and it was ‘taught to them’.

Military intelligence swung into action in an attempt to find the root of all of this, this potentially posed a danger to South Africa’s war efforts. Early in the morning on the 13th December 1943 a small group of military intelligence officers infiltrated the Afrikaner Teachers Training College in Bloemfontein. They placed microphones and eavesdropped on an Afrikaner educationalists congress taking place in Bloemfontein – intelligence revealed it was a front for a Broederbond meeting intent on mapping South Africa’s future in the world of education. They traced vehicle registrations of many in attendance to known Broederbond members and highlighted Albert Hertzog, Nico Diederichs, Hendrick Verwoerd and Henning Klopper as the ringleaders (a line up of some significant heavy-weight National Party leaders).

Field Marshal Jan Smuts

What they took down whilst surveilling the meeting was nothing short of mind blowing, there was an intensive focus by the Broederbond on the country’s educators to dispel with Smuts’ policy and build both educators and the education system along Nationalist lines, to hit Smuts’ policy at the very basic and very weakest link – the children .. anti-Smuts and nationalist ideals would begin at a early developmental stage, such that the ‘education’ in National Christian dogma was ingrained by adulthood, an undeniable ‘fact’ would be fostered – people would simply know no better.

The investigation, led by the head of intelligence Colonel E.G. Malherbe, opened up more evidence over the years, a massive reservoir of intelligence, papers, transcripts, photographs began to grow – showing especially the Broederbond’s grip on the education systems and the reformed dutch churches. Netted in all this intelligence was also all the secret discussions, transcripts and alliances with Nazi Germany and the use of Nazi dogma in National Christian ideology.

Colonel Ernst G. Malherbe

They intercepted Broederbond correspondence calling for the infiltration on the Union Defence Force with aligned brothers from the Dutch Reformed Church to bolster the number of chaplains and start to undermine the war effort at the vulnerable point of dealing with soldiers religious frameworks

It was all presented to General Smuts by Colonel Malherbe with the recommendation to stamp out the Broederbond with immediate effect, cut it away before it really took root. Smuts , as was his nature, took a cautionary route when dealing with this Afrikaner faction. Malherbe asked Smuts to ‘name and shame’ publicly all the members of the Broederbond, warn the public on the influenced education their kids were receiving – issue a public notice in the press. Smuts decided instead to try and round up the ring-leaders and ring-fence them in Koffiefontein, he did not want all the reputable Dominees of the Afrikaans churches named and shamed as well as honourable men in the education and school board systems unduly battered in the media. He felt, much to Maherbe’s disillusionment with him, that a negotiated and moral influence on the matter would be best. He would however ‘ban’ any Brother working in a government job if he did not resign from the Broederbond – many did, and a handful stood firm. He had after all, what Malherbe would later say was “a soft spot for the church”.

The Broederbond in an unprecedented first came out in public and immediately started with the smoke and mirrors, the then Chair of the Bond Professor J.C. van Rooy declared in selected media that Smuts’ attack on the Broederbond as an unjust, unsubstantiated, unGodly attack on honest people in a simple ‘cultural society’ – nothing more. We now all know the aims of this ‘cultural society’ and it was State Capture .. on an epic level, it made the ANC’s attempt in recent years look like a child’s play .. why, the Nats got away with it, the ANC is yet to.

Broederbond Chairman – Prof J.C van Rooy

And if you think this program of Nationalist influence on our education small, think again. From the on-set of the historical discourse of the Afrikaner in Africa is a bias – at the very root of the Nationalist mythology, the simple fact that on the curriculum was the ‘discovery’ of a largely empty land and settlement of the Cape by the Dutch, a kind of ‘first rights’ to the country with Jan van Riebeeck nobly leading it. It begins with the famous painting of a benevolent bunch of Dutch settles carrying a Dutch Prinsenvlag (Prince Flag) coming in peace and trade – with a stoic religion and a civilising mind. Now, the fact is the British colonised the Cape BEFORE the Dutch, in fact 30 odd years before – huh! You Lie! Comes the chorus. So here’s some rather inconvenient truth.

The first flag to fly over the Cape was NOT the Prinsenvlag, the first flag was King James the 1st of England and Scotland – the Union Jack (known then as the British Flag without the Ireland inclusion). The flag was planted on Signal Hill in 1620 – long before the Dutch did it in 1652. That’s how insanely biased the National party narrative has become. If you think I’m telling ‘Porkies’, look it up for yourself, 27 March 1620 – The Unitie one of three British ships arrives in Table Bay from England, a small settlement had already existed there to furnish passing Spanish, British, Portuguese and Dutch traders. Two of the Commanders of these ships, Captain Humphrey Fitzherbert and Captain Andrew Shilling hoist the Union Jack on the slopes of Signal Hill calling it King James Mount and take possession of the entire countryside in the name of the British Monarch. Here they planned a plantation similar to that established by the Virginia Company at Jamestown. The settlement would have provided a revitalising stop on the way to the East but nothing came of the plan .. so what happens next? As historians we don’t really know, there is a conflicting account, we do however know it’s been ‘written out’ of the narrative – I can assure you there are now some serious historians ‘on the case’ now.

But the long and short is that the Cape was obviously left to the Dutch to also settle on the 6th April 1652, and even that is nothing but a footnote, it was neither the Dutch or the British that settled the Cape, it was the Khoi and San and as inconvenience goes there is proof of their farming and permanent settlements here which date back 2000 years … to the time of Christ – the Colonial period is but a ‘blip’ in the original peoples account of things. Bottom line, our understanding of our conjoint history of South Africa – white, black, Afrikaans, Coloured, Indian etc etc was off to a very bad start – the absolute beginning chapter 1 is so flawed you can drive a truck through it – the funny bit, this nationalist folklore made it onto our banknotes, into monuments, into textbooks and net net into our shared psyche as South Africans .. and its all not worth the paper its written on.

Left to their devises with their hatreds, bias and convoluted history, the Broerderbond carried on with influencing key institutions moving ‘brothers’ into key positions and pivots and pockets of power. Their activities given a massive boost in 1948 when the Nationalists unexpectedly won a General Election. Snapping up the opportunity to cover all their tracks, and distance the new government and many of its elected officials from their nazi ideologies and alignments during the war – they sprung into immediate action.

In July 1948, mere months after the National Party won the election, Colonel Malherbe’s successor Colonel Charles Powell (Colonel Malherbe was by the time the Vice Chancellor of the University of Natal), was sitting in the National Intelligence archive and in came none other than the National Party’s new head of Defence – F.C. Erasmus – who promptly dismissed Colonel Powell on the spot with a 24 hours notice. He then proceeded to remove “two lorries” worth of Broederbond documentation from the archive – never to be seen again. Formal complaints to the new Minister of Justice to reinstate the military intelligence archive were just ignored. Luckily and I mean luckily for us much of this was recorded in Malherbe’s book ‘Education in South Africa’.

Later, to the continued amazement of all, whenever there was a press conference and B.J Vorster taken to task on any of his Nazi or Broederbond past he would often smugly turn around to any young whippersnapper trying to set a record straight and simply say “prove it”.

Conclusion

Nothing like the art of deniability and the art of deception, the tragedy now is a ever growing and ever more deceived Afrikaner sub-culture, forever set to grind an imaginary sword against an imaginary injustice, and to forever come out and yell ‘veraaier’ and ‘Kings puppet’ at arguably the best of the Afrikaner nation – from Jan Smuts to Sailor Malan. Tragic, because its in these men, Smuts et al that the salvation of modern white Afrikaners lie, in the pro-democratic forward thinking Afrikaner ‘liberals’, the ones that fought Apartheid with every bone in their bodies – not their detractors, this little band of radical right wing nationalists and their ‘point of view’ on history needs to be left in the dust – or there is no moving on and all that white Afrikaners hold dear to their culture, language and heritage will ultimately be decimated in the march of time and the symbolism of Apartheid becomes intrinsically transfixed to Afrikaaners and Afrikanerdom as a whole.

Written and researched by Peter Dickens

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References

Malherbe, Earnest G ‘Education in South Africa’ 1977 and ‘The Bilingual School’ 1945. The ‘White tribe of Africa’ David Harrison 1987. Day to Day history of the South African Navy – Chris Bennett.

A bad ‘driver’ and an equally bad ‘siren’ suit

Looking at this image I’m reminded of two things not known to many people about Smuts and Churchill and both are equally bad.  That Winston Churchill invented some bizarre things, including the rather unflattering ‘siren suit’ and Jan Smuts as a family man, whose entire family would vanish whenever he got close to his automobile.

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Taken on the 23rd August, 1942 in the gardens of the British Embassy, Cairo, this photo shows Winston Churchill in his infamous siren suit and wearing yet another odd hat.  The small boy is Victor Lampson, the son of the British Ambassador to Egypt, who seems uncertain as to whether he wants to pose for Jan Smuts’ camera (seen in his left hand) as Churchill looks on in cheerful mood. Photo: Birmingham Mail and Post

Jan Smuts and automobiles 

So, lets kick off with Jan Smuts’ ability to make his family collectively disappear whenever he proposed driving them somewhere in his car.  Simply put, this Reformer, Prime Minister, Lawyer, Philosopher, Military Strategist and Botanist – with all his unsurpassed intelligence just could not get his great intellect around the simple idea of safely driving a modern automobile.

Smuts used to head off from his home in Irene, just outside Pretoria, with his grandchildren on the back seat of his car.  Whilst driving along some or other interesting idea would enter his mind and he would take his hands off the steering wheel, turn around – taking his eyes off the road completely and address the kids on the back seat on the subject at hand.  Much to the collective terror of everyone in the car except Smuts, the car would then veer off the road and careen into the veldt and fields until Smuts paid attention to it again and brought it back onto the road.

So whenever Smuts proposed going anywhere in the car, with him driving it, his family, in fear of their lives would suddenly make themselves very scarce.  Clearly he was more comfortable riding a horse, which by all accounts during the Second Anglo-Boer War he was very good at.

Jan Smuts Cars

Jan Smuts’ Cars – taken at the Smuts House Museum near Pretoria. The black car is his 1946 Cadillac which he used when he was Prime Minister. The other car looks like a 1948 Buick, photo thanks to Brian Parson.

Thank you to Philip Weyers, Jan Smuts’ great grandson, for that interesting insight into his family.

Winston Churchill and siren suits 

As to another intellectual giant, Sir Winston Churchill, note Winston Churchill’s “siren suit” and wide-brimmed hat (he loved hats) which he used when resting to totter around the garden in, building walls, painting but he also unabashedly wore them meeting Presidents, Cabinet Ministers and Generals.

Similar in style to boiler suits or overalls worn by many workers including mechanics, brick layers and tank crews to protect their standard clothing, the ‘siren suit’ was a more upmarket version of a boiler suit and is said to be invented by Churchill as an original leisure suit in the 1930s.

Churchill played a large part in popularising his all-in-one suit as an item of clothing during World War 2, wearing it regularly, including when meeting other important people such as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Dwight Eisenhower and even Joseph Stalin.

During the Second World War it was marketed as a one-piece garment for the whole body which is easily put on or taken off, originally designed for use on the way to and whilst in air-raid shelters. The suit solved the problems of warmth and modesty encountered when seeking shelter during night-time air raids.  It was said to be roomy and could be put on over night-clothes quickly when an imminent air raid was announced by the city’s warning sirens.  Hence the term ‘Siren Suit’.

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They are perhaps more commonly associated with pop starlets and reality television stars – but the true pioneer of the onesie was Winston Churchill. Photo Life Magazine

Winston Churchill had a number of these gormless ‘onesie’ siren suits, and some of them were even designed for him by the best tailors of his time – a pin stripe version which he wore during the war years and then for portraits was made by Oscar Nemon and Frank O. Salisbury.   After the war in the 1950s another siren suit, made of bottle-green velvet, was created for him by Turnbull & Asser. It is also claimed that Austin Reed made a siren suit for him.

In Conclusion

So there you have it, the awful ‘onesie’ was pioneered by Winston Churchill and Jan Smuts was an awful ‘driver’. For all the intellectual brilliance both these men represented, both men were just that – men, and they both had the usual flawed human traits and odd quirks.


Written and Researched by Peter Dickens

Related Posts and Links

Churchill and Smuts on D-Day: Jan Smuts, Winston Churchill and D-Day

Churchill and Smuts’ friendship: Churchill’s Desk

A Mountain of a Man – Literally! Mount Smuts

We know that Jan Smuts around the world has a Kibbutz named after him in Israel, but did you know he also a Mountain named after him?  This ‘mountain’ of a South African, with his love for Botany, Nature and Mountain hiking in addition to his credentials as Statesman, Philosopher, Reformer, Lawyer, Botanist and Warrior  – also has his own Mountain – and its located in the Canadian Rockies.

It is for good reason that Smuts has a mountain in his name, he once said of his love for mountains when unveiling the Mountain Club War Memorial at Maclear’s Beacon on the summit of Table Mountain in 1923;

“The Mountain is not merely something eternally sublime. It has a great historical and spiritual meaning for us … From it came the Law, from it came the Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount. We may truly say that the highest religion is the Religion of the Mountain”

Canadian Rockies – Mount Smuts

A number of peaks in the Canadian Rockies in the vicinity of Kananaskis Lakes in Canada carry the names of Admirals, Generals and others directly related to the military during the two World Wars.

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Mount Smuts is exceptional and very special as it was named after a Field Marshal and Prime Minister of South Africa who had a very special feeling for mountains. For this reason it was argued that Mount Smuts is a particularly appropriate name for a mountain peak, and this honour does not only extend to the mountain peak, the peak is located between the upper Spray River Valley and Smuts Creek Valley and the North buttress to Mount Smuts is also named Smuts Pass.

Mount Smuts is also not for the weak hearted, the mere mention of this peak is enough to make a serious mountain scrambler weak in the knees. This peak is debatably the most difficult scramble in the Canadian Rockies as it represents more of a mountain ascend than a scramble, many climbers attest its closer to an Alpine lower 5th class rated climb.  For a fit climber the accent time takes 5 hours and the total trip time about 8 to 10 hours.   The peak stands at 2940 meters.

Mount Smuts

View of Mount Smuts from Smuts Pass

The ‘Oubaas’ liked a challenge in his mountain scrambles – Smuts would disappear for hours on end with long treks in the wilderness and he climbed Table Mountain more than 70 times, even at the age of 70. There is no doubt Smuts would have sprung at the opportunity to climb Mount Smuts and disappear for a day to do it.

Holism and Mountains 

Consider this when reviewing Smuts and his attraction to Mountains. As a young boy Jan Smuts had a mystical experience on the Riebeek-Kasteel mountain top (near the farm on which he was born in the Western Cape). He described it as a feeling of complete unity with all of nature around him.

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Jan Smuts on Table Mountain, South Africa

Jan Smuts experienced his surrounding nature so intimately that it felt like an extension of himself. And yet he experienced at the same time a distinct sense of ‘self’.  It was this idea of ‘transcendental self’ that was to form the base of his philosophy of holism.  To Smuts, the ‘transcendental self’ was the tendency of nature to cohere into greater hierarchies of unified wholes. The holistic process would culminate in its fullest expression in the human personality.  To this revelation on a mountain top Smuts once said:

“When I was young I saw a light, and I have followed that light ever since.”

His focus on unification of wholes led Smuts to reconcile the Boer and British nations after the bitterness of the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. It would cumulate in the Union of South Africa in 1910, to bring together the former Boer Republics of Transvaal (ZAR Republic) and Orange Free State into union with the former British Colonies of the Cape Colony and Natal. Smuts went further with holism and the unification of wholes when he advocated the transformation of the British Empire into a Commonwealth of self-governing Nations to King George VI (ending the ideals of ‘Empire’ – in fact Smuts coined the phrase ‘Commonwealth of nations’). This same philosophy of joining wholes led to the formation of the League of Nations after World War 1, and subsequently in the formation of the United Nations after World War 2. It was this simple ‘epiphany’ on a mountain top as a boy that ultimately led Smuts to draft he Preamble to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

To his ideals on mountains and holism, on the 25th February 1923 during the unveiling of a memorial to members of the Mountain Club who had fallen in the 1st World War (1914 -1918) on top of Table Mountain, Smuts gave a landmark speech titled ‘The Religion of the Mountain”, take the time to read it in full, it’s a lesson to humankind.

The Religion of the Mountain

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Contemporary statue of Jan Smuts at the Company’s Garden, Cape Town

The Mountain is not merely something externally sublime. It has a great historical and spiritual meaning for us. It stands for us as the ladder of life. Nay, more, it is the great ladder of the soul, and in a curious way the source of religion. From it came the Law, from it came the Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount. We may truly say that the highest religion is the Religion of the Mountain.

What is that religion? When we reach the mountain summits we leave behind us all the things that weigh heavily down below on our body and our spirit. We leave behind a feeling of weakness and depression; we feel a new freedom, a great exhilaration, an exaltation of the body no less than of the spirit. We feel a great joy.

The Religion of the Mountain is in reality the religion of joy, of the release of the soul from the things that weigh it down and fill it with a sense of weariness, sorrow and defeat. The religion of joy realises the freedom of the soul, the soul’s kinship to the great creative spirit, and its dominance over all the things of sense. As the body has escaped from the over- weight and depression of the sea, so the soul must be released from all sense of weariness, weakness and depression arising from the fret, worry and friction of our daily lives. We must feel that we are above it all, that the soul is essentially free, and in freedom realises the joy of living. And when the feeling of lassitude and depression and the sense of defeat advances upon us, we must repel it, and maintain an equal and cheerful temper.

We must fill our daily lives with the spirit of joy and delight. We must carry this spirit into our daily lives and tasks. We must perform our work not grudgingly and as a burden imposed upon, but in a spirit of cheerfulness, goodwill and delight in it. Not only on the mountain summits of life, not only on the heights of success and achievement, but down in the deep valleys of drudgery, of anxiety and defeat, we must cultivate the great spirit of joyous freedom and upliftment of the soul.

We must practise the Religion of the Mountain down in the valleys also.

This may sound like a hard doctrine, and it may be that only after years of practise are we able to triumph in spirit over the things that weigh and drag us down. But it is the nature of the soul, as of all life, to rise, to overcome, and finally attain complete freedom and happiness. And if we consistently practise the Religion of the Mountain we must succeed in the end. To this great end Nature will co-operate with the soul.

The mountains uphold us and the stars beckon to us. The mountains of our lovely land will make a constant appeal to us to live the higher life of joy and freedom. Table Mountain, in particular, will preach this great gospel to the myriads of toilers in the valley below. And those who, whether members of the Mountain Club or not, make a habit of ascending her beautiful slopes in their free moments, will reap a rich reward not only in bodily health and strength, but also in an inner freedom and purity, in an habitual spirit of delight, which will be the crowning glory of their lives.

May I express the hope that in the years to come this memorial will draw myriads who live down below to breathe the purer air and become better men and women. Their spirits will join with those up here, and it will make us all purer and nobler in spirit and better citizens of the country.

J_Smuts_sign

In Conclusion

Mount Smuts can be located at 50.8075N -115.387W for anyone wanting to find it – a Mountain which represents a man who was a mountain in his own right.  He once said of holism;

“(Concerning) the principles of holism…in this universe we are all members of one another…selfishness is the grand refusal and denial of life.”

Its a magnificent lesson and a great tribute.

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Mount Smuts in the Canadian Rockies

Related Work and Links:

Jan Smuts’ Kibbutz A Kibbutz called Jan Smuts

Jan Smuts’ Barracks Smuts Barracks; Berlin

Jan Smuts Life “The force of his intellect has enriched the wisdom of the whole human race”- the death of Jan Smuts.


Written and Researched by Peter Dickens

Reference, ‘Peakfinder’ Your source of information on the Peaks of the Canadian Rockiesby Dave Birrell and Politics today – exploring Jan Smuts’​ transformative ‘Religion of the Mountain’​ by Claudius van Wyk.  Photo credit ‘Our Journey’ Blog and Peakfinder.  A special thanks to Rheiner Weitz who brought this to our attention.

About Turn! Smuts’ bust and portrait to remain in place

It has been an interesting couple of days with some very quick ‘damage control’ public relations statements in response to The Sunday Times’ article on the University of Cambridge’s decision to remove Jan Smuts’ bust and portrait from its public spaces.  The good news in all this media spin-doctoring – reason has prevailed and we are assured the portrait and bust of Jan Smuts will remain in public view in their original places.

The Sunday Times Newspaper in London published two articles on Sunday 5 August 2018.  One by Cambridge students topple bust of Britain’s wartime ally Jan Smuts” and this was followed up by a related article by Tony Allen-Mills titled “Fall of Boer hero Jan Smuts would have made Churchill squawk”.  Sian Griffiths referenced her University of Cambridge source stating that “Cambridge confirmed both Smuts pieces had been moved”.

On Monday morning 6 August 2018 The Observation Post published a blog to the above effect titled “To the University of Cambridge’s eternal shame!”.  By Monday afternoon the University of Cambridge was in damage control mode and quickly published a statement to the effect that the bust and portrait are to remain in place, spinning ‘fake news’ by the Sunday Times as the rally point in an article published by Rosie Bradbury titled “Fact check: Jan Smuts portrait and bust were not ‘toppled’ by Cambridge students” in ‘Varsity’ the University of Cambridge’s official news portal.

The University of Cambridge’s joint statement from Christ’s JCR President Grace Etheredge and JCR Vice-President Oliver Jones read “general consensus has been for portraits to remain”, but that historical context of controversial figures should be added outlining “the good and bad of what they did so as to not white wash college history”.

The movement of the portrait was explained by a washy statement which read “the portrait had been temporarily taken down a few years ago, but that the College had swapped it back again.”

They went on with their spin-doctor strategy to still paint Smuts in a poor light by stating; “Smuts publicly denigrated the black population of South Africa” – which is a baseless and unsupported comment.  From a balance point of view, if Cambridge was accusing the Sunday Times of peddling falsehoods, they managed to peddle a falsehood in their response, which ironically would now discredit both Cambridge and the Sunday Times in our eyes.

Now, The Sunday Times is a very well-regarded newspaper, both Sian Griffiths and Tony-Allan Mills are very reputable journalists and to date The Sunday Times has not published a retraction and have stood by their articles and their journalists, and there is something to be said for that.  It is also clear that the University of Cambridge went into counter measure and damage control mode against the backlash the articles created.

To make sure, the Observation Post approached the Smuts family for clarity, and we are assured that the portrait and bust are currently in their rightful place.  We trust and hope that the University takes on board the very negative backlash from the broader community that it serves when considering removing portraits again and continues to be leader in history that it is and serves to honour the people who have served it – especially Jan Smuts.

In this we are glad that for the time being the University has avoided succumbing to the new trend to ‘Revolutionist history’ touted by far left radical ‘anti-colonial’ students. Finally – Reason has prevailed in what has been a sea of insanity,  caused by a very violent counter-history movement in South Africa, the ripple effect of which is now spilling over to the Old Schools.  We ‘doff’ our caps to the University of Cambridge for rectifying and/or maintaining its artworks of Jan Smuts, whichever way it may be.


Written by Peter Dickens

Related article: To the University of Cambridge’s eternal shame!

 

To the University of Cambridge’s eternal shame!

To the eternal shame of the University of Cambridge, the bust and portrait of Britain’s wartime ally and its first real foreign Chancellor – Jan Smuts – was removed from public view at Christ’s College.  It’s an act of political correctness gone all wrong, and a foreboding sign of things to come – The University of Cambridge has fallen foul of its own history and Jonathan Swift’s quote rings true “Some men when weeding out prejudices, eradicate virtue, honesty and religion”.

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Field Marshal Jan Smuts

Cowering to the ‘Rhodes Must Fall ‘campaigners – a bunch of zealot, racist and militant far left radicals based in South Africa who very controversially removed the statue of Cecil John Rhodes’ statue from the University of Cape Town, the University of Cambridge has now capitulated and quietly removed the portrait and bust of Field Marshal Jan Smuts from their public spaces and insidiously placed them out of sight.

The act of removing Smuts came from pressure from a bunch of ‘anti-colonial’ students – and since removing Smuts from the public area of the Old Schools building, which houses the main university offices, the Old Schools has carried posters from the first election after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 – making an anti-apartheid political statement.

So what’s odd about this act?  For starters Jan Smuts and his party were the opposition party to the National Party and their tenets of Apartheid, so they have got the history completely wrong and have incorrectly painted Smuts with an Apartheid brush.  The University of Cambridge simply does not even understand the history and has bowed to a skew and incorrect version been banded about buy these ‘anti-colonial’ students.

So what’s wrong with being an anti-colonial student and banishing statues of Colonialism in England?  Well, if we agree this precedent we’ll have to remove every single statue of every single great British and Colonial icon involved in Imperialism and Colonialism.  It’s a foreboding sign when a leading learning institution like the University of Cambridge does this and sets the precedent.

The same group of zealot anti-colonial students a year or so ago attempted to get Cecil John Rhodes’ statue removed from Oxford University and we rightly told to get lost – but not the University of Cambridge, they have succumbed to this growing modern trend of re-writing history with 21st Century hindsight and removing those bits they think are ‘offensive’ from it.

So whose next?  Winston Churchill cut his political teeth in South Africa and was the Colonial Secretary who along with Smuts ushered in the newly formed state of South Africa, with all its 19th Century Imperialist tenets and race laws, stamped by The House of Commons.  Do we now remove statues of Winston Churchill?  But why stop at Churchill?  What about all the other British Colonialists involved in South Africa – Sir Alfred Milner, Sir John Cradock, Sir John Sprigg, John Xavier Merriman, Lord Charles Somerset, Lord Kitchener, Field Marshal Buller, Lord Roberts and even Field Marshal Haig.

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Jan Smuts shoulder to shoulder with King George VI, the Queen Mother and the future Queen Elizabeth II

But why even stop at the Colonial ‘masters’ of South Africa and the Field Marshal’s of the South African War (1899-1902)?  What about the Royalty who guided colonial policy in South Africa? So lets remove Queen Victoria, King George V, King George VI and even Queen Elizabeth II who was the reigning monarch when South Africa was still a Union and the country fell under her dominion.  In 1947 preceding her father’s death, King George VI and Princess Elizabeth visited South Africa to give support to Jan Smuts and his government (and to give support to Smuts for the landmark 1948 General Elections so as to prevent the Apartheid nationalists from taking power and losing South Africa as a Dominion in the Commonwealth of Nations – which unfortunately for all of us the Apartheid Nationalists won).

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Smuts’ acceptance speech after he was made a Chancellor at the University of Cambridge

The academic elite at the University of Cambridge are at best very naive, even as to their own academic history of Jan Smuts. Smuts was elected the University of Cambridge’s Chancellor in 1948 and a memorial fund in his name was set up when he died two years later.  As Cambridge Chancellor he was the first ‘foreign’ Chancellor of the University not of Royal stock in its very long history of 800 years.

Aside from a Prime Minister and British Field Marshal, Smuts was also an accredited philosopher, his work on Holism brought him high acclaim from his Philosopher peers.  Holism can be defined as “the fundamental factor operative towards the creation of wholes in the universe” and was published in 1926.  For Smuts it formed the grounding behind his concepts of the League of Nations and United Nations – both institutions he helped form.

Whilst studying law at Christ’s College at the University of Cambridge, he was rated as one of the top three students they have ever had (Christ’s College is nearly 600-year-old).  The other two were John Milton and Charles Darwin. Smuts graduated from Christ’s College with a first-class degree in law in 1894 and is regarded as the brightest legal mind ever to read law at the University of Cambridge.

His intellect was unsurpassed, to pass an exam at Cambridge he learnt Greek (fluently) in just 6 days. His wife was no intellectual slouch either, later in life Jan Smuts and his wife ‘Ouma’ Smuts used to tease one another when one would recite a Bible verse and the other would be expected to recite the following one, from memory, in Greek!

The University of Cambridge’s ‘Smuts Memorial Fund’ was established after the death of Jan Smuts to support the advancement of Commonwealth Studies. A range of funding opportunities are available to both staff and students for this purpose including research grants, PhD scholarships and library grants. A number of Fellowships across the University are supported by the Fund including the Smuts Visiting Research Fellowship.  It is with extreme irony that some of these ‘anti-colonial’ students are supported in their studies and funded by the very man whose memory they eradicate.  Talk about hypocrisy – there it is right there!

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The removal of Rhodes’ statue from UCT by the same student movement. The Rhodes foundation is a primary financial supporter of the University and also issues Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford University to disadvantaged students.

Whats next for the academia line up of the University of Cambridge’s Chancellors whose pasts are tainted by a British Imperialist upbringing and held the mainstream views at the time on race – or better still those Royal Chancellors who promoted serfdom and servitude under Royal rule prior to historical reformations?  By the time they have finished removing all these Chancellors who reigned over the last 800 odd years of the University of Cambridge – the University will be bare of any history.

But what about Smuts’ unwavering support of the United Kingdom when it was at its own urgent crisis.  Smuts took South Africa to war in support of Great Britain in both World War 1 and World War 2, the result is sacrifice from South Africa to retain the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and modern democracy – sacrifice of literally tens of thousands of South Africans in battlefields all over the world, lying along-side their British comrades in arms – the cold headstones of the Commonwealth War Grave’s Commission stand solemnly in testament.  All done in honour of Smuts’ commitment to democracy, liberty and humanity.

Without Smuts the United Kingdom would not have the original founder of the Royal Air Force, which celebrates it centenary this year, it would not have the Statesman who stood shoulder to shoulder with Winston Churchill on D-Day and the liberation of Europe, the very man who tempered and guided Churchill and acted as the King’s liaison at the most critical phase of the war.  Smuts even came up with the concept of Commonwealth of Nations and guided King George VI and Great Britain out of its edicts of ‘Empire’ when dealing with a ‘new world’ Commonwealth and its Colonies post war.

 

Smuts was the only foreign Statesman to receive a standing round of applause from both houses of Parliament and the first foreign statesman to address both houses  – there is very good reason that his statue stands next to Churchill’s on Parliament Square.  Has the United Kingdom completely lost sense of its history and politics, and now bows to a small and vocal bunch of ‘anti-colonial’  students – the tail wagging the dog?  It seems so.

What happened to open debate in a University environment?  Where all stakeholders are consulted and put their arguments forward before a key decision is made on the removal of a historical figure, a leading University like the University of Cambridge made no such effort to approach the Smuts foundation and family in South Africa.  Instead a unilateral decision was taken by a minority of elitist academics imposing their views on others, now that is not the ‘open’ and democratic society which the University is meant to represent.

The University’s official response reads like a piece of political correct pandering. The response from the university’s governing council: “In retrospect, there are often once-lauded ideas and individuals whose standing, reputation and behaviour assume different and usually uncomfortable contemporary significance.”

Again – whose next in the ‘uncomfortable’ figures from the past who lauded ideas not palatable in a modern context, Churchill called Gandhi a “Half Naked Fakir”.

The removal of Smuts at the University of Cambridge is an offence to the thousands of South African men and women who have sacrificed their lives to serve crown in South African forces, and the tens of thousands of South Africans who also served in British Armed Forces.  It is the darkest day in the University’s history when it expunged its own heritage in the name of ill-considered political correctness and disgraces an entire generation of South Africans who held Smuts’ ideals of liberty and freedom in their hearts. It is a warning to come – shame on Christ’s College and shame on the University of Cambridge.


Written by Peter Dickens

Reference:  The Sunday Times The Sunday Times “Cambridge students topple bust of Britain’s wartime ally Jan Smuts”

Related work links:

Jan Smuts’ death: “The force of his intellect has enriched the wisdom of the whole human race”- the death of Jan Smuts.

Jan Smuts and Churchill – Operation Overlord:  Jan Smuts, Winston Churchill and D-Day

Winston Churchill admiration of Smuts: Churchill’s Desk