The ANC’s use of the death penalty!

Here we like to keep those little inconvenient truths alive and put out a little perspective, this time on the fury around death penalty ‘executions’ during the Apartheid epoch. However this time we look at the ‘other side’ of the general narrative surrounding this subject, this looks at the ANC and their use of the death penalty.

On the 22nd August in 1996, seeking amnesty for its human rights abuses, the African National Congress (ANC) dropped a bombshell when it presents the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with a 300-page analysis documenting the ANC’s uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) armed wing’s abuses during ‘the struggle’ period.

The document named thirty-four (34) ANC members who were executed by ANC military tribunals at their external MK bases in Angola. That’s more ANC cadre’s officially executed by their own hand than the Apartheid state managed to officially execute – almost three times as many … think about that!

What where these executions for? Most of them where cited as mutiny, murder and rape in Angola between 1980 and 1989.

ANC MK cadres in exile

As to ‘Mutiny’ Thabo Mbeki told the TRC that a serious mutiny broke out in Pango in 1984 with the MK mutineers using machine-guns and other heavy weapons to kill the camp commanders and other MK soldiers. A military tribunal was set up by the ANC’s national executive committee and 7 MK cadres who shot other cadres were given the death penalty and executed.

There were also isolated cases in which MK recruits were executed by MK after they were tried and convicted of crimes such as raping and murdering local villagers. Examples of this;

Thabo Makhubethe was found guilty of raping an Angolan woman. A MK military tribunal ordered that he be executed by firing squad. The sentence was carried out in 1984 in Luanda. In another case, Josiah Malhobane and Jeremiah Maleka indulged in heavy drinking in Milange randomly shot at shoppers at a local market, killing two Angolan women and seriously injuring another woman and child. They were executed by a MK firing squad in 1989 at Milange.

As to South African law and the ‘Apartheid’ state, no capital punishment was executed by any SADF military tribunal under ‘military law’ during the ‘struggle’ years. In terms of the Apartheid state and civilian law, a case of ‘murder’ had to be proven before a death sentence given – it’s why so many ANC cadres were given life sentences for high treason and not death sentences, it’s also the reason why relatively few MK cadres were executed by the state’s judiciary. In all the state officially executed 14 ANC and MK cadres, they were:

In 1964 and 1965, 6 MK men were executed – Vuvisile Mini, Wilson Khayinga, Zinkile Mkhaba, Daniel Ndongeni, Nolani Mpentse and Samual Jonas for the murder of a civilian who they alleged was a police informer and other killings.

In 1977, MK cadre, Solomon Mahlangu was executed for the murder of two innocent John Orr store employees during a shoot out with Police.

In 1983, MK cadres, Marcus Motaung, Jerry Mosololi and Simon Mogoerane (also known as the Moroka Three)– were executed by the state for attacks on Police stations and the murder of 4 Policemen.

In 1985, Benjamin Moloise, a poet and ANC activist (not MK) was executed for allegedly murdering a Policeman.

In 1986 MK cadre, Andrew Zondo was executed for placing a bomb at a shopping centre in Amanzimtoti which killed two adults and three children and injuring 161 other civilians. Alongside him two other ANC members were executed, Sipho Xulu and Clarence Payi – for murdering a famous ANC underground operative Ben Langa who they accused of being a government informer.

The last MK person to be hanged by the state was Jeffrey Boesman Mangena in 1989 for murdering a school teacher he accused of being a sellout.

There is also a thick irony in that the international community – including the United Nations, numerous civic organisations and even the ANC themselves called on the Apartheid State to remove the death penalty as unjust and save their comrades, at the same time the ANC was implementing the death penalty with impunity, free of any legal oversight to make their own rules and with no international or civic backlash whatsoever.

This is not a tit for tat saying – look at ANC they’re bad and the old Afrikaner nationalist government is ‘good’ – its not to say the Apartheid government didn’t kill, certainly by way of ‘execution’ many more MK cadres were killed. However these murderous ‘executions’ were done by clandestine organs of state operating outside the law in many instances – the military’s CCB ‘Civil Co-operation Bureau’ and the Vlakplaas C1 unit of the ‘Police Security Branch’ to name just two. The ANC in turn executed many civilians using necklacing and other methods under the guise of the MK’s ‘self defence units’ and their ‘peoples courts’ in the townships – unhinged from any legitimate legal oversight or international condemnation again. The net result, under the ruse of ‘Total War’ – both sides in this conflict were equally guilty of many, many transgressions of human rights.

The point, is that the ANC in modern-day South Africa like to see themselves as ‘roses’ in this struggle, they’ve positioned themselves as the ‘darlings’ in the fight for democracy in South Africa, some of these cited MK members executed by the Apartheid state are eternally celebrated in the media almost unrelentingly as national heroes .. and … nothing .. absolute crickets is said of all the MK members executed by their own hand, let alone the execution by MK (outside and inside South Africa) of innocent civilians – no visits to their families by well meaning ANC officials with apologies galore.

The truth is the ANC’s hands are as blood soaked as the old National Party when it comes to human rights abuses, and here’s the inconvenient bit – the old Nats are long gone, and the ANC continue to trample on our civilian rights to this very day as the country’s political elite and governing party; pillaging the state coffers, murdering one another over political appointments and government contracts and the likes of Dlamini-Zuma and Bheki Cele running the country like a Police State.

As to The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whether the ‘truth’ ultimately set everyone free, including the ANC and its dire record of capital punishment executions, that can still be debated. However what is certain, as to Zaprio’s cartoon with Desmond Tutu, is that the gap between the ‘truth’ and that of ‘reconciliation’ is growing ever wider in South Africa today.

The big question remains for us as a nation as to who we should highlight as a war hero and who should we not – if not the ANC for helping ‘end’ Apartheid (an ironic case of an organisation steeped in human rights abuses ending a human rights abuser) – then who? To read an article on who and what qualifies war heroes for which we can all celebrate go to the following link; Tainted “Military Heroes” vs. Real Military Heroes


Written and researched by Peter Dickens

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 by the Nationalists, commemorated for decades and on countless bank notes, statues, emblems of state, the late national flag and postage stamps.

British – 1st attempt

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 in a colonising ceremony 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). The 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’. 

The Portuguese

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.

As to laying a ‘claim’ the Portuguese did however erect stone crosses (padrão) at prominent points along the coast to proclaim sovereignty of the Portuguese realm by right of discovery.  Dias erected his first cross on Dias Point (since renamed Lüderitzbucht in what is now Namibia),and at Kwaaihoek on the easternmost limit of Algoa Bay and on his return voyage at Buffels Bay near Cape Point. 

The Khoikhoi

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 irrelevance, the gradual assimilation into the ‘servant’ sub-culture and the Smallpox epidemic in 1713 saw the destruction and eventual disappearance of their society and culture. Their legacy and DNA can still 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.

The British – 2nd and 3rd attempt

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. British victory at the Battle of Waterloo and the end of French Napoleonic era effectively ended Dutch and French aspirations in Southern Africa as Colonisers.

The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 and the Treaty of Paris 1814 to end the Napoleonic wars would see the British gain official control of the Cape Colony and also remunerate the Dutch for the retention of their ex-Colony (£6 million) 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.

This brings about another inconvenient truth, the British anti-slavery position in the Cape started well before their official abolition of slavery proclamation in the Cape Colony 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, and finally bowing out of all influence in 1961 when South Africa was declared a Republic by the National Party who then went on to withdraw it from the British Commonwealth of Nations completely.

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 KhoiKhoi. 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 KhoiKhoi paintings in the Cederberg, here’s my photo – KhoiKhoi 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“.

Grand Pop’s WW1 South African medal rack explained

Understanding your Great Grandfather’s or Grandfather’s World War 1 medals. Now this is the standard set issued to many who fought for British and Commonwealth (Empire) side in WW1, affectionately known by the veterans as “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred”. The affection comes from a popular British cartoon series at the time called The adventures of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred and consisted of three characters.

The origins of the characters is interesting. Pip, a dog, was discovered begging by a policeman on the Thames Embankment and was sent to a dogs’ home, where he was bought for half a crown. Squeak was a penguin, who was found in the London Zoo after hatching on the South African coast years before. Wilfred, a rabbit, was found in a field near his burrow and was adopted by Pip and Squeak.

In terms of their military meaning and importance, these are them in order of precedence – left to right.

Now, “Pip” is The ‘1914 – 1915 Star,’ campaign medal awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces (including the South African Army) who served in any theatre of the First World War against the Central European Powers during 1914 and 1915. Distinguished by the ribbon in the colours of the British Union Flag/Jack “washed” out.

“Squeak” is the ‘British War Medal,’ campaign medal of the United Kingdom which was awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces (including South Africa) for service in the First World War. The front depicts King George V with a latin inscription about the King, similar to what you would find on coins. The back shows the dates of the First World War and St. George on horseback. The colour of the ribbon has no known significance.

Finally “Wilfred” – The ‘Victory Medal’ (South Africa) is the Union of South Africa’s version of the Victory Medal (United Kingdom), a First World War campaign medal of Britain and her colonies and dominions. The medal, never awarded singularly, was awarded to all those South Africans who were awarded the 1914–15 Star, or to all those who were awarded the British War Medal. 

What makes the South African version of the Victory Medal unique to all the others issued to veterans of Britain and her Imperial Allies around the world is found on the Reverse. All Victory Medals have the words “The Great War for Civilisation” written in English on the back, the South Africans ones have it in Dutch in addition.

Note; the date on the back ‘1914-1919’ does not depict the end date of the war which was 1918 instead it commemorates the date from which the war was formally remembered – 1919.

The Victory Medal’s ribbon represents the combined colours of the Allied nations, with the rainbow additionally representing the calm after the storm. The ribbon consists of a double rainbow with red at the centre.

These medals are worn in precedence to the World War 2 medals if your ancestor or parent fought in both WW1 and WW2. If your ancestor also fought in the Boer War, those medals i.e his Boer War campaign medals (whether he fought on the British side or the Boer side) will precede these WW1 ones in the more ‘senior’ position. The basic rule with medals basically is the closer to the centre of the body (the heart), when the medals are worn on the left breast, the more senior the medal or decoration.

The first ‘war’ a veteran fights in – all his campaign medals for that war – will precede the next war that he fought in and all those campaign medals. Decorations (higher awards for bravery and the like) precede ‘all’ campaign medals regardless of the war in terms of seniority. Service medals i.e. for years of service and medals (and even decorations) awarded by another country are worn in the junior position (furtherest from the ‘heart’).

Here are two interesting examples of this – one showing a South African War (1899-1905) Veteran fighting on the Boer Side – his ‘Boer War’ medals precede his First World War Medals and the other shows a South African 1st World War Veteran who went on to fight in the 2nd World War.

A rare example of someone with all three campaign medal sets from the three different wars – The South African War 1899-1902 (on the Boer side), the 1st World War and the 2nd World War is Field Marshal Jan Smuts’ medals.

For more on you’re Pop’s 2nd World War set, follow this link: Pop’s WW2 South African medal rack explained

Note: This is a very complex field, and I’m no expert and the intension is to show the basic outline for WW1 medals commonly found, each of the medals has rather extensive qualifying criteria.

Have a look at your Great/Grandfather’s medals and see if they are in the right order and which of these three medals you now recognise.

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Witten and Researched by Peter Dickens

Pop’s WW2 South African medal rack explained

Understanding your Grand-parents (or Great Grandfather’s/Grandmother’s or even Father’s/Mother’s) World War 2 medals. This is the standard set received by many South Africans who fought in both the North/East African theatre of operations and the Italian campaign. These are in the correct order of precedence and from left to right they are:

1. The 1939 – 1945 Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth personnel who fought in any theatre of operations during WW2. The ribbon shows arms of service – Navy (dark blue), Army (red) and Air Force (light blue).

2. The Africa Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth personnel who fought in African theatre of operations during World War 2 – either ‘east’ Africa or ‘north’ Africa’ or in both these campaigns. The ribbon is distinguished by the “Sahara” sand colour.

3. The Italy Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth combatants who fought in the Italy theatre of operations during World War 2. Distinguished by ribbon in the colours of the Italian flag.

4. The Defence Medal – campaign medal awarded for both Operational and non-Operational service during WW2 to British and Commonwealth service personnel (and civilians involved in Service to armed forces). The ribbon is symbolic of the air attacks on green land of UK and the ‘Black outs’ during the bombings are shown by the two thin black lines.

5. The War Medal 1939-1945 – campaign medal for British and Commonwealth personnel who had served full-time in the Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. The medal ribbon is distinguished by the colours of the British Union Flag/Jack.

6. The Africa Service Medal – a South African campaign medal for service during the Second World War, which was awarded to members of the South African Union Defence Force (UDF), the South African Police and the South African Railways Police who served during World War 2. The ribbon represents the Two Oaths taken (red tab for Africa Service Oath and the later General Service Oath) and the green and gold colours of South Africa.

Have a look at your Grandfather’s or Dad’s medals (or your Mum/ Grandmother’s) and see if they are in the right order and which of these six medals you now recognise.

If there are any higher decorations to the ones shown here, the ones usually for bravery, these will be found before the ‘Stars’ in the ‘senior’ position an example of this is a DFC – Distinguished Flying Cross. The senior position is defined as the highest value medal/decoration positioned closest to the ‘heart’ i.e. the centre of the body when the rack of medals is worn on the left breast. Medals awarded by other countries, regardless if they are decorations for bravery, campaign or service medals will be found after The Africa Service Medal in the junior position i.e. furtherest from the ‘heart’.

It’s not common to the ‘average’ South African rack as expressed here, but If your old folks served in the France and Germany theatre of operations, or in the North Atlantic (if they were in the Royal Navy) or even in the Pacific theatre they would carry the ‘Stars’ for these theatres of operations. Commonly, South Africans attached to or serving in the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force or Royal Marines tend to have these campaign stars.

Note: This is a very complex field and I’m no expert, the intension here is to show the basic outline, each of the medals has rather extensive qualifying criteria and medal racks can vary substantially.

By Peter Dickens

What did you do in the Covid War Grandpa?

By Steve de Witt

Where’s our Victory over Covid party?

No dancing in the streets, kissing nurses, bonfires for masks, victory parades and presenting doctors with medals?

The war is won… but Cyril has ended it with a whimper not a bang. He should be gathering us for one final TV chat, stagger up the podium pissed wearing a party hat, pop champagne and have tinsel showers and fireworks go off behind him.

Instead we get someone called Joe Phaahla quietly posting in the gov gazette “No more musks” and, pfffffff, just like that, Covid fizzles out into history…

Why aren’t we having a party, Cyril?

What are we going to tell our grandchildren one day?

“Aye, it was quite something, lad. The world stopped for two years. No busses, trains, aeroplanes, nothing… They locked us up in our homes, withheld booze and smokes, patrolled the streets with guns and arrested the surfers.”

“You can’t be serious, Grandpa. How did you earn money to buy food?”

“We grew vegetables, me boy! It was the darkest of days, I tell you. People were dying left right and centre. Undertakers patrolled the streets everyday shouting, “Bring out your dead!” Me myself, I survived with a flesh wound, a rash on me testicles from the jabs they stabbed us with.”

“How did the war end, Grandpa?”

“Very quietly, son… the health minister stole all the money and got fired. Some guy called Joe replaced him and wrote in the newspaper that we’ve won… We’re still waiting to party.”

“We’re you a hero in the war, Grandpa?”

“We all were, son. Killed more germs with alcohol spray than you’ll ever know. Thank God for people like us…”

“Is it true that I’ve got 14 fingers because of the war?”

“Aye lad, it’s true… sorry ‘bout that. The jab wasn’t tested enough. But consider yerself lucky – you’ve got two penises!”

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Editor’s comment

Steve de Witt, a friend and contributor to The Observation Post wrote on COVID, it resonated with me as a survivor, having been hospitalised with Covid for an extended period, it also plays right up to my ‘dark’ military sense of humour and put a smile on my dial, Cyril Ramaphosa where is our VE Day indeed. Thanks again Steve – Peter Dickens.

Thanks also to Frans Bedford-Visser for the VE Day colourised images

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.

Hobhouse, Smuts and a … tree

It’s almost inevitable, whenever I blog about Smuts, somebody comes out the woodwork and immediately holds up Smuts as somehow accountable for the British concentration camps of the South African War (1899-1902) and by creating Union between the Boer Sates and British Colonies Smuts has the blood of 28,000 Boer woman and children on his hands. It’s a wild bit of logic and completely unfounded. So I’m going to challenge it, not with long boring historic missives, this logic is so stupid I’m going to bonk it on the head with a tree … yup  .. a tree!

My weaponised choice of tree … a Magnolia Grandiflora – part of the Rubber Tree family, and this particular one is planted right outside the entrance to Jan Smuts’ house in Irene – now a museum. Here’s my photo of it.

How did it get there? It was given to Jan Smuts by none other than Emily Hobhouse, the same person held up in South Africa as a sort of modern saint. Hobhouse was to become the champion of Afrikaner women and children in the concentration camps.  Hated by the British establishment, this “bloody woman” as they often referred her, continued a crusade to expose British maladministration of the camps back in the United Kingdom.  At her insistence commissions were put in place to look into the problem and stop the unusually high death rates and she went on a fund raising mission in the UK to help Boer woman and children. Her retort to her criticism “I’m not pro Boer, I’m British and this not our way”. 

What was Smuts doing at this time? Well, he was a ‘bittereinder’ – he was engaging guerrilla tactics, and very effectively at that. He was fighting to the bitter end – proving that actions whist governing and fighting in the field could actually work. As to concentration camps he was adding to the problem and he knew it, he needed to stop it quick so he did something about it.  Whist Kitchener was seeing successes as his scorched earth policy drove other Kommandos into submission, Smuts’ Kommando was having none of that, his Kommando is one of the few Boer success stories during this phase of the war.  

Smuts had taken his Kommando into the Cape Colony and right towards the end of the war he very successfully captured the copper mining town of Okiep and its surrounding towns – he did this as a last ditch effort to force the British to re-negotiate peace, and Smuts was again at that peace table to get a better deal for the Boers, he even drafted part of the Treaty of Vereeniging – the bits guaranteeing future self-governance. Instead of the political emancipation of Blacks, which the British wanted as peace term, Smuts was able to steer the peace agreement to put this thorny issue to a future independent South African parliament instead. By doing this Smuts guaranteed the survival of Boer culture, governance and identity, an inconvenient truth often glanced over by his modern day detractors. 

Did Smuts and his family escape the horrors of the concentration camps? No they did not, Isie Smuts, his wife, found herself under house arrest but insisted on being taken to a concentration camp. Other members of the Smuts family were not so lucky and landed up in the camps good and proper only to suffer the ravages of the system.  Smuts in suing for peace said “Comrades, we decided to stand to the bitter end. Let us now, like men, admit that that end has come for us, come in a more bitter shape than we ever thought.” One man in his Kommando shouted out ‘veraaier’ (traitor), the rest got Smuts’ point.

After the war, of all the Boer leaders it was Smuts and Emily Hobhouse and who became the strongest of friends. Hobhouse had previously been out to South Africa as part of the contingent to open the Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein. Here she called on the Boers and their leaders to ‘forgive’ the British in the Old Testament manner of forgiveness ‘because they could’, to some this resonated, to many it did not. However of all the Boer leaders it was in Smuts that she found her biggest fan, and if it was not for Smuts, Hobhouse would be all but forgotten – bold statement I know, but here’s why.

General Smuts, General Beyers and Emily Hobhouse at a garden party in Pretoria

Emily Hobhouse was a tireless ‘liberal’, by today’s standards she would be considered a radical ‘libtard’, her protests and activities did not stop at the Boer War – she was a tireless campaigner of causes and an endless critic of British governance.  During WW1, Hobhouse was an ardent pacifist. She organised the writing, signing and publishing in January 1915 of the ‘Open Christmas Letter’ addressed ‘To the Women of Germany and Austria’. In an attempt to initiate a peace process, she also secretly met with the German foreign minister Gottlieb von Jagow in Berlin, for which many in Britain branded her a traitor. 

Her popularity in her own country very damaged, but it was in Smuts that she found a confidant. So, back to the tree – She sent the seeds to Smuts and wrote to him:

“It is the Magnolia Grandiflora – my favourite of them – and I feel sure it would do well in Pretoria and if you give it a warm place it should also grow at Doornkloof, I think. Raised from seed the trees would be strong and hardy – do try it – do. You know the flowers, I suppose, large and white and powerfully sweet, if you touch them anywhere they turn brown. The leaf is also very handsome.”

Not just a pen pal, in all the correspondence Smuts found a kindred spirit in Hobhouse, Hobhouse would even advise Smuts on how to deal with things like the Maritz revolt and sometimes the relationship would even get to a very personal level, to the point that one could even raise a eyebrow or two. Smuts would call her the true warrior and he just a simple man that if left alone would just enjoy his surroundings. Hobhouse would lament that it was Smuts’ curse to be a warrior leader when he was really just a philosopher and botanist.  Hence the tree, she really got Smuts and understood him.

So back to the world of Emily Hobhouse, she had become generally despised by the British pubic and, not altogether surprising, by the governing elite, but she was also rejected by her own family. She died in London on the 8th June 1926 at the age of 66, alone and penniless. There were no mourners at her cremation, no clergymen even. 

It was merely the undertaker who placed her mortal remains in a casket. The casket was later shipped to South Africa and four months after her death thousands gathered to pay tribute to this tireless campaigner for human rights.  And who was there to bury her? – None other than Jan Smuts. 

At her funeral at the Vrouemonument (Women’s Monument) in Bloemfontein, Smuts stood up and gave her obituary and in his tiny, high pitched voice said to the thousands who had gathered “We stood alone in the world, friendless among the people, the smallest nation ranged against the mightiest empire on the earth. Then one small hand, the hand of a woman was stretched out to us. At that darkest hour when our race almost seemed doomed to destruction she appeared, as an angel, as a heaven sent messenger, and strangest of all she was an Englishwoman.”

In conclusion

Did Smuts contribute to the concentration camp crises, as a ‘Bittereinder’ alongside all the Boer generals taking the government and fight ‘to the veldt’ it would be hard to say he did not. Is he responsible for a ‘holocaust’ by ‘selling out to the British’ for creating the Union of South Africa – I’m afraid that’s pure hogwash.

So, back to the point, we just have to look at a simple tree to know that Smuts was no big fan of the British policy of ’empire’ in South Africa and he certainly was not a fan of their concentration camp system. The proof stands at Jan Smuts’ house, healthy to this day, over 100 years later and it is pure testament to that fact.

Written and Researched by Peter Dickens

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References: The Jan Smuts House Museum – Irene. Documentary by DSTV ‘Scorched Earth’. The Story of Emily Hobhouse, Pacifism and Hope Joshua Krook – New Intrigue. On Smuts’ role in the Treaty of Vereeniging reference: Meredith, Martin Diamonds, Gold and War. The Making of South Africa. London, Great Britain: Simon & Schuster.

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.