The ideology and identity of the Anglo-Boer War. The Afrikaner and the British with Native African labours in Witwatersrand

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2019

18 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of contents

1. Introduction / Overview
1.1 Research Question
1.2 Problem to be investigated
1.3 Objective Motivation
1.4 Personal Motivation

2. The Afrikaners / Boers

3. The British and Afrikaner

4. Cause of the Anglo – Boer War

5. Concentration Camps
5.1 Actual Debate10-
5.2 Africans in Concentration Camps

6. Black African Labour in Witwatersrand
6.1 Recruitment of African migrants
6.2 Mozambican Workers
6.3 The Relationship between Afrikaner and Africans
6.4 Labour Conditions
6.5 Forced Labour

7. The End of the War

8. Conclusion

9. Literature


1. In the media, the non–indigenous Africans are often presented as “whites”. However, the term paper will give a further definition and almost exclude the word “white”. In some cases, “white people” will be mentioned, but not in an offensive or negative judgement. Despite taking the Afrikaners into account, the paper will use these term “Europeans”, which also includes people who were born in South Africa and resident there but having European ancestors or former European settlers in South Africa.

2. In this term paper, the word “black” will be also use to describe circumstances in which people from African descents are involved, however, there is not an offensive purpose and no negative judgement in using this word. Therefore, the word will also be used in a correct combination like native black Africans. It is important to emphasize that there is no only the “Black Africans”. Among the native “black” Africans were the groups from the Tswana, Zulu, Southern Sotho, and the Swazi (Cp. Hallet, R. Africa since 1875, 1980, 618).

1. Introduction

The South African War (known as the Anglo-Boer War) from 1899 to 1902 remains the most destructive and terrible modern armed conflict, South Africa has experienced. The war represented itself as a powerful1 event, which shaped the history of South Africa in the twentieth century. The path to a major Anglo-Boer War was tortuous and involved conflicts of interest, ambitiousness and ideologies (Chapter 3)2, especially between the Boer “group” and the British. In order to understand the history of the Anglo–Boer war itself and the participates in the war (the Boers and the British), it is important to know the role of Europeans in South Africa by a historical analysis. The roots of the European heritage had begun mostly in the Netherlands. The Afrikaner history began in 1652. During the first half of the seventeenth century, the Netherlands belonged to the world’s leading trading nation. The VOC known as the “Vereenigde Oost – Indische Compagnie or the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch East India Company was a trading company, which was founded in 1602 in Amsterdam/Netherlands. On 6. April 1652, three Dutch ships arrived in Table Bay3. Table Bay was founded in 1652 by the Dutch navigator and colonial administrator Jan van Riebeeck (*1619 - †1677), which stretches south to the Cape of Good Hope (in Afrikaans it called Kaap die Goeie Hoop). Ninety Europeans disembarked in Table Bay. For the first three decades, most of the immigrants were single Dutch males. In 1657, Jan van Riebeeck (who joined the East India Company in 1639) released nine company servants to become full–time farmers4. Most settlers were immigrants from Western Europe who had enlisted as sailors or soldiers in the Company’s service and became afterwards farming burghers at the Cape5. However, the VOC had not intended to find a colony for European settlement at the Cape. Eventually, other nations arrived there. In 1688, the French Huguenots followed. But rather than France and Germany, the Netherlands influenced the character at the Cape6. Then the British arrived in 1795. During the Napoleonic Wars, they gradually captured the Cape from the Dutch and eventually “dominated” the country7.

1.1 Research question

This paper is about the question why a war took place in South Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth century between the Boers (explanation in chapter 2) and the British. This paper aims at trying to understand and distinguish the different position, ideologies, origins, views and tensions between the “two European participants” of the war. The aim of the paper will be to understand and investigate the reason of the European (and Afrikaner) hostility. Eventually, the result of the outbreak of the war. Moreover, the war was mostly interpreted as a “whites man’s war” by historians, in which only the actions and interests of the white communities in South Africa were directly involved8. Unfortunately, “one” group was not really taken into consideration. First, the participation of black people in the war. Secondly, the influence of the Anglo – Boer war to the black (also white) society and environment (Chapter 5). And third, the response by black Africans to the conflict which has been passed almost completely over the years9.

1.2 Problem to be investigated

Therefore, it is important to research on these issues and problematic, not only to understand the war itself, but to understand the South African environment and society today, which was previously shaped and influenced by the war10. Coming to the framework for analysis, the main argument about the native South Africans is guided by two variables. First, the paper investigates the relationship between the black Africans and the Boers by a historical analysis, and secondly, of the Black Africans at the Witwatersrand. This question will be approached by explaining the working relationship of the blacks on the gold mines in Witwatersrand11 /Transvaal. During the South African War, the mining industry hosted a large amount of African labour migration to Witwatersrand. The number had even increased in 189912. However, one of the vital points of the paper will be to take a precise look at the inhumane living and working conditions of the native Africans and the Afrikaners in the concentration camps in Transvaal (Chapter 5).

1.3. Objective Motivation

The prime objective of this paper is to investigate the situation between the Europeans, which was profoundly explained at the beginning. Moreover, the Afrikaner settlement and the black African labour forces during the Anglo–Boer War of 1899 to 1902, will be taken into account. Despite answering this question, which was formed in chapter 1.2, the focus will be on the important role of black Africans during the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. The paper at hand acknowledges the importance of the current struggle of the question of land distribution in South Africa. In 2018, the South African National Assembly voted democratically with a majority of 241 to 83 votes against the possibility of seizure of land from Afrikaners and Europeans farmers13. The seizure of these farmers will be made without any financial recompense or compensation14.

1.4 Personal Motivation

My personal motivation for this study results from an interest of analysing the question of territorial-land distribution and depravedness with political correctness of historical analyses. The effects of serval wars (like the Anglo-Boer War) and the Apartheid in South Africa, in which the former European setters, indigenous and local people were involved, left many open opinions and questions of occupation, of access to land as well as political and social rights of an individual person (which continue to last until today)15. One of the vital border issues during the Anglo- Boer War was the neglected warfare between Transvaal and Zululand16. The war, in which the Boers claimed more land, stretched from the Tugela River in the South to the Pongola River in the north and to the Baffalo Rivers. Eventually, the Zululand was annexed to the Colony of Natal in 1898 and, a year later, the Boers started their invasion of Zululand which led to many deaths on both sides17. All in all, 52 Zulus were killed and 42 were wounded18. This historical analysis shows that the question and “struggle” of territory and land of South Africa between the population are not new and the roots lay in the past. In the past (but, also nowadays), the black native South Africans were in disadvantages regarding land distribution19. However, due to the limited scope and the specific context of this term paper, the focus of disadvantaging the native Africans in the environment and also the dispute between the Boers and the Zulus during the Anglo–Boer war will be excluded.

2. The Afrikaners / Boers

As already explained in the previous sector, the Afrikaner history began at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company. In this context, the European settlement made Southern Africa genuinely their “own land”. But, during the Great Trek of the 1830s, thousands of Afrikaners moved out of the Cape Colony into the deeper interior of South Africa in order to escape British rule20. They moved among other things to Transvaal21. Eventually, the Boers founded the independent Republic of Transvaal in 1833. The “new Republic” was situated north of the Vaal River and south of the Limpopo River, and the state is bounded on the south by the Orange River Colony and Natal, on the west, by the Cape Colony22. Therefore, the Afrikaner people were called as the “Voortrekkers23 ”. In the early 1850s, the constitutional community called someone also “Afrikaner” when a person has attained specific requirements.

“We call people Afferkaanders not when they have only been born in this country, but they must share our belief”24.

Other terms of identification were Hollandse Afrikanen and Hollandse Boeren (which meant farmer in the Dutch language), Emigrants, Boeren and Boers. The Afrikaners were often characterized in a negative way and writers presented them in literature as people who could not speak their language or pronounce their names. Thus, they were considered backward, lacking in industry and being cruel in their ties with the indigenous people. Around the year 1860, 30.000 whites lived in Transvaal (27,000 of them were Afrikaners)25. By historically analysing the cause of the war, becomes obvious that the Boers had started the war. In the 1890s, the Boers planned to exploit the Zuid – Afrikaanische Republik / Transvaal. The propaganda aim was to impose a new territory (The Afrikanerdom) over the whole country. In addition, at this time, Transvaal was described as a state governed by the Afrikaner themselves26.

3. The British and Afrikaners

Britain (and the British people) have belonged to the “imperial”27 traders for hundreds of years. In the late 18th century, the British conquered the Cape. However, right from the start, an incipient tension had marked the relationship between the Afrikaners and the British at the Cape. Before the 1880’s and the impoverishment of the Boer republic, the Afrikaner had already conflicts with the British people. However, the conflict with the British was based more on local circumstances than having an imperial desire to expand in southern Africa. With the discovery of gold in Witwatersrand, the relation between the Boers and the Britons became worse. In 1886, gold was found in the rich and abundant goldfields of Witwatersrand. Never before had a mineral discovery brought so many dramatic, sudden and radical changes. Transvaal was characterized as by its rural backwardness, but the discovery of gold shaped the new country completely28. It seemed that the Zuid – Afrikaanische Republic could be improved both socially and economically.

“The Witwatersrand in the mid – 1880s was a sleepy sort of place. But within ten years all of this was to change as more 100.000 people flacked to the veld in search of gold.”29

Indeed, the Britons had a keen interest in the fields30. The new industrial mining economy acted as a magnet to the British investment and the discovery of gold gave the territory an economic hub31. With the finding of rich minerals, the way for the Anglo-Boer War was paved. The war was described as tortuous and involved conflict interest, ambitions as well as ideologies. One perspective of the war is the view that there occurred a classic struggle against the “greedy” intervention of the British. The Britons were completely aware of the output of the golds in Witwatersrand. Only two years later, in 1888, 44 mines were in operation. With a normal capital of nearly 7 million British Pounds and an output worth more than 1 million British Pounds, the investment was successful. By the end of the century the Witwatersrand mines were producing a quarter of the world’s gold32.


1 The description of the war as “powerful event” does not contribute to a positive event. More serious (negative and harmful) impacts.

2 Cp. Giliomee, Hermann., and Bernard Mbenga. New History of South Africa. Cape Town: Tafelberg, 2007, p. 210.

3 Cp. Giliomee, Hermann. The Afrikaners. Biography of a People. London: Hurst & Company, 2003, pp. 1, 3-5.

4 Cp. Ibid., p. 1.

5 Cp. Ibid., p. xiii.

6 Cp. Ibid., p. 5.

7 Cp. Van Heyningen, Elisabeth. “The South African War as humanitarian crisis”. International Review of the Red Cross (2015): 999 – 1028, p. 1004.

8 Cp. Warwick, Peter. “African Labour during the South African War, 1899 – 1902”. African Studies Series 40 (1983): 104 – 116. p. 104.

9 Cp. Ibid., p.104.

10 Cp. Ibid., p. 104.

11 Cp. Cammack, Diana. The Rand at War, 1899 – 1902. The Witwatersrand and the Anglo – Boer War, London: Villers Publication, 1990: Also, the city Johannesburg grew in the need of service, industry and mining. Therefore, Johannesburg became the focus of Rand`s social life. About half of it`s population were black African workers and families. However, due to the limited scope, the term paper will only include Witwatersrand.

12 Cp. Ibid., p. 104.

13 Cp. Osborn, Samuel: “South Africa votes through motion that could lead to seizure of land from white farmers without compensation”. Independent 2018, p. 1.

14 Cp. Ibid., 1.

15 Cp. De Villiers, Bertus. Land reform, Issues and challenges. A comparative overview of experiences in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and Australia. Johannesburg: Konrad - Adenauer Foundation 2003, p. 45.

16 Cp. Wassermann, John, “The Anglo – Boer War in the borderlands of the Transvaal and Zululand, 1899 – 1902, Scientia Militaria 39 (2011): 25 – 51, p. 25.

17 Cp. Ibid., p. 25.

18 Cp. Ibid., p. 25.

19 With the end of the Anglo – Boer War, the territorial question and desire did not end. In the Native Land Commission No.27 of 1913, the native (here indigenous, local and native Africans) were deprived of rights owning a land outside the Native reserves. For instance, it is said in the Act of 1913 [No.27] under Point 1.1 a: that a native should not enter into any agreement […] for purchase, hire [..] from a person other than a native, of any such land [..] or servitude. Moreover, even an (work) occupation in European–owned land was prohibited. Moreover, under Point 2.1 b: [..] natives shall not be permitted to acquire or hire land or interests in land. All in all, there was a deprivation for the native African population of territorial and political rights.

20 Cp. Van Heyningen, “The South African War” 2015, p. 1004.

21 Cp. GILIOMEE, “The Afrikaners” 2003, p. xiii.

22 Cp. Penrose Jr, Richard. “The Witwatersrand Gold Region, Transvaal, South Africa as seen in recent mining developments. The Journal of Geology 15 (1907): 735 – 749, p. 735.

23 Cp. Meintjes, Johannes. The Voortrekkers. The Story of the Great Trek and the Making of South Africa. Worthing: Littlehampton Book Service, 1973, p. viii: To “treak” means to migrate or emigrate (to “move on”). A person who had considered and moved away. “Voor” means someone is going front.

24 Cp. Giliomee, “The Afrikaners” 2003, p. 197.

25 Cp. Ibid., pp. 199 – 201.

26 Cp. Von Wyk – Smith, Malvern. „The Boers and the Anglo – Boer War 1899 – 1902 in Twentieth Century Moral Imaginary”. Victorian Literature and Culture 31 (2003): 429 – 446, p. 429.

27 Imperialism is used [here] as neutral word, which advocacy the extended desire of territorial environment.

28 Cp. Giliomee, H. and Mbenga, B. New History of SA 2007, p.199.

29 Cp. Cammack, D. The Rand at War 1990, p. 222.

30 Cp. Ibid. p.222.

31 Cp. Giliomee,.H. “The Afrikaners” 2003, p. 178: Transvaal was economically and politically weak. The territory had suffered from inefficient political structures and financial issues.

32 Cp. Ibid., p. 236.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


The ideology and identity of the Anglo-Boer War. The Afrikaner and the British with Native African labours in Witwatersrand
University of Kassel  (FB05-Gesellschaftswissenschaften)
Environmental History of Great Britain
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
South Africa war, Anglo-Boer War, British, Europeans
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Diana Vegner (Author), 2019, The ideology and identity of the Anglo-Boer War. The Afrikaner and the British with Native African labours in Witwatersrand, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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