With England soon to face South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final, this meme has been doing the rounds on WhatsApp. All very funny and everything, but astonishing to see the way that ‘the Boers’ are equated with ‘South Africa’.
The notion that Kruger’s corrupt, tin-pot, violently racist, anti-Semitic and expansionist republic (which, of course, started the Boer War by invading other parts of modern-day South Africa) is in some way representative of the modern notion of ‘South Africa’ is mind-boggling, and shows a complete and utter lack of understand of the conflict.
Not only were South Africa’s English speaking whites overwhelming on the side of ‘England’ (in reality, the British Empire of course) during the Boer War, but so were the vast majority of the non-white population of South Africa… so I doubt they’d be too impressed to see Kruger’s invaders held up as their supposed heroes.
As I risk being accused of not being able to take a joke, I’ll only offer a couple of quotes on this front:
‘Knowing that a Boer invasion was just days away, the Natal Government ignored an Imperial instruction not to raise additional local units and, on 3 October 1899, gave an order for a corps of Natal Native Scouts to be formed. The officer in charge of recruiting the new unit, Robert Samuelson of the Natal Carbineers, immediately rode out to meet Chief Khumalo, a man of over 100 years old who lived about twenty miles to the north of Ladysmith. The old chief agreed to help, and addressed his tribesmen the following day:
‘My children this is the day of days; an impudent foe, the Boers, are preparing to fight against Her Majesty the Queen, our sovereign and mother, who has for so many years spread her wings over us to protect us, and who is minded to continue spreading her wings like an angel over us till they touch the earth; That Queen requires your services, go and serve her till death.’‘
…a ‘colour-blind’ franchise operated in the [British-run] Cape whereby any adult male, irrespective of the colour of his skin, was entitled to register as a voter provided he could pass a simple literacy test and either owned property to the value of £75 or possessed an annual income exceeding £50. The franchise was looked upon by members of the black elite as the corner-stone of their liberties and opportunities in Cape society.
– Peter Warwick in Black People and the South African War, 1899–1902
‘In addition to this casual mass-murder, rural non-whites could expect the bittereinders to descend on their settlements and commandeer anything they fancied. Upon being ordered by raiders to pay tribute, one plucky native police constable in Barkly East replied, ‘Kruger is not baas here and I am not going to pay him a penny, he can do what he wish I am a Government man and not yours, and I am under the English Government, not him. I am sick of these Boers with their nuisance towards me.’
And a final word from the Great Sir Winston Churchill himself:
What is the true and original root of Dutch aversion to British rule? It is the abiding fear and hatred of the movement that seeks to place the native on a level with the white man … the K*****r is to be declared the brother of the European, to be constituted his legal equal, to be armed with political rights.
– Winston Churchill, 1900
Anyway, in terms of the rugby, may the better team win!