What would the Uitlanders think?

‘The Transvaal was in no way a democracy. No Catholic or Jew was allowed to vote or hold office. Every Boer was compelled to own a rifle; no non-Boer was allowed to. Johannesburg, with 50,000 mainly uitlander inhabitants, was not even allowed an unelected municipal council. English was banned in all official proceedings. Judges were appointed by Kruger, who controlled all the Government monopolies from jam to dynamite. By far the largest proportion of the tax burden was carried by the uitlanders, yet no open-air public meetings were permitted. Newspapers could be closed down arbitrarily without any reason given. Above all, full citizenship was almost impossible to gain for non-Boers. Pretoria ran a tight, tough, quasi-police state.’[1]
– Baron Andrew Roberts of Belgravia, FRSL FRHistS

Exasperated by years of load-shedding, kleptomania and ineptitude, the other day a friend jokingly compared the situation of the increasingly marginalised white community in today’s South Africa, to that of the Uitlanders in Kruger’s Transvaal. Of course, claiming a direct equivalence would be to enormously overstate matters: while both groups endure(d) living under incompetent and corrupt governments, the uitlanders were actively persecuted and violently discriminated against in a way modern-day white South Africans certainly are not. But there is nevertheless at least a degree of truth in the statement.

Both groups were / are, one way or another, essentially politically powerless – the uitlanders absolutely so, of course, as the Kruger regime moved Heaven and Earth to deny them a fair franchise. Though their situation is not as overt, when faced with seemingly never-ending, de facto One-Party rule by the ANC, many modern-day South African whites opt to live on the edge of society, having accepted that their votes make so little difference that there’s no point, and simply ignoring politics and current affairs. Anecdotally, I don’t know anyone who really bothers getting involved – though I imagine it is different in the Western Cape, where there is at least a semblance of democracy.

What is more, both groups are blatantly treated as a milch cow by a ruling party which (in general) they don’t support, and thus which feels no shame in bleeding them dry to pay for whatever crazy extravagance pops into mind.

In the economic basket-case that is modern-day South Africa, just 2% of the population pay 80% of all personal tax raised – with just 117,000 people paying 27% of all income tax[2]. That is – obviously – not to say that this 2% only includes white South Africans, but there can be no doubt that, as average white incomes are around five times higher than average black incomes[3], the white community – which only accounts for about 7% of the total population – is paying a disproportionate amount of the taxes collected. What is more, with the bulk of the ANC ‘base’ not having to worry about paying any tax at all[4], there really is little to stop the government squeezing their milch cows for all they are worth – it’s hardly as though they have to worry about losing their votes.

The situation in Kruger’s Transvaal was even more marked, though one noteworthy difference is that, while South African whites today are a small minority, by the mid-1890s, the uitlanders were generally accepted to significantly outnumber the Transvaal Boers, at least in terms of adult males[5]. It is difficult to get truly accurate figures, but even the Transvaal’s own Staats Almanak, for example, reckoned the total white population of the republic to be 300,000, of whom some 175,000 were male. Just 29,447 of these were listed as burghers between the ages of 16 and 60, and eligible to vote; the number of male uitlanders, between the same ages, was given as 81,000.[6]

The skills, know-how, investment, and hard work of this diverse, but mainly English-speaking, community was almost entirely responsible for building the Transvaal into a semi-recognisable nation, and transforming its economy – so much so that, by 1895, it was reckoned the uitlanders contributed 90% of the nation’s taxes.[7] Despite this, Kruger’s ruling cabal arrogantly and jealously dismissed their perfectly reasonable requests for fair democratic representation, and constantly changed the franchise rules to deny them the vote.[8] This stands in stark contrast to the Britain’s self-governing Cape Colony, where a colour-blind franchise law was in place[9], and there was – obviously – no attempt to ban Afrikaners from voting.

When their petitions to draw attention to the situation were arrogantly dismissed and ignored, the uitlanders had had enough, and a ‘Reform Committee’[10] was formed to fight this blatant injustice. Despite having campaigned for democratic reform against an autocratic, corrupt, and highly racist regime, these ‘revolutionaries’ (described by a refreshingly politically incorrect modern commentator as ‘the ANC whiteys of the age’[11]) have never caught the eye of the British Left in the way that all other such groups of recent history have.

Their peaceful efforts to prompt change were ridiculed by the Kruger Government, and one member of the volksraad even laughed at the presentation of a petition, shouting, ‘Come on and fight! Come on!’. Kruger himself showed similar contempt for the Reform Committee’s peaceful demonstrations (and for peaceful government in general), declaring: ‘Protest! Protest! What is the good of protesting? You have not got the guns—I have.’[12] It will be interesting to see the reaction if and when the ANC ever find their grip on power seriously threatened, and fear their ride on the gravy train might finally be coming to an end. It is not difficult to imagine a similar response.

Attend any braai in South Africa today, and a commonly-heard refrain is: “I wouldn’t mind paying tax, if only we saw some benefit from it”. One could have heard thousands of uitlanders saying the same thing in the 1890s; instead, the taxes they paid were – by and large – snatched away for the benefit of the very people who kept them starved of representation. Despite the uitlanders paying the lion’s share of the tax in the Transvaal, the Kruger Government steadfastly discriminated against the education of their children, for example.

As Percy Fitzpatrick noted at the time, the Kruger regime’s contempt for education ran deep, and they were, ‘against any encouragement of liberal education which would involve the use or even recognition of the English language. Indeed, some of the legislators have been known to express the opinion that education was not by any means desirable, as it taught the rising generation to look with contempt on the hardy Voortrekkers; and an interesting debate is on record, in which members pointedly opposed the granting of facilities for the education of their own women-kind, on the ground that presently the women would be found reading books and newspapers instead of doing their work, and would soon get to know more than their fathers, husbands, and brothers, and would, as a consequence, quickly get out of hand’.[13] It is perhaps not surprising that Kruger died firmly believing the Earth to be flat.

This discrimination against the schooling of English-speaking children led to the ridiculous situation (though one familiar to many modern-day white South Africans) where the uitlanders paid for the schooling of others through their taxes… only to be forced to pay again to adequately educate their own children.

Fitzpatrick continued: ‘The appalling consequences of allowing the young population to grow up in absolute ignorance were realized by the people of Johannesburg, and efforts were constantly made to induce the Government to recognize the evil that was growing in the State. The efforts were so entirely unsuccessful that the Uitlanders found in this as in other cases that nothing would be done unless they did it for themselves. A fund was opened, to which very liberal donations were made. The services of a Director-General were secured, and an Educational Council was elected. A comprehensive scheme of education—in the first place for the Rand district, but intended to be extended ultimately for the benefit of the whole of the Uitlander population in the Transvaal—was devised, and it was calculated that in the course of a few years a fund of close upon half a million of money would be required, and would be raised, in order to place educational facilities within the reach of the people. Needless to say, this did not at all square with the policy of the Transvaal Government, and the scheme was looked upon with the utmost disfavourThe actual sum expended on Uitlander schools last year amounted to £650, or 1s. 10d. a head out of a total expenditure for education of £63,000, the expenditure per Dutch child amounting to £8 6s. 1d… Imagine it! £650 used for the children of those who contributed nine-tenths of the £63,000 spent on education![14]

Worse still, the tax paid by Kruger’s milch cows was not just used to line the pockets of his clique, and buy the support of his self-appointed Chosen People. In what could perhaps be seen as a foreshadowing of the ANC’s outrageously dodgy ‘Arms Deal’ of the late 1990s[15], much of the tax paid by the long-suffering uitlanders was spent on the Transvaal’s splurge on German and French weaponry – weapons which were then used to attack the British Empire in 1899. Essentially, the (mainly British) uitlanders were forced to fund Kruger’s insane (and hopelessly doomed) attempt to drive the British from the region[16].

And just as modern-day South Africans understandably rant about cronyism and the dire, corruption-riddled state of Government-owned monopolies like Eskom, Transnet, SAA, and the Post Office, so the Uitlanders complained about Kruger’s shockingly corrupt and mismanaged state monopolies over the likes of the railways, liquor production, and dynamite supply – all of which were run for the benefit of the old troll’s inner-circle.

Even when they weren’t raping the place for every penny they could, the leaders of the Transvaal’s self-declared Master Race showed no interest in building a modern, forward-looking nation, and instead thrived on small-minded nonsense. Kruger himself led a (successful) opposition to the introduction of pillar-boxes on the grounds that they were ‘extravagant and effeminate’,[17] while a proposal to formalize a register for births, deaths, and marriages was comprehensively rejected for being ‘an attack on religious principles’. Other Luddite volksraad members similarly spoke out against the introduction of railways and trams.[18] There were undoubtedly others with keener intellects, but over the years, wide-eyed volksraad zealots earnestly deliberated over such things as whether or not certain words were real if they could not be found in the Bible, the importance of defining the shape and size of neckties, establishing a monopoly to supply jam, and outlawing barmaids.[19] Suddenly even the insane outbursts from the red-beret-wearing rabble-rousers of today’s EFF don’t seem quite so bad.

Another huge benefit today’s white South Africans enjoy over the long-suffering uitlanders is that at least they are not liable to be called up by the ANC for military service. In 1894, when the Transvaal went to war with yet another African chief,[20] large numbers of British uitlanders were called up to fight for the republic. Uitlanders of all other nationalities were exempt,[21] and many perceived this as a calculated insult to Great Britain and a deliberate attempt to test her resolve. Understandably enough, many of those conscripted in this fashion refused to fight, declaring that they had no intention of bearing arms for a country that denied them the vote. Meetings were held and an uitlander association was formed to challenge the conscription. This enjoyed the support of various churchmen and of Advocate J. W. Wessels, who stated: ‘It is not at all clear to me that the Government can commandeer any but burghers to suppress the k****r rebels.[22]

Understandably, tensions were high and the uitlanders were in what was described as a ‘state of unarmed uprising’. In scenes which would be repeated across South Africa in the 1970s and ’80s, the July of that year saw the Transvaal police—the much-hated ZARPs—cracking down on demonstrations with considerable brutality which also extended to the community at large. On 8 October 1894, an Englishwoman attempted to come to the aid of her servant girl who was being attacked by a ZARP officer. The brute kicked Mrs Simpson so hard in the stomach that she would die from her injuries.[23] Danie Theron[24], a Krugersdorp lawyer who would later gain notoriety during the guerrilla war, physically assaulted the anti-Kruger editor of the Johannesburg Star, only to have his fine paid by his cheering supporters who packed the courthouse.[25] It is small wonder that the uitlanders had had enough.

When the state attorney took action against a group of uitlanders who refused to fight, the uitlander association raised funds to defend them. They were nevertheless found guilty and taken to the front under military escort. Others were thrashed for the same offence.[26] When this situation was reported to London by the British resident, Sir Jacobus de Wet, the imperial response was somewhat pathetic. To the fury of the uitlanders, all the British Government did was courteously request that British subjects be exempted from service; this despite the fantasies of certain South African ‘academics’ who like to pretend London was so desperate to attack the poor, innocent Boers, that British policy was to gleefully grab at any casus belli they could. While this sort of self-pitying ‘woe, is me’, faux-victimhood is lapped up by the sheep-like Defenders of the Myth, and goes down well at AWB rallies, it is certainly not based on anything as inconvenient as historical fact.

Needless to say, even this perfectly reasonable request was simply ignored by the Transvaal until secret talks were held between Kruger and Sir Henry Loch,[27] British High Commissioner for Southern Africa, during which Kruger ‘graciously’ exempted the uitlanders from conscription.[28] The spiteful old Flat Earther still did not, however, deign to grant them a fair franchise. It was a typical Kruger bargaining tactic: by begrudgingly conceding on one point—and only to what was entirely reasonable in the first place—he pretended he was the one prepared to be conciliatory. Kruger’s supporters and apologists elsewhere, both then and now, seemed to think the uitlanders should have been so grateful to have escaped conscription, that they should have given up their aspirations to gain fair franchise laws.

So perhaps things aren’t so bad today after all. Next time you find yourself moaning about load-shedding or reading about the soaring murder rate, bitching about government corruption and incompetence, shaking your head at their attempts to indict Israel for ‘genocide’, and generally contemplating emigrating to New Zealand, take a moment to think; at least all South Africans get to go through the motions of voting today, and, however utterly useless they might be, you can console yourself with the thought that – unlike the Kruger regime – at least the ANC won’t press-gang you to invade their neighbours. Well, they haven’t yet.


[1] Roberts, Salisbury, p.717

[2] https://dailyinvestor.com/finance/4748/just-2-million-south-africans-pay-80-of-all-personal-income-tax/

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN15B173/

[4] No income tax is payable on the first R91,250 of income – the average income for a black South African is R92,893 – obviously, this average is vastly inflated by a relatively small number of very wealth black South Africans

[5] Needless to say, both groups were small minorities when the (completely disenfranchised) African population of the Transvaal is considered

[6] Guyot, Boer Politics, p.71

[7] Conan-Doyle, The Great Boer War, p.27

[8] At the end of the First Boer War in 1881, the franchise was available after one year’s residency in the Transvaal, but was raised to five years in 1882 and ultimately to 14 years.

[9] The Cape Qualified Franchise – this was only finally dismantled by the National Party government after WW2. Which is why it always amuses me when certain morons try to claim that Britain is responsible for Apartheid

[10] After the Jameson Raid, the Reform Committee would evolve into the South African League

[11] Guardian, 18 November 2010

[12] Conan-Doyle, p.32

[13] Fitzpatrick, The Transvaal from Within, ch.2

[14] Fitzpatrick, The Transvaal from Within, ch.2

[15] Formally called the ‘Strategic Defence Package’, this was a full-on, ‘snouts in the trough’, feeding frenzy as numerous ANC / ex-MK big-wigs, and various other dodgy ‘fixers’, helped themselves to millions

[16] Desperate as ever to absolve their racist, warmongering heroes of all responsibility for the actions, today’s Kruger apologists like to pretend this massive expenditure on weaponry was a response to the Jameson Raid; this is not true – it began prior to the Raid, and – indeed – the building of a Fort to dominate Johannesburg was one of the things that prompted the attempted uprising

[17] Fitzpatrick, The Transvaal from Within, p.307

[18] Gordon, The Growth of Boer Opposition to Kruger, p.8

[19] Fitzpatrick, pp.305–11

[20] The Malaboch War, fought in the Blouberg area of what would later be known as the Northern Transvaal. The tribe in question was the Bahananwa and the catalyst was their refusal to pay tax to the Boers

[21] Scoble & Abercrombie, The Secret History of South Africa, p.74

[22] Ibid, p.93

[23] Scoble & Abercrombie, p.166

[24] Daniël Johannes Stephanus ‘Danie’ Theron (1872 – 1900). Born in Britain’s Cape Colony, Theron had settled in the Transvaal by the time of the Boer War was thus just as much of an Uitlander as the English-speakers Kruger discriminated against. A school teacher turned lawyer, Theron established a Corps of Scouts, and was killed in action by British forces in September 1900. Charlize Theron, the Hollywood actress, is his great-great niece

[25] Lee, To the Bitter End, p.127

[26] Scoble & Abercrombie, p.133

[27] Henry Brougham Loch, 1st Baron Loch GCB, GCMG (1827–1900), High Commissioner for Southern Africa, 1889–95.

[28] Scoble & Abercrombie, p.159


  • Chris Posted January 22, 2024 4:19 pm

    To continue the theme ..
    Another similarity – although it somewhat negates the idea of how hard life was for the very hard done by Uitlanders
    That is the failure of the Jameson raid – but – more importantly the failure of the “revolution” under the auspices of the Reform Committee.
    Even though rifles had been smuggled into the ZAR and to the reef there was noone prepared to actually fight – for freedom.
    For some ( randlords with wonderful mansions )life in the ZAR was somewhat like the “flesh pots of Egypt”


    Clearly then the Uitlanders were hoping that someone ELSE would come and do the letting of blood for their freedom

    Currently VERY much like the embittered ( but helpless ) minorities in South Africa

    • Bulldog Posted January 23, 2024 8:12 am

      The fact that most uitlanders didn’t pick up a rifle hardly ‘negates’ the fact that they were very much discriminated against; most women in the UK also didn’t take up arms to get the vote, nor did most blacks in Rhodesia and South Africa.

      It is certainly true that, when push came to shove, the much-talked-about uitlander ‘uprising’ was very much a damp squib. This had a lot to do with the uitlanders being unable to agree on what they wanted to achieve / which flag they would fight under etc. For a few days, the uitlanders did seize control of Johannesburg, however, and it is a crying shame that Jameson’s Raiders were unable to get through to them.

      A reformed republic – and, with it, the end of Kruger’s corrupt and chaotic rule – in the mid-1890s would have meant no Boer War, and thus none of the horrors and division that Kruger’s later ‘Crusade’ caused.

      • Chris Posted January 23, 2024 11:18 am

        Yes .. “IF ONLY”
        Kruger could have been voted out – in fact some say he was
        According to some ( “Spoilt Ballots” Mathew Blakeman & Nic Dall ) Kruger crooked the election depriving Joubert who nearly won the presidency.
        Of course a by-product of Jameson’s folly was the strengthening of Krugers hold on the burgers and the Republic.

        • Bulldog Posted January 23, 2024 11:22 am

          Absolutely – the Raid was totally counter-productive. Not only did it strengthen Kruger’s position domestically, he then shamelessly used it to justify pretty much everything else he did – even things that predated it. Amazingly, there are still some who fall for this trickery today.

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