The National-Party-approved narrative of the Boer War frantically tried to portray the Boers as innocent, noble warriors, heroically standing up to vile, rapacious, cowardly British Tommies after the British Empire launched an unprovoked attack on the peace loving republics. To Apartheid-era propagandists, the only reason the Boer Titans were finally defeated is because the wicked Brits resorted to ‘methods of barbarism’. Most amusingly, this rubbish is still peddled today by a clutch of (mainly) South African pseudo-historians / so-called academics who really should know better. As they know their position is ludicrously weak, anyone who dares challenge them is simply dismissed as a ‘jingo’.
To show the other side of the coin therefore, I thought it might be interesting to show some of the ‘methods of Bar-Boer-ism’ which the ‘noble’ Boers (who, let us never forget, started the war by invading British territory) were indulging in – and long before Kitchener’s much-maligned Scorched Earth policy.
Here is an extract of a report of Maynard Mathews, the Magistrate of the Natal village of Weenen, describing the havoc the invading Boers wrought in 1899:
‘With true military instinct the village inn was early invaded, and a scene of consequent riot and drunkenness naturally followed. An effort was made by the better burghers to check the orgy, but as one door was barred another was broken open , and the game was played to its inevitable end of a general destruction of what was not capable of being consumed or carried away
As the afternoon merged into evening a general looting of all the stores in the village progressed and numbers of natives gradually gathering – obviously to gain what they could in such a condition of lawlessness – I applied repeatedly to the officers of the commando who had entered the village for an interview with their Commandant on the question, particularly, of responsibility for these proceedings. Wearied of waiting for fulfillment of their assurances that he would be coming in presently, I at length drove out to see him in company of the resident Dutch church minister, the reverend Andrew Milne Murray. Asst Commandant Joubert received me very courteously, dismounting from his charger to exchange salutations I communicated to him such statements as I had been confidentially instructed to do by the prime minister, told him of the conduct of his forces in the village and urged that what was occurring were scarcely in accordance with the intentions expressed in his letter to the effect that if no resistance was offered his commando would merely “pass through the town”
He turned the conversation abruptly away telling me that his burghers were unable to find any police, and that he was informed that I had sent them away with despatches advising the authorities of the arrival of his commando, adding that if the Light Horse fell upon them in that valley that night, he would not answer for my life in the morning.
I believe that my slumbers during that eventful night were shadowed by visions of that evidently much feared force, the Imperial Light Horse descending upon the bucolic burghers and my career as a humble unit of Her Majesty’s Civil Service ended abruptly in sight of Mauser muzzles. But the Light or any other horse came not that night, or the next, or the next and the commando, leaving behind a few lingering inebriates, were well on their way to Cliffdale the farm of J.W. Wallace, esq, C.E. rising out of the Umgwenya valley onwards towards Highlands by morning.
Before the rearguard left, they removed by force one Du Plooy, of Carolina, Z.A.R., who after persistently “removing” the horses of the local gaoler, Mr W.J. Parsons, from their stable, endeavoured to shoot away the lock of the canteen door with his rifle. A bad shot grazing a comrade across the Bushman’s river, this person, who had been taken away previously and returned more than once, was finally removed under arrest.
Lastly a patrol in charge of a former resident of this district, rode back from the advancing commando to inspect the looted premises, together with a small party of Boers. They expressed themselves at being very much ashamed of, and annoyed at the conduct of their comrades, stating that such proceedings were in direct opposition to the strict orders of the Commandant!
At the same time the party consoled the proprietors of the wrecked property by assuring them Weenen had got off lightly compared to other places.”They should see Dundee”.’
“Joubert” is David Joubert
Mathews built the smallest church in SA at the top of Van Reenen’s Pass, in memory of his son