Stellaland Restitution: a study in stupidity

Though I avoid social media like the plague, I was recently sent this article which apparently appeared on Facebook:



Front National SA

Stellaland Restitution

Background and history

Stellaland, officially known as the Republic of Stellaland (Dutch: Republiek Stellaland) from 1882–1883 and, after unification with the neighbouring State of Goshen, as the United States of Stellaland (Dutch: Verenigde Staten van Stellaland) from 1883–1885, was a Boer republic located in an area of Bechuanaland, west of the Transvaal.

During its short history, the small state became a focal point for conflict between the British Empire and the South African Republic, the two major players vying for control of the territory. After a series of claims and annexations, British fears of Boer expansionism ultimately led to its demise and, among other factors, set the stage for the Second Boer War.

Before the proclamation of the republic, the area was under the control of competing Griqua and Tswana groups, while the United Kingdom laid claim to it as part of the emerging protectorate of British Bechuanaland. Two of the indigenous groups were under the leadership of chiefs Mankoroane and Montsioa, whom the British regarded as “friendly,” and another two under the leadership of chiefs Moshette and Massouw. When a feud erupted between Mankoroane and another chief, each side resorted to recruiting volunteers, promising them land in return for their assistance. After a settlement was negotiated with mediation from the Transvaal Republic, large portions of Mankoroane’s land with 416 farms of 3,000 morgen (2,563 ha) each (15500 square kilometres) were given to Boer mercenaries who had fought on his adversary’s side, and the new inhabitants decided to declare independence.

The Republic of Stellaland was formally created on 26 July 1882, under the leadership of its elected president Gerrit Jacobus van Niekerk, a farmer from Transvaal, and was given the name Stellaland (Star Land) in reference to a comet that was visible in the skies at the time. The town of Vryburg was founded and declared its capital. At its founding, the new country covered an area of 15,500 km2 (5,985 sq mi) and was home to an estimated population of 20,500 individuals, 3,000 of whom were of European ancestry.

Whether or not the formal independence of any of these states was ever officially recognised is not entirely clear. In Stellaland’s favour, one can point out that the Montevideo convention which formalised the definition of sovereignty in the modern sense would not be signed until 1933, and that the local chiefs approved its existence. De iure recognition from the United Kingdom can be implied from a telegram that was erroneously sent by Sir Charles Warren, military commander for British Bechuanaland, to van Niekerk in which he endorsed Cecil Rhodes’ settlement in Stellaland. In February 1884, Great Britain unilaterally declared the area a British protectorate.

Stellaland’s laws and constitution were practically identical to those of the South African Republic. It never issued an independent currency, but instead—like all the surrounding states—used the South African pound; it did, however, print its own postage stamps beginning in February 1884 which are still traded among collectors to the present day.

Due to the fact that van Niekerk’s government had announced to levy taxes on all trade going through its territory, both Cecil Rhodes, founder of the De Beers diamond company, and the British administration feared a setback for their endeavours in the mining-business, since Stellaland lay on one of the main trade routes. It was also presumed that the small country could eventually be incorporated into the neighbouring South African Republic in an effort to circumvent the Pretoria Convention of 1881 which called for an end to Boer expansionism.

Rhodes even asserted that the area was of such a crucial nature to the Crown that if the territory held by Stellaland remained under Afrikaner control, British presence “should fall from the position of a paramount state in South Africa to that of a minor state.” These fears were fuelled when, on 10 September 1884, President Paul Kruger of Transvaal declared the area to be under the protection of the South African Republic and annexed it six days later. In December 1884 the British sent in a force under Sir Charles Warren, who invaded the country and subsequently abolished the republic in August of the following year before it was declared a British Protectorate.

The claim for restitution of the status of Stellaland:


Front National argues a restitution of Stellaland based on the following:

1. Stellaland is still a British Protectorate brought about by an agreement signed by Sir Alfred Milner on behalf of the British government and President Van Niekerk of the Republic of Stellaland in 1884.

2. Stellaland did not take part in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 – 1902 and was indeed, as a British Protectorate, used to house British troops in the conflict.

3. Stellaland as a territory was not included in the peace negotiations of 1902 at Vereeniging, comprising of the Cape Colony, Natal colony, Transvaal and the Free State.

4. Stellaland was not mentioned in the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910 from which the Republic of South Africa flowed in 1961.

5. It is our submission that Stellaland as a British Protectorate, governed by the constitution of the Republic of Stellaland, never ceased to exist for no law or statute can be found ending its existence.

6. We draw the attention to the fact that the Republic of Stellaland could not be annexed into the Union of South Africa by the British government as it was/is a British Protectorate.

This is but one example of a number or examples where the Afrikaner people have a legal, historical and inherited right to their own land and their own state of self determination.   


Unfortunately, this sort of thing confirms the old adage, ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King’: basically, when it comes to social media in general, and anything to do with the Boer War / Imperialism in particular, all anyone needs to do is string together a few words, chuck in a few random dates, mention Cecil Rhodes and Alfred Milner, and – hey presto! – anyone can fool the unthinking, unwashed masses into thinking you actually know what you’re talking about.

For example, and though, as an elected MP in the Cape Parliament, Cecil Rhodes was involved in the negotiations around Stellaland, he was hardly a major player as it all took place years before he formed De Beers, or became PM of the Cape Colony. But these days it is fashionable to blame Rhodes for everything, so I guess we should not be surprised.

Perhaps needless to say, but the ‘Front National’ were a Far Right South African political party (since rebranded as the ‘Afrikaner Self-Determination Party’) so it should come as little surprise that this rambling waffle is a load of ahistorical, self-serving codswallop. Indeed, only those who combine having zero knowledge of South African history with a resolute determination to believe what he’s written, will be cheerfully fooled by it.

So, after than entertaining insight into the fevered minds of the South African Far Right, let’s return to historical reality.

What actually happened was that, even before Kruger was formally elected president in 1883,[1] the Transvaal, emboldened by its victory in the First Boer War, quickly resumed the process of expanding its western borders. An ongoing tribal power struggle in Bechuanaland provided an opportunity for the Transvaalers to get involved and they again backed one chief against another after having been promised vast tracts of land as payment for their support.[2] Hundreds of ‘filibusters and freebooters’ from the Transvaal fought a nine-month campaign that essentially involved seizing cattle from the other faction.[3] The raiding and killing continued until the Transvaal Government suddenly imposed a peace and, rather conveniently, awarded itself a large chunk of land as a result. Though patently a colony of the Transvaal settled by hundreds of her people, this newly acquired territory, Stellaland, was nominally made an independent Boer republic.

But even grabbing this land was not enough, and the Transvaal quickly involved itself in another power struggle. A long-running feud between two rival Barolong chiefs, Moshete and Montsiwa, had kept southern Bechuanaland in a state of turmoil for many years.[4] Following a now familiar pattern, large numbers of Transvaalers travelled to fight for Moshete despite protests from the British. So great were their numbers and influence that it was the leader of these Transvaal Boers, the extravagantly named Nicolas Claudius Gey van Pittius—and not Chief Moshete—who directed operations.[5]

The Transvaalers and Moshete’s warriors drove Montsiwa from his main settlement at Sehuba and burned it to the ground.[6] Montsiwa’s followers retreated to Mafeking where, under the supervision of a handful of mainly British advisers, trenches were dug and fortifications constructed. Indeed, Mafeking was so well fortified that Moshete and the Transvaalers had no choice other than to lay siege to it in an attempt to starve out Montsiwa’s people.[7] It was an especially savage conflict. Women and children were targeted, and if captured, Montsiwa’s English-speaking advisers could expect no mercy from the Transvaalers. The brutal killing of one James Scott McGillivray caused a diplomatic outcry after it appeared that he had been captured by the Transvaalers, placed in chains, and murdered.

As before, the ZAR forced a peace on the situation and used this to snatch large portions of land. Most of Montsiwa’s territory was seized (as was a good chunk of Moshete’s) and his people were placed under the dubious ‘protection and control of the Transvaal Government’.[8] To rub salt into the wound, Montsiwa was also required to pay £16,000 to the Transvaal as a ‘war indemnity’.

As with Stellaland, the ZAR went through the charade of pretending that the newly snatched territory—shamelessly given the Biblical name of Goshen[9]—was an independent republic, rather than very obviously a colony of the Transvaal. In October 1883 moves were made to unite the two recently acquired mini-republics as the grandly termed ‘United States of Stellaland’[10] and then to formally annex this to the Transvaal, but events moved on before this could be done.

Still not satisfied with their expansion, the Transvaal Government then petitioned the British to let them take control of the whole of Bechuanaland, claiming that this was the only way to ‘maintain order’ in the area. In reality, Kruger had always intended to annex the Boer republics of Stellaland and Goshen to the Transvaal and continue expanding into Bechuanaland, thereby pushing his border toward the new German colony of South West Africa and the Atlantic Ocean. He was utterly determined to acquire a sea port.[11]

Alive to Kruger’s schemes of territorial expansion, London decided (rather than letting the Transvaal offer their own dubious form of protection over the whole area) that southern Bechuanaland should be taken under the Empire’s wing.[12] This was to be done with the bare minimum of cost and no troops were deployed. Indeed, the plan was that the Reverend John Mackenzie[13] would pretty much annex Bechuanaland single-handedly. Predictably enough, problems quickly arose when some of the inhabitants of Stellaland appealed for their territory to be included in the annexation, while others were completely against the idea. To make matters worse, on 10 May the Boers of Goshen again declared war on Montsiwa.[14] When the Reverend Mackenzie arrived in Mafeking a few days later, the crafty Montsiwa instantly agreed to British annexation and was thus suddenly in the happy position of being under imperial protection. This changed everything at a stroke and, as impressive a man as the Reverend Mackenzie undoubtedly was, he only realized belatedly that he would need a bit of back-up. This was to be supplied by the 100 strong Bechuanaland Mounted Police (BMP) swiftly raised by one Major Stanley Lowe. These troopers were ready for service by late July 1884, their numbers quickly having been increased to 130.

Unfortunately, the BMP was not formed in time to prevent the Goshen Boers from launching an attack on Montsiwa’s positions. At negligible loss to themselves the Goshenlanders killed over a hundred of Montsiwa’s men, though one death (that of Mr Christopher Bethell) was to cause a good deal more consternation than all the others. Mr Bethell came from a ‘good family in England’ and had been an adviser to Montsiwa for some years. Rather scandalously, he ‘had unfortunately formed a connection with a niece of the Chief’[15]and had also recently been granted a commission into the BMP—much to the fury of the Goshenlanders. Though the new unit was still mustering, Bethell was present during the battle and was badly wounded, losing one eye and much of one side of his face. Despite this, he was to receive no pity from the Goshen Boers, two of whom captured and taunted him before brutally murdering him in cold blood.[16]

With British prestige counting for little and no imperial troops on hand to enforce a settlement, the crisis spluttered on. The Goshenlanders were warned that they were making war on Great Britain herself by attacking a chief under her protection, but this cut little ice. The ZAR stepped in to try and resolve the problem in their customary style and brazenly proposed that all the land claimed by Montsiwa and Moshete, including Goshen, should be simply become a protectorate of the Transvaal.[17] Needless to say, the British didn’t concur.

Finally, the imperials acted. It was decided that Montsiwa should have all his territory restored to him and that the proposed annexation of the whole troublesome area should be undertaken. A 5,000-strong expeditionary force built around a few imperial units was raised, primarily from volunteers in the Cape. Elements of the Inniskilling Dragoons and the Northamptonshire Regiment (both of which were based in South Africa) formed the core of the force, and were bolstered by a detachment of the Scots Guards (shipped in from the Motherland). Three regiments of irregular horse were raised from local volunteers and, perhaps with a slight sense of déjà vu, the whole was placed under the command of Sir Charles Warren, by then a major general.[18]

Warren’s force assembled in Cape Town and marched north to Mafeking. Faced with something rather more formidable than Tswana tribesmen, the Goshenlanders thought better of giving battle and dispersed without firing a shot. The event was not entirely bloodless though. Several chiefs who had aligned themselves with the ZAR felt betrayed by this capitulation, and one—Massou—took his frustration out on Boer farmsteads. The Transvaal dealt with this in the usual fashion: an 800-man commando was dispatched under Joubert, and Massou’s warriors were quite literally blown apart by the State Artillery,[19] with Joubert’s men then driving off all Massou’s cattle and sheep to cover the costs of the commando.

On 23 March 1885 a proclamation was issued declaring a British protectorate over ‘the whole territory from the western boundary of the South African Republic to the 20th meridian from Greenwich, and from the Cape Colony to the 22nd parallel of south latitude’.[20] The Transvaal’s schemes had been foiled.

On 30 September 1885, Stellaland, Goshen and other territories to the south of the Molopo and Nossob rivers (excluding Griqualand West) were constituted as the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland. British Bechuanaland was initially administered as a separate entity, before being annexed to the Cape Colony in 1895. Today, the area is entirely within the borders of the Republic, in the area of Mafeking / Mafikeng / Mahikeng.

So, to take the 6 points which this writer laid out, and upon which he ‘case’ (ahem) apparently rests:

1. Stellaland is not ‘still a British protectorate’. It was part of the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland (not a Protectorate) from 1885, which was, in turn, annexed to the (Self-Governing) Cape Colony in 1895. Milner had nothing at all to do with this in any case, though his name is always just dropped in to add a pretence of historical accuracy and because he is some sort of bogey-man to such people. Milner did not take up his role in South Africa until 1897; indeed, back in 1884, Milner was still a journalist at the Pall Mall Gazette.

2. The area which had been known (briefly) as Stellaland was involved in the Boer War – it was one of the parts of the Cape Colony which was invaded by Kruger’s commandos. Mafeking was famously (though unsuccessfully) besieged, and Vryburg – the ‘capital’ of the former republic – was captured by the invading Boers under General de la Rey. Such was the enthusiasm with which some Afrikaans residents of the town greeted de la Rey’s invaders that the British commander, Assistant-Commissioner Scott, shot himself in shame.[21] De la Rey then read a proclamation declaring that ‘the Republican flag was flying over all the land north of the Orange River and would continue to fly there forever’[22] Needless to say, his rather arrogant prediction didn’t work out so well.

3. Stellaland as a territory was indeed included in the peace negotiations of 1902 at Vereeniging, as it was part of the Cape Colony. It would be like saying Yorkshire was not included, as it was not specifically mentioned as being a component part of Great Britain.

4. Stellaland was not specifically mentioned in the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910 from which the republic of South Africa flowed in 1961… because it was part of the Cape Colony. See above.

5. From 1885, Stellaland was a part of the Crown Colony (not Protectorate) called British Bechuanaland, which was then incorporated into the Cape Colony in 1895.

6. The former republic of Stellaland was part of the Cape Colony by the time the Union of South Africa was formed, and was not a British Protectorate.

Given the total lack of understanding, knowledge, or even semi-coherent thought processes displayed in this article, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Front National / Afrikaner Self-Determination Party are not making much impact at the ballot box. I would suggest they give up on politics, and instead try reading a little about the history of the nation which, though so passionate about, they are clearly completely ignorant of.


[1] Theal, History of South Africa from 1873–1884, p. 133

[2] Ibid, p. 146

[3] Ibid, p. 147

[4] Ibid, p. 148

[5] Ibid, p. 150

[6] Walker, p. 396

[7] Mafeking would famously be besieged again during the Second Boer War.

[8] Theal, p. 152

[9] Walker, A History of Southern Africa, p. 396

[10] Theal, p. 153

[11] Farrelly, The Settlement After the War, p. 68

[12] Walker, p. 403

[13] Ibid, p. 399

[14] Theal, p. 159

[15] Ibid, p. 149

[16] Ibid, p. 161

[17] Ibid, p. 165

[18] Warren would later be the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police during the Jack the Ripper killings before returning to the Army and commanding the imperial forces at Spion Kop. He was promoted to General in 1904.

[19] Theal, p. 175

[20] Ibid, p. 171

[21] Gardner, Mafeking, p. 71

[22] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 2, p. 272


  • M. Froneman Posted April 13, 2021 6:07 pm

    Indeed another display of brilliance by Mr Ash. Applying actual facts to address and respond to unsubstantiated claims by those too narrow minded to acknowledge that ignorance to facts are not bliss, but embarrassing. Thanks for your continued dedication to speaking your mind, and embracing the indifference of ignorant opinions.

  • Chris Posted April 20, 2021 7:55 am

    Looks like the Bulldog is going to have to “gird his loins” and start a YouTube TV channel

    Rudi Rousseau and Helene Opperman Lewis

    Rudie Rousseau
    4.06K subscribers

    Ja ‘n hele paar mense se waarom karring julle nog aan met ‘n oorlog wat lank verby is. Miskien vir jou maar as jy ‘n Boer is en jou DNS se so dan kan jy nie anders om trots te voel vir ‘n Volk wat die Britse Empire bloedneus vir 3 jaar gegee het nie.En dit sonder enige militere opleiding. Dis waarom tot in ons Bos oorlog ons ‘n weermag was wat die beste in Afrika was. Die reeks is by my beskikbaar.

    BIt like the fires on Table Mountain ….

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