“Only fighting for independence…”

Propagandists universally justify the use of military violence by portraying it as morally defensible and necessary. To do otherwise would jeopardize public morale and faith in the government and its armed forces… propagandists disguised military aggression aimed at territorial conquest as righteous and necessary acts of self-defense. They cast Germany as a victim or potential victim of foreign aggressors, as a peace-loving nation forced to take up arms to protect its populace.[1]
– US Holocaust Memorial Museum

All one has to do is substitute the word ‘Germany’ with ‘Kruger’s Transvaal’, and it suddenly looks exactly like the excuses that Defenders of the Myth spew out about the Boer War. One of their most oft-squawked claims is that the republics were ‘only fighting for their independence’ – and thus were, of course, the poor, innocent victims of the piece. This despite the undeniable fact that they – just like Germany some 40 years later – were the ones who started the war by attacking and invading their neighbours. Some especially deluded fanatics even like to refer to the Boer War as the Tweede Vryheidsoorlog – ie. the ’Second Freedom War’ – thus attempting to re-brand it as a war of independence. This re-branding is clearly a desperate attempt to make it all sound a little more justifiable, but it is complete nonsense.

For a start, both Boer republics were, for all intents and purposes, already independent in 1899. As part of the treaty which ended the First Boer War – and which was thus agreed by both sides – the Transvaal remained under British Imperial suzerainty, but aside than banning the practice of slavery (hardly an onerous request) it had little other day-to-day impact, and Kruger pretty much ignored the other aspects anyway. One is left to assume that those who so passionately defend the Boer republics today, do so as they equate ‘independence’ and ‘freedom’ with ‘the right to practice slavery’ (and ‘the right to deny the vote to all except the self-appointed Chosen People’).

Even those few True Believers who are intelligent and well-informed enough to realise that the Boer republics were already independent don’t let this get in the way of their bizarre desperation to play the victim. Instead, they simply declare that this independence was ‘under threat’… which, again, is rubbish.

The junior partner in the unholy alliance, the Orange Free State, enjoyed perfectly good relations with Britain, and had done so for decades. Indeed, ever since the republic was founded in 1854, the only threat to its independence had been from the Transvaal, which had attempted to invade it in 1857[2]. Despite Bloemfontein’s friendly relations with London, Kruger was determined to drag his neighbouring republic into his ‘crusade’ to drive the British from the region; though studiously ignored by Pakenham and the other Defenders of the Myth, secret talks[3] to persuade the OFS to join the Transvaal in an offensive alliance against the Empire had been held way back in 1887[4]. Given that Great Britain was the Orange Free State’s largest trading partner by far, and that its President, Jan Brand[5], had maintained such friendship towards the British Empire that he had been awarded a GCMG, these were – unsurprisingly – rebuffed.

Though an astounded President Brand rejected the proposal, Kruger did not give up. A few months later, in the October of 1887, the old troll travelled to Bloemfontein to continue to push for an offensive alliance. Brand replied that he would never be party to attacking British territory so an offensive alliance was pointless. In respect to a defensive alliance, Brand pointed out that the Orange Free State was on good terms with her neighbours and thus had no need for that either. He went on to tell Kruger that the Transvaal would also have no need of a defensive alliance, so long as they remained peaceful and cautious[6] – not words one tends to associate with Kruger’s foreign policy.

It is a crying shame that the impressive and statesmanlike Brand would die the following year, as he was soon replaced as President of the OFS by much more pliant and schemingly ambitious types, first the fervent Afrikaner Nationalist, F.W. Reitz[7], and then by the even more loathsome Martinus Steyn[8]. Even as President Steyn stupidly plunged the Orange Free State into Kruger’s pointless and unwinnable war, he freely admitted to Count Sternberg, the illustrious Austrian traveller, that his republic had always enjoyed good relations with Great Britain and that ‘the present state of affairs’ was ‘quite artificial’.[9]

While relations between the Empire and the OFS had always been cordial (until Steyn, who also told the Count that he wanted to snatch the Kimberley diamond mines, decided otherwise), Kruger’s Transvaal, on the other hand, had been causing trouble in the region for many years. The republic’s well-funded Secret Service[10] had long indulged in gun-running and rabble-rousing in British territory[11], and Kruger had constantly expanded his borders at the expense of his black neighbours. The Transvaal also practiced franchise rules which were so blatantly racist, antisemitic, unfair and exclusionary that they made the later Apartheid system look positively liberal[12]. More than anything, it was this outrageous discrimination which was causing the tension in the region.

By the late 1890s, and in response to appeals from the Transvaal’s large English-speaking community (disparagingly known as the Uitlanders), HM Government was applying diplomatic pressure on the Kruger regime to grant them the vote. By the standards of the rest of the region – including the OFS – they were perfectly entitled to this, and it is nonsensical to pretend that granting a fair franchise to the Uitlanders was somehow a ‘threat to the independence’ of the Transvaal. Most readers will remember the days when Apartheid South Africa was also under similar international pressure to adopt a fairer voting system… but only a lunatic would claim that this meant the ‘independence’ of South Africa was under threat. One might reasonably claim that the ANC have made of complete mess of things since 1994, but does anyone genuinely believe that South Africa ceased to be an independent nation because the National Party lost power?

No less a man than the Transvaal’s long-serving Commandant-General, Piet Joubert, admitted that the war was caused by Kruger’s ‘blind obstinacy’[13] and said that all it would have taken to defuse tensions was for the Transvaal to adopt a five-year franchise law[14] – which, far from being an outrageous request, would only have aligned it with the rest of the region. Indeed, when Joubert received the order to invade Natal, he initially refused, pointing out to Kruger’s cronies that, by so doing, all chance of foreign intervention or mediation would be gone. He received a strongly worded telegram from Kruger, and—unfortunately for all concerned—backed down.[15]

Clearly realising that they don’t have a leg to stand on, Defenders of the Myth resort to simply making things up to keep their preferred fictions of victimhood alive. Thus we are told all manner of lies about ‘British troops, massing on the border’ – claims which certainly suited the Apartheid-regime agenda, but which are not in any way historically accurate. There was no ‘massing’ of British troops on the frontiers of either republic and, indeed, when the Boers launched their attacks on the Cape Colony and Natal, they significantly outnumbered the scattered Imperial garrisons.

And given that the republican invaders of Natal were able to push forwards (enjoying a looting spree) for 9 days before fighting a major action[16], where, one wonders, did all these ‘masses’ of British troops suddenly disappear to? Of course, we shall never know, as they are merely a convenient figment of the imagination, dreamt up in the brandy-addled minds of the True Believers. When it comes to defending National Party myth, it should be obvious to all that historical reality and logic are completely irrelevant; all you have to do is keep playing the victim card, and then – when someone proves that you are talking rubbish – start screaming that all your grandparents were ‘murdered in the Camps’. It really is just one lie after another with these fools.

To further expose the abject hypocrisy of those claiming that the Boers were ‘only fighting for their independence’, let us compare their invasions of Natal and the Cape, to another invasion which was launched almost exactly 40 years later: that of Poland by Germany in September 1939.

There are many striking similarities. Firstly, like the Transvaal in the 1890s, Germany in the 1930s was nominally subject to certain restrictions imposed by external powers. The post-Great War Treaty of Versailles limited the German army to 100,000 men and conscription was forbidden. The Navy was restricted only to vessels under 10,000 tons, and no submarine fleet was permitted. Germany was also forbidden to maintain an air force. Just like the Transvaal, however, they largely ignored these rules. I have yet to meet anyone who points to these restrictions to pretend that Germany was ‘fighting for her independence’ in World War 2.

Though the unspeakable, industrial-scale, mass murder had yet to begin, and while nothing compares to the sheer horror of what happened in the Holocaust, the pre-war Germany of the late 30’s actively (and infamously) discriminated against various groups of its population – a situation which was slowly drawing the attention of the International Community.[17]

Kruger’s government also treated any but the self-appointed ruling caste as second-class citizens:
‘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.’[18]

And if the white Uitlanders were treated shockingly by Kruger’s regime, the blacks of the Transvaal had it far worse:
‘The standing of the K****r in the Transvaal is worth notice. While in the English colony they enjoy equal rights with white men, and even have a vote, in the Transvaal their standing is very different. The K****r must not walk on the pavement, he must salute every white man, and must not leave his house after 9pm.[19]

And it wasn’t just how the two regimes treated people in their own countries. In another similarity, both Kruger’s Transvaal, and an increasingly re-assertive Germany, steadily expanded their borders in the years prior to the wars they would start. Germany reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936, annexed Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938, and then occupied Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939. Similarly, and as mentioned earlier, the Transvaal had also been expanding relentlessly before launching its attack on the Empire; in the years prior to the Boer War, it had gobbled up chunks of Zululand, invaded Vendaland[20] and seized de facto control of Swaziland.

The leaders of Germany justified their invasions by claiming they were merely re-occupying land which really belonged to them. The Province of West Prussia, for example, had been stripped from Germany at the end of the Great War, and awarded to the newly re-formed nation of Poland[21]. It was thus child’s play to convince the brainwashed masses (especially those slack-jawed idiots who turned up at torch-lit rallies) that it wasn’t a ‘real’ invasion: all Germany was doing was taking back what was rightfully theirs… as long as one conveniently ignored that western Poland had been grabbed by Prussia during the dismemberment that was the three Partitions of Poland (1772 – 1795).

Likewise, in the Transvaal, it was easy for Kruger’s propagandists to whip up the belief – however far-fetched – that (for example) the British colony of Natal was somehow theirs by right, and thus invading it was perfectly fine… and, indeed, would even be supported by the Almighty. What is more remarkable is that there are those who blindly believe this rubbish today.

The parallels continue: both distinctly unpleasant regimes liked to pretend they were some sort of Master Race, an island of civilisation in a sea of savage, lesser peoples. While the hideous and twisted beliefs of racial superiority held by those running Germany in the 1930s are well known, the similarly unpleasant attitudes of the Kruger clique have largely been air-brushed from history. One well-placed observer recorded: ‘The President really believes, and has always believed, that the Boers are the chosen people of the Old Testament, to whom the people of Ham should be servants, and that they are promised the annexing of the Promised Land.’[22] No wonder the ignorant old Flat-Earther boasted that the Good Lord would guide their Mauser rounds, and smite the decadent British with a few well-placed thunderbolts[23].

There was a significant Dutch-speaking community in the areas of Cape Colony which were invaded by the Boers and also, though much less so, in those of northern Natal. Some of these traitors were delighted to see the invaders and – rather rashly – threw their lot in with them. But this cannot be used to excuse the invasions of British territory: there were also large numbers of German-speakers in the North West of Poland (the former West Prussia)[24], many of whom welcomed Hitler’s troops. Thus, anyone who likes to pretend that Kruger’s invaders were actually ‘liberators’ must, logically, also view Hitler’s forces in the same way.

It always amuses me that Defenders of the Myth – including a couple of so-called History Professors – like to excuse Kruger’s invasion of British territory by pretending it was ‘defensive’. This is such a ridiculous stance that one wonders if perhaps they are inspired by German claims that their invasion of Poland was also ‘defensive’; with utter shamelessness, the attack was referred to in Germany as the ‘1939 Defensive War’ (Verteidigungskrieg). Nazi propagandists even claimed that Poland had actually attacked Germany, and that the ‘Germans in Poland are persecuted with a bloody terror and are driven from their homes. The series of border violations, which are unbearable to a great power, prove that the Poles no longer are willing to respect the German frontier’.[25] It sounds ludicrous, of course, but is no less ludicrous than those who, in their bizarre desperation to excuse Kruger’s invasions, pretend that they too were purely ‘defensive’.

Both regimes attempted to explain away their blatant aggression by inventing the notion of being under impending threat, and spreading fantasies of victimhood. Remarkably, this nonsense still continues to this day, with latter-day apologists for Kruger’s Transvaal preferring to pretend (despite all evidence to the contrary) that dozens of British divisions were poised on the frontiers of the republic, ready to invade at any moment. The quote at the beginning of this article illustrates how the Nazi propaganda machine also cultivated the myth of a heroic Chosen People, surrounded and embattled: the British and French to the West, countless hordes of sub-human Slav Untermenschen to the East, and a 5th column of treacherous Communists and scheming Jews in their midst.

As well as pretending that Germany was threatened by Poland – and thus the invasion of their nation was (ahem) ‘defensive’ – Hitler would later take a similar line to justify his invasion of the USSR, comparing the Soviet Red Army to the forces of Genghis Khan, and claiming that the ‘Mongolian race’ was poised to sweep through Europe[26]. What choice did either regime have, the extremist buffoons still claim today, but to strike at their dastardly enemies before they could act?

Other than at a neo-Nazi rally, perhaps, one would be unlikely meet anyone who pretends that by invading Poland, Germany was ‘only fighting for its independence’, or believes the blatant insanity of the invasion being a ‘defensive war’. It is remarkable, therefore, that there are plenty who are happy to make the same claims about the war started by Boer republics in 1899. The sheer hypocrisy is baffling, though as most South African Defenders of the Myth seem to be on the Far Right[27] of extremist Afrikanerdom, perhaps they say rather different things about Hitler’s Germany behind closed doors.


[1] https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/deceiving-the-public

[2] Rethman, Friends and Enemies, p.8

[3] Held in Pretoria on 31 May and 2 June 1887

[4] Cook, The Rights and Wrongs of the Transvaal War, p.92

[5] Sir Johannes Henricus Brand GCMG (1823–1888). In 1871 Brand was approached to become president of the ZAR in one of many attempts to unite the two Boer republics. He declined

[6] Cook, The Rights and Wrongs of the Transvaal War, p. 93

[7] Francis William Reitz, Jr. (1844 – 1934), born in the Cape Colony town of Swellendam, Reitz trained as a lawyer in Cape Town and London. As well as serving as the President of the Orange Free State from 1889 to 1895, he would also be the State Secretary of the Transvaal from 1898 to 1902

[8] Martinus Theunis Steyn (1857 – 1916). Yet another lawyer, Steyn replaced Reitz as President of the OFS in 1895, and aligned his republic with Kruger’s insane dreams of conquest, plunging his people into an unwinnable war

[9] Sternberg and Henderson, My Experiences of The Boer War, p.207

[10] Some sources claim that Kruger’s spooks had an annual budget of as much as £300,000. In stark contrast, and to put this into perspective, Britain (with her vast global empire and the long-simmering ‘Great Game’ against Russia) spent a total of £20,000 a year on such things, of which only £2,000 was spent in Southern Africa

[11] Frere, Letters from Uitlander, p.21, and Warwick, Black People and the South African War, 1899-1902, p.58

[12] I often wonder if the modern-day champions of Kruger’s republic really know just what a ghastly regime they are so passionately defending

[13]Nasson, The War for South Africa, p.36, and many others

[14] Pakenham, The Boer War, p.104

[15] Abercrombie, The Secret History of South Africa, p.137

[16] The Boers launched their invasion of Natal on 11 October 1899. The Battle of Talana Hill was fought on 20 October. On the Western Front, it was even more remarkable: again, the Boers invaded on 11 October, but the first major action on that Front was the Battle of Belmont, fought on 23 November – ie. some six weeks later

[17] Though, regrettably, no where near as much as it should have. The USA was alone in recalling their ambassador following the nationwide pogrom of 9-10 November 1938 (better known as: Kristallnacht)

[18] Roberts, Salisbury, Victorian Titan, p.717

[19] Sternberg & Henderson, My Experiences of the Boer War, p.78

[20] Welsh, A History of South Africa, p.130

[21] After being dismembered by its neighbours and disappearing from the map of Europe for more than a century, Poland regained its independence in 1918 as the Second Polish Republic

[22]Farrelly, The Settlement After the War in South Africa, p.64

[23] Nathan, Paul Kruger, p.447

[24] In the German census of 1910, the population of West Prussia was put at 1,703,474, of whom around 64% listed their first language as German, and only 35% as Polish. Polish academics state that the real share of Poles was 43%, as many had been counted as Catholic Germans by Prussian census clerks

[25] “German Army Attacks Poland; Cities Bombed, Port Blockaded; Danzig Is Accepted Into Reich”. The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2016

[26] Breitman, “Hitler and Genghis Khan”. Journal of Contemporary History, p.340-341

[27] Strangely, British apologists for Kruger’s Transvaal tend to hail from the Far Left; as always, for these self-loathing types, it’s simply a case of ‘My Country – always wrong’


  • Paul Quinn Posted September 21, 2023 2:47 pm

    It is remarkable that “respected” professors who validate Defenders of the Myth fantasies have gone to such great lengths to delude themselves before deluding others.
    The Defenders of the Myth have dug themselves in so deep there is no way out so their only option is to quietly dissappear, something they also seem unable to do.

    • Bulldog Posted September 21, 2023 5:55 pm

      Mr Quinn

      Let’s be charitable, and remember that, back in the days of the NP government, no one was going to become a Professor of History unless they sung the Apartheid-regime song. And now, after trumpeting their lies for 30 or 40 years, none of these fossils are going to admit their academic career has been spent spreading NP propaganda.

      Surely none of these people are really stupid enough to really believe that invading someone else’s territory is ‘defensive’.

  • Peter Dickens Posted October 27, 2023 3:49 pm

    Extremist Afrikanerdom, did more than say rather different things about Hitler’s Germany behind closed doors. From 1990 to 1994 they openly came out waving Nazi swastika flags next to their Blutfahne inspired AWB flag, they are a dangerous lot with remarkable and deeply troubling love of National Socialism.

    • James Grant Posted October 27, 2023 8:05 pm

      Always blows my mind how all the bloody Lefties instantly take the side of the Boers… strange bedfellows!

      • Peter Dickens Posted October 28, 2023 12:02 pm

        Years of propaganda using ‘the politics of pain’ and victimhood to establish Afrikaner Nationalism, The problem is Liberal support in the UK for the ‘victims’ of Imperialist aggression’ supported the establishment of Apartheid – an irony lost on them I’m sure.

        • Bulldog Posted October 28, 2023 1:12 pm

          There was a cartoon in Punch when the British Left suddenly realised Apartheid was not a great thing… it depicted a rally in London, and one old Leftie protest veteran turns to another and says: “I can remember when we used to chant ‘hands off the poor old Boers'”.

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