“Arguably a warmonger”

I was recently made aware of this article:


I will let you make your own mind up on it, but what interested me more was the comments section, and the fact that the person who sent me the link to the article said his attempts to comment were being deleted, as fast as he could post them. I therefore thought I’d post my reaction here, rather than have it deleted too.

One gentleman dared to make the following observation:

Mr McCallum makes excellent points, but is obviously being extremely ‘diplomatic’ by claiming Kruger was only ‘arguably a warmonger’… this is rather like saying Everest is only arguably a mountain. Of course, the fact that so many people are now seeing through the Apartheid-era myths, and despite Mr McCallum’s attempt not to offend, the True Believers were sent into a panic-stricken frenzy. Sure enough, their High Priest of Propaganda soon swung into action, desperate as ever to defend the man who started the Boer War:

I wonder who the ‘Professor’ could possibly be referring to when he claims that ‘many English-speaking South Africans at present, let alone Englishmen from England’[i] fail ‘to understand the presence, goals and effect of British imperialism’. Perhaps we are being told that only Afrikaners who studied under the National Party regime are wise enough to truly understand what happened?

Desperate as ever to defend the much-loved Apartheid-era myths, and horrified by his hero being referred to as ‘arguably a warmonger’ and a ‘belligerent’, Pretorius waves away all the excellent points Mr McCallum made. Instead, the Prof frantically deflects, pretending that Britain had no suzerain power over the Transvaal. Though this is a favourite claim of the True Believers, it is both incorrect and irrelevant.

Peter Dickens has covered the question of suzerainty in depth on his brilliant blog, and I would recommend the reader to check out this article:

Stealing Republics, gold, diamonds and other myths!

No matter what self-serving nonsense the Prof likes to tell his sycophants, Mr Dickens is absolutely correct when he declares:

The [Transvaal] Boers, over a barrel really, and happy to get back a semblance of a Republic – agreed. Two Conventions – the Pretoria convention, held on 3 August 1881 established the ZAR as a British Suzerainty and at a later convention, the London Convention, signed on 27 February 1884, in which some concessions were given to Kruger and his party as to borders, the word Suzerainty was also dropped from the pre-amble, but the ZAR still had to get permission from the British government for any treaty entered into with any other country other than the Orange Free State – Britain reserved the right to oversight and could still ‘meddle’ in the States affairs – a British “client” state if you will – in either event, the ZAR remained a state with mutually agreed British oversight – all the way from 1881 to the South African War (1899-1902), aka ‘Boer War 2′

Yes, the word ‘suzerainty’ was tactfully not used in the pre-amble to the 1884 Convention, but that in no way equates to British oversight over the Transvaal having ended. This omission was done as a sop to Kruger, so he could go home with something to boast about, even though not much of substance had really changed – basically, the British were guilty only of being too diplomatic, and pandering to the old troll’s vanity[ii].

Despite the fiction that the Prof wants the Faithful to believe, here is the wording of Article IV of the Convention:

The South African Republic will conclude no treaty or engagement with any State or nation other than the Orange Free State, nor with any native tribe to the eastward or the westward of the republic, until the same has been approved by Her Majesty the Queen.[iii]

If a nation has control of the international affairs of another, then that is – by definition – suzerainty.

And not only that, Article VII pertained to a commitment that Loyalists should not be mistreated by the Boers, Article VIII confirmed that Britain would not tolerate ‘slavery or apprenticeship partaking of slavery’ in the republic, and Article IX confirmed that the republic should not discriminate on the basis of religion. Needless to say, all of which is ignored by the Prof. I encourage you to follow the link I have provided to the text of the convention, so you can see just how blatantly True Believers try to misrepresent historical reality.

What, one wonders, is their agenda?

Furthermore, it is jolly strange, given how keen he was to attempt to school Mr McCallum on the Conventions, that the Prof didn’t feel the need to mention that, one week after the signing of the 1884 Convention, Kruger’s delegation celebrated at a banquet in Amsterdam. The Rev Du Toit[iv] proudly announced that ‘The South African flag shall yet wave from Table Bay to the Zambesi, be that end accomplished by blood or by ink. If blood it is, we shall not lack men to spill it’.[v] No wonder the poor old Prof left that bit out – it doesn’t really tally with the National Party fiction of Boer victimhood, or the fantasy of the Boers ‘only ever wanting to be left in peace’.

What is more, the communication from Lord Derby to which the Prof refers actually confirmed Kruger’s government would have the ‘same complete internal independence in the Transvaal as in the Orange Free State’[vi] – emphasis by me. The reader will note that that is a very different situation to complete, unfettered independence[vii].

Perhaps the Prof has not actually read the text of the London Convention, but surely he has to have read Leo Amery, who noted:

‘As to the suzerainty, the British contention has been that the Convention of 1884 limited it very narrowly, but by no means did away with it altogether. In addition to the suppression of foreign relations, it mentioned conditions dealing with the rights of aliens and of natives, the renunciation of slavery or apprenticeship, freedom of religion and most favoured nation treatment for British goods, conditions which, if disregarded, would give the Imperial Government a right to intervene’.[viii]

So the increasingly frazzled and panic-stricken Prof clearly either understands very little about the London Convention, doesn’t understand the definition of the word ‘suzerainty’, or is deliberately telling falsehoods about the continuation of British oversight of the Transvaal. Either way, his frantic attempt at deflection is utterly irrelevant in any case; whether or not the Transvaal was under British suzerainty in 1899 (and it clearly was) in no way changes the fact that the Boer War was started by Kruger.

Given he has dedicated his career to maintaining the fiction of Boer victimhood, one can understand why the Prof feels the need to throw out a few red herrings, and then bury his head in the sand when it comes to the inconvenient reality that it was Kruger who declared war and invaded his neighbours. Indeed, not only did Kruger undeniably start the war, but he had actively planned for it since at least 1887, when he attempted to pressure the leaders of the OFS to join him in an offensive alliance against the British[ix]. True to form, Pretorius totally ignores all this, but spews out irrelevancies about the right to vote in Great Britain. He similarly ignores all the gun-running[x] and rabble-rousing[xi] that Kruger’s well-funded secret service was doing in British territories throughout the 1890s, the fact that the Transvaal’s borders were being violently expanded throughout Kruger’s period of rule, and the Bogus Conspiracy of 1899[xii].

Continuing to throw out tired old canards from the True Believer’s playbook, the Prof’s claim that ‘For Kruger the independence of the Transvaal meant everything’ is yet more disingenuous nonsense; the (slightly limited) independence of the Transvaal was not under any threat. Of course, London was (quite rightly) applying diplomatic pressure to address the blatantly unfair way the Uitlanders were discriminated against by Kruger’s regime. But, had they been granted the vote, the only thing that would have been threatened was the continuation of corrupt and incompetent minority rule by Kruger’s self-appointed ‘Chosen People’. This is exactly why the scheming old flat-earther was so desperate to deny the tens of thousands of English-speaking tax-payers a fair franchise – just as, a couple of generations later, another reprehensible and morally-bankrupt regime, the National Party Government, was desperate to deny the vote to non-white South Africans. It is absurd to suggest that the application of international pressure to improve democracy in a minority-run state equates to a threat to its independence; I have yet to hear anyone claim that South Africa ceased to be an independent nation when diplomatic pressure finally brought Apartheid to an end.

Besides, if Kruger was really so keen to maintain the Transvaal’s (slightly limited) independence, why, one wonders, did he make the intergalactically stupid decision to pick a fight with the regional superpower? Pretending the Boer War was some sort of ‘war of independence’ is only possible when one ignores the fact that Kruger’s aim in starting the war was to build an Empire ‘from the Zambesi to the Cape’[xiii]. Furthermore, I cannot think of another ‘war of independence’ which started with the nation in question invading their neighbours in several directions.

Pretorius ends his outburst by attempting to mock Mr McCallum’s perfectly accurate statement that many of the leading Transvaal Boers were utterly opposed to Kruger’s madcap war of aggression. Of course, McCallum doesn’t claim that Joubert was a ‘man of peace’ – Pretorius disingenuously made that bit up, as is his wont. What McCallum actually said was that Joubert considered Kruger to be a warmonger – which he blatantly was. We know that Joubert admitted that the war was caused by Kruger’s ‘blind obstinacy’[xiv] and said that all it would have taken to avoid conflict was for the Transvaal to adopt a five-year franchise law[xv] – which, far from being onerous, would only have brought it in line with the Orange Free State. We also know that, 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.[xvi] There is no way that Pretorius is unaware of all this, so it would seem that the Grand Wizard of Boer War myths knows he can only keep his fables staggering on a bit longer by resorting to tricks and deflection.

So, no Prof: it is not ‘English-speaking South Africans, let alone Englishmen from England’ who struggle to understand the Boer War. In reality, it is those who remain utterly determined to maintain self-pitying, Apartheid-era fairy stories of British bullying and Boer innocence and victimhood. One can forgive such delusions from the odd entertainingly annoying drunk at a braai, but – 30 years after the end of white minority rule – for a so-called academic to still desperately be keeping these myths alive is laughable.

To put it in a way that even the Prof might understand (if ever he decides to approach the subject with an open mind): No insane Kruger dream of replacing Britain as the paramount power in the region, no war. As simple as that.


[i] What about Shetlanders from Shetland?

[ii] Aside from the amendment to British suzerainty over the Transvaal, the only other real outcome was that the territory would again be known as the South African Republic

[iii] https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/London_Convention – please read for yourself, and make your own mind up who is telling the truth

[iv] Reverend Stephanus Jacobus du Toit (1847 – 1911), born in Paarl in Britain’s Cape Colony – making him an Uitlander when he moved to the Transvaal to serve as Superintendent of Education in 1882. Du Toit was a strong advocate for the Afrikaans language and the promotion of an Afrikaner identity, and was one of the founding fathers of the Afrikaner Bond. By 1889, du Toit had seen through the corrupt and expansionist Kruger regime, resigned his post and returned to Paarl. Older and wiser, he adopted a much more conciliatory position towards the British Empire

[v] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol.1, p.77-78

[vi] Worsfold, Lord Milner’s Work in South Africa, Chapter VI

[vii] On the subject of Lord Derby’s telegram, the Times published a letter by the Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, in which he either sneakily or mistakenly omitted the word keyword ‘internal’ – the Times had to issue a correction

[viii] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol.1, p.76

[ix] Cook, The Rights and Wrongs of the Boer War, p.92

[x] Frere, Letters from an Uitlander, p.21

[xi] War Office, Military Notes of the Dutch Republics of South Africa, p.14

[xii] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol.1, p.301

[xiii] Farrelly, The Settlement After the War in South Africa, p.173

[xiv] Nasson, The War for South Africa, p.36

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

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


  • James Grant Posted March 16, 2024 2:14 pm

    How is this bloke still a professor when he doesn’t have a clue?

    • Bulldog Posted March 16, 2024 3:26 pm

      To be fair, he’s in an awkward spot: turning his back on the myths would mean admitting his whole academic career has been a sham.

  • Damian O’Connor Posted March 16, 2024 2:21 pm

    It is my considered opinion that Kruger, being less than fully literate, read people more than the actual texts of the treaties he signed. In this respect, he is likely to have considered that suzerainty had been given up when Lord Derby – the dithering, blithering, hopelessly out of his depth Lord Derby – personally scratched out the word ‘suzerainty’ from the London Convention. Indeed, getting out of any imperial commitments was what Lord Derby considered his policy during the mid- late 1880s. It was, therefore, not unreasonable for Kruger to believe that suzerainty did not really exist; the problem was that something very close to it did exist and was written down in the treaties that he did indeed sign.

    • Bulldog Posted March 16, 2024 3:23 pm

      Yes, this is the problem when, on a cusp of the 20th century, a nation is run by someone who thinks the Earth is flat and believes the Old Testament was the literal truth.

      No matter how much it upsets the Prof, there is no doubt that the 1884 Convention reconfirmed British oversight of the Transvaal… though – as I mention – this is also irrelevant in terms of who was responsible for the war.

    • Peter Dickens Posted March 16, 2024 5:10 pm

      Hi Damian. I’m of the opinion that Kruger was a wirely, skilful and seasoned political operator, his four terms of Presidency and his brand of ideology “Krugerism” and personality cult are the cornerstones of the constitution and governance in the ZAR for decades – and its testament as to his abilities – in fact he comes to define the ZAR ahead of many very well educated, moderate and forward thinking politicians. He is also a very good politician in building a persona around himself, his “image” of a poor and simple farmer works in his favour and he leverages it endlessly (in fact his lifestyle is very sophisticated and not something in the public eye). To underestimate him was at your peril, this is why Milner would stump him somewhat as he met his Waterloo so to speak, something previous British diplomats, like Lord Derby failed to do as they were politically spineless, a common trait of many in the British political establishment.

  • Niall Beazley Posted March 21, 2024 12:39 pm

    Thank you for pulling this article together. There are plenty of strings and supporting background reading to understand and/or digest. A fascinating read giving those interested a rather different perspective from what I have heard around the fire on many a beautiful night in the boma. Slainte Mhath.

  • Chris Posted March 30, 2024 9:15 am

    After reading the Litnet Article and the reference to “Kruger-Millions” and a lavish later life in Europe. Perhaps as part of this latter day re-appraisal of Kruger perhaps someone could describe what was contained in Krugers .. last will and testament .. and who his executor was ?
    Somewhat mentioned in a recent book with the subject matter those elusive Kruger millions ..

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