‘Freedom’ – but not as you know it

Life can be unpredictable, but there are still a few near-certainties… the sun will rise in the East tomorrow morning, England will always lose to Germany in a penalty shoot-out, and John Elsegood will continue to humiliate himself by posting utter nonsense on Facebook.

This was the latest offering from the prize buffoon:

Ignorant fanatics like Elsegood love to pretend that the ‘real name’ for the First Boer War was ‘the Freedom War’ – though presumably he is not in the least bit bothered that this (ahem) ‘freedom’ did not extend to blacks, Indians, Coloureds, Jews, Catholics or English-speakers.

With Kruger’s clique winning their (ahem) ‘freedom’ war and back in power, no one would suffer more than the Africans who—it is often forgotten—made up the vast majority of the ZAR’s population. A distraught Henry Rider Haggard stated that they deserved ‘some protection and consideration, some voice in the settlement of their fate’:

‘They outnumbered the Boers by 25 to one, taking their numbers at a million and those of the Boers at 40,000, a fair estimate, I believe … as the lash and the bullet have been the lot of the wretched Transvaal K****r in the past, so they will be his lot in the future … after leading those hundreds of thousands of men and women to believe that they were once and for ever the subjects of Her Majesty, safe from all violence, cruelty, and oppression, we have handed them over without a word of warning to the tender mercies of one, where natives are concerned, of the cruellest white races in the world

Of course, and despite him being a first-hand and well-placed witness of events, Elsegood et al will simply dismiss Haggard as a ‘Jingo’ (ie. anyone who doesn’t just parrot National Party propaganda). So, let’s instead see how much that ‘freedom’ was indeed valued by the black residents of the Transvaal – surely not even Elsegood would be insane enough to dismiss them as ‘Jingos’ (though you never know).

It fell to the missionary John Moffat to try to explain to the African chiefs in the Transvaal that they would no longer enjoy British protection or equality before the law. Moffat described how, ‘for the most part there was the silence of despair. One gentle old man, Mokhatle, a man of great influence, used the language of resignation, ‘When I was a child, the Matabele came, they swept over us like the wind and we bowed before them like the long white grass on the plains. They left us and we stood upright again. The Boers came and we bowed ourselves under them in like manner. The British came and we rose upright, our hearts lived within us and we said: Now we are the children of the Great Lady. And now that is past and we must lie flat again under the wind—who knows what are the ways of God?’[ii]

Of course, what Elsegood really wants to be ‘remembered’ is not history at all – but self-pitying, Apartheid-era myth.


[i] Creswicke, South Africa and the Transvaal War, Vol. I, p.103

[ii] Mason, The Birth of a Dilemma: The Conquest and Settlement of Rhodesia, p.110


  • Stephen Hunt Posted June 26, 2024 11:32 am

    Thanks for this. Given the rabid anti-British comments on Le Roux’s “Colourised” Facebook page I’m not surprised at Elsegood’s comments. And this is despite Le Roux’s own request on his Admin page, ie keep the comments civil.

    • Peter Dickens Posted July 12, 2024 9:09 am

      I’ve tried to discuss this issue with Elsegood as he’s perpetuating a myth and purposefully maintaining bias – I’ve explained to him at length that The South African War (1899-1902) needs to viewed as a fully inclusive war involving many countries, creeds and cultures – but to no avail. I’m afraid he’s not a good calibre historian and merely a very opinionated social media commentator. Yet another disgruntled ‘old school’ Neo Nationalist sitting in Australia throwing stones.

  • Peter Dickens Posted July 12, 2024 9:16 am

    Also, it might be a rather useless endeavour given the nature of Elsegood, but it might well be worthwhile pointing out to him that “Freedom War/First ABW (1880-1881)” is not even classified as a “war” as such – it is however officially classified as a “revolt” – but hey, let’s not let truth get in the way of a good story.

    • Bulldog Posted July 12, 2024 10:32 am

      The other favourite myth about the First Boer War is that it involved the plucky old Boers ‘defeating a British invasion of the Transvaal’… which is – obviously – completely at odds with historical reality.

      It really is a crying shame for all involved that the spineless Gladstone didn’t order the British army to fight on and squash the rebellion. Even without rushing more troops to the region, General Wood had 10,000 men under his command, yet to be committed. Had the hand-wringing Liberals given him a couple of months, the rebels would have been defeated and the ring-leaders hanged… and 99% of South Africans would have been much better off as a result: no Kruger invasion of Natal and thus no Second Boer War, no Scorched Earth, no Concentration Camps, no rise of Afrikaner Nationalism, no Apartheid etc.

      With the rabble-rousers strung up in 1881, and – with any luck – all the surviving extremists buggering off to German South West Africa, this would have left the Transvaal / South Africa as a whole to develop in much more reasonable and equitable fashion.

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