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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Remembering President Paul Kruger


President Paul Kruger

Today marks the birth date of Oom Paul Kruger, who was born on 10 October 1825 (died 14 July 1904).

When you speak of President Paul Kruger in the presence of today’s younger folk, clueless Black Africans, or ignorant adults - who nowadays typically and increasingly fall into the category of ‘liberal-minded’, the first fact you’ll become aware of is their erroneous belief that Paul Kruger was a foreigner (Dutchman).

The truth of the matter is that Oom Paul was born on South African soil on his grandfather's farm Bulhoek situated approximately 15 km west of the town of Steynsburg and 100 km to the north of Cradock in the Eastern Cape Province. According to most sources his parents, Casper Kruger and Elsie Steyn, were of German descent.

Much of what is published online today about Paul Kruger has been tainted to some extent, not by outright falsehoods of any sort, but rather by the exclusion of crucial facts and also the delicate modification of former expressions, which is nowadays considered racist or politically incorrect. It is for this reason why I am rather reluctant to provide external links to ‘summarized’ modern-day online sources (Google is your friend – most of the time!).

One example, related to the purposeful omission of crucial truths, is the story of Paul Kruger’s encounters with rebellious black tribes, while he served as a field-cornet during his teens. Most online accounts tone down the solemn grimness of these African skirmishes (probably for the sake of sensitive readers), while simultaneously uplifting various African Chiefs to champion-status.

For example, various accounts mention the young Kruger’s active involvement - “in punitive expeditions against various rebellious black chiefs,” and then go on to mention placenames and dates, such as Makapan in 1854 and Mapela in April 1858. Mention is seldom made that the Boers back then were dealing with cannibals. Neither do they mention why these so-called “punitive expeditions” were carried out in the first place.

Incidentally, the story of Makapan was covered on this blog more than 3 years ago, in August 2009 (time flies!) -- The Makapaanspoort Murders – (See also the note at the end of this posting)

In the end - the most truthful source of information would be Paul Kruger’s own memoirs, as told by himself. Last night I read Chapter One (and browsed through a few others) from an English version, published in 1902 by Morang in Toronto -- freely available on the website of Open Library. (Why pay anything between R300 and R400 for a softcover version on Kalahari.com?)

The publishers note reads:
MR. KRUGER dictated these Memoirs to Mr. H. C. Bredell, his private secretary, and to Mr. Piet Grobler, the former Under Secretary of State of the South African Republic. These gentlemen handed their notes to an editor, the Rev. Dr. A. Schowalter, who spent several weeks at Utrecht in constant colloquy with Mr. Kruger, elucidating various points with the aid of the President's replies to a list of some hundred and fifty to two hundred questions which Dr. Schowalter had drawn up. The English and American edition has been translated by Mr. A. Teixeira de Mattos from Dr. Schowalter's revised German text, collated line for line with Mr. Kruger's original Dutch; with this difference that, in this edition, Mr. Kruger speaks in the first person throughout, whereas, in the Continental editions, the narrative is allowed to change into the third person from the point at which he begins to attain a prominent position in the affairs of his country. This latter arrangement, which appeared on reconsideration to be an artificial one, has been altered in this translation, and it has also been decided that, after Mr. Kruger's death, all subsequent Continental editions shall be printed in the first person throughout. In the Appendix have been collected several documents in the shape of speeches, proclamations and circular dispatches, including the famous three hours' speech delivered by Mr. Kruger, after his inauguration as President for the fourth time, on the 12th of May 1898.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter and particularly Oom Paul’s unsophisticated, yet sincere, style of humour. I vaguely recalled a bygone time when I was a mere toddler and when my dear old gran, Bella Kruger (born in April 1914 - and no relation to Oom Paul) told me similar stories about this wild and fearless adventurer, who played pranks on his hunting mates and in the process caused dead lions to roar, spooked the daylights out of savages in a cave, and who amputated and treated his own thumb, after it was blown off by an exploding (defective) rifle.

Some stories also reminded me how modern-day South Africa has moved backwards in time. One example is this whole sordid business with the gold and platinum mines, which - for the umpteenth time in South Africa’s history, has caused immense chaos, confusion and unnecessary bloodshed in the land.

Here is an extract from Paul Kruger's memoirs - on the subjects of gold and wealth:
“The rich gold-fields of the Witwatersrand were discovered and brought about a complete revolution in the financial aspect of the affairs of the Republic. The history of the Republic entered upon a new phase with this discovery. Can we possibly look upon it as fortunate? As I have already said, gold and the embittered feelings which were the outcome of the first annexation are the causes of the present misery in South Africa. It will presently be seen that, of the two causes, the gold-fields assumed the greater importance. It is quite certain that, had no gold been found in the Transvaal, there would have been no war. No matter how great the influx of Englishmen, no matter how varied and manifold their complaints, the British Government would not have lifted a finger in their defence, had it not been tempted by the wealth of the country. The question of the franchise, which in reality caused no hardships to foreigners, was made use of by intriguers to further their plans. The words uttered by the late General Joubert, when a burgher came gleefully to tell him that a new gold-reef had been discovered, were prophetic: Instead of rejoicing, he said, "you would do better to weep; for this gold will cause our country to be soaked in blood."”
The Memoirs of Paul Kruger: Published in 1902 by Morang in Toronto - (Extract from page 180).

But, seeing that it is Oom Paul’s birthday today, let’s not dwell too much on such depressing subjects!

Let’s look at the positive side, and let’s never forget that South Africa has a splendid European heritage. No matter how hard the ANC-Regime is attempting to destroy it, it will always remain a beautiful heritage we can feel proud of. Amidst all the darkness (and the smoke of burning trucks) that is now overshadowing the land, there are also glimmers of optimistic hope. I know, I know – to say, “all is not lost after all,” sounds rather artificial, but then again – I don’t see a problem when a man occasionally feels the urge to enter the joys of daydream-mode, once in a while. How else do we remain sane in this crazy place?

Although much of what has happened in the country during the past 18 years of ANC rule would probably not have carried Oom Paul’s approval, I’m reasonably sure that many people today would be wrong if they think Oom Paul would have turned in his grave if he could see what was going on, for he was way too wise-and-tough a character to hold grudges or to remain discontented for too long.

The biggest secret of Oom Paul’s success was that he remained a humble and devoted servant of Christ to the end. He never considered himself higher than any other man.

On the subject of religion he once said:
"I have never thought of making the church to which I belong the state church. Nay, even if you were to offer to make it so, I should decidedly refuse, for our principle declares that Christ and no other must be the Head of the Church."
The Memoirs of Paul Kruger: Published in 1902 by Morang in Toronto - (Extract from page 79).

What a pity that fate decided otherwise!

Besides the beautiful and tranquil places – such as the Kruger National Park, for example, a venture initiated by Kruger’s proclamation in March 1898 of a "Government Wildlife Park," which came to be known as the Sabi Game Reserve, and which later expanded into the Kruger National Park in 1926, there are numerous other encouraging examples of Kruger’s amazing influence in South Africa… Way too much to cover properly in a single posting!

Even the township, Mamelodi (meaning Mother of Melodies), situated northeast of Pretoria, carries the name given to President Paul Kruger by the Africans because of his amazing ability to whistle and imitate birds.

The Memoirs of Paul Kruger
Freely available at Open Library
I’ve also noticed that the ANC-backed newspaper, The New Age, recently reported that the seven-month long external renovations to Oom Paul’s house (museum), situated at No. 60 Church Street (now WF Nkomo Street) in Pretoria, has finally been completed. I thought it was never going to be done when I last visited the area in June this year, as recorded on this Youtube video. I was thus pleasantly surprised to hear this news, and will be returning shortly to ‘inspect’ the work ;-)

Various digital formats of The memoirs of Paul Kruger – (four times President of the South African Republic) told by himself, is freely available on the website of Open Library.

Related Posts:
(Listed from the latest to the oldest)

A note about the Makapaanspoort article:
The last comment on the old article was posted by Malose Nyatlo, on 27 December 2011, and reads as follows:
“I must point out the inaccuracy that Mapela is located about seventy kilometers from Mokopane - in fact it is located half that distance. The Moorkopye - the little mountain near the tribal administration - is commonly known as 'Nderekane' (how locals interpreted the name Hendrik). This is the place where "savages"(as you put it) murdered Hendrik Potgieter. By the way, I was born in Mapela myself. We could do better with less hurtful expletives - we differently have our own ways of dealing with our shameful past.”
I did not respond to Nyatlo’s comment as it was posted at a time when I was preoccupied with other personal business, and to be truly honest - I completely forgot about it.

The man’s last sentence would, of course, been absolutely correct, IF we were living in a truly free democracy, in a society not inhabited by savage murderers and thieves. Oom Paul also encountered his fair share of murderous savages and evidence of cannibalism in his days, and mentions the grusame details in his memoirs.

We've moved ahead 158 years into the future, yet we’re still encountering the same savagery in South Africa. One can hardly call it "progression" or "advancement", can we? Why should we keep quiet and use “less hurtful expletives” to describe the menace living like parasites among us? How are the future generations going to recognise this menace if we cannot NOW describe what it is?

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Visitors with an interest in South Africa’s rich heritage may enjoy the following postings in the Book Store:

3 comments :

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

What a captivating book! I downloaded it in April and couldn't stop reading it... The beauty and lushness of the land back then is told in such a miticilous way. He even makes metion of where
Olifantsnek,Rustenburg got its name from. Daardie boere was manne! It definately makes one proud of your heritage. The tale of the freemason Cycil Rhodes war against the ZAR(it makes my blood boil), could'nt be cronologically told in a better way! Easy to read and hard breaking first hand account at the same time.

whiteson said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Very good posting Tia, I enjoyed it so much. Pres Kruger also played a big role in the battle of Vegkop. In my mind, Vegkop was a big victory over the murderous, looting, destructive Matabele. A few Boers, including a very young Paul Kruger fought of the Matabele. On all postings you were the only one who remembered this great man. A very good story indeed.

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

I see Paul Kruger and Jacob Zuma in exactly the same light.
Both elevated to hero status on dubious grounds by ignorant or less educated people.

Go read the reporting of one Eugene Marais who was a cub reporter in the ZAR reporting on the going-ons in the ZAR Volksraad.

"An irritating pebble in Krugers shoe" Eugene Marais and Land en Volk ZAR

Read about the many times Piet Joubert stood for office and how he was beaten by Kruger

Read about the

Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Viçosa

Paul Kruger (awarded in 1892, after the breakdown of Boer-Portuguese relationships in 1899 he returned the order and was struck off the roll)[10]

Kruger although a DOPPER accepted this Roman Catholic Order

http://www.joburg.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1244:caramba-were-actually-portuguese-in-name&catid=152:citichat-2007&Itemid=282

The REAL Kruger is very different to the man painted in the fawning official accounts of him !

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