The Silver Kruger
South Africa &
the Birth of the Boer Nation
During the mid-sixteen hundreds, Dutch merchants built a fort on the Southern tip of Africa, providing a temporary respite from the arduous journey to the East. Dutch, Frisian, Flemish, and German Protestants, along with French Huguenots, escaping war and persecution by the dominant Catholic Church in Europe, started arriving in Southern Africa and set up small homesteads with modest herds of livestock. Before long, the British Empire recognized the strategic importance of South Africa as a port and annexed the Cape.
Almost straight away, clashes occurred between the Imperialists lording over the settlers who became fiercely independent and eager to shrug the yoke of the Old World. And thus began the Great Trek: whole families with all their possessions piled on their wagons, started trekking into the un-explored and perilous interior. It was considered madness: such was the insatiable need to have their own lands where they could live as free men and women.
The Great Trek
The pioneers, having pierced deep into the heart of the country, found their promised-land: great green pastures and sweeping valleys, ideal for cattle grazing. Discovering the massive Zulu tribe living in the vicinity, the settlers met with Zulu’s great king, Dingaan, offering to buy a track of land. Dingaan countered: a rival tribe stole a large portion of their cattle, and if the settlers could retrieve the cattle for Dingaan, he would reward them a sizable patch of land. The settlers bartered with the other tribe and recovered Dingaan’s cattle.
A treaty was signed and Dingaan, as a supposed sign of goodwill, invited his new friends to come and drink with him in celebration. A group of the settlers made their way to the Zulu party, and after being entertained by dancers and the spirits flowing, Dingaan’s warriors attacked the unarmed settlers: they were massacred nearly to the last man. A Zulu war-party set upon the settlers’ camp & five hundred women and children were raped and also butchered.
The Zulu war-machine was dispatched to seek and destroy any remaining settlers and rid the lands of the foreign interlopers.
The Trekkers, forewarned by their scouts, prepared for war. They chose their battlefield with care. They positioned all their wagons, back-to-front, in a protective semi-circle, with a raging river at their rear. Sensing their demise was near, they made a pact with God: if they were saved, the day would forever be commemorated.
And so, the 464 settlers faced a Zulu-army exceeding 10,000 men. The battle of “Blood-River” ensued. Not suffering a single casualty, the Trekkers completely decimated the Zulu attack lines forcing them from the battlefield. Seeing the victory as Divine approval, they set about the task of building their Boer Republics, for these people now spoke a common language, shared a common identity as Boers (farmers), and saw themselves not as Europeans in Africa, but rather recognized themselves as a the nation of Afrikaners (People of Africa).
Paul Kruger & the 1st Boer War
After establishing various Boer Republics, diamonds were found in the Kimberley region. Britain stepped in and annexed it. The Empire then sought to amalgamate the other Boer-Republics, in pursuit of gaining possession of the Transvaal Mines. The Imperialists were met by fierce resistance and thus the 1st Boer War broke out. Known as the War-of-Independence by the Boers, the British almost immediately suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of resistance leader Paul Kruger, a quiet, introspective and unassuming man. The Republic, gaining its independence, was named Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek, or Z.A.R (South-African Republic), and Kruger was elected President on 30 December 1880.
Gold: That Blasted Metal
As seemingly endless amounts of gold were discovered & it became apparent that the region had the richest gold reserves in the world, it did not make for happy tidings in the mind of Paul Kruger. Having just fended off the Empire, he knew they’d be back with a vengeance. Kruger called gold “that blasted metal”, which he predicted would “cause our land to be soaked in blood.” Little did he know exactly how prophetic his words would prove to be. After a series of provocations, war was declared on 11 October 1899.
The 2nd Boer War & Scorched Earth
Roughly forty-thousand Boer militiamen, predominantly farmers, picked up their rifles, saddled their horses and rode out from their homesteads to face very nearly half a million British soldiers – the most advanced army of the day. The Boers had the better of the war in its initial stages, scoring spectacular victories, one after the other. The British once again underestimated their foe. Arguably the greatest British author of the era, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had this to say about their nemesis:
“Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive, place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider.
Then, finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual, and you have the modern Boer—the most formidable antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain.
Our military history has largely consisted in our conflicts with France, but Napoleon and all his veterans have never treated us so roughly as these hard-bitten farmers with their ancient theology and their inconveniently modern rifles.”
~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The war dragged on for three years. The Empire grew desperate as bankruptcy loomed: it became increasingly apparent that the Boers could not be defeated by orthodox means. Thus two policies were implemented: the Scorched-Earth policy and the internment of the Boer women and children in concentration camps. All the wheat and maize crops were burned down. All livestock seized or killed. Water sources poisoned. The Boer homesteads burned to ashes. The land was plunged into starvation.
Emily Hobhouse & Britain’s “Murder Camps”
With their homes and livelihoods put to flames, the Boer women and children were utterly destitute. While the men were away fighting, many innocents perished by the spears of hostile opportunistic tribesmen. Others were interned in a series of concentration camps. The death-rate in these camps rose to such a degree that it is hard to view it as anything other than genocide. Roughly half of all children interned died, at an approximate rate of 50 per day. Emily Hobhouse heard of the plight of the Boer women and children, exclaiming that “Since Old Testament days, was ever a whole nation carried captive?” Hobhouse became a fierce English activist for the Boer women and children, visiting the camps, trying to secure more food and better hygienic conditions. Most importantly, she brought the situation to the attention of the British public. It was believed by many that the meager rations given to the women and children was intentionally poisoned. Hobhouse was deported by the British and faced extreme ridicule by her own government and some of the press back home. Her efforts, though, had the desired effect: there was a public outcry, as these words by Baptist Minister Charles Aked well illustrates:
“Great Britain cannot win the battles without resorting to the last despicable cowardice of the most loathsome cur on earth – the act of striking a brave man’s heart through his wife’s honour and his child’s life. The cowardly war has been conducted by methods of barbarism…the concentration camps have been Murder Camps.”
~ Minister Charles Aked
For her devotion, Emily Hobhouse became a saint-like figure for the Boer people. When she herself was dejected and destitute, the Boer people came together, raised funds and bought her a house in Cornwall, which today forms part of the Porthminster Hotel. Today, Emily Hobhouse’s ashes reside in the National Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
To the Victor Goes the Spoils
The Boer militia, known as the “Bitter Enders”, unwilling to surrender was brought under sway finally by the realization that soon there would be nothing left to come home to. With the Boer crops, livestock, homes & families decimated and Kruger struggling in Europe to secure peace, a flimsy respite was obtained when the Boers acknowledged Britain’s sovereignty in exchange for the end of hostilities and reconstruction of what was destroyed. It’s no surprise that reconstruction began with the gold mines.
British agents swiftly installed new banks: the Standard Bank of South-Africa, the South African Reserve Bank, the Commercial Bank of Port Elizabeth, the British Kaffrarian Bank and the Colesberg Bank, mostly situated near the Kimberley diamond mines and the Witwatersrand gold-fields. In 1910, upon the creation of the Union of South-Africa, combining all the provinces and republics under British rule, the currency was changed to issuing coins identical in size and value as those in England at the time. The South African Mint, which today mints the Krugerrand, had it’s inception as Prince Arthur of Connaught struck the first gold coin and today is owned by the Elite-shareholders of the South African Reserve Bank. The imperial, corporate and banking elite seized all control of South Africa’s mineral wealth. And so it is to this very day, the country’s seemingly limitless mineral resources remain in virtually the same hands: Anglo-Gold, Gold-Fields and the Rand-Refinery. It seems a rather disgraceful affront to use Paul Kruger’s likeness on the very metal he despised and predicted would “cause our country to be soaked in blood.”
The Silver Kruger: “Eendracht Maakt Macht”
How is it that a tiny force of regular farmers, fighting for freedom with their homesteads and loved ones at their backs could bring the greatest Empire of the day to its knees? That is precisely what happened. Unbeknownst to the Boer militia, The Empire was bankrupted by this war and thus desperately pushed for signing a peace treaty. This war broke the back of Imperial Britain which here after started handing back their colonies. There is nothing the Elite and The State fears more than a fiercely independent people bound together fighting for what is right. A man that fights for freedom and what he knows in his heart to be right, fights with the ferocity of a hundred men. Paid soldiers fighting for the business interests of elitists that view them with contempt can simply not stand before such an unstoppable force. The echo of this force was heard across the Atlantic, where an English woman answered the call and then the British public. The Empire gained the gold, but they lost everything else. Paul Kruger was by all accounts a simple man. He was, as were his people, but simple folk of the earth. The luster of gold is far too haughty for such a man. Kruger’s likeness fits on a currency not reserved for the upper most tier of society, but for the common man. The Silver Kruger is the “Kruger” for the “average Joe”. It is the defiant spirit of David in the face of Goliath, the meek and “salt of the earth” courageously defying those who descent from lofty heights to lord over us. Defiant in its existence, the Silver Kruger is a friendly reminder that we know the true nature of elitism…