Stories

Graspan

Posted on May 07, 2014 by Cape Rebel

This poem was written by a young Australian, M Grover, on 25 November 1899.

I killed a man at Graspan
I killed him fair in a fight
And the Empire’s poets and the Empire’s priests
Swear blind I acted right

The Empire’s poets and the Empire’s priests
Make out my deed was fine
But they can’t stop the eyes of the man I killed
From starin’ into mine

I killed a man at Graspan
Maybe I killed a score
But this one wasn’t a chance-shot home
From a thousand yards or more

I fired at him when he’d got no show
We were only a pace apart
With the cordite scorchin’ his old worn coat
As the bullet drilled his heart

I killed a man at Graspan
I killed him fightin’ fair
We came on each other face to face
An’ we went at it then and there

Mine was the trigger that shifted first
His was the life that sped
An’ a man I’d never had a quarrel with
Was spread on the boulders dead

I killed a man at Graspan
I watched him squirmin’ still
He raised his eyes, an’ they met with mine
An’ there they’re starin’ still

Cut of my brother Tom, he looked
Hardly more ’n a kid
An’ Christ! he was stiffenin’ at my feet
Because of the thing I did

I killed a man at Graspan
I told the camp that night
An’ of all the lies that I ever told
That was the poorest skit

I swore I was proud of my hand-to-hand
An’ the Boer I’d chanced to pot
An’ all the time I’d ha’ given my eyes
To never ha’ fired that shot

I killed a man at Graspan
An hour ago about
For there he lies with his starin’ eyes
An’ his blood still tricklin’ out.

I know it was either him or me
I know that I killed him fair
But all the same, wherever I look
The man that I killed is there

I killed a man at Graspan
My first an’ God! my last
Harder to dodge than my bullet is
The look that his dead eyes cast

If the Empire asks for me later on
It’ll ask for me in vain
Before I reach to my bandolier
To fire on a man again

Posted in English

Commandant Hennie van Rensburg

Posted on April 30, 2014 by Cape Rebel

by Marthinus van Bart

 

General James Barry Munnik Hertzog – one of the pre-eminent Boer leaders during the Anglo-Boer War and South Africa’s third Prime Minister after Union – had been an advocate, and thereafter a judge, before the outbreak of war in October 1899. Immediately after the war, in June 1902, he reverted briefly to his role as advocate in order to defend Commandant Hennie van Rensburg, head of the renowned Theron’s Scouts, who was court-martialed after the Peace of Vereeniging for having been a Cape Rebel.

The founder of Theron’s Scouts, Commandant Danie Theron, had been born in Tulbagh in the Cape, but was an attorney practising in Krugersdorp, and a Transvaal citizen, during the pre-war years. When Mr Moneypenny, editor of The Star, made insulting remarks about the Boers in his newspaper column, Theron went to his office and confronted him about the lies he had published. Moneypenny then personalised his insults, which resulted in Theron resorting to his fists. In due course Theron was convicted of assault and sentenced to a fine, but a hat was passed around in court the moment his sentence was pronounced and – midst much laughter – the amount of the fine was collected, there and then, in the public gallery of the Magistrates Court. 

Theron’s Scouts became legendary and remained so throughout the war, despite the fact that Theron himself died in battle on 5 September 1900 at Gatsrand, on the West Rand, less than a year after the start of the war.

At the end of the war the head of Theron’s Scouts was Commandant Hennie van Rensburg. Like Theron, he had been born in the Cape Colony. He came from the farm Langnek, near Modderfontein, in the Eastern Cape district of Cradock, and when war broke out he was still resident there, and a British subject. In May 1901, at the age of just twenty-one, Van Rensburg joined Commandant Wynand Malan’s commando, and a month later he was seriously wounded in an attack on Richmond. An English bullet entered his face in the region of his nose and departed just below his left ear. This Boer was a tough customer, however, for he refused to leave his commando, and in due course his wound healed, although deafness would follow later on. He continued fighting in the Cape midlands until September 1901, at one stage with the commando of Gideon Scheepers, and thereafter he fought under General Manie Maritz in the district of Calvinia. It was Maritz who promoted Van Rensburg to the rank of Field Cornet, and soon thereafter General Malan promoted him to the rank of commandant and appointed him as the head of Theron’s Scouts.

When the Boers finally laid down their arms on 5 June 1902, almost a week after the Peace of Vereeniging, the British arrested and imprisoned Van Rensburg at Cradock because he had fought as a Cape Rebel. Charged before a court-martial with high treason and nine counts of murder, he approached General Smuts – one of the principal negotiators at Vereeniging, and the former Transvaal State Attorney – to defend him. Smuts declined, however, saying: ‘I’m sorry, but the peace terms have been negotiated, and the commandant can be prosecuted.’ (At Vereeniging Smuts and the other negotiators had acceded to Lord Kitchener’s insistence that there be no amnesty for Cape Rebels, against the express wishes of President Kruger and President Steyn.) 

Smuts knew the young Rebel personally, but nevertheless declined to represent him.

Learning of Smuts’s refusal, Van Rensburg approached General Hertzog, whom he had never met, to act on his behalf. Hertzog knew that Van Rensburg had fought bravely, and that he had been a worthy commandant of Theron’s Scouts, and the former advocate-turned-judge immediately agreed to represent Van Rensburg. He travelled to Cradock for this purpose, and with great difficulty secured Van Rensburg’s release on bail of £4 000. Before the main trial began, however, fate intervened. The Cape Parliament voted to grant amnesty to Van Rensburg, and the prosecution was accordingly dropped.

When Van Rensburg inquired about Hertzog’s fee, the general demurred, saying: ‘What Hennie van Rensburg did for our people can never be repaid.’ This noble gesture matched that of Van Rensburg, who had risked his life – as a Cape Rebel – to champion justice and right for his fellow-Afrikaners in the Boer Republics.

 

Posted in English

Kommandant Hennie van Rensburg

Posted on April 30, 2014 by Cape Rebel

deur by Marthinus van Bart

 

James Barry Munnik Hertzog, een van die Boere se voorste strydsleiers gedurende die Anglo-Boereoorlog (ABO) en die derde premier  van Suid-Afrika ná Uniewording, was ook ’n advokaat en ’n regter. Toe hy na afloop van die oorlog as advokaat die laaste leier van die Theron’s Verkennings Corps, kommandant H.J.J. (Hennie) van Rensburg, in die Britse krygshof moes verdedig omdat hy as Kaapse Rebel teen die Britte geveg het, het Herzog geen regskoste vir sy regshulp gevra nie. “Wat dié man vir ons volk gedoen het, kan ons nooit terugbetaal nie,” het hy gesê. 

Die Theron’s Verkennings Corps was die mees gedugte verkenningseenheid van die hele ABO. Die stigter en eerste kommandant daarvan, Danie Theron, gebore op Tulbagh, was ook ’n regsman. Hy was ’n prokureur op Krugersdorp en burger van die Transvaalse Boererepubliek toe die oorlogswolke oor Suid-Afrika begin saampak het. Nadat die redakteur van The Star, W.F. Moneypenny, snedighede oor die Afrikaners in sy kolommme kwytgeraak het, het Theron hom in Johannesburg op kantoor gaan opsoek. Hy het die redakteur met sy leuens en beledigings gekonfronteer. Toe Moneypenny egter ook hom beledig, het Theron hom met die vuis bygedam. Theron is weens aanranding in die landdroshof veroordeel en beboet. Die aanwesiges, meestal sy ondersteuners, het in die hof onder ’n groot gelag ’n hoed omgestuur en die boete daar en dan betaal.

Theron was ’n topfiks-atleet en kampioen-fietsryer. Toe die oorlog uitbreek, het hy ’n fietsryerskommando, Wielrijders Rapportgangers Corps, gestig omdat hy gemeen het die tweewielfiets was doeltreffender as die ryperd in oorlogstoestande. Wat hy nie in berekening gebring het nie, was dat elke lid van die korps soos hy ’n topfiks-atleet moes wees met die uithouvermoë van ’n ysterman. Die fietsryerskorps was dus nie geslaagd nie, maar die vernuftige Theron is aangestel as hoof van die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek se verkenners met die rang van kaptein. Hierdie Theron’s Verkennings Corps was legendaries in die oorlog. Op 5 September 1900 is Theron by Gatsrand aan die Wesrand deur die Britte vasgekeer en met ’n kanonkartets doodgeskiet. 

Die laaste leier van die Theron’s Verkennings Corps was kommandant Hennie van Rensburg. Hy was, soos Theron, ook in die Kaapkolonie gebore. Hy was van die plaas Langnek by Modderfontein in die distrik Cradock, Oos-Kaap, afkomstig. Toe die oorlog uitbreek, het hy steeds daar gewoon en hy was dus ’n Britse onderdaan. In Mei 1901 het Van Rensburg, toe pas 21 jaar, hom by die kommando van kmdt. Wynand Malan aangesluit. In die volgende maand is die jong Rebel in ’n aanval op Richmond in die gesig gewond. Die Engelse koeël is by sy neus in en by sy nek, onder sy linkeroor, uit. Hy was egter ’n taai Boerseun en het geweier om die kommando te verlaat. Die wond het mettertyd genees, maar Van Rensburg het later doof geword. Hy het tot September 1901 in die Kaapse Middellande geveg, onder meer saam met Gideon Scheepers se kommando. Daarna is die korps na Calvinia om onder genl. Manie Maritz te veg. Dié formidabele generaal het Van Rensburg die rang van veldkornet toegeken, en genl. Malan het hom kort daarna tot kommandant en hoof van die verkenningskorps bevorder. 

Toe die Boere op 5 Junie 1902, amper ’n week ná die vredesluiting by Vereeniging, die wapens neerlê, is Van Rensburg deur die Britte gevange geneem en in Cradock se tronk opgesluit. Hy het voor ’n krygshof op ’n aanklag van hoogverraad en nege aanklagte van moord tereggestaan. Toe hy genl. J.C. (Jan) Smuts, een van die hoofonderhandelaars namens die Boere by Vereeniging, versoek om hom in die hof te verdedig, het Smuts geweier. “Ek is jammer, maar vrede is klaar gesluit en die kommandante mag vervolg word,” was sy antwoord. Smuts het by Vereeniging toegegee aan die eise van lord H.H. Kitchener, opperhoof van die Britse magte, dat die Kaapse Rebelle geen amnestie mag kry nie. Dit was uitdruklik teen die wens van presidente Paul Kruger (van Transvaal) en M.T. Steyn (van die Oranje Vrijstaat). Dat Smuts die jong Rebel geken het, het vir hom geen verskil gemaak nie.

Van Rensburg het hom daarna tot genl. Hertzog gewend, hoewel die generaal hom glad nie geken het nie. Hy was wel daarvan bewus dat Van Rensburg baie dapper geveg het en dat hy ’n waardige kommandant van die Theron’s Verkennings Corps was. Hertzog het dadelik ingestem, na Cradock gereis, en met groot moeite daarin geslaag om Van Rensburg op borgtog van £4 000 uit die tronk te kry. Voordat die verhoor hervat kon word, het die Kaapse parlement besluit dat Van Rensburg amnestie mag kry, en is hy vrygespreek. 

Toe hy Hertzog vir sy onkoste en regsdienste wou betaal, het die generaal 
dit vriendelik van die hand gewys en gesê: “Wat Hennie van Rensburg vir ons volk gedoen het, kan ons nooit terugbetaal nie.” Hierdie ridderlike gebaar van Hertzog was ’n waardige teenprestasie vir Van Rensburg se bereidwilligheid om as Kaapse Rebel sonder enige vergoeding sy jong lewe in die spel te plaas ter wille van reg en geregtigheid vir sy mede-Afrikaners in die Boererepublieke.

Posted in Afrikaans

Die Kaapse Rebel

Posted on April 07, 2014 by Cape Rebel

vertaal deur Marthinus van Bart


’n Senior regsgeleerde het onlangs gesê hy kon dit nog nooit begryp waarom sy oupa – op die ouderdom van 56 jaar – op ’n dag ten tyd

e van die Anglo-Boereoorlog (1899-1902) sy perd opgesaal en na die Boere-kommando’s koers gekies het om as Kaapse Rebel saam met hulle teen die Britte te gaan veg nie. Die antwoord lê straks opgesluit in C. Louis Leipoldt se historiese roman Stormwrack, waarin beskryf word dat burgerlikes indertyd gedwing is om ingevolge Britse krygswet te aanskou hoedat Kaapse Rebelle, ter dood veroordeel weens hoogverraad, gefusilleer word. Daar was geen doeltreffender manier om Kaapse Rebelle te werf as juis hierdie vorm van dwingelandy nie.

Die Kaapse Rebel hier ter sprake is uiteindelik gevang en in die tronk gestop, waar hy ná die vredesluiting van 31 Mei 1902 steeds opgesluit gebly het. Die owerhede was slegs bereid om hom vry te laat indien ’n welvarende bereid was om borg van £1 000 te staan – wat sou toesien dat hy hom in die toekoms goed sal gedra. Sy gesin was nie vermoënd genoeg om aan die vereistes van borgstaan te voldoen nie, en so het hy maande nadat die oorlog reeds ten einde geloop het, steeds in gevangenskap gebly.

Uiteindelik het ’n totale vreemdeling van Transvaal van die Kaapse Rebel se benarde situasie verneem, ingestem om borg te staan, en sodoende toegesien dat die gevangene vrygelaat word. Al wat die gesin ooit oor die vreemdeling kon vasstel, was sy familienaam. Gevolglik was hulle nie in staat om hul dankbaarheid persoonlik aan hom oor te dra nie. Sodanig is hierdie grootse gebaar van die vreemdeling deur die Rebel en sy naasbestaandes waardeer, dat die seun en kleinseun van die Kaapse Rebel – albei regsgeleerdes – nooit enige regskostes verhaal het van enige kliënt met dieselfde familienaam as dié van die vreemdeling nie. Op hierdie manier, sonder verduideliking, het hulle die algehele vreemdeling se stille ruimhartigheid van jare tevore vereffen.

Een van die karakters in Stormwrack, wat dié oorlog as ’n burgeroorlog in die Kaapkolonie uitbeeld, verklaar: “Die wonde van burgeroorlog laat letsels waarvan die gevoeligheid nie altyd deur die verloop van tyd afneem nie.” Dit blyk, paradoksaal, die geval te wees met die dankbaarheid van dié regsfamilie wat tot vandag toe nooit die stille ruimhartigheid van egte heldhaftigheid vergeet het nie. Daardeur word die edelste in die gees van die ware Kaapse Rebel gedemonstreer.

Posted in Afrikaans

The Cape Rebel

Posted on April 07, 2014 by Cape Rebel

A senior attorney recently said he could never understand why, during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), his grandfather – at the age of fifty-six – one day saddled his horse and rode off to fight for the Boers as a Cape Rebel. The answer may lie in Leipoldt’s historical novel, Stormwrack, which describes civilians being forced, under martial law, to witness the execution of Cape Rebels sentenced to death for treason. There was no more efficient form of recruitment of Cape Rebels than this.

The Cape Rebel in question was subsequently captured and imprisoned, and he remained a prisoner when the war ended on 31 May 1902. The authorities would only release him if someone of means would guarantee a sum of £1 000 to vouch for his future good conduct. His family was unable to do this, and he remained in captivity for months after the war had ended.

Eventually a complete stranger from the Transvaal heard of the Cape Rebel’s plight, furnished the necessary guarantee, and the prisoner was freed. All the family could ever discover about the stranger was his surname, and they were unable to express their gratitude to him personally. So much was this act of generosity appreciated by the family, however, that the Cape Rebel’s son and grandson – both attorneys – never charged a fee to any of their clients who had the same surname as the unidentified benefactor. In this way, without explanation, they matched the silent generosity, years before, of a complete stranger.

One of the characters in Stormwrack, which portrays the war as civil war in the Cape Colony, states: ‘The wounds of civil war leave scars whose sensitiveness is not always dulled by time.’ This rings true, paradoxically, in the gratitude of a legal family that, to this day, has not forgotten the quiet generosity of true heroism – embodying what is noblest in the spirit of the Cape Rebel.

Posted in English

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