- The South African War, also known the Anglo-Boer War, has managed to make headlines again, 117 years after it ended
- This followed controversial comments made by Jacob Rees-Mogg, a British Conservative MP
- Briefly decided to compare the historic facts to Rees-Mogg's statements
Between 1899 and 1902, the British launched a campaign against two small Afrikaner republics; the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
During the time, the British established concentration camps. British Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg made some comments about the campaign and it caught the attention Fransjohan Pretorius.
In an article posted on News24, Pretorius, an emeritus professor of History at the University of Pretoria, busted a couple of inaccurate claims Rees-Mogg made during the interview.
So, Briefly.co.za decided to take a look at the facts Pretorius highlighted, which contradicted the British MP's claims. Pretorius has studied the historic war for the past 49 years.
Claim: The mortality rate in the concentration camp was exactly that of Glasgow at the time.
Fact: Boer civilians' death rate in the concentration camps exceeded that of Glasgow by a factor of 10, Pretorius revealed.
"It’s well established that 28 000 white people and 20 000 black people died in various camps in South Africa. Between July 1901 and February 1902 the rate was, on average, 247 per 1000 per annum in the white camps. It reached a high of 344 per 1000 per annum in October 1901 and a low of 69 per 1000 per annum in February 1902," Pretorius wrote.
Claim: The concentration camps were there for South Africans' protection while the boers were off fighting in the war.
Fact: After the British occupied the Free State under the command of Lord Roberts, about 20k boers accepted a deal to lay down their arms and sign an oath of neutrality.
In return, they would be granted permission to return to their farms and were dubbed the “protected burghers”.
"Roberts had banked on this policy to end the war. But after the British occupation of the Transvaal capital, Pretoria, on 5 June 1900, there was no end in sight. On the contrary, the Boers had started a guerrilla war, which included attacks on railway lines," Pretorius penned.
Robert hit back by burning the closest homestead to the railway that was attacked. However, the British's attacks intensified and all homesteads in a 16km radius of the railway attacks were torched and their livestock were either killed or taken. Crops were also destroyed.
Things went from bad to worse when Lord Kitchener took over from his predecessor, Roberts. Towns and homes were burnt even without railway attacks and it left boer women and children homeless.
So, the British decided to take the women in children into the camps as their husbands were still busy fighting the wars.
"They were called the “undesirables” – families of Boers who were still on commando or already prisoners of war. They were given fewer rations than others in the camps," Pretorius added.
The number of these families soon outnumber that of the protected burghers. However, according to Pretorius, these families had no choice in their new living arrangements.
"These families were taken against their will. They were forcibly put on ox wagons and open railway trucks and taken to the camps. They were not, as Rees-Mogg claimed, moved for their protection and safety. Nor were they moved to the camps to be fed. Rather, their internship had everything to do with ending the resistance of Boers still fighting the British," he said.
Aside from having no choice in the matter, Pretorius added the camps were in horrible conditions.
"Food was of a very poor quality, sanitation deplorable, tents were overcrowded and medical assistance shocking."
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