View Full Version : Colonisation of Southern Africa by the Dutch
January 30th, 2006, 07:15 AM
"..If the Papists are able to win great wealth from their African holdings with such great ease, I am convinced that we Dutch can do better. If we don't seize the moment before they wake up to the opportunities that lie in the Dark Continent, the King of Portugal will become master of a New Eden and we will be left with a few vegetable plots. Therefore, let us expand beyond the border that we ourselves have set. Let us mine those mighty mountains for gold. Let us hunt those vast herds for ivory. Let us colonise that land for the glory of God. Destiny awaits us, Mijnheers. Let us not let it pass us by. "
Pieter Van Hero, 1st June 1656
The crucible of was to become the most powerful state in Africa was the boardroom of the of the Dutch East Indies company, the VOC. Headed by Van Hero were those who wished to develop the Cape Colony beyond that of a simple replenishing station for ships. Opposing them, and including the chairman, were those who saw no need for the VOC to branch out into new businesses when the spice trade was so lucrative.
The chairman lost. Instead of the slow drip of colonists into the Cape, the board voted to finance a major colonisation programme "on the scale of America". The most prominent part of the plan was hunt elephants for ivory, but the VOC also planned to prospect for the gold that it was convinced lay somewhere in the Cape. It was paradoxical that diamonds, a resource that was to be key in the development of Dutch South Africa was not mentioned in the meeting.
A campaign to recruit indentured colonists was launched in the form of billposters put up in cities throughout the Netherlands. It was so successful the VOC ended up chartering a couple of non-company ships to carry some of them to their new home. In addition and not withstanding the longer voyage, a large number of "free" colonists elected to join the movement and emigrate to Africa instead of the New World. The expedition set sail in 1658.
The New Cape Colony
The first act of the VOC's new programme was the foundation of a trading post to the east of Capetown at a place called Stellenbosch. It was intended to act as the principal clearinghouse for the ivory which company elephant hunters would harvest. However, as the herds retreated into the hinterland, the VOC was obliged to place new posts further inland One of the free colonists (or burghers as they were called) who settled near the new trading post experimented with some vines that he shipped out without too many losses. Whilst the vintage produced was not up to European standards, it was still palatable and soon a lively trade developed between vineyards and the elephant hunters. In addition, it was traded with the Khoi for semi-precious stones.
Whilst not in the same league as Batavia, Capetown soon developed into a plum posting for VOC officials. This was mainly due to the more temperate climate and less disease-ridden environment. It was also favoured because the shorter distance between it and Europe: news arrived quicker and cargoes were less prone to being seized by pirates (not that that was common for VOC Indiamen).
Immigration to the colony was slower though than the Americas; the distance to travel to a new life for further and thus the cost higher. In addition, crossing the equator made the journey far less comfortable. In spite of the occasional group such as some French Huguenots in 1686, the VOC decided that it would have to look for sources of colonists beyond volunteers.
It quickly found them by brokering agreements with the Dutch government and a number of German states in which it took petty criminals off their hands in exchange for a small sum. To recoup the cost of transportation by the VOC, the convicts were forced to work on company plantations for the duration of their sentence (which could and often was increased for any infraction). In addition, senior company employees as well as some of the richer burghers recruited indentured servants from the poor in Europe. Whilst some terms of these were often equal to the length of the sentences of the convicts, the tasks that they performed were usually less arduous being domestic service, slave driving or working as craftsmen.
In any event and however they arrived and as long as they lived long enough, all colonists became free. Some continued to work for the company or their former master. Others joined the growing band of independent elephant hunters and prospectors who scavenged an existence of the edge of the white settled area. One group, the infamous Donkers Gang switched from honest labour to preying on farms, looting them for food and stealing women, guns etc. Then, exalted by their success, they started raiding VOC plantations and stores.
The governor reacted by raising a part-time mounted militia. To that date, the only troops in the Colony were the mixed race companies stationed in forts protecting the ports from European rivals such as the Portuguese and English. With the predations of the Dronkers Gang, it was obvious that some form of internal security force was also required and fast A former soldier was commissioned to form a regiment and he in turn recruited burghers who were already trained in shooting and living in the bush.
The regiment, or commando as it was called, was more than a match for the Donkers gang (thanks in part to its greater numbers). In a bloody shoot out many of the latter were killed. The survivors were taken to Stellenbosch and publicly hanged.
The commando did not stop there. Other bands of bandits were tracked down and eliminated. Then, with the brigand threat heavily reduced if not quite gone, the financially conscious VOC paid the troops off and the member of the commando went back to their old trades.
Over the next decade, this raising part-time troops was employed on a number of occasions, mainly to wipe out brigands, but also to strike at Khoi tribes who had raided the Colony. Unlike other VOC holdings, it was a cost-effective manner in which to protect the colony, there being no hostile native potentates or European settlements near it. This however changed just before the start of the new century.
The Scottish Incursion
In imitation of England and the Netherlands mercantile corporations, the Company of Scotland was launched in Edinburgh in 1695 by a group of Scottish merchants. Originally it was planned that colonial interests should be established in South America (in the Spanish claimed territory of Darien to be exact; this was what was attempted in OTL). However an influential director managed to change the destination to southern Africa on the grounds that Scottish colonists would thrive better in the colder clime. In addition, he claimed that the colony could be used as a springboard into the Far East and the lucrative spice trade.
Had New Glasgow been established further to the east, say at the site where the British later established Port Natal, it is doubtful that there would have been any conflict between the settlement and the VOC. Such a location would have been far beyond what the VOC regarded as its sphere of interest and given that the Scottish were not a maritime nation, would not have been seen as a potential nest of pirates ready to pounce on the Indiamen returning home laden with spices. On the other hand, siting a colony in this region would have been more risky, the more aggressive Bantus being a greater threat to any European colony than the less sophisticated Khoi.
All that though is hindsight. In 1697 New Glasgow was established the mouth of the Sundays River. It was situated in a natural harbour with abundant natural resources in country inhabited by pretty inoffensive natives, an almost perfect combination. It was also just down the coast from Vrying Pan (Port Elisabeth on OTL), an important VOC trading post and port.
At first the colony thrived. Farmers planted crops and merchants began to trade with the Khoi. Also, a number of hunters began to harvest the herds of elephants in the region. That brought them into direct conflict with their Dutch neighbours. Elephant numbers were starting to noticeably dwindle and competition by strangers was not welcome. Soon there were skirmishes across the veldt between the two colonies.
The loss of ivory trade hit the income of the factor at Vrying Pan, which did not endear him to the Scottish colonists. However, what really made him really irate was that New Glasgow was trading arms to the Khoi. Whilst there was no law against it, neither the VOC nor any of the free burghers had sold guns to the natives; after the predations of the Dronkers and other gangs the last thing they needed was dangerous neighbours. The Scottish colonists had fewer qualms. With the ivory trade in trouble, the sort off trade in spices slow in developing and and desperate for profits, they imported a shipload of arquebuses and exchanged them for precious stones and hides.
The first that the VOC learned of the trade was when one commando pursing a band of Khoi raiders was badly mauled. Without waiting for orders from Capetown, the factor assembled a new commando which first wiped up the raiders (although not without losses) then burned some New Glaswegian farms.
Without the numbers for a serious strike back yet strong in the belief that they were in the right, the CoS factor sent emissaries to London and the English East India Company factory at Madrid asking for support against the VOC. Not withstanding that the latter had used force to drive English merchants out of the Spice Islands and that Scotland and England were both under the same crown, the English declined to provide any. The Dutch were now nominal allies and neither the Crown nor the English East India Company saw any benefit in squabbling over Africa. Not withstanding that there was serious money in the ivory trade, as far as they were concerned the big profits was to be made elsewhere.
When he learned of its factor's action, the VOC governor was not particularly amused either. Unaware that the English was not going to assist their smaller ally's company, he was worried that the situation would escalate into full-scale war. He thus sent his own emissary to New Glasgow offering to allow the Scots to stay if they stopped trading guns to the natives and paid a small tribute to the VOC each year. He also proposed a delineation of hunting areas for Scots and burghers.
The town elders of New Glasgow agreed and thus saved the CoS from certain ruin. Whilst there were still clashes between colonists, there were far less than before. On the other hand, the Scottish colonists were able to take advantage of the higher prices that Vrying Pan merchants with their better access to European markets were prepared to pay.
Gradually, over the years, the CoS slowly became a subsidiary of the VOC as New Glasgow became more dependent on the Cape Colony for its prosperity. The process was facilitated by the Presbyterian Scots finding common accord with the Calvinism of the Dutch. However, the port retained its roots: the architecture mirrored that in its homeland and Gaelic remained a common language for many decades.
(to be continued)
January 31st, 2006, 03:53 PM
The Diamond Strike and the Foundation of Pietersburg
The ivory hunting in the Cape colony had created a glut on the European market, causing profits and the pro-Cape Colony directors in the VOC desperately needed a new source of income to justify Van Hero's vision. They therefore sent a number of expeditions deep into the hinterland to look for gold, diamonds, treasure cities, anything regain the company a profit.
In 1738 one of these struck it lucky. In the dry and dusty sport far to the north diamonds were discovered. The distance to them from the Cape Colony was enormous, but still the VOC staked out large claims. It despatched a large number of indentured colonists to work these as well as to attempting to set up farms to feed its miners.
The news caused diamond fever to sweep the colony. Many burghers as well as colonists from New Glasgow abandoned their farms in the south and joined the rush. Some of them also struck it rich on claims as productive as the company's. As they had cleverly registered their claims as "farms" as well, the company had no legal recourse in seizing the lands. It was seriously proposed by the board to steal them anyway, but the counsel of the Cape
Colony governor prevailed. The rush was attracting a steady stream of colonists from Europe, many of who ended up working for the VOC because they were broke and it could afford to pay higher wages than the burghers were able to. The board decided that the attraction of manpower was worth more than a few extra diamond mines, the stones of which were anyway sold to the company.
As the numbers of miners grew a town was formed in the heart of Africa. In honour of the man who brought it about, it was called Pietersburg (Kimberley in OTL). Its lifeline was precarious, running as it did through hostile territory and convoys to and from it were escorted by company troops. Life within it had all the hallmarks of a boomtown, but that belied its permanence. The diamond fields were so large that the VOC expected to mine them for decades if not centuries.
In spite of the large number of migrants flooding to Pietersburg, the VOC found itself with a problem. Due to the sheer size of the fields, Khoi slaves and indentured colonists were too few in number to provide enough manpower to adequately exploit them. At first, the company considered importing slaves from East Africa and Madagascar as well as capturing local Bantus. However, given the skirmishing that had already taken place them and the local tribes, it was reluctant to increase the African population within its domain.
Instead a plan was floated to ship Indians from the subcontinent to work in the mines and on the farms. The advantages appeared to be threefold. Firstly, the VOC would not be dependent on others to transport the workers; it would personally administer this trade itself. Secondly, given that Indians were already used to manual labour, it was expected that they would prove to be more productive than Africans. Finally, they were considered to be less martial than the Bantu and thus less of a threat to the security of the colony.
It was a great success in that thousands of men, women and children agreed to be transported to the Cape Colony on indentures far stricter than any European agreement. Furthermore, many potentates eagerly paid the VOC to take convicts and those of their subjects whom they wished to dispose of it thus defraying some of the cost to transport them.
The flow from the subcontinent did not stop there. Just as free Europeans had followed indentured ones to Africa, so Indian merchants and adventurers followed their kin. Because Dutch ships not owned by the VOC were barred from carrying non-European passengers to the Cape Colony (the VOC had managed to gain that level of influence), these migrants were carried by British and Portuguese merchants. Also, instead of landing them at Capetown, the vessels unloaded them in quiet coves on the south coast then left them to make their way inland. It began very fashionable for vessels carrying to spices from the East back to Europe to have a deck cargo of migrants on the India to Africa leg of the voyage.
As it was going to be impossible to prevent such activity without direct clashes with other European powers, the VOC was forced to turn a blind eye to it. The official policy became that long as illegal immigrants behaved themselves, ie did not break any of the company's monopolies and paid what taxes were due, they were left alone. As it turned out, the migrants became a boon to the VOC. Most of the European colonists had come to Africa to farm or mine not run shops. So the Indians came to provide a valuable merchant class as well as pool from which to draw company employees from. It soon became a common sight to see a VOC post with its white overseer and his brown flunkies.
The Cape Colony got a further boost in 1745 when after their defeat at Culloden large numbers of Jacobites fled Scotland. Whilst a few settled in France, many others took ship to the growing Scottish population in southern Africa. There, they established communities not just around New Glasgow but throughout the Cape Colony.
The VOC welcomed them with open arms. Not withstanding its eastern source of manpower, it needed every European colonist it could attract to maintain its growth. That the Scottish immigrants formed a martial culture was to be of additional benefit fifteen years after their arrival. That the wave from Culloden were by then greybeards was of no account; they had brought up their sons in the same tradition. It was such men that fought and won the first real war in Africa that was solely between Europeans.
The Angolan Incident
At first, the Portuguese had looked on the events to the south of them with slight amusement; the idea of farming Africa rather than extracting slaves, gold and ivory was considered in Lisbon to be rather parochial. The crash in ivory prices in Europe that was caused by the scale of Dutch trade in the commodity had limited impact in Angola and Mozambique; the small amount produced by these colonies was easily switched to China.
What changed their perspective was the Pietersburg diamond strike. Not only did the income from it make the Cape Colony significantly wealthier than its neighbours, but also the flow of immigrants that it attracted would give the VOC a manpower advantage if war ever broke out. So, to forestall any more any more windfalls going to the Dutch, the King of Portugal claimed all land between the three existing European settlements as his domain; this in spite of the fact that no Portuguese explorer had ever entered them.
This edict was totally ignored by Cape Colony prospectors and elephant hunters. Not being men to obey the command of a Papist tyrant, they continue to penetrate previously unexplored regions. In addition, the enclave around Pietersburg expanded as new farms were founded.
None of these activities went unnoticed in Lisbon and in 1762, the King ordered that something "should be done" to put a stop to any more Dutch "trespassing." His command was relayed to the viceroys of Mozambique and Angola.
The former was a wily old character and realised that "doing something" would be like stirring up hornets' nest. He was conversant with the wars that the VOC had waged to create its East Indies empire, including the recent seizure of Ceylon just seven years before. Thus, he had no intention of joining the list of native potentates and European merchants that it had wiped out. Still, to please his master, he had to appear to show willing. This he did by pushing south with columns of askaris led by less favoured officers. These soon became embroiled in skirmishes with the natives whose territory they were invading. Consequently the viceroy was able to plead security concerns as to why he could not take any further action.
In Angola, events went very different. The viceroy here saw the opportunity not only to make a name for himself, but gain some easy money. A land campaign was out of the question; the distance from Angola to the Cape Colony was too great, apart from which any force would have to cross the Kalahari Desert. Attacks by sea on the other hand were possible, So, in spite of not being officially at war with the Netherlands, the viceroy issued a number of letters of marque to some enterprising captains.
When protests about this were made to Lisbon, they were ignored. Still and not withstanding the illegality of the Portuguese action, the Republic was reluctant to escalate the conflict. A war with Portugal would sooner or later drag in Britain: the latter had developed close ties with the former. Whilst the British had been defeated in the previous century, there was no guarantee that victory could be repeated. In hard economic terms the loss of a few ships did not justify a full-scale conflict especially against what had since become a friendly power.
The VOC had fewer qualms. The loss of Indiamen hurt both its prestige and its bottom line. Consequently, company warships were pulled out of the East Indies and began seizing Portuguese merchant ships in return, and not just on a tit for tat basis. Also, as VOC privateers did not distinguish between those sailing from and to Mozambique and those visiting Angola, the governor of the former became seriously alarmed. Then, news came through that made his hair stand on end. The VOC was assembling an expeditionary force in Capetown. The most likely target of it was of course Angola, but there were no guarantees of that. It could equally well be Mozambique or Goa if the VOC had decided to escalate the conflict.
Deciding that his own personal wealth was more important than any loyalty he might have with a fellow Portuguese noble, the viceroy sent an envoy to Capetown to plead that the expeditionary was not used against his domain. When the man arrived there, he discovered that then force had not only sailed, but was in the process of sacking Luanda. The defences of the town were easily breached: they had been neglected over the years. It was then razed to the ground. Any survivors who were of the nobility were taken for ransom; the rest, white, brown and black enslaved. Also, a number of ships in the harbour were captured, the crew receiving the same treatment as the townsfolk. The Angolan viceroy had been fortunate enough to die in the fighting. The governor of the Cape Colony had been planned to have him hung, drawn and quartered.
On receipt of the news the Mozambique envoy did manage to gain a truce whilst the viceroy pressed his master to end the war. The VOC agreed subject to having the right to seize one Portuguese merchant for each one of theirs that was taken (the surviving Angolan based privateers were still around having retreated to Brasil).
During the autumn and winter negotiation went on between the Dutch and British ambassadors in Lisbon and the King of Portugal. The latter saw the sacking of Luanda as an affront to his dignity and wished to even the score. For their part, the British saw themselves being dragged into a war whilst they had nothing to gain from and much to lose. A war in Europe would cost plenty yet yield little gain whilst there was nothing to stop the VOC using its battle hardened expeditionary force against British trading posts in India instead of other Portuguese holdings. Whilst in theory, it had some claim on New Glasgow, in practice the colony was in no mood to have anything to do with the English and had effectively seceded from Scotland. Consequently, London endeavoured to avoid being drawn into the conflict.
For his part, the Dutch ambassador was relatively neutral in that so far non-VOC Dutch interests were so far unaffected. Against that, having a loose cannon in Africa was not advancing them either. Conquering native kingdoms or driving out a few merchants was minor actions; sacking a European colony was a whole new game.
Whilst the views of London and Amsterdam were important, what tipped the scales towards ending the war were business interests in Portugal. A number of leading families had been hurt badly by the loss of African profits as well as payment of ransoms. Faced by a ruthless enemy with superior manpower and with the knowledge that a new year would very likely bring the same if not worse, they pressured the King into a cessation of hostilities.
After some prevarication, he agreed. The Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the foreign ministers of Portugal, Britain and the Netherlands as well as the local VOC representative (he had to write his signature on a separate page to the others). It was a milestone in international affairs in that the treaty included an article within it that occupation, not claim determined ownership on any territory in Africa.
This principle was to have important implications. The Dutch and Portuguese were not the only European states involved in Africa: there were British, French and Danish trading posts on the Gold and Slave Coasts. Signatories or not, it established that any claims on unoccupied hinterland in Africa by any European power were null and void. The VOC now had carte blanche to expand the Cape Colony as much or as little it wished.
However, the no occupation, no claim rule did not apply to non-Europeans: clauses in the article validated the occupation of once African territories by the Portuguese and Dutch in the words "under Christian dominion." As various native kingdoms as well as the Arab sultanates on the east coast were to discover, there was one rule for Europeans and another for every one else.
Thus on the surface, it had been a good war for the VOC. Losses of its merchant ships had been counterbalanced by Portuguese prizes whilst the no occupation, no ownership rule favoured its more expansionary policy against those of its more cautious northern neighbours. In addition, it had profited from loot taken at Luanda. However, the formation of the expeditionary force had not been cheap and the burghers and indentured colonists in it would have earned the company greater profits elephant hunting or mining diamonds.
In the new climate, the Governor organised a new push north to seize as much territory as possible. In that regard, the VOC was better position than the Portuguese crown. The latter not only had to rebuild Angola but the country in which it attempted to occupy was more inhospitable than that adjacent to its southern neighbour. After a series of abortive attempts to take over what was little more than fever-ridden jungle, it gave up any attempts to seize more territory.
In spite of the drive, expansion of the Cape Colony expansion was not as rapid as it might have been. This was because of the growing threat from the Bantu. The Khoi had been either hunter-gatherers or Stone Age pastoralists and thus no real opposition to European settlement of their lands. The Bantu were different. They had iron tools and weapons and they were more numerous in number. Furthermore, they were also militarily more sophisticated in that their warriors were trained in honed by wars between tribes. There was also another difference. The Khoi had been ravished by diseases such as small pox and measles; the Bantu were much more resistant this "form of attack." They would not be so easy a foe to defeat.
First contacts had been relatively cordial; the burghers ready to trade for semi-precious stones and slaves, the Bantu were eager to trade for iron. Some of their young men had even gone to the Pietersburg to work in the mines. However, the chiefs along the Fish and Vaal rivers began to view encroachment on their lands as a threat. For its part, both burghers and the VOC looked longingly at the lands between the Sundays and Fish Rivers (a region along the south coast).
The first clashes had been with the Sotho; Pietersburg had been founded within their lands although without the consent of any of their chiefs. At first, the tribe had looked on with amusement at the white strangers who settled in an inhospitable part of their domain. They became less friendly when burghers started moving into the region and seizing the most productive agricultural land. Eventually, they resisted the encroachment of their territory by sacking a number of farms and slaughtering the settlers. In return the burghers went on commando, striking back in return.
With Pietersburg looking as if it were under threat, the VOC took command of the situation and despatched a commando north to break the Sotho. The campaign culminated in a battle between the commando holding a ridge against the entire array of the tribe's impis. The result was a slaughter. Dozens of warriors died before they even reached the VOC lines. Still more were killed by pursuing cavalry. In return for peace, the tribe was forced concede valuable farmland to the VOC. This was promptly sold to burghers. Some surviving Sotho fled north far from the Cape Colony. The remainder became clients of the VOC
A few years later, the Xhosa to the east of the Sundays River decided to drive out the burghers and colonists from New Glasgow who were steadily encroaching on their lands. The resulting campaign took the same shape, and was as brutal as that against the Sotho. At the end of it the frontier between the Cape Colony and Xhosa had moved eastwards to the bank of the Fish River. Furthermore, New Glasgow was formally annexed and the shareholders of the CoS were paid off. That was of no real loss to its shareholders: the VOC having been taking the lion's share of ivory and trade so they had not been seeing much of a return on their investment for years. At the time, there annexation was seen a rather minor issue. The real value of eliminating a non-Dutch bridgehead would not be seen until the next century.
In the next twenty years two more wars between burgher and Xhosa were fought. In each case, the Bantu were defeated and lost more land to their enemy. After the third they were reduced to a client tribe.
Foundation of the Afrikaan Free State
Whilst the VOC may have been prospering in Africa, its affairs had not been doing so well elsewhere. The steady loss of it's spice trade monopoly and attendant profits had been only partially offset by the it's African profits. As the company slowly but surely headed for bankruptcy, the Dutch government stepped in and nationalised it in 1787. The impact on the Cape Colony was slight. Most of the whites were not employees of the company and as for the indentured Indians, they merely became clients of a new master.
Seeing the way the winds were blowing, the new governor (a civil servant) decided to leave the regime unchanged. Instead, he and his cronies liberally helped themselves to the profits from the diamond fields. It took a few years for the Dutch government to notice that the revenue that the VOC had drawn from the Colony was less than they now were. Once their suspicions were raised, they despatched an intendant to investigate the matter.
His arrival in the Cape created consternation. Faced by possible ruin, the governor and a number of other leading citizens packed their bags and fled to America. Others not so lucky and were arrested and charged with corruption. In order to prevent any future theft of revenue, the intendant reorganised the administration of diamond fields so that all times two men accounted for the diamonds, each providing a check on the other. He then appointed himself the new governor. Whilst the post no longer had access such a lucrative source of income, the pay could still be supplemented by sale of posts and local monopolies. Consequently, when he retired seven years later, the intendant was a very wealthy man
The burghers had noted the American Revolution, but paid little attempt to the fact that it had given birth to a modern, non-European state. This was due to the fact that in the Cape Colony, whites were a smaller percentage the population and it was generally agreed that a strong state was required to control the Indian and slave populations. So, whilst colonists in Boston were throwing tea into the sea, burghers in Capetown were obediently paying their taxes. Besides, not withstanding its commercial difficulties elsewhere, the VOC had drawn a substantial income from the Pietersburg diamond fields and thus could afford to keep taxation low.
What changed the status was the occupation of the Netherlands by the French in 1795. In the Cape Colony, events in Europe were watched closely. Whilst most of senior ex VOC officials were from the Netherlands, a few had been born in the Cape Colony. These men saw that the United States of America was managing very well without European patronage and they saw no reason to believe, given its income from diamonds; an independent Cape Colony could not prosper too. So taking advantages of the chaos in Europe, they launched a coup against the existing government by arresting the governor (who had been less than nine months in the post) and other leading officials.
They then proclaimed a republic. In a historical proclamation in which the US Declaration of Independence was merged with Van Hero's 1657 speech, the Afrikaan Free State was born. Those Dutch government officials not under arrest or in with the coup tried to rally support against it. However, given that the republicans were in a position to buy allies, loyalist support was lacklustre. After a few months of skirmishing and marshalling their strength, the two sides met at a field near Stellenbosch.
When the loyalist commando saw the size of its republican opponent, many of its troops immediately deserted. Some of the hard core were captured and sentenced to servitude in the Pietersburg diamond fields. However, most are had enough time to flee the colony, never to return.
The creation of a new non-European white nation passed much most European states, republic or monarchy, by: events at Europe were more important than those thousands of miles away. However, three paid rather more attention.
The first of course were the Netherlands. However, the Bataavian Republic as the French dominated rump was now called was not in a position to take any effective action to retake the colony. It lacked a fleet and army at home that could be used to put down the rebellion. It was mooted by the governor of the Indies that force be sent to reclaim it. However, given the large number of burghers in the Free State and the military prowess that they had already demonstrated both in their African wars and the sacking of Luanda, it was felt that such a landing would be easily repulsed. Had the countercoup been successful, it is probable that Amsterdam would have send reinforcements to maintain its hold. As it had not, the Netherlands abandoned its territory in southern Africa without any real struggle.
The second state was France. On hearing of the established of the Free State, they immediately sent letters of congratulation and offered the government in Capetown any assistance it desired. However, given the distance between the two and France not longer a good market for diamonds or ivory, the Free State declined the offer and the two went their separate ways.
The final one was Great Britain and it looked with alarm at the appearance of not only a second America, but also one on the sea-lane with India. Proposals to occupy it were circulated, but like those in the Netherlands they were abandoned. For one thing, the country was already bogged down in a war with France and it could ill afford to despatch a large body of troops from Europe. For another, any expeditionary force would face the problems as that of the stillborn Dutch landing, namely facing an enemy with superior numbers and a high level of military prowess.
The claim on New Glasgow was raised, but quashed. The town was regarded as a nest of potential traitors filled as it was with Jacobite sympathisers. Having seen the back of them, the British government had no intention of taking them back. (Further administrations were to decry this as short sighted, but by the time occupation could have mattered New Glasgow was no longer by any stretch of the imagination British.)
After some deliberation, the Prime Minister ordered the Foreign Office to send an envoy to the Free State. In a candid interview with the Governor (now an elected post), the envoy informed him that His Majesty's government did not hold with republics, European, American or African. Still, as long as the Free State did not become a haven for pirates or support the French, Great Britain would leave it in peace. However, should it step out of line, not only would its diamonds be embargoed, but swift action would be taken to replace the Governor with some one more amenable to His Majesty. How either could be carried out, the envoy did not say. Nonetheless, the Governor noted the position of Great Britain and said that he trusted that both countries would maintain an amiable relationship.
So, general business continued as usual, if not even more profitably. Dutch ships as well as now ships from other nations (the new regime lifted many of the restrictions left over from the VOC era) visited Capetown for supplies and African diamonds found ready markets through the world.
Like its New World counterpart, the original electorate of the Free State was white and male. However, the large Indian population began to complicate the issue. Whilst due to careful manipulation of the law by whites, no Indian actually owned a mine (although some were unofficial silent partners), they were a part of every aspect of Free State commercial activity. In fact some third-generation members of that race were now as wealthy as their white contemporaries and so the issues of taxation without representation began to surface. Under the previous regime the problem had been ignored.
However, like that of the USA, the formation of a new state gave its founders the opportunity to declare a new order. A number of solutions to the problem were bandied about including doing nothing (ie postpone the problem), shipping all the Indians "home" (which apart from the cost would have destroyed the entire economic base of the Free State) and a minimum property qualification for voters (which would have disenfranchised many whites without excluding all the Indians).
Finally the Volksraad, the legislature of the Free State, passed a proposal based on the plesbicate of the Roman Republic. Voters in that ancient republic had been grouped into classes, each of which elected their own representatives. However, the number of representatives of each class were not proportional to the number within it. Instead, the patricians had elected more representatives as a proportion of their headcount than the plebeians. The Free State adopted a similar principle.
The core of the measure was that white volksrads were elected one per county whilst Indian volksrads would be elected one per four counties. A clause in the bill allowed other free citizens to elect their own volksrads "should their numbers merit it." However, there were no plans to do so; for the time being free Khoi, manumitted slaves and those Bantu within the Free State remained unfranchised. Hard-liners protested at this concession to non-whites, but the ruling elite paid them no heed. No government of its making would include an Indian volksrad and those that were elected would be as eager as their white counterparts to maintain their position.
Whilst it was resolving its internal political difficulties, the Free State was also facing two external threats. The first was from overseas in the form of Great Britain. The "Whitehall Compromise" had not gone down well in some quarters. Some elements in the ruling class still regarded the Free State as a threat to passage to and from India. Also, the anti-slavery movement was gathering momentum and whilst the Free State was not a great importer of slaves, it did have large numbers dwelling in it. Both groups found common cause in wishing to occupy it. However, what they needed was a causus belli.
It took time; events at home and Europe were more pressing, but finally the anti-Free State movement was ready to assault its enemy. They started with Port Natal (modern Durban on OTL), This port had been established by British traders in 1831 in a bay to the east of the Free State. Under the no occupation, no claim principle its existence was in theory no business of any one except the British and consequently the Free State made no moves against it. So in order to create an incident that it could react to, the Admiralty was talked into deploying an anti-slavery squadron there.
Capetown did, but not in the way those in London expected. Firstly, whilst the main tribe in Natal, the Zulu was a threat the Free State in that its lands edged that that had been won from the Xhosa, it was also a threat to the traders in Port Natal. However, its lands were not the only area that burghers had their eye and given that there was equally fertile territory to the north of it there was no reason in the short term why the Free State need get in a war with the Zulus. Therefore, an envoy from Capetown negotiated a compact with the kingdom that secured that border between the two states. Those few burghers who had settled in Natal were removed and given land grants in the territories of the Sotho and Tswana. Newly arrived immigrants looking for land (and since its independence
southern Africa was an attractive alternative to America) were too guided north towards the same region.
The compact was to the advantage of KwaZulu as well. The kingdom not only viewed with apprehension the advances of the Free State but as that of the Portuguese in Mozambique. Now, with one major border safe from European invasion, their king sent his army across the other one. They then began sacking mines and plantations and slaughtering both colonists and their slaves
With impis' homes beyond the reach of them, the Portuguese could not use the tactics than the Free State had used against other African tribes namely keep destroying their food supply until they surrendered. Instead they found themselves bogged down in a guerrilla war with a ruthless enemy who lived off the land.
After two years, the Portuguese had had enough. They sent an envoy via Port Natal to the king and agreed to a cessation of hostilities. In return receiving a slice of Portuguese territory, the Zulus agreed to similar terms that they had with the Free State. It was a landmark deal: for the first time in history, a black kingdom had managed to secure all its borders vis its white neighbours without loss of any of its territory. It also meant that the British government was now more concerned in protecting its bridgehead at Port Natal was than using it to attack its neighbours.
For a while it looked as if the Free State had been too clever by half. Having done with the Portuguese the Zulu turned their new found might on Griqualand, a small land inhabited by a mix of renegade burghers, Khoi and escaped slaves and client of it's white neighbour. For years its inhabitants had been raiding into Zulu territory and flush in their victory the latter decided to return the favour.
The Griqua got due warning that the sword of Damocles was about to fall upon them and squealed to the Free State for protection. In reply, Capetown said that they would agree to do so only if in turn the Griqua agreed to full annexation. For a while the Griqua leadership prevaricated whilst their people took refuge in the Free State then they agreed.
The final terms were not what they expected. Griqualand was partitioned between the Zulus and the Free State; the country was not particularly valuable and handing some of it over to its Bantu neighbour was a cheap way to maintain peace. Both sides were well satisfied with the deal: the Zulus had removed a thorn from their side whilst the Free State dealt with a problem could drag them into a war that they did not yet wish to fight. As a sop to their pride a number of Griqua volksradships were created, each one with a constituency of eight counties.
February 1st, 2006, 06:18 PM
Stalemate with Britain
In spite of the threat that KwaZulu now posed to Natal, the British were not yet finished. For while, it considered renouncing the Treaty of Lisbon. However, the no ownership no claim principle was too established as a point of international law for them to be able to do that without threatening their interests in other parts of Africa. For example, when in 1818 Denmark attempted to lay sole claim to an area rich in palm oil in West Africa, Britain and France had threaten militarily action unless it physically occupied it. Given that it was riddled with malaria infested swamps, the Danes declined to do so.
It also considered making the annexation of New Glasgow sixty years ago an issue. However, given the length of time that had passed and that the inhabitants were still intensely anti-English, the British decided to continue to push the issue of slavery.
The London papers began to be filled with articles of the treatment of slaves in the Free State, going into very graphic detail. In vain, Capetown pleaded that the institution was no worse than anywhere else in the world. However, its replies got short shift and the yellow journalism continued.
The Free State's next move was to approach the USA and Brasil, two other white countries with large slave populations and suggest that they defend their way of life by forming an anti-British alliance. However, the other two had correctly identified that the slavery issue was merely a ruse to legitimise attacks on the Free State. Thus, rather than be dragged into a conflict that they had little to gain from against what looked like a pretty substantial enemy, they declined to participate in any defence of the practice.
Back in London, and egged on by the press, the British government despatched a large number of frigates to southern Africa. On arrival, these started harassing ships visiting the Cape in order to "search" them for slaves. As the importation of slaves had been banned for several years, they of course found very few. However, it did impact on general trade as well as the flow of colonists from Europe (the flow from India had virtually dried up after the British occupation of that subcontinent).
For once the Free State was outclassed. There was no way that it could win a sea war or even raise a fleet: its navy consisted of a few customs cutters and it had too few experienced sailors to man one. Also, whilst the British operations were heavily dependent on Port Natal, the town was shielded from attack by three hundred miles of KwaZulu between it and the Free State. Secret talks to allow a Free State commando to cross it came to naught. The Zulus feared that if the British discovered that an invasion was planned, they would rush troops to Port Natal, troops who could be used against them on a later occasion. Furthermore, the king found the town a useful counterbalance to Free State influence within his kingdom.
So, a phoney war developed with continuing harassment of ships around southern Africa and the barring of British merchants doing business within the Free State. It lasted for eight years until the Volksraad decided to eat crow and formally abolish slavery within the Free State. However, it was not prepared to pay large amounts of compensation to the owners. Instead all slaves were converted to indentured workers who were obliged to work out their contracts (arbitrarily fixed at seven years). Children above the age of thirteen were decreed old enough to work and thus had their own contracts. Children below that were free, but their parents' contracts were extended by one year per child "to cover the expense of supporting them". "Contractors" were of course free to terminate indentures early.
The results of this can be imagined. Those too old to work were summarily driven from their homes whilst children as young as nine had their age changed so they received contracts. Furthermore, any indentured worker who took their case to court found that the judge always sided with their former owner. Also, the living and working conditions did not improve. Many an ex-slave discovered that freedom meant the freedom to starve or work for his former master for virtually nothing.
To the Volksraad's amazement, their abolition bill was given short shift in London. The yellow journalism continued. The blockade remained in place for financial as well as political reasons (captains involved in anti-slaving patrols often made a tidy sum in prize money). Eventually, it was ended, not by diplomacy but corruption.
A number of papers printed accounts of anti-slave patrol captains making thousands of pounds for seizing ships with virtually no slaves on board, but still condemned by prize counts as slavers. In the light of bad publicity the Admiralty had no option except to cut back on the patrols and only send them into waters where real slavers were rife. However, the Free State did not declare victory. The blockade had cost it dear and Port Natal was still a thorn in its side. To ensure that no more "enemy ports" were established in southern Africa, Capetown despatched ships to survey the entire coast. It located only one potential site, which was promptly occupied.
Boxed in between the Atlantic Ocean and the Kalahari Desert, Windhoek was a bit of a backwater. However, it did provide an entreport from which to trade with the Herero as well as provide a harbour for pilchard fishermen. Thus, if not actually claimed, the coast from Angola to Mozambique was controlled either by the Afrikaan Free State or KwaZulu, except of course for Port Natal.
The Iron Horse
With the Kalahari Desert to the west and KwaZulu to the east, the Free State now had only one direction that it could expand, northwards. So, it did. Any tribe that resisted was either like the Pedi clientised or like the Matabele driven out. The first burghers to arrive in this area were farmers, but when gold was discovered on the Witerwatersrand, miners too swarmed north. In 1856, the mining camps were officially declared a city and named Johannesburg. The gold drove prospectors from Europe, South America as well as other African colonies. It was estimated that the proportions of the Free State population was 33% white, 25% Indian, 5% Griqua (this "race" now included some immigrants from South America and Portuguese Africa) and 27% Bantu or Khoi. None of the latter had the vote whilst the only Griqua volksradships were in the central region of the Free State.
The drive north caused the chiefs of KwaZulu to now view the Free State with alarm. The truce on the border still held, and given that the kingdom had been extended deep into what had once been Mozambique had certainly been in their interests. However, many did not believe that the current state of affairs would last forever and that it was only a matter of time before a burgher army invaded them. Their king decided to therefore formally ally himself to the British. The latter were delighted. In return for exclusive commercial access they agreed to go to war against the Free State if the latter invaded the Kingdom. The fact that the treaty violated the spirit of the no occupation no ownership principle was of little concern in London.
In Port Natal it was. Foreign goods being shipped to and from the Kingdom were confiscated unless the owner paid a bribe (a practice that was soon stamped out) or acquired a British sleeping partner. This pernicious practice soon spread with those in the civil service being particularly well endowed. As for traffic across the Free State-KwaZulu border, indunas were more than happy to take everything and leave the former owner with barely enough food to get to the nearest Free State town.
Some in the Volksraad were incensed by the British-Zulu alliance and demanded immediate action. However, cooler heads prevailed. Whilst the Free State would win any war with KwaZulu, it would almost certainly lead to a blockade by the Royal Navy and Capetown still remembered the last one. Besides it was selling a lot of gold and diamonds to the British. Trade with the Zulus on the other hand was minuscule. What was of more concern to Capetown was the breach in the no occupation, no claim principle. It was this that the Free State intended to uphold and so went to war.
The first railway in the Afrikaan Free State had been built in 1847 and ran between Capetown and Stellanbosch. It did not take the Volksraad long to see the possibilities of the new mode of transport in tying its disparate parts together so in 1859, the North South Railway Bill was passed. This line initially ran between Capetown and Pietersburg with extensions to Vrying Pan and Johannesburg being added later. Whilst much of the capital was private the government took a 25% share in the Trans Afrika Railway Kompany or the Trak as it colloquially called. There was also a lot of support in the military for the project. Whilst an army would still have to use wagon trains for supply in any war with KwaZulu, it would be easier and quicker to assemble the commandos by train. Years before the American Civil War, Free State leaders saw the military potential of the railway.
As the lines were extended across the veldt, it was proposed to the British that Port Natal be linked to the Johannesburg spur (no mention being made that such a line would be ideal in supporting any potential invasion of the port). However, the idea was turned down; both London and Port Natal saw it a Trojan horse to get Free State merchants into KwaZulu.
The line between Pietersburg and Johannesburg was fortuitous finished in 1872, just in time for the Zulu Civil War in the same year. At the time KwaZulu had descended into fratricidal conflict over succession to the throne (there had been a previous war in 1856 and some of the losing clans of that it decided to use the death of the king to take their revenge).
Both sides approached the British for support. However, the governor of Port Natal was reluctant to get involved just in case he backed the wrong side and thus damaged trade relations with them. The Free State politicians were far less inhibited. When one side approached them for guns, they sent commandos as well. It assembled them in penny packets along the line then grouped them together in a single force close to the border.
For political reasons burgher and Zulu forces had been forced to operate independently. In spite of that, the outcome was never really in doubt. Before the British knew it, let alone deploy units of their own, not only had the Zulu factions not supported by the Free State had been crushed, but a commando was at the gates of Port Natal. The fighting had been intense: burghers had spread from the main force to harass enemy impis. Faced with what looked like imminent invasion of their bridgehead, the British announced that they too were backing the Zulu allies of the Free State
Once he had been installed in his capital, the new king not only revoked the exclusive commercial agreement with the British, but also gave the Trak permission to lay a line between Johannesburg and Port Natal. Strictly speaking, it does not have the rights to cross Natal, but a couple of landowners obliged it in return for being well paid.
The success of the Free State did not end there. A major tribe in the north, the Shona, had recently fallen victim to the advance of the Free State. With a railhead now established at the former's capital, the Free State now controlled the entire central core of southern Africa. Whilst it was still dependent on Capetown and her sister ports for exporting gold and diamonds and importing of manufactured goods, it was essentially self-sufficient in foodstuff and minerals. However, there was a change in the winds, one that did not bode so well for it.
The Congress of Berlin and its Aftermath
When Leopold, King of Belgium, annexed the Congo in 1879 as his personal domain, he overturned the no occupation, no claim principle; Belgium suzerainty of the Congo hinterland rested entire on their occupation on the coast.
However, instead taking umbrage with such a move other countries followed the King's action. The French cut themselves out a large slice of North Africa whilst the Germans seized Tanzanika. The British too grabbed lands in west and east Africa, but the main prize they had their eye on was KwaZulu. London knew though that 1) Capetown would not agree any partition of the kingdom and 2) any attempt to take it by force would precipitate a burgher invasion, with or without Zulu permission. However, it was still not prepared to surrender such a prize so easily.
As a cunning ploy, in 1885 they got the Germans to convene an international congress in Berlin "to resolve outstanding difference with respect to African colonies". The Free State was not invited. However, like Banquo's ghost, they were still present at the feast. Whilst, it was not possible to denude them of any of the territory their enemy held already held, the British saw that the "borders" of the Free State were drawn as tight as possible. They were not as tight as London would have liked, though. Neither Germany nor Portugal were interested in the Kalahari desert region and attempts to get it left as a grey area failed. As the German foreign minister said, "If we are going to carve up Africa, lets do it in one sitting."
In the case of KwaZulu, the British were more successful. The loss of part of Mozambique still rankled with the Portuguese and they were more than happy to agree to the kingdom becoming a codominium controlled by them and London.
The Free State was less pleased. When they learned the news, they sent an angry letter to the Congress warning that they would "take action" if the Portuguese or British invaded their neighbour. The letter was sent too late for the Congress; the diplomats had left by the time it arrived.
With a copy of the draft agreement in its pocket, London despatched a number of regiments to the region. It also expected the Portuguese to wait until they arrived, but its ally jumped the gun. The moment the treaty had been agreed, a force from Mozambique had been sent south to occupy the lost territories in the name of the King.
When it heard of the Portuguese action, the Free State wasted no time in replying. It sent an envoy to KwaZulu spelling out the choices as the Free State saw them plus a promise of the use of force if the Zulu king “did not see it Capetown’s way.” Faced with clientisation or destruction the king capitulated
On the southern coast, Port Natal was besieged by a Free State force sent from Johannesburg. In the north, other commandos were despatched to raid Angola and Mozambique.
The British decided to take advantage of the war to crush its adversary once and for all. After all the Free State was overstretched and under pressure thanks to the number of men it had drawn away from farms and mines. It was also short of industry and had no real navy. Therefore, with the entire resources of their Empire available to them, London could easily squash the upstart republic. It was a perfect opportunity to occupy not just KwaZulu but the entire Cape region so that is what it planned to do.
To achieve this dream, an army had to be landed in the region and that was the first problem. Port Natal had already fallen to a sudden burgher assault; it had never been well fortified and its improvised defences no match for a determined attacker. The British commander therefore decided to re-route the convoys to Beira (Mozambique). That was only the start what was turning into a fiasco. When the troops (a medley of British, Australians and Indians) finally disembarked, other problems surfaced.
The first was the army were now on the periphery not the centre of the conflict. Ahead of the troops was a long march across desert, veldt and jungle before they even reached the border of the Free State. The heart of it was even further away. Secondly, the environment around the ports was not ideal for Europeans; men soon started coming down with tropic diseases. The Indian troops sent fared better, but not by very much so the commander on the spot immediately requested African troops. However, London was tardy in responding to this and none were sent in the first phase of the war.
Thirdly, the port installations were rudimentary; unlike Port Natal, they could only handle a few merchant vessels at a time. As for warships, the Portuguese had a few gunboats but that was it. Any proper naval squadron was going to have to rely on coaling stations in India or at a pinch, the Falklands Islands.
Still, the Admiralty and the War Office were not going to give up in a hurry. They despatched convoys of supplies south not just because it was now obvious that this was going to be a long war, but also because they discovered that they had to support their Portuguese allies too. In addition a naval squadron was sent to India.
The Free State did not sit and wait for the hammer to fall. It immediately purchased a large quantity of arms and ammunition from Germany, France and America (British protests came to naught as the Free State was able to pay in hard currency and the Royal Navy dared not stop merchant ships from these powers from visiting Capetown, Vrying Pan and New Glasgow).It also started to make up with KwaZulu. Given that if the two did not hang together, they would hang separately, it was offered some autonomy within the Free State. The chiefs would receive similar status to that of the volksrads although they would not be members of the Volksraad whilst the King would be given a free hand in all internal matters in KwaZulu. There would be no annexation of territory for burgher farms. In return, the Free State wanted the Zulu army for their war.
The king agreed. If the British won, part of his domain would be given to the Portuguese whilst the rest would be annexed by London. At least the Free State offer left KwaZulu intact. Some of the chiefs did not agree. They had defeated Europeans before. They would defeat them again. The generals of the Free State ignored the rebels; they would be dealt with at its leisure. Instead, with the help o their new ally, they ordered made an all out attempt to take one of the enemy ports, Beira. The choice was simple. It was easier to reach from the Free State than Luanda and so conversely made a better springboard for an invasion. It was also nearer KwaZulu. The fact their mortal enemy the British, were also there was incidental.
Non- Zulu Bantus were drafted in to extending the railway network north and east. Zulus, however, fought not worked. Within weeks of the Free State-KwaZulu alliance, British and Portuguese troops in Mozambique were under attack from Zulu raiders. Small patrols were wiped out; larger ones had their progress slowed by constant sniping. Bridges ahead of columns were destroyed and supply convoys needed as many troops to protect them as those whom they were to supply.
In reply, the British commander retreated his men back to Beira and fortified the city. Naval gunnery would protect extra support and his supply lines were secure. To win the war the Free State going to have to besiege it and he was confident that his and his men could break any assault. In the mean time, his opposite number in the Admiralty sent warships to aid the defence of the port.
Eventually in 1887 the railway was far enough advanced that Free State could transport artillery to within range of Beira and began to bombard it. The British replied with counter artillery fire, but as the Free State guns
regularly moved, this had little effect. In return any British casualties and ammunition were easily replenished; paradoxically it was now harder for the Free State to supply their forces along the long track to than the British to ship in ammunition from overseas arsenals.
The war ground on for another year. The railhead was not yet close enough for the Free State to readily transport supplies between it and the besieging army. In addition, it was now low on artillery shells; the British naval blockade may have been porous, but it still bit. For its part, the Beira garrison was demoralised. Two more years of hot sweaty heat, heavy deluges in the rainy season and slow attrition from disease was taking its toil. Defeat by a thousand cuts looked inevitable.
Then, the Portuguese cracked. Their input into the war in terms of men was low. However, it was their lands that were being fought over and occupied. With their railway deep in Mozambique, it was conceivable that the Free State would take Beira. Once it had fallen, Luanda would be their next target and given the enmity between the two nations, there was no guarantee that the Free State would return any conquests.
So rather than lose either colony, the Portuguese foreign minister opened secret negotiations in Rome with the Free State with a view to ending hostilities. The British soon found out and were naturally livid, but the damage was done. London was faced with settling on its old adversary's terms or supporting an expeditionary force far from a friendly port, a possibility that would almost certainly lead to disaster. It signed.
The tone of the Treaty of Naples was intended to be neutral, but there was no question of it not being a Free State victory. Port Natal was demilitarised. KwaZulu was declared to be under Free State sovereignty whilst occupied Mozambique was returned to Portugal. In another clause, the Trak gained the right to complete the railway to Beira, thus opening up more of southern Africa to exploitation. And as an after thought the Free State was permitted to annex Matabeleland, an independent tribal kingdom that under Berlin was to have been also partitioned between Great Britain and Portugal.
In spite of its victory, the Free State learned an important lesson. Never again would it be dependent on imported arms. In a massive programme, burghers and Indians were given soft loans by the government to industrialise the country. Weapons may have been the principal target of it, but soon indigenous designed steam trains travelled between southern Africa cities, farmers worked their fields with locally manufactured machinery and KwaZulu developed a textile industry from thousands of indigenous sewing machine. From being a country that had earned foreign currency from gold and diamonds, the Free State added a respectable trade in manufactured goods.
The 1908 Coup
With the possibility of colonial occupation eliminated by the victory of the Free State in the South African War, the Zulu king began to reconsider his Faustian bargain. Whilst it had been his impis that had crushed the rebels, burgher support had been critical and that rankled. In the years that followed, the impact of the changes to its neighbour began to affect KwaZulu. One of particular importance was that the young men no longer stayed at home. Instead, they headed to the Free State to earn money and consequently became wealthier than the old indunas.
This created tensions in KwaZulu society that he wished to stop. Not withstanding that he knew that the Free State was as imperialistic as any European power, the king thought that if he asked nicely and agreed not to collaborate wit non-Africans, Cape Town would let him secede quietly. He was wrong on two counts. The first was that the Free State government saw a British conspiracy behind his move. If KwaZulu became independent then so too would Matabeleland. Then, before any one knew it, the British Empire would be sending armies from the territories its puppet allies against a weakened Free State.
The second was that surprisingly, the Indian volksrads openly backed the client status of KwaZulu. They may not have had the same political power as the burghers, but a substantial proportion of the Free State manufacturing and mining industry was in their hands and in order for it to keep functioning, it needed its Bantus work force. So when, the Volksraad voted against secession a substantial number of Indian volksrads voted with the government. This was unprecedented; they normally abstained over foreign policy issues.
Faced with such hostility, the king backed down. He was still master in his own kingdom which was more than could be said for most tribes in southern Africa, Khoi or Bantu. In fact, the only other monarch with remotely any power was the king of the Matabele.
There was also another development that would come back to haunt the Free State. Rich mineral deposits were discovered and Capetown demanded that they be developed by Free State companies: they were not about to let the British or Portuguese in by a backdoor. The king retreated. In return for a paltry royalty, he leased the land and the mineral rights for fifty years to a number of consortiums financially mainly by wealthy burghers and Indians, but also with some foreign capital. KwaZulu was being robbed; it knew it, but could see that there was little than it could do about it. The only consolation was that exodus of young men turned into a trickle because there were now paying jobs at home.
Some Zulus though decided to take steps into their own hands. Largely young impi leaders, they organised a coup in 1908. The indunas were taken prisoner whilst meeting in council and the king placed under house arrest.
Messages were then sent to all the mining companies that they pay higher royalties or see their mines shut down. The secessionists reckoned that given the white man's greed most would comply and the loss of those who did not would be more than offset by those who did.
Knowing that the Free State would not take the challenge lying down, the railway at the border was dynamited in several places. Negotiations with Port Natal were also opened; if the secessionists could get British assistance they would be half way to an independent KwaZulu. They were to be disappointed though. Whilst enemies of the Free State, the British were no friends of the idea of an independent African state. It would set a bad precedence. London did though turn a blind eye to arms shipments being sent to the secessionists via Port Natal.
The news of the coup triggered revolts in Matabeleland in the north and Hererealm in the west (Namibia in OTL). White farms and mines were attacked by bands of rebels with substantial casualties on both sides. Faced with a series of revolts spread across its is domain Capetown declared a state of emergency and call up reservists.
The secondary revolts were relatively easily suppressed. The Matabele and the Herero failed to cut the tracks and so commandos of burghers were easily railed in to put down the revolts by these tribes. The rebels fled into the outback along with much of the local population.
The conflict in both areas then developed into a guerrilla war with the Free State having the same advantages as it had during the nineteenth century, shipping in supplies for its people whilst deny them to its enemies by burning villages and crops. Thousands died from starvation and eventually the indunas from both tribes surrendered. The Herero had land confiscated for burgher settlement whilst Matabeleland was annexed and their king deposed.
The KwaZulu resistance might have gone better, but for a chance development in the Free State army. In 1907 several commandos had been equipped with motor trucks. Whilst these machines were not very reliable (or for that matter popular with the troops they were supplied to), they did give the units concerned unprecedented mobility. By attacking for points far from railroads and travelling through areas infested by tsetse fly (thus unusable by cavalry) burgher troops were in the Zulu capital before the leaders of the secessionists could organise any defence. They freed the king who incensed by the disrespect that he had received ordered his people to lay down their arms. As in the South Africa War, some did not, but this time they were suppressed by their own people.
No change was made to the original terms of the mining agreements.
The Great War
When Britain declared war on Germany because of its invasion of Belgium, there were some in the Free State who demanded that it go to war against its old enemy. However, caution prevailed. Whether or not Britain was defeated in Europe, there was no British territory apart from Port Natal that was adjacent to it for the Free State to attack. Admittedly at sea, the Free State had a few obsolete cruisers, more than the Germans had locally, but also far less than Royal Navy with its battleship squadrons in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In the light of this it decided to pursue a policy of studied neutrality.
Besides, there was money to be made. Whilst German markets for African minerals were blockaded, the additional needs of the Triple Entente more than made up for this. Furthermore, bankers in Capetown went into the war loan business by advancing large sums to combatant countries.
German colonies in the Kamerun and Togo were quickly overrun, but in the east, the British became bogged down in a guerrilla war with a small contingent of white colonial troops supported by askaris. Their successes soon drew burgher volunteers, many of which trekked across Mozambique at their own expense. London protested at this, but Capetown replied that it could not stop them. Burghers were free to travel where they might and if they wished to go to Tanzanika, that was their affair.
Needing African minerals more than another enemy, the British next turned their ire on Portugal. This was also to no avail. The railway to Beira provided an easy route to Mozambique and from there it was no trouble for the volunteers to make their way north through the trackless wastes. One thing, though, that both Portugal and the Free State were able to prevent was blatant gunrunning by sea. The former used its African based gunboats to intercept any craft making its way up the coast. The latter imposed strict customs checks on any ship entering or leaving its ports.
However, such measures did not totally stop the flow, they merely slowed it down. Consequently, the Indian sepoys that the British sent to Tanzanika often found themselves facing a better-armed enemy
Then out of nowhere, events escalated. Whilst engaged in commerce raiding in the Indian Ocean, the German cruiser Konigsberg, was damaged by British warships so the captain sailed for port for repairs. Initially, he headed for Tanzanika, but in view of the facilities there being primitive, he changed course to Vrying Pan. No doubt, he expected a sympathetic ear from the Free State, but in that he was wrong. He was given twenty-four hours to leave in accordance to international law. Some anti-British magnates came to the Konigsberg's aid so when the vessel left, it was with some coal in her bunkers, fresh food and tools and supplies with which to repair herself. The British ambassador in Cape Town strongly protested at this support and demanded that the government take action against those responsible. Capetown was unmoved. It replied that no weapons had been supplied and anyway it was little more than what British warships had been provisioned with when they called in at Free State ports.
With a rejuvenated enemy raider in the area, the Royal Navy dispatched more warships to waters around southern Africa. This forced the Konigsberg to retreat into the Antarctic Ocean. However, it soon ran low on coal and returned to Vrying Pan where it voluntarily interned itself. The Admiralty were livid at the move and at one point planned to bombard the ship whilst it lay in the Free State harbour. In the end, wiser counsel prevailed and action was limited to watch the cruiser in case it escaped. It is fortunate for the British that the bombardment did not take place. It would have almost certainly led to the Free State siding with the Germans and invading Port Natal.
The British fared better in the land war. Faced by more reinforcements, Lettow-Vorbeck's rag tag force slipped into Mozambique. In spite of this, his supply situation worsened when in 1917 Portugal declared war on the Central Powers. The British were now able to impose a tight blockade on the coast whilst the Portugal began to search all trains travelling on the Beira line. The Free State protested both actions, but as the boot was on the other foot, the British ambassador and his Portugal counterpart were unmoved.
What their armies in the field could not do though, was prevent the slow movement south of the German commander and his troops. Finally, and just before the armistice, they slipped across the Free States border to safety. The burgher contingents melted back into the general population whilst German commander requested political asylum for his men and himself. It was accepted along with that granted to the crew of the Konigsberg.
The Free State took full advantage of the internments. Whilst many of the Germans eventually returned home, in the intervening period they retrained elements of the Free State army in the latest military techniques. Also, the Konigsberg was stripped down and monkey copies of it built. Along with destroyers purchased from the USA, the new "Simba" class became the nucleus of the most powerful fleet in Africa.
The British now felt it necessary to respond by deploying a heavy cruiser squadron in Port Natal (technically this was in breach of the treaty signed after the Mozambique War, but both countries decided to overlook this). However, given that the base would fall in days and the nearest bases were in India, it was of limited value.
Plans to send a pair of battlecruisers were scuppered by the Washington Treaty and the need for the Royal Navy to deploy such vessels nearer more powerful foes.
The Twenties and Thirties
One impact of the Great War was that it finally taught the Portuguese that for all the power of Britain throughout the world, in southern Africa it was the Free State that ruled the roost. Add the fact that the entire railway network in Mozambique was owned by the Trak, Lisbon decided that it was its best interest that it allied its self with its colony's powerful neighbour. It embarked on a diplomatic offensive to improve its relationship.
For its part, Cape Town noted the change and responded in kind. However, it was more concerned with economic matters. With its gold mining interests the Free State maintained a gold standard currency. However, during the twenties and early thirties, its trading partners in Europe and America devalued their currencies. This made Free State exports of all varieties less competitive. As the slow down in the world economy bit unemployment rose and Communist agitation grew. Whilst Bantu employment in white areas was not high, given the cheapness of black wages, it began to grow. The Communists were in the main whites with a few Indian sympathisers; no withstanding its demand that all men be treated equal, Griquas, Khoi and Bantus declared to be class enemies. Cells were assembled in many of the major cities together with guns to arm an uprising.
Whilst the government were aware of the Communist plans, it had no idea of the scale of them. Thus when workers went on strike in Fordsburg and Vrying Pan and formed armed "People's Militias" it was caught on the hop. However, it decided that it was not going to negotiate with rebels. Commandos were immediately sent to each of the hotspots to first contain the uprising then put it down.
The operation to retake Fordsburg went smoothly. The general, a veteran from Great War (he had commanded a brigade of volunteers under Lettow-Vorbeck) moved his troops swiftly and overwhelmed the Communists in detail. Some of the ringleaders were killed in the fighting, but most were captured.
For some reason a political hack was given command of the forces sent to Vrying Pan. Rather than move in quickly, he assembled his forces at a distance from the city. The Communists were thus given plenty of warning and thus were able to successfully ambush the head of the column. Furthermore, a tip off allowed them to dynamite a bridge under a train carrying part of the commando. Nearly a battalion of troops were killed.
With his forces bogged down in the outskirts of Vrying Pan, the commander called Capetown requesting reinforcements. Furthermore, he contacted a relative in the FSN to despatch some cruisers to shell the city. Fortunately, none were sent. Not only would have townspeople been killed, but the Communists had been joined by naval mutineers. It is very likely that the arrival of government controlled warships would have resulted in a debacle of FSN ships engaging one another.
With the crisis now slipping away from them, Capetown ordered the Fordsburg commando to leave sufficient troops to hold the town and train to Vrying Pan. This was done and the reinforcements proceeded to retake the port. The Communists including their naval allies stoutly resisted the assault, but eventually the government forces prevailed. With the collapse of their uprising, most of the far left were driven underground. A few masqueraded as Socialists, but the central government and the police made their lives difficult. In addition, Capetown had the navy purged of subversive elements. Still and although it had been costly, the government congratulated itself on its success. However, indunas in KwaZulu and Matabeleland noted that not only were the white and Indian populations as cohesive as they had hitherto assumed, but also Free State commandos were not undefeatable.
In the thirties the economic situation deteriorated still further. Eventually, the government came off the gold standard and floated the rand. This led to a boom in the mining industry which directly benefited KwaZulu as well as white and Indian business magnates. In addition, an export drive to South America caused to manufacturing industries boom. In fact in the new age of prosperity only the Griquas did not benefit. Their small number of volksrads were unable to obtain 'pork' for Griqua towns because unlike the Bantus they did not directly control any territory on which to spend it.
Free State industry further benefited from the Japanese invasion of China and the Spanish Civil War. As it was not a member of the League of Nations, it saw no need to obey the arms embargo as well as having no qualms in supplying any of the belligerents with arms. The French and the British retaliated by refusing to supply it with modern aircraft for its fledgling air force, but resource poor Japan and Italy was not so restrained. In return for preferential supplies of minerals, the two countries sold the Free State a few of their more advanced designs. It did not stop there; technicians from these countries assisted in the setting up of a couple of aircraft and aero engine factories. The latter was of additional benefit in that the engines could also be used to power the heavy armoured cars that commandos were starting to be equipped with. Whilst the Free State armed forces may have been outclassed by those of the Great Powers, they were still a formidable force.
February 1st, 2006, 06:45 PM
The Second World War and its Aftermath
Like the USA, the Free State was not directly involved by the breakout of war in Europe, but neither could it avoid the consequences. However, unlike it's Northern American contemporary, it did not see Germany as a threat; its innate anti Britishness saw to that. Indeed, a great many Germans had settled in it during the twenties and thirties.
However, the Free State was still hostile to the British Empire and thus its exports of minerals and manufactured were skewed in favour of Germany by a series of tariffs. Because cargo on a British, French or American ship was often diverted from ports where it could be transhipped to the Third Reich, some Free State merchants purchased some old tramp steamers from the USA as well as ordering new vessels. Initially the favourite destination was Italy but after its entry into the war, Free State vessels sailed first to Vichy France and then in 1942 Spain once a railway financed by Free State loans was built to link that country to occupied France had been completed.
At first the Royal Navy harassed Free State ships sailing to Europe. However, this ceased after the FSN started to return the favour to British vessels passing the Cape of Good Hope: the Royal Navy was far to stretched to be provide convoy escorts so far south. In fact, the heavy cruiser squadron normally stationed in Port Natal was redeployed in Europe to help counter the Kreigsmarine.
Furthermore, manpower requirements against Italian forces in North Africa and Ethiopia forced Britain to reduce its garrison in Port Natal. This created a split in the government in Capetown. Anglophobe hard-liners saw it as an opportunity to drive their enemy from southern Africa by occupying its only bastion. Moderates retorted by pointing out that however successful the Germans were on land, the Royal Navy still ruled the waves and thus could easily isolate the Free State. If an ally like Spain with a common border to the Third Reich was not inclined to declare war then it was foolhardy for the Free State with no frontier to do so.
The moderates with the backing of the Indian volksrads won the day. Whilst the latter did have the same political rights as their white counterparts they knew that they had more than their compatriots in India. With no guarantees from the British, they were inclined to stick with the devil they knew. In fact their representation in the Volksraad had increased relative to the whites thanks in part to an electoral boundary commission plus higher birth rate.
With their government standing neutral, volunteers (as in the First World War) travelled north to fight for the Germans only this time they went by ship. Whilst a few went to the Eastern Front many burghers including a large number of ex-commandos were sent to North Africa where their experience in desert warfare was particularly valued.
Capetown thanked itself for its decision to have remained neutral when the USA joined the war in 1941. If the threat of the Royal Navy was bad enough, that of facing another navy of similar strength was worse. Furthermore, Washington paradoxically turned out to be less accommodating. Whilst the American government saw it politically necessary to tiptoe around the Vichy French, it saw no need to do so with certain other collaborating states. Free State merchant ships were barred from the Med and the Spain-France railway was cut by bombers once US forces had established themselves in North Africa. Relationships between the two countries turned frostier when a number of Free State vessels under construction were confiscated for the war effort.
The Free State might have retaliated to the loss of the ships by imposing British level tariffs on all exports but for the fact that its foreign markets had been reduced to South America and the Allied powers. With its usual pragmatism, it decided that any sale was better than no sale and if the only major market was hostile, so be it.
That did not lead to any real improvement in its relationship with the Allies. For one thing, burghers serving with Rommel's Afrika Corps were demonstrated to be finest troops in that theatre. British and Australian units facing them tended to take higher casualties than equivalent German and far higher than Italian formations. Some of the ex-commandos were equipped with armoured cars and despatched to raid British supply lines, a role that they became particularly adept at. However, this make them even less popular and consequently, those who taken prisoner, tended to be treated worse than their European compatriots. Still the fame of those who did serve such that even after the Axis had been driven from North Africa, volunteers continued to travel via Spain to join up.
The arrival of the Japanese in the war and their formation of a Free Indian Army caused some Indians to travel via the Dutch East Indies or Siam to join up. However, they were far fewer than the whites who joined the German army. What was more significant was the numbers who fled India to avoid conscription. As the Free State was not inclined to deport them, its relationship with Britain worsened still further
By the end of 1944, it was clear that Germany and Japan were living on borrowed time and consequently many of their supporters began to improve their relationships with Britain and the USA. But not the Free State. Unlike them, it was economically self-sufficient and the victorious Allies were heavily dependent on its minerals. Thus, when the UN was created, it declined to join, a decision supported by both the Governor and the Volksraad. Neither wished to become beholden to any organisation in which Britain was a significant power.
In spite of this, the Free State could not remain completely isolationist. The drive for decolonisation in Asia and Africa caused the non white elements to consider their positions. Their reaction was divided. Some demanded polarity with the whites. Others wanted a non-racial democracy based around one man one vote. A third group, mainly Bantus but also a few Griquas and Khoi wanted independence from Capetown. The most vocal group of these was a group of Zulu indunas living close to the Port Natal border. When Capetown declined to give any of the dissenters even a token of their demands, they decided to matters into their own hands. The secessionists slowly accumulated weapons and when they believed the time was they declared that they were seceding from the Free State. They also demand to be allowed to join Port Natal.
The timing of the secessionists was bad. Britain was too involved in giving India its independence to come to the aid of a group of African nationalists with dubious support. In fact the view of London was that Bantus were not capable of running their own country.
As no other power was prepared to come to their aid, the indunas and their supporters were left to face the wrath of the Free State. Martial law was declared and commandos and allied impis were quickly despatched to the rebel area. Seeing their fate, many fled across the border in Port Natal. Attempts to expel them or even to stop them ended after British askaris opened fire on a crowd of refugees, killing fifty and wounding several hundred.
The news shot round the world and rather than face continuing bad publicity, Britain let the remaining rebels in. For its part, the Free State allowed any who wished to, leave. Its forces had also slaughtered some civilians, but not in front of the media.
The uprising did result on political change, the Governor deciding to bend now rather than break later. A second house (the Council) was added to the Volksraad in which the members were elected by a universal franchise. In the now upper house, or Senate, Bantu volksrads are created on the same ratio as the Griquas as well as a few appointees of the King of KwaZulu (no other tribal leader was given the same privilege.) In addition the new constitution decreed that the Prime Minister had to lead from the Senate. The net result was that in spite of giving some power away the white minority was still if not quite totally in control.
Revision of the KwaZulu Mining Agreements
In 1955, the mining agreements of fifty years before came up for renewal. Since their initiation, the KwaZulu governments had been paid paltry royalties. The time had come the King and his advisers decided to end that state of affairs. They knew that they would not be able to run the mines themselves. For one thing the whites would not allow any nationalisation. For another, the Secessionist Rebellion had taught them not to rely on the outside help than they would require to be successful.
Still, they were determined to gain more of the profits for their people. For its part, as long as there was no trouble and the new royalties did not exceed the level paid to it from state lands, the Capetown government did not care. In fact as British and American companies had holdings in some of the mines, it saw no harm in squeezing them. As the Minister for Mines announced publicly, "The government is prepared to act as an honest broker, but at the end of the day it is for the King and the mining companies to work out a new deal."
For their part, the mining companies were not prepared to give up their profits. They did their level best to convince their workers that increased royalties would lead to job losses. They also bribed a number of influential indunas to lobby the King. In the negotiations, they did their best to stonewall on the principle that no deal would mean that the status quo would continue. Thus, when the original agreement ended, no new one had replaced it.
For a while, the mining companies believed that they had won and the Zulus would acquiesce to the past position. However, the king was biding his time. Two months later, he announced that the KwaZulu was nationalising twenty five per cent of three smaller mines. Whilst it was not stated that further nationalisation would follow, it was obvious to all concerned that this was merely the first move.
Whilst the official position within the British and American governments was the same as that of Capetown, there were moves behind the scenes. Whilst the king's action was not in the same league as the nationalisation of the oil field by the Iranians in 1953, it was still regarded as communist plot by some quarters. Therefore, the CIA and MI5 began to look at ways to reverse the situation. In this, they faced a number of problems.
The first was that the mines that had had stakes nationalised in them had had very little foreign holdings in them. Thus, the affair could at this stage be presented as an internal Free State matter. Secondly, whatever the white shareholders or the Capetown government thought in private, they had no intention of allowing outsiders to get involved. The former could do little more that grumble about their reduced dividends. The latter issued a private warning that whilst they might concede 25% nationalisation they would not tolerate a larger one. Thus, the Zulus won the first move. Immediately, they nationalised stakes in more mines, this time including some of the richest.
Over the years Anglo American Mining had built up a substantial holding in southern Africa, partly by take-overs, partly by buying its smaller competitors out. Whilst a few local mining houses were larger (just) it was the strongest of the foreigners. It had passed first round of nationalisation unscathed, but not the second. So, when the KwaZulu government seized a portion of its asset including a share in its lucrative Mollari Deep mine, it called in its markers with the CIA. It wanted its mine back and it wanted it now.
At this the CIA was not sure how to handle the situation. In spite of Anglo-American's claims, the affair looked more like a right wing cabal than a communist plot. In fact, the few communists still remaining in southern Africa were advocating total nationalisation and not the one quarter of the Zulu government. Still, they set to work and soon various mines were hit by wildcat strikes. Naturally, the US Congress denounced what it called communist threats to the Free State. However, the government of the latter was not so sure. The predominant targets were partially nationalised mines and not the wholly capitalist owned ones as one might have been expected. In addition, when it and its client investigated the affair they discovered that it was being instigated by local agitators. However these individuals were not on their own, but receiving substantial outside assistance in the form of advisers and cash, the source of which can not be traced.
Given its military might, the Free State was not worried that the situation would lead to an uprising against its client. However, the loss of business hurt and the chaos created was giving it a poor reputation for commercial stability. So whilst the Minister of Mines tried to a quiet word with the mining companies to agree to better terms and try and convince the Zulus to back off for now, the Free State secret service (BOSS) began to recruit allies in the USA and Britain. In the main it targeted those with xenophobic views, but it did also lobby the main stream by pointing out the need of the Western Powers for the minerals it produced. It was also successful in convincing them that as a capitalist manufacturing country, it was no ally of Soviet Union.
Thus, the CIA found itself trapped between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. To meet the demands of its paymasters, it would be required to support precisely the sort of organisation that it was supposed to resist. Wiser counsel would have to have done nothing whilst telling the paymasters that they were doing everything they could. However, those heading the Southern Africa desk were not that astute and it was they who were behind the strikes.
The untraceable support had been supplied by it and whilst the paymasters may have held racist views at home, they had no qualms in using African Americans as intermediaries. This subterfuge lasted just long enough for BOSS to infiltrate the strikers and trap some of the advisers. After a short but interrogation they were put on trial in a Zulu court for subversion; Capetown seeing it politically advantageous for their client to be seen to dispense justice. The individuals in question were sentenced to long terms of hard labour.
The KwaZulu government swiftly followed up by nationalising stakes in every other mine as well as introducing harsh anti-union laws. The US and British governments protested, but only for form's sakes. The Free State secretly guaranteed that as long as no move in support of the mining companies be made, it would limit the level of nationalisation. In the streets of Isawangala (the capital of KwaZulu) and in the corridors of power, there was jubilation. The country had acquired a source of revenue independent of Capetown and the monarchy regained some of the self -respect that had been lost when the tribe had come under Capetown domination.
Some saw it as the first road to independence, but the indunas were less optimistic. The source of their newfound wealth still travelled via white owned railways and white owned ports. Besides, if the Free State have given ground in this affair it was because it found it convenient to bend with the wind.
The War in the Congo and the Departure of the Portuguese
The Free State watched with some intrepidation the retreat from Africa of the British, French and Belgians. If the new black governments were seen to succeed, its own Bantus would agitate for more political power. Whilst liberals of all races demanded a more democratic Senate, the political establishment were not about to brook such change. In addition, Capetown was worried that a hostile, pan-African front would develop against it, and not withstanding its military prowess, draw it into a long war. So, when the Congo degenerated into chaos, it decided to intervene and create a new ally on its northern border
There were two facets in the fighting in the Congo. The first was against the Simba rebellion, the second over the Katanga secession. A UN force as well as white mercenaries were employed put down the former and try and hold the country together. However, the governor of this mineral rich province took advantage of a well-trained force to rebel against the central government and carve out his own fiefdom. As first his ploy was successful, but it soon began to collapse when Katanga was cut off from the outside world.
Given that he was already a pariah for using white soldiers to fight blacks (he was the main employer of mercenaries), the governor had no qualms in approaching the Free State for military assistance, assistance that they were ready to provide. However, it was not easy to do so. Katanga was virtually unreachable from the northern counties, of the Free State although ammunition and troops could be flown in. So, the Trak was given government aid to extend into Katanga; the railways built by the Belgians only ran from the hinterland to Kinshasa on the Atlantic coast.
The fighting between the rebel province and its former central government became bogged down; the Congolese Army was neither strong nor well led enough to retake Katanga in the face of burgher commandos whilst the Free State air bridge can only supply enough to maintain the status quo. Outside the country, a number of UN resolutions were passed ordering Capetown to withdraw its troops, but as the Free State was still not a member of it, they went unheeded.
When the railway finally reached Katanga, the burgher commandos were redeployed to guard it, leaving the Katanga levies to hold the border. Also and now with an alternative shipping route, the seceded province began to export more than just diamonds and gold, but other minerals. This rejuvenated its many mines and consequently there was a drift of population to it from other parts of the Congo.
The governor made no attempt to join the Free State, though. Notwithstanding a reduced defence burden that it would gain by doing (the Katangese government paid all the costs of the commandos stationed on its soil), he was currently master in his home and had no wish to reduce his status to becoming a client like the King of KwaZulu.
The Portuguese decolonised in Africa well after their fellow Europeans. In fact, in its case the process was involuntarily as it was triggered by a military coup at home. It also took place in a post Vietnam War world in which the Americans had isolationist tendencies and the Communists were cockahoop with their victory. Consequently, the latter saw the Portuguese departure as an opportunity and the former a quagmire that they did not which to be drawn into.
For its part, the Free State did not care that the Portuguese were leaving; if anything it was glad to see the back of them. However, it was not prepared to sit by and see large numbers of Cubans set up camp in Angola. Circumstances though were complicated by the appearance of Russian advisors as well as it was Russian aircraft that were flying the Cubans in. Still, Capetown decided to take military action on the principle of striking before the situation worsened.
An expeditionary force was assembled in the Zambezi Valley whilst piston engined bombers (no other Free State warplanes had the range) began bombing Communist air bases in Angola. The Russian reacted as predicted; they flew in a squadron of Migs and set up SAMs and ack ack guns around the Cubans' bases. The Free State was thus forced to curtail its raids to only a few and those by night. However, that was now of little consequence: commandos were beginning to push into Angola.
On the face of it, the Cubans had the advantage with their heavy Russian tanks and guns and nominal air superiority. However, the commandos were trained around a more fluid form of warfare where frontline were rarely fixed or even existed in country in which heavy vehicles found it difficult to move. Independent columns would push deep into Angola, attack fixed Communist positions as long as their ammunition lasted then retreat to resupply. Attempts by the Cubans to launch counterattacks resulted in heavy losses in both men and machines; the moment they moved beyond air cover, their unwieldy formations were ambushed.
The situation in Mozambique was more chaotic in that no Cuban forces were despatched and no dominant faction managed to gain the upper hand. Still the Free State did occupy a corridor along the railway to Beira and savagely punish any force that attacked it. It also set up a client government in the city. However, given the unlightiness of any regime it established gaining international recognition as well as the continuing conflict in Angola, it limited its holdings.
On the Communist side, Russia was not inclined to stand its proxies up against the Free State on territory that it would stand and fight at all costs. The guerrillas that it supported did manage to get a People's Republic established in the north with its capital in Pemba. In theory, the Republic also controlled the south. In practice though, that area was the preserve of various warlords.
To have any chance of winning the war in Angola, the Free State needed modern jet fighters comparable to Migs so it set out to acquire them. As there was no possibility of purchasing them from the USA or any Western European country, it approached Israel. There had already been some links between the two, most notably the clandestine sale by Free State of uranium that the Israelis had needed for their atomic weapons programme. However, these had remained on a covert link. The acquisition of jet fighters could not been hidden. Nonetheless, as the Free State could pay in hard cash and on the nail, the Israelis accepted the deal.
The Russian High Command knew that the arrival of Mirages in the conflict would swing the war in the favour of the Free State and it was seriously proposed that the transports be sunk. That was immediately vetoed on the grounds that even in its post-Vietnam malaise the USA would not tolerate such an action. Also, the Russians were not sure how the Free State would react in such circumstances.
Instead, secret negotiations were opened. In return for a Free State withdrawal from Angola the Russians offered a major reduction in the Cuban presence there. The Free State did not bite: they also wanted international recognition for their client in Katanga and an end to the chaos in Mozambique. They therefore offered their own deal. With the exception of a contingent in both Angola and unoccupied southern Mozambique, the Cubans were to go home and Russia and Cuba would recognise Katanga as a sovereign state. In return, a Free State would withdraw from Angola and its Mozambique (when it left it took its black allies with it). Given that Afghanistan was now drawing its attention, Moscow agreed. Cuba had little choice but to agree as well; it was too dependent on Russia to do otherwise.
The warlords in southern Mozambique were not so sanguine. The arrival of a well-armed force in their territory drove many of them into the bush. As the Free State border was sealed they found it virtually impossible obtain weapons and slowly degenerated into bandits. An uneasy peace under joint Free State/Cuban tutelage settled on the region.
The new state of affairs was not without controversy. The OAU made new demands for sanctions to be applied to the Free State and its Katanga client (although not to either of the Cuban sustained regimes). In this they gained some British support. However, the Russians declined to play ball; their support for such action would almost certainly jeopardise their gains in southern Africa. They did though set up an embassy in Katanga
The New World Order
The Russian victories in Africa were short lived. The war in Afghanistan turned into a defeat and consequently led to the collapse of Communism. The US government was thus able to declare the Cold War won and a beginning of a new World Order. There was also a technological as well as political revolution; newshounds could beam pictures from distant lands straight into viewers' living room via communication satellites. People were thus greater aware of events outside their lives.
Some countries such as Iraq failed to note the change to a unipolar world. When it invaded Kuwait, it was surprised that a UN coalition headed by the Americans was formed to drive it out. Every night, shots of the war were beamed into homes around the world.
Like Iraq, the Free State also failed to note the changes; it was too busy at home with its own problems. Without Russian support, the Cuban contingents were forced go home to the delight of Capetown. For a year or so, the border states remained quiet. Then a series of military coups and tribal massacres in Rwanda/Burundi created a sense of unrest in central and southern Africa. This sense of chaos permeated into the Free State with dissident movements springing up in both the core of the Free State as well as its KwaZulu and Katanga clients. No withstanding having a higher standard of living than other African states, the main demand of the movements was political independence.
Thinking that business was as usual, Capetown ordered a series of sweeps against the tribes in question. They were very surprised when their action became headline news across the world, even topping the Yugoslavian Civil War. The OAU swiftly took advantage of the situation; the Free State joined Serbia and Iraq in having punitive sanctions imposed on it by the UN. What those who sponsored the resolution overlooked was that the Free State was more self-sufficient than the other pariah states. Thanks to its indigenous industrial capacity, bans on military and dual-purpose technology were ineffective. However, it was not a complete island: it has no oil fields of its own.
To a certain extent, this was of little consequence: most electricity in the Free State was generated by coal fired power stations. On the other hand, in the past oil to be refined into petrol had been obtainable on the spot market. The sanctions put an end to the latter. With a definite crisis looming and potentially much worse to come, the Governor assembled a think tank to consider all options. These included reapplying for UN membership; an action went against the grain of Free State resistance against foreign pressure. However, it was still seriously considered. Being a member of the organisation might well aid diplomats garnering allies in an attempt to lift the sanctions. Medium term solutions to the crisis were obtaining some oil on the black market and extraction from coal, but the Free State still needed a guaranteed supply outside UN control. The think tank came up with two possible sources. One was direct purchase from Iraq. The other was the clientisation of Angola.
In both cases some form of clash with the UN was predicted. What the Free State had over Serbia and Iraq though, was that there were no major bases in its neighbours for hostile air and naval forces to operate from. Azania (formerly Port Natal) had been given self-rule in the seventies and not withstanding UN support, would do it best to avoid provoking its neighbour. Furthermore its sea- and airports were of limited capacity and easily neutralisable by Free State forces. As for the Russian facilities in Angola and Mozambique, they had always been marginal and were now virtually non-existent. Thus, any use of military force against the Free State whether a blockade or a full-scale invasion would be very difficult to launch.
In addition, there were a large number of foreign assets in the Free State, any or all which could be held to fortune. All in all, a clash with the UN had a high possibility of victory. The only fly in the ointment was that there was a substantial part of the population who wanted reform in both politics and human rights. If the conflict were long and drawn out, such voices could gain weight. However, like many ruling cliques before them, Capetown was not anticipating a long war. Whilst in that respect it was right, it don't anticipate the stalemate that was to occur.
The Iraq offensive quickly ground to a halt. Whilst the Free State was able to purchase a number of old oil tankers, these were eventually intercepted by UN authorised warships and boarding parties placed on them. The oil was then calculated against Iraq's legitimate exports and sold with the resulting funds being placed in an escrow account. Unless new tankers were escorted which would led to a shooting war, the Free State had no way to stop them being boarded. Whilst it had upgraded its fleet during the eighties with destroyers of German and French design, but they were too few in number for such a task. Possible tit for tat retaliation by intercepting tankers passing the Cape of Good Hope was rejected on the grounds that in spite of the difficulties, it could polarise the US and British government against it. The clientisation of Angola was the only option left.
The planned invasion Operation Jungle Drums had very much of the hallmarks of the incursions in the seventies with one difference, The Free State had a Bantu ally and ostensibly, it would be this who would ostensibly be seizing power. However, no one would really be fooled into thinking that a ragtag guerrilla army left over from the Angolan Civil War could transform itself into a major force employing light armour overnight.
As for the Angolan army, it was dispersed throughout the country in order to attempt to suppress the guerrillas. Thus, it was in no position to resist a series of columns crossing the border and driving deep into its territory. Consequently, it was cut to pieces. The government though reacted with commendable speed by calling upon its allies and the UN for assistance. However, with the West and Russia bogged down in Kosovo and no African country able to quickly put an expeditionary force together, it found that it was on its own.
The commandos make rapid gains. Most cities surrendered rather than allow themselves to be besieged. Those that did were occupied by KwaZulu and Katangese garrisons; the Free State was reluctant to overtly deploy white troops in urban areas and it did not trust its Angolan ally to maintain law and order. The holdouts were isolated by light screen around their perimeter.
An emergency meeting of the Security Council was called, but the debate soon broke down into acrimony. A motion demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Angola was passed, but with all five permanent members abstaining, it had no teeth. Days later, Free State forces were on the outskirts of the capital.
To maintain its hold on what cities were left under its control, the Luanda government was forced to fly in supplies. Also and not withstanding the UN resolution, the Luanda government again called upon its allies for assistance. Only Nigeria and Cuba responded, the former seeing it as an opportunity advance itself on the world stage, the latter in return for a portion of future Angolan oil production. Both countries set up air bridges to fly troops into the main airport. These lasted three days.
When unmarked aircraft appeared over Luanda, both Lagos and Havana stopped all flights for fear that their transport aircraft would be shot down transports even though they were unarmed. What they did not know was that the interceptors were also unarmed. Instead of flying from frontline bases, they were coming from the heartland of the Free State and consequently could only carry fuel. The Air Force commander correctly reasoned that the Cubans and Nigerians would back down rather than call his buff.
The appearance of enemy aircraft over Luanda increased the flow of refugees from the city. With it now emptied of civilians, Free State ground forces stormed in. With superiority in equipment and supplies over the Angolan forces and their allies, victory was a forgone conclusion. Whilst part of the city was levelled in the fighting, the port remained intact and this is where the remnants of the defenders retreated. Those that could, escaped in the few ships in the harbour. The rest surrendered. Taking a chance of not being shot down, the politicians of the now former regime flew to Zaire.
Given that the all production was "earmarked" for their use, the Free State did not care that the UN put an embargo on all exports of Angolan oil. Neither did the new Luanda regime. It knew to whom it owed power and so quickly signed defence treaties with the Free State and Katanga. It then proceeded to consolidate its position. Those of the old regime and the previous ruling tribe were sacked and their positions filled by new men. Whilst this created some chaos, it was not as bad as it might have been. Firstly the previous regime had been corrupt and disorganised. Secondly, Free State "mercenaries" were employed to run critical services.
The surrendered troops were not so lucky. The Africans were deported to work in the Free State and Katanga on long indentures (called slavery by the UN): neither Capetown nor Luanda wanted a core on which a new guerrilla army could be formed. As for the Cuban and Nigerian POWs, with their governments refusing to agree to Free State terms, they were destined to spend years in captivity. Whilst, it had been a good war for the Free State, it was also pyrrhic in nature. Thanks to its success, country was now if anything more isolated than before. There had been an incident, which boded ill for the future. To persuade the Free State not to extend the war into the Gabon there had been an overflight by a number of US stealth bombers. The message had been noted and the US ambassador was duly informed that the conflict would be contained.
So where is the Afrikaan Free State today? Outside the pariah states of Iraq, and North Korea and disorganised states such as Somalia, it is probably the most isolated country in the world. But not completely. It's mines produce a significant amount of the minerals consumed by the world economy and the factories in KwaZulu turn out cheap if not politically correct goods. However, exports tend to be limited by outsiders declining to do business with those in the Free State rather than actions by the latter. Paradoxically, this works in reverse with trade with China in that Cape Town is totally committed to free trade because it's history of being boycotted or embargoed whilst Chinese entrepreneurs are looking for partners without American and European ties.
The attack on the World Trade Centre on 9/11 and the War on Terror has essentially past it by; whilst there is a Muslim community within the Indian population, they have yet to become radicalised. In fact, in one respect, the War on Terror is working in its favour in that the USA and Britain have been diverted from their normal hostile relationship with the Free State.
The regimes of Katanga and Angola still rely on support from Cape Town to sustain them. As they do not allow an effective opposition to develop, this still will continue into the foreseeable future. It is possible that they will be joined by Mozambique. In spite of international support, the effects of the civil and heavy rains have left the country in a perilous position. Also, since the departure of the Cubans, the warlords have returned.
A number of leading experts have predicted that if the resulting chaos spills across the border or has impact on the flow of traffic along the Beira railway, the Free State will use it to justify setting up another client state. The OAU would of course do their best to resist this. However without Western support, they are rather impotent. Because of the War on Terror and the Free State most definitely not one of the Axis of Evil, such support is unlikely to be forthcoming.
Internally, the balance of power is still in the hands of the whites although the distribution of wealth is more equitably spread between them, the Indians and the Bantus. So far the latter two groups seem content with this arrangement
What is of concern to the political elite is the number of illegal immigrants coming from other African states without counterbalancing immigration to the white and Indian communities. Should these settle permanently in large numbers, this could shift the balance in favour of the Bantus. This fear is probably why no attempts have been made to further integrate Katanga and Angola into the Free State. It is even possible that they will become dumping grounds for illegal immigrants with all the problems that might create.
March 11th, 2006, 06:51 AM
Map of Afrikaan Free State 2004
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