Lichtenburg, North West
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The main street in Lichtenburg
|District||Ngaka Modiri Molema|
|• Total||108.90 km2 (42.05 sq mi)|
|• Density||240/km2 (630/sq mi)|
|Racial makeup (2011)|
|• Black African||59.5%|
|First languages (2011)|
|Postal code (street)||2740|
The town was established in 1873 and was named by Transvaal President Thomas François Burgers, Lichtenburg (Town of Light). On the 13 March 1926, Jacobus Voorendyk, discovered a diamond on his family farm and within 12 months there were 108,000 fortune seekers on the scene. The resulting diamond rush lasted ten years.
The main economic activity is the production of maize (corn). Lichtenburg lies in the heart of the maize triangle, which is the main maize growing area in South Africa. Another major economic activity is the production of cement. Within a radius of 80 km of Lichtenburg there are three major cement producers. This creates an opportunity for long distance transport and related activities.[clarification needed]
- 1 General information
- 2 Historical background
- 3 Industries
- 4 Business
- 5 Sport
- 6 Interesting places and Tourism
- 7 Boer War
- 8 References
Lichtenburg is situated approximately 230 kilometres (140 mi) west of Johannesburg on the main route to Mmabatho. It lies 1,459 metres (4,787 ft) above sea level. The climate is healthy and moderate. Frost occurs in winter but the days are pleasantly sunny. As a result of natural water resources and wide open spaces it has a natural charm and is a true oasis in an otherwise slightly arid North West Province.
Lichtenburg was established in 1873 by Commandant H.A. Greeff. The history of the town is closely associated with the life of General De la Rey, who apart from being the town's representative in the House of Assembly, was also Assistant Commandant General of the Boer forces. After Unification he also became Senator. He was buried in Lichtenburg after a fatal shooting incident at Langlaagte. More and more farmers settled here during the mid to late 1800s.
Several factories manufacturing inter alia liquid fertilizer, animal feed and agricultural implements are established here. Two of the largest cement factories in the Southern Hemisphere namely AfriSam Dudfield (prev. Anglo Alpha) and Lafarge (prev. Blue Circle Cement) as well as the biggest cheese factory in the country namely Clover S.A., are situated here.
The central business area consists of approximately 150 retail undertakings, 20 financial institutions and many other service institutions. Shop and office accommodation is available as well as select business sites adjoining the central business area.
The Lichtenburg Sports Car Club is affiliated with the South African Motor Sports body and motor car and motor cycle races – both on the race track and offroad – represented here, attract well-known racing drivers.
Interesting places and Tourism
Considering its unique historical background and special places of interest, coupled with its tranquility and moderate climate, Lichtenburg should certainly be included in the itinerary of the tourist.
Lichtenburg Diggings Museum
The theme of the museum is the alluvial diamant diggings of this region 1925–1935, then the richest public diggings in the world. The biggest pure red diamond (flawless) ("pigeon blood red") in the world was found here in 1927. The stone was of 33 carats (6.6 g). It was sold for 66 pounds and was later valued at $150,000. The stone would be worth more than $6 million today and is the purest red diamond in the world. The biggest diamond rush in history took place in March 1927 on the farm Grasfontein near Lichtenburg, when 25,000 runners took part to peg their claims. The town accommodates a Social-historical museum and an Agricultural museum with a big collection of antique tractors and many other interesting objects, and the new Digging Museum.
Approximately 20 km north of Lichtenburg lies the world renowned diamond diggings over an area of more or less 35 km from east to west, known as "Bakerville". Bakerville is on the Zeerust Road.
It was the richest public diggings ever mined – it was the Lichtenburg Diamond Rush of February 1926 and a population of 150,000 souls appeared as if by magic. Bakerville, or "Bakers" as it was known it the time, it is only one of several "Diggers Towns", developed in Wild West style. Bakerville was the biggest and most famous of the towns. Bigger than Cape Town at the time, the Lichtenburg district made many men rich but broke thousands of hearts.
By 1928 the rush was over. Today a smattering of "bitter-einders" remain, optimists all, still digging through tonnes of gravel heaps in the never-ending search for the 'Big One'.
Then came one of the most exciting times in the century. By the end of 1927 there were proclamations on eight farms. In a second rush in 1945, production on the diggings was on the same scale as in 1925; one-hundred-and-four diggings on one farm were proclaimed.
It all started two years earlier, in 1924, when postmaster's son Kosie Voorendyk and a couple of la homers were digging a cattle dip. Suddenly a worker's eye caught a glitter in the gravel. Kosie, in great excitement picked up the stone and took it to the local science teacher, a Mr Bosman, to put the stone through an acid test. It was a beautiful stone of 3 carats (600 mg). Immediately the Voorendyks contracted PR Hager, the state geologist and prospector. But he was not impressed. He paid a short visit to the farm in 1925 and briefly looked around. His reaction: "My boy, there are no diamonds on this farm. A bird must have dropped it here."
PR Hager moved on to another find at Manana, a farm next to Lichtenburg, and went prospecting. The first proclamation of a digging was made there. He then moved off to a farm, Hangklip, near Elandsputte. At least he thought he did. Unknowingly he got lost and started prospecting Elandsputte itself. Within days he found a stunning 6 carats (1.2 g) stone. His first wash delivered 21 diamonds, the next, 361. The diggings were proclaimed in February 1926, the first one where thousands of diggers took part.
Then came professional diggers, fortune seekers and the adventurers. From all over the world there was only one road – and it led to Lichtenburg.
A city of shacks rose within a year. The population of 150,000 was seven times bigger than that of Lichtenburg today. Diamond digger Bakers, called after the owner Albert Baker, and later known as Bakerville, was the main town. Houses and shacks stood wall-to-wall for several kilometres. Some 250 diamond buyers plied their trade along with dining houses, a cinema, a merry-go-round and about 60 cafes, shops, barbers, butcheries and other businesses. The Bakerville school, one of 17 on the diggings, had 15 classrooms. MC Botha, later Minister of Bantu Affairs in the Apartheid government, was at this school.
It was the phenomenal amount of diamonds found just beneath the topsoil that made the diggings so extraordinary. In one-week diamonds worth R10 million in today's terms were found.
Up until 1927 an astounding amount of diamonds were pulled out of the ground − 70% of the former Transvaal's alluvial production at the time. The Lichtenburg diggings were indeed rich beyond imagination.
From 1928, the economic position of the diggers weakened dramatically because of worked out gravels, a fall in diamond prices and the onset of the Depression. Inevitably, the diggers drifted away and slowly calm returned to the district.
In the early 1980s, interest in the area was renewed with the release of a government report which indicated that undiscovered diamond-ferous gravels may occur beneath the sand cover within sinkholes and channels outside of the known major runs, which are located on eight farms. This period saw the arrival of foreign and local mining and exploration companies to the area.
A modern public library and an excellent art gallery which is one of the biggest in the country, housing a valuable collection of paintings by well-known South African artists are situated in a wing of the Civic centre. Paintings of Gregoir Boonzaaier, Irmin Henkel, Irma Stern, Louis Steyn, Walter Battiss, Dirk Meerkotter, F. Claerhout, Bettie Cilliers-Barnard, Johannes Meintjes and the sculptor Hennie Potgieter form part of the collection.
The vlei which separates Lichtenburg from its biggest suburb, Kieserville, is unique in as much as the thick layers of peat (which is the product of millions of years of marsh vegetation and the forerunner of coal) had for decades been burning subterraneousley, creating a great hazard for man and beast. Very few such phenomena occur worldwide. Presently, due to the stemming of the flow of vlei water, the burning has ceased and water sport is being practised on the two resulting dams. During the 1984 drought the vlei again started burning in places. The Dauth-Roode and Centenary dams provide opportunity for water sport. A nine hole golfcourse is kept in excellent condition and is quite a challenge for the keen golfer.
Hoërskool Lichtenburg is well known throughout the North West province and even in the Gauteng province for sports and academics. It is an Afrikaans medium school of over a thousand learners from all over the district, even from Botswana. The school has always prided itself in top performance, tradition and culture. There are two large boarding houses(koshuis). These are mainly populated by teens from the surrounding farms. Hoërskool Lichtenburg excels at sport, especially when it comes to rugby and hockey. Its greatest rivals are schools in the Potchefstroom area and schools in Rustenburg. In academics it also excels. For the last few years it has seen a 100% matric pass rate. Notable people who went to Hoërskool Lichtenburg include Hestrie Cloete (Olympic silver medalist).
Approximately 40 km on the Mafikeng road lies the Wondergat. It is one of the deepest sinkholes in South Africa where deep-freshwater diving can be practiced. Diving courses are given here and it is one of the most popular in-land diving places in the country. According to some inland divers, if you have not dived at Wondergat you have not dived at all.
Unique breeding centre
(Admittance: R10 adults, R5 children)
Two kilometres north-east of Lichtenburg is a unique game breeding centre, operated by the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa measuring 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres), where game such as addax, mohrr gazelle and the pygmy hippopotamus of West Africa are bred. White rhino, blue wildebeest, zebra, impala, gemsbok and many other species are to been seen in their natural surroundings. The area is also ideal for a day trip or a fascinating weekend's viewing and a pair of binoculars always comes in handy. Abundant water in the area creates a paradise for numerous water and other bird species like ducks, coots, herons, secretarybirds and vultures. The Willie Marnewick Birdhide is one of the largest of its kind in the country and it enables enthusiastic birdwatchers to look more closely at the birdlife. Barbecue facilities have also been provided, and special night drives can be arranged (Tariffs: adults R25, children R10). Animals bred at the Centre are supplied to international as well as local zoos and game farms. Interested people may become members of the Friends of the Zoo Society. Self-catering facilities are available in the Centre (Tariffs per night: adults R95, children R45). For more information - Andr頍atthee, tel. (018) 6322818, cell. 0833 268721, fax. (018) 6321535.
a) On General De la Rey Square in front of the Town Hall: 1) A twice life size statue of General De la Rey mounted on his horse Bokkie. This work of art is the creation of sculptor Hennie Potgieter, who grew up in the Lichtenburg district. 2) The Burger Monument engraved with the names of 87 burghers of Lichtenburg and district who fell during the Anglo-Boer War. 3) Memorials erected during the 1938 Symbolic Ox Wagon trek. 4) The Afrikaans Language Monument designed by Hennie Potgieter and erected during the 1975 language centenary festival. b) The Greeff memorial at Witklip 10 km north east of Lichtenburg in commemoration of the founder of Lichtenburg, H.A. Creeff. c) The grave of General De la Rey is in the Lichtenburg cemetery with a bronze bust of General De la Rey created by Fanie Elof d) A small Voortrekker monument is erected on Elandsfontein, General De la Rey's farm, in commemoration of the late Boer leader. e) A historical cattle dip on the farm Elandsputte, 20 km north of Lichtenburg was declared a national monument. f) The Gruisfontein battle field 24 km east of Lichtenburg, where a monument has been erected in honour of the burghers who fell there.
1) The Dutch Reformed Church in Gerrit Maritz Street erected in 1890 (Declared a National Monument). 2) The old magistrate's building dates from 1895/96. 3) The home where General De la Rey lived, 3 km west of town, was demolished during the Anglo-Boer War. During 1902 it was rebuilt on the original foundations. 4) The home of the founder, H.A. Greeff, built in 1875 on Manana, 10 km east of Lichtenburg, is still standing. 5) An old plantation house, home of the pioneer in dry-land farming, Col. H du Tolt, erected in 1910 south of town is still in use as a welling.
The First Anglo-Boer War (1880–1881), was a rebellion of Boers (farmers) against British rule in the Transvaal that re-established their independence. The conflict occurred against the backdrop of the Pretoria government becoming increasingly ineffective at dealing with growing claims on South African land from rival interests within the country. The Second War (1899–1902), by contrast, was a lengthy war—involving large numbers of troops from many British possessions, which ended with the conversion of the Boer republics into British colonies (with a promise of limited self-governance). These colonies later formed part of the Union of South Africa. The British fought directly against the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, defeating their forces first in open warfare and then in a long and bitter guerrilla campaign. British losses were high due to both disease and combat. This war saw so many nationalities fighting against each other, and was at the same time a civil war involving Afrikaner against Afrikaner, and South African English-speakers, as well as many black combatants, fighting and dying on both sides.
Rudyard Kipling's poem "Lichtenberg" relates the story of one Australian combatant and his journey towards death in a foreign land. Trooper Aberline’s sacrifice was to have an impact on the Boers and his legacy went far beyond his rusting cross in the Lichtenburg cemetery which lies close to that of Edith Mathews.
There was some silly fire on the flank
And the small wet drizzling down -
There were the sold-out shops and the bank
And the wet, wide-open town;
And we were doing escort-duty
To somebody’s escort-train,
And I smelt wattle by Lichtenberg -
Riding in, in the rain.
Like many British sources, Kipling spelt Lichtenburg incorrectly. It is also interesting that there have never been groves of wattle near Lichtenburg. Quite probably, however, Kipling was referring to the scent of wild Acacia in bloom, which would have reminded the Australian soldier of the wattle back home (Acacia mearnsii). The scents, and indeed the small yellow flowers, are quite similar. Just one more connection between the two continents that the poet is alluding to.
In May 1900 the siege of Mafeking ended and hostilities quickly engulfed the whole of the northern Cape and western Transvaal (this region has now been incorporated into the North-West Province). Between June and November 1900, the Anglo-Boer War evolved into its guerrilla phase, and fighting see-sawed throughout the territory. During this period the strategically important town of Lichtenburg was occupied by both Boer and Briton for short spells. In November 1900, a large British force under Col. Robert Baden-Powell was transferred to Lichtenburg and secured the town, and much of the territory with it.
Five months later, on 3 March 1901, 400 Boers under the co-joint commands of Generals De la Rey, Smuts, Celliers, Vermaas and Lemmer launched a mounted attack on the town. In a fierce but inconclusive engagement lasting a full day and much of the night, fourteen Boers and eighteen British soldiers were killed, whilst 38 Boers and 24 British soldiers were wounded. As he rode away, De la Rey was heard to remark, “The enemy has received a good hiding and so did I”.
- "Main Place Lichtenburg". Census 2011.
- Municipal Demarcation Board : Municipal Profiles 2003 : Contact Information for Ditsobotla Local Municipality Retrieved 15 April 2010
- Craig Raine (ed.), Kipling, Selected Poetry (Penguin, 1992), pp. 214–215
- Gert van den Bergh, 24 Battles and Battlefields of the North-West Province (The North West Tourism Association, 1996), p. 118