South African Republic

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South African Republic
Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek



Flag Coat of arms
Transvaalse Volkslied
Location of the South African Republic, circa 1890.
Capital Pretoria

25°43′S 28°14′E / 25.717°S 28.233°E / -25.717; 28.233

Languages Dutch
Religion Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk
Government Republic
 -  1857–1863 Marthinus Wessel Pretorius
 -  1883–1902 Paul Kruger
 -  1900–1902 Schalk Willem Burger (acting)
 -  Established 27 June 1856
 -  British annexation 1877–1881
 -  Second Boer War 11 October 1899
 -  Treaty of Vereeniging 31 May 1902
 -  1870[1] 191,789 km² (74,050 sq mi)
 -  1870[1] est. 120,000 
     Density 0.6 /km²  (1.6 /sq mi)
Currency South African Republic pond
Today part of  South Africa

The South African Republic (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek or ZAR), was an independent and Internationally recognized country in Southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. It occupied an area around the present South African province of Gauteng. The ZAR was established in 1852, and was independent from 1856 to 1902. The country was attacked by the British in 1881, this often referred to as the First Boer War, the country defeated the British and remained a country until the end of the Second Boer War, on 31 May 1902. After the defeat of the boers, the British absorbed the South African Republic into the Transvaal Colony.

Names of the country[edit]

The burghers (citizens) of the country called the country the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic) and in all country documentation, the name of the country was either the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek or The South African Republic. The Cape Afrikaner called the country "Transvaal" and so did many of the Dutch. The name "Transvaal" was so often used that later the British objected to the use of the real name (The South African Republic). The British pointed out that the Convention of Pretoria of 1881-08-03 [2] referred to the 'Transvaal Territory' and that the Transvaal and the South African Republic did not have the same boundaries.[3] However, in the London Convention dated 1884-02-27,[4] a subsequent treaty between Britain and the ZAR, Britain acquiesced and reverted to the use of the true name, in the Queens English as: 'The South African Republic'. The South African Republic is also known by the abreviation: ZAR.

Johnston, W. and A.K. - South African Republic. Orange Free State, Natal, Basuto Land, Etc.

The first president of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek was Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, elected in 1857, son of Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius, who commanded the Boers to victory at the Battle of Blood River. Here also, is a List of Presidents of the South African Republic.

The capital was established at Potchefstroom and later moved to Pretoria. The parliament as called the Volksraad and had 24 members.

Early History[edit]

The Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek came into existence on 17 January 1852 when the United Kingdom signed the Sand River Convention treaty with about 40,000 boer people, recognising their independence in the region to the north of the Vaal River,

Statue of Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, the first President of the ZAR in Pretoria.
Flag of the British Colony of Transvaal
Coat of arms of the South African Republic displayed on Kruger's wagon


During 1858 the independent Republic of Zoutpansberg merged with the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek. In 1860 the independent Republic of Lijdenburg also merged with the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek.


The constitution of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek has been referred to as one of the leading and most interesting documents of its time[citation needed]. It contained provisions for the division between the political leadership and office bearers in Government administration. The legal system consisted of higher and lower courts and had adopted a jury system. The constitution provided only for the citizens of the country, the majority of the population consisted of white skinned Dutch speaking males. In the country constitution, slavery was illegal.

Emily Hobhouse tells the story of the young Lizzie van Zyl[5] who died in the Bloemfontein concentration camp: She was a frail, weak little child in desperate need of good care. Yet, because her mother was one of the "undesirables" due to the fact that her father neither surrendered nor betrayed his people...

Boer Wars[edit]

The Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek had many enemies. The most dangerous enemy was the Afrikaner,[6][7] this is also the enemy that eventually led to the final demise of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek.[8] In 1883, near Smithfield, Free State, President Johannes Brand, of the independent country, The Orange Free State publicly warned the citizens of both Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek and the Vrystaat, that the most dangerous threat to the two nations was the Afrikaner inkruiper. Then there were the British, other African tribes, as well as other unaffiliated boer groups. With some of these groups there existed a love hate relationship.

First Boer War[edit]

State President Paul Kruger at his fourth inauguration, Pretoria, 1898

In 1877, Britain attempted to annex the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek by proclamation. The Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek viewed this as an act of aggression, and resisted, eventually leading to the First Boer War. The First Boer War was the first conflict since the American Revolution in which the British had been decisively defeated and forced to sign a peace treaty under unfavourable terms. It would see the introduction of the khaki uniform, marking the beginning of the end of the famous Redcoat. The Battle of Laing's Nek would be the last occasion where a British regiment carried its official regimental colours into battle. The Pretoria Convention of 1881 was signed on 3 August 1881 and ratified on 25 October 1881 by the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (where the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek is referred to by the name "Transvaal Territory"). The Pretoria Convention of 1881 was superseded in 1884 by the London Convention, and in which the British suzerainity over the South African Republic, was reliquished. The British Government, in the London Convention, accepted the name of the country as The South African Republic. The convention was signed in duplicate, in London on 27 February 1884 by Hercules Robinson, S.JP. Kruger, S.J. Du Toit and N.J. Smit and later ratified by the South African Republic (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) Volksraad.

In 1885 extremely rich Gold reefs were discovered in the ZAR. The South African Republic burghers were farmers and not miners and much of the mining fell to illegal immigrants. The illegal immigrants were also referred to as "outlanders" (uitlanders).

Second Boer War[edit]

Britian attacked the independent Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek in December 1895 resulting in the ill-fated Jameson Raid. After the failed raid, there were rumours that Germany offered protection to the small African country, something which alarmed the British. Kruger won another presidential election in 1898. The Bristish greed for gold peaked in 1899[citation needed], when the British demanded voting rights for the 60,000 foreign whites on the Witwatersrand in an effort to gain control of the country. Kruger rejected the British demand and called for the withdrawal of British troops from the ZAR's borders. When the British refused, Kruger declared war against Britain.

The Second Boer War was a watershed for the British Army in particular and for the British Empire as a whole. It was here that the British first used concentration camps where small babies, young children and women were held in camps without adequate food or medical care.[9] The abhorrent conditions in these camps caused the death of 4 177 women, 22 074 children under sixteen. Some modern day relatives of boers credit the British for giving the idea of concentration camps[10] to Hitler.[11] The vast number of deaths, when compared with the total amount of boers, amounted to tribal genocide[12] or decimation and complete destruction of the ZAR boer nation. To this day, Great Britain refuses to apologise for this most heinous war crime. The Afrikaner claimed the history of the Boer people, as their own and proclaimed one single ethnic Afrikaner grouping. They then also absorbed the events of both Boer Wars and concentration camps as part their own history. The modern day Afrikaner is not even aware that the Boer nation and the Afrikaner nation were two separate people with different ideals or that an independent country, the ZAR, even existed. Before, during and after the Anglo Boer War, the Afrikaner Broederbond (a secret society) worked with the UK[6] to play a major role in the complete destruction of the South African Republic and absorbing the legacy of its boers. (The once secret Afrikaner Broederbond became a public organization after Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa.) Many post 1902 publications, reports, research and other documents all refer to famous boers as Afrikaners, even President Kruger is referred to as an Afrikaner leader. To see the a practical example, see here:Afrikaner. There is Media related to Second Boer War concentration camps at Wikimedia Commons



  • President of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek
  • State Secretary of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek
  • State Attorney of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek


The country was divided into 17 districts:[13]

  1. Pretoria district: Pretoria
  2. Potchefstroom district: Potchefstroom, Ventersdorp, Klerksdorp, Venterskroon, Wolmaranstad
  3. Rustenburg district: Rustenburg
  4. Waterberg district: Nylstroom, Hartingsburg
  5. Zoutpansberg district: Pietersburg, Haenertsburg, Woodbush, Eersteling, Marabastad, Smitsdorp
  6. Lydenburg district: Lydenburg, Pilgrim's Rest, Barberton, Eureka City, FairView, Moodies, Jamestown
  7. Middelburg district: Middelburg, Roossenekal
  8. Heidelberg district: Heidelberg, Johannesburg, Elsburg, Boksburg, Krugersdorp
  9. Wakkerstroom district: Wakkerstroom, Amersfoort
  10. Piet Retief district: Piet Retief
  11. Utrecht district: Utrecht, Luneburg
  12. Bloemhof district: Christiania, Bloemhof, Schweizer-Reneke
  13. Marico district: Zeerust, Jacobsdal, Ottoshoop
  14. Lichtenburg district: Lichtenburg
  15. Standerton district: Standerton, Bethal
  16. Ermelo district: Ermelo, Amsterdam, Carolina
  17. Vryheid district: Vryheid


Main article: Flag of Transvaal

The national flag of the ZAR featured three horizontal stripes of red, white, and blue (mirroring the Dutch national flag), with a vertical green stripe at the hoist, and was known as the Vierkleur (lit. four colours). The former national flag of South Africa (from 1927 to 1994) had, as part of a feature contained within its central white bar, a horizontal flag of the Transvaal Republic (ZAR).

See also[edit]


Books not yet digitised: Haggard The Days of my Life: An Autobiography (ed Longman) (1926), Herinneringen uit Zuid-Afrika ten tijde der Annexatie van de Transvaal:Tromp (1897), Kotzé Biographical Memoirs and Reminiscences Vol 1 (1897, published by Maskew Miller, Cape Town), Eybers Select Constitutional Documents Illustrating South African History 1795-1910 originally published by George Routledge & Sons Limited 1918, Origin of the Anglo-Boer War Revealed – C. H. Thomas (originally published in 1899 by Hodder & Stoughton), Irish University Press Series British Parliamentary Papers Colonies Africa -All Volumes

External links[edit]