Willem Cornelis Janse van Rensburg

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Willem Cornelis Janse van Rensburg
2nd President of the Executive Council of the South African Republic
In office
18 April 1862 – 10 May 1864
Preceded by Stephanus Schoeman
Succeeded by Marthinus Wessel Pretorius
Personal details
Born (1818-05-16)16 May 1818
Beaufort West, Cape Colony
Died 13 July 1865(1865-07-13) (aged 47)
Rustenburg, South African Republic
Resting place Heroes' Acre, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Maria Jacoba du Plessis

Willem Cornelis Janse van Rensburg (16 May 1818 – 13 August 1865) was the second president of the Executive Council of the South African Republic of the South African Republic, from 1863 to 1864.

He was born near the town of Beaufort West, the son of Hendrik Janse van Rensburg and his second wife, Martha Magdalena Oosthuizen. Van Rensburg married Elizabeth Maria Jacoba du Plessis (31 October 1819 - 6 August 1895) in 1838.

Initially he travelled with a party of Voortrekkers to Natal, and was one of the party of Van Rensburgs who survived an attack by a group of Zulus at Rensburg koppie (Rensburg hill). He subsequently travelled to the Transvaal and settled on a farm in the Rustenburg area in 1848.

Van Rensburg was elected as a member of the South African Republic's (ZAR) Volksraad (People's Assembly) in 1850, a post which he held until June 1855. During this period there was a major political conflict between the ZAR's first president and writer of its constitution, Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, and its commandant-general, Stephanus Schoeman, who rejected the constitution. Van Rensburg supported Schoeman and in return the latter appointed van Rensburg as a provisional commandant. Van Rensburg subsequently represented Schoeman in negotiations with Pretorius's faction. In 1858, when Schoeman fell ill, Van Rensburg was appointed as acting commandant-general.

Van Rensburg went on to play an essential role in uniting the former Lydenburg Republic with the ZAR and also supported Pretorius when he tried to unite the ZAR and the Orange Free State Republic.

In February 1860, during Pretorius's absence, the Volksraad offered Van Rensburg the post of State President, which he refused. Following substantial political maneuvering, Van Rensburg was elected as the Second President of the ZAR in April 1863. However, Van Rensburg refused to be sworn in and a second election had to be held. During this election Van Rensburg received 1,106 votes and Pretorius 1,065; Van Rensburg accepted his election this time and he took his oath of office on 23 October 1863.

Pretorius's supporters did not support the results of the election and what amounted to a civil war broke out. When the fighting came to a halt in January 1864 another presidential election was held and Pretorius was re-elected; he was sworn in on 9 May 1864. Van Rensburg subsequently returned to his farm near Rustenburg, where he died and was buried shortly afterwards. However, in August 1974, Van Rensburg and his wife were disinterred and reburied at the Heroes' Acre cemetery in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa.