War was declared between the English and the Boere on October 8, 1899. Hannie and Wijtse Lampen and their four young kids were living in a house on Heystek Street in Rustenburg. (Another baby boy was to be born a year later.) Other family members lived on farms near Rustenburg, some a bit further away. The women immediately set to task baking rusks and cookies, drying wors and doing all they could to prepare for their men to go and fight in what they felt was going to a six-month long war only. Hannie’s father, Jan Heystek, was now the Magistrate of the District of Zoutpansberg, living in Pietersburg with his wife Anna Maria and the three youngest Heystek daughters, Jacoba & Josina (twins), and Maria. Hannie’s younger brother, Abraham Eliza, had died after an illness the previous year at only 17 years old.
At this turn-of-century the Rustenburg area was a boiling cauldron of contentions and offenses, whether it was between blacks and whites, English and Afrikaners, or the three distinct groups living in town—those going to war for the Z.A.R, those wanting to stay out of any conflict and just preserve their lives and businesses, and those on the side of England.
A few Tswana tribes, such as the the Kwena, Fokeng and the Phalane were friendly towards the Boers, with many working on Boer farms and taking care of these farms in the absence of the owners even when some of these owners got sent away as prisoners of war. (Not often mentioned is that many black farm workers and others who fought alongside the Boere were also captured by the English and sent to concentration camps, where 15,000 perished in similar conditions as the 26,370 whites in these camps.) Other tribes—notably the Kgafela-Kgatla under Lentschwe—were extremely hostile to the Boere and used the war to go on the attack themselves.
Peter Warwick’s book “Black People and the South African War, 1899-1902” describes the political maneuvering and strategy/collusion between one of these Kgatla chiefs, Lentschwe’s brother Segale, and the English Col. Holdsworth that brought about the horrific Derdepoort Massacre. (See: https://books.google.com/books… pp 38-42.)
On November 24, 1899, while Holdsworth’s maxim guns were firing on a Boer encampment from a hill across the Marico River, three regiments of Kgatla attacked the camp itself, killing twenty Boere and two women and taking seventeen women and children hostage to Mochudi across the river. Two of Ouma Hannie’s sisters, Ousus and Nakkie and their families were part of the encampment on the Derdepoort farm and lived through this attack. After their release, Hannie’s sister Emmie spoke to two of the women who had been taken hostage. They spoke of how frightened they were while being driven like chattel across the Marico River by the Kgatla people, desperately holding their children in their arms.
Ouma Hannie and some of her Heystek siblings, ~1919. Nakkie and her family found themselves under attack at Derderpoort in 1899. Fiesty Emmie wrote at length about the Heysteks' experiences during the Second Boer War. Ousus is not in this photo. (Ouboet Daniel's twin brother had died at birth, young Abraham died before the war at 17 years old. Middle brother Jan died during the war. Kobie's twin sister Josina died in 1903 during childbirth.)
When the alarm was sounded in Rustenburg, most of the Boere men were already away on commando fighting elsewhere in the war. Emmie’s husband Theunis du Plessis was at home, and was one of those called up to go and defend the “moordlaer” while the rest of Rustenburg’s women and a few old men were left behind to guard the town. They all slept in homes near the Gereformeerde Kerk in case they had to hide there during an attack.
On December 22 the Boere sent a 500-strong commando to three Kgatla villages in reprisal for the massacres. (Our Oom Hercules Malan was to have been the general in charge of these forces, but he died on December 4.) Three Boere died, 150 Kgatla died in the defense of their villages. Rustenburg stayed in the hands of the Boere for a few months longer.
Derdepoort hightened the tensions between everyone in the area, and “caused deep concern in the Cape as well as in London”. Anti-British newspapers in Europe ran with the story, with a German paper making the worst out of stories about the women, although no evidence was ever found about these rumors. I wonder how much this event stirred up some of the adventure seekers and not a few rabble rousers from other nations to fight on the Boer side… More about that later.
Previously published on: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Lampens/