Tuesday, 09 August 2011

Newcastle: Historic mountain

Mountains outside Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal

In the 1800s this mountain, just outside Newcastle towards the west of the town, was the main route to the Free State -- Bloemfontein -- to be specific. This area in northern KwaZulu Natal was also the scene of clashes between Boers and the British when the latter was in the process to colonise the whole of South Africa.
Newcastle was a connector town -- some 200 km towards the North in the Amajuba mountains that during the so-called First Anglo War was the scene of heavy battles between the Boers and British -- the British lost this round but a few years later they were back -- learned more about the South African environment and adapated their tactics to face their biggest foe: the Boers.

By 1899 the Anglo Boer War broke out between the Boers and the British. It lasted until 1902 when the Boers were defeated. A well-equipped British army and other tacticts such as a scorched earth policy left the Boers with few alternatives. Above all, their spirit was broken when the British took captured Boer women and children and placed in concentration camps. This left a bitter rift between the Boers and the British -- something the Union government that was formed in 1910 under the leadership of Genl Louis Botha tried to mend. In years to come, well into the 20th century, Afrikaners and English citizens lived parallel lives. In recent years, the role of Black people in the Anglo Boer War has been researched in more detail. Tribute has been given to Black people after some of their efforts to help captured Boer women and children have come to light.

Somehow staring at the mountains in and around Newcastle is like looking back into time -- thinking of all the people, their families and loved ones that all played their parts as characters in the play called "History"... alas, these people are but footnotes in the story of time to which mountains like these bare silent testimony and act as an archive to the agony of those who played their part without hesitation. One such man was of course Ghandi who embarked on a campaign of passive resistance against the racial policies of the Transvaal Boer Republic. He surely did not hesitate to set out to change that was wrong. In years to come the country once again became a focus point -- like it was during the Anglo-Boer War -- when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and along similar lines as Ghandi preached nationbuilding and unity.

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