Paul ‘Oom’ Kruger was president of the Transvaal (South African Republic) from 1883 until 1900, when he fled to Europe following the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. He was considered by many to be the face of the Boer resistance against the British, and played a crucial role in negotiations. He is remembered as a Voortrekker, statesman, farmer, soldier and one of the founding fathers of the Afrikaner nation.
Paul Kruger (Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger) was born on October 10 1825 at his grandfather’s farm, Bulhoek in the Steynsburg district and grew up on the farm, Vaalbank. He wasn’t a well educated man and only had three months formal education. Growing up in a rugged farm area he learnt a lot about the wild. When the Great Trek started in 1836, Kruger’s father, Casper Kruger, joined the trek party of Hendrik Potgieter and the family moved to what later became known as Transvaal, to try an establish and independent state.
He wasn’t a well educated man and only had three months formal education. Growing up in a rugged farm area he learnt a lot about the wild. When the Great Trek started in 1836, Kruger’s father, Casper Kruger, joined the trek party of Hendrik Potgieter and the family moved to what later became known as Transvaal, to try an establish and independent state.
Settling in the Transvaal
Paul Kruger’s father decided to settle in an area now known as Rustenburg. At age 16, Paul Kruger was entitled to choose a farm for himself. He chose a farm at the base of the Magaliesberg Mountains and settled there in 1841. In 1842 he married Maria du Plessis and the couple moved to the Eastern Transvaal. Paul Kruger and his small family later returned to Rustenburg and Kruger’s wife and infant son died soon after. It is presumed the double death is likely to have been caused by Malaria. Paul Kruger then married Gezina du Plessis, who bore seven daughters and nine sons and died in 1901. Many of Kruger’s children died in infancy.
Kruger emerges as leader
Later Paul Kruger’s strong leadership qualities started emerging. He eventually became Commandant-General of the then South African Republic, later known as Transvaal. His leadership skills became more prominent when he was appointed member of a commission of the Volksraad the Transvaal Republican Parliament who were tasked with drawing up a constitution. His leadership ability started to attract attention. It is said that he later played a prominent role in ending the quarrel between the Transvaal leader, Stephanus Schoeman, and M W Pretorius.
Paul Kruger resigned as Commandant-General, in 1873 and took no political office for a time. He retired to his farm, Boekenhoutfontein. His stint away from politics only lasted a year the next year he was elected to the Executive Council. Shortly after that he became Vice-President. Kruger’s life remained heavily centred around politics from 1877 till 1882. In this time Paul Kruger lead a resistance movement and became leader of a deputation. The first Anglo Boer war was 1880 and the British forces were defeated in a battle at Majuba in 1881. At this time Paul Kruger was instrumental in negotiations with the British, which later led to the restoration of Transvaal as an independent state under British rule.
In 1882, the 57 year old Paul Kruger was elected president of Transvaal. He left for England in 1883 to revise the Pretoria Convention of 1881, an agreement which was reached between the Boers and the British that ended the first Anglo Boer War. Paul Kruger acquired many allies in Europe during this time. In Germany, he attended an imperial banquet at which he was presented to the Emperor, Wilhelm I, and spoke at length with the renowned Bismarck.
The Discovery of gold
The discovery of gold in the Transvaal, changed the political climate of the Witwatersrand. Many goldseekers from around the globe flocked to Africa. The Transvaal Republic regarded gold seekers as ‘uitlanders’ (foreigners).
Kruger’s leadership was put to the test at the end of 1895, when the Jameson Raid took place. The Jameson Raid led by Doctor Starr Jameson. Jameson later became premier of the Cape of Good Hope Colony, or the Cape Colony as it is now called. In December, 1896 a group of This unsuccessful raid, started the breakdown of good relations between the British and the Boers and this breakdown of relations ultimately led to the second Anglo Boer War. Kruger was elected as president four times, his last re-election was in 1898.
The Anglo-Boer war
The second Anglo-Boer War, also known as the South African war, started on October 11, 1899. Paul Kruger attended the last session of the Volksraad and on 29 May, and fled from Pretoria as Lord Roberts advanced on the town. He remained underground for weeks and eventually, he took refuge with his European allies, while the war continued. In October 1900 he left from Lourenco Marques and Dutch Queen Wilhelmina sent the battleship, De Gelderland, to transport him. Gezina Kruger was very ill when the party left and could not accompany him. She died on 20 July 1901.
Kruger’s party landed in Marseilles. He travelled through Europe to Holland where he stayed for remainder of the war. His last respite was at Oranjelust in Utrecht and it was here that he received the news of the Treaty of Vereeniging had been signed. Paul Kruger moved to Clarens in Switzerland where he stayed for the last six months of his life and died on 14 July 1904. He was buried on 16 December 1904, in the Church Street cemetery, Pretoria.
Mystery of the Missing Kruger Millions
Some say that it (or part of it) was buried in the Lowveld area, whilst others claim that a substantial amount of it was taken with President Kruger when he fled to Europe towards the end of 1900. What is known is that on the 4th of June 1900, President Kruger and his closest associates began preparations to leave the country. They left Pretoria by train and headed for Machadodorp in the Lowveld. Here they set up offices and apartments in the train carriages and remained there until the time came for them to cross the border to Mozambique and leave for Europe from there.
Legend has it though that the train also carried a large freight of gold coins and bars and the story gained credibility a few days later when Lord Milner discovered that a huge amount of money had been removed from the SA mint and National Bank. The final tally revealed that over 1.5 million pounds was unaccounted for when Milner took control of the Republic. In fact, after further investigation it became clear that President Kruger’s government had started taking possession of gold from the banks and mines a few months before the war had even started, as a preventative measure to ensure it didn’t land up in enemy hands.
In 1905, 5 years after this happened; a man came forward and claimed that he was hired, along with two other men,by the ZAR government to bury gold, coins and diamonds to the value of 2 million pounds. John Holtzhausen made this declaration while he was imprisoned on an unrelated charge and stated that he was actually on his way to the treasure when he was arrested (for stealing a horse and carriage). Unfortunately, the other two men involved (Pretorius and Swartz) had since been killed and ultimately he was the only living person able to refute this remarkable story. Of course, he disappeared without disclosing any further details of the treasure except that it was ‘buried 50 miles north of the Blyde River and north of Leydsdorp.’
Whilst history has since disproved the existence of the Kruger Millions, there are still many hopefuls who believe that this treasure of gold and rare coins remains buried on South African soil. To add fuel to the speculation, there are news stories such as these that lead historians and treasure hunters to believe that the hoard does exist and may one day be discovered. Some say that if found, it could become one of the most significant discoveries in the world. After all, 2 million pounds in 1900 is estimated to be worth over $250,000,000.00 today.
Although some say that the original amount stashed is largely exaggerated, the fact remains that any gold bars and rare South African coins in that hoard would be incredibly valuable in today’s market, not forgetting the major historical significance surrounding them.
Unfortunately, we may never discover the true history of the missing Kruger millions, or if they are in fact still somewhere in South Africa. What we do know is that the possibility of discovering a treasure that exceeds your wildest dreams is enough to keep the faithful positive that it does indeed exist.