The Van Riebeeck Society’s latest volume (No 48 in the Second Series) will be launched at the Anglo-Boer War Museum, Monument Road, Bloemfontein, on Saturday, November 25, at 11:00. Entitled Selections from the Letters of President M T Steyn, 1904–1910, this work was edited by Con de Wet and Elizabeth van Heyningen and translated by Chris van der Merwe. Both editors will deliver short talks at the War Museum and answer questions.


This year’s Richmond BookBedonnerd Festival (from October 25 to 28) is going to be special. It’s the 10th anniversary and to celebrate the programme includes something for everyone. Top class speakers will discuss a wide variety of books and related topics. One of the highlights will be daily breakfast poetry workshops given by acclaimed poet Fanie Olivier. These will start at 07:30 and finish in time for the first talks. Architect Dave Clemens will lead a walkabout, point out and discuss all the interesting buildings in the village; John Donaldson will host a Boer War walk and talk, book binding and restoration workshops are planned and wine tastings will be sponsored by Springfield, Hawksmoor, Mark Borrie, Strandveld and Holger Eckoldt, The MAP Gallery will host exhibitions, world famous steel string guitarist and bluesman, Doc Maclean, will perform at the Old Library, and some films will be shown. The Dutch Reformed Church will hold its annual bazaar during this festival and as ever this will include a great variety of stalls and taste treats. The SA Independent Publishers Awards Gala Dinner will be at the Supper Club.


Richmond’s Museum of Optometry is planning a spectacle section and writers attending the Book Festival are asked to donate their old specs to this. Ashwin Desai has suggested that visitors bring walking sticks to discover whether they have Pottermari in them – a fun exercise based on his new novella, Hari Pottermari and the Curse of the Nurse (published by Praxis). For energetic, sporty types, there’s the first Darrel Conolly Richmond Mile – run from one end of Loop Street to the other. It carries a first prize of R1000. A shorter race for youngsters offers a prize of R200. There will also be a wheelbarrow race and Drag Race for writers. This promises to be good fun as all participants will be expected to run from the Old Age Home to the Huis van Lich ten Schaduw, dressed in the most outrageous attire they can muster. Also scheduled is the Richmond Annual Karretjie Concourse d’Elégance. Already all local guesthouses report they are full, but farm stays are still available and there is accommodation at nearby Victoria West and Hanover – both are only about 60 km away.


The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Drylands Conservation Programme has embarked on a five-year project to promote sustainable land management in the Nama Karoo. This is being done in partnership with the United National Development Programme and the Department of Environmental Affairs. The project, funded by the Global Environmental Facility, will be rolled out in three different geographic regions by the EWT, Rhodes University and the CSIR. “Over 80% of South Africa’s land is used for agriculture and livestock farming and this has resulted in the degradation of about 1,5 million hectares of land across the country causing the loss of vital ecosystem services,” says programme manager, Cobus Theron. “It is essential to stop and reverse this degradation by adopting effective management practices,”


In September 1899, just before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, a South African football team from Bloemfontein travelled to Britain for a four-month tour. Known as the Orange Free State Bantu Club, it played under the auspices of the whites-only Orange Free State Association and was the first ever South African football team to tour abroad. Comprising 16 blacks, it was led by captain Joseph Twaya, a grocer, who, in 1915, became the treasurer of the South African Native National Congress. Other players included masons, tailors, carpenters, tradesmen and clerks. The team played 49 games in unfamiliar conditions against first-class amateur and professional teams in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France, where the South Africans were victorious, winning by three goals to one, reports the January 2011, edition of the International Journal of the History of Sport. The tour, organized by W M Williams, was accompanied by several VIPS. Despite trying circumstances of racism, ridicule and humiliating reports in the British Press, the team was feted and well-supported throughout the tour, right from the first game, played at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and watched by 6 000 spectators, states the author of the article, Chris Bolsmann. “Results were not encouraging, but far from being insignificant, this 1899 team deserves recognition for the pioneering role it played in 19th century British and South African sports history,” he says.


The first documented football games in South Africa were played in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in 1862, states The first game in the Orange Free State, played in 1876, between St Andrew’s College and the Cathedral Choir was well supported and by 1894 Jagersfontein was considered the home of football in this province. The first foreign tour to South Africa was undertaken by the Corinthian Football Club in 1897 and during this tour fees were charged for the first time to watch regular matches. Black versus white matches became popular in the OFS and Eastern Cape soon after this.

Note: This was not the first SA sports team to tour Britain. A cricket team toured the UK in 1894.


Amateur football goalkeeper, Wilfred Waller, who was born on July 27, 1877, became the first South African to play professional football in England in 1899. After a tour of England, he chose to remain in Europe when invited to tour Germany as a member of the British FA XI. After a brief spell with Tottenham Hotspur, Wilfred joined Bolton Wanderers in 1900, thus becoming their first foreign player and the first player from South Africa to play in the Football League.


Prince Albert’s Gallery Café recently received a Diner’s Club International Wine List Platinum Award. Restaurateur Brent Phillips-White was “surprised and honoured” because it was the first time, he had entered this annual national competition. It credits restaurants “that boast a well-thought-out wine list to compliment their menus and take meals to a new level of enjoyment.” The Gallery Café is open seven days a week.


In the October issue of Round-up it was mentioned that a fossil tooth was found by a young man named De Klerk in 1827. Lindi Baird points out that this tooth was actually found by John Baird’s son John-David, but that he was only credited with its discovery many years later.


The Prince Albert Leesfees scheduled for November 2 – 5, promises to be an exciting event. One of South Africa’s newest films, Krotoa, will be screened; comedian Nik Rabinowitz and Gaireyah Fredericks’s theatre group perform and among the authors, poets, artists and journalists giving talks will be Elza Miles, Daniel Hugo, Mike Nicol, Karen Brynard, Rudi van Rensburg, Anzil Kulsen, Bernard Odendaal, Bart de Graaff, Joyce Kotzè, Carel van der Merwe, Wendy Maartens, Dorothea van Zyl and Janienke van Zyl. Food-lover Russel Wasserfall will discuss some decadent dishes and Nick Charlie Key will discuss his book, Jump on the Bant Wagon which details Banting and healthy lifestyle foods. Local author Richard Dean, author of the an exciting “bird book entitled Warriors, Dilettantes and Businessmen – Bird collectors during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries in southern Africa, will be interviewed by Hugh Forsyth, and Louisa Punt-Fouché.


The Spekboom, Portulacaria afra, is often called the miracle or saviour plant of the Eastern Cape. Several organisations are currently engaged in programmes aimed at restoring this soft-wooded, semi-evergreen shrub also known as elephant bush, dwarf jade, or porkbush. Botanists in many countries of the world have known about this small-leaved, succulent plant with its thick foliage “blanket” for centuries. Said to have originated in Brazil, it was first documented about 400 years ago. In 1771 the well-known Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, Carl Linnaeus, reported seeing this plant in Italy. It was also seen in France around the time of the Revolution in 1786, and in Vienna. The shrub was first scientifically described by an Austrian botanist and chemist, Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin, one of Linnaeus’s young contemporaries. Many early travellers through South Africa, like Thomas Pringle, noted the occurrence of the plant. He wrote of “the spekboom, with its light green leaves and lilac blossoms” in his African Sketches in 1834. He later told of animals browsing this plant “which clothed the skirts of the hills.” The Cape of Good Hope Almanac of 1843 refers to it as “a most valuable shrub found in great abundance on stony ridges” adding “it and affords excellent food for large flocks of sheep and goats particularly in times of severe drought.” The plant’s Xhosa name is iGwanitsha, and these people believe it stimulates milk production in humans and animals.


Spekboom forms the basis of The Valley Bushveld Biome (the Xerix Succulent Thicket) of the Eastern Cape. It grows prolifically in the Addo Elephant National Park where a single elephant can eat up to 200kg of leaves per day and where it can form up to 80% of the diet of these animals. Elephants strip almost all the leaves off the top of the bushes. However, when grazed from the top, broken, trodden and fertilized, it quickly sprouts new growth. Sadly, it is destroyed by herbivores, goats and sheep stripping it from the bottom. Spekboom occurs abundantly in Gamtoos, Sundays and Fish River Valleys. This invaluable bush is water wise – it can survive on 250 to 350ml of water a year. It roots easily, and is frost, drought and fire-resistant. The bush survives extreme heat once established. It also improves soil quality, reduces erosion and stimulates a return of biodiversity because of its soil-binding and shading nature. Perhaps most important of all is the fact that it captures carbon and improves the air we breathe, says Stef Delport, of the Spekboom Foundation. “This plant is able to offset harmful carbon emissions. It is unique in that it stores solar energy to photosynthesise at night and this makes a spekboom thicket 10 times more effective per hectare at carbon fixing than any tropical rain forest. Each hectare of spekboom can capture 4,2 tons of carbon yearly and remove up to 100 times more carbon from the atmosphere than a pine tree of similar size. Its unique ability to switch its photosynthetic mechanism from that of a rainforest plant in wet conditions to that of a desert cactus in semi-arid conditions makes it highly environmentally efficient. Another interesting fact is that no large termite or anthills are found in spekboom areas. Replanting is a labour-intensive operation and so assists in the alleviation of poverty.” The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Authority says its income had surged by 300% within nine months of starting spekboom rehabilitation strategies in the province’s reserves.


Hendrik de Villiers of Klein Drakenstein was badly injured in a freak accident on the way to town in 1853. The Cape Frontier Times, of May 3, stated that while driving a heavily laden wagon to town Hendrik was blown from his seat by a strong gale and flung under the vehicle’s wheels. His ribs were broken in this accident pierced his lungs. His injuries were so severe that he died within a few minutes. Hendrik was 33years old and in the prime of his life stated the newspaper. A similar accident happened in May 1883. The Queenstown Free Press reported that well-known and widely liked Mr Hener was blown from the back of his horse in a gale. He landed near Moore’s Shop. The animal lost its footing, fell and rolled over him, killing him instantly. The newspaper considered this as “most sad” because at the time the drought had just broken, and transport riding could almost immediately begin again.


A reader of the Cape and Natal News wrote to the editor on November 22, 1852 complaining of the “mulish dress” of men of the Colony. “Our young men run about with black stripes down their legs – not unlike the legs of mules. Why not carry the likeness further and allow the stripes to run all over their coats? Surely, he who dresses himself like a mule must be ‘next to a donkey’ and so cannot make himself too ridiculous. A friend of ours, who has studied heraldry, calls these thick heavy stripes “the bar sinister of poor taste.”


South Africa’s first railway line, the two mile (3,2 km) long Natal Railway, built on British Standard Gauge, was opened by acting lieutenant-governor, Major William Williamson, on June 26, 1860. It ran between Durban’s Market Square and The Point. The first train departed at 11:00 carrying His Excellency, the directors and other VIPs to a “dejeuner” (lunch) at The Point. Tickets for the public cost 10/6d each. The band of the 85th Regiment played throughout the ceremony and in the evening at a ball in the Masonic Hall, writes Peter Ball in Cape Gauge – From Ox Wagon to Iron Horse. Edmund Tatham, secretary of the Railway Association, announced that trains would run daily at a cost of one shilling for a return ticket. At this time the Cape Town Railway and Dock Company was working on the Colony’s first line. Construction on this privately-owned line started in 1859, reached Eerste River in 1862 and Wellington in November, 1863. It was a much grander, 58 miles (93,3 km) long, undertaking, but also built to British Standard Gauge – 4ft 8 ½in (1,4m), wide and also known as Stephenson, international or normal gauge. This standard was set by George Stephenson, who laid the rail from Stockton to Darlington in England in 1825. After that, during a period referred to as “the time of railway mania”, about 55% of all the lines in the world used this measure,


The Cape Railway served the port and met the needs of goods and passengers. The line ran from Woodstock to the mountains. At Paarl it turned northwards running parallel with the mountains and ended at Wellington. Anyone wishing to go further “up country” had to continue by animal drawn transport through Bainskloof Pass, which was opened in September 1853. When diamonds were discovered in 1869, Kimberley became a magnet for fortune hunters from across the world but getting there was not easy. There were no paved roads. Rugged trails crossed the arid Karoo and modes of transport were by coach, wagon, pack animal or on foot. The government decided to extend the railway, but this took time. The Cape Parliament only passed legislation for the extension in May 1872. Work began but it soon became apparent that a narrower gauge was needed. A select committee recommended a gauge of 3ft 6in (1067mm). Engineers agreed and Cape Gauge, which used shorter cross-ties (sleepers) and sharper radius curves, became the standard.


Solid foundation and rail network was laid from 1872 to 1887. The first phase of the line to Kimberley – a circuitous route which avoided the Slanghoek Mountains – was opened on June 16, 1876. The second phase – from the Hex River Valley and into the Karoo – presented problems as the difference in altitude in the first 60 km between Worcester and Matroosburg is 2 350ft (716 m). It fell to engineer William George Brounger, to find a suitable route and build it to a maximum gradient of 1 in 40. He managed, even though he once scoffed that if he could not get over the mountain, he would go through it. He was awarded the Telford Medal for his paper on this project. After this the Midland Line from Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Line from East London and Cape Main and the Western Lines, converged in the middle of the Karoo at a place which was named Brounger Junction. It later became known as De Aar. The line to Kimberley was opened in stages. It reduced the time of coach and cart journeys. The last 75 miles (120 km) from the Orange River Bridge was unfinished. Britain advanced £400 000 to complete it with the proviso that it be done within eight months. Contractor George Pauling took up the challenge, invented the term “fast track”, and laid the rail at a rate of 24 miles (39 km) a month. The discovery of gold in 1886 changed the game. Cecil John Rhodes wanted to push the railway through to the Rand, but ZAR president Paul Kruger, was not in favour of Britain, nor this. He wanted his own railway line to Maputo (then Lourenco Marques). Rhodes simply changed tack and set his sights on Bulawayo as part of his Cape to Cairo vision.


Consternation broke out when it was discovered that Fort Beaufort’s public chest had been stolen. Police began investigating immediately and uncovered an even greater scandal. It was fund that the funds were taken by a gain led by the district jailor, a Mr Crawford, states the Cape Frontier Times of August 2, 1853. Crawford’s accomplices were three soldiers of the 91st Division who had been arrested and jailed for stealing sheep. They appeared before the magistrate, but the evidence was insufficient, and they were released. The four sold out by a man arrested and in jail at the same time for being under the influence of liquor, He told the Circuit Court, he was not as drunk as he seemed and so could reveal their entire plan.

If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. – Stephen King