Klerksdorp in South Africa

Friday, 14 October 2022 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
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Protea Hotel © Jthapelo060/cc-by-sa-4.0

Protea Hotel © Jthapelo060/cc-by-sa-4.0

Klerksdorp is located in the North West Province, South Africa. Klerksdorp, the largest city in the North West Province, is located 165 km south-east of Mahikeng, the provincial capital. Klerksdorp was also the first capital of the then Transvaal Republic and used to be the home of the first Stock Exchange in the region. It became an important trading town linking Kimberley to Johannesburg. It became home to a mix of farmers, miners and immigrants servicing the two industries.

The city was founded in 1837 or 1838 when the Voortrekkers settled on the banks of the Schoonspruit (“Clear stream”), which flows through the town. Klerksdorp is the oldest European settlement north of the Vaal River, and thus of the former Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Z.A.R), also known as the Transvaal Republic. The most prominent of the first settlers was Hendrik Grobler who claimed a farm of about 160 km², called it Elandsheuwel (“Hill of the Eland“). He gave plots of land and communal grazing rights on this farm to other Voortrekkers in return for their labour in building a dam and an irrigation canal. This collection of smallholdings was later given the name of Klerksdorp in honour of the first landdrost (magistrate) of the area, Jacob de Clercq.

In November 1885 gold was discovered in the Klerksdorp district by M. G. Jansen van Vuuren as well as on the Witwatersrand, which lies about 160 km to the east. As a consequence, thousands of fortune-seekers descended on the small village, turning it into a town with 70 taverns and even a stock exchange of its own. This stock exchange opened its doors in 1888 and soon did a roaring trade, selling as much as the equivalent of R20 000 in one day. However, the nature of the gold reef demanded expensive and sophisticated equipment to mine and extract the gold, causing the majority of diggers to move away in the late 1890s and leading to a decline in the gold mining industry. This also led to an early demise for the Stock Exchange that stood empty for many years, were converted to a movie theatre in 1912 and finally being demolished 1958. The amalgamation process used to extract the gold from the crushed ore was relatively inefficient and largely contributed to decline. By 1893 the new MacArthur-Forrest process used for gold extraction brought a short-lived revival in the Klerksdorp gold mining industry, but uncertainty created by the Jameson Raid of December 1895 as well as transport problems created by the Rinderpest of 1896 soon led to a near collapse of the industry.

Old Klerksdorp Stock Exchange © Troubie-Kittie/cc-by-sa-4.0 Fountain Villa © Leo za1/cc-by-sa-3.0 Nederduits Gereformeerde Mother Church © Fletch54/cc-by-sa-3.0 Protea Hotel © Jthapelo060/cc-by-sa-4.0 Railway Station Klerksdorp © Leo za1/cc-by-sa-3.0 Wood and Iron House © Leo za1/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Nederduits Gereformeerde Mother Church © Fletch54/cc-by-sa-3.0
During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), heavy fighting occurred in the area, which also housed two large concentration camps, one for Whites (centred on modern day Klerksdorp High School) and a separate one for Africans (situated in the area that is today the Ellaton and Neserhof suburbs). The most famous of the battles around Klerksdorp, is that of the Battle of Ysterspruit (“Iron Stream”), in which the Boer general Koos de la Rey achieved a great victory. The battle is one of the most celebrated of the general’s career, being the battle in which the Boer soldiers pioneered the art of firing from horseback. On April 11, 1902, Rooiwal, near Klerksdorp, saw the Battle of Rooiwal, the last major engagement of the war, where a Boer charge was beaten off by entrenched British troops. The graves of the victims of both the concentration camps can still be visited today in the Old Cemetery Complex just outside town, numbering just below a thousand.

Today Klerksdorp is celebrated as the birthplace of Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu on October 7, 1931. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work towards “a democratic and just society without racial divisions”. The life work of Desmond Tutu has been to heal the scars left among the descendants of the many battles for control of South Africa. There is an irony of his birthplace set amidst Boer monuments and old battlefields, early settlements by those same Boers, among them famous leaders like Jacob de Clerq, even close to Witwatersrand where gold was discovered. He somehow managed to rise beyond pettiness and division to bring all these forces together with displaced native peoples in places such as this creating an international role model. He was later awarded multiple worldwide honours for his achievements in the reconciliation of the ethnic and cultural divisions in the history of his country.

The greater city area surrounding Klerksdorp incorporates the towns of Orkney, Kanana, Stilfontein, Khuma, Hartbeesfontein and Tigane, giving it a population of more than 350,000 inhabitants (Census Statistics South Africa 2001). Together with Rustenburg, Klerksdorp forms the economic heart of North West Province. It is one of the hubs of the South African gold mining industry, although its importance has been decreasing in recent years. A major earthquake in March 2005 caused significant damage to the eastern suburb of Stilfontein and caused widespread damage to mining activities. It is expected to be a large uranium producer in the future. Apart from mining, Klerksdorp is positioned as a notable medical, retail and educational centre for North West Province and Northern Free State. The Klerksdorp district is a major contributor to South African agriculture; maize, sorghum, groundnuts and sunflower are important crops farmed in the district. Klerksdorp has the largest agricultural co-op in the southern hemisphere, named ‘Senwes’. The farming district is also known for its Sussex cattle herds – the city is the headquarters of the South African Sussex Cattle Breeders Association.

Read more on Wikivoyage Klerksdorp and Wikipedia Klerksdorp (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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