The Tanganiyka Treks – Trekking away from the English to German East Africa
A few years ago, I joined a good friend in her hunt for her East African family. We eventually dug up the family records, and family members, and in doing so we learnt that there were other Afrikaner treks other than the Great Trek by the famous Afrikaner Voortrekkers (pioneers) of 1835.
Having lived in Tanzania and Kenya as a child, we were aware that there had been an Afrikaner settlement near Moshi, under Mount Kilimanjaro; that the settlement had been insular; it had its own schools and churches.
Few Afrikaners had remained in East Africa after the countries had gained independence, the descendants of the original settlers having moved back to ‘Die Suid’ ‘The South’, as South Africa had always been referred to by the pioneers. Trying to find information on this settlement and the people who lived there proved difficult.
On a recent trip, the two of us were in Pretoria, to meet friends, and as we had a few hours to kill, I suggested that we visit the Voortrekker Monument,
which I had never visited, in all the years I had lived in South Africa. As we drove up to the colossal monument, which is in a reserve, we had to slow down, and let some zebras get off the road. Because of the zebras, and that our eyes got averted from the powerful symbol of the Afrikaner nation, we caught sight of a small signboard, pointing to ‘The Tanganyika Monument’. Simultaneously, we asked each other what that was. Because I’m involved in tourism in South Africa, she hoped I knew. Well, I hadn’t ever heard of it, but we said we would pop over there on our way back down the hill.
Of course, as time does, it flew; we spent a lot longer at the awesome Voortrekker Monument than what we thought we would, and almost scuppered our plans to ‘pop over’ in the direction of the Tanganiyka sign. We decided, that as we would probably not be in the area for ages, best we go. We went. The road ended in a parking lot.
We parked the car, got out and the only thing of interest we could find, was the Schanskop Fort built in 1896 by President Kruger of the Zuid Afrikaanshe Republiek to protect Pretoria. As forts go, it is interesting, but its newness made it unremarkable to me. Not being able find anything that answered to the Tanganiyka Monument, we asked the security staff there, but they seemed quite blank, just saying; ‘go up, go up’. Which we did, because that was where the parking lot was. And there we found the monument – we had walked right past it, in our hurry to find it.
To describe us as awed, was an understatement. The monument itself is small and simple, it was the information carved into the stonework, and information boards next to it that floored us. Here was all the history of the Afrikaners in East Africa.
I did a little jig in jubilation. The security guard thought I was crazy, and rightly so, so he was given a brief history lesson: did he know where Tanganyika was? No, he had no clue. Had he heard of Tanzania? Yes, of course, all freedom loving South Africans knew that that was where a lot of freedom fighters hid out in the 80s and early 90s. When I told him they were one and the same, he understood what it was he was paid to look after. The names of all the families who trekked away from the English after the Second Anglo Boer War, are etched into the stone work, which also doubles as seating, if you wish to sit and wonder at the courage and tenacity of the brave people who left for the unknown.
The Great Trek of 1835, came about because the Dutch Speaking colonists in the Cape were unhappy being under British rule, and decided to migrate to the interior of what is now South Africa. Small republics were formed in different areas, some were recognized internationally, other existed only for a few years or less.
The Boers of these republics all helped fight against the British in the Anglo Boer Wars, of which the first started in 1880 and raged for a year. At the end of the Second Anglo Boer (1899 – 1902), the Boers, having survived the British Concentration Camps, and having lost everything because of Britain’s ‘Scorched Earth Policy’, were destitute, defeated, bitter and disgruntled. Some decided that they would not bend to British rule, and have their language, religion and culture dictated to by the victors of the war.
As Cornelia Joubert was quoted in the Pieterse Diary:“Wij heben we vrede maar welk een bittere vrede is het niet. Het land Engelsch en de Engelsche vlag moet van nu af over onze hoofden waaien, onze dierbaar Vierkleur afgehaald en de Engelsche vlag gehesen. Gedenk!”
(‘We do in fact have peace, but what a bitter peace it is. The country is English, and the English flag must henceforth fly over us, our beloved ‘Four Colour’ removed and the British flag hoisted. Think of it!”)
Their solution was to trek (migrate). Three migrations took place, one went to Argentina, a second small one settled in Mexico, and one went north to what was then German East Africa. Three different treks to East Africa took place, namely two in 1904, the last in 1906. The first Saamtrekkers (Pioneer group) left from Delagoa Bay under the leadership of Pieter Frederick van Landsberg, and arrived at their destination, in the Mount Meru area, on 4 December 1904.
Tanganiyka, which was part of German East Africa (now Rwanda, Burundi and mainland Tanzania), was under German rule from 1884 until after the First World War, when it became a British Territory. At independence in 1964, with Zanzibar, it became the Republic of Tanzania.
Settling primarily around Mt Meru, the Afrikaners did as all settlers the world over did, and displaced the local peoples, and inhibited their rights to pasture and water. They also resisted German policies, and in general contested German settler policy, convincing the Germans that the British opinion of Afrikaners as being a violent and backward population was correct (ref: du Toit – The Boers of German East Africa).
The English were up against forces that weren’t going to back down, and slating the amazingly strong and resilient people, was only to be expected.
Afrikaner ethnicity was preserved by establishing Dutch Reformed Congregations in the settlements and sending ‘Dominees’ (Ministers) to them, to teach Christian National Education, which greatly helped the Afrikaner families, when they returned to South Africa many decades later. The Afrikaans language was taught in schools, very few settlers spoke English.
The German administration was very strict, which later resulted in many families moving across to Kenya, which was administered by the more lenient British authorities. Security requirements to settle in German East Africa were strict and harsh, and as the Afrikaners were completely impoverished by the guerrilla warfare, the concentration camps and the scorched earth policy implemented by Britain in South Africa, the Afrikaners used very imaginative ploys to be accepted for settlement under the German authorities.
No sooner had they settled, when the WWl broke out in 1917. After armistice, many German East African settlers were relocated, and internment to camps took place. Some were even deported to Germany. Then the Great Depression hit them, and it was only towards the mid 1930s that any economic stability amongst the Afrikaner settlers took root.
Those who trekked to Kenya, eventually trekked past ‘Farm One”, and crossed the Sosiani River on the Uasin Gishu Plain.
Then they trekked past John de Waal’s farm, and they could then see their destination, Sergoit Rock (now Sergoit Hill) in the distance. The trip was made often by some, to collect farming implements and such.
The settlement of what became Eldoret was first called Sixty-Four (pronounced Si-si-for), because Willie van Aardt built a post office on Farm 64 in 1909 or 1910, and other structures which served traders were built around it in the following years.
The first Standard Bank was opened there by another South African, JC Shaw, next to the famous farmer’s meeting place, Eddie’s Bar. An Afrikaans school, the Van Riebeck School was also established there, and it served the Afrikaans community until 1962. It still exists and is now called Ndururumo High School.
After Tanzania and Kenya gained independence in the 1960s, many Afrikaners feared for their future and their lives, especially because of the earlier Mau Mau uprising, and a return trek to South Africa began. With many Afrikaners having left, financial support of many missions stopped, and these missions collapsed. Later, the denominational restrictions were removed, and the missions started flourishing again under the name Reformed Church in Africa.
A decade later, barely a dozen families of the 3500 odd Afrikaners remained in East Africa. Amongst these were the Steyns, the du Toits, the Retief family, the van Dyk brothers, Piet and Dawid, and the widower, Meneer Odendaal, who married a Polish woman (their only common language was Swahili). Mr Ernst Kruger, whose children were sent to die Suid to school also stayed. In Nairobi, the Venters and Viljoens stayed, and under Mount Elgon, the Steenkamps opted to stay. Many of these families took out Kenyan citizenship.
In 1996, the van Tonders, Mullers, and Pretoriuses were still resident in Arusha, Tanzania.
These were the original families:
.1. The von Landsberg trek (1904) to German East Africa (GEA)
|Bekker, Jurie J.|
|Bekker, Piet J.|
|de Beer, Jan A.|
|Jacobs, Piet, Jr.|
|Pretorius, Wynand J.|
|Van Dyk, Petrus Johannes|
|van Wyk, Adriaan|
|van Wyk, Daniel George|
|Venter, Jan A.|
|von Landsberg, C. Nelie|
|von Landsberg, Pieter Frederick|
2. The van Breda and Arnoldi trek (1905-6) to British East Africa (BEA)
|Amoldi, A. Frans|
|de Waal, John|
|van Breda, Dirk|
|van Breda, Piet|
|van Breda, W. J. (Bon)|
|Bothma, F. S.|
|Bothma, Lodewyk (Ouboet)|
|du Plooy, Jan W.|
|Du Plooy, P.H.R.|
|Engelbrecht, J. (Koos)|
|Engelbrecht, D. J. (Martiens)|
|Hamman, Frik R.|
|van Aardt, Willie C. A.|
3. The Engelbrecht-Bothma trek via Rhodesia (1904-6) to GEA
The Dominees who visited or served the Afrikaans congregations in Kenya and who kept the Afrikaner culture alive were:
|A. P. Burger, 1905|
|L. M. Louw, 1908|
|N. H. Theunissen, 1908|
|M. P. Loubser, 1909-12, 1921-23, 1925-28, 1932-35|
|C. F. Mijnhardt, 1916-17|
|H. C. de Wet, 1918-21|
|G. J. van Zijl, 1921-24|
|J. D. Conradie, 1927-29|
|A. A. Murray, 1930|
|B.J.K. Anderssen, 1932-35|
|J. W. Dednam, 1935-43|
|B.J.M. Britz, 1936-44|
|J. J. Booysen, 1937-39|
|R. B. Murray, 1944|
|P. L. Olivier, 1945-51|
|A. H. Malan, 1945, 1948|
|J. H. Louw, 1945-49|
|C. B. Brink, 1950-52|
|C. Murray, 1951-57|
|J. L. Loots, 1951-57|
|P.A.M. Brink, 1955-60|
|J. P. Theron, 1957-62|
Bibliography: The Boers in German East Africa by Brian M du Toit
Assorted web pages.