May 30th, 1902 is the date is used to mark the deaths of at least 15,000 Black Africans in concentration camps that housed approximately 115,000 of their number during the Second Anglo-Boer War (26,370 Boer women and children died in separate ‘concentration’ camps as well, and those camps included Black—‘Kaffir’—servants). The date is significant because it comes the day before the signing of the “peace” agreement, the Treaty of Vereeniging, at Melrose House in Pretoria on May 31st, 1902. Later estimates put the number at closer to 20,000 Black Africans, the majority of whom were children, the causes of death being primarily medical neglect, exposure, infectious diseases (e.g., measles, whooping cough, typhoid fever, diphtheria and dysentery) and malnutrition. The establishment of these camps was but one part of a “Scorched Earth Policy” adopted by British Commander Lord Kitchener during the South African War (‘once called the last gentleman’s war’) as a counter-measure to the Boers’ guerrilla strategy employed at the end of 1900.
“The South African War broke out on 11 October, 1899 between the two former Boer republics (Transvaal and the Orange Free State) and the British. But war touches the lives of all inhabitants of the affected country and it would be unacceptable to not acknowledge the many ways it destroyed the lives of the black population groups including the Khoi, San, Zulu, Xhosa, Tsonga, and Swati. Whether their role was voluntary or involuntary; combatant or non-combatant, we would be doing an injustice to our history if we removed them from this war.
Black people were conscripted and used as slaves and servants as scouts, messengers, watchmen in blockhouses, despatch runners, cattle raiders, trench diggers, drivers, labourers, agterryers and auxiliaries. The agterryers were used by the Boers for guarding ammunition, cooking, collecting firewood, mending the horses, and loading firearms for battle. It is important to note that auxiliaries were also used in fighting, evident in some of the photographs taken during the War. At least 15,000 blacks were used as combatants by the British and also by both British and Boers as wagon drivers.” (from the third link below)
Please see the following links:
- Second Boer War
- Black Concentration Camps during the Anglo-Boer War 2, 1900-1902
- Erasure of black suffering in Anglo-Boer War
- Black victims in a white man’s war
- ‘Spin’ on Boer atrocities
Related bibliography: South African Liberation Struggles