The Long, Long Trek of the Afrikaners

In 1828 the colonial Government promulgated Ordinance 50, giving new rights to Bushmen, Hottentots and mixed race people.  With this came the “Black Circuit” courts through which farmers could be brought to trial at the instance of missionaries and servants.  Resentment ran high.  In 1834 Britain ordered slaves to be emancipated in every part of the Empire.

For the Boers this was the last straw: not so much the actual deed as the circumstances under which it was carried out, making it almost impossible for any slave owner to get his lawful compensation.  And so began the Great Trek, the frontiersmen in their oxwagons setting off with their families, their servants, their cattle and their sheep, in search of a promised land where they could live as they pleased, far beyond (they hoped) the reach of the meddlesome British.


During the decade 1836/46 some 12000 men, women and children left their homes in the Cape Colony: the first repudiation in Africa of colonial rule.  By now these people had become a race of extreme individualists, suspicious of any authority or discipline.  In No Outspan, Deneys Reitz wrote: “Knowing my countrymen as I do, I think the cause of their leaving was not so much hatred of the British as a dislike of any rule.”