In 1877 Whitehall suddenly announced the annexation of the Transvaal but, to the astonishment of the world and the fury of Westminster, the Transvaal Boers, with numerically far inferior forces, outwitted and defeated the British Army in a series of engagements culminating in the victory of Majuba. Their self-government was restored, at first subject to British suzerainty. This was lifted in 1884.
In 1887 the richest gold deposits in the world were discovered in the Transvaal. Still more British and foreign miners came flooding in to dig up the Voortrekkers’ homeland. Now, both Boer republics were glittering prizes. From being stubborn little farmer “principalities” of no serious interest to the outside world, they were transformed almost overnight into fabulous repositories of incalculable mineral wealth, sparking white-hot interest on the part of powerful financial circles in Johannesburg and London.
In 1895 two multi-millionaires, Cecil John Rhodes – a plotter and a traitor – and his friend Alfred Beit, in collusion with British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain and the scheming Lord Milner, conspired to take over the Transvaal for themselves and the Empire. Their rationale for hostilities and eventual casus belli? The alleged denial of franchise rights by President Kruger to the mainly English-speaking uitlanders, a fraudulent invention as the Boer leader well understood.
“Their rights? Yes, they will get them – over my dead body,” proclaimed Kruger. And he added, ominously: “The Republics are determined, if they are to belong to England, that a price will have to be paid that will stagger humanity.”