The Kruger National Park lies in what is commonly known as the lowveld on the north eastern edge of South Africa where it borders Zimbabwe in the north and Mocambique in the east. The lowveld for many people represents the true or wild Africa of our country with its savannah landscape, tropical to temperate climate and an average altitude of approximately 350 metres. For outsiders, the lowveld was hostile with its malaria and tsetse fly and forays into the area mainly took place during the cooler winter months.
During the latter half of the 19th century the lowveld opened up to outsiders much as a result of miners that came to seek their fortunes after gold was found in the vividly beautiful escarpment forming the western edge of the lowveld. The fortune seekers could not wait until winter to go down and hunt the teeming wildlife in the lowveld. Earlier the Voortrekkers had settled not too far away in areas such as Ohrigstad, Lydenburg and Schoemansdal and wildlife was the basis of their economy.
At this time the area formed part of the South African Republic, one of two Boer republics, which later became known as the Transvaal after British colonies of the Cape and Natal and the other Boer Republic, the Orange Free State amalgamated in 1910 to become the Union of South Africa. During the late 1800’s it became evident that excessive hunting was exterminating wildlife at an unprecedented rate and that measures had to be taken to counter this destruction.
- From about 1836 the hinterland of South Africa was colonized by Voortrekkers from the Cape Colony, using the abundant game stocks as their means of survival. Europeans also entered the area as traders, missionaries and explorers and hunted for “sport” and “adventure”.
- The first law in the Transvaal aimed at controlling hunting was promulgated in Ohrigstad (then called Andries Ohrigstad) in January 1846. In general enforcement of these laws to protect game was ineffective.
- By the late 1850’s game numbers in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR), even in remote areas, had declined to such an extent that more encompassing laws to protect the remainder became essential.
- On 12 April 1877 the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) was annexed by Great Britain and the first Anglo-Boer war commenced.
- On 31 July 1889, the Executive Council of the Volksraad, by accepting resolution 482 approved the principle of banning hunting on certain tracts of state land, essentially making provision for the establishment of game reserves.
- ZAR President Paul Kruger thought it essential that steps be taken to preserve the remaining wilderness areas in the republic and that game be preserved “voor de verre toekomst” in other words for evermore. Article 1244, which authorized game reserves in the republic was adopted. Under Proclamation R8009/89 the Pongola Game Reserve as was the first to be established on 13 June 1894. Hendrik Frederik van Oordt was appointed as first warden
- Two members of the Volksraad, JL van Wijk for Krugersdorp and RK Loveday for Barberton, gave notice during the 6 September 1895 session of the Volksraad, of their intention to table a motion asking the Executive Council to proclaim a game reserve between the Sabie and Crocodile rivers. On 9 September 1895, this motion was submitted and it was approved the following week (17 September 1895) by 12 votes against 11.
- Two major incident in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek had a major influence and therefore delayed progress in proclaiming the new game reserve, namely:
- The Jameson Raid in the first week of January 1896.
- The Rinderpest Epidemic which spread like wildfire through the republic, from April 1896 to February 1897, killing hundreds of thousands of cattle and susceptible game species such as buffalo, kudu and eland. The Volksraad lifted certain hunting bans for three years to ensure that the impoverished population had a food source.
- In November 1897, RK Loveday confronted the Volksraad, wanting to know why proclamation had not yet been promulgated. This was intensively discussed for the following month.
- Under Proclamation R8748/95 that was promulgated by the president on 26 March 1898, and published in the Staats Courant on 13 April 1898, the Gouvernements-Wildtuin was established. Dr. JWB Gunning, the director of the State Museum in Pretoria, was placed in charge of the running of the new reserve.
- In September 1898, after LK Loveday asked the Volksraad why a warden had not yet been appointed, two police force members were placed in charge of enforcing the hunting laws, namely Izak Holzhausen stationed at Komatipoort and Paul Bester of Nelspruit.
- On 11 October 1899, President Paul Kruger declared war on the mightly British Empire after it had rejected his ultimatum of 9 October 1899 to withdraw its troops massed on the borders of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. The Anglo-Boer War was to last until 31 May 1902 when the ZAR and the Free State lost their independence on 31 May 1902. After three years of blood, bitterness and misery, they could start rebuilding the Lowveld, but the earth was wild and bleak and pillars of smoke rose from the plains
- During the last few months of the Anglo-Boer War the British Administration, headed by Governor Lord Alfred Milner, decided to reproclaim the Sabie Game Reserve in its original format. In as early as June 1902 this was accomplished and the original Dutch text was used in the description of the boundaries.
- On 28 August 1903 issued Administrative Proclamation No. 38 in which the boundaries of the Sabie Game Reserve were described in English. A large tract of land (both state land and that belonging to the Transvaal Consolidated Land and Exploration Company (TCL)) between the Sabie and Olifants Rivers was added.
- In accordance with Administrative Proclamation No. 19 of 1903, the Shingwedzi Reserve was proclaimed and it boundaries went from the confluence of the Great and Klein Letaba rivers in a straight line north to Shikumdu Hill and the Luvuvhu River and then northeast along the Luvuvhu to its confluence with the Limpopo River. It then followed the international boundary until the Olifants River, went westwards until the confluence with the Great Letaba River and then to the confluence with the Klein Letaba River.
- In 1906. Administrative Proclamation No. 31 added a considerable tract of land to the Sabie Game Reserve. This consisted of the old Kaap blocks E & F, which was state land for winter grazing by Highveld farmers.
- In 1911 the farm Burgers Hall was added to the Sabie Game Reserve.
- The border of the Shingwedzi Game Reserve remained more or less the same from proclamation in 1903 until 1913 when the Mhinga and Shikumdu settlements (No. 284 and 285) were cut out.
- In 1913 the following farms in the southwestern corner of the Sabie Game Reserve were excised, Logies Farm, Engelbrechtshoop and Burgers Hall.
- Under Administrative Proclamation No. 48 of 1 December 1914, a significant piece of land between the Sabie and Shingwedzi game reserves , which until then had fallen under Department of Mines, was added. This comprised the eastern section of the land between the Great Letaba and Olifants rivers.
- In 1916 the Sabie and Shingwedzi game reserves were consolidated into the Transvaal Game Reserve, managed by the provincial secretary
- In March 1916 the Transvaal Provincial Adminstration appointed a commission under Advocate JF Ludorf to investigate the administration of the Transvaal Game Reserve and make recommendation.
- The Ludorf Commissions report was submitted in 1918. This recommended, inter alia.
- Most of the old Kaap blocks (E & F) (west of existing boundary along railway line between Numbi Gate and Crocodile River) that were added to the Sabie Game Reserve in 1906 be cut out of the Reserve.
- A large area between the Sabie and Olifants River on both sides of the Selati Railway Line be cut out of the Reserve. This area today comprises the Sabie Sand and Timbavati Game Reserves.
- More land be added to the part of the Reserve between the Olifants and Letaba rivers to establish a more meaningful connection between the former Sabie and Shingwedzi reserves.
- A draft border description of the newly proposed reserve and that it be proclaimed a national park as soon as possible.
- That the border for rivers be the riverbank rather than the middle of the river.
- In February 1925 26 state-owned farms known as the Alexandra Block, with Newington as the centre, were added to the Transvaal Game Reserve. The Transvaal Consolidated Land Exploration Company (TCL) owned many farms between the Olifants and Sabie Rivers. During the extensive negotiations between Minister Piet Grobler and TCL, the farms known as the Alexandra Block were offered in exchange of those they owned between the Olifants and Sabie Rivers. This offer was accepted and proclamation of the Kruger National could become a reality.
- On 31 May 1926 the Kruger National Park was proclaimed under Proclamation No. 197 in the Government Gazette of 10 September 1926.. Borders described as recommended by the Ludorf Commission.
- In 1933 the warden of the Kruger National Park was put in charge of game preservation in the Pafuri Reserve (between Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers). This arrangement lasted until June 1954, when the Parks Board itself discontinued it.
- In July 1946 Eileen Orpen bought the farm Newington and donated it to the Board, but as there was no way of connecting this land to the Kruger National Park, the Board regretfully had to hand back the title deeds.
- In April 1954, the state proclaimed the farms Zeekoeigat No. 4, Knaboomkop No. 5 next to the Olifants River, Middelin No. 106, Johniesdale No. 355 and Batavia No. 298 as part of the Park.
- During 1961- 1962 the western border of the Park was fenced to control the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.
- In 1965 Phalaborwa Phosphate Mine had difficulties finding suitable land for its silt dams and dumps and asked the Parks Board to make an area between Phalaborwa Gate and the Klaserie River Mouth (north of the Olifants River and including Mahulule Hill) available. In exchange, Phalaborwa Mining Company bought the farm Peru No. 208 just north of the farm Zwartkops for inclusion in the Park.
PIENAAR, U de V (Dr) (translated by Helena Bryden) – 2012
A Cameo from the Past