South Africa News, South Africa Weather & Links (South African News & South African Weather) 

  Load above: US radar
The New York Times, April 22, 1853, p.2:

The English in South Africa--The Kaffir War.

    The progress of modern civilization has been for some time agitating the solid repose of Africa--molesting the ancient solitary reign of that sun-baked Continent. While French agression assails it in the North, English aggression is busy with it in the South; President ROBERTS is directing the movement of the age against it in the West, and on the East the enterprise of English travel and commerce is urging or menacing the Government of the Egyptian Pashas.
    But it is on the North and South that the storm of change has been beating most remarkably and decidedly. The English, in the Peninsula, have experienced as gallant and as formidable a resistance as that of ABDEL-KADER and his desert allies against the French armies; and instead of being weakened or intimidated by the armaments sent against them, the Kaffirs and Hottentots seem only to be growing more expert in the use of their rifles and more determined to beat back the English invaders.

    Every account from the Cape, for some time past, shows this. The natives will not allow that they are beaten, and the Governors of the Colony, assailed by sneers or interpellations of the people at home, on one side, and by the swarthy Catherans of Kaffirland on the other, throw up their offices in disgust.
    Sir HARRY SMITH, a few years ago, thought to carry everything with a high hand; and made the nearest African chiefs touch his stirrup as he sat on horseback, and swear submission to Queen VICTORIA. But he lately left the Colony at sixes and sevens, and went home; and another Governor was sent out to conclude the war "in a clap of thunder," as NAPOLEON used to say. But the war is not concluded yet; the Kaffir thunder, in fact, seems as loud and formidable as the English.

    On the 20th of last December, a great battle was fought at Taba Bossigo, beyond the Orange River, in the country of Caledon, in which His Excellency, Earl CATHCART, commanded an English force of 2,500 men, on one side, and the Chief, MOSHESH, supported by other Kaffir and Hottentot chiefs, was at the head of an army, 7,000 or 8,000 strong, on the other. The English account of the affair does not make it an English victory, and it looks very much like an English defeat. We should like to have a history of that mountain battle--(which continued from morning till night)--written by brave MOSHESH himself, or his Military Secretary...

    These things seem to show that these Kaffirs and Hottentots are not such a contemptible people as we are apt to think them, and that England will have a good deal to do before she can drive them from their ancestral pasturages and kraals. They understand the use of the rifle very well, and even when beaten they can argue still; if they retire into the desert, it is with arms. No doubt, that long engagement in the heights and hollows of Berea will be ever remembered by the Kaffirs as a well fought affair, and a victory--seeing that the English were driven out of the mountain, and sent away with less then they came to look for.

The New York Times, December 1, 1867, p.5:


A Visit to Cape Town--Prince Alfred Among the Colonists.

Correspondence of the New-York Times:
CAPE TOWN, Africa, Thursday, Sept. 12, 1867    
    On the 31st of August we rounded the bold promontory called the Cape of Good Hope. On its summit is a lighthouse and at its base the waves of two oceans mingle in surf and spray. Our good ship (the United States sloop-of-war Oneida) heads to the north, and in due time Sinous Bay and Sinoustown heave in sight and we are boarded by a pilot.

    At the base of these rugged hills a little hamlet has sprung up, creeping in some places up the steep acclivity. The cottages are white and in their surroundings display the thoroughly English tastes of their occupants. Add to these cottages two or three churches, a fort, a small navy-yard and two hotels, and you have Sinustown.
    In the bay float several British men-of-war, among which we recognize that vessel (the Galatea) which acknowledges the command of Prince ALFRED--otherwise known as the Duke of Edinburgh. We last met at Rio and he has proceeded us in the voyage east. On entering the bay we saluted both the flag and the Admiral, and before evening we were visited by Prince ALFRED and other leading officers.

    The unfortunate Prince has recently been snubbed in the presence of the entire fleet. He entered the harbor with his royal ensign flying at the peak of the Galatea, but the Admiral ordered him to haul it down and salute him, and next morning the Prince was obliged to obey, learning by this lesson that even if her were a son of England's Queen he still was only Captain in the navy and owed respect to his superior in rank.
    Since then the Captain of the Oneida has dined twice with him and he has been several times to visit our ship, and before he leaves he will give a grand ball, to which the officers of the Oneida will be invited. His life here is a round of dissipation, and for a youth of twenty-four he may be said to "go it strong." He has just gone on an elephant hunt, two hundred miles up the coast...

    A few days a go I took a cart and with several others visited Cape Town, remaining there nearly a week. All conveyances are two-wheeled, and bear the above familiar name. The stage is called "the Royal Cart," and carries six passengers.
    Our road lay along the beach for several miles, and we had the wild music of the sea as it dashed over the rocks. We occasionally passed the ruins of some ancient Dutch fort, while here and there we saw rusty and dismounted cannon, memorials of the days when the Caffre and the settler struggled for supremacy.

    Soon our route left the sea, and we passed through a tract of beautiful country, the hills being covered with the Constantia vineyards, which produce that wine so valued in London as the Constantia brand. Beyond these vineyards we could catch glimpses of snow-capped mountains, shimmering far away in the distance, while on either side the shrubbery and cottages improved in beauty until we reached Rhineberg, the chief place of vintage.
    Here we passed through avenues of trees whose regularity suggested the taste of the old Dutch settlers, and to whom the country owes much of its present beauty. We passed grove after grove where cricketers were displaying their skill, and met occasionally a Caffre or a red-coat soldier, the latter lounging away the time--the former, perhaps, hauling, with eight yoke of oxen, a load that an American farmer would require of a single yoke. In contrast with these we noted several stylish turnouts filled with buxom English girls hasting to the cricket field.
    From Rhineberg to Cape Town we are carried in rail cars, and mark the abundant cottage and country seats which indicate the vicinity of an important place, while at intervals we see the gigantic arms of those windmills which again recall the Dutch habits of the colonists.

    We enter Cape Town--a place which in some features is not unlike Scranton, although deficient in the activity of that most active spot. It contains 25,000 inhabitants, one-third of whom are white, the remainder being a mixture... in which the Caffre, the Hottentot and the Malay are prominent.
    Cape Town, whatever be its attractions, suffers from one severity of nature which we may well call distressing. Gales are constantly prevailing with such power as to dash one with pebbles. There are no side-walks, and the stoops extend into the very street, in the midst of which one must therefore walk. Cabs and hansoms, however, are in attendance to convey one about at a trifling expense.

    The botanical gardens afford a delightful retreat, especially on Tuesdays and Fridays, when the bands connected with the British regiments play for the benefit of the public--at which times the beauty and the fashion of the Cape display themselves and flirt with the officers of the garrison.
    There is another attraction of much interest--the museum. Here one beholds stuffed specimens of the wonders of the African forest--the lion, elephant and giraffe--while a long array of birds of similar origin grace the shelves. Here are geological and conchological specimens, but what is of still greater interest, we saw the weapons and dresses of the different tribes of African aborigines.
    Connected with this institution is a large public library, where we met periodicals from all over the world. Opening a volume in one of the alcoves, we read the following touching inscription: "To the South African Library Association, in memory of her great and noble husband, by his heart-broken widow, VICTORIA."

    One finds in the extreme corner of an almost unknown continent a respectable commerce, with its banks, insurance offices, newspapers, telegraphs, railroads, and even a theatre and lecture hall. An unfortunate contrast to this prosperity is found in a body of poor which rivals almost the pauperism of England. This arises from the fact that some time ago a large number of emigrants were brought here to engage in public works; the latter have been stopped and the laborers being out of employment their families are reduced almost to famine.

    Immediately behind the town a bristling ledge of rocks rises to a great elevation. Its summit is flat and it is guarded on either side by lofty peaks, one designated "the Lion's Head," the other "the Devil's Peak." This ledge is called Table Mountain; frequently during the day the clouds settle upon its summit and fall over its brow, suggesting the folds of a vast table-cloth, whence some deduce the name.
    Its ascent is considered an achievement, and hence we made an attempt to scale the ledge, but were unsuccessful. The time was unpropitious; the wind swept fiercely across the height, rending the "tablecloth," and we halted to gaze upon a scene of unparalleled grandeur.

    After our return from this adventure we partook of a dinner given by the British regiment (the 99th) to the officers of the Oneida. The affair went off neatly, but what interested us chiefly was the table furniture, of both silver and china ware, which was part of the pillage or "loot," as they call it, of the Emperor's Summer palace at Pekin [Peking].
    The next day we took a drive for eight miles under ornamental arches erected in honor of Prince ALFRED, and through long avenues of oaks whose boughs interlaced, disclosing a beautiful champaign which faded into the dim outline of distant hills.
    At Cape Town we visited the family of Mr. W----, a gentleman of culture, whose daughters were peculiarly skilled in American melodies and where we were delighted to listen to Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching, Johnny's Come Home Again, and similar familiar ditties.

    Since this letter was commenced Prince ALFRED has returned from his hunt, having had a fine time, and bringing two elephants' skins as trophies. To-morrow he is to dine on the Oneida, and soon afterward he will give the grand ball to which we have referred.
    The Pacific mail steamer New-York has just arrived en route for China. It is probable that the Oneida will remain at Sinous Bay for two weeks and then set sail for the East.

USS Oneida II in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

The New York Times, January 21, 1883, p.4:


PORT ELIZABETH, ALGOA BAY, Nov. 29 [1882]    
    Since I wrote last week, from Wynberg, I have seen so much that I hardly know where to begin, so it may be perhaps as well to adhere to the old-fashioned rule and begin at the beginning. In one point, at least, my surroundings have altered but little, although I am now several hundred miles to the east of the Cape.

    Go as quick as I may the small-pox keeps always just a day's journey ahead of me, like a kind of epidemic Flying Dutchman, and every object, animate or inanimate, conveys some reminder of the prevalent disease. The very water in which I wash seems perfumed with "carbolic." A vague, ethereal flavor of disinfectant pervades my morning tea. The breakfast-cakes, with their prominent display of currants, look like aggravated cases of small-pox.
    When we anchored in Mossel Bay, on our way hither, the first object that met my horrified vision was the queer little white building, not much bigger than a bathing-machine, which served as the local small-pox hospital, while the sandy ridges around, with a few unwholesome-looking clumps of wooding breaking out upon them here and there, appeared as if they had just been vaccinated, and were in a violent state of inflammation in consequence...

    On a fine day the panorama of the African coast from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope is well worth seeing. First comes the gaunt outline of Lion's Head, with its helmet-shaped crest of rock standing out black and stern against the sunny sky, and around its base the trim white houses of Sea Point, the inhabitants of which salute us after a novel fashion by casting successive flashes of light upon our deck from looking-glasses held up to the sun. Then follows the long procession of dark-gray precipices fancifully called "The Twelve Apostles," succeeded by endless ranges of craggy hills, bare for the most part, but flecked here and there with scrubby patches of vegetation, through which the sandy soil peers incessantly...

    At length, when the night is already advanced, the rising moon shows us a long dark ridge ending in two grim pyramids of rock, from the furthest of which the Cape light-house looks out with its single eye of fire over the dim waste of waters below. Unchanged and unchangeable, the stern old cliffs watch our passage as they watched Gama's high-pooped caravels, or the Indiaman which bore young Robert Clive, penniless and forlorn, to the throne of a new empire. Round this point Warren Hastings passed to the splendid infamy of a career unparalleled in history, and Sir Colin Campbell, a century later, went to reap the bloody harvest that Hastings had sown...
see also: Angola News - Zimbabwe - Namibia - Mozambique

All of South Africa is
one time zone at GMT+2,
with no Daylight Savings time.

  South Africa News

South Africa map, from the CIA World Factbook

    The Republic of South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa, bordered by Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, on the east and south by the Indian Ocean, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Lesotho, an independent nation, is completely surrounded by South Africa, in the northeastern part of the country. The capital of South Africa is Pretoria. The area of South Africa is 470,693 square miles (1,219,912 square kilometers). The estimated population of South Africa for July, 2007 is 43,997,828. South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.

    Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the East, founding the city of Cape Town.
    After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics.
    The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together under the Union of South Africa.
    In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races.
    The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in black majority rule.
    CIA World Factbook: South Africa

South Africa flag, from the CIA World Factbook

Weather Underground World Forecast Search:

enter city, nation:  

Africa Weather Satellite Photo

South Africa Weather: Current Conditions

  South Africa Reference Articles and Links

Wikipedia: South Africa
    History of South Africa
The Economist: South Africa Country Briefing
LOC: South Africa Country Study
BBC Country Profile: South Africa
UK Foreign Office: South Africa Profile
US State Department: South Africa Profile

Maps of South Africa
Historic Maps of Africa
1885 Map of Africa

WikiTravel: South Africa
US State Dept South Africa Travel

South African Government
South African Presidency
South African Parliament
African National Congress (party)
Governments on the WWW
South Africa Embassy, Washington D.C.

South Africa [Ham] Radio League

  South Africa News Websites

Sunday Times
Mail & Guardian
South Africa Post (
SABC (TV & radio)
Google South Africa News

ABYZ: South Africa News Links

  South Africa Internet Directories

Google South Africa search
Google South Africa directory
Yahoo!: South Africa directory

    Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, is simply the Cape of Good Hope without its cliffs--a long, low ridge bordered with yellow sand, looking indescribably dreary and desolate. It is chiefly remarkable for the perverse currents that sweep round it, which are not a whit less troublesome now than they were in the days when they goaded poor Captain Vanderdecken into swearing that imprudent oath which he is still expiating in his capacity of the Flying Dutchman.
    From this point the rugged outline of the coast becomes lower, flatter, and less picturesque; and long before midnight the last of the enthusiasts who are on lookout for "scenery" goes below in disgust.

    But just about daybreak next morning we are all aroused by three or four successive shocks, which, in the graphic language of our old quartermaster, "send every body and everything everywhere." Books tumble headlong upon their owners head, as if despairing of getting their contents into it by any other method. Trunks and portmanteaus skip about as though bewitched, and the saloon echoes with a "crockery chorus" worthy of Handel himself. One of our lady passengers shrieks to a passing officer to know what is the matter, and receives the very comforting and intelligible answer that we are "beam on to the swell." Scrambling on deck a few minutes later, we find ourselves snugly anchored in Mossel Bay.
    A queer little place it is, and in its way not a bad sample of South African ports as a class. A wide stretch of low, sandy hills, measled with scattered clumps of dark undergrowth; a big white light-house on a projecting head-land; a low reef jutting out into the sea below it, upon which the gnashing breakers foam and rage unceasingly; a big wave rolling past into the bay every now and then, as if to look about it; a broad, red, dusty post road stretching along the hillside like a vein in a cabbage-leaf; a few scores of putty colored houses, well apart from each other, as if they had all put one another in quarantine, and two or three architectural outcasts far away along the slope, as if they had either withdrawn from society in disgust or had been "cut" by the rest for some misdemeanor.

    Our 12 hours detention here over 150 tons of cargo surprises no one, for the energy of the "enterprise" of Cape Colony are very much on a par with the enterprise of a snail opening up some new commercial highway through a strawberry patch. No country that I have yet visited follows out more religiously than South Africa the good old Arab maxim, Agit lil Shaitaun (hurry belongs to the devil.) The famous German professor who, when bidden to a wedding, traveled so slowly that he came just in time for the subsequent christening, would have been quite at home in Namaqua Land or Kaffraria.
    When a man misses a train, he goes quite contentedly by the following. When he misses a steamer, he comforts himself with the recollection that there will be another next week. Everything seems bent upon doing its utmost to avoid unnecessary haste. The trains go at the rate of steamers, the steamers at the rate of stage-wagons, and the stage-wagons at a pace which might be overmatched with ease by any athletic caterpillar.

    It must be owned, however, that the acquaintance of the British home authorities with their colony and its neighbors seems to advance as slowly as the progress of the colony itself. It is related on good authority that during the recent war with the Transvaal Boers, the Captain of an English iron-clad received orders from home to "lie off the town of Potchefstroom, but not to bombard it"--the said town lying several hundred miles inland, among the hills of the Transvaal.

    Onward, ever onward, past mile after mile of dark bush-clad downs, interleaved with broad reaches of yellow sand, which combine with the deep blue sea to make the whole landscape appear like a gigantic copy of the Edinburgh Review. The tall, barber's pole light-house of Cape Recife, erect on its lonely sand spit in the midst of the sea, grows into shape and melts away again.
    As we sweep around the promontory in the wide, smooth expanse of Algoa Bay, there appears far away on the port bow a large cluster of whitish-gray points, very much like the tents of a military encampment, hanging upon the steep ridge that overlooks the sea, and these, as the Captain tells me with a lurking grin, are in reality the houses of "the great city of Port Elizabeth."

    It must be owned that this "dear old magnificent sand heap," as an African journalist affectionately called it the other day, is anything but attractive at first sight. The houses are all glaringly new and uniformly wear that look of sturdy uncompromising hideousness which stamps all the works of the British utilitarian who loves to show his devotion to business by making it utterly devoid of pleasure. But it offers a very different spectacle when seen after nightfall from the end of the wooden jetty--which is the Elizabethan's fashionable, and, indeed, only, promenade--under the glorious Summer moon of November.
    Moonlight, like charity or a lawyer's wig, covers a multitude of sins. The dusty streets and unsightly houses have vanished, and their whereabouts is marked only by long lines of glow-worms winding up the dark hillside. Across the wide waste of shadowy sea in the background falls a broad sheen of silver light, in which the shattered ribs of a wrecked vessel, far out along the beach, stand gauntly up like the skeleton of some mighty sea monster. A deep sonorous hail comes floating over the silent waters from one of the unseen ships at anchor in the roadstead, whose presence is betrayed only by the light of the blue or crimson stars that hang upon their shadowy hulls.
    It is indeed a scene of enchantment, and one which might well satisfy even the two lovers who, fondly imagining themselves invisible, are whispering together, hand in hand, beneath the romantic shade of a freight-wagon, too happy to have any fear of a sore throat or rheumatism before their sheep's eyes.

    The early morning presents a scene of a different kind, which might serve as a study for some encampment of Attila's Huns when they burst into Europe 14 centuries ago, or for some halt of wandering Tartars such as I used to see on the Central Asian steppes during the Russian war with Khiva. Around the tall, slender obelisk that rises in the centre of the market square, just opposite the stately hewn-stone front of the Town Hall, welters a flood of yoked oxen, and big, clumsy wagons, and dark, lean, thick-lipped faces, and tattered cloaks of frieze or sheepskin, and small, cunning, rat-like eyes, and harsh voices raised in unceasing clamor.
    Moment by moment the din and bustle increases. Fresh carts keep coming in on every side, laden with hay or garden stuff, and drawn by teams of black oxen almost as long as a railway train. European "plug" hats, red Turkish caps, and greasy wide-awakes jostle each other in the crowd, while the ruddy, well-bearded Englishman, the gaunt, dark, high-cheeked Kafir, the tall, sharp-featured Malay, the broad, burly, stolid Dutch farmer from "up country," and the narrow-eyed half-caste, with his barley-sugar complexion, succeed each other like the figures in a magic lantern.

    On one side a knot of men are chattering briskly over a tusk of ivory; on the other an auctioneer is impressing upon his congregation the superlative merits of a sack of potatoes. Several horses, which have evidently had a long and hard ride since sunrise, are drinking at the fountain which surrounds the obelisk, and beside them a couple of native teamsters are wiping the moisture from their black, shining faces and "chaffing" each other with an accompaniment of laughter that sounds like the bellowing of their own oxen and a show of white teeth that would inevitably suggest dark and awful schemes to the mind of any passing dentist.

    From the market-place a kind of paved precipice, justly named Prospect Hill, leads up the ridge, on the side of which Port Elizabeth hangs. Once fairly on the top the fresh breezy air, the dainty little white villas half-buried in flowers, the spreading trees that line either side of the road, make a very pleasant contrast to the hot, dusty, unsheltered ugliness of the lower town.
    But the best part of the show is still to come. A tiny square fort on the highest point of the ridge attracts your attention, and you saunter around it, struck with admiration of the profound military science which has enabled it to defy all enemies by the simple device of a big rusty padlock on its crazy wooden door.

    All at once you find yourself stopped short. Just in front of you the wide green uplands fall away in a sheer precipice of more than a hundred feet down to a small oval basin shut in at both ends by rocky heights, between which a tiny stream turns and winds, as if struggling to escape. On its banks a trim little factory stands within a high palisade, and all around are dotted a succession of iron-clad cottages formed of plates of "waved" metal, each surrounded by its own garden patch.
    And as you turn your head, below you, on the other side, lie the straggling houses of the town and the broad, yellow sands beyond them, and the white-winged ships in the offing, and the boundless expanse of the glorious bay, blue and bright as the cloudless sky overhead.

    Port Elizabeth is said to have made "great progress" during the last 10 years, which may well make any dispassionate observer wonder what it can possibly have been like before. But in some respects, at least, the place has made advances, which it would be flagrantly unjust to deny.
    It has witnessed as many wrecks as Cape Town itself, and still keeps a number of shattered hulls "on view" along the beach, in gratifying proof of its extensive commerce.
    It has established in its principal thoroughfare more than a dozen thriving bars, which are estimated to have made more persons drunk within a given time than the bars of any of the adjacent sea-ports.
    It has justly earned the proud distinction of offering worse accomodation to travelers and charging higher for it than any other place in the district.

    Finally, it has the merit--a priceless one in the eyes of both Dutch and English colonists--of "keeping down the cursed niggers," whose freedom of speech and action has been considerably stimulated by the result of England's recent wars in Zululand and the Transvaal. In Cape Town, where they are in a large majority, they seem to do pretty much as they please, but at Port Elizabeth the case is widely different.
    As proof of this, I may mention that I saw yesterday a policeman lay his cane vigorously across the shoulders of a native who had been caught in the act of leaning against a post, a sample of police energy which I have seen paralleled in countries more civilized than South Africa. This morning I had the above little incident supplemented for me by the sight of an honest British butcher kicking a black man off the sidewalk into the road, seemingly for no reason except to keep his hand in, or rather, his foot.

    GRAHAM'S TOWN, Nov. 30.--In this primitive country a journey of 106 miles is fairly equal to 500 anywhere else, and I have as good cause to rejoice at getting here without mishap as the pious Scotchman who had thanksgivings offered in church for his safe return from "his long and perilous journey to that far-away place called London."
    The railway from Port Elizabeth to Port Alfred, at the mouth of the Kowie River, although all but completed, is at present open for traffic only as far as Graham's Town, about three-quarters of the entire distance. But the journey thither, though anything but rapid--the express speed of South African, as of East Indian, trains being about 16 miles an hour--is picturesque in the highest degree.

    At first the cars sweep along the very edge of the smooth, bright sea, with a magnificent view of Algoa Bay on one side and the rugged panorama of the coast ridges on the other, above which, blue and shadowy in the far distance, looms the craggy mountain from which the worthy citizens of Port Elizabeth began to draw their water supply through pipes 28 miles long a few years ago, when they got tired of depending upon rain water and of paying 75 cents a bucket in the dry season.
    But the sea is soon lost sight of, and now the track wanders off into a wide, dreary plain, thickly coated with scrub, cleft in all directions by dry water-courses and containing (as Paddy would say) no human habitations except ant-hills.
    But little by little the distant hills begin to close round us, the ground on either side becomes higher and more rugged, the hot, close, lifeless atmosphere of the plain changes to a fresh bracing breeze. Trees of respectable size are seen mingling with the spiteful thorn-bushes that cover the lower ground for miles, and trailing clusters of passion-flowers festoon the whole front of the quaint little white station-houses that keep turning up in unexpected places every few miles, with names as queer as themselves--Zwartkops, Tankatara, Addo, Quarry Hole, Sandflats, Ballast Siding, and what not.

    And now the evidences of our being in Africa increase and multiply on every hand. Shock-headed aloes and chain-like prickly pears bristle all around. Herdsmen black and wild-looking as their own beasts spring up from the grass to watch us as we rattle by. A troop of ostriches come tripping across an adjoining field, lifting their feet high at every step, and when their leader ducks his long neck in search of food, all the rest duck theirs in measured time, like recruits learning their drill.
    From the summit of yonder mound 40 ages behold us in the shape of a brawny Kafir lady, lighly attired in a skirt about the size of a neck-cloth, and a flaming red handkerchief wound round her black face, which, thus surmounted, looks very much like Vesuvius during an eruption. Another "Black-hide Susan," with a satchel, comes plowing her way through the thicket, while three or four more peer out at us from the single opening (serving alike as door, window, and chimney) of a little beehive of dried mud thatched with a paste of clay and bark, such as those into which the Kirghiz chiefs of Turkestan used to welcome me nine years ago, or those which I saw at a later date on the border of the Sahara Desert.

    And now we plunge right among the hills, and the wild mountain scenery reveals itself in all its splendor. So closely do the ridges hem us in on either side that more than once the projecting boughs actually brush the cars in passing. A nervous person might well be scared to see crags upon crags and trees upon trees piled up far overhead, as if the whole mountain might at any moment lap over, like the leaf of a book, and crush train and passenger out of existence.
    Now we are rushing along the brink of a narrow gorge, through which, despite the parching heat of mid-summer, the river runs swift and strong amid forests of tall, feathery grass. Now we seem hanging in mid-air over a dark hollow, one impenetrable mass of thicket from top to bottom. Now our considerate engineer puts on the steam just as we approach a sharp curve, and sends us flying round the very lip of a precipice, at the foot of which sharp-edged stones lie points upward, all ready for our reception.

    Every now and then a sudden break in the great mountain wall gives us a seemingly boundless view of the plain that we have left, and then all is gone, and we are shut in once more by matted leaves and jagged teeth of rock.
    At length we burst forth all at once into the broad sunlit valley midway across which Alicedale Junction, with its half-dozen cottages and microscopic "Royal Hotel," lies between two ranges of hills like Stoura Village between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon on the way from Beyrout to Damascus. Here we leave the main line that runs northward to Craddock and turn off along the branch to Graham's Town, but the final details of my journey thither and my adventures on arrival must be reserved for another letter.

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1883 was equivalent to $23.05 in 2008.

TIME Magazine, February 12, 1951, p. 80:

Passing the Scepter
    From a massive, block-long building in Johannesburg last week came a discreet announcement that set the trading marts of the world buzzing. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, the world's king of diamonds and its prime minister of gold, was giving up a bit of his vast suzerainity. At 70, he relinquished directorships in seven of his 30-odd gold-mining companies--a step towards turning over his empire to his son and spit & image, 41-year-old Harry Oppenheimer.
    This did not mean that Sir Ernest, last and greatest of South Africa's great "Randlords," was going to take things much easier. In his three-story citadel he would still work his usual 16 hours a day, still sit firmly in thc chairmanship of his Anglo American Corp. of South Africa, Ltd., the master holding company through which he has built an economic pyramid of more than 200 companies worth more than $2.5 billion. They control 15% of the Transvaal's gold production, 43% of its coal, 50% of its explosives, 9% of the world's copper, and a bewildering hodgepodge of enterprises ranging from breakfast foods to railways.

    Acres of Diamonds. As chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., a syndicate of seven companies, Sir Ernest also controls 95% of the world's supply of diamonds, and sees to it that the supply is always less than the demand. As always, war and inflation are now swelling the demand for diamonds, and Sir Ernest's cartel has opened up two idle mines to step up production. The wholesale price of gem diamonds has risen 20% in six months, and U.S. rearmament [for the Korean War] has sent the price of industrial diamonds (vital for cutting tools) soaring 100% since Korea. Not only capitalists buy diamonds: an "unknown buyer" thought to be the Soviet Union has suddenly started buying all it can in the Belgian markets, presumably to build its own stockpile for machine tools for war.
    Sir Ernest, who has one of the world's prize collections of rare diamonds, started learning about stones at 16. The son of a middle-class Jewish family in Friedberg, Germany, he went to London to learn the diamond-cutting trade, was sent to South Africa at 22 to look after his London employer's diamond properties. The year was 1902, when Cecil Rhodes, who had formed the De Beers combine out of hundreds of small claims, died murmuring: "So little done, so much to do." Oppenheimer was just the man to do it. He stayed in Kimberley and went into mining on his own.

    Shrewd, eager and personable, he was enough of a success by 1912 to be elected Kimberley's mayor at 32 (he was twice re-elected, later went to Parliament). In 1917 he teamed up with an American engineer, William Lincoln Honnold, and, with backing from J. P. Morgan and others, formed Anglo American. While everybody else swarmed to the Central Rand, Oppenheimer tried his luck in the Far East Rand and struck it rich, did it again 100 miles away where nobody thought there was any gold.
    At the end of World War I, Sir Ernest got a five-year exclusive sales contract covering the rich diamond fields of Germany's former colony in South-West Africa. He used this tremendous lever to pry his way into the clam-tight De Beers syndicate. In 1929, after secretly buying up 20% of De Beer's shares, he took over the syndicate. It keeps tight control of diamonds by persuading any who find new fields to join the syndicate and reap the benefits its controlled prices.

    New Bonanza. Sir Ernest's biggest interest now is not diamonds, but gold, from which Anglo American last year made 11 million ($30.8 million) profit. His Anglo American is the biggest single holder in the immensely rich new fields of the Orange Free State, and has put up more than half of the 200 million ($560 million) being spent to develop them. Believing that South Africa must wipe out the disgrace of its mining "kraals," where Bantu workers live like prisoners, he has led the spending of 70 million by mine operators to develop a model village to house 100,000 people at the new Free State mining center near Odendaalsrust. By July he expects to start taking gold out of his first mine there, open another shortly after. Says Sir Ernest: "This is the most extensive mining development the world has ever known."

    In this new venture, Sir Ernest's right-hand man is son Harry, a deputy chairman of Anglo American. Harry, who was educated at Oxford, and captained a company of Britain's "Desert Rats" against Rommel's troops in World War II, lives with his wife and two children in a smaller villa adjoining "Brenthurst," the palatial residence of his father and stepmother outside Johannesburg. Harry likes fast cars and fast horses (he recently gave his father a prize colt, Ossian, which won Johannesburg's summer handicap the first time out). When Parliament is in session (Harry has succeeded to his father's old seat*), he drives the nearly 1,000 miles to Cape Town at breakneck speed.

    Neither Sir Ernest nor his heir need fear that the prime source of the dynasty's power will ever diminish. One of the first great Randlords, old Barney Barnato, put it tersely, many years before Flapper Lorelei Lee [lead character in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925), played by Marilyn Monroe in the movie of the same name]: "Women are born every day, and men will always buy diamonds for women."

* In the party of the late great General [Jan Christiaan] Smuts, opposed to the fanatically anti-Negro [Daniel Francois] Malan.

This page's URL is: