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Jan Gerritze Bantjes (Beaufort West, July 8, 1817 – Potchefstroom, March 10, 1887) was a Voortrekker and was also the Secretary General of the Voortrekkers. He was the author of the treaty between the Zulu king Dingane kaSenzangakhona and the Voortrekkers under Andries Pretorius.[1]

Early life and background

Jan Gerritze Bantjes (pioneer, explorer, and Voortrekker scribe) was born on 8 July 1817 in the Nieuveld district of Graaff-Reinet and not Beaufort West. He was the third child of Bernhard Louis Bantjes (b. 20 July 1788 – Stellenbosch) and Isabella Johanna Swanepoel (b. 30 Jan.1812, Stellenbosch). Bantjes was historically of mixed descent: his great-grandfather Gerrit (Jan Geerts) Bantjes (Dutch/French speaking) arrived at the Cape in 1755 and became an independent (free-burger) VOC clerk under Governor Rijk Tulbagh at the Cape Castle collecting rents and taxes for the VOC treasury. He married Hilletje Agnieta Jacobse at Paarl, Drakenstein whose mother was an emancipated Malaysian slave, Her father was a Frenchman. She was known to be an attractive woman. Bantjes' great-grandson Jan Gerritze Bantjes (Voortrekker) was described as being of coloured complexion in 1837 during the Great Trek, but this is not mentioned again in later descriptions. He was one of the first Europeans to explore Port Natal in 1834 with Uys, and due to his better education, documented the journey from Grahamstown to Port Natal and on their return, wrote the "Natal-land Report" which was the catalyst for mobilising the Great Trek. He gave both President Steyn and President Paul Kruger their grounding educations, wrote the Dingaan/Retief land treaty of Feb.1838, wrote the famous Bantjes Journal and documented the Battle of Blood River 16.Dec.1838. Later his son Jan Gerrit Bantjes discovered the first Witwatersrand Gold Reef and started the world's greatest gold rush and Johannesburg. His other son Bernard Louis Bantjes (Born Pietermaritzburg, 1841) became a prosperous property developer in Johannesburg. Jan Gerritze' ancestors (Jan Bantjes & Jacomina Leussen) in The Netherlands during the 1700s were wealthy merchants and privateers, including financing Governor De Sabloniere in developing plantations in Guyana, South America. They owned properties from Kampen and Amsterdam to the West Indies and Batavia. The ships, farmlands and properties would later become the basis of what would be known as the Bantjes Millions, a mythical testament invented by whoever knows who. (Possibly Nonnie Bantjes or Mrs.Wright)

Jan Gerritze Bantjes was baptised at the Dutch Reformed Church in Graaff-Reinet on 6 October 1817. Other siblings included Martha Sibella, Racheal Hilletje, Anna Francina, Hendrik Jacobus, and Pieter Andrias. His father Bernard Louis Bantjes had a trading store and a farm in the Nieuwveld a district of the town and was quite prosperous.[2]

Career

In March 1834 Boer leaders of Uitenhage and Grahamstown discussed a so-called Kommissitrek or “Commission Trek” to explore Port Natal and the region and properly assess its potential as a new homeland for the Cape Boers disenchanted with British rule. Petrus Lafras Uys was chosen as expedition leader and Jan Gerritze Bantjes as secretary and scribe.

In early May 1834, Jan Gerritze Bantjes at Graaff Reinet was offered to join the expedition to Port Natal to investigate the possibility of a new Dutch homeland, and, encouraged by his father Bernard Louis Bantjes, word was sent to Uys offering his clerical abilities and writing skills to partake in this adventure. Bantjes wanted to help establish Dutch independence away from British rule at the Cape. J.G.Bantjes was already known in the area as an educated young man fluent in both spoken and written Dutch or English, and due to these skills, was encouraged by Uys to join this voyage to Natal. J.G.Bantjes’ writing skills would prove invaluable recording events as the journey unfolded. Bantjes’ journal on the Kommissitrek is now lost.

In December 1836, Bantjes and several family members left the Graaf Reniet district with veldkornet Jacob de Clerq. On New Year's Day 1837, he joined the Voortrekkers under Andries Pretorius at Thaba Nchu. The following year he joined the Wenkommando and acted as Pretorius' secretary.

In 1838, he wrote the journal of the expedition and of the Battle of Blood River which took place on 16 December 1838 and resulted in the defeat of the Zulu king Dingane kaSenzangakhona and his army. Bantjes is generally regarded as the author of the treaty between the Voortrekkers and the Zulu king.

In 1839, he settled in Pietermaritzburg, where he was a founder of the town. Here he served as a clerk to the Volksraad of Natal and practiced law. He returned to the Cape Colony in 1840 after the construction of Church of the Vow for which he arranged the financing. His reason for leaving may have been to escape a lawsuit. In 1848, he acted as teacher and clerk of the church council at Fauresmith. He also appears to have run a shop in Prince Albert for some years.

In 1863, he moved to Pretoria, where he served as a magistrate's clerk and later Postmaster General of the South African Republic. He became a teacher and prosecutor in Lichtenburg and Ventersdorp. He died at his son's home in Potchefstroom in 1887.

The Bantjes gold mine was named after his eldest son, Jan Gerrit Bantjes (1843–1914), a pioneering prospector who discovered the Witwatersrand gold reef in June 1884 and laid down the roots of the first settlement which later became Johannesburg.[3]

References

  1. ^ Du Preez, Max. Of tricksters, tyrants and turncoats : more unusual stories from South Africa's past. Zebra Press. p. 37. ISBN 1770220437.
  2. ^ Pretorius, Chantelle. "Jan Gerritze Bantjes (1817 - 1887)". WikiTree. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  3. ^ Jan Gerritze Bantjes on sahistory.org.za, accessed on 8 July 2012