We have to cross the railway line on our way to Rensburg. In the past we would have passed the Asiatic Bazaar that have since moved to Shalimar.
We are greeted by Jopie Fourie Street, named after an Afrikaner martyr of the 1914 Rebellion. The rebellion caused the Afrikaner to become more polarised. The Conservatives felt that the First World War would give them the opportunity to finally get rid of the British yoke. Without resigning from the military forces, Jopie Fourie joined General Beyers’ rebels. He was caught on 16 December 1914 and was the only one to be shot in front of a firing squad on 20 December 1914. Not even appeals to the then Minister of Defence, Jan Smuts, were successful.
Rensburg was also prominent in the founding of the AWB (Afrikaner Weerstands Beweging). This organisation was founded by Eugene Terre’Blanche and six other men in his garage at 116 Walker Street. They were Dolf and Jorrie Jordaan, Leon and Hugo Botha, Jan Groenewald and Renier Oosthuizen. They used the 777 emblem ironically in black for braveness; white and red. As a far right wing organisation they unsuccessfully tried to derail the CODESA talks and caused havoc with their approach in Bophuthatswana.
Rebellion and the resistance movements were ghosts from the past. Just outside Rensburg we find the infamous “Spookbrug” where an old mine road crosses the national freeway (N3). This bridge is a scientific example of the preservation of mechanical momentum and optical illusion.
Rensburg town dates from 1897 and was laid out by one JJ Jansen van Rensburg, a member of the Volksraad representing Houtpoort. He himself swore an Oath of Neutrality during the Second Boer War (1899 – 1902). The British authority issued a proclamation for punitive measures against land owners who lived close to the railway line and who did not report any suspicious activities. During the night of 2/3 September 1900, the railway line was blown up close to his farm house. He made the wrong decision of only reporting it the next day. On his return he discovered that the British troops already executed the proclamation as they have burnt down his farmstead and left his wife and children destitute.
During the war Chamberlain and Lord Kitchener established a civilian peace committee. The aim was to break the moral resistance of the Boers. These committee members were those who pledged the Oath of Neutrality. It caused further polarisation as seen by the writing of General Louis Botha. He summarised it as follows: “…verbaasd zulke eene onbeschaamheid van u te zien na uwe Land en Volk verraden te heben” and “…verraders en ik kan zeggen moordenaars van hun volk…” It polarised the community. Rensburg District Council later amalgamated with Heidelberg. As Heidelberg already had a Jacob Street they changed Jacob Street to AG Visser Street. This street takes you to the AG Visser Primary School who celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2019. It connects to the Balfour/Standerton road. Standerton was visited by the Royal family in 1947 as it was the seat of the then Prime Minister, Jan Smuts. He was no stranger to Heidelberg. He lost the election in 1948 and was told that Jopie Fourie was finally vindicated. Rensburg haunted recognition.