In June 1913, TJ Kleinenberg, the council member for Soutpansberg, put forward the idea that the Sabie and Singwidzi Game Reserves should be nationalised.
The First World War delayed further progress on this matter but ironically, an antagonist initiated the first move. In March 1916, SH Coetzee, member for Lydenburg, forced the issue in the Provincial Council when he proposed that the National Government be urged to reduce the size of the Sabi Game Reserve.
In June, a commission of enquiry was appointed, and a report was published in August 1918. A significant statement in the Report of the Game Reserves Commission was that the ‘commission was struck by uselessness of having these magnificent reserves merely for the preservation of the fauna.’
In September 1920, the Provincial Secretary formally advocated the nationalisation of the game reserves and prepared a memorandum for discussion by the Executive Council. Attempts to make a large profit form the sale of their property, by landowners, proved to be something of an obstacle.
In 1924, there was a change in government and General JBM Hertzog took over and with this came a new Minister of Lands, P Grobler, a staunch Afrikaner and a 1914-rebel. It seems that he took a firmer stand with the landowners, and they accepted suitable unoccupied land in the Transvaal in exchange for the land was to be incorporated into the Park, at the end of 1925. It might be that the landowners realised that this new government, with its lack of sympathy for Johannesburg business interests, would negotiate no further and that expropriation was a reality.
Afrikaner Nationalism started to rise in the 1920’s and many people saw the establishment of a national park as the realisation of ‘Paul Kruger’s dreams’. Deneys Reitz, who knew President Kruger and fought in the Boer War, advocated this and stated that it was a national duty to preserve the landscape ‘just as the Voortrekkers saw it’.
Some English-speaking protectionists made use of Afrikaner sentiment to lobby for the creation of a national park. Even the use of Paul Kruger’s name was a political issue used to rally support. James Stevenson-Hamilton (see later) publicly stated that ‘Kruger National Park was an excellent name’, although privately he thought the person who was responsible for the establishment of the park was R.K. Loveday. His thoughts on Kruger were not particularly flattering either, feeling that Kruger’s only interest in wildlife was as biltong! Other names suggested were South African National Park and National Milner Park.
The move for a national park gained massive support. On 31 May 1926, the Minister of Lands, P Grobler, asked parliament to pass the Act on National Parks (Act 46 of 1926), the leader of the opposition, General Jan Smuts, seconded the motion. In a show of solidarity, both Houses of Parliament passed the National Parks Act unanimously in May and June 1926. The Kruger National Park had at last come into being.