De Cuiper was just the first of a long line of “modern” visitors to the area, but it was from other quarters that most of the new visitors came. The history of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces is deeply intertwined with that of the original “Transvaal” – an area set aside by Boer settlers, as an Independent homeland. An understanding of the history of this province is essential in the understanding of the history, and formation of the Kruger National Park.
The Transvaal was one of the provinces of South Africa from 1910 until 1994. The province no longer exists, and its territory now forms all, or part of, the provinces of Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The Transvaal province lay between Vaal River in the south, and the Limpopo River in the north. To its south it bordered the Orange Free State and Natal provinces, to its west were the Cape Province and the Bechuanaland Protectorate (later Botswana), to its north Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), and to its east Portuguese East Africa (later Mozambique), and Swaziland. Except on the south-west, these borders were mostly well-defined natural features.
The Transvaal region is known to have been inhabited from about 1 200 years ago, by Venda and Sotho peoples. In 1817, the region was invaded by tribes pushed from their land by the Zulu king Shaka and his Impis. This made the region very weak, and easy to colonize by the nearby European settlers.
In the 1830s and the 1840s, descendents of Dutch and other settlers, collectively known as Boers (farmers) or Voortrekkers (pioneers), exited the British Cape Colony, in what was to be called the Great Trek. With their military technology, they overcame the local forces with relative ease, and formed several small Boer republics in areas beyond British control, without a central government.
On January 17 1852 the United Kingdom signed the Sand River Convention treaty with 5 000 or so of the Boer families, recognizing their independence in the region to the north of the Vaal River, or the Transvaal.
In 1856, the Boers adopted the name South African Republic for the region, and a new racially biased constitution was put in place. In 1877, after the republic faced considerable economic hardship and outside Zulu threats, Britain annexed the Transvaal, hoping that this move would be perceived by the Boers as salvation. However, the Boers viewed it as an act of aggression, and protested.
On December 16, 1880 the independence of the republic was proclaimed again, which lead to the first Boer War. The Pretoria Convention of 1881 gave the Boers self-rule in the Transvaal, under British oversight, and the republic was restored with full independence in 1884 with the London Convention. With the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand (1885), there was a rush of non-Boer European settlers (called outlanders, by the Boers). This led to a destabilisation of the republic.
In 1895, Cape Premier Cecil Rhodes planned to support a coup d'etat against the Transvaal government. Leander Starr Jameson carried out this plan, without British authorization, in December of that year - in the ill-fated Jameson Raid. After the failed raid, there were rumours that Germany offered protection to the Boer republic, something which alarmed the British. Fearing Britain's imminent annexation, the Boers launched a pre-emptive strike against the nearby British colonies in 1899, a strike that became the second Boer War, which the Boers would lose.
The Boer War is a watershed event for the British Army in particular and for the British Empire as a whole. It was here that the British first used Concentration Camps in a war setting. By May 1902, the last of the Boer troops surrendered, and the independent Boer republic in the Transvaal was no more - the region became part of the British Empire.
In 1910, the Transvaal became a province of the newly created Union of South Africa, a British Dominion. In 1961, the union ceased to be part of the British Commonwealth and became the Republic of South Africa. The PWV (Pretoria/ Witwatersrand/ Vereeniging) area in the Transvaal (now Gauteng Province) became the South Africa's economic powerhouse, a position it still holds today.
In 1994, after South Africa’s first all-race elections, the former provinces and homelands were restructured, and a separate Transvaal province no longer exists. Parts of the old Transvaal now belong to the new Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.