THE HISTORY OF THE AREA
Before the Park’s inception.
Of the first black tribes to penetrate the northern Kalahari were the Kgalagadi who lived in comparative peace with the San. They were eventually out but the name gave the area was to remain. (Kalahari is derived from the Kgalagadi work Makgadikgadi, meaning saltpans or the great thirstland). The first white people entering the area came to trade with the Kalahari people, usually paying for their goods with livestock.
In 1891, the Park area as well as the area to the southwest presently known as The Mier, was annexed to British Bechuanaland. Approximately ten years later, just across the border, the Hottentots rebelled against the German colonial rule in South West Africa (Present-day Namibia). Although well inside British territory, German troops had set up a station at Groot Kolk to transmit messages to South West Africa. An enormous camel thorn tree served as an ideal lookout post but despite the Hottentots, under leader Captain Dirk Filander, attacked at daybreak killing the Germans as they rose from their beds. Unfortunately, the tree, still bearing horseshoes, which the Germans nailed to the trunk as a ladder, burnt down in a large veldfire in 1976. After World War 1 was over, Scottish born Rodger “Malkop” Jackson surveyed the region and a theoretical subdivision was made into farms of 10 200 and 12 800 hectares. Jackson named many of the farms after landmarks in homeland Scotland, most of which are still in use today as boreholes in the Park. Several white farmers settled as borehole caretakers along the Auob River and they stayed rent-free as long as the boreholes were kept in good repair.
Additional farms were allocated to more white farmers along the Auob and along the Nossob River. However, this is a harsh environment and neither these farmers nor their coloured counterparts, to whom the land was eventually given, could make a comfortable living. If not for the tsama melons, an essential plant in this semi-arid ecosystem, which in dry times are the principle source of water, many would not have survived. Under very dry conditions, even the tsamas disappear and only animals that are well adapted to the harsh conditions survive.
They therefore took to hunting and they, and biltong hunters from further a field, gradually denuded the game.
Only in the more remote reaches of the upper Nossob River was the balance of nature maintained, for here the San lived in harmony with animals and plants.
If this remarkable eco-system was to survive a conservation plan of action had to come into play……
A short history of the Park
A short history would give some perspective on the sequence of events that relate to the history of the farms. It is necessary to briefly underline the historic events and dates leading up to the proclamation of the park (in 1931) and the events that happened after the Park’s proclamation. These events had bearing on time frames and may suggest the origins of the structures along the Auob River, artefacts and ruins in the Park.
Before White settlements, or exploitation, of the Area now included in the Park, the land was part of the San people’s domain for hunting and gathering food. During the 19th century, explorers discovered that the riverbeds of the Auob and Nossob were easier to follow by wagon, than trying to cross the sand dunes. For years, no government claimed the land and the San were the only people residing here. One of the last and oldest sources on the times relating to that era is Regopstaan Kruiper who died in 1996 at the age of 96. Eventually the land became attached to the Cape Colony. The government, from 1897, began to survey the land and subdividing it into farms for White settlers.
In 1904, the authorities in German South West Africa (Namibia) sent soldiers to blockade the water holes in the Nossob and force Khoikhoi rebels into submission. Unfortunately for them, at Grootkolk, an entire German patrol was slaughtered. The White settlers were slow to take advantage of the newly surveyed farms and the Cape Government decided to give them to Coloured (“Basters”) farmers instead. The farms had names like KoKo, Kameelsleep, Kaspers Draai en Kwang.
In 1884, the Germans occupied South West Africa and it was during these years that Stoffel (Christoffel) le Riche first ventured into the Kalahari. In 1899, he and his wife Martie moved from Rietfontein, just south of the existing Park. In 1899 there first son Johannes and in 1904 their second son Joseph (Later known as Joep) was born.
With the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, the (Union of) South Africa (n) Government drilled a series of boreholes along the Auob to provide their troops with water in case South Africa wanted to use corridor to invade South West Africa. Guards were recruited mainly from the local community and hired to protect and maintain the boreholes. They were permitted to settle next to the holes with their families and livestock. It was expected that they would live of the veld (with dire consequences to the environment). Because of lack of firewood and appropriate clay
To make bricks they erected timber frame structures as dwellings and stock shelters. Dwellings that are more permanent were erected with the locally abundant calcrete stone. None of the timber frame shelters were recorded and nothing remained. The only evidence of these times are the calcrete walls of circular cattle kraals, the foundations of square and rectangular huts and some larger multi roomed dwellings.
This corridor was never used to invade South West Africa and the borehole guards stayed on, largely forgotten by the authorities. Instead, the Government appointed a Scottish land surveyor Rodger “Malkop” Duke Jackson to survey the area and divide it into farms. About this time, six farms were purchased by the South African Government, but were not occupied before the Government decided that Coloured people should rather settle the region. The British Government, then already in control of Bechuanaland, had already settled Coulred people on the east bank of the Nossob between Rooiputs and its confluence with the Auob River (the ruins of an old dwelling is still located at Rooiputs).
Biltong hunters penetrated the area and by the late 1920s, several species were in danger of becoming extinct. Two conservationists invited the then Minister of Lands, Piet Grobler to inspect the region. Grobler piloted the National Parks Act through parliament and played a major role in the proclamation of Kruger National Park in 1926. By 1931, Piet Grobler had decided to proclaim the area between the Nossob River and the Auob River and the SWA Border a national park. Land was purchased south of the Park to resettle “Coloured” people and the borehole structures were abandoned. All but a few farms that had been sold by the Government were brought back and the Park was finally proclaimed in 1931.
Johannes le Riche (the son of a local trader Christoffel, Francois, Albertyn Le Riche), the first warden of the Park (and his family), settled at Gemsbok Plain (later referred to as Gemsbok plein) in a house, which had been abandoned by a borehole guard. From this point, onwards Le Riche and his assistant Gert Januarie became involved in the protection of wildlife in the area. For three years, they patrolled the Park on horseback. In 1934, the park experienced an exceptional rainy season and both the Nossob and Auob came down in flood. This was followed by an epidemic of malaria and both Le Riche and Januarie died of this illness. A few days later after their death Le Riche’s brother Joep was appointed ranger in his place.
In 1935, a row of farms along the southern bank of the Auob River was purchased by the Union Government to ensure that both banks of the river would have national conservation protection. Twee Rivieren was also bought to include the confluence of the rivers into the Park. The resulting jagged boundary was straightened through “give-and-take” between the Government and neighbouring farmers.
In 1935, a corrugated iron house was built for the Warden at Samevloeiing and shortly afterwards a brick house built at Twee Rivieren. Joep le Riche who was supposed to be appointed temporarily eventually stayed in the post for 36 years. He and his assistant Gert Mouton re-commissioned the old boreholes in the riverbeds in order to “persuade” the animals to remain in the Park instead of leaving the unfenced boundaries where they were poached and killed.
In 1938 the British Government proclaimed a new game reserve across the Nossob in what is today Botswana. Joep le Riche was put in charge. During World War 11
Poachers were short of bullets and game numbers increased dramatically. After the War, game fences were erected along the Park’s western and southern boundaries. The eastern boundary remained unfenced leaving this border open to animals that needed to migrate from east to west. From the 1950s, more emphasis was put in 1940 near the confluence of the Nossob and Auob.
The Botswana Gemsbok National Park was proclaimed in 1938 by what was then called Bechuanaland. Mabuasehube Game Reserve was added in 1971 and was incorporated into Gembok National Park in 1992.
Head: Field Guiding
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Parkjan.email@example.com