Who's Who - Louis Botha

General Louis Botha (left) with General Smuts, 1918 Born in Greytown, Natal, Botha - an energetic man throughout his life - helped to launch, at the age of 22, the New Republic Vryheid district of Zululand (later absorbed into the Transvaal in 1888).

Botha thereafter married an Irishwoman, Annie Emmett, and entered Transvaal politics, where he was elected to the Volksraad in 1897.

Throughout his career Botha consistently argued for reconciliation between Briton and Boer.  Nevertheless, with the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899 Botha enlisted and rapidly attained the rank of General.  He commanded the southern Boer army that held the line of the Tugela River against British General Sir Redvers Buller until 1900.  Botha succeeded Piet Joubert as Commandant-General of the Boer armies in 1900.

Following the fall of Pretoria in June 1900 (in addition to the loss of a large number of Boers at Paardeberg), Botha successfully led an effective guerrilla campaign against the British which ended only with the complete depletion of his troop strength in 1902.  The Vereeniging Peace Treaty followed.

Botha returned to politics following the conclusion of the Boer War, becoming chairman of the Het Volk Party in the Transvaal Colony.  With the granting of self-government in 1907 Botha was elected Prime Minister, a feat emulated with his election as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa in 1910, a position he retained until his death in Pretoria in 1919.

Botha, along with Jan Smuts, formed the South African Party in 1911, consisting mainly of supporters of reconciliation between the Afrikaners and the British.  Nationalist elements within the party later broke away and formed the National Party in 1914 under J.B.M. Hertzog.

With Britain's declaration of war against Germany on 4 August 1914 Botha offered immediate military assistance, a decision that sparked rebellion among a portion of the Afrikaner community, and which was notably opposed by the National Party, which argued that the Afrikaners' national identity and heritage was at risk.

Botha chose to personally lead the Union forces assembled to quell the rebellion (led by Generals de Wet and Beyers), although he impressed many with his public clemency in dealing with rebel leaders (although he puzzled his British allies with this approach, as he did once again by applying the same leniency over conquered German troops in Southwest Africa).

Having put down the rebellion Botha, along with close associate General Smuts (another veteran of the Boer War and to whom he delegated military leadership in July 1915), set about tackling (and beating) German forces in Southwest Africa, launching an invasion in Namibia in February 1915.

With General Smuts managing the Union's military campaign on a day to day basis, Botha concerned himself with encouraging political unity at home, a task he continued following his narrow re-election later in 1915.  Throughout the First World War he was consistent in providing military support to Britain.

With the armistice Botha travelled to Paris to take part in negotiations for dealing with Germany.  A signatory of the peace treaty, Botha unsuccessfully argued for clemency in the Allies' treatment of Germany.

Louis Botha died in August 1919.

Shrapnel comprised steel balls ejected from shells upon detonation.

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