ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE, THE Hon. MR JOE MODISE, ON THE HISTORIC OCCASION OF THE NAMING OF THE THABA TSHWANE MILITARY AREA, PRETORIA, 19TH MAY 1998
The Secretary for Defence - Mr PD Steyn
The Chief of the SA National Defence Force Designate - Lt Gen S Nyanda
The Executive Chairman of Armscor - Mr R Haywood
Your Worships the Mayors of:
- Greater Pretoria Metropolitan Council: Councillor JJ Ngele
- Centurion: Councillor MGW Aucamp
- Acasia: Councillor OS Lukhulleni
The 10 Traditional leaders present:
- King Makhosoke II
- King Mayitjha II
- Chief A Mahlangu
- Chief NJ Mahlangu
- Chief JJ Mahlangu
- Prince E Mahlangu
- Chief ME Mokgoko
- Chief AJ Mabena
- Chief ZJ Mabena
- Chief I Ndala
Our Host the General Officer Commanding Gauteng Command:
Maj Gen WG Lombard
Other distinguised guests
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honour for me to preside at this historic ceremony.
Our country is undergoing a profound transformation - not least in Defence.
The South African National Defence Force is changing in step to reflect the democratic values and cultural diversity of our Rainbow Nation.
As Defence in a democracy is a truly national effort, we are dutybound to promote a common sense of nationhood and patriotism.
This can only be achieved by giving all our people - and in terms of our defence force, all our members - a feeling of common ownership of the South African National Defence Force.
In this context, the symbols we choose and the names we use are important reflections of our respect for each other, for our national diversity and for each individual.
Such names and symbols must serve to make all the members of the National Defence Force feel equally at home in our Defence family - irrespective of colour, class or creed.
During a parliamentary media briefing in February of this year I signalled my intention to rename certain military areas, bases and units to ensure their naming becomes representative of the culture, traditions and aspirations of all the people of South Africa.
The Process of renaming has already begun. Last year the Strike craft of the Navy were renamed after persons, representative of our population, who have displayed bravery.
HISTORY OF THE VOORTREKKERHOOGTE MILITARY AREA
When the first settlers arrived in the Pretoria area in the mid nineteenth century this area was utilised as an outspan and grazing area.
It was later used to house the military. In a law published in 1896 during the rule of the South African Republic, the area was declared government property.
THE HISTORY OF VOORTREKKERHOOGTE
Following the occupation of Pretoria on 5 June 1900 during the Anglo-Boer War an area south of Pretoria became known as "Roberts Heights". It was named after Field Marshal Lord Roberts, Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in South Africa. On 26 May 1939 it was renamed "Voortrekkerhoogte" following the laying of the foundation stone of the Voortrekker Monument.
Voortrekkerhoogte reflects a military heritage to this day, and this is evident in its many fine historic buildings.
More than a century ago the first whites established themselves in the vicinity of the Magaliesberg. This was a territory described in 1938 by one William Cornwallis Harris as being rich with game and undisturbed nature. Traders and farmers came to the area in around 1840 and settled on farms in the vicinity. One of the farmers, Marthinus Wessel Pretorius (son of Andries Pretorius) bought two farms on which he founded Pretoria in 1853.
Forming a part of these farms was a patch of excess ground bordering what became Pretoria. The Government had right of possession over this ground - a place where traders and travellers could overnight - and later a military town arose there.
Lord Roberts annexed the Transvaal during the Second Anglo-Boer War and, although Pretoria fell, the war continued. He decided not to claim the public lands, but to negotiate for the right of use. A dispute as to the ownership of the ground arose between the British Government and the SAR and this was resolved under law in 1904.
A tent town already existed in this area by 1902. The was water-rich and thus a breeding-ground for malaria. For this reason, the Royal Army Medical Corps recommended that British soldiers should be accommodated on higher ground.
In 1905, a total of about 2001 acres of ground were made available south of Pretoria for military purposes and to provide accommodation for the general officer commanding, Lord Kitchener. Kitchener's accommodation was completed in 1903 as a permanent building.
Prefabricated and other buildings in Roberts Heights were probably built after the war. The Royal Engineers focused on the building of blockhouses constructed of tin and wood.
The oldest houses and street names (of which many were later changed) are a reminder of the first inhabitants who gave Roberts Heights its basic layout between 1902 and 1904. Lyttelton and Neville Roads, for example, honoured the first General Commanding after peace was declared.
During World War 1 most of the British forces were withdrawn from South Africa. The bases they left behind were donated to the Union Government and, after this, Roberts Heights - a product of the British war and built for use by British commanders - then belonged officially to the SA Government.
The generation which built the biggest monument in South Africa was not content to leave the name of the military town at the foot of the hill of the Voortrekker Monument with a British name and British associations. Thus, in 1939, Roberts Heights officially became Voortrekkerhoogte.
Today, a few fine historical landmarks remain in Voortrekkerhoogte.