It is desired to point out that the narrative of events has been compiled in as objective a manner as possible, and that it contains no statement which is not borne out by evidence in possession of the Government.
Evidently, to denounce visions of gray bulls as hocus-pocus would be to describe a puzzling situation much too subjectively, since the Government has apparently no evidence that these are not genuine prophecy. The best the Government can do is to call them “extraordinary and apparently quite authentic.”
But the extraordinary part of it is that an illiterate old soothsayer should be considered important enough to be included in an official report.
His most famous and most influential prophecy, the one that will go down in the history of South Africa, was that which concerned General de la Rey and the fatal number 15.
The prophecy which came back to the minds of van Rensburg’s followers when war broke out was one concerning General de la Rey, the intrepid soldier who had commanded the Lichtenburg burghers in the Boer war and since become President of the Western Transvaal Farmers’ Association. Van Rensburg had always admired General de la Rey. He had frequently hinted to his circle that great things were in store for him. One of his visions had been well known to General de la Rey and his friends for some years. The report says:
The seer had beheld the number 15 on a dark cloud from which blood issued, and then General de la Rey returning home without his hat. Immediately afterward came a carriage covered with flowers.
[Illustration: H.M. CONSTANTINE I.
King of Greece.
(Photo from P.S. Rogers.)]
[Illustration: JOHN REDMOND
The great Irish leader, who says that Ireland has now taken her proper place in the British Empire.
(Photo from P.S. Rogers.)]
This was several years ago. But the people did not forget the prophecy, and when war broke out in Europe the Western Transvaal—in the Lichtenburg-Wolmaransstad area, where van Rensburg’s influence was strongest—was immediately aflame. The Government does not seek to minimize the importance of this influence:
When the war at last broke out, the effect in Lichtenburg was instantaneous. The prophecies of van Rensburg were eagerly recalled, and it was remembered that he had foretold a day on which the independence of the Transvaal would be restored.
Certain individuals could be seen daily cleaning their rifles and cartridges in order to be ready for the day. Within a week of the declaration of war between England and Germany the district was further profoundly stirred by the news (now become generally known) that a great meeting of local burghers was to be held at Treurfontein on the 15th of August, and that certain local officers were commandeering their burghers to come to this meeting armed and fully equipped for active service.
The outbreak of the war in Europe suddenly brought the Lichtenburger’s prophecy down to earth and crystallized the dream. The commandants were evidently as convinced that independence was at hand as the crowd.