De Wet had assigned to himself the initial movement of the withdrawal, and left the rest of the programme to develop itself without him. Roux was put in charge of the Brandwater Basin. De Wet was an unpopular leader. His attempts to leaven the commandos with a little of the military spirit were resented. He had from the first, with only partial success, set his face against the incumbrance of wagons which marched with every commando. On the way to Sannah’s Post he had cashiered a commandant named Vilonel for disobeying his orders with regard to transport. His nomination of Roux did not give satisfaction. The partisans of other leaders protested, and it was determined to settle by election the question of the Chief Command. In the meantime, the management was in the hands of a triumvirate composed of Roux, Olivier, and Martin Prinsloo.
In the chaos, the commandos which De Wet had arranged should break out remained in the trap and simplified Hunter’s task. In succession, Retief’s Nek, Slabbert’s Nek, and Commando Nek were taken, the latter by Rundle, who on July 28 joined Hunter at Fouriesburg. Witnek had been abandoned by the Boers, who now had only Naauwpoort Nek and the scarcely practicable Golden Gate open to them.
The Nek was closed by Hunter on July 27, and a position outside the Golden Gate, but not the Gate itself, was occupied. The greater part of the Boer force was now practically sealed up in the Basin.
A Council of War was held to elect a new chief commandant. Had the vote been taken ten days earlier the situation might possibly have been saved, but the belated proceedings which displayed the weakness of a democratically organized army, and which, in the absence of representatives of the commandos not on the spot, were of doubtful validity, only added to the existing confusion. Prinsloo, however, seems to have been informally chosen.
His first act was to endeavour to obtain an armistice from Hunter, who naturally refused it. A few hours later Prinsloo agreed to surrender, and on July 30 the main body of the Boers in the Basin laid down their arms at Slapkranz. Roux, the rival candidate for the Chief Command, protested against the surrender, not only to Prinsloo, but also in person to Hunter, to whom he pleaded, that as Prinsloo had not been duly elected, the act was unauthorized and therefore was not binding on him. Hunter refused to listen to such quibbles. On several occasions during the war the Boers had profited by the honourable reluctance of the British commanders to repudiate an unauthorized raising of the white flag, lest they should be accused of having laid a trap to lure on the enemy. Hunter rightly held that Roux’s plea for local option was inadmissible, and that the surrender must apply to the whole force. Roux then yielded.