Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading member of the British Labour Party and Parliament, earlier this year described the concentration camps of the Anglo Boer War (1899 to 1902) as places of “safety” for South African women and children, during a live broadcast of the BBC’s Question Time (see the video here).
He further denied it was “systematic murder” and said people “were being taken there so they could be fed, because the farmers were away fighting in the Boer War”.
The economist Grace Blakely, another guest on the show, interrupted Rees-Mogg continuously to tell him that he is wrong. But Rees-Mogg continued in defending his point of view.
“TLU SA had first-hand knowledge about the impact of Britain’s Scorched Earth policy on agriculture in South Africa since it was TLU SA who helped farmers to get back on their feet,” says Louis Meintjies, the President of TLU SA. “We are still in shock over these statements from Rees-Mogg and did more research about the death rate during the war.”
According to the latest information 61 022 South Africans lost their lives between 1899 and 1902 because of the war.
Hélène Opperman Lewis, author of ‘Apartheid – Britain’s Bastard Child' (2017), says that the death rate was updated in 2017.
“According to Elizabeth CC Reynold’s genealogical research for her Master’s degree in 2017, the new numbers are higher than those usually quoted,” she says. “There were 116 572 white camp inmates, of which 30% - 34 430 – died in these camps. Of the total death rate, 80% were children and 14 431 were under the age of two. In other words, four out of five deaths were those of children.”
“Black people were put in camps as well, but were classified as refugees,” she explains. “These numbers are not completely accurate but is estimated at between 15 000 and 18 000.”
The war, and more specifically Brittain’s policy, had an enormous impact on the progress of agriculture in Sotuh Africa.
“After the war, everything had to be built up and developed from the ground,” says Meintjies. “TLU SA faced great challenges to support farmers.
“It cost millions to get not just agriculture, but the country as a whole, back on its feet. TLU SA played an integral part.
“We will not allow our history to be distorted and made into something other than what it was: a war based on the greed of Brittain. We urge Rees-Mogg, and preferably the British government as well, to apologise for his statements, but also for the Anglo Boer War.”
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