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General Christiaan Frederik Beyers

Christiaan Frederik Beyers (1869 - 1914) was an important Boer general during the 1899-1902 South African War and also a key organiser of the 1914 Rebellion against South Africa’s participation in the First World War. Beyers was educated at Victoria College in Stellenbosch where he was a contemporary of Jan Smuts, and he went on to qualify as an attorney and set up practice in the Transvaal. When the South African War broke out in 1899 Beyers fought as a burgher and was quickly promoted to assistant field-cornet and then assistant-general. In May 1902 he was ordered to Vereeniging where he was elected chairman of the meeting of Boer delegates discussing peace terms. After the war Beyers continued to practice as an attorney, and in 1905 he was elected to the head committee of the Het Volk party, but his ‘bittereinder’ views were at odds with the reconciliation policy promoted by Botha and Smuts, causing tensions. After the Transvaal was granted responsible government in 1907, Beyers was elected to the Transvaal Legislative Assembly where he was appointed Speaker, and after Union in 1910 he became an MP.

In 1912 Beyers resigned as MP to take up the post of Commandant-General of the new Union Defence Force and in this capacity he helped to quash the miners’ strike of 1914. Beyers also played a key role in opposing the South African government’s decision to enter the First World War on the side of Britain, a choice that rankled ‘bittereinder’ and ex-Republican sentiment. Beyers was travelling in the same car as De La Rey when the latter was accidently shot dead by police waiting to trap the notorious Foster gang of criminals at a roadblock near Johannesburg. Beyers had been meeting with De La Rey and De Wet, amongst others, to discuss a possible armed anti-war rebellion, and in the aftermath of De La Rey’s death Beyers was put in charge of orchestrating the uprising in the Transvaal, and De Wet in the Free State. At the end of 1914 government forces closed in on Beyers’ commando and he died, it is thought from heart failure, on 8 December 1914 while attempting to escape his pursuers. 

For further information see:
John Bottomley (1982) The South African Rebellion of 1914: The Influence of Industrialisation, Poverty and ‘Poor Whiteism’ Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand, African Studies Institute
Anon (1977) ‘Beyers, Christiaan Frederik’ in (eds) D.W. Kruger & C.J. Beyers Dictionary of South African Biography  Vol III Pretoria: National Council for Social Research, pp. 64 - 67
Michael Brien (2009) An Uneasy Anger: De La Rey and the Foster Gang Newlands, Cape Town: Ampersand Press
Gert Daniel Scholtz (1941) Generaal Christiaan Frederik Beyers, 1869 - 1914 Johannesburg
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