Community histories of Rustenburg

Afrikaans Community (1838-1899)

The First White Inhabitants

It is documented that the first pioneers from the Eastern Cape undertook a hunting expedition to the former Western Transvaal (now North West Province) and Botswana areas in 1830.

A group of about 12 Eastern Cape farmers living next to the East Riet River area in the vicinity of the present day town of Bedford undertook the trip. It was purely a hunting expedition. During this expedition there they also paid a courtesy visit to Mzilikazi, Chief of the Ndebele tribe. Louis Jacobus Nel was a member of this expedition and in his memoirs he vividly recounted such a visit. He also mentioned the name of one De Lange who was present.

After the Italeni incident in April of 1838 in Natal, Hendrik Potgieter (1793-1853) trekked with his group to what is today known as the Potchefstroom area or Mooi River. The Voortrekkers referred to the area further east as “Aan die Magaliesberg” and to the area beyond that as “Die Agter-Magaliesberg.” At that time, the present Pretoria-area formed part of the later Rustenburg magistrate district.

After having settled in the Mooi River area, Potgieter proceeded to occupy land in the areas mentioned above. Voortrekkers who were members of the Potgieter-trek were entitled to two farms each; one for cultivation purposes and one for pasture. Each burgher received these farms as free property and they were more or less 2 500 hectares each. The farms were entered into a register and signed by the Field Cornet and Magistrate. Such property was also called “burgherrecht” farms. This practice continued until Potgieter and some followers left for Ohrigstad in June of 1845.


From 1848, with the arrival of Andries Pretorius (1798-1853) and a significant number of followers, the beyond Magaliesberg-area became rather densely populated. Pretorius’ farm was in the lower Magalies-area not far from the present-day Pretoria. It is important to remember, however, that Pretoria only existed officially from 1855. With the building of the Hartebeespoort Dam in the early 1930s, Pretorius’ farm disappeared under water.

It is not exactly possible to tell where the name Rustenburg comes from. Rumour has it that a reverend P.E. Faure from Wynberg in Cape Town visited the area in 1848/49 and that he suggested the name. From the beginning of 1851, however, the name started appearing regularly in the “Volksraad Notulen.” It also surfaced in correspondence from that time. Officially the date of 10 December 1850 is accepted as a date that signifies the birth of Rustenburg. On that day an important meeting of the War Council took place in the vicinity, giving official status to the area. From 17-19 March 1852 a full Assembly meeting (Volksraadvergadering) took place in Rustenburg, indicating the importance of the fledgling town.

In terms of the constitution of the new Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) a town was officially run by a Landdrost. The appointment of such a person was only official after ratification by the Executive Council. With the appointment of a Landdrost in Rustenburg in 1858 the town received official status. The Landdrost was responsible for appointing a Market Master, at the time an official state post. From mid-June 1858 every resident possessing a stand or stands were compelled to pay £6 pounds per stand in tax. The first magistrate was P.J. van Staden who served diligently for 30 years! The last Landdrost was J.C. Brink who served from 1884 to 1899 with the outbreak of the South African War (Anglo-Boer War). In 1882, a town council was established with J.G.C. Wagner as first chairperson and S.Q. du Toit as first town clerk. The town was also divided into wards and the small number of 53 residents was eligible to vote for ward representatives.


Up until 1850, the educational process in Rustenburg did not differ much from the situation during the Great Trek. Because of the nomadic lifestyle of the pioneers it was very difficult to establish permanent schools. To become a member of the church was in any way a higher priority than being taught at school.  Education was a local undertaking. Groups of parents would hire a ‘teacher’ to teach their children basic reading and arithmetic skills. Anyone visiting the Voortrekkers and who could read and write was regarded literate and was promptly appointed as a teacher for a few months.

The first school in the Rustenburg area was established on the farm of Paul Kruger in 1852. The first teacher was J.W. Spruyt. Spruyt left Rustenburg in 1859 after irreconcilable differences with Dirk Postma. At the end of 1864, this school was moved to Rustenburg town. Dirk Postma was in charge of the school and education took place through the medium of English and Dutch. After innumerable setbacks the first government school opened its doors in 1866 with T.C. Dekker as first teacher. On 22 February 1866 the Volksraad ratified the principle of town and district schools (farm schools). It was only in 1873, however, that tenders for building a permanent school was issued. By 1881, though, this school was closed. In 1882 S.J. du Toit was appointed as superintendent of education in the ZAR.

With the start of his tenure the education situation started changing for the better. By 1883, Rustenburg had one town school with 36 learners and ten farm schools with 333 learners. The Dopper church also had a number of private church schools in the district. By 1889, Rustenburg had 22 state schools (one in town and 21 farm schools) with a total of 519 learners. School inspections took place on a regular basis, teachers were better qualified, examinations were a regular item on the school timetable and buildings were upgraded.

During 1891, Dr. N. Mansvelt took over as superintendent for education in the ZAR. He emphasised the importance of school books, a proper syllabus and an improved school inspection system. He envisaged technical and agricultural schools but the coming of the war put an end to all of his noble ideas. With the advent of war Rustenburg had two town schools and 51 farm schools with a total of 1301 learners.


Rustenburg played a very important role in the development of Afrikaner churches and religion in the 19th and 20th centuries. Afrikaner religious activities in Rustenburg centred around the development of three Dutch Reformed churches between 1850 and 1899. The history of the three churches also reflects the differences amongst the worshippers; even more, it also reflects deep seated animosities pertaining to the influence of the Cape Synod on the ZAR and the role played by the churches in the Netherlands.

Although Rustenburg was officially founded in 1851, the Nederduitsch Hervormde Church (Nederduitsch Reformed Church) established a congregation in the fledgling town in 1850. The Voortrekkers who were members of the Hervormde church were all members of the Cape Church, where the Hervormde Church was the official church of the Dutch speaking people. The church of the Voortrekkers was, therefore, an extension of the Cape Church. The whole of the known Transvaal of the 1840s formed one congregation.

From 16 November 1850, two Hervormde congregations existed in the Transvaal, namely Potchefstroom and Rustenburg. From 1853 it became clear that the Hervormde Church in the Transvaal started growing apart from the Cape Church. They overtly objected to being associated with a church under the jurisdiction of the Governor of the Cape. The final break came with the appointment of Rev. Dirk van der Hoff (1814-1881) from Holland in 1853 as the new preacher of the Hervormde Church. On the 8 August 1853, the first official Algemene Kerkvergadering van die Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk (General Church Meeting of the Reformed Church) in Transvaal took place in Rustenburg. From that time on the Reformed Church in the Transvaal and later on in South Africa had been associated with Van der Hoff and Rustenburg.

The objections of a number of members of the Hervormde Church to the singing of hymns in the church led to a split within the Hervormde Church in 1859. Paul Kruger, president of the ZAR, was one of the objectors. For a number of years the anomaly existed that certain members of the Hervormde Church were deeply discontented with the church and refused to sing hymns during a church service. This led to unhappiness which was reflected also in the broader political spectrum of Transvaal nationalism. On 10 February 1859, Rev. Dirk Postma (1818-1890) from Holland met with a large number of discontented members of the Hervormde Church in the open air in Rustenburg.  More than 300 people signed up as members of a new church, the so-called Dopper Kerk (Gereformeerde Church). From that day on the community of Rustenburg became deeply divided along religious, political and social lines.

Matters became even worse in 1885 with the amalgamation of the Hervormde church and the NG Church (Nederduitsch Gereformeerde Kerk) with its strong Cape influence. From then on the church was called Nederduitsch Hervormde of Gereformeerde Kerk (Nederduitsch Reformed or Gereformeerde Church) also known as the United Church. Members of the ex-Reformed (Hervormde) Church objected vehemently to the new clerical dispensation in the Transvaal. Memories to the ZAR government came to nought. In the end a group of discontented Hervormers (members of the ex-Reformed Church) called on Rev. Jac van Belkum (1851-1933) from Holland to come to Rustenburg as minister of the Reformed Church.

In June of 1891 he arrived in Rustenburg. The Hervormde Church took the United Church to court regarding church property in 1894. In 1895 the court’s decision was in favour of the Hervormde Church. This led to further division in the Rustenburg Afrikaner society. People were judged according to their church affiliations first and then their political convictions.

It was only with the outbreak of the South African War (Anglo-Boer War) in October of 1899 that residents of the Rustenburg area put their differences aside in the face of a common enemy. One cannot, however, understand the history of Afrikaner religious activities in Rustenburg in the pre-war era without referring to the bitterness and deep feelings of discontentedness in society. Perhaps that reflected a broader phenomenon in Afrikaner society as a whole; one of differences, animosity, name tagging and one-upmanship.


Economic activities in Rustenburg started to accelerate after 1881. From 1877 to 1881 the town was governed by Great Britain after the annexation of the ZAR by Shepstone. Preparation for an imminent war and all activities pertaining thereto were in full operation. Inevitably the restoration of the ZAR in 1881 brought changes to Rustenburg. After a visit by President Kruger (1825-1904) in 1883 during which he had only good words for the Rustenburg burghers for their gallant efforts to restore the republic’s independence, a new spirit of well-being was tangible. Neat and comfortable dwellings were built and the residents concentrated on cultivating flowers and growing vegetables. This was met with considerable success for the soil was very fertile and there was plenty of water.

From 1883 onwards important firms, mostly owned by English businessmen from Pretoria, started establishing themselves in the town. Those included successful ones like T.W. Beckett & Co. and Bourke & Co. both specialising in retail wholesale trade and the handling of produce. As the Convention of London 1884 safeguarded the rights of Indians to live anywhere in the ZAR, a significant number of them settled in the town. Economic activities accelerated as a result of this phenomenon. At least one Indian, Bhyat, was not only a very successful business man in Rustenburg; he also gained the personal friendship of President Kruger. He concentrated on selling saddlery, blankets and foodstuffs. A flour mill was put into operation by Mr. Glatthaar in 1881 but it unfortunately burnt down in 1886. He, however, overcame the setback and started a mineral water works. His industry was in operation until 1976!

With the influx of English speakers after 1884, industries such as carpentry, transport riding and storekeepers were well represented. The discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand also led to prospecting activities in the Rustenburg area. Mica was initially prospected but the quality proved too poor to be economically viable. Copper was also found but it was only later that mines came into operation. The first telegraph line reached Rustenburg on 22 March, 1888. Secondary industries developed, albeit on a very small scale. One example was Wagner & Dawes tobacco company that won a silver medal for quality tobacco at the Pretoria Landbouwgenootschap in 1891.

In 1894, the “National Bank of the ZAR” decided to open a branch in Rustenburg. This was the first such institution to do so. The first client was a storekeeper from Commissie Drift, K. Machol. The first farmer client was W. Haw. Although the ZAR controlled the bank the bank officials were English speakers and that led to serious unhappiness with the bank and the government. In 1897, the news of the possibility of a railway line from Pretoria created great excitement amongst the Rustenburgers. The outbreak of war, however, put a halt to this.

Sport, Recreation and Cultural Activities

Cricket proved to be a very popular sport amongst residents. Fixtures were often arranged and the annual game against the formidable opponents from Zeerust was a highlight on the calendar. The games were normally played over several days. It was interspersed with banquets and concerts and other activities. “Spiders” and carts were sent out in advance to meet the opponents.

Residents took part in amateur theatricals, concerts and other activities. A very popular item on the calendar proved to be lectures. A wide variety of subjects were covered; from sacred to secular. It is indeed remarkable that residents in Rustenburg had a craving for cultural activities and debates as early as the 1880s. Apart from the Pretorians, the Rustenburgers perhaps took the lead in the ZAR as far as social events were concerned. One would imagine that, in time intellectually, the residents of Rustenburg outgrew their peers in other country towns by far.

This text was adapted for SAHO by Dr. Arend Posthuma, Educational Officer: Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria.


  • Coetzee, N.A. (1997) Die Geskiedenis van Rustenburg ongeveer van 1840 tot 1940. Pretoria.
  • Du Toit, S. et al. (eds)(1959) Eeufees te Rustenburg. Algemene Sinode Gereformeerde Kerk in Suid-Afrika.
  • Pelzer, A. N. & N. Prinsloo (1951) Die Rustenburgse Eeufees Gedenkalbum 1851-1951. Rustenburgse Stadsraad.
  • Rosenthal, E. (1979) Rustenburg Romance. Perskor.

Indian Community

Indians began to settle in Rustenburg around the 1870s, and as British subjects, the rights of Indians in the South African Republic were protected under the Convention of London, signed in 1884 to clarify the peace settlement after Majuba. One of these families were the Bhayats, who settled in the town in 1877.

Other Indians who settled in Rustenburg were Ismail Madhi, EbrahimVarachia, Ismail Perager, Ismail Suliman, Mohamed Jada and Tayab Haji Abdullah.

In the 1880s, the Volksraad was bombarded with complaints about the presence of Indians in Transvaal towns. But even though it enacted restrictive legislation in 1885, Indians continued to settle in the Transvaal.

In Rustenburg, Mr Bhayat developed a friendship with Paul Kruger, and when war broke out in 1880, Kruger bought goods worth R2000 from Bhayat’s store. His wife, Mrs Fatima Bhayat, lived a long life, and passed away at the age of 102 in the 1960s. The main street in Rustenburg was named after her in the 1990s.

Initially, the Indians lived in the centre of the town, often in houses connected to their business premises. The Indian section of the town fell into a rectangular area defined by Plein, Smit, Berg, Loop and Leyd streets. But when the Group Areas Act of 1950 began to take effect, they were moved out of the centre and into an area with little or no infrastructure, called Turf, and later Zinniaville. Their houses and business premises were eventually demolished, although a number of Indian-owned businesses can be found in the city centre today.

The Indians mobilised their resources in the new Group Area, and petitioned government to provide schools, clinics and other facilities. Their relationship to the Nationalist Party government was ambiguous, with some fostering links and others maintaining a sceptical stance towards the power bloc. A donation of R200 was made in 1966 towards the 'Burgemeester se Liefdadigheidsfonds' by some community leaders to improve relations with Nat leaders. This tendency was reinforced by the Rustenburg Youth Organisation, which organised annual soccer festivals and fund-raising campaigns.

In 1972, a preschool facility was established, situated at the corner of Leyd and Plein streets. In Zinniaville, the community secured grounds for a football field, and eventually a community centre. The RYO entered into a partnership with the Rustenburg Town Council, donating R5000 towards a sports complex, a contribution matched by the council. Sporting activities flourished and relations with the Black community in Tlhabane improved when Blacks and Indians played in the same soccer league.

The Rustenburg Indian School eventually became Zinniaville Secondary School. Several other schools can be found in the area, including a comprehensive school and two private religious schools.

But this picture of gradual development belies the true nature of relations during apartheid. In one instance, when an Indian shopkeeper dealt severely with a White hooligan, racial tensions reached boiling point, and Whites threatened to march against Indians. Many of Rustenburg’s Indians left the town, fearing for their lives, and only returned when a community leader held talks with white leaders to defuse the situation.

We are still developing this section. We will soon be adding information on the Afrikaner, North Sotho, Venda and the Ndebele people in the Rustenburg region. If you have a community story click on the contribute tab.

German Community of Kroondal

In 1875, a German missionary from the Hermannsburg Mission Society in Germany, Lutheran Minister Ferdinand Zimmerman, bought land just outside Rustenburg, where he planned to house his Black and Coloured congregants. But the plan failed and three years later he sold the land to Reverend Christian Muller, a trustee of the BaPhalane tribe. But he failed to attract enough BaPhalane congregants, and those settled there were eventually forced to vacate the land, because the Squatter’s Law determined that they were situated on a reserve.

Muller divided the land into 11 plots and began selling various plots to German laymen in 1889, and they established an evangelical mission station. They also farmed tobacco, wheat, maize, oats and citrus.

German architect, engineer and master-builder Karl Heyne, who arrived in Kroondal in the mid-1890s, built the Kroondal Lutheran Church, which he completed by 1896.

Kroondal’s residents sided with the Boers during the South African War, joining the Rustenburg Commando in September 1899. They were involved in various encounters, including the occupation of Lobatse, Ramoutsa and Gabarone in Bechuanaland and the Siege of Mafikeng.  They were also part of a convoy to Derdepoort when it was ambushed by the BaKgatla atKaya-se-put in February 1900. Many became prisoners of war. After the war ended, they signed an oath of neutrality.

Today Kroondal has a community of about 500 families. The town features the church, a German school and guesthouse.

We are still developing this section. We will soon be adding information on the Afrikaner, North Sotho, Venda and the Ndebele people in the Rustenburg region. If you have a community story click on the contribute tab.

Last updated : 20-Feb-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 29-Mar-2011