Jacobus Wilhelmus Sauer

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Biographical information


Member of Parliament in the Cape, Minister of Native Affairs and Commissioner of Public Works.

First name: 
Last name: 
Date of birth: 
circa 1850
Date of death: 
24 July 1913

Jacobus Wilhelmus Sauer was born in 1850 at Burgersdorp in the Cape Colony. He did his education at the South African College in Cape Town. After completing his studies he became a solicitor and was also a farmer. Sauer was elected as a member of the Cape Parliament in 1874 representing Aliwal North.

Sauer married Mary Cloete, a daughter of Henry Cloete in 1884 and together they had two daughters Magda and Dorothy, and a son, Paul Oliver. Paul later became a leading Nationalist politician. Sauer served as a minister in the governments of Cecil John Rhodes from 1890 to 1893. He was a political opponent of Cecil John Rhodes. For instance, in 1895 he opposed the Rhodes led introduction of legislation that sought to regulate urban locations for Africans and Asians, impose curfews and determine where they should walk in East London. However, Sauer still believed in the segregation of different racial groups and reducing contact to preserve what he viewed as ‘superior’ white culture.

From 1898 Sauer served as Commissioner of Public Works in Cape Colony for two years until 1900 under William Philip Schreiner the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. After the outbreak of the South African War, Sauer tried to persuade some Afrikaners in the Cape not to rebel against the British crown. Between March and April 1901, Sauer together with John X Merriman went England to persuade the British to settle conflict in South Africa peacefully, but they were denied a hearing at the House of Commons. When they attempted to convene public meetings, they were disrupted by protestors.

In 1903 he lost his seat that he had held since 1874, but he was given a political lifeline when he was re-elected in 1908 after his friend John X Merriman became the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. He was appointed as a minister. In May 1908 white political leaders in South African convened a National Convention to consider the formation of the Union of South Africa. Sauer was one of the Cape delegates to the National Convention. After, he served as an MP in the Union working closely with John X Merriman and Roses Innes. He served as in the cabinet as Minister of Native Affairs. Sauer also became a member of the South African Party (SAP).

Despite being called “a friend of the natives” Sauer introduced the Native Land Bill to parliament which was eventually passed as the Natives Land Actin 1913. He continued to serve as a minister in the Union government until his death on 24 July 1913. 

• Bower, G., (2002), Sir Graham Bower's secret history of the Jameson Raid and the South African Crisis 1895 -1902(Paarl), p.186
• Giliomee, H., (2003), The Afrikaners: Biography of a People, (London), pp.302-303.
• Mary Sauer (nee Cloete) , from the Olive Schreiner Letters Online, [online], Available at www.oliveschreiner.org[Accessed 18 June 2013]
• Madame Eulalie’s Pelham Eulogy, from Madame Eulalie’s Pelham Eulogy, [online], Available at www.madameulalie.org  [Accessed 18 June 2013] 

Last updated : 19-Jun-2013

This article was produced by South African History Online on 19-Jun-2013

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