Rooigrond was a Rural Community 16km of Mafikeng and 25km South-West of Ottoshoop, in the former fomeland of Bophuthatswana, (now the North West Province). The place Rooigrond derives its name from the Afrikaans language meaning ‘red ground’. The small Town was named for the red soil of its area and was primarily occupied by smallholders.
In the late 1840s, the first white farmer to establish a farm at Rooigrond was a Mr Gerald du Toit. Later, Johannes Coetzee of Valleifontein, a neighbouring farmer, took over the farm. Boer commando raids forced local communities such as the Ratshidi and the Montshioa into exile in Botswana, after which Boer “freebooters” declared the area as their own. They named the place Heliopolis and later, Rooigrond and made it the capital of the newly proclaimed republic of Goshen.
A Mr Edgar Rowland established a trading post at Rooigrond in 1873, but was driven out during the Anglo Boer War. A fraction of the Rooigrond region was ‘ceded’ to Boer guerrilla volunteers under General Jacobus de la Rey by Tswana chiefs in the 1880s, and became the Boer republics of Goshen and Stellaland. During the war, Rooigrond was occupied by the burghers (citizens) of the Transvaal, who by 1903 had settled into rural civilian life.
Tswana-speaking people settled in Machaviestad for a while before moving to Taung, after which they returned to the area. Their return was approved by the executive council of the Transvaal which was confirmed by the Volksraad Resolution Article 6 of 22 April, 1853 that the ground was designated as belonging to the tribe.
Later, some people moved to Polfontein, while the rest remained at Machaviestad. In 1873, the Potchefstroom municipality wanted to extend its commonage to include part of this ground. The ZAR gave its title to Machaviestad in Grondbrief 964/1873. Nearly a century later, when their anti-eviction case went to the Supreme Court and even during their eviction to Rooigrond, they were not aware that they were being dispossessed but believed they were defending their claim to Machaviestad.
From as early as 1904 there were plans to move Africans from Machaviestad, but this was not done. In 1948 the government issued the first notice of the state’s intention to expropriate Machaviestad. In the 1960s and the 70s, the government began to forcibly Tswana-speaking people from Machaviestad (Matlwang) to Rooigrond.
The community resisted by waging a long legal battle to remain on what they considered their traditional land. In its anti-eviction campaign the community claimed that it owned Machaviestad, that it had received the farm land from President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic in return for its services during the first Anglo-Boer War of 1880-1.
In response to resistance mounted by the community, its members were harassed by the state and prevented from commuting to their workplaces or pursuing their rural livelihood. Their meetings were stopped, livestock was impounded and their school was closed, apparently for not being registered with the Department of Bantu Education. Bus transport to the area was cut off, their grazing fees were raised and ploughing was prohibited.
On 11 May 1970, officials offered to show members of the community the proposed new site at Noupoort, a town also in the western Transvaal, and they agreed to be bussed there to view the place. Along the way they were instructed to sign a list or else they would be charged for the fare. This they did, and it was used against them by the state, which passed it on to Bantustan Chief Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana, under whose jurisdiction the Rooigrond area fell. The signatures were then used as proof that the people had agreed in writing to be moved.
On 3 August 1971, about 400 families were moved in government trucks from Machaviestad to Rooigrond. The Potchefstroom municipality ordered the move and declared its ownership of Machaviestad. Some people moved to Potchefstroom Township, while many were moved to Rooigrond. Later, the South African Defence Force (SADF) took over the Machaviestad area from the Potchefstroom municipality. As a result of the forced eviction, an otherwise prosperous community people impoverished and totally dependent on wage income.
Since 1994, some members of the Rooigrond community have returned to Machaviestad under the Government’s Land Restitution Programme.
Rooigrond is a Town in Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality in the North West Province of South Africa. Hamlet 16 km South-East of Mafikeng and 25 km South-West of Ottoshoop. Afrikaans for ‘red ground’, which refers to the colour of the soil.
Forced Removals In South Africa – The Surplus People’s Reports Vol.5, (Transvaal), pp. 272, 275-277|
Forced Removals In South Africa – The Surplus People’s Reports Vol.1, January 1983 p.18|
Peter E. Raper, (2004), New Dictionary of South African Place Names, (Jeppestown), p.326|