The Soutpansberg and the Waterberg districts of the South African Republic played a significant role in the early stages of the War of 1899–1902. The threat of a British invasion from Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was very real. The Soutpansberg and Waterberg commandos were therefore instructed to first defend the western and northern boundaries of the Boer republic; then to invade the British territories; and ultimately to destroy the Cape-to-Rhodesia railway line and other modes of communication.
The remote Soutpansberg had yet one more role to play. The Boers had been pushed back along the eastern railway line after Pretoria had been taken by the British. After the disastrous last pitched battle at Dalmanutha in August 1900, the Boer leaders decided that the commandos should converge in the only part of the old republic not yet under British rule: the town of Pietersburg in the Soutpansberg. Here the Boers had to make important decisions on the war, one being whether they should carry on at all. In the relative safety of the Soutpansberg, they could recuperate to confront the British with renewed energy. The period before the British eventually invaded the Soutpansberg and occupied Pietersburg in April 1901 was littered with skirmishes and irregularities such as treason and even attempts at secession. This paper is an attempt to shed some light on this part of the war- a period that historians have only briefly touched upon or have ignored completely.