KwaZulu-Natal numerous famous battlefields where fierce conflicts took place during the 19th and 20th centuries, continue to be under siege by modern invaders searching for items of value.
The latest site to be affected is the Boer War battlefield of Elandslaagte near Dundee where the stone memorial to members of the Dutch Corps has been damaged by vandals using picks to hack at one corner.
“The memorial was erected by the citizens of the Netherlands in memory of the volunteer Dutch Corps who fought for the Boers during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) said James van Vuuren, deputy director of Amafa, the provincial heritage body which is responsible for battlefields’ protection.
“Men from many nations fought as volunteers as they were sympathetic to the Boer cause for independence from the British.
“The battle of Elandslaagte was fought on October 21, 1899. As the Boers retreated, the Dragoon Guards and 5th Lancers were ordered into the attack. This was the last cavalry charge by the British army in a set piece battle.
“This battlefield is a evocative place to visit because it is little changed and it is possible in the silence to imagine the fury of the battle.
“Whoever damaged the memorial seems to be under the mistaken impression there is treasure buried underneath. At least two memorials are vandalised in this way every year, causing us costly repairs. Any information leading to a conviction will be rewarded.
“Other sites recently been dug up are Anglo Boer War graves at the Winston Churchill capture site at Chieveley, and graves at Schuinshoogte battlefield near Newcastle, fought during the first war of Boer independence, 1880-1881.
“Many of KwaZulu-Natal’s battlefields because they are located mostly in undeveloped rural areas have survived remarkably unchanged. They contribute to the province’s living heritage as descendants of combatants on both sides regularly visit them to pay homage. They provide an exciting outdoor history classroom for thousands of schoolchildren every year. And they are a vital component of our battlefields tourism offerings.”