Graaff-Reinet is one of South Africa’s oldest towns and boasts approximately 220 listed national monuments, more than any other town in the country.
Graaff-Reinet War Memorial
Three months after the end of the first World War a public meeting was called by Graaff Reinet’s Mayor, Mr. H Urquhart, at which it was decided to erect a monument on the most prominent site in town, in honour of the gallant Graaff-Reinet men who had lost their lives in the war. The site chosen was in front of the Town Hall in the centre of what is now known as the Mayor’s Garden. Generous donations were received to meet the cost of the memorial. On 7 November 1923 the great bronze figure of the “victory Peace Angel”, mounted on a high pedestal, was unveiled by H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught.
Andries Pretorius Memorial
The Andries Pretorius Memorial is located just inside the entrance to the Camdeboo National Park along the N9 highway towards Middelburg. The sculptor, Coert Steynberg, designed the memorial incorporating oxen and a wagon wheel with Andries Pretorius gazing resolutely towards the north – the direction that the Great Trek took to escape British rule in the old Cape Colony of the early nineteenth century. The inscription “Eenmaal sal daar wel ‘n wiel oor ons wereld rol wat vir u en vir my onkeerbaar is” (“One day a wheel will indeed roll across our world and neither you nor I will be able to stop it”) are the words used by Andries Pretorius to Sir Harry Smith during their discussions in 1848.
In 1988 South Africa celebrated the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the French Huguenots in the country. To mark this occasion a small monument in the form of a pyramid was erected in Church Square. The small pyramid on the corner of Church and Noord Street behind the Town Hall displays the surnames of the Huguenots that came to South Africa in 1688.
Jewish Peddlers Memorial
Just outside the Police College on the southern outskirts of Graaff-Reinet, a roadside memorial pays tribute to the role of the Jewish ‘smous’ or peddler in supplying Karoo residents with some of the basic necessities of life from as early as the late eighteenth century. Their contribution to the growth of the Karoo economy was pivotal and in times past almost every Karoo town had an active Jewish community and synagogue, however, their numbers have dwindled and the Jewish community has all but disappeared from the Karoo.
Gideon Scheepers Monument
During the Anglo-Boer War Gideon Scheepers formed his own commando, which operated in the Cape Midlands. He was captured by the British troops and charges of alleged war crimes were laid against him. At the court hearings in Graaff-Reinet he was found guilty and sentenced to death and was executed by firing squad in the dry river bed of the Sundays River in an area now covered by the Nqweba Dam.
A memorial to honour this Afrikaner leader, regarded by many as a hero, was erected by the Graaff-Reinet Afrikaans Cultural Society. This memorial can be found approximately 2km from the town on the Murraysburg road, on a site as near as possible to the place of execution. The memorial comprises of three rocks from the vicinity supporting a stainless steel needle, symbolising the spirit of hope and faith in God. The largest rock represents the steadfastness of the then young Afrikaner nation. The two tilted boulders it supports symbolise this nation – suppressed but not fallen. A fourth boulder alongside bears the inscription.
Anglo-Boer War Memorial
The Anglo-Boer War memorial on the corner of Donkin and Somerset streets bears the Latin inscription “Dulce est pro patria mori” which translates as “Sweet is it to die for your country.” The memorial erected in 1908 commemorates the execution of eight Boer Commandos by the British for high treason and in the instance of Commandant Gideon Scheepers, for war crimes. Scheepers was executed in the dry river bed of the Sundays River in an area now covered by the Nqweba Dam, the other Commandos were executed in their home districts within the Cape Colony.
Monument to the Independent Colony
The Drostdy at Graaff-Reinet was established in response to petitions from the Boers of the region. The satisfaction that this provided was short-lived. The attitude of the officials of the Dutch East India Company antagonised the Boers who resented being oppressed. Their desire was to be independent of the authorities at Cape Town, thus 6 February 1795 a gathering proclaimed the “Graaff-Reinet Colony” and hoisted the red, white and blue flag, the “Prinsevlag” as it was called, of the Republic of the Netherlands. It is this flag together with the National flag, that graces the monument today. The plaque is located on the corner of Church and Parsonage Street.
This monument is located on the top of Magazine Hill. The monument is a big stone pyramid and commemorates the union of the four provinces of South Africa in 1910. Each side of the pyramid displays a name of a province: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal and Natal.
Directions – From Caledon Street turn left into Church Street (past the Town Hall), turn right in Auret Street and drive about 200/300m, the Powder Magazine will be on the right. Drive another 200/300m and keep left at the fork in the road. Another 300/400m on this road to get to the Union Monument
San and Khoi Memorial
The San and Khoi Memorial which stands on a hill on the Aberdeen Road approach to town is dedicated to the San and Khoi that lost their lives to conflicting interests with farmers between 1702 and 1809.
At the lower end of Church Street is a scaled-down replica of the Paardekraal monument which was a gift from the Town Council of Krugerdorp to Graaff-Reinet during the celebrations in 1986. It was presented by Mr C. Peyper, the mayor of Krugerdorp. The farm Paardekraal, on which Krugersdorp was established in 1887, was once owned by Andries Pretorius, the Voortrekker leader from Graaff-Reinet.
- Graaff Reinet