Deadly decision – A stoep story
In the past Parys was often described as a sleepy little retirement town, or lately a place to go to if you would like to experience all kinds of adventure in the world’s only visible crater, which is also a heritage site. Most visitors to the town could hardly visualise the enormity of a 15 km wide meteorite slamming into the earth 200 000 million year ago and the subsequent changes that took place in the environment. Very few visitors however, think or know about the earth-shattering story of Frans J. Jooste during the Aglo-Boer War at the turn of the previous century.
A few kilometres south of Parys and east of the road to Vredefort is a hill were a tribe called the Matabeles used to live and which dominate the landscape. According to oral history this hill played an important role as a landmark by both the Matabeles and the Boer soldiers.
Gen. Phillip Botha together with part of gen. C. De Wet’s Commando decided on the 26th August 1900 to cross the Vaal River on an eastward course to the towns Vrede and Harrismith. His orders were to round up any civilians in these two districts and escort them back to gel. De Wet.
South of Parys they received heavy artillery fire from the British troops who was moving from Schoemansdrift in the general direction of Parys.
Two brothers from the Bethlehem Commando, Frans and Hans Jooste were in charge of a wagon and load of ammunition. The slow moving wagon, pulled by oxen attracted the most enemy fire. As they neared the landmark hill the brothers decided to leave it behind and flee for their lives.
After running 50 m Frans turned around to fetch his coat that was still with the wagon. The Highveld winter was nothing to sneeze at and a coat in those days was regarded as very valuable. When he reached the wagon it received a bull’s eye hit from enemy fire and with a tremendous bang the full load of ammunition exploded.
The explosion was so terrific that it was heard as far as Liebenberskoppie, north of Parys and the crater it created could still be seen after more than a hundred years. Only a hand and piece of a foot belonging to Frans, was ever found. It was burried in the bomb crater by a Mr. Jeff van der Schyff.
Also killed in the explosion were two of the sixteen oxen. The rest ran away where they was later found on a neighbouring farm and unharnessed by a Mrs. Delport.
Two months later the surviving brother, Hans Jooste was captured by British troops and banned to St Helena as a prisoner of war. After the war he returned to Bethlehem.
The story however, does not end here. In 1974 an officer of the Parys Voortrekker Commando, Ben Nel and other members of the Commando decided to build a monument in the crater in honour of Frans Jooste. In a sense the twelve-year-old boys contribute to history by using heavy stones, which were carried, from the top of the landmark hill to the spot were the monument was to be build. The stones were part of the ruins of Matabele kraals still visible today.
During the school holidays in October of 1974 the team camped out on the site and start building. After a days’ hard work they enjoyed a well deserved shower by using a 25 litre can and plastic pipe which was put on top of the officers caravan. Sore hands and knees was treated with salve and the telling of stories at the camp fire.
The monument was unveiled on 26 October 1974 by the Commandant of the Voortrekker Commando, Rev. Andries Myburg. The story of the Jooste Incident was documented and placed inside the monument to ensure that Frans Jooste will be remembered.
(Compiled by: Ria Myburgh)