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The Colonists of Southwest Africa

By Lawrence Penning
Inheritance Publications
www.telusplanet.net/public/inhpubl/webip/ip.htm

Box 366
Pella, IA 50219
780-674-3949

This book is actually Book 5 in a series on South Africa and the Afrikaners called "The Louis Wessels Commando Series." And indeed, in reading this book I felt like I was stepping into the middle of something already begun. Not only was I in the dark about Louis Wessels, the hero of the story, but there was a sense of historical omission that I could not shake.

The book tells the true story of the Boer Wars with England in South Africa during the early 1900s. The English were trying to colonize South Africa, even though the Dutch (Afrikaners or Boers) had already colonized the area. The ensuing war decimated entire populations. This story follows several families who have been put in concentration camps by the British and highlights the terrible conditions of these camps and their effects on the residents. The camps were filled primarily with women and young children, as all of the men and older boys had gone to fight in the war against the British, trying to hold their territory. The conditions in the camp were truly horrific, resulting in thousands of deaths. The faith of the women was all that sustained them through downpours, typhoid outbreaks, near starvation, torrid conditions, and frequent death.

The residents of the specific camp where the story takes place are awaiting the arrival of a national hero, Louis Wessels, who will liberate the camp and release them from their suffering. Commando Wessels does finally come, but all does not go as planned due to betrayal in the camp.

The thing that bothered me about the story was that it focused on the evils perpetrated against Afrikaners by the British as they tried to take over "their" land. The Afrikaners were living peaceably in the land that, in their minds at least, God had given them. However, there is no mention of the evils they perpetrated on the original residents of the land--the South African people. The Afrikaners feel that injustice has been done, and indeed it was, but there was no mention of their sins against those who truly had the God-given right to live in the land in the first place. In fact, the only mentions of the African people were derogatory, in discussing their alliance with the British, who they thought might give them back the freedom that had originally been stolen from them.

I do realize that an American history book on the Revolution or the War of 1812 would appear very much the same, especially if it told only of the Americans who were suffering under the tyranny of the British soldiers and did not mention the Native Americans who suffered first and lost their lands to the American colonists. So I acknowledge that historical novels generally are written from the viewpoint of one side of the story, often ignoring other aspects that would make for a richer and more comprehensive historical narrative. The positive aspect of that, however, is that in my case, it caused me to want to seek out additional information about the Boer Wars in South Africa and the history of that fascinating nation.



Product review by Kim Kargbo, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, February 2011


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