Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape

Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape

Graaff-Reinet is a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is the fourth oldest town in South Africa, after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam.


The town lies 750 meters above the sea and is built on the, banks of the Sunday's River, which rises a little farther north on the southern slopes of the Sneeuberge, and here ramifies into several channels. The Dutch Reformed church in the town is a prominent stone building in the high street with seating accommodation for 1500 people. The building is a reproduction of the Salisbury Cathedral.Fact|date=December 2007

The college is an educational centre of some importance; it was rebuilt in 1906. Graaff Reinet is a flourishing market for agricultural produce, the district being noted for its mohair industry, sheep and ostrich farming.

Tourist Attractions

*The Valley of Desolation, a geological wonder of weathered dolerite pillars which is a declared national monument with magnificent views over the Karoo plains.
*The [ Camdeboo National Park] of 200 km², on the outskirts of the town with its interesting flora and fauna.
*Stretch's Court, a picturesque restored street of Karoo cottages with brightly painted shutters and doors.
*Reinet House Museum - a Cape Dutch building, formerly the Dutch Reformed Church parsonage
*The Agave Distillery - a distillery producing tequila from the agave plant.
*The Karoo architecture.
*The Dutch Reformed Church in the centre of the town
*The Drostdy Hotel - A Cape Dutch building erected in 1806 as the local seat of government by the VOC. Currently a hotel.


The town was founded by the VOC Dutch East India Companyin 1786, being named after the then governor of Cape Colony, Cornelis Jacob van de Graaff, and his wife whose maiden name was "Reynet".

In 1795 the burghers, smarting under the exactions of the VOC, proclaimed a republic. Similar action was subsequently taken by the burghers of Swellendam. Before the authorities at Cape Town could take decisive measures against the rebels, they were themselves compelled to capitulate to the British. The burghers having endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to get aid from a French warship at Algoa Bay surrendered to Colonel (afterwards General Sir) JO Vandeleur.

In January 1799 Marthinus Prinsloo, the leader of the republicans in 1795, again rebelled, but surrendered in April following. Prinsloo and nineteen others were imprisoned in Cape Town castle. After trial, Prinsloo and another commandant were sentenced to death and others to banishment. The sentences were not carried out and the prisoners were released, March 1803, on the retrocession of the Cape to the Netherlands.

In 1801 there had been another revolt in Graaff Reinet, but owing to the conciliatory measures of General F Dundas (acting governor of the Cape) peace was soon restored. It was this district, where a republican government in South Africa was first proclaimed, which furnished large numbers of the Voortrekkers in 1835-1842.

Famous people

Early History

*Chief Hykon - Koebaha or Lord of all the Inqua Tribe(c.1689), reputed to be the richest Khoikhoi tribe in Southern Africa.Fact|date=October 2007 The Inqua were nomadic cattle farmers in the Camdeboo.

*Koerikei - Bushman leader who rebelled against the Dutch farmers and famously shouted from the top of a cliff to his pursuers: "You have taken all the places where the Eland lived. Why do you not go back to where you came from; there where the sun sets?"Fact|date=October 2007

*Adriaan van Jaarsveld. Commandant of the Boers in the district and later instigator of the Graaff-Reinet Republic of 1795. The first Graaff-Reinet citizen to die in the jail at the Castle in Cape Town.Fact|date=December 2007

*Coenraad de Buys (1761-1822) A Boer farmer of the Eastern Cape frontier who rebelled against both the Dutch and English authorities. Nearly 7ft tall, he is reputed to have been the first white man across the Vaal River.Fact|date=December 2007 He was a hunter, an outlaw with a price on his head, a cattle raider, an instigator of wars against Africans, but also a warrior in the service of African allies and the lover or husband of two African queens.Fact|date=December 2007 He was the patriarch of a half-caste clan known as the "Buysvolk" (Buys People) who are still to be found near the Soutpansberg mountains.

*Sir Andries Stockenström, 1st Baronet, (6 July 1792 Cape Town - 16 March 1864 London) lived in Graaff-Reinet and was assistant "Landrost" (Magistrate) of the district. Also was lieutenant governor of British Kaffraria from 13 September 1836 to 9 August 1838.

Great Trek & Boer Republics

*Andries Pretorius, Born Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius (November 27, 1798 – 23 July 1853) Great Trek Leader after whom Pretoria was named farmed in the district before the Great Trek. Also instrumental in the creation of the Transvaal Republic.

*Andries Hendrik Potgieter, Great Trek leader was born on 19 December 1792 in Graaff-Reinet

*Lourens Jacobus (Louw) Wepener (1812-1865) was born in Graaf-Reinet. He was a Commandant in the Orange Free State and was killed in the 2nd Orange Free State-Basuto War while trying to storm the mountain stronghold of Moshoeshoe I, founder of the Basotho nation. He was renowned for his bravery.

*Martinus Wessel Pretorius. (1819-1901) Boer soldier and statesman, president of the South African Republic (1857–71), born in Graaff-Reinet, the son of Andries Pretorius. He succeeded his father as commandant-general in 1853, and was elected president of the South African Republic, and of the Orange Free State (1859–63). He fought against the British again in 1877, until the independence of the Republic was recognized (1881), then retired.

*Gerrit Maritz, Great Trek Leader after whom Pietermaritzburg was partly named was a wagon-maker in the town.

*Jacobus Nicolaas Boshoff (31 January 1808 - 21 April 1881) was the second President of the Orange Free State, from 1855 to 1859. He was born in Kogmanskloof, Montagu and completed his schooling in Swellendam and Graaff-Reinet where he worked for a further 14 years.

*Thomas François Burgers (15 April 1834 - 9 December 1881) was the 4th president of the South African Republic from 1871 to 1877. He was the youngest child of Barend and Elizabeth Burger of the farm Langefontein in the Camdeboo district of Graaff Reinet, Cape Colony.

*General Nicolaas Jacobus Smit (30 May 1837-1896), commander of the Boer forces at the battles of Ingogo and Majuba. Member of the "Volksraad" (Parliament), he was vice-president of the ZAR in 1887. Prussia made him Knight of the Red Eagle while the Netherlands gave him their highest award as Commander of the Order of the Netherlands Lion. Portugal also gave him the highest award of their country. Born at Doornbos, Graaff-Reinet district, on 30th May 1837, died in Pretoria 4th April 1896.


*Daniel François Malan (22 May 1874 – 7 February 1959), D.F. Malan, was a Prime Minister of South Africa. He is seen as the champion of Afrikaner nationalism, and his government started to implement apartheid policies. An ordained Dutch Reformed minister in Graaff-Reinet between 1912 and 1915. He is positioned 81st on the Top 100 Great South Africans list.

*Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe (5 December 1924 ; 27 February 1978) was a South African political dissident, who founded the Pan Africanist Congress in opposition to the Apartheid regime. Sobukwe was born in Graaff-Reinet. In 2004 Sobukwe was voted 42nd in the Top 100 Great South Africans.

*Dr. Beyers Naude anti-apartheid activist raised and matriculated here. In 2004, he was voted 36th in the Top 100 Great South Africans.

*Matthew Goniwe (1947-1985) Wellknown teacher and political activist in South Africa. His political involvement led to his arrest and conviction in 1977 under the Suppression of Communism Act and he was sentenced to 4 years in Prison. He taught at a local school in 1982. On 27 June 1985 Goniwe and 3 other activists, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli who became known as the "Cradock Four" were killed and mutilated by unnamed members of the Security Forces.Fact|date=December 2007

*Cameron Muir Dugmore (16 September 1963 - ) was sworn in as MEC for Education in the Western Cape Province on 30 April, 2004. He attended the Union Primary School in Graaff Reinet. His father was Principal at Union High School. He has been a member of the Western Cape Provincial Executive of the African National Congress since 1993.

*Mzuvukile Jeff Maqetuka, who hails from Graaff-Reinet is the Director-General of Home Affairs. He was trained by the Stasi, the former secret police of Communist East Germany. Maqetuka previously served as the co-ordinator of intelligence in the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee. He went into exile in 1978 and completed his military training in Angola and was trained in the former German Democratic Republic.Fact|date=December 2007

The Sciences

*Francis Guthrie the Four Colour Theorem mathematician and botanist, lived here.

*Harry Bolus botanist and founder of the [ Bolus Herbarium] , lived here.

*Andrew Geddes Bain (1797 - 20 October 1864), esteemed geologist, road engineer, palaeontologist and explorer. Lived in Graaff-Reinet from 1822 for 13 years and worked as a saddle maker. He helped with the construction of the Ouberg Pass and supervised the construction of the Van Rynevelds Pass. In 1837 he was appointed superintendent of military roads by the Royal Engineers. He built eight mountain passes including Michell’s Pass and Bain’s Kloof Pass. He can rightly be called the father of South African paleontology. His first fossil discovery was made in 1838. Famous for a fossil he discovered with a very impressive jaw filled with teeth which he named the "Blinkwater Monster". This fossil was later housed at the British Natural History Museum.

*Thomas Charles Bain (29 September 1830–1893) became an even more famous road builder than his father and is the best known of the 19th century road builders. Famous for his 24 mountain passes. He was born in Graaff-Reinet; the second son and seventh child of Andrew Geddes Bain.

*Professor James Leonard Brierley Smith (26 October 1897 – 7 January 1968) was a famous South African ichthyologist who was born in Graaff Reinet. He was the first to identify, in 1938, a captured fish as a coelacanth, at the time thought long extinct.

*Dr. Sidney Henry Southey Rubidge (31 May 1887 - 1970) Farmer on 'Wellwood' Farm in the district. His hobby of fossil collecting became so highly developed that it brought him world wide recognition for his contribution to science in the field of paleontology. In 1952 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the Orange Free State for his work in this field. He built and maintained a fossil museum on 'Wellwood". This has come to be recognised as the finest private collection of Karoo fossils in the world. A founder of the Merino Ram Breeders' Association of South Africa and of what today is the National Wool Growers Association of South Africa.

*Johannes Jacobus (Joe) Brummer was born in Graaff Reinet on September 2, 1921. He was an economic geologist and one of the most successful mine finders ever. He was responsible for finding copper mines in Zambia, nickel and copper and zink deposits in Manitoba as well as zink and uranium deposits in Saskatchewan.Fact|date=December 2007 Recipient of the Barlow Gold Medal (CIM) in 1978 and in 1984 the GAC awarded him the Duncan R. Derry medal for his major contributions to economic geology.

*Professor James William Kitching (6 February 1922 – 24 December 2003) who grew up in the district was a South African vertebrate palaeontologist and regarded as one of the world’s greatest fossil findersWho|date=December 2007. He, together with James (Jim) Collinson, was the first person to identify and collect therapsid fossils in the Antarctic confirming the former continental link between southern Africa and Antarctica.Fact|date=December 2007

*William Smith is South Africa's best-known and most popular television science and mathematics teacher. He matriculated at Union High School in Graaff-Reinet. In 2004, he was voted 86th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. The coelacanth "living fossil" was discovered by Smith's father, Professor James Leonard Brierley Smith, a renowned ichthyologist.

*Pierre Terblanche, born in 1956 in Graaff-Reinet, was one of the designers of the Ducati 916.Fact|date=December 2007 The Ducati 916 is an Italian sports motorcycle manufactured by Ducati from 1993 to 1999. He also worked on the Ducati 888 and the 916. He has been the director of design at Ducati since 1997.Fact|date=December 2007


*Anton Rupert Dr. Anthony Edward Rupert (4 October 1916 – 18 January 2006) was an Afrikaner-South African billionaire entrepreneur, businessman and conservationist. He was born and raised in Graaff-Reinet. In 2004, he was voted 28th in the Top 100 Great South Africans.

*Gerrit Thomas "GT" Ferreira - well known banker and founder of First Rand Bank was raised and educated in Graaff-Reinet.


*Douglas Proudfoot, the first captain of the GRGC in 1894 was a legendary South African golfer before the turn of the previous century. He was the SA Amateur champion for seven years in a row from 1893 and again in 1902.

*Herbert Hayton Castens (23 November 1864 - October 18, 1929) Born in the village of Pearston neighbouring the Graaff-Reinet District. He is a former South African rugby union footballer, and cricketer. He was South Africa′s first ever rugby and cricket captain. On July 30 1891 he captained South Africa in their first ever rugby international, against the touring British Isles team. In 1896(?) a South African cricket tour to England was organised, with Castens appointed as the first ever South African cricket captain.

*Arthur Edward Ochse (born 11 March 1870 in Graaff-Reinet, Cape Colony, died 11 April 1918 in France) He was a South African cricketer who played two Tests for South Africa in 1888–89. Known to his team mates as ‘Okey’. Osche held a unique record in South African cricket history for well over one hundred years, being the youngest test cricketer selected for South Africa at 19 years and one day when he took the field for the first test.

*Arthur Lennox Ochse Born:11/10/1899, Graaff-Reinet, Springbok cricketer; Right Hand Batsman , Right Arm fast bowler. Debut:Against England, 3rd Test, Marylebone Cricket Club in South Africa 1927/28 Kingsmead, Durban, South Africa

*Louis Babrow (24 April 1915-26 January 2004) Famous Springbok rugby player. Babrow’s international career was a brief one - just one season with the Springboks, but it was a great enough one for him to be included in the 50 top Springboks of all-time in a recent book, "The Chosen". The year in which he played was 1937 - when the Springboks became the first team to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand, a feat not equalled till 1971. During World War II he was awarded a Military Cross for gallantry at the Battle of El Alamein, when he was wounded. After the War, Babrow captained the British Empire XV against the Rest of the World. He attended Sacred Heart Convent in Graaff-Reinet.

*Pieter Kuyper (PK) Albertyn (Born 27.05.1897) Dutch Reformed minister in Graaff-Reinet between 1906 and 1921. Springbok rugby captain in 1924.

*Clarence Skelton Wimble, a South African cricketer, was born at Graaff-Reinet, Cape Colony, on April 22, 1861 and died in Johannesburg in the Transvaal on January 28, 1930, aged 68.

*Harry Smith - SA Heavyweight Boxing Champion, originally from Graaff-Reinet. He was born Frans Liebenberg, but as Harry Smith became one of the most popular figures of his era. In February 1913 he claimed the SA heavyweight title when he beat Williams on a fifth-round disqualification.

*Anthony Llewellyn (Dassie) Biggs a Springbok cricket player was born in Graaff Reinet on April 26, 1946. Selected as a Springbok for South Africa's cancelled tour to Australia in 1971-72.

*Arthur Martin Short (September 27, 1947 - ) Born and still farming in Graaff-Reinet. An opening batsman, Arthur Short was twice selected as a Springbok, being named in the 1970 squad to tour England and the 1971-72 squad to tour Australia. Both trips were cancelled.

*Gletwynne Rubidge (1968) Springbok spearfisherman grew up and was educated at Union High School. He is going to Spain for the Euro Qualifications in 2007.

Literature & the Arts

*Andrew Murray (jnr) (May 26, 1794 - June 24, 1866) was a Christian pastor who lived in Graaff Reinet. He served the local Dutch Reformed Church congregation from 1822 until his death in 1866. He was a champion of the South African Revival of 1860. Murray served as the first president of the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Fellowship) and authored over 240 books.

*Helen Elizabeth Martins (23 December 1897 - 8 December 1976) is considered South Africa's foremost Outsider Artist. She is famous for her "Owl House" in the village of Nieu-Bethesda 50 km away. She was schooled in Graaff-Reinet.

*Stephanus le Roux Marais, (1 February 1896 - 25 May 1979)- well-known Afrikaans organist, teacher and composer especially of Afrikaans lieder (art songs), lived in Graaff-Reinet.

*Anna Neethling-Pohl (1906-1992)is regarded as a legend and symbol of Afrikaans theatre. She was born in Graaff-Reinet. She performed in more than 50 stage works and lead roles. She translated 7 of Shakespeare's dramas into Afrikaans and published several novels for which she received the Langenhoven prize in 1926 and the Vaderland prize in 1937.

*Hymne Weiss (1910 - 6 October 2001) An author of novels and short stories matriculated at "Hoer Volkskool" in Graaff-Reinet Hymne also translated many books from German, Dutch, English, Norwegian and Swedish into Afrikaans and was awarded the Academy Award for the translation of Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist - Swedish (1953) : Barábas

*Eben Leibrandt (1915 - 22 October 2007) A respected South African artist. Born in Graaff-Reinet, he studied at the Johannesburg Art School and the Central School of Art in London.Regarded as a versatile artist’s artist, Leibrandt was a painter, sculptor, acclaimed mosaic artist and etcher and printer, who represented SA at the 1963 Sao Paulo bienal and at the Venice Biennale three years later.His work is in many major collections, including the SA National Gallery, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Pretoria Art Museum, the SABC Collection and the Rupert Collection.

*David Botha was born in Graaff-Reinet in 1921. Botha was both painter and graphic artist, best known for his oil paintings of wet Cape street scenes – usually depicting scenes in Paarl and Stellenbosch. He is considered to be an exponent of ‘Cape Impressionism’.

*Dalene Matthee (October 13, 1938 - 20 February 2005) was a famous South African author who studied music at the Holy Cross Covent in Graaff-Reinet.

*Etienne van Heerden (1954) Well known writer grew up on a merino farm in the Graaff-Reinet district. He is the author of novels, short story collections, books of poetry, essays, cabaret collections and a theoretical book on post-modernism. He also is the Founder editor of the multi-cultural South-African internet journal, LitNet and currently teaches at the University of Cape Town.

*Trudi Dicks was born in Graaff-Reinet in 1940. A well known artist, she has been living in Namibia since 1967. Since the mid-1980s she has exhibited widely both in South Africa and Namibia and has also taken part in some group shows in Europe. Her work was also featured on the 1995 Johannesburg Biennale. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships.

*Isobel Dixon (1969?) grew up and was schooled in Graaff-Reinet. Her poetry collection Weather Eye, won the Sanlam Prize and in 2005 was also awarded the Olive Schreiner Prize for the best volume of poetry by an emerging writer.

*Sonia Doubell (1981?) A London-based actress, model and singer. A Bond girl in the James Bond film Die Another Day starring Pierce BrosnanFact|date=January 2008. She attended Union High School for a short spell. She has performed live on the British television show, Top of the Pops. Also the lead singer of dance-music group Dark Monk, whose debut single made it to number one in the German dance charts.


* Sophia Johanna Werner was born in Graaff-Reinet in 1827. Better known as Black Sophie because of her dark compexion, she was a well-known brothel "madam" in Cape Town and had her premises in Bree Street.Fact|date=January 2008

*Sylvia Raphael, one of the leading female operatives in Israel's external intelligence agency, the Mossad, was a Graaff-Reinet-born Christian with a Jewish fatherFact|date=December 2007. Posing as a Canadian photojournalist under the alias "Patricia Roxborough", she was one of the first Mossad agents to penetrate Yasser Arafat's bases in Jordan and Lebanon in the 1960s. She was closely involved in Israel's partially successful attempts to track down the PLO terrorists responsible for the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.


* JC Voight, "Fifty Years of the History of the Republic in South Africa 1795-1845", vol. i. (London, 1899).


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