Myth or missing gold mystery
The perennial question I’m asked when I claim that Looted Gold debunks the myth of the missing Kruger millions is: so where is the gold?
In all honesty, if there’s a map pointing out the location of the purloined gold, Mike Dwight and I have yet to find it.
That’s not to say that such a map is a figment of the imagination. Nor can we claim that the gold worth £2 million (an estimated $373 million at today’s prices) is still buried in the vast tracts of the countryside that lie between Pretoria and the Mozambique border.
Myth of missing millions in gold
Our years of research has given us good cause to conclude that a clever ruse, possibly planned but more than likely initially a coincidence, may have given rise to the myth of the missing Kruger millions.
Rumours of President Paul Kruger’s love of gold had circulated widely in the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR). His drive to accumulate land, mainly farmland as well as urban property, was also known and reported despite his penchant for taking ownership through nominees. The fact that he spent his formative years in a tiny farmhouse in Bulhoek before his family joined the Great Trek is provided as a reason for his single-minded obsession with acquiring hundreds of thousands of hectares.
Looted Gold tracks the accumulation of wealth by the favoured elite during the four terms of Kruger’s reign. Bear in mind our scrutiny largely excludes the so-called ‘gold barons’ who invested in the ZAR’s gold mines.
Perhaps someone with inside information could have returned to the spot where Kruger’s gold was buried to become a millionaire by stealth. Would that person have broadcast the fact that he had recovered the gold? Unlikely.
Policeman explodes myth
One would have thought that the myth of the missing Kruger millions would have been laid to rest many years ago by the claims of a retired policeman. He reported that he’d been at a railway siding in or near Lourenco Marques in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) when a series of wooden crates were unloaded from the coaches in which Kruger had been transported.
He stated that the crates contained not gold but ammunition that was being transferred back over the border to replenish supplies for Boer commandos in the field.
It appears that the policeman’s claims were far too pragmatic for hundreds of people who believed the oft-repeated tales about Kruger’s love of gold. The romantic notion of hidden treasure was far more acceptable than a boring story of boxes of bullets.
In the last 120 years, it’s common cause that hundreds of fortune seekers have scoured the countryside looking for the gold. Stories abound – some in print and others simply loose talk – about the exploits of treasure hunters or the finding of buried gold coins.
The South African Mint upped the ante in March this year by publicising its purchase of a hoard of Kruger ponds and half ponds dated before 1900. The coins had been kept in a Swiss bank vault since before the outbreak of the Second World War. Before that, they’d been held for safekeeping somewhere in the Netherlands. See more about the ‘lost hoard’ here: https://bit.ly/3oK9kuO.
Treasure hunters seek missing millions
Let’s glance at some of the stories that have emerged over the years about the exploits of fortune seekers hunting for the missing Kruger millions.
In 1905 of a prisoner called John Holtzhausen claimed that he and two others had been hired by the ZAR Government to bury gold, coins and diamonds valued at $373 million (£2 million). He said his two companions who had known the location of the buried treasure were dead.
Holtzhausen claimed he was on his way to the treasure when he was arrested. He later disappeared without disclosing any further details of the treasure except that it was buried 80 km north of the Blyde River and north of Leydsdorp. Nothing was ever heard of Holtzhausen after his disappearance.
Another convoluted story that emerged some years after the turn of the 19th century was a tale about a party of men who had set out to retrieve the missing Kruger treasure near the Blyde River Canyon. Shortly after their arrival near the supposed search area, two men left the party in the bush and disappeared. The body of one of the men was found later and his companion was arrested elsewhere, tried in court and hanged for the murder. A few gold coins were found in the possession of the arrested man.
A story about a horde of gold coins, some dated 1899 and believed to be part of the missing Kruger millions, was printed in a Johannesburg newspaper in 1991. The article stated that the coins may have been found by farmworkers in Ermelo (about 110 kilometres from Machadadorp), where Kruger’s train stopped for some time.
A Zulu family that had lived in the area for more than a century stated that ‘at least 4 000 Kruger ponds’ had been dug up three kilometres from the farm of JJ Scholtz where a buried statue of President Paul Kruger had also been found. Some of the coins had been sold. No further news of the find was ever published.
A few years ago a ‘knock and drop’ newspaper in Johannesburg printed a front-page article claiming that a canoeist paddling around Emmerentia Dam had found a cache of gold coins buried in the silt on the dam’s bottom. It didn’t take too long for the penny to drop (to ‘coin a phrase’). The article appeared on April 1. No doubt scores of treasure hunters digging through the detritus in their garages to locate their snorkels and fins were left disappointed and feeling just a little foolish.
Here’s the link to an earlier story in the Chronicle MediaHub about how the book Looted Gold came about: https://bit.ly/3DoJPTZ.
To see more creative work by SAFREA freelancers go to: https://safreachronicle.co.za/.