Gold worth £2 million that reputedly disappeared somewhere between Pretoria and the Mozambique border more than a century ago is now worth a staggering $373 million.
A speculative figure of $2.8 billion at today’s values has been placed on the value of the numerous dodgy deals that were signed off during Kruger’s four terms as president of the Transvaal Republic.
Since Kruger’s departure from Africa into exile in 1900, hundreds of treasure hunters have scoured the Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) as they followed up on clues and hints about the location of the buried gold.
We know that many of the treasure hunters who pinned their hopes on locating their El Dorado ended up dead, wounded, in prison or out of pocket.
I discovered a few days ago that those mixed fortunes, to coin a phrase, have not yet put a damper on the enthusiasm of treasure seekers.
I mentioned at the end of an interview with a source a few days ago that I was looking forward to the imminent launch of my book Looted Gold.
When I explained that the book, written with New Zealander Mike Dwight, debunked the mystery of the missing Kruger millions, my source came close to apoplexy.
‘Staff at the National Monuments Council (now the South African Heritage Resources Agency – SAHRA) were being bugged constantly by treasure hunters trying to find the missing Kruger millions.
‘They had to get permission from the Council to undertake the searches,‘ my source said. ‘Making out the document was tedious and the staff actively disliked going through the process repeatedly. There was a steady trickle of treasure hunters throughout the years I worked at the Council.’
Those remarks served to underline my long-held conclusion that belief in the myth holds strong even 120 years after Kruger sailed from Lourenco Marques into exile.
You can read about what motivated Mike and me to begin researching the myth of the missing Kruger millions A volcanic hike defaults to golden research.
The missing gold remains one of the world’s top ten most enduring treasure mysteries. The gold worth £2 million that was reputedly buried on Kruger’s orders is valued today at an estimated $373 million.
Gold remains gold
The premise of Looted Gold morphed over the three years that Mike and I pored over archive documents, ancient newspaper reports, and published and unpublished manuscripts, memoirs and research papers.
Initially, our quest was to identify as closely as possible the value of the gold that left Pretoria in mid-1900 with or at the behest of the war-torn country’s executive. They were desperately keen to ensure that no government gold fell into the hands of the British.
We had at our disposal Brown’s diary and unpublished memoirs that covered his exploits and experiences during his military service in South Africa during the Second Boer War. Brown landed in Cape Town in November 1899 with New Zealand’s first contingent of troops sent to support the British.
We followed his journey into battle in the Northern Cape, the Free State and into the Transvaal Republic where he was witness to a dead-of-night hunt for buried gold. The next day he watched as thousands of gold coins were handed to a secret service agent. That startling information had been in the hands of Brown’s family for two generations but had no particular relevance in their minds.
As South Africans who had delved into the history of South Africa from Kruger’s reign through to the present, Brown’s revelations reverberated in our minds like the Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Looting of gold
During our three-year journey of research, we dug ever deeper into an environment in which the theft of gold and other valuables in the Transvaal became endemic under Kruger’s despotic regime.
Our vision broadened as our research began to reveal what we identified as barely visible clues in our quest to identify how officially recorded gold stores could disappear.
We began to pose questions and to seek answers that were not immediately apparent. Why were some people, including known criminals, being protected by the powers-that-be? Why were so many non-Afrikaners benefitting from the wayward handling of government contracts and the illicit awarding of tenders in the Transvaal Republic? Was a devious mind directing the spreading of illicit largesse to hide a deeper ill?
Sometimes our quest led us to dead ends. Some instances led us to decide that certain pathways should be left to be developed further by others.
The machinations at the international level were heinous and unforgivable. The all-powerful Empire manoeuvred the minnow Transvaal Republic into declaring war in which there could be only one winner.
Britain anticipated a rapier thrust into the Transvaal’s abdomen for a quick end to the war. But the war lasted nearly three years. And the cost to both sides was horrendous.
It was plain to see that Britain sought to bring control of the world’s richest gold mining nation under Queen Victoria’s royal thumb. Were other, less obvious strategies being played out in the background? Were other countries surreptitiously moving their chess pieces onto the board in the hope of dominating the world’s gold trading market into the 20th century?
Was Kruger, that wily old politician, being played by sophisticates other than the Whitehall demigods. It was clear that Cecil John Rhodes was a destructive figure in the demise of the Transvaal as he strutted his pompous way towards the creation of a Southern African empire.
Gold the prize
What was Kruger’s primary motivation in seeking a third and a fourth term as president? As an astute politician with in-depth knowledge of the psyche of British political and military leadership, he would have perceived that the Transvaal was the glittering prize that Britain refused to forego.
With all these unknowns to mull over, we needed answers. Our research provided us with a wealth of clues.
Our approach was to gather the clues into a chapter towards the end of the Looted Gold manuscript. Our findings are spelt out but we invite readers to reach their own conclusions about the myth of the missing Kruger millions.
Yes, gold Kruger pond and half pond coins may be buried along or near the train line to the Mozambique border. Did our research include the location of a map showing where the treasure was buried? The short answer is no.
Looted Gold will take readers on a journey of discovery, on occasion tramping along a pathway already trodden. But we’ve turned the spotlight onto a set of facts that illustrate the Transvaal Republic’s golden years from a different if not startling perspective. We believe our conclusions are unique.
Many lines of inquiry remain open. Readers could take up the golden cudgels, as it were, and explore further if they have the drive and the passion to push on. Many questions remain unanswered.
See an earlier article on the development of the Looted Gold manuscript at https://bit.ly/3a07Q7m.