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17 February 1838

Willem Cornelis Janse van Rensburg (16 May 1818 – 13 August 1865) was the Second President of the South African Republic during the period 1863 to 1864. He was born near the town of Beaufort West to Hendrik Janse van Rensburg and his second wife, Martha Magdalena Oosthuizen. Van Rensburg married Elizabeth Maria Jacoba Du Plessis (31 October 1819 - 6 August 1895) in 1838.

While travelling with a party of Voortrekkers to Natal van Rensburg was one of the survivors that young Martinus Oosthuysen courageously saved from a Zulu attack at Rensburg Koppie (Rensburg Hill) on 17 February 1838. He subsequently travelled to the Transvaal and settled on a farm in the Rustenburg area in 1848.

In February 1860, during Martinus Wessels Pretorius's absence, the Volksraad offered Van Rensburg the post of State President, which he refused. Following substantial political manoeuvring, Van Rensburg was elected as the Second President of the ZAR in April 1863. However, Van Rensburg refused to be sworn in and a second election had to be held. During this election Van Rensburg received 1,106 votes and Pretorius 1,065; Van Rensburg accepted his election this time and he took his oath of office on 23 October 1863.

Pretorius's supporters did not support the results of the election and what amounted to a civil war broke out. When the fighting came to a halt in January 1864 another presidential election was held and Pretorius was re-elected; he was sworn in on 9 May 1864. Van Rensburg subsequently returned to his farm near Rustenburg, where he died and was buried shortly afterwards.

However, in August 1974, Van Rensburg and his wife were disinterred and reburied at the Heroes Acre Cemetery in Pretoria.

What you will find there

  • Basic on site interpretation panels at the foot of the koppie
  • A memorial on the summit 
  • The grave of the van Rensburg’s daughter on the hill to the west of the koppie

Admission

If you would like to visit to Rensburg Koppie please contact Fort Durnford in Estcourt +27 36 352 3000.

History

Marthinus Oosthuyse 

Marthinus Oosthuyse became one of the heroes of the Trek when on the 17th February 1838, at the age of 20 he heard gunfire in the direction of the encampments of the van Rensburg, Pretorius, Loggenberg, and Harmse families. 

He mounted his horse Swartjie and galloped off to see what was happening. Approaching the area over a ridge he could see the Zulus had attacked the three encampments and driven the families up a rocky ridge where they were managing to defend themselves.

On seeing Marthinus one of the Trekkers signalled to him that they were low on ammunition. Marthinus then rode down to each of the abandoned encampments and found powder and ball ammunition. 

While doing so he found one of van Rensburg’s young daughters hiding under a blanket in one of the wagons. He picked her up and put her on his horse but before he could get away he was attacked by Zulus who dragged her out of his arms and killed her. 

Marthinus managed to get away and rode through the lines of attacking Zulus and delivered the ammunition to the families on the kopje and they were able to drive the Zulus off, but they lost all their livestock.


 

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