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Piet Joubert

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Title: Piet Joubert  
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Piet Joubert

Petrus Jacobus Joubert
Commandant General P.J. Joubert
Member of the Triumvirate
In office
8 August 1881 – 9 May 1883
Serving with M.W. Pretorius and Paul Kruger
Preceded by The Viscount Wolseley
As Governor of the Transvaal
Succeeded by Paul Kruger
As President of the South African Republic
Member of the Volksraad
Constituency Wakkerstroom
Personal details
Born Petrus Jacobus Joubert
20 January 1834
Farm Cango, Oudtshoorn, British Cape Colony
Died March 28, 1900(1900-03-28) (aged 66)
Pretoria, South African Republic
Occupation Soldier, Politician
Religion Dutch Reformed Church
Military service
Allegiance  South African Republic
Rank Commandant-General
Battles/wars Battle of Laing's Nek
Battle of Schuinshoogte
Battle of Majuba Hill
Malaboch War
Siege of Ladysmith

Petrus Jacobus Joubert (20 January 1834 – 28 March 1900), better known as Piet Joubert, was Commandant-General of the South African Republic from 1880 to 1900.


  • Early life 1
  • Political career 2
  • First Boer War 3
  • Later political career 4
  • Second Boer War 5
    • Death 5.1
  • Origin 6
  • Honours 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11

Early life

Joubert was born in the district of Prince Albert, British Cape Colony, a descendant of a French Huguenot who fled to South Africa soon after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV. Left an orphan at an early age, Joubert migrated to the Transvaal, where he settled in the Wakkerstroom district near Laing's Nek and the north-east angle of the Colony of Natal. There he not only farmed with great success, but turned his attention to the study of the law.[1]

Political career

The esteem in which his shrewdness in both farming and legal affairs was held led to his election to the Volksraad as member for Wakkerstroom early in the sixties, Marthinus Pretorius being then in his second term of office as president. In 1870 Joubert was again elected, and the use to which he put his slender stock of legal knowledge secured him the appointment of attorney-general of the republic, while in 1875 he acted as president during the absence of T. F. Burgers in Europe.[1]

First Boer War

During the first British annexation of the Transvaal, Joubert earned for himself the reputation of a consistent irreconcilable by refusing to hold office under the government, as Paul Kruger and other prominent Boers were doing. Instead of accepting the lucrative post offered him, he took a leading part in creating and directing the agitation which led to the First Boer War (1880–1881), eventually becoming, as commandant-general of the Boer forces, a member of the triumvirate that administered the provisional Boer government set up in December 1880 at Heidelberg.[1]

He was in command of the Boer forces at Laings Nek, Ingogo, and Majuba Hill, subsequently conducting the earlier peace negotiations that led to the conclusion of the Pretoria Convention.[1]

Later political career

In 1883 he was a candidate in the Transvaal presidential election, but received only 1,171 votes as against 3,431 cast for Kruger. After losing to Kruger again in the 1888 elections, he ran against Kruger for a third time in the 1893 elections, standing as the representative of the comparatively progressive section of the Boers, who wished in some measure to redress the grievances of the Uitlander population which had grown up on the Rand. The poll (though there is good reason for believing that the voting lists had been manipulated by Kruger's agents) was declared to have resulted in 7911 votes being cast for Kruger and 7246 for Joubert. After a protest Joubert acquiesced to Kruger's continued presidency.[1]

He stood again in 1898, but the Jameson raid had occurred meantime and the voting was 12,858 for Kruger and 2,001 for Joubert. Joubert's position had then become much weakened by accusations of treachery and of sympathy with the Uitlander agitation.[1]

Second Boer War

He took little part in the negotiations that culminated in the ultimatum sent to Great Britain by Kruger in 1899, and though he immediately assumed nominal command of the operations on the outbreak of hostilities, he gave up to others the chief share in the direction of the war, through his inability or neglect to impose upon them his own will. His cautious nature, which had in early life gained him the sobriquet of Slim Piet (Clever Piet), joined to a lack of determination and assertiveness that characterized his whole career, led him to act mainly on the defensive; and the strategically offensive movements of the Boer forces, such as Elandslaagte and Willow Grange, appear to have been neither planned nor executed by him.[1]


On the 28th of November 1899, during a raid south of the Tugela river in Natal, Joubert was thrown from his horse and suffered internal injuries.[2] As the war went on, physical weakness led to Joubert's virtual retirement, and, though two days earlier he was still reported as being in supreme command, he died at Ladysmith, summed up Jouberts character when he called him "a soldier and a gentleman, and a brave and honourable opponent".[1]


Piet Joubert is a direct descendant of Pierre Joubert who arrived at the Cape in 1688 from Provence France.[3] The Joubert name has retained its original spelling and is a common name among the Afrikaans population.


The town of Pietersburg (now named Polokwane) in the northern region of the then Transvaal Republic (current Limpopo province) was named after Piet Joubert. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem upon his death, Piet Joubert, wherein he absolved him from complicity in instigating the war, and held his colleagues to account (excerpt):[4]

With those that bred, with those that loosed the strife,
  He had no part whose hands were clear of gain;
But subtle, strong, and stubborn, gave his life
  To a lost cause, and knew the gift was vain.

See also

  • Fritz Joubert Duquesne, the nephew of Piet Joubert, went on to become a Boer spy, and later one of the most famous German spies during both World Wars.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Chisholm 1911, p. 522.
  2. ^ Pakenham 1979, p.174
  3. ^ de Souza, Francis L.H. (2004). A Question of Treason. Hillcrest, South Africa: Kiaat Creations. p. 25.  
  4. ^ Hamer, Mary. "“General Joubert”: Notes". Retrieved 23 April 2012.  The poem was first published in The Friend in Bloemfontein, March 30 1900, under the title “The Death of General Joubert”.


  • Lugan, Bernard (January 1996). Ces français qui ont fait l'Afrique du Sud. (Translation: Those French who made South Africa).  
  • Pakenham, Thomas (1979). The Boer War.  

Further reading

  • Meintjes, Johannes. The Commandant-General: The life and times of Petrus Jacobus Joubert. 
  • "Obituary: Joubert one of the few men to break a British Square".  
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