South African history – how Jan Smuts has impacted Magic Hills today

The Magic Hills Private Game Reserve, occupying 20 100 hectares of untamed wilderness in the Jansenville area of the Eastern Cape, enjoys the rich history of the area, which can be seen at many historical ruins and old kraals. One of the key events that occurred nearby was the Anglo Boer War, which encroached on the town of Jansenville in the early 1900’s.

It is said that the renowned General Jan Smuts passed through these lands in 1901, skirting around the town, which was more-than-adequately protected by a fort that had been erected earlier the same year. The Anglo Boer War Fort ruins remain, to this day, on the northern perimeter of the town.

A Fascination with Jan Smuts

Anyone with an appreciation for South African history and the impact that influential figures had on the shaping of the country in the early 20th century, will likely share in the fascination with Jan Christian Smuts. A politician, military leader and philosopher, Jan Smuts possessed an international reputation for his agility as a leader in some of the world’s most critical, historical conflicts. So we caught up with local author, Richard Steyn, who also shares our interest in this great general.

Speaking of some of Jan Smuts’ most notable “claims to fame”, Steyn points out that Smuts possessed an extraordinary mind. According to records, Lord Todd, the Master of Christ’s College, said in 1970 that “in 500 years of the College’s history, of all its members, past and present, three had been truly outstanding: John Milton, Charles Darwin and Jan Smuts.” When asked what he found most compelling about Jan Smut, Steyn says, “Smut has an astonishing range of influence, knowledge and ability! He was a lawyer, political leader, a farmer, a military leader, literary author, and a botanist.

Some of Smuts’ other achievements are listed below:

  • Historians confirm that Smuts was one of the very few people who had any real influence over Winston Churchill. According to Steyn, “Smuts was one of the few people that Churchill respected and referred to, relying heavily on him.”
  • Jan Smuts was the prime minister of South Africa twice.
  • Jan Smuts was instrumental in bringing the Angle Boer War to a close, which raged just north of the Magic Hills Private Game Reserve.
  • According to Steyn, Jan Smuts single handedly took South Africa into the Second World War, by a mere 13 votes, to fight against Hitler.
  • Smuts was the only person present at both meetings that formally ended World War I and World War II – the Peace Treaty Negotiation in Versailles, and the formal meeting that occured in Paris.

Jan Smuts, the Father of Holism

Jan Smuts is also well-known for the philosophy of holism, on which he wrote a book in 1926, called Holism and Evolution. Writing about holism in his book Unafraid of Greatness, Steyn notes: “Whole-making is real, organic, evolutionary and creative, it gives rise to progessive scale of wholes, from simple matter, from plants and animals, to human beings and upward to humanity and to spiritual consciousness.”*

The concept of Holism was Smuts’ guiding philosophy in life, and can be applied to many areas of life – from politics, to wellness, to environmental conservation – and is seen in everything natural, right down to a cellular level. According to Steyn, Jan Smuts firmly believed that mankind is destined to evolve into greatness.

Holism at Magic Hills Private Game Reserve

Apart from the fact that Smuts was said to have traversed these wild lands during the Anglo Boer War, much can be said for his influence on the Magic Hills philosophy, which is founded on the philosophy of Holism. As we at Magic Hills immerse ourselves in our efforts to regenerate the natural wilderness that must have existed when Jan Smut passed through, we see the concept of Holism at play.

The ecosystem, the wildlife, plantlife, and even how we integrate as humanity – all are part of the greater whole, evolving into greatness.

More about Richard Steyn Much like Jan Smuts himself, Richard Steyn is a lawyer and an author. He has produced four books focusing on local and worldwide history, and has also led a career in media, as Editor-in-Chief of The Star newspaper, and Editor at Natal Witness.

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