VENTERSDORP

Ventersdorp is a town situated in North West Province of South Africa.

The town grew around a Dutch Reformed Church that was established in 1866 . The town was named after Johannes Venter who owned the land the church was built on.

The town's population is just 2,000 while the nearby township of Tshing has a population of around 15,000.

The township of Tshing houses most of the town's blacks and coloureds. The township's secondary school of 1,000 pupils is still 100% black without a single white teacher.
The ventersdorp High School has changed quite dramatically, with non-white students attending since 1995. These students are mostly Afrikaans speaking coloured residents of the smaller township Toevlug.
The Tshing Township has a diamond mine nearby: a town councilor owned it in the early 1990s.

Ventersdorp is located in the fertile Vaal River Vally. Four Roads lead to Ventersdorp. It is 110km from the Witwatersrand or Pretoria on the Tarlton-Ventersdorp road; 50km from Potchefstroom, 70km from Klerksdorp and 90km from Lichtenburg.

The Eye of the Schoonspruit attracted people for hundreds of years to this fertile valley and it still is a never-ending source of life for the people of the town, even during the harshest drought. Some BaTawana groups settled in the Ventersdorp region in the mid 18th century, but fled the area in the early 19th century during an invasion by other groups. Most of them fled to the Free State. They later returned only to find that white farmers had already claimed the land along the Schoonspruit River.

The first farm in the area was called Sterkstroom ("strong flowing stream"). The town was established on the farm Roodepoort 22, property of Mr JH Venter. It is believed that Venter allocated stands as early as 1860.

With the development of a farming community in the area, more and more people bought property from Venter. The first NG Church parish was established in 1866, and the first church was built in 1889. This building was later used as the Church Hall, with the completion of a larger red brick church in 1912, which still stands sentinel over the town. More people settled in the town after the discovery of diamonds in the area. Gold was also discovered but turned out not to be worth mining.

During the South African Boer War, most of the men folk joined the Boer Commands. When the British introduced their scorched earth policy, an Irish soldier, G Shaw, considered the tactical immoral and defected. He stayed with the Engelbrecht family at Ventersdorp. When food ran out he went to local shop for rations. British soldiers recognized him. After his capture he was tried and executed. He was buried in a fas corner of the cemetery, away from both British and Boer soldiers. The site is known as "The Grave with Eternal Flowers". The grave is under a tree which stays in bloom for months. In the 1960's and 1970's, hundreds of blacks in the town and surrounding areas were forcefully removed under apartheid laws. The were relocated to newly declared townships such as Makgokwane in the former Bophuthatswana.

White supremacist Eugène Blanche's was born in Ventersdorp. The town is the base of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB). Many of the AWB's major figures live in Ventersdorp, including Terre'Blanche's former driver JP Meyer. Eugene Terre'Blanche's security firm was rented out to the town council for a long time as an almost private police force. In 2000 the new black Mayor of Ventersdorp terminated this contract. Shortly thereafter hr disappeared, never to be seen again and his car was found in a nearby field. The Mayor's cousin was found guilty of his murder, but some people, particularly black people, believed that Terre'Blanche's had ordered the murder and that the AWB influenced the outcome of the trial.

Despite the legacy of Apartheid and the scar the AWB has left on the town, there have been some big changes in the pas 13 years. Although the beliefs of some residents have not kept pace with changes in the country, black people now have freedom to move around the town and surrounding areas. However, for cultural, and quite possible economic, reasons most remain in the township.

The Battle of Ventersdorp on 9 August 1991 was a violent confrontation in the South African town of Ventersdorp between right wing Supporters of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) and the South African Police led by Inspector Piet Nel. and security forces. Though technically not a "battle", it became known as such in the media while official sources such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) simply refer to it as an "incident". Much of its notoriety lies in the fact that it was the first time in the 43 years of Apartheid that white police officers killed white protesters.

Three months before on May 11, 1991, white armed AWB supporters lead by Terre"blanche's clashed with police at theVentersdorp farm of Goedgevonden, while attempting to force black squatters off the farm. They managed to break police lines and destroy several structures whene police opened fire wounding four of them. They then proceeded to the nearby black township to Tshing attacking more houses before calm was restored by the Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok and Conservative Party deputy, Ferdi Hartzenberg.
 
The AWb supporters numbered 2,000. They were armed with hunting rifles and pistols and wore protective items to shield them from the effects of an inevitable tear gas attack by the riot police. The police equalled the AWB in number, but were considerably better trained and equipped.

Many unconventional tactics were employed by the AWB. They allegedly wore plaster of Paris on their limbs to protect them from police dogs. Video footage shows AWB members locking arms and carrying rags and vinegar to lesson the effects of the tear gas.

Once the AWB cut the electricity and fired on the police, the police were ordered to shoot to kill. Three policemen were wounded, none of theme fatally, while the police killed one AWB member. The AWB also fired into z police minibus. Tow AWB members were killed and 13 were injured when the police returned fire from the minibus.
 
Terre'Blanche made a point of appearing in front on the television cameras and said (in Afrikaans), "Where is De Klerk? I want to talk to him. He came here armed. Here lies a man on the ground and over there lies a man"(referring to injured policemen).

In all, three AWB members and one passer-by were killed. Six policemen, 13 AWB members, and 29 civilians were injured.

The growing conflict between right-wing groups and the government has been identified as one of the most significant developments in the course or 1991, with the Battle of Ventersdorp as its high point.

The events in Ventersdorp, as well as gains by the right-wing opposition in white by-elections, led De Klerk to call a referendum in March 1992. The referendum confirmed white support for the negotiation process, despite continued opposition from the far right.

Following the end of apartheid, Terre'Blanche and his supporters sought amnesty for the Battle of Ventersdorp and others acts. Amnesty was granted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The three dead AWB members, AF. Badenhorst, G.J. Koen and J.D. Conradie were honored at an AWB ceremony in October 1994, in Ventersdorp. A monument still remembers their death.