The Mystery of the Missing Kruger Millions
As thinking South Africans with a deep love and interest in our country, Road Travel regularly dig a little deeper to discover more about this amazing country we live in. Myths and Legends abound here, and we explore these lesser known stories and share them with you.
According to myth about two million pounds in buried gold and diamonds lie hidden in the Blyde River area in the province of Mpumalanga. Here we explore the mystery of the hidden “Kruger Millions”. The treasure is said to consist of hidden gold and coins worth more than US $500,000,000 in today’s terms. Allegedly the treasure was hidden by or for President Paul Kruger at the end of the South African Boer War somewhere between 1899 and 1902. The amount might be exaggerated, but it might also be the largest undiscovered treasure in the world. If you look at the reports, the total gold production from 1884 to 1900, exceeded R170 million, at the price of gold then, which was R8,50 per Troy ounce. No official records say just how much of this belonged to the Government, but it is known that the Government mined gold before they evacuated the Witwatersrand in 1900 and it is also known that nine days before the outbreak of the war, the Transvaal Government, headed by Kruger, seized the gold that was about to be shipped to Europe.
Shortly after this, it also took possession of all the native gold, in the hands of all the banks. The government banned any export of gold and on March 20 1900, the Treasury was authorized to commandeer gold coins from all the banks. This was estimated to be in excess of R1 000 000.00 and was supposed to be in exchange for security to an equal amount. The British banks refused to accept un-minted gold, in exchange for the R510 000 in coins, taken from them. During the period from September 1899 to May 1900, 947 000 Ponde, or gold Pounds, were produced at the ZAR Mint, with a total value of R1 894 000.00. According to some reports, silver coins, to the value of R94 342.00 were also produced by the mint, at that time. Although the actual amount is not material, the fate of these coins, if they were in fact produced, might very well be. At today’s prices this missing treasure is estimated to be worth in excess of $ 243000 000.00. And how many diamonds were added to these chests of treasure we can only imagine.
The legend of the Kruger Millions is definitely not just a story developed in modern times. Neville Chamberlain at the House of Commons in England, in 1902, met with the ZAR Generals, who came to see him to obtain financial assistance for the widows and orphans of the war. Chamberlain was quite prepared to let the Generals have, for the benefit of the widows and orphans of course, such of the Transvaal State Funds as had been transmitted to Europe by Kruger, which were still unspent, if they would help him (Chamberlain) to lay his hands upon them. Botha expressed his readiness to do so, but denied that any such funds actually ever existed.
The State Attorney, who, incidentally, was in fact Field Marshal J. C. Smuts, the Auditor-General and the other officials took the coins and gold that Smuts had collected from the ZAR mint, to President Kruger at Middelburg. The Members of the Volksraad and all highly placed officials realized what the position was then, and co-operated fully with the President. It was decided by the Government that Kruger should take leave of absence, for about six months, as the days of the burghers’ possession of the railway line were clearly numbered and the chance of Kruger falling into the hands of the enemy could not be taken. This would mean the remaining Z.A.R. forces would surrender and the Government’s coins and gold stash, would be lost. The latter danger was of course known to only the top officials, generals and Volksraad members. Kruger sailed to Holland on the Gelderland on the 19th October, 1900. The British tried to encourage the view that he had deserted his post and many sources tried to imply that he had taken the coins and bullion, for his own benefit.
If that was true, Kruger would not have been interested in his countrymen, once he had arrived safely in Holland, but even to the last he tried to do what he could for them. Shortly before his death on the 14th July, 1904, he wrote his last letter to the Boers, with the famous passage: “Look in the past for all that is good and beautiful, take that for your ideal and build on it your future”. And so the legend lives on. Maybe you’d like to try your luck? Arrange a trip along the beautiful Panorama Route up to Kruger National Park, we will bring the spades ;-)