Boer War women, children put in concentration camps 'for own good': British MP sparks outrage

15 February 2019 - 15:30 By Nico Gous
According to South African History Online, 22,074 children under 16, 4,177 women and 1,676 men died in British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer wars. Lord Kitchener implemented a scorched-earth policy which entailed burning farms and putting people into the camps.
According to South African History Online, 22,074 children under 16, 4,177 women and 1,676 men died in British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer wars. Lord Kitchener implemented a scorched-earth policy which entailed burning farms and putting people into the camps.
Image: Supplied

"The Boer War had people put in concentration camps for their protection."

That is what British Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said on BBC's Question Time on Thursday as he compared the mortality rate in concentration camps during the second Anglo-Boer War, from 1899 to 1902, saying it was the same as in Glasgow, Scotland, at the time.

"They are not a good thing, but where else were people going to live?" Rees-Mogg asked.

Fellow guest, economist Grace Blakely, interrupted Rees-Mogg and asked him if he was justifying the use of concentration camps.

"No, I didn't ... The Boer War had people put in concentration camps for their protection," Rees-Mogg responded.

Blakely interjected again before Rees-Mogg continued: "I'm afraid you're confusing concentration camps with [Adolf] Hitler's extermination camps … These were people who were interned for their safety, now that is not a good thing."

He added: "It was not systematic murder. That's simply wrong. I'm not advocating people being taken off their farms and put into camps, but there was a war going on and people were being taken there so that they can be fed, because the farmers were away fighting the [Anglo] Boer War."

Blakely tweeted on Friday: "The crazy thing about this is - even though I know exactly what happened during the Boer wars - Rees-Mogg's measured tone and deep self-confidence made me second-guess myself. The deep-rooted urge in British culture to defer to aristocratic authority is truly terrifying."

The statistics, however, don't back up Rees-Mogg's claims.

According to South African History Online, 22,074 children under 16, 4,177 women and 1,676 men died in concentration camps. Lord Horatio Kitchener became the British chief commander in SA in 1890. He implemented a scorched earth policy, which entailed fighting guerillas by burning farms and putting people into concentration camps.

AfriForum deputy CEO Alana Bailey said Rees-Mogg's views were ignorant.

"These people lived on farms. They could look after themselves," Bailey said.

"One cannot be held responsible indefinitely for the mistakes of the past, but one must admit when there were mistakes, especially in the case of England. It's 120 years later, in October it's 120 years, and when you are in parliament you should know more about your country's past."

Rees-Mogg's comments also raised the ire of social media users.


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