Kgaswane Mountain Reserve

In the early years of the Transvaal republic military service by veld cornets and commandants was paid for by the allocation of land rather than in cash of which the government was pitifully short. In this manner Paul Kruger, an officer from an early age and an enthusiastic participant in many of the punitive campaigns against local tribes, became a substantial landowner. On his death in exile in 1902 his heirs donated one of his farms, ' Rietvallei' to the Town Council of Rustenburg. The farm lies on a high plateau basin with an extensive wetland, which is the source of much of the town's water supply and for many years it, and its rich biodiversity remained unexploited.

A map showing the Rustenburg District.
In the 1960s the land was transferred to the Transvaal Provincial Administration and in 1967 it was proclaimed the Rustenburg Nature Reserve. An administrative office was constructed and campsites and hiking trails established. A variety of non-dangerous game species were introduced among which were sable antelope, the species that William Cornwallis Harris had first described for science from this specific area. This rare species flourished and became the icon of the reserve.
In 1981 the Transvaal Province bought the adjacent farm, 'Baviaanskrans' and incorporated it into the reserve. The spectacular mountain scenery, including a high waterfall, increased the size of the reserve to more than 4000 ha. Baviaanskrans had also been one of Paul Kruger's farms and had been bought from his estate by Colonel Henry Chamney in 1903. Chamney was Irish and spent most of his early life in India. He fought in the South African War and chose to stay in the country when his regiment was disbanded. He lived on 'Baviaanskrans' – which he renamed Avonmore - until the death of his wife Cecelia in 1908 when he went back to India but returned to the farm soon after the First World War. He built a fine house in the Cape Dutch style where he remained until his own death in 1947. He left a large part of his estate to establish a hospital in Rustenburg, which was opened twelve years later but the farm itself was sold to the Richardson family. It was Richardson who sold the land to the Transvaal in 1981.
Today Chamney's old house and the Richardson's more modern one can be seen in the reserve. High on the hill above the houses, accessible only by a steep mountain path, is a small garden of remembrance where Cecelia and Henry Chamney lie buried. Small headstones around their grave commemorate Chamney's horse and dogs and cats.
In 1994 the Transvaal provincial nature reserves were transferred to the North West Province and the Parks and Tourism Board was established to administer them. The Board introduced a new policy whereby neighbouring landowners could incorporate their land into the reserve while retaining full title to their property. Several owners availed themselves of this arrangement enlarging the conserved area considerably. At the same time the Board changed the name of the reserve to Kgaswane Mountain Reserve to commemorate the Nineteenth Century chief of the BaKwena ba Modimisona ba Mmatau who once governed in the region and whose name, corrupted to "Cashan," was the first written name given to the Magaliesberg mountain range.

South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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