39 Revolt Squashed
From The New Nation Falters Part 4 of Grey Steel by H.C. Armstrong

BEYERS and de Wet were gone. Deventer, Smuts' old second-in-command on his raid across the Cape, chased Kemp until he surrendered, and harried Maritz until he bolted off across the frontier into German territory and away to shelter. Only a few stray commandos of rebels still hung on. One by one they were rounded up. The last was the one under Japie Fourie, who was in the country to the north-west of Pretoria. He made a raid towards the town, was surrounded, and himself captured. He was tried by court-martial and condemned to be shot as a traitor.

The Nationalists made every endeavour to save Japie Fourie. Hertzog spoke for him, though no one knew better than Hertzog that Fourie was guilty. Smuts' life was threatened. He was warned that if Fourie was shot he would be murdered. Delegations came to see him in his office in Pretoria, in Cape Town, and in his house at Irene.

But he had made up his mind. Japie Fourie was guilty. Beyers and Kemp and the other regular officers had resigned from the Defence Corps before they went into rebellion. Japie Fourie had not. He had fought in uniform. He had looted farms. He had murdered men to pay off old grudges.

"He has," said Smuts, "shed more blood than any other officer. . . . When all the rest accepted that they were beaten he held out. . . . He shot twelve of our men, and some at twelve yards' range, for which there is no excuse. . . . He was the leader of a marauding band and nothing more." Whatever could be said in extenuation of the other rebels, nothing could be said for Fourie.

There was also cold calculation in Smuts' determination. In the old republics rebellion had been a pleasant and easily forgiven form of protest. He would show that in the new united South Africa it was a crime against the State. He might have had de Wet shot, but de Wet was too important: his execution would have aroused a new revolt. He might have shot smaller men, the rank and file, but that would have been useless bloodshed. Japie Fourie was the right man. He should be shot and be the example to teach the lesson.

Having made up his mind, he would not be turned from it. A party of delegates, led by Dr. Malan, came from Cape Town to his house at Irene. Smuts was out walking. After waiting a while the delegates took the train back to Johannesburg from Irene. When Smuts returned, he sent down to Irene Station to call them back, but they were gone. He could have called them from Johannesburg, or even Cape Town, if he had wished to see them. From that time Malan became his fiercest and most persistent enemy.

Fourie was to be shot by a firing party at dawn on Sunday morning. On Saturday afternoon a delegation of pastors of the Dutch Reformed Church came to plead with Smuts. He promised to consider the sentence. He knew that the execution would take place within a few hours. Convinced that he was right, relentless in his determination, undeterred by threats, and unmoved by pleadings, as grey and relentless as some steel-built machine, whether he refused by direct statement or side-stepped and avoided answering, he went steadily along the line he had decided. Japie Fourie was shot.

"Wherein lies the difference," he was asked, "between the rebels in the old war with the English and these rebels?" and he replied, "Success."

The revolt was over. The burghers went back to their farms. A few rebels were given light sentences and then released. But the bitterness behind the revolt remained.

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