In search of Kruger's millions

For most of us stories about treasure chests overflowing with gold where x marks the spot are synonymous with Pirates of the Caribbean or the Wild West. But believe it or not, South Africa has its very own tale of hidden treasure and intrigue!

Ever heard of the legendary Kruger Millions, allegedly hidden somewhere in the Lowveld?

Well, if not, you're about to find out! Draw the curtains, come closer and listen real good, this may just be your ticket to fame and fortune.

The legend finds its roots in the year 1900. The Anglo-Boer War was reaching a peak as Lord Alfred Milner and his troops prepared to invade Pretoria, the capital of President Paul Kruger's Transvaal Republic.

As tension built President Kruger soon realized that he and his cabinet didn't stand much of a chance outwitting the English and started making preparations for exile. On 4 June 1900 they left the city by train under cover of darkness, heading for the small Lowveld town of Machadodorp. Here they would set up a number of train compartments as offices and apartments, until the time came for them to cross the border to Mozambique and leave for Europe from there.

But, as the legend goes, these compartments did not only house President Kruger and a few of his right-hand men, but also a large freight of gold in the form of minted coins and bars.

These suspicions gained strength when Lord Milner occupied Pretoria the very next day, only to find that gold to the value of approximately 800 000 pounds had been removed from the SA Mint and National Bank between 29 May and 4 June 1900. A final tally showed that about 1.5 million pounds were unaccounted for when Milner took over the republic.

After some investigation it was clear that President Kruger's government had started taking possession of all native gold in the hands of banks and mines a few months before the war broke out. In this way he ensured that if things went badly for the republic, which they did, the precious gold would not end up in enemy hands.

Although there is not much dispute about the fact that President Kruger made a special arrangement to remove all of this gold, it is unclear what exactly happened to it thereafter.

It is suspected that much of it was used to fund the rest of the war and assumed that Kruger and his company took a fair amount to Europe by ship when they departed into exile.

But many people believed, and still do, that Kruger had left some of the loot in the fragrant Lowveld earth somewhere between Machadodorp and Waterval Onder as a final legacy to the Boers.

This idea gained popularity as various Machado Dorp residents came to light with stories aboutstrange midnightly activities involving mysterious-looking packages being conveyed from the stationary presidential train compartments that had come to rest in their town.

In 2001 there was even a rumour doing the rounds that a family of Zulu labourers had found the treasure. The Independent newspaper reported on the faux-finding stating that a previous newspaper report claimed that the family "who had been living in Ermelo for more than 100 years had dug up some 4 000 gold coins known as Kruger pounds and may have sold up to 400 of them for their scrap value since the 1960s."

Whether President Paul Kruger really left behind a treasure of golden coins for his beloved Boere followers has never been established. Official reports obviously deny it, cynics brush it aside as nothing more than a fairy tale, but there are those faithful few who firmly believe and are determined to find it.

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