Rietfontein and Mier History

Rietfontein is a town in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. It functions as the Rietfontein Border Post with Namibia during the day hours of 08:00-16:30 that gives access to and from south-east Namibia via Aroab on the C16 main road. Hakskeen Pan, Uitsak Pan, Oxford Pan and Koppieskraal Pan form part of the area.

Rietfontein is the capital of Mier and the home of civilised infrastructure, like the Municipal Office, Police Station, Day Hospital, High School etc.

Rietfontein is also the place where the exploring scouts of Dirk Vilander found the bushman, Khys and his family at a fountain surrounded by reed-bushes, from there the name Rietfontein.

Mier also captivates the history of the two very prominent pioneers – Dirk Vilander and Regopstaan Kruiper, yet most of their descendants still live in Mier.

Some very exhausted and despondent scouts of the pioneer Dirk Vilander noted off saddle, some ants bringing wet mud to the surface of the ground. Curious, they started digging and found water. To honour the ants they named the settlement, “Mier”. Mier is wedged in between two borders: West side Namibia and East Botswana. The North is closed by the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the largest conservation area in the world 3.6 million ha.

Mier’s economy thrives on sheep and game farming. Mier offers plenty of room to play for 4×4 enthusiasts. There are fantastic 4×4 routes which stretch from Rietfontein to Pulai.

During the first part of the nineteenth century, a group of so-called "coloured" people moved from the south-western Cape (Boland) northwards under the leadership of Dirk Vilander. In 1865, they settled in the area that is known today as the Mier area. The area that Vilander and his followers laid claim to, however, stretched from Rietfontein to the Bak River in Namakwaland, the Nossob River in the north and the Molopo River in the east. 

Due to an agreement between Britain and German imperialistic governments in 1885, the border between German-West-Africa and the Cape Colony was determined. It divided Dirk Vilander's land in half. David Vilander (successor and son of Dirk Vilander) feared British annexation of the area if his people did not have title acts to the land.. 

He therefore divided the area into farms of 10 000 morgen each and handed out certificates of land ownership. According to Arendse et aI.(1996), 64 land title acts were handed out during 1888. The British crown formally annexed the land and incorporated it into British Bechuanaland. T
wo years later, in 1893, a concession court had confirmed all 64 title acts. Eleven of these acts went to white farmers. The farms Rietfontein and Schepkolk, where most of Vilander's descendants lived, were put in trust to the "Rynse Sending Genootskap". British Bechuanaland became part of the Cape Colony in 1895. During 1910, South Africa became a union.

At the beginning of the 1900s, many of the original occupiers lost their land rights, allegedly by secrecy and betrayal. In 1930 the Coloured People Settlement Areas Act of the Cape (proclamation 146 of 1930 in accordance with Law 3 of 1930) was implemented. According to this act, parts of the crown land were declared as, and reserved for, settlement areas for coloured people. 

Hence, it made provision for the erection of the Mier Coloured Settlement Area, which was constituted out of 25 listed farms. Most of these 25 farms were not registered and were not in the possession of individuals. The settlements, which were designated for livestock farming, had to remain communal according to this act. (During the 1930's to the 1960's, land in Mier was not divided into camps and a system of communal farming continued). 

Despite the proclamation of 1930, it does not appear as if a stream of people immediately entered the area. Although Rietfontein and Schepkolk did not form part of the proclaimed area, in practice, inhabitants of these areas continued to make use of the Kalahari dunes for seasonal grazing and hunting as they were used to. In 1934 and 1936 another two farms were included in the Mier Coloured Settlement Area.

The preservation of the Coloured Areas Act of 1961 (Act NO.31 of 1961) provided for:
(i)the proclamation and reservation of land for occupation and ownership by Coloured people and
(ii) for areas that are reserved to vest in the Minister in trust for the registered coloured occupiers.

Through this act the Mier Settlement Area fell under the Mission Stations and Communal Reserves Act (Cape) of 1909 (Act 29 of 1909) for the first time. In 1968, the farms Rietfontein and Schepkolk were formally included in the Mier Coloured Settlement Area. 

From this time, the whole Mier Rural Area was administrated as one area under the Act on Rural Coloured Areas of 1963. During the 1960's and 1970's, Philandersbron, Rietfontein, Schepkolk, Loubos and Groot Mier each had its own area of communal land where livestock could be held with the permission of the Mier Management Council (which is, since 1994, called the Mier Transitional Council). 

Loubos had irrigation land, consisting of 72 allotments. The rest of the Mier area was the so-called "outer communal land", which was, although not initially fenced, marked off as grazing strips during these years. Grazing rights were assigned and these strips were leased out according to foregoing regulations published in the Government Gazette of 15 September 1965.
Rietfontein/Mier region
Hakskeen Pan in rainy season
Photo credit Theuns de Bruin
Hakskeen Pan surface in the dry season
Hakskeen Pan with rare site of water in it.
A farm named Gansvlei was sold to build the church in 1889.
A farm name Gansvlei was sold to build the church in 1889.
It is the largest area of land ever cleared by hand with 317 workers for a motorsport event.
The Bloodhound LSR set a top speed of 1010 km/h at Hakskeen Pan in 2019.
Watch this video on one of their runs on the Pan:
Tot in die jaar 1867 het in Rietfontein en dus die Kalahari net boesmans gewoon. Hul het van jag en veldvrugte gelewe.
'n Swak fontein is gevind waar riet gegroei het, vandaar die naam Rietfontein.
Lees gerus die geskiedenis hoe die eerste sending gemeente in Dirk Vilander se tyd (1867-1888) gestig is. Sy seun, David Vilander wat hom opgevolg het, het die plaas Gansvlei verkoop vir R680 en dit vir die kerk geskenk.
Deur: Retha Stadler
Verwysings na Retha Stadler & Loch Maree: