The Case Against Olivier and 11 Others

In 2020 I did a lot of work on the Rand Revolt casualty list and more or less concluded it, but in the back of my mind there was always the nagging feeling that there were more casualties to be found. I had pretty much exhausted my options though, because realistically it was one thing to say that somebody was a casualty of the mayhem but a totally different thing to prove it.  Fortunately the Death Notices of people caught up in the crossfire were usually marked as such which made them easy to identify. During my Death Notice search at familysearch.org I found one DN that was marked “Criminal case Rex vs MJ Olivier and 11 others”  and it was dated 08 March 1922 which fell inside the date range range of the Rand Revolt. It also occurred at the “New Primrose Mine, Germiston”.  My gut instinct said that the DN that I had found was related to the Rand Revolt.

The problem was: how to prove it. Unfortunately I do not have access to the books that I used to have about the revolt, neither do I have the option of getting access to documents that are in the National Archives in South Africa. For all I knew the incident at New Primrose was related to theft or mine negligence. I really needed more proof to put these names forward so filed that DN away and lodged a query in the back of my head.  

Yesterday, while reading an article at the Heritage Portal: Locating Victims 1922 Rand Revolt they mentioned a booklet called “The Story of a Crime being the Vindication of the Transvaal Strike Legal Defence Committee”, which was published and sold for the benefit of the Strike Victims Dependants Relief Fund, and dated 28 May 1924. Was it worth trying to find the booklet as it was almost 100 years since its publication? I hit the jackpot once again as it was available at the Wits University Research Archives.   It was a lengthy and often tortuous read, and to be honest I ended up skimming it. However. I found what I was looking for inside. 

“The first man to be acquitted was Mr J Olivier, who was charged with 11 others, with shooting Natives in the Primrose Mine Affair. At the end of the evidence for the prosecution he, and he alone was at once discharged. “

Bells started to ring in my head, how many “Natives” were killed? The booklet further informs us that on 8 March  “At the New Primrose there was a fight in which two Natives were killed and twenty wounded and two Europeans, Webbstock and Olivier, were killed.” Further on the opinion of the “Director of Native Affairs” is reported as saying “He was satisfied that the attacks on Natives were not by strikers but by Europeans that have no genuine interest or stake in the present trouble” 

I had my numbers. It was time to go searching.  The names that I found that are associated with the “Primrose Mine Affair” do not tally with the 4 casualties reported. Unfortunately the DN’s for the Africans does not always provide proper names and often the names are incorrectly spelt and I am reproducing them as they are written. These death notices are all marked as being related to “Olivier and 11 others”.  “Germiston Cemetery” may be Primrose Cemetery while the current name of “New Primrose Mine Cemetery” is not known. 

  • Nothing (Naite) abt 30 yrs, underground mine labourer, gsw of abdomen, brought in dead. 8 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston. 
  • Manyakulana Sugar, abt 38 yrs, underground mine labourer, gsw through chest, died 38 hours after admission. 10 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.
  • Mangunyana (Lisi), abt 27 yrs, underground labourer, gsw of abdomen, died 28 hours after admission. 9 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.
  • Harry Ernest Bruce Webbstock, abt 30 yrs,  gold miner underground,  gsw penetrating lungs and aorta, 8 March 1922, buried “Germiston Cemetery, Germiston”
  • Samuel Antonie Edward Olivier, 40 yrs, gold miner underground,  gsw left hip, septicaemia,  27 March 1922,  buried “Germiston Cemetery, Germiston”
  • Douglas, abt 21 yrs, underground mine labourer, compound depressed fracture of skull,  died 30 hours after admission. 9 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.
  • Mneedwa, abt 30 yrs, underground mine labourer, gsw head, septic meningitis,  died 6 days after admission. 13 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.
  • Hlomana, abt 30 yrs,  underground mine labourer, gsw abdomen, brought in dead. 8 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.

I suspect that there may be more than what I discovered, unfortunately the search facility is not as flexible as it used to be so finding anything has become more complicated. As for the 12 perpetrators, they seemingly walked away leaving 8 deaths behind them.

DRW 2022. Created 09/06/2022.  The Story of a Crime being the Vindication of the Transvaal Strike Legal Defence Committee, available at the Wits University Research Archives.  Death Notices sourced from familysearch.org

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