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Jan Smuts House in Irene is a museum with many interesting aspects for the visitor. Firstly, the house itself was home to Gen. Jan Christiaan Smuts, a former Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa and one of South Africa’s most revered statesmen, military leader and philosopher.
In 2004 Smuts was named by voters in a poll held by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (S.A.B.C.) as one of the top ten Greatest South Africans of all time.
Smuts made his name as a military leader – first he led commandos in the Second Boer War for the Transvaal. During the First World War, he led the armies of South Africa against Germany, capturing German South-West Africa and commanding the British Army in East Africa. From 1917 to 1919, he was also one of five members of the British War Cabinet, helping to create the Royal Air Force. He became a field marshal in the British Army in 1941, and served in the Imperial War Cabinet under Winston Churchill. He was the only person to sign the peace treaties ending both the First and Second World Wars.
One of his greatest international accomplishments was the establishment of the League of Nations, fore-runner to the United Nations. Smuts later urged the formation of a new international organisation for peace: the UN. Smuts wrote the preamble to the United Nations Charter, and was the only person to sign the charters of both the League of Nations and the UN. He sought to redefine the relationship between the United Kingdom and her colonies, helping to establish the British Commonwealth, as it was known at the time.
He served as Prime Minister in South Africa from 1919 to 1924 and 1939 to 1948.
Although Smuts initially promoted racial segregation, his Fagan Report of 1948 stated that complete racial segregation in South Africa was not realistic and that limits on African migration into urban areas should be done away with. This progressive idea was strongly opposed by the National Party which, in the years to come, formalised the system of apartheid. In 1948 this philosophical difference resulted in Smuts narrowly losing the general election.
With achievements like this, it was refreshing that Smuts led an unpretentious lifestyle. The homestead was originally used as an officer’s mess in Middelburg in the Mpumalanga province during the Anglo-South African War (1899 – 1902). After the war Gen. Smuts bought the steel construction and erected it on his farm, Doornkloof. The home stores memorabilia from his life, both professional and personal and even the car he used as Prime Minister. He loved the peace and quiet of his home, surrounded by his family.
Smuts was passionate about botany, and the gardens around the house create a natural park of indigenous trees and shrubs, and excellent backdrop for both Ouma’s Tea Garden offering light refreshments, and the popular Irene Craft Market, which is held every second and last Saturday of the month from 09h00 to 14h00. Many visitors flock to the stalls and it makes an interesting outing to visit the flea market where the merchants sell anything from beads to furniture.
Take the same hike up the hill behind the house to Smuts Koppie that the general took every day. This is where the ashes of Smuts and his beloved wife, Isie, are scattered.
Another aspect to Smuts House is the Smuts Farm Caravan Park. With its quiet, treed setting, away from the noise of the big city, the park offers electricity and water and an ablution block. It is in a very convenient location, close to Pretoria, Centurion and Midrand. Prices are around R120 per site and R80 for pensioners. To book, phone the number below.
Opening Times: 08.00 – 15:30 Mon to Fri: 09:00 – 16:00: Sat & Sun; Venue Closed: Good Friday; 24 and 25 December. Telephone: +27 (012) 667-1176: Website.
Address: Jan Smuts Ave, Irene. Take the Botha Avenue off ramp from the N1 and turn left from Pretoria or right from Johannesburg. Carry on for 2kms towards Irene. Go under the bridge and the four way stop and turn right.
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