This Town is near the Land where the Battle of Majuba was fought, where the Transvaal won independence from the British. It was decided suitable for a new Town to be founded on the Mpumalanga / KwaZulu Natal border. The name Volksrust in Afrikaans means; 'the nation rests' and is attributed to Dorie de Jager, Dirkie Uys' sister. The story goes that this occurred when battle-weary Boer soldiers came to this place to recover from the South African War. On 27 March 1889, President Paul Kruger of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republik (literally: South African Republic) officially announced the name of the Town. Today Volksrust has a Concentration Camp Memorial to honour those who lost their lives in these concentration camps, in the first World War.
Volksrust, became a Municipality in 1904, is the Commercial center of a District of which the main products are maize, wool, sorghum, sunflower seed, beef and dairy. 'Majuba' is one of Eskoms new -generation Power Stations, commissioned near Volksrust. The remains of the Convention Bridge on Grensspruit have been proclaimed a National Monument.
The Population of the Town includes Black, White, Asian and Coloured people. The population survey of 2001 showed that over the years, the number of people living in the areas has increased from the 1999 population count. Like most Towns in the urban and rural Areas, people living in Volksrust also suffered under the apartheid Groups Areas Act legislation. Before 1994, Black people stayed in the Township known as Vukuzakhe (meaning: built yourself). Vukuzakhe is further divided into eight sections. The first sections to be established were Kwesimhlophe (or: for Black people) and Kwesimnyama (for Coloured people). Around 1946 the government built small four roomed houses in an area that became known as New Stand. In 1958 after the forced removals of people from Charlestown, (an area that produced coal for a very short period of time), people were moved to Vukuzenzele (meaning: wake up and do it for yourself). As more and more people were forcibly from their land, Vukuzakhe also grew.
In 1961, the government introduced semi detached two-roomed houses where two different families lived on either side. The people called this area Lindela (meaning: wait). It is not known why the name was given but its meaning is significant to people being displaced. Sgodiphola was the next attempt to relocate people from neighbouring farms where White farmers wanted to settle. In the 1970s another area came into existence, which was similar to New Stand, but the rooms were a little bit bigger. Once again the area was known as Dukuza (which means - pacify). Around the 1980s the government began another project that looked at improving the lives of people, by building houses with sewerage systems and electricity. This Area became known as Phumula Mqhashi (settling of tenants). It was the only area in the 1980s that had running water and electricity. Other areas were without electricity, running water and were still using the bucket system. It was only after 1994 that the infrastructure was improved. Interestingly, Volksrust had proper sanitation and tarred roads. White children enjoyed well kept and maintained playgrounds while Black children did not.
As early as the people began to settle in, the government built a school where Black children could learn to read. The first school to be built was Phembindlela, which accepted children from Grade 0 to higher primary. Following the need for more schools Elangwane became the second school to be built which accepted children at a higher level. Currently there are five schools, two lower primary schools, two higher primary and one high school. Although there is a relatively low literate rate, over the years Volksrust has produced hundreds of professionals who are placed all over South Africa and who are the pride of the community.
Like most Black townships between 1976 and mid 1980s, Vukuzakhe had its own share in the struggle for political liberation. As the youths from the urban areas were sent off by their parents to relatively 'apolitical' places like Volksrust, youth in these places became politicised. These youths who were coming from places like Soweto and the Vaal shared their political experiences with the youth and Vukuzakhe. What the Vukuzakhe youth had heard over the radio became a reality and something to experiment. This does not mean however, that Vukuzakhe youth were politically ignorant before the arrival of the urban youth. They were aware of what was happening the only think lacking was more information. This period was marked by a lot of confrontation between the police on one hand and the school officials on the other. Classes were boycotted continuously, students complained about high school fees and the poor management of the school by the officials. Unable to deal with the students' dissatisfaction the police were summoned. However, Volksrust is a small town that did not have a huge police force and in cases like this, extra military personnel was called from Heidelberg to calm suppress the situation. Typical of the police and military response in such cases, some young children lost their lives during the confrontation with the police, while others were injured.
Attractions and The Battle Sites:
In 1894 Britain and the Transvaal Republic decided to strike a new agreement that put Swaziland under Transvaal control. A Railway carriage was hauled to the middle of the Bridge so that the conference table could stand astride the Borders. President Kruger sat on Transvaal ground and Sir Henry on British ground.
One of the key Battle Sites of South Africa, wherein the British suffered catastrophic losses and the conflict finally ended. The Battle Site features a Memorial to British casualties on the spot where General Colley fell.
Boers under Gen Piet Joubert inflicted the first of three defeats on the British here during the Anglo Boer war.
Two Memorials, both dedicated to victims of the two Transvaal-Britain Wars, are found in the Town. One is for the concentration camp victims and the other for those involved in active service.
Volksrust has natural attractions such as streams, mountains and birdlife.