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UPDATED: 22/11/2023

22 November 1874, Police Constable Sam kills two prisoners.
22 November 1888, Foundation stone of the Masonic Temple in Dutoitspan Road laid.
22 November 1899, Shells land in the African refugee camp in the racecourse.
22 November 1976, Harry Oppenheimer opens the housing scheme for African miners.
22 November 1984, BIFSA National Conference in Kimberley.

Policeman turns murderer

The tale of the Zulu policeman turned murderer began in earnest when he walked into the Kimberley police camp on Tuesday, 24 November 1874 with quite a story. Zulu Constable Pieter Sam told the Clerk of Peace, Mr Scholtz, that he had shot dead two escaped convicts outside Kimberley, but Scholtz had doubts as to the truth of the statement and had Sam placed under arrest after finding two bodies in the veld outside Kimberley. The two dead men, Songanie (also spelt Zangani) and Tom, had both been shot, but the third prisoner, John Papazo, was missing. Pieter Sam had said that he had shot at him but did not know if he had hit him.

Some time later, the Superintendent of the Convict camp at Fourteen Streams, James Smith, arrived in Kimberley to question Sam, and to give his version of events that had happened, as Sam had been a constable in the police station at Fourteen Streams. Smith’s statement read that on Sunday 22 November, Smith saw Constable Sam, together with three convicts – Songanie, Tom, and John Papazo. At two o’clock that same afternoon, so said Smith, Sam was seen absconding from the station with the three prisoners, this being witnessed by two policemen, and had taken his blanket, Snider rifle and 11 rounds of ammunition. At this stage the charge was only desertion and Smith sent a posse of policemen after the group but they returned empty handed.

A witness, not named in the reports, stated that the three convicts had spoken about a box of money concealed between Kimberley town and the racecourse, and that Pieter Sam knew about this box. The Zulu constable had taken the three prisoners, who Sam himself had personally selected, down from the convict camp at Fourteen Streams to the nearby Vaal river to collect water, and they had crossed the river and made their way to Kimberley some seventy kilometres away. According to Sam the prisoners had then attempted to escape and he had shot dead two but one had made his getaway.

It transpired later that the missing convict, John Papazo, was reputedly the brother of Constable Pieter Sam and it was suspected that the group had found the tin of money, and that the two brothers had killed Songanie and Tom, while Papazo had made good his escape. Why Sam had come into the Kimberley camp no-one would ever know. Perhaps it was to clear his name, and indeed, he did say in his defence that after the three convicts had escaped from Fourteen Streams, he had followed their spoor to Kimberley, shot two dead near the Powder Magazine – Songanie at five yards and Tom at six yards – as they had been unwilling to be re-arrested. (Here, Scholtz stated that the murdered men were some five and eleven yards away from where Sam had fired at them). Sam told the court that he had lost three prisoners once before and on this occasion had been too scared to tell Superintendent Smith but instead chased after the convicts to recapture them, but that the chase had ended in the killing. The court did not agree with Constable Sam’s version of events and he was convicted on two counts of murder and sentenced to death. The execution was carried out on Tuesday 25 May in the Kimberley gaol on Transvaal Road, nearly six months later. The reason for the delay was that the scaffold had to be brought into Kimberley from Klipdrift (Barkly West), and that there was difficulty in finding a hangman. During the long delay between verdict and execution Sam tried to commit suicide but was thwarted by the gaoler on duty.

The prisoner knew that he had no chance of a reprieve and at 6am on the morning of his execution, he was visited by two African missionaries, the Reverends Gwayi Tyamzashe and Koshoop. He made a full confession to the two ministers and said that his sentence was just. At 6.40am the Gaoler handed him over to the Sheriff and the procession marched slowly to the gallows. Former Constable Sam said goodbye to all present, and thanked the prison officials for all their kindness during his stay in jail. At the foot of the gallows Sam knelt in prayer with the ministers, and then shook hands with the Reverend Gwayi after he had been escorted on to the “drop”. The hangman then proceeded with the execution.

The early hour of the execution ensured that there were very few spectators on the tailings and roof tops around the prison with its low walls, but “the few people outside could command a view of the prisoner when he was on the scaffold.”

Thus Pieter Sam was the first convicted murderer to hang in Kimberley and the second to be executed in the Griqualand West magisterial region.

But what of John Papazo?

Was he the brother of Sam? Did he make good his escape and did he have the money in the box? Did Sam kill Papazo elsewhere and hide the money? Perhaps there was no hidden box of money after all, and Sam had shot the men for lying, and the reason he came into the Kimberley camp was merely an amateurish attempt to get his job back?

We will never know.

UPDATED: 22/11/2022

22 November 1874, Police Constable Sam kills two prisoners.
22 November 1888, Foundation stone of the Masonic Temple in Dutoitspan Road laid.
22 November 1899, Shells land in the Black refugee camp in the racecourse.
22 November 1976, Harry Oppenheimer opens the housing scheme for Black miners.
22 November 1984, BIFSA National Conference in Kimberley.

The Black refugees during the Siege

There were two types of black refugees during the siege of Kimberley, those who came into town from farms, villages and other towns, and who were genuine refugees; and then there were the internal refugees, those forced by either military or civil authorities to leave their homes for various reasons.


Pictured is a map of the siege defence showing the race course.

Many hundred refugees came into Kimberley in the ten weeks prior to the war, and on 13 October 1899, the night before the siege began, some 400 were housed in the Town Hall on Market Square. Many blacks living in Numbers 1, 3 and 4 Locations within the municipal limits were removed to the centre of the horse racecourse in the south-east.

Although the Blacks in No 2 Location were able to stay in their homes, many came into town and were housed at the Salvation Army Barracks and the Jubilee Hall. Nearly 7000 people left Kimberley after the siege, mostly to Cape Town. Of the 3623 free railway passes issued to destitute residents and refugees on 7 March 1900, two thirds were blacks, mostly Indians and the so-called coloureds.


Kimberley Town Hall

The horse racing track in 1899 was over the road from where the Diamond Pavilion mall is today. Pictured is a map of the siege defence showing the race course and the Town hall in 1899 with black refugees gathered.

UPDATED: 22/11/2021

22 November 1874, Police Constable Sam kills two prisoners.
22 November 1888, Foundation stone of the Masonic Temple in Dutoitspan Road laid.
22 November 1899, Shells land in the African refugee camp in the racecourse.
22 November 1976, Harry Oppenheimer opens the housing scheme for African miners.
22 November 1984, BIFSA National Conference in Kimberley.

Gerald Hedley Rowles (pictured) was elected President of the Kimberley Master Builders Association in 1969 after being a member for five years and Vice President for two. It would be the beginning of a 13 years spell as President, ending in 1981, and culminating in him being elected the President of BIFSA, serving in that position for the years 1983 and 1984. At that same AGM in 1969 a former long serving President of the association, Eric Egerer – President from 1950 to 1959 – was elected an honorary life member. He had been a member of the association for 21 years.


Gerald Hedley Rowles

Hedley Rowles was one of the Kimberley building personalities of the century. Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) on 10 June 1917, he was educated in Kimberley initially and then at a trade school in King Williamstown. At the age of 19 he was a qualified tradesman and was teaching building skills at various colleges. World War II interrupted his career and he joined the SA Engineering Corps, and later the 22nd Battalion SA Coastal Corps. After the war he served as Chairman of the Sappers Association from 1965 until 1987.

After a period working with the government he moved to Welkom, and in 1962 during a building depression, moved to Kimberley when his firm, James Thompson Ltd, opened a branch. The first contract awarded to the firm was that of the flyover bridge on the Transvaal Road in 1963 and a year later they were awarded a contract to build 56 homes in Robsonvale and the workshops at the Northern Cape Technical College. When Lewis Construction, James Thompson Ltd and Anglo-American amalgamated to form LTA Construction, Rowles was appointed a Director of the OFS/Northern Cape branch. Despite his retirement from many committees he was still serving as Chairman of the Kimberley Industrial Council for the Building Industry in 1987.

During his period with LTA Construction, Rowles was responsible for the erection of Harry Oppenheimer House, the TrustBank building, Sanlam Centre, the Telephone Exchange and Flaxley House.

Honour came in Kimberley’s direction when for the first time in the history of the association a member was elected to a top position in BIFSA, that of National Vice President, and Rowles was congratulated by the entire local committee at the monthly meeting in November 1981. At the same meeting it was decided to request that Congress meet again in Kimberley in 1984, as it would be indeed fitting for a Kimberley person to be in the chair during his last year in high office.

Rowles stepped down as President in March 1982 because of his BIFSA election – this after 13 years at the helm and Jan Naborn was duly elected. Lance Mowbray, in paying tribute to Rowles, said that “he had been a tower of strength…was efficient and meticulous, and never shirked any duty he was called upon to undertake…has busied himself in almost every aspect of this Association’s involvement in the industry and he lays down his high office with us, only to accept greater honours and duties for the Industry on a national basis…” He would be elected an Honorary Life Member of the association on 19 July 1982.

On 26 August 1982 the inaugural meeting of the regional Master Builders’ Association – known as the Central Region Master Builders’ and Allied Trades Association – took place in Kimberley. It consisted of the Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Kroonstad and Goldfields MBA’s, Kimberley being represented by Hedley Rowles and Jan Naborn.

Rowles was elevated to the highest office in the Building Industry – that of National President of BIFSA – when he was elected in October 1983. Local president Jan Naborn commented that it was a great achievement and an honour for the Kimberley MBA. In 1984 and for the sake of continuity in office bearers, the post Vice President became a two fold position, Senior Vice President and Junior Vice President, the first junior being Vic Smailes, a man set to follow Rowles’ path to the Presidency of BIFSA.

The secretary, Lance Mowbray, reported that the BIFSA National Congress in Kimberley from 22 to 26 November 1984 had from all appearances and information been a great success. Hedley Rowles, as immediate Past President of BIFSA, congratulated the Association on the Congress and also thanked them for giving him the opportunity of achieving such high office.

Hedley Rowles died in the Somerset West region on 21 September 2009 aged 92 years.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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