Afrikaner general and leader, who supported the Afrikaner cause for independence throughout his life and advocated Dutch as the official language in South Africa. Born near Dewetsdorp, the son of Voortrekker parents, De Wet grew up on a farm in the Orange Free State. After the Basuto wars in the 1860s, he joined the republican forces in the Transvaal and fought in the first Boer War (1880–81). De Wet began his political career in 1891, when he was elected to the Volksraad (parliament) of the Transvaal. In 1899 he was elected to the Volksraad of the Orange Free State but interrupted his political duties to join the Free State forces as a minor commando leader at the outbreak of the second Boer War the same year. Rising to commander, he gained a high reputation for his successful use of guerrilla tactics against the British forces.
One of the participants at the Vereeniging peace conference in 1902, he re-entered politics, becoming the minister for agriculture for the Orange River Colony under the Crown Colony regime in 1907. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 he supported General Hertzog against Louis Botha and founded the National Party. Joining the Afrikaner rebellion in 1914, which opposed Botha's invasion of German South West Africa in support of the Allies in World War I, he fled to Bechuanaland (now Botswana), where he was captured, tried, and found guilty of high treason. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment and fined £2000. Released a year later, he retired to his farm, where he died.
From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).