The property was first sold in 1817 by the government to a Van Staden for 60 rijksdaalders;
Zandvlakte was the family farm of former prime minister J.G. Strijdom where he grew up. The fall of the ostrich industry in 1913 resulted in the family’s departure from the farm in 1917. J.G.Strijdom, a young farmer at the time, then attended university and became an advocate. He became prime minister of South Africa in 1954. He attended the Zandvlakte primary school on the farm, which is now known as Bosvlakte, currently the property of Robert and Patricia Van Zyl.
The Strijdoms farmed with ostriches and operated factories producing fat, soap and leather products from baboons. They also established a highly profitable chewing tobacco factory. The baboon-leather products were highly sought-after in the world. Around 1900 they established electricity on the farm through hydro power, becoming the first farm in the broader region to do so.
They also had one of the first of what was known as a solarium in South Africa, containing a bath, fit for ten men, with its own water circulation system. The men on the farm were required to be dressed in suits and ties for dinner. The facility is currently utilized as the Bath House guest cottage, with remnants of the old stone walls of the bath still visible in the current living room area. The solarium’s original roof still forms part of the building.
Legend has it that Zandvlakte was the first farm in South Africa to produce vegetable seed commercially. David Gellman, a Polish immigrant, who bought the farm in 1926, started the industry by contracting neighboring farms in the area to plant various seed varieties. Not only did it bring new hope en prosperity to the Baviaanskloof, but also changed the way in which seed was distributed in the world.
Initially, mother seed were developed in countries such as Japan, where enough capable hands were available to master the specialized job of developing the different mother seeds for the different cultivars. However, a lack of space required that the seed be multiplied elsewhere before it was commercially sold. The mother seed were send to countries such as South Africa, where enough land, sufficient labor, and long summer days enabled the multiplication thereof.
Later years Gellman Seed went into partnership with Kirschoffs to expand the possibilities and utilize more areas in South Africa for propagation.
One of the production methods required that the mother seed of two different varieties had to planted in alternative rows and then cross-pollinated by bees. It required the removal of one row’s male flowers and the other row’s female flowers each day before the sun rises and the bees become active. A partnership with bees was essential. Outsmarting the bees very often determined the success! The new cultivars could then be exported all over the world. America, for instance, had the land but not the labor to produce hybrid seed at the time. It was the only industry in South Africa which was not affected by the economic sanctions against the country during the Eighties and Nineties. The seed production link between all the different countries could not be interrupted.
The Baviaanskloof lent itself to the production of vegetable seed. Not only was it remote and isolated by the two mountains ranges, but the soil and water were of excellent quality. The fields were spread over great distances, which was perfect for the propagation of different cultivars.
The father of Reverend Allan Hendrickse established the Congregational Church on Zandvlakte in 1935. After studying at the university of Fort Hare with fellow students such as Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe and Oliver Tambo, Reverend Allan Hendrickse would later become the leader of the Labour Party in the South African government, but still held services in the Zandvlakte church a few times per year, until his death in 2005. His cottage on Zandvlakte allowed him to sporadically escape from his busy life as politician, especially when he challenged the Apartheid’s regime by swimming at a ‘whites only’ beach in Port Elizabeth. He graciously welcomed the security police at his services in the Zandvlakte church! The press, however, could never find him.
The farm, indicated as a farm village on maps, had two schools, a post office, shop, and a clinic;
Pieter & Magriet Kruger were the first people to promote and market tourism in the Baviaanskloof, since 1985, through various magazine articles, television programs and radio documentaries. It opened up a whole new industry for the district and towns in the surrounding vicinity, supporting many new job opportunities and income streams in the region. In 2013, Magriet Kruger was one of the four finalists in the Landbouweekblad‘s competition Boervrou Van Die Jaar for her role in developing the community and tourism industry in the Baviaanskloof.
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Since 1985, Pieter has established various restoration and conservation projects in the Baviaanskloof valley, promoting nature conservation and sustainable farming practices in co-operation with organizations such as Living Lands, Commonland, and Grounded, as well as government agencies, such as Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA), as well as the Working for Water program of the South African government.
A leopard research project was kicked off in 1997 on the farm, leading to the first leopards to be collard for research. The project was later expanded by the Landmark Foundation and taken to a much greater level in the neighboring regions.
2015 February 8th: Zandvlakte was proclaimed a private game reserve in parliament.