Mmegi Online :: Petros - The white colonist who brought civilisation to Modipane
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Friday 24 November 2017, 17:23 pm.
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Petros - The white colonist who brought civilisation to Modipane

On the road from Tlokweng to Modipane just about 200 metres from the first house, one passes a small hill on the right.
By CHIPPA LEGODIMO
Staff Writer
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Petros - The white colonist who brought civilisation to Modipane








The hill, commonly known as Lentswe la ga Petros to both Bakgatla and Batlokwa, is just on the edge of the borderline separating Kgatleng from Tlokweng. To any passers-by this small hill is just like any other for there are no striking features on it that could otherwise make someone take a short stop to admire the place. But to some residents of Modipane the hill's significance ends with the fact that their livestock normally drinks water from a dam located at the foot of the hill.

The older generation however, view it as a place that introduced them and the village to civilisation. Though one is able to provide the exact dates it would be safe to conclude that a Boer family settled in the area some time in the 1800s.

Just behind the hill is a graveyard where some members of the family were buried. According to the labelling on the granite tombstones, the family's surname was Jourbert. There are six graves in all, two for older people and the rest are smaller ones probably for the children, each bearing the names of the deceased, their dates of birth and burial. A visit to the graveyard could evoke a sombre feeling.

The information on the granite stones, which remain intact after almost a century of neglect, indicates that the children died while they were still toddlers, just months after birth in fact.

One of them shows that one such toddler was born on May 10, 1928 and died on July 7, 1929. Another one indicates that the person lying there was born on June 24, 1920 and buried on July 5th the same year.

For Susana Maria Jourbert, her tombstone indicates she was born on June 24, 1920 and died on July 5th the same year. Petros Hohannes Jourbert was buried on June 6, 1928 while information on the

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grave of Aleta Elizabeth Jourbert says she was born on October 18th 1897 and died on December 8, 1930. Presumably Aleta was the family's oldest female member or rather Petros' wife.

Whether a certain scourge broke out around the 1920s, which killed children at such a young age is unclear. There are various stories about the kind of trade that existed between the Jourbert family and the local community and the old batter system was mixed with money economy.

Though there are no reliable sources to verify it there are reports that a 12,5 kg of maize meal used to cost a cow at Petros' shop. Items such corrugated iron sheets and cement were also purchased from the store, which gave birth to modern houses in places like Modipane, Oodi and Matebele.

However, the white settler only inherited the farm, the shops and the large herd of cattle from another Boer only known as Radimpe, according to oral history sources. Jourbert and his family were reported to be big farmers keeping both cattle and ploughing large cornfields. Clearly there were various generations of these whites who lived in the area even after Petros passed on. 

One old man Mogapi Mfolwe who used to work at the farm told Arts & Culture that though he did not know the exact origins of his former employers he believed they had come from South Africa. "I do not even know where they went from the hill.  I worked for Petros milking his dairy cattle and I would not say I was close to them or knew much about the family," Mfolwe told Arts & Culture.

Although they have remained deserted, the Jourbert family graves are an important historical monument.  Wild animals have dug them, cattle graze inside their compounds using the granite stones to relieve their itch but they still remain strong.

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