If you drive out of Graaff-Reinet on the Murraysburg road toward the Valley of Desolation, you may notice a strange looking memorial on the left-hand side near the Nqweba Dam. Monuments are normally big marble or stone memorials and statues with a bronze plaque but this one is anything but. The Gideon Scheepers Memorial is made up of three rocks from the vicinity supporting a stainless steel needle, symbolising the spirit of hope and faith in God. The largest rock represents the steadfastness of the then-young Afrikaner nation while the two tilted boulders it supports symbolise this nation – suppressed but not fallen. A fourth boulder alongside bears the inscription.
But who was Gideon Scheepers and why is there a memorial for him in this spot? During the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902) Gideon Scheepers formed his own commando which operated in the Cape Midlands. He was captured by British troops and charges of alleged war crimes were laid against him. At the court hearings in Graaff-Reinet he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Scheepers was executed by firing squad in the dry river bed of the Sundays River in an area now covered by the Nqweba Dam.
Scheepers was regarded by many Afrikaners as a hero of the day and the memorial was erected by the Graaff-Reinet Afrikaans Cultural Society. Standing at the site and looking across the dam on the other side of the road one can’t but realise how appropriate the spot is for the memorial. What I realised, even more, is that it’s not always necessary to spend millions on erecting a monument to something or someone. It’s not about how much you spend but, like they say, “it’s the thought that counts”.