Nearly two years had passed by since the negotiations for peace between Lord Roberts and L. Botha and between Sir Redvers Buller and C. Botha had fallen through shortly before the battle of Diamond Hill. In February, 1901, another conference for peace was held at Middelburg in the Transvaal between Lord Kitchener and L. Botha, who after parleying for a fortnight, abruptly broke off the negotiations. If, as seems probable, he was led to adopt that course by the news of the escape of De Wet from the Cape Colony, a historical parallel may be found in the sudden dissolution of the Congress of Vienna, when the courier brought the news of Napoleon's escape from Elba.
In January, 1902, an offer made by the Government of the Netherlands to mediate between the combatants was declined by the British Government. The incident of the offer was, however, communicated to the Transvaal Government, which was then lying north of Balmoral, and which asked for and received permission to discuss proposals for peace with the Free State Government at Kroonstad. Schalk Burger, the Acting President of the Transvaal, arrived at Kroonstad on March 22. Steyn, who was with Delarey, was sent for; De Wet was searched for, and for the first time found; and the allied Governments, the chief members of which were, on the one side, Schalk Burger and Delarey, and on the other De Wet and Steyn, met in conference on April 9 at Klerksdorp, which was, at Steyn's suggestion, chosen as a more convenient place of meeting than Kroonstad.
It was soon decided to open negotiations with Lord Kitchener, at whose invitation the Governments proceeded to Pretoria, where they met him and Lord Milner. The Boer proposals, which postulated the continued independent existence of the two shattered Republics, were rejected; it seemed that the war must be fought to a still bitterer end. Finally, it was agreed that the negotiations should be adjourned for a month, in order to allow the feelings of the burghers at large to be ascertained, and reported at a Convention to be held at Vereeniging on May 15. In the meantime the military operations were to be continued, subject to the permission to be given to the Boer leaders to go freely among and consult their people.
When the Convention assembled it was found that while the Transvaal was generally in favour of submission, the Orange River Colony was still implacable. A compromise was effected between them, and the heads of a treaty, of which the chief clause ensured a qualified independence to the late Republics, under the guise of British Protectorates, were drawn up by J.C. Smuts, who had come from Ookiep to resume his former profession and to act as legal adviser to his colleagues. It was submitted to Lord Kitchener at Pretoria, who, as the delegates might have foreseen, refused to consider it and handed to their counsel Smuts a document, in which the Boer leaders were required, on their own behalf as well as on their followers' behalf, to acknowledge themselves as British subjects.
The negotiations at Pretoria were conducted by a deputation from the Vereeniging Convention: Delarey, Botha, Smuts, De Wet, and Hertzog. These did their best, and even obtained some verbal changes of phraseology which made Lord Kitchener's terms less unpalatable. The question of British nationality was waived for the moment to allow of the other stipulations of the document being discussed; and the general subject was referred to a minor convention consisting of Lord Milner and his legal adviser on one side, and of Smuts and Hertzog on the other.
A proposal for a final settlement was drawn up, which, with certain alterations insisted on by the Colonial Office, was presented by Lord Kitchener as his ultimatum, to be accepted within three days by the Vereeniging Convention. Botha and his colleagues returned to Vereeniging and laid it before the delegates. Steyn refused to entertain it and immediately resigned his titular office of President of the Orange Free State; De Wet, implacable almost to the last, protested against its terms. The hopelessness of the Boer cause in South Africa was, however, manifest. Even De Wet yielded, and voted with the majority in favour of accepting the British terms of peace.
On May 31, 1902, the Treaty of Vereeniging brought to an end the War of 960 days.