Joseph Petrus (Piet) Jooste, the son of Hendrik Stephanus Jooste, was born into a farming family in the Colesberg District, Cape Colony, on 23 February 1877. He was educated at Colesberg College.
In 1895 Jooste left the Cape Colony for the Rand and was initially employed as a teacher. He subsequently worked in a Johannesburg Attorney's office and at the time of the outbreak of the Boer War he was employed by the Netherlands Bank in Johannesburg.
After his arrival on the Rand, Jooste joined the Johannesburg Vrijwilliger Corps and took part in the 1898 Swaziland Expedition. Despite his youth, his leadership potential was recognised, and he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the 2de Compagnie, as confirmed on the nominal roll prepared by the Commandant of the Corps, LtCol. S.H. van Diggelen. Jooste appears in his Vrijwilliger Corps uniform in a group photograph on page 10 of Harm Oost's book “Wie is die Skuldiges”.
At the start of the Boer War Jooste served in the Johannesburg Commando but towards the middle of 1900 he was selected to join the staff of General Louis Botha. He served continuously on General Botha's staff until the end of the war, with the exception of a period towards the end of 1900, when he was left in Nylstroom due to sickness. At the conclusion of hostilities he had achieved the rank of Major and was General Botha's Chief of Staff and also Chief of his Bodyguard.
Piet Jooste took part in many well-known Boer War battles, including Donkerhoek (Diamond Hill), Dalmanutha, Lake Chrissie and Bakenlaagte. In a 1939 article in Die Huisgenoot, Evert Dommisse recalled Jooste's role in the events that preceded the battle of Bakenlaagte.
After General Botha's return from the abortive invasion of Natal in October 1901, his headquarters was established on the farm Roodepoort, four miles south of Ermelo. During the second week of October General Botha instructed two members of his staff, Jooste and Fred Siemssen to seek out the enemy and report back with their whereabouts. The two men set off in a westerly direction and travelled some 60 miles without encountering the enemy.
Near Trichardtsfontein they came across a recently strung telegraph line, and Jooste, who was also a field telegraphist, climbed up a telegraph pole and tapped the line with his vibrator. In this way he was able to intercept a message sent by Col. Benson at Middelburg to Lord Kitchener at Standerton. The message advised Kitchener that Benson was ready to move from Middelburg to the Highveld with a force of 2 200 men and a large convoy, and that he intended to do so on 20 October.
Jooste and Siemssen immediately returned to General Botha's headquarters to report this information. General Botha decided to deploy forces to intercept the British Column and the resulting engagement occurred at Bakenlaagte on 30 October 1901 where the Boer forces won decisively. The British lost some 90 men killed in action / died of wounds (including Col. Benson himself) with a further150 wounded: arguably a direct result of Jooste’s interception of the vital message!
In June 1902 Jooste laid down arms with the Wakkerstroom Commando. On this occasion General Botha was present and revealed his future strategy with regard to politics in the Transvaal. Thereafter questions were invited and Jooste put the following question to General Botha: "We are now still Republican citizens. Tomorrow at 11.00am we will be British subjects. Is this because I have not done my duty and therefore must become a British subject?"
General Botha: "You have done your duty. There was never a day so hot or a night so cold that you did not do what I ordered you to do."
Jooste: "Is the tragedy which is now facing the burgers the reward for the sense of duty which they have shown?"
General Botha: "No. But that day when you and I, through our actions, with these heartbroken burgers and those jubilant English, can create a South African nation within a united South Africa, then you and I will be rewarded for our sacrifices."
These words impressed Jooste as if they had been inspired by God and formed the basis of his lifelong political belief and efforts.
As Boer Officer, Jooste was awarded the Dekoratie Voor Trouwe Dienst (D.T.D.), specifically for special services carrying messages and despatches from General Botha to President Steyn and Generals de la Rey and de Wet between November 1901 and January 1902. Jooste was present at numerous actions and saw service mainly in the Transvaal (in addition to Bakenlaagte also Donkerhoek/Diamond Hill, Spieshoek/Blood River Poort, Dalmanutha and Lake Chrissie) but also in the Cape Colony and Orange Free State.
After the war Jooste was again employed by the Netherlands Bank. In 1903 he married Sarah van Aswegen of Burghersdorp, Cape Colony, and the couple had three children, Joseph, Hendrina and Magdalena.
In October 1906 he was asked to serve as General Secretary of the "Het Volk" Party by General Botha, who assumed office as Prime Minister of the Transvaal in 1907. Jooste then began a long association with political affairs which lasted until his death.
With the first general election for the Union House of Assembly on 1 October 1910, Jooste stood in Barberton as candidate of the government party, which became known as the South African Party in November 1911. He was elected but resigned a few days later out of loyalty to the Party to enable Major H.C. Hull to enter Parliament. Major Hull had been defeated in the election and General Botha wanted to appoint Hull to his first Union Cabinet as Minister of Finance.
In 1911 Jooste became the first General Secretary of the South African Party as well as Organizing Secretary of the Party in the Transvaal and filled the latter post until 1919.
South Africa, like other dominions, entered the First World War through London’s declaration of hostilities against Germany on 4 August 1914. On 30 September 1914 Jooste joined the General Headquarters Staff, S.A. Service Corps with the rank of Major.
Jooste had enjoyed a warm and intimate relationship with General Botha after the Boer War and he was regarded as a friend and trusted confidant of Botha. During the Rebellion, in the latter part of 1914, when General Botha replaced General Beyers as Commandant-General, Botha appointed Jooste as his Military Secretary and also as Chief of Staff of the Commandos. As such, Jooste was at the very centre of events, and his part in the dramatic first days of the Rebellion is discussed by Harm Oost in “Wie is die Skuldiges”, p229 - 232.
On 11 October 1914, Jooste, as instructed by Generals Botha and Smuts, telegraphically called up the various Commandos which were to deal with the Rebellion. On the evening of Monday 26 October 1914 the energetic Jooste had assembled the Commandos with horses and equipment at the Pretoria Station. Jooste thereafter reported to General Botha, who was in a special railway carriage, that everything was ready and requested departure instructions.
Harm Oost recorded General Botha's reaction as follows: The eyes of the new Commandant-General were on his old adjutant. They were full of tears, which ran down his cheeks, and he said: "Lubbe (the name with which he always addressed Jooste), you and I have made many journeys in the world, but never one which was as sad as this one. Why must my friend Christiaan Beyers place me in the unfortunate position that I must go to war against him?" Thereafter he gave the order: "We will leave when it becomes dark. There must be no lights in or on the train. We will travel to Rustenburg." And so began a war, burger against burger, which threatened to become a civil war.
On 1 December 1914, Jooste received and conveyed the news of General de Wet's capture to General Botha while they were at Bethlehem in General Botha's special railway carriage. Jooste witnessed General Botha's unexpected reaction. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he said: "Is it not terrible that a friend places me in the position wherein De Wet now places me?", to which Jooste responded "but how?" General Botha replied: "I am the head of the government, and I must punish him for what he has done. This is a bitter thing which has been placed on me."
Jooste subsequently saw service in German South West Africa and received a Mention in Despatches (L.G. 20th August 1918): "As Staff Officer to Commando Brigades, has ably carried out the onerous task of supervising equipment and embarkation of the Mounted Brigades". He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his services during the campaign (L.G. 22nd August 1918).
Upon the conclusion of hostilities, Jooste returned to his political work, and from 1925 to 1933 he served as chairman of the South African Party in the Transvaal. During the years 1916 to 1928, he was a member of the Provincial Council for Barberton, and served on the Executive Committee from 1923 to 1928. Jooste also had a long involvement with the Transvaal Debating Society's Union, including being chairman for several years.
In January 1930 Jooste was elected to Parliament from the Bethal constituency, and served in Parliament until the end of 1938. During this period he also received the 1937 Coronation Medal.
With the coalition between the National Party and the South African Party in 1934, Jooste became the first chairman of the United South African National Party (the United Party) in the Transvaal, and served in this capacity until he retired from politics on 31 December 1938.
In 1939 Jooste was appointed chairman of the Diamond Control Board.
Jooste was always an active community participant, and during his lengthy residence in Pretoria he served in many spheres, amongst others as a member of the City Council, and as an active member of the N.G. Kerk. In addition to this, he gave his atten¬tion to journalism, and was an enthusiastic sportsman.
Throughout his long political career Jooste worked with indefatigable zeal, and although not a prominent figure, he rendered valuable service to his party over a long period, and was widely respected for his loyalty and integrity.
Joseph Petrus Jooste died in Pretoria on 29th January 1956 and was buried in the Rebecca Street Cemetery in Pretoria.
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