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Door to door from 1844: Oscar Trial

More than a century before paralympian Oscar Pistorius appeared in court on a murder charge, a founder member of the Pistorius clan in South Africa earned himself a lesser degree of infamy in circumstances also involving a wooden door.

In 1844, Carel August Pistorius, one of five brothers who came out from Germany, bought land and built a farmhouse on the south bank of the Vaal River. He called it Maccauvlei.

The farm took its name from the large flocks of spur-winged geese — in Afrikaans, wildemakoue — that frequented the nearby wetlands.

According to the website of the Maccauvlei Golf Club, located across the river from present-day Vereeniging, Carel Pistorius’s fierce misogyny and obdurate nature resulted in his being dubbed “Kwaai Angus” (Angry Angus) by his neighbours.

“This formidable character had a particular mistrust of women and cheques. His mistrust of women evinced by the fact that into his heavy wooden front door were carved the words ‘Women Deceiveth Ever’.”

Exactly 170 years later, Oscar Pistorius — who may be descended from one of Carel’s four brothers — stood in the dock of the Pretoria High Court, defending himself against a murder charge after shooting through the wooden toilet door in his Pretoria townhouse.

The incident, which took place in the early hours of February 14 last year, resulted in the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who was standing behind the door when Pistorius fired four bullets into it.

Relatively little is known about Carel Pistorius, though his nickname lives on in the region at the Maccauvlei-on-Vaal Country Club and Conference Centre, which has a Kwaai Angus bar.

It is known he farmed sheep and planted many oak trees, and that he married and had six sons.

It is further recorded that he sold Maccauvlei to Sammy Marks in 1881, after 15 days of protracted negotiation involving the Randlord and his lawyer. Test diggings at Maccauvlei had revealed there were valuable coal deposits beneath the farm.

According to the golf club website: “[Pistorius] displayed a remarkable reticence to sell his homestead, which he intended to leave to his six sons.

“For 15 days, Marks and [his attorney, John] Fraser camped in a tent under the shade of some of the now substantial oak trees on the property, and negotiations were renewed daily with Pistorius.”

But Kwaai Angus held out.

Fraser then advised Marks to offer him a sum of money large enough to buy a farm for each of his sons, and the finally agreed-to price was 15,500 pounds, provided this was “paid in gold coins, no cheques”.

This was a huge sum to pay for a farm which at the time he bought it from the Free State government cost 400 pounds.

Parts of the old farmhouse Pistorius built back in 1844 may still exist, though the door is long gone.

“The original house was [on our property],” manager of the Maccauvlei-on-Vaal Lodge and Conference Centre, Lizinda Corbett, told Sapa.

“There are old houses here, and some people think one of them may be his, but nothing is proven.”

Corbett confirmed the lodge had a Kwaai Angus bar, but it contained no portrait or photograph of its namesake. The adjacent Maccauvlei Golf Club once formed part of Pistorius’s old farm.

According to local genealogy websites, many if not most members of the extended Pistorius family in South Africa today are descended from one or other of the five Pistorius brothers who arrived in the country in 1838.

– Sapa

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