Louis Botha and John X Merriman
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Louis Botha and John X Merriman

Following the protracted war between the two republics and the British Empire, first military then civil administration of the postal system in Transvaal colony was modelled on British practice in which English took over from Dutch as the language employed throughout the Post Office. This transformation was gradual as British Army control extended via the railways, re-opening of post offices and the introduction of distinctive colonial stamps for postal and fiscal use.

By 1905 Transvaal was judged ready for self-government by the Imperial parliament, with the aim of joining the other former republic and the two self governing British colonies in a unitary state or union. Transvaal became one of the four provinces of this Union in 1910. Cape Town became the site of the national parliament and of the new General Post Office, but the administration of the country was centred in Pretoria, which became the capital. Finances including the management of stamp production and distribution was quickly centralised in Pretoria’s government offices.

Transvaal had weathered economic vicissitudes better than had the coastal colonies, based on the revival of gold mining. Of the two rivals for the post of Prime Minister Botha had wider support whereas Merriman feared that the Union would be launched on Cape and not on Transvaal lines. The General Post Office in Cape Town was the seat of the senior Postmaster-General W.T.Hoal. In 1911 after the Transvaal’s classical design had been accepted of the Union stamp, a public competition to design a replacement for the Edward VII definitive stamps was organised by the GPO, Cape Town.

Despite there being winners, the Union government instead chose a formal design with King George V’s profile to be printed by De La Rue in London.

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