Marthinus Wessel Pretorius

Marthinus Wessel Pretorius (17 September 1819 – 19 May 1901) was a South African political leader. An Afrikaner (or "Boer"), he helped establish the South African Republic (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek or ZAR; also referred to as Transvaal), was the first president of the ZAR, and also compiled its constitution.[1]

Marthinus Wessel Pretorius
State President MW Pretorius
Member of the Triumvirate
In office
8 August 1881 – 9 May 1883
Serving with Paul Kruger and Piet Joubert
Preceded byThe Viscount Wolseley
As Governor of the Transvaal
Succeeded byPaul Kruger
As President of the South African Republic
President of the South African Republic
In office
22 October 1866 – 20 November 1871
Preceded byWillem Cornelis Janse van Renseburg
Succeeded byDaniel Jacobus Erasmus
President of the Executive Council of the South African Republic
In office
6 January 1857[1] – 15 September 1860
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJohannes Hermanus Grobler
In office
10 May 1864 – 22 October 1866
Preceded byWillem Cornelis Janse van Rensburg
As Acting President
Succeeded byDaniël Jacobus Erasmus
As Acting President
State President of the Orange Free State
In office
8 February 1860 – 20 June 1863
Preceded byJacobus Nicolaas Boshoff
Succeeded byJohannes Brand
Personal details
Marthinus Wessel Pretorius

(1819-09-17)17 September 1819
Graaff Reinet, Cape Colony
Died19 May 1901(1901-05-19) (aged 81)
Potchefstroom, South African Republic
Resting placePotchefstroom, North West, South Africa
Military service
Allegiance South African Republic
 Orange Free State
Voortrekker Flag.svg Voortrekkers
RankCommandant General
CommandsTransvaal Commandos

He was born in Cape Colony, then accompanied his father, the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius in the migration to the interior. After the death of his father in 1853, he was appointed to succeed him as Commandant-General of the Boer settlers around the city of Potchefstroom and moved from his farm, Kalkheuwel, near Broederstroom, to Potchefstroom. He was Commandant-General of Potchefstroom from 1853 through 1856.

Political officesEdit

In 1857, the nascent ZAR elected Pretorius as its first President. However, in 1859, in an effort to create closer bonds with the Orange Free State, he also became State President of the Orange Free State. This created tension in the ZAR, and in 1860, he resigned as President of the ZAR. After serving as President of the Orange Free State until 1863, Pretorius was re-elected President of the ZAR in 1864, and served a second term until 1871.[1] Pretorius also served as joint head of state (in the "triumvirate") between 1880 and 1883.[1]

He died on 19 May 1901 at Potchefstroom.[1]

Pretorius was an important South African Freemason.[2]

Founding of the city of PretoriaEdit

Statue of Marthinus Wessel Pretorius in Pretoria

In an endeavour to establish a new town, he bought two farms named Elandspoort and Daspoort between 1854 and 1855, on which he founded the city of Pretoria in 1855.

Ds. van der Hoff originally named the first church congregation in this area Pretoria Philadelphia (Pretorius Friendship), in honour of Pretorius' father. Later, the town took on the shortened name of Pretoria.

Five years later the capital of the ZAR was moved from Potchefstroom to Pretoria.


  1. ^ a b c d e Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pretorius § Marthinus Pretorius" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 310–311.
  2. ^ Tucker, M. (1 August 2016). "The (secret) story that started with Piet Retief". Zoutpanberger newspaper. Retrieved 17 September 2018.