Botha, Louis (bōˈtə) [key], 1862–1919, South African soldier and statesman. A Boer (Afrikaner), he participated in the founding (1884) of the New Republic, which joined (1888) the Transvaal. Although Botha had little previous military experience, he brilliantly commanded Boer troops in the South African War. He besieged the British at Ladysmith and defeated their forces at Colenso. In 1900 he succeeded General Joubert as commander of the Transvaal army and led its remnants in guerrilla fighting. After the war (1902) he favored cooperation with the British. Botha was (1907–10) premier of the Transvaal. As the leader of the United South African, or Unionist, party he was prime minister of the Union of South Africa from its organization (1910) until his death, and he was ably assisted by Jan Christiaan Smuts. In World War I, Botha declared South Africa a belligerent on the side of the Allies. He suppressed a Boer revolt and in 1915 led the forces that conquered the German colony of South West Africa.
See biography by E. Buxton (1924); B. Williams, Botha, Smuts, and South Africa (1946); N. G. Garson, Louis Botha or John X. Merriman (1969).
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