Louis Botha , (born Sept. 27, 1862, near Greytown, Natal [now in South Africa]—died Aug. 27, 1919, Pretoria, S.Af.), soldier and statesman who was the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa (1910–19) and a staunch advocate of a policy of reconciliation between Boers and Britons, as well as of limiting the political rights of black South Africans.
The son of a voortrekker (Boer pioneer settler of the interior), he grew up in the Orange Free State, where he received his only formal education at a German mission school. In 1884 he helped to found the New Republic in the Vryheid district in Zululand (now northern KwaZulu-Natal). There he purchased a farm and married Annie Emmett, granddaughter of an Irish patriot. When the New Republic became part of the South African Republic (Transvaal) in 1888, Botha became politically active and held a number of posts before he was elected to the Volksraad (parliament) in 1897. There he sided with the moderates against Pres. Paul Kruger’s hostile policy toward the Uitlanders (non-Boer, mostly English, settlers).
Rising tensions between Great Britain and the Boer republics led to the outbreak of the South African War in 1899. Botha rose rapidly in the Boer army to command the southern force besieging Ladysmith. While leading an ambush, he captured an armoured train; Winston Churchill was among the prisoners. When Piet Joubert, the commandant general of the Transvaal forces, died (March 1900), Botha was named to succeed him. Despite his talents as a general, he could not hold back the overwhelming numbers of British reinforcements. After the surrender of a large Boer army at Paardeberg and the fall of Pretoria, Botha organized a guerrilla campaign, but Britain eventually forced him to negotiate. He was one of the signatories at the Peace of Vereeniging (May 31,1902).
After the war, Botha returned to politics and in 1904 helped form a new party in the Transvaal, Het Volk (“The People”). When Het Volk won the Transvaal elections of February 1907, Botha became prime