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Abraham September (Posthumous)

The Order of the Baobab in

Abraham September (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His outstanding contribution to agriculture and prosperity of Upington through the innovation of an irrigation system.
Profile of Abraham September

Abraham September was born in Calvinia in the Northern Cape before 1818, as the son of a slave and a woman named Matjie van Wyk. September became part of the Baster people of the Northern Cape frontier zone, after requesting permission from the then Special Magistrate for the Northern Border. In the aftermath of the war of 1878 to 1879, 300 families were given permission to settle in “Koranaland” north of the Orange River to defend the frontier and act as a buffer for the Cape Colony against any further attacks from the interior.

The inhabitants of the Gordonia settlement were mainly Basters, with a few white people largely related to the Basters by marriage, as well as remnants of Kora, San and some Xhosa.

September was the first person to have led out water from the Orange River at Upington. It is this precedent set by September that led to the construction of the Upington Canal. The Cape Parliamentary Papers of 1888 record that John Scott and the Dutch Reformed Church missionary CHW Schroeder, after hearing of September’s irrigation scheme, went to inspect the place. They then called a meeting and took steps to begin irrigation works on a large scale. Scott and Schroeder began the canal from the very place that September had selected.

Transformation took place in the area, with the rich soil cleared and planted, and very shortly Upington was producing all that was needed for the comfortable maintenance of people and domestic animals. Within a quarter of a century Upington became a busy hive of industry, where grain, and fruit and vegetables were grown in abundance for the supply of the graziers and others to a great distance around. The Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa (Pretoria, 1975), states that Upington owes its prosperity mainly to agriculture and the development of irrigation along the Orange River. All of this came about because of the foresight, initiative and creativity of September.

Former President Nelson Mandela once recalled the contribution September had made to the development of South Africa and summed him up as an innovator. His legacy is speckled with testimonies of service to his community, technological innovation that had an immeasurable imprint on the landscape of the Northern Cape and a profound effect on the economy of the country. The Cape Parliamentary papers record Percy Nightingale stating on 25 July 1887 that in 1882, the Committee of Management allocated a farm on the banks of the Orange River, about 12 miles east of Upington, to September.