compete the Cape Government reduced rates on certain classes of goods over its system in the south.
To counter this move the N.Z.A.S.M. raised its rates over the Vereeniging-Johannesburg section to a level which kept the overall Cape route rate exactly what it was before. The C.G.R. retaliated by establishing goods yards near Bedworth farm at the end of the spur line from Viljoensdrift Station that passed by Cornelia Colliery. There the railway trucks were off-loaded and the goods reloaded into waiting ox-wagons and after clearing the customs house on the Transvaal bank at Viljoensdrift, goods were conveyed to the Reef at a rate much lower than the high tariff the N.Z.A.S.M. charged over this section. It was during this period that the transport rider made a brief re-appearance.
Kruger countered this move by closing the drifts as ports of entry into the Transvaal. His proclamation applied to goods imported from overseas only and not to goods produced in the Cape Colony and the Free State.
Merchants on the Rand as well as the Cape Railways were severely hit and considerable hostile feelings were engendered both in the Free State and the Cape Colony. The weight of opinion was against Kruger.
Behind the scene, Britain and Rhodes' Cape Government planned intervention, contending that the 'closing of the drifts' was an infringement of an article of the London Convention of
1884. Presented with an ultimatum, Kruger rescinded the proclamation, then promptly he had a customs house erected in Vereeniging to which all wagons had to proceed for clearance. The building was set back from Voortrekker Street and situated north of Kings Oval Park. Inside the wood and iron building, and on both sides running parallel with its length, were platforms between which the wagons passed. An exasperating clearance procedure was adopted. Each wagon was compelled to off-load its freight completely for a meticulous examination conducted at the leisure of the officials and it was not long before the wagon trail north, between Voortrekker and Leslie Streets, was about 300 yards in width.
Meanwhile the Transvaal and the Free State maintained customs officers and police on their respective banks of the river, but the presence of these officials did not deter frequent smuggling of foodstuffs, liquor and jewellery across the river into the Transvaal where the import duty was the highest of all the territories in South Africa.
On one occasion, a customs officer carelessly handling a contraband revolver shot and wounded Fanny Barnato, wife of the famous Barney, the diamond tycoon of Kimberley. It was undoubtedly an accident, but press reports managed to imply that there was a sinister motive behind the incident. It was a time when antipathy between the "uit-landers" (foreigners) and the Boer administration was increasing. The considerable freedom the press enjoyed allowed strong anti- and pro-Government views to be expressed. The Reform Committee set up in Johannesburg aimed at bringing about a reconstituted Volksraad to settle the uitlander's grievances; grievances which led to the Jameson Raid and finally the Anglo-Boer War. The committee was strongly supported by the mining houses; however those with which Barnato was associated did not support the Reform Committee.