Vereeniging Estates offered to supply Johannesburg with water from the Vaal River, but before an agreement could be concluded the Anglo-Boer War had begun and the scheme was shelved.
Community services and public amenities were pathetically wanting in Vereeniging in the years immediately before the war, and the effects on the population's general health were drastic. Typhoid was endemic because the attitude towards sanitation was one of complete indifference. The death rate from enteric fever alone was appallingly high and at one time no less than half the population was down with the disease. The company appointed a medical officer and established a hospital on the Bedworth mine to try and improve the dreadful conditions which, nevertheless, were to persist throughout the Boer War.
In the year 1896, the village shopkeepers conducted business in eight tin shanties, one of which belonged to B. Patlansky and another to Maurice Katzen, the owner of the Grand Hotel, which with the old Royal, unpretentiously
occupied their present sites. Grass grew three feet thick along the tracks that were the streets. When the Transvaal was granted independence in 1881 the only reservation made was that no treaty with a foreign power would be effective without prior British approval. This proviso, Article IV of the London Convention, was used by Chamberlain and Milner in 1898, the year before the outbreak of the Boer War, to assert the Empire's right to interfere in the Republic's internal affairs on behalf of the British subjects living in Johannesburg on the grounds that British suzerainty over the Transvaal had not been totally relinquished. The conflict engendered by this action led to the Anglo-Boer War with which Vereeniging would be directly involved both at the opening of hostilities and at the close three years later.
Immediately before war was declared on October 11,1899 the mining houses and banks took measures to export accumulated gold to the Cape Colony, and in one known incident a south-bound train was stopped at Vereeniging in the belief that it carried a cache of the precious metal. It was a dark night, the night of October 2, and the only illumination on the station glowed from dim oil-lamps in the coaches.
Armed with a revolver, a Republican customs official with a bull's-eye lantern held high, read a long proclamation in High Dutch to the intimidated guard. Aboard the mail-train, there were 117 cases of gold, camouflaged as ammunition boxes, and these, according to the warrant, were to be removed by order of the Attorney-General of the South African Republic, Jan Christiaan Smuts. The guard was threatened that if he refused to surrender the gold the train would be blown up and he himself killed or captured. The bewildered guard yielded and the customs official helped by a handful of men who had gathered at the station in curiosity, hauled the gold from the van onto the otherwise deserted platform. The value of the gold would be calculated in millions of rand today; and legend has it that the confiscated bars of gold were used by the Boers to finance the war against the British.