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The first office of the legal firm was situated in Krogh Street, opposite where the Post Office currently is.

Political differences may have caused the birth of a legal firm in Louis Trichardt

Date: 28 September 2018 By: Anton van Zyl

The birth of the law firm Coxwell, Steyn, Vise & Naudé a century ago may have been the result of a family disagreement over politics, which caused a young lawyer, Edward Rooth, to move to a small, developing town in the north of the country.

Edward Alexander Rooth was the son of Edward Isac Rooth, a very well-known attorney from Pretoria. Rooth (Sr) was the founding member of the law firm Rooth & Wessels, which still exists and after some temporary changes still practices under the same name. It was started in November 1887 in the Cape Colony but moved office to Pretoria soon afterwards. At the time, Rooth (Sr) was one of the most prominent legal representatives in the country. He was also well connected in political circles and spoke Dutch, English and French fluently. Prior to the start of the Anglo Boer War, he formed part of a delegation that tried to convince ZAR president Paul Kruger not to engage in military conflict with Britain.

The first office of the legal practice was situated in Krogh Street. This picture of Krogh Street was taken in the early 1920s.

In 1906, Rooth (Sr) was elected as candidate of the “Het Volk” party and represented the constituency in Pretoria West as member of the Legislative Council (upper house). After the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, the Het Volk party amalgamated with the South African Party (SAP) and Rooth formed part of the leadership corps. He won his constituency in 1915 and in 1920 and was, among other positions, the Deputy Speaker in the House of Assembly. He died in December 1928 and the eulogy at his funeral was read by General Jan Smuts. Another interesting fact is that Rooth (Sr) helped establish the Law Society of the Transvaal on 19 October 1892.

Edwards Alexander Rooth (Jr) was the oldest of his four children, born on 10 May 1892. After finishing school, he decided to pursue a career in law. He completed his articles at his father’s firm, Rooth & Wessels, and was admitted as an attorney on 30 March 1917. He and his father, however, did not share the same political views and in 1918, at the age of 26, he moved to Louis Trichardt to start his own legal practice.

The young attorney gradually got involved in politics, albeit at first at local level. In 1932, he was elected as mayor of Louis Trichardt and a year later he was the National Party candidate who won the Soutpansberg seat during the national election.

The early 1930s were marked by political alliances and in 1934 Rooth joined the United Party. In the 1938 election he stood as United Party candidate and beat the National Party’s SW Spies with 2 386 votes against 1 686. A year later, he joined Genl Hertzog when the latter resigned from the United Party, but he remained a member of the House of Assembly until 1943. He died on 19 August 1952.

 
 
 

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Anton van Zyl

Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.

 
 

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