These were camps where Boer women, children and men unfit for service were herded together by the British army authorities during the South African War. Many of these people had become homeless as a result of the destructive 'scorched earth' tactics which the British army adopted in the Transvaal and Orange Free State after the last months of 1900 in order to deprive the Boer commandos of the means of subsistence and thus force them to surrender. Attempts had first been made to burden the combatant burghers with these dependents in the hope of breaking the morale of the commandos. When this proved unsuccessful, it was decided to house the non-combatants in camps. The first two of these were established, as a result of a military notice of 22 Sept. 1900, to protect the families of burghers who had surrendered voluntarily. As the families of combatant burghers were also driven into these camps, they ceased to be 'refugee' camps and acquired the name of 'concentration' camps, as did the other camps established later. Eventually there were 50 of them, in which about 136,000 people were interned. So inefficiently were they organised and managed that they soon became notorious throughout the world.
(Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa 1971 Vol 3:378-9)