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South Africa by  Ian D. Colvin


 

 

MORE KAFIR WARS

[244] THE desert blossomed as the rose. In the kloofs and valleys of the Zuurveld, where for years only wandering tribes of Bushmen and Kafirs and trekking Boers had pastured their cattle, the colonist's home appeared, its walls of whitewashed clay or brick, its garden hedged with quince and pomegranate, its kraals fortified with branches of mimosa to keep out the jackals. Little white-haired Saxon children began to tumble about in the dust and sunshine; the lions and elephants, "too big to wrestle with," sought more sequestered haunts beyond the frontier or in the forests of Knysna. Man's voice was on the mountains, and the lowing of his herds in the cattle-folds.

But the bitterest trial of all was yet to come. The Kafirs, as we have seen, were very different people from the Hottentots and Bushmen. They loved fighting for fighting's sake just as much as the Red Indian or Rob Roy's Highlanders, and when they wanted cattle for a wedding dowry they made a raid upon the settlers. Many good people—missionaries and others—spoke of them as an innocent and down-trodden race who turned upon the white man in just exasperation. But the truth was very different. Of course they suffered wrongs, as was inevitable when the white settler met the black savage. But they also inflicted them.

[245] And we must remember that the country of the Zuurveld, and the district of Albany, over which so much fighting took place, was, to begin with, no more the Kafir's than the European's. Old travellers of the eighteenth century tell us that the westernmost outposts of the tribes were then not much beyond the Kei. They were, in fact, invaders from the north and east, just as the settlers were invaders from the north and west. The two waves in their opposing courses met upon the Zuurveld, and a tremendous conflict was the result. But if natural ownership has anything to do with the case, the natural owner was the Bushman or the Hottentot, and he, to be sure, had a bad time between the invading armies.

At their best the Kafirs were pleasant, laughing barbarians, without much sense of right or wrong or mine and thine; at their worst they were cruel, blood-thirsty, treacherous savages. When superstition swayed their minds they practised fiendish cruelties. They would pin a man down to the ground and cover him with black ants which ate him to death, or they would cover him with hot stones which burnt their way into his vitals. They had made the Fingos their slaves and treated them cruelly, and when they wanted cattle they raided the colony and took what they could lift, often murdering the herdsman who tried to protect his property.

The farmer, on his side, had the power to call a patrol of the military, ride on the spoor after the thieves, and take the cattle or their equivalent from the village which harboured them. This was called the Reprisal System. It was a rude form of justice, and perhaps the only possible one at the time; but it led to occasional bad practices which exasperated the Kafirs beyond measure. Captain Andries Stockenstrom, the son of the Landdrost who was killed at Slachter's Nek, was now Commissioner-General of the Frontier. Certain [246] of the chiefs were suspected of making raids upon the colonists' cattle, and Stockenstrom rode in with a commando to recover the stolen animals. His field-commandant Erasmus reported to Stockenstrom that the chief Zeko had attacked him in a thick bush, that he had defeated and killed Zeko and several of his people, and had taken that chief's cattle. Stockenstrom at first believed the story, but afterwards discovered that Erasmus and his men had gone to Zeko's kraal, had seized his cattle, and had shot Zeko and his men while the Kafirs were unarmed and without provocation.

Thus on both sides there were raids and murders, and it was into this simmering pot that the 1820 settlers were thrown. At first all was quiet. The destruction of Makana had given the land peace and the new settlers time to establish themselves.

They had fourteen years of truce and then the storm broke. The Kafir chiefs had gathered their power secretly, and then with a sudden rush they burst over the Bushman's River and into the colony. On the night of 21st December 1834 they entered the settlement, nearly ten thousand naked crane-plumed warriors, advancing along a line of thirty miles, murdering, robbing, and burning as they went. Most of the settlers, however, were warned in time, and galloped away, leaving their flaming homesteads behind them. One good lady was in the act of making the Advent pudding when her husband rushed in, caught her up, threw her on a horse and rode off with her, leaving the yelling savages to wreak their fury upon his cattle and homestead. By the 26th the raiders had reached nearly to Uitenhage; many farmers had been murdered; flam- [247] ing homesteads dotted the landscape in all directions, and nothing remained of the flourishing district of Albany but the town of Grahamstown crowded with panic-stricken fugitives. In the words of an eye-witness, the Kafirs had come with an irresistible rush, "carrying with them fire, sword, devastation, and cold-blooded murder, and spoiling the fertile estates and farms like a mountain avalanche."

Now at this time, fortunately for the colony, there were two strong men at the head of affairs. One was Sir Benjamin d'Urban, a brilliant soldier, and a good man. Like Donkin, he had fought for his country all over the world, and in the Peninsula alone he had taken part in nine pitched battles and sieges. He was one of the best staff-officers of his day, and a master in all the arts of war. Under him was Colonel Harry Smith, another veteran of the Peninsula, and one of the most dashing soldiers that ever carried a sword. He had been in almost every fight from Corunna to Waterloo, and he enjoyed them all. He had helped to lead the storm of Badajoz, and was very nearly bayoneted by his own men for attempting to throw down the ladders so that the remainder should not get out of the ditch, where nearly all the men lay dead. During the sack two Spanish ladies threw themselves upon the mercy of Smith and his friend Kincaid. Blood trickled down their necks where their earrings had been wrenched through the flesh by the soldiers. One of them was a girl of thirteen: "A being more transcendingly lovely I had never before seen—one more amiable I have never yet known," says Kincaid; "to look at her was to love her; and I did love her, but I never told my love, and in the meantime another and a more impudent fellow stepped in and won her." The "more impudent fellow" was Harry Smith, who speaks of her in his characteristic way as "one with a sense of honour no knight ever exceeded in the most romantic days of [248] chivalry, an understanding superior to her years, a masculine mind with a force of character no consideration could turn from her own just sense of rectitude, and all encased in a frame of Nature's fairest and most delicate moulding; the figure of an angel, with an eye of light and an expression which then inspired me with a maddening love, which from that period to this (now thirty-three years) has never abated under many and the most trying circumstances." This soldier's wife, like the other less fortunate who gave her name to Port Elizabeth, is immortalised in one of South Africa's towns—Ladysmith.

When d'Urban heard the news of the outbreak he gave Colonel Smith the command of the frontier, offering him a sloop of war to take him to Algoa Bay. But this was much too tame for Smith, who laid posts to ride the six hundred miles from Cape Town to Grahamstown. It was a famous ride. His orders and warrants were sewn in his jacket by his wife. The first day he went 90 miles, "the heat raging like a furnace." He was in Swellendam to breakfast the next day, though he had "two heavy lazy brutes of horses." After breakfast he did 70 miles, 30 of them in two hours and twenty minutes. On the third day he rode a hundred miles into George, and on the fourth day he was off before daylight over mountain and valley. He met the Grahamstown mails on the way, and reading how terrible the position was he resolved to reach the place a day before he had planned, for it was to have been a seven days' ride. On he went; it was the height of summer, and the weather blazing hot. He had crossed mountain upon mountain by villainous roads. One river, so tortuous was its bed, he forded seven times.

Fifty miles from Uitenhage his horse gave out, "and no belabouring would make him move." Half a mile off was a Boer with his family, his herds and his flocks, fleeing from the invasion. Smith went up to [249] him, told him who he was, and asked for assistance. "To my astonishment," says Smith (for nothing can exceed the kindness and hospitality of the Dutch Boers on ordinary occasions), "he first started a difficulty, and then positively refused, which soon set my blood boiling. He was holding a nice-looking horse all ready saddled, so I knocked him down, though half again as big as myself, jumped on his horse, and rode off. I then had a large river to cross by ferry, and horses were waiting for me. The Boer came up, and was very civil, making all sorts of apologies, saying, until he spoke to the guide  who followed  me, he did not believe that in that lone condition I could be the officer I represented myself." That night he reached Uitenhage, where he had to sit through an official dinner, and afterwards talk over frontier matters with Colonel Cuyler, now an old retired officer.

Then off next day for Grahamstown, suffering untold misery from the "wretched brutes of knocked-up horses laid for me." On his way he found the country in the wildest state of alarm, families, with their herds and flocks, "fleeing like the Israelites." But the last ten miles was luxury. I found awaiting me a neat clipping little hack of Colonel Somerset's (such as he is celebrated for) and an escort of six Cape Mounted Rifles. I shall never forget the luxury of getting on this little horse—a positive redemption from an abject state of misery and labour. In ten minutes I was perfectly revived, and in forty minutes was close to the barrier of Grahamstown, fresh enough to have fought a general action, after a ride of 600 miles in six days over mountainous and execrable roads, on Dutch horses living in the fields without a grain of corn. I performed each day's work at the rate of fourteen miles an hour, and I had not the slightest scratch even on my skin."

It was a great ride; but the rider had not arrived a [250] moment too soon. We must remember that many of the settlers were peasants and mechanics who had never seen bloodshed, and knew nothing of Kafir warfare, except from the dreadful stories of torture and massacre they had heard. They were now going about with pale faces, loaded with guns, pistols, and swords. They had thrown up barricades in all directions; they had appointed a "committee of safety," and "such was the consternation, an alarm, in the dark especially, would have set one-half of the people shooting the other."

Smith found that he had a regular force of 700 soldiers, besides 850 armed civilians, and that 200 burghers of Graaff Reinet and the 72nd regiment were approaching. He determined to take the offensive and strike at the heart of the enemy's country.

But first of all he had to restore confidence. He summoned a meeting. It was attended by a number of leading settlers, and when the colonel asked them the cause of some delay in executing his orders, one of them stood up and began to enter into argument and discussion. "I exclaimed," says Smith, "in a voice of thunder, 'I am not sent here to argue, but to command. You are now under martial law, and the first gentleman, I care not who he may be, who does not promptly and implicitly obey my command, he shall not even dare to give an opinion; I shall try him by court-martial and punish him in five minutes."

This was enough. The colonists recognised a leader. "Men moved like men, and felt that their safety consisted in energetic obedience." The barricades were thrown down, the forces organised, communication reopened with Port Elizabeth, a raid was made upon one of the chief kraals of the enemy, seven missionaries with their families were rescued from the very heart of Kafirland, where they had waited trembling for the moment when their throats were to be cut; and the Kafirs in alarm began to fall back on their own country.

[251] Then Sir Benjamin d'Urban arrived with reinforcements, and assumed the command, Smith from that time acting as chief of his staff. In this capacity he organised two corps of Hottentots who did splendid work, and also a corps of Guides, the pick of the settlers, under that great colonist, Charles Southey, then a young man.

With his light force of Hottentots and Guides, Smith raided the enemy in every direction, striking like lightning here, there, and everywhere, and marching incredible distances. The Kafirs were bewildered, and fled after a brief resistance, while their cattle and those they had plundered were carried back in triumph. Then the Governor determined to attack the great chief Hintza, who, despite the fact that he owed his life and position to the British Government, was at the back of the hostilities.

At first this truculent savage treated the Governor's messages with contempt; but Smith made several tremendous marches, captured 14,000 cattle, principally the property of the colonists, and burnt the chiefs kraal. This brought Hintza to reason, and with fifty followers he came in to make peace. The conditions were the restitution of the cattle stolen, and redress for all grievances. Hintza agreed and peace was declared.

But the wily Kafir was only trying to gain time. He pretended to send messengers to collect the cattle; but no cattle arrived. Then he offered to go and get them himself; but Smith knew better than to let him out of his sight. He even tried to murder the colonel by means of an assassin; but the attempt was foiled. So, at last, he asked his captor to go with him and take troops, while he, himself, would collect the cattle.

Harry Smith agreed, though the Governor was against it, knowing very well that Hintza was playing false. But before the Colonel started he made Hintza the following little speech:—

[252] "Hintza, you have lived with me now nine days you call yourself my son, and you say you are sensible of my kindness. Now I am responsible to my King and to my Governor for your safe custody. Clearly understand that you have requested that the troops under my command should accompany you to enable you to fulfil the treaty of peace you have entered into. You voluntarily placed yourself in our hands as a hostage; you are however to look upon me as having full power over you, and if you attempt to escape you will assuredly be shot. I consider my nation at peace with yours, and I shall not molest your subjects provided they are peaceable. When they bring the cattle according to your command, I shall select the bullocks and return the cows and calves to them."

To all this Hintza consented, and so they rode away. The chief, who carried his assegais, was mounted on a fine horse, and George Southey and fifteen men of the Guides were his guard. Thus they went for two days, but on the third Hintza got his chance. It was on the farther bank of the river Xabecca. The bank was steep and thickly wooded. Suddenly Hintza made a dash; but he got entangled in the thicket and had to stop. Smith drew his pistol; but the chief smiled so ingenuously that the other began to regret his suspicions.

And so they went to the top of the ridge, ahead of the troops. At the summit the colonel turned round to watch his soldiers come up, and seizing the chance, like a flash Hintza burst from his guard and was away again. He was two hundred yards distant before Smith realised what had taken place, and then the colonel clapped spurs to his horse in pursuit.

Hintza was riding one of Somerset's best horses; but Smith was on an animal of the finest English blood. At first the chief kept his distance; but blood tells in a long race, and the colonel gradually drew closer to the fugitive. On they galloped. They had now gone nearly a [253] mile. In front was a Kafir village; on the right was the bed of the river full of Kafirs waiting to receive their chief. But Smith drew in between Hintza and the river bank, and closing with him, struck at him with the butt-end of his pistol. It flew out of his hand, Hintza, meanwhile, jobbing at him furiously with an assegai.

And then, says Colonel Smith, "I was now rapidly approaching the Kafir huts, and the blood of my horse gave me great advantage over Hintza. I tried to seize his bridle-reins, but he parried my attempt with his assegai. I prayed him to stop, but he was in a state of frenzy. At this point of desperation, a whisper came into my ear, 'Pull him off his horse!' I shall not, nor ever could, forget the peculiarity of this whisper. No time was to be lost. I immediately rode so close to him that his assegai was comparatively harmless, and seizing him by the collar of his karosse (or tiger-skin cloak), I found I could shake him in his seat. I made a desperate effort by urging my horse to pass him, and I hurled him to the ground."

Smith had lost control over his horse and was now borne towards the village, expecting every moment to have a hundred assegais thrown at him; but, fortutately, the Kafirs had fled into the river. With both hands the rider hauled his beast's head round and drove him into a hut. This stopped him for a moment, and then back the horse went towards the chief.

George Southey was by this time within gunshot, and Hintza was running for the thicket on the bank.

"Fire, fire at him!" shouted the colonel.

Southey fired, and the chief fell.

He was on his legs again in a moment and gained the bush, Southey after him. The young guide lost him for a time in the thicket; but as Southey was climbing up a cliff in his search an assegai whirled past his head. Turning round he found himself face to face with a Kafir who was raising another assegai to stab [254] him. Southey was so close that he had to recoil to bring up his gun. He fired and Hintza fell.

Smith laid the body, reverently covered, in the village, and then began to consider his position. He was surrounded by thousands of savages thirsting for revenge. Safety lay in speed, and Smith acted like lightning. He made a rapid march, captured three thousand cattle, then rescued a thousand Fingos who were in danger of being massacred, and by extraordinary skill kept the savages at bay all the time. They tried night attacks, but he drove them back. "In all my previous service," he says, "I was never placed in a position requiring more cool determination and skill, and as one viewed the handful of my people compared with the thousands of brawny savages all round us, screeching their war-cry, calling to their cattle, and indicating by gesticulations the pleasure they would have in cutting our throats, the scene was animating to a degree."

But Smith came out of it safely with the loss only of Major White, who had rashly exposed himself, and six men. He had marched in seven days 218 miles, through terrible country in the face of hordes of Kafirs, and he had brought into safety 8000 cattle and 1000 fugitives. At last the war came to an end: the Kafirs, after their first triumphant invasion, had only struck one successful blow, the massacre of Bailie and his detachment of Hottentots. The details of that tragic fight no one will ever know; but it was no doubt similar to the massacre of Wilson and his party long afterwards by the Matabele. Certain it is that Bailie and his twenty-eight brave Hottentots fought till their last, shot was spent, and then fell pierced through by assegais.

Hintza's son Kreli was made chief in his father's place, and the country between the Kei and the Keiskamma was annexed under the name of the Province of Adelaide, with its capital at King William's Town, [255] and fifteen thousand Fingos, rescued from the tender mercies of the Kafirs, were settled upon it. Smith was given command of the Frontier Province, and charge of a hundred thousand barbarians. He was just the man for the work. He was frank and honest and just. He talked to the natives in parables and in a sign language which they could understand. To show his power he blew up an ox-wagon; to confound the rain-makers he threw a glass of water on the ground and asked them to put it in the glass again. He adopted some of the native customs and laws, and organised a force of native police and native newsmongers, who ran through the land with his daily court circular. His system seemed to work well; but how it would have fared in the long run will ever be matter of dispute, for it was brought to an untimely end.

It happened in this way. A party in England and South Africa, composed of good people, and politicians, missionaries, friends of the slaves, and a sprinkling of that peculiar class which thinks its own countrymen must always be wrong, had been agitating for some time about the oppression of the black man. They were sometimes excellent people but usually they did not take a very broad view of things. They heard that black men were often beaten and occasionally killed, and therefore they thought that all white men in the colony were cruel tyrants and all black men were oppressed innocents. It was just as if a Chinaman were to read about the wife-beating and drunkenness which goes on in English slums, and argue therefrom that Englishmen as a rule were Bluebeards and sots. That there were cases of cruelty and murder and robbery in the colony I have clearly shown. Any historian who says there were none is simply flying in the face of the evidence. When two peoples like the Kafirs and the European settlers are fighting for a piece of land which, strictly speaking, belongs to [256] neither, it stands to reason that there will be some heads broken. So it is all through history: when the Normans were fighting the Saxons for England, or when the Australians were edging out the black fellows, or the New Zealand settlers were fighting the Maoris, or when the American colonists were fighting the Red Indians. So it is all through Nature: when the brown rat is fighting the black rat, for example. It is a law in life that the more advanced race shall dispossess the less advanced.

In this case, then, there was a pressure of the white man on the black just as a big man elbows a small man in a crowd. The black man resented it and ran his knife into the white man's ribs, and then there was trouble. It was all inevitable, as the people at home would have known if they had read their histories, and they should have tried to soften the process and prevent friction as much as possible, always remembering that, after all, the white man was their brother and a reasoning being, while the black man was a savage who did not usually reason at all. Instead of doing this, the party I have spoken of called the white settlers a pack of murderers and robbers, and held that the Kafir was always right. Even when the missionaries who lived among the Kafirs ventured to tell the truth about them, their friends at home were angry and began to insinuate that these missionaries were in league with the settlers.

Now Lord Glenelg, who was Secretary of the Colonies, was one of this party, and he got it into his head that the black man could do no wrong and the white man no right—at least in South Africa. He was thus in a very peculiar position. His predecessor had placed five thousand of the King's subjects in a place in which they were almost bound to come to blows with the Kafir. Lord Glenelg was thus in a measure responsible for their safety. Yet when the Kafirs invaded the settlement, murdered about forty of the settlers, and [257] burned nearly all their farms, Lord Glenelg only told the Englishmen that it served them right, and would not even allow them to hit back. It was just as if a lawyer who was also a temperance advocate should try to ruin a brewery of which he was a trustee because he thought beer was bad for people.

Lord Glenelg wrote to Sir Benjamin d'Urban that "the Kafirs had ample justification of the late war," and the claim of sovereignty over the new province bounded by the Keiskamma and the Kei must be renounced. The killing of Hintza was described as a cruel murder; Sir Benjamin d'Urban's whole policy was condemned as wicked, and Colonel Harry Smith was superseded.

Even if all that Lord Glenelg believed were true, it would still have been the height of impolicy to upset everything in this bull-in-a-china-shop manner. As it was, it filled the British settlers with boiling indignation, it disgusted the Boers, and it made the Kafirs more truculent than ever. Poor Sir Benjamin d'Urban felt most of his prestige gone; Harry Smith had to clear himself of what almost amounted to a charge of murder, for which Southey was actually tried; and a Lieutenant-Governor was placed at the frontier to carry out a policy that was exactly the opposite of everything the Governor had done. The result was inevitable. Sir Benjamin, despite his courtesy and patience and desire to work with Lord Glenelg and his new lieutenant for the good of the country, found the situation impossible. He was dismissed, and Sir George Napier sent out in his stead.

Fortunately for the country, the man Lord Glenelg had chosen to succeed Smith knew a great deal more of the real situation than did Lord Glenelg. This was our old friend Captain Andries Stockenstrom, the son of the Landdrost who had been murdered at Slachter's Nek and the magistrate who had helped so energetically to suppress the Slachter's Nek Rebellion and who had afterwards been Commissioner-General of the Frontier. [258] His virtues and his faults are well known. He was a strong man and a just; but he was also an autocrat, impatient of control and sharp of temper and of tongue. He knew that there were occasional and serious acts of injustice against the Kafir; but he also knew that the Kafir was a dangerous and treacherous savage, with a nasty little habit of assegaiing unoffending people and running off with their cattle. He had often himself been out on commando and helped to shoot Kafirs in many a raid after stolen cattle. He had done things at which the good Lord Glenelg would have turned white and trembled. But he had had a quarrel with Colonel Somerset in which he was very likely right and the colonel wrong. He had thrown up his work and gone to Europe, and there told his story to such good purpose that Lord Glenelg had made him Lieutenant-Governor instead of Colonel Smith.

Stockenstrom was a hard hitter and a good fighter; but he found he had enough to do when he got out to South Africa. True, Sir Benjamin d'Urban received him kindly and courteously, and Harry Smith helped him like a comrade in arms. But the Eastern Province settlers looked upon him as a traitor to their cause. They had been called robbers and murderers, and Stockenstrom was hand-in-glove with their accusers. Then the Boers had grown alarmed with the progress of events and were more bent than ever upon trekking out of the country, while the Kafirs and Fingos were robbing one another and the settlers.

Still Stockenstrom went doggedly to work; restored as well as he could the old order of things, withdrew most of the new military posts, and generally adopted what has been called Lord Glenelg's system, though some of its provisions would have set that nobleman's hair on end. Stockenstrom found that the colonists were afraid to defend even their own cattle, so cowed were they by the accusations of the pro-native party [259] and the Government's protection of the Kafir. He therefore framed an ordinance which allowed colonists to shoot armed marauders; in fact, he made private war legal—a law which the friend of the black man might call the legalisation of murder. Still, it was the only way. It was the custom of the border, and all the human institutions in the world could not prevent the practice or suggest any other plan.

Now a great deal has been said about the change from the d'Urban system to the Glenelg system. As a matter of fact neither of these statesmen had created anything that could be called a system. The one had not time; the other never got full obedience. Nor did it matter. The situation was there and no system could change it. The white man was face to face with the black; both wanted land and cattle and both were armed in a great, new, wild country. Therefore they fought. And they fought for years and years—sometimes in small parties and sometimes in big. Sometimes the white men were put to flight and sometimes the black. Sometimes there was a massacre on the one side and sometimes on the other. Sometimes the military acted alone, sometimes in co-operation with the burghers and the British settlers. There were a hundred stirring fights that might be mentioned, enough to fill a dozen books. There was the military disaster at Burn's Hill. There was Stockenstrom's Raid on the Amatola. There was the Glencoe massacre at the village of Auckland, where the veterans of the 91st had settled with their wives and children. On Christmas Day of 1850 the Kafirs came into the village and asked for food and shelter. The good people gave them some of the Christmas dinner, and while in the very act of sharing it, the savages rose and killed nearly every man in the village. There, and at two other military villages, nearly fifty settlers were murdered by treachery. Some of the boys escaped by dressing as girls, for the [260] Kafirs often spared the women, though they were sometimes speared also. There was the great fight of the Boomah Pass where Smith, then Sir Harry Smith and Governor of the colony, fought his way through a narrow gorge with the loss of fifty men killed and wounded. In such wild scenes the Eastern Province was welded together, and in such desperate struggles the settler became a strong frontiersman, quick and self-reliant, ready with axe as with rifle, and rising buoyant above every misfortune.

But we must hurry on to the great disaster which for ever broke the strength of the Kafir nations. It is one of the most astonishing stories in all history, the story of a great people committing suicide in one tremendous act of self-destruction. It happened when England was fighting Russia in the Crimea, when rumours of the war were filtering through to the Kafir chiefs and were causing them to think that the time had arrived to shake off the yoke of the white man, though how much the movement was a conspiracy among the chiefs and how much the result of superstition will never be known.

Sir George Cathcart after the terrible wars of a few years before had driven the Kafirs out of the Amatola Mountains into the country between the Keiskamma and the Kei. When their cattle lowed they would say, "Listen how our cattle yearn for the mountain-grass of the Amatola."

Kreli, the great chief, had a soothsayer of renown called Mhlakaza, and Mhlakaza's daughter Mongquase was held to have the gift of prophecy. She told the Galekas that she had converse with the chiefs and heroes of old time, Ndlambe, Hintza, Mdushane, Gaika and Eno, who were resolved to save the people from their evil fate. They would rise from the dead and would be joined by the Russians (who were also black men) and together they would drive the white men into [261] the sea. But as a pledge of their belief, the Kafir people must destroy all their cattle and all their grain, and the land must not be tilled. Then glorious herds of wide-horned oxen would arise from the earth; the grain pits would be refilled to the brim; the arms and cattle of the white men would fall to the Kafir; the dead would live again, and the living would put on immortality. Then the pastures of the Amatola would be regained and all would live happily for ever and ever.

The word went forth through the tribes, and marvels were seen that showed the word must be true. Strange warriors, who could be no other than Russians, appeared at nightfall; the horns of beautiful oxen were spied peeping through the rushes of the swampy pools; the lowing of cattle was heard rising from subterranean caverns; the heroes of old time were seen on foot and on horseback marching in endless legions across the waves of the Indian Ocean.

Then the cattle-slaying began. There were great feasts and rejoicings; but the cattle fell faster and faster, until there were too many to eat. The dogs could not eat them, nor the jackals, nor the hyaenas, nor the vultures that gathered in clouds. The evil savour of thousands of decaying carcases filled the air, mingling with the smoke of the burning grain. Never had there been such a destruction; no less than two hundred thousand cattle were killed to fulfil the words of the prophet.

Mr. Charles Brownlee, who was the Gaika Commissioner, has told us how he fought this movement. It was a terrible struggle between one white man and a host of chiefs and witch-doctors. He rode day after day through the length and breadth of his territory, warning, exhorting, scolding, and entreating. To all their stories of future happenings he would reply, "Napakade! Napakade!" ("Never! Never!") so that his name was changed among the natives, and ever after he was known as Napakade.

[262] The chief of the Gaikas, Sandile, was a weak and wavering man. For a time Brownlee restrained him, and he only killed a few cattle; the commissioner kept the chief's kraal close to his house; but at last the other chiefs and witch-doctors sent Sandile such terrible messages that he fled to his old kraal and slew his cattle. Brownlee went after him, and argued with him and with his evil counsellors. They told him not to trouble them. "It is not for you I feel," he replied, "but for the helpless women and children who in a few days will be starving." Then Brownlee sat down on the ground and wept, for he felt he had lost the battle. And the cattle-killers cried, "Lo, he weeps, he sees the destruction of the white man is at hand."

But Brownlee did not altogether fail, for some of the chiefs took his advice and refused to kill their cattle. Thus families were divided, brother against brother, father against son. The whole Kafir people were split into two parties, the Amagogotya, who wanted to keep their cattle, and the Tambas, who wanted to kill them. The Tambas, not content with killing their own cattle, tried to slaughter those of the other party, and broils and bloodshed were the result. The whole of Kafirland was in an uproar; but the Tambas being the stronger, there was a great migration of the Amagogotya into the colony. They came in crowds, all carrying sacks of grain upon their heads—even the little children had their bundles—and they drove their flocks and herds in front of them.

At last came the great day when there was to be darkness, thunder, rain and a mighty wind, and the white men were to be turned into frogs and mice and swept into the sea. The Kafirs decked themselves out in their paint and beads and copper rings and confidently waited for the miracles. But none came. The sun rose in a cloudless sky, and made his journey just as usual. The heavens did not rush to meet the earth as the [263] prophetess had said they would. Nature went on its old way, the sun sank, and the serene moon came out, heedless of the white eyes that watched her for the portents of doom.

And then a great sound of lamentation went up from all Kafirland. There was no food; no cattle came out of the earth; no grain appeared in the pits. Every day the people went to the kraals and granaries to look, and every day they were faced with the same emptiness. Some of them at last fell into their grain-pits and died; others wandered into the bush to search for roots, and fell through weakness to rise no more.

And now a throng of starving people began to cross the border. They came in thousands, old and young, from the feeble, withered crone to the child who could barely walk. The sick arose from their beds and tottered after them. The roads were strewn with corpses. The colonists along the border did what they could to help. Sir George Grey, who was then Governor, provided food at various places. Brownlee, who had bought a great store of corn for almost nothing when the natives were throwing it away, now opened his granaries and saved countless lives. But in spite of all that could be done, at least twenty-five thousand Kafirs perished from starvation.

Thus the power of the Kafir nations was broken; great tracts of their land were left desolate and were taken up by colonial farmers.

Twenty years after another war took place; Kreli and Sandile together made their last fight with the white man. They were beaten and Sandile was killed. And nowadays the Kafir is a peaceful farmer; tilling his land with a plough bought at the store, or travelling to Cape Town or Kimberley in a third-class carriage to work at the docks or in the mines. There is peace between white man and black after wars that covered three-quarters of a century.


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