THE NATIVE RACES OF SOUTH AFRICA
GEORGE W. STOW, F.G.S., F.R.G.S.
22. THE TRIBES OF THE SECOND PERIOD OF THE BACHOANA MIGRATION
There is much obscurity not only between the connection of the tribes forming this group, but also between them and those of the previous one, as well as between either the one or the other and those which follow of the great Bakuena or Bakone group.
The first intruders would appear to have come in three bodies : the Leghoya in successive stages, passing the sources of the Marikwa, the site of old Lithako, and thence to the south-east towards the 'Gij-'Gariep ; the Bakalahari appear to have kept more to the westward of this line ; while the ancestors of the Balala and Tamaha seem to have followed the steps of the Leghoya, and spread over the more central portions of the same area.
All these migrating clans fraternised in a more or less intimate degree with the primitive inhabitants, and the scattered hordes of Bachoana Bushmen were the result of this connection. And still the way in which these kindred tribes are connected is lost, and no inquiry has enabled us to discover the missing connecting links, nor the relation between them and those of which we are about to treat.
All native traditions, however, affirm that the whole of these tribes came from the north, and there seems little room to doubt that they actually did so. Some of the Basutu clans have a tradition to the effect that in the land whence their remote ancestors came the sun shone on the opposite shoulder to what it does in the present day, evidently indicating a shadowy recollection of the remote period when their forefathers were still north of the equator. But what is still stranger, all those native authorities of whom the writer has sought information upon the subject have declared that before coming from the north, the place whence the first people came was the east, some indefinite place towards the sun-rising.
And by a striking coincidence the Basutu, when they were first visited by Europeans, were found manufacturing and wearing the same conical-shaped hats as those worn by some of the nations of the east, and cultivating the Imphi (Sorghum saccharatum), which they say was given at the same time as the millet to the first man and woman, a plant which has also grown from time immemorial in China. Some of the manners and customs of these people are identical with those of members of the Papuan race now inhabiting isolated island groups in the eastern seas. They also maintain that when the first man and woman made their appearance, Bushmen were already in existence, and were found in every country through which their forefathers migrated.
The traditions of these South African tribes are supported both by those of Central Africa, quoted by Mr. Stanley, and those obtained from the old Korana people. These last assert that their forefathers were driven from the central intra-lacustrine regions of Africa by tribes similar to if not the identical Bachoana tribes with whom they again came in contact when they and their fathers once more migrated to the north-east, to the north of the Vaal ; and Stanley states that there is one special tradition among the central tribes, in which it is affirmed that they migrated into that region some centuries ago, when their forefathers found it unoccupied, that is, we should presume, there was nothing found in it but herds of game and very probably a few scattered hordes of the pigmy hunters, of whom, as usual, no account was taken.
The concurrent testimony thus afforded by these several traditions, obtained from widely separated and independent sources, would seem to shadow forth that in Central Africa also there were successive waves of migration, the one being formed by the Bantu tribes, which drove the Hottentots before them, until the latter diverged towards the ocean on the side of the setting sun. This after an apparent lull was succeeded by a second, which brought the present intra-lacustrine tribes into the country they now occupy ; while the foremost wave was continuing its onward progress towards the south. This wave broke again into others, at first dividing into two great branches, one rolling impetuously along the coast line, and driving farther and farther into the more central regions the other, which reached as far south as the Vaal in successive wavelets. The first of these we have already considered ; and the second, like the first, might be divided into minor sections, which were afterwards again subdivided into several branch tribes, the most ancient divisions being those of the Barolong and Batlapin.
It has been asserted by some that the pioneer tribes, the Batlapin, and the Barolong, are all offshoots of the same stem, viz. of the Bachoana proper. If this be in reality the case, the separation must have been an ancient one, as the dialects of the language vary considerably. It is therefore probable that when the pioneer and Batlapin tribes parted from the main trunk and proceeded onward, a separation had already taken place, at a still more remote date, between that trunk and the one of the great Bakuena family speaking another variety of the original language, called Sesuto.
The tribes we have at present to consider are the Batlapin and the Barolong.
I. — The Batlapin, or the Men of the Fish.
The Rev. Richard Giddy imagines that the name Batlapin, or as they are sometimes called Batlapi, the men of the Fish, perhaps the Fishers, was probably derived from the fact of their living at some former time near the lakes in the interior.
The first European visitor to this tribe appears to have been one well calculated to impress the native mind with feelings of terror at the apparition of a white face among them. This man was Jan Bloem the elder, who made his appearance with his adherents for the purpose of plunder. Previous to this time the Koranas had given these people the name of Briquas. Shortly afterwards old Adam Kok, the original founder of the Griquas, arrived during one of his hunting expeditions at Lithako, and checked for a time the atrocities of the freebooter Bloem and his Korana followers.
In 1801 the Batlapin were visited by the government commissioners Truter and Somerville, accompanied by Mr. Borcherds, for the purpose of establishing friendly relations between them and the Cape authorities, with the hope of opening up a trade with them by means of bartering in cattle. About the same time Messrs. Edwards and Kok settled there for the same purpose, under the cover of missionary enterprise.
Dr. Lichtenstein seems to have been the first who entered their country for the sole purpose of scientific exploration. Dr. Cowan and Captain Donovan were the next to follow, but although Moffat states that the whole party perished of fever in the region of the Limpopo, a considerable amount of mystery hangs over their fate.
In 1812 Mr. Burchell extended his scientific researches to the north of the Batlapin, and in 1812-13 the Reverend J. Campbell travelled as far as Old Lithako, at that time the great place of Molehabangwe, and in February 1816 the missionaries Evans, Hamilton, and Edwards arrived among them. Mr. Campbell's second visit followed in 1820, and Mr. George Thompson was fortunately present amongst them in the eventful year 1823.
The weapons of the Batlapin at this period were a bow and quiver of poisoned arrows hanging from the shoulder, a shield with a number of assagais attached, and a club or battle-axe. These people were found to be more advanced than the Kaffir nations east of the Colony. Their huts were not only larger and more carefully constructed, but the walls were painted and adorned with various patterns. Mr. Campbell found that the wife of Salakutu had decorated the walls of her house with a series of paintings, being rough representations of the camelopard, rhinoceros, elephant, lion, tiger, and steenbok. These were done in white and black paint. On the occasion of his second visit Mr. Campbell saw some similar paintings among the Bahurutsi, in one of the chief houses at Kurrechane ; and recently a similar instance of wall decoration has been seen among the Basutu, in Basutuland, where a house was at one time ornamented with the figures of animals in like manner.
As these cases are unique in the several tribes where they occur, viz. among the Batlapin, the Bahurutsi, and Bakuena of Moshesh, all widely separated from each other, and whose national mode of painting, when they indulge in it, is confined to the representations of lines, spots, lozenges, curves, circles, and zigzags, it becomes an interesting subject of speculation whether the attempt to represent animal life in these isolated cases was a spontaneous development in the artists whose handiwork they were, or whether, as was frequently the case in those days, these men had taken Bushman wives, or were half-caste descendants of Bushman mothers, and thus the hereditary talent displayed itself in their new domiciles among people of either the Bachoana or Basutu race.
The Batlapin, as well as the other kindred tribes, were in the habit of painting their bodies, each tribe having adopted some particular fashion or colour of its own. The fashionable colour of the Batlapin being red, their faces were frequently painted red, and sometimes streaked with white in a regular way. Their hair, after being anointed with grease, was thickly powdered with titaniferous iron ore, which made their heads shine with a bright metallic lustre, that was greatly admired.
They obtained copper and iron from some nation beyond them. The people of Lithako proved themselves ingenious, from the articles they manufactured from these metals, such as axes, adzes, knives, spears, and bodkins from iron, and rings for the legs, arms, fingers, and ears from copper. Their cloaks were made and sewn as well as could be done by Europeans, being formed of about forty cat-skins most dexterously put together. The immense amount of ground brought under cultivation around all their towns characterised them as an agricultural people. The plants which they principally cultivated were the millet, a particular kind of bean, and an insipid sort of watermelon, which was probably the wild melon of the country cultivated. Zealous, however, as they were in the cultivation of their lands, it was difficult, owing to their attachment to the customs of their ancestors, to persuade them to adopt any improvement, and when urged to plant wheat by some of the early missionaries they replied that their fathers were wiser than themselves, and yet were content to do as they did, and for this cause they regarded any innovation as an insult to their ancestors.
As an illustration of the prevailing sentiment even among such an agricultural people as the' Bachoana, and much more so in the pastoral races of South Africa, the following answer given by one of these Batlapin to Mr. Campbell on his inquiring what they thought man was made for ? will serve. To go on plundering expeditions against other people was the ready reply. The history of not only the Batlapin, but of all the other stronger native races, is but one continued demonstration of this creed.
The pedigree of the Batlapin chiefs takes us back eleven generations from the present paramount chief. They are all said to have descended from the race of Phuduhuchoana. This Phuduhuchoana, or the Steenbok, was the great ruler of their tribe at the time when they separated from the parent stem. The names of the chiefs, however, who formed the connecting links between him and Moduana are now lost, and the old chroniclers of the tribe are only able to assert that all their great families have descended from him.
All that is now known of the first five chiefs after Moduana is that they succeeded one another. Mpete, the son of Mamai, who ought to have assumed the tribal authority upon the death of his father, was deposed by his younger brother Morakanela, who made himself chief in his stead. We find that similar occurrences constantly took place in the line of succession of the paramount chiefs of the Batlapin. Mpete's descendants fell into the rank of secondary chiefs, while Motole succeeded his father Morakanela. Nothing has been recorded of the reign of either the one or the other, but upon the death of Motole there was another disputed succession. A civil war broke out between the rival claimants, Seatle, the rightful heir by tribal custom, and Mokgosi (the War-cry or Alarm), when Seatle was conquered and deposed by his younger brother, who after the birth of his son Mashoe obtained the cognomen of Ra-Mashoe (the Father of Ugliness) on that account.
From the history of the tribes at this period it would seem that the Barolong considered themselves higher in rank, and consequently an older tribe than the Batlapin. The latter had, however, evidently commenced their migration towards the south before the others ; but in the days of Motole or Mokgosi they had again been overtaken by the Barolong, who being of higher rank claimed tribute of these native voortrekkers. During the chieftainship of Mokgosi, the Barolong chief demanded from him the breast of every ox killed by his people, the brisket being considered among the native races as food which ought to be set apart for the special use of chiefs, a demand, therefore, which if complied with would have been a virtual acknowledgment of the dependence of himself and his people on the Barolong. It being persisted in, the indignant Mokgosi at length replied, "Am I then your servant ? "
As a necessary consequence a war followed this refusal, in which the Batlapin chief and his people were defeated and so broken up that they were scattered and driven to three different places at considerable distances from each other. It was after this victory that the Barolong moved to the southward, and finally settled at Taung.
There seems little doubt that before this time the Batlapin must have been both small in numbers and insignificant in influence, as no other tradition previous to their dispersion by the Barolong has been preserved. From the time of their defeat to the death of Mokgosi they evidently remained in a most depressed condition. Even during a part, at least, of the rule of his successor they had no fixed place of residence, but roamed about in search of grass and water. The fear of the encroaching Barolong kept them ever on the alert, and prevented them from making any permanent settlement.
MashoeN (Ugliness), who succeeded to the chieftainship upon the death of his father, seems to have lived about 1750-1760. From his time the history of his tribe is tolerably complete. It was during one of his migrations that he and his people arrived unexpectedly near the great place of Tao, the Lion, the warlike chief of the Barolong, who was then residing at Taung, or the Place of the Lion, from which circumstance it has ever since retained the name, although its inhabitants have since changed several times. The Batlapin, finding themselves thus suddenly and so undesirably in close proximity to their formidable neighbour, naturally felt alarmed lest some treacherous attack might be made upon them.
Notes: The names given to their children by the Batlapin, or assumed by the latter at the time of undergoing the rite of circumcision or upon arriving at the age of puberty, had frequently reference to some occurrence at the time of the birth of the child or conditions which surrounded it.
Ever on the qui vive, as it was necessary for all natives to be in those days, Mashoe, their chief, determined to discover if possible by an ingenious artifice whether any such intention was entertained against him. For this purpose, putting on a common kaross and feigning deafness and a certain degree of mental imbecility, he entered the Barolong town as a common Motlapin to discover whether the Barolong were friendly or not. To avoid the possibility of detection, he took advantage of the absence from their own camp of all the young Batlapin warriors, who had been sent away for the purpose of hunting. On arriving at the enclosures of the great-place, several of the Barolong met him, to whom on their addressing him as they led him to their chief, he merely replied with a vacant stare, shaking his head and pointing to his ears. By retaining wonderful imperturbability of countenance, and never appearing to notice them unless they put their hands upon him or shook him, they were completely thrown off their guard, and looking upon him as a nonentity, amused themselves with his apparent stupidity ; and then at last commenced discussing their plans in his presence without reserve.
By this means he learnt that Tao and his people had formed the resolution of massacring both him and his tribe during the course of the following night. The Batlapin quarters were to be surrounded by the Barolong braves, and ere the day broke their camp was to be stormed and all its inhabitants were to be indiscriminately butchered. Having possessed himself of this important information, he carelessly sauntered back to his own encampment. On the return of the young men of the tribe he informed them of the meditated treachery. Immediately after nightfall, he ordered a bleating goat to be tied fast to one of the bushes, that its continued restlessness might delude the Barolong. Then, according to his orders, his people at once packed up their baggage with secrecy and dispatch, and he and they, together with their coveted cattle, cautiously set out on a long night march, leaving the bleating goat and the deserted cantonment behind them.
They were already some miles on their way when the Barolong, ignorant that the place was already evacuated, surrounded it, taking up their appointed positions, and awaited the dawn of day as the signal for the general assault. The patiently looked-for sign at last made its appearance, already in imagination their sleeping victims and the spoil of cattle were in their grasp, the preconcerted rush was made, when to their dismay the restless goat alone was found, while every other portion of the camp was deserted and empty ! Determined however not to be thwarted, they pursued the retreating Batlapin with all possible speed. Mashoe, anticipating such a result, laid a strong ambuscade in their path. Into this, in their eagerness to overtake their despised but sharp-witted foes, they heedlessly fell, and suddenly found themselves attacked on every side. Taken thus unawares, they were defeated with heavy loss, and in their turn had to take to flight. In the pursuit many of the fugitive Barolong were slain ; and Tao, the Lion, abandoned his great-place Taung shortly afterwards.
This success was the first step which raised the Batlapin from the state of depression and semi-subjection to which they had been reduced by the more powerful and victorious Barolong. Mashoe died without leaving any male issue by his great wife or the wife of the first house. Manaka, his eldest daughter of that house, therefore asserted her right to appoint his successor. In doing so she disinherited his eldest son Lekoe, the offspring of the second house, by passing him over and selecting Molehabangwe, the eldest son of the third house by Mashoe's wife Pikwane, to rule in his stead, declaring that her choice had been guided by the fact that when Lekoe had persistently treated her with disrespect, Molehabangwe had ever shown her a brotherly regard.
The selection of Manaka appears to have been a judicious one, as Molehabangwe is said to have been, as a native chief, superior as a statesman and a warrior to many of his compeers, and he was also noted for his kindness to strangers. He appears to have been the first Batlapin chief who established himself at Lithako. As his government became more settled, the scattered remnants of his tribe gathered round him, and notwithstanding that they were on several occasions nearly ruined by the pertinacious attacks of the marauding Koranas, they had nevertheless increased so in number that the commissioners Truter and Somerville, when they visited him at Lithako in 1801, were not a little astonished to find so large and populous a town in such a remote part of the world. The number of houses they estimated to be between two and three thousand, and that of the population, men, women, and children, from ten to fifteen thousand. The place was surrounded by several large tracts of land, laid out and cultivated like so many gardens.
The house of the chief was built in a circular form, and was about sixteen feet in diameter. The bottom part to the height of four feet from the ground was of stone laid in clay, and wooden spars were erected at certain distances. On the east side of the circle about a fourth part of the house was open, the other three-fourths entirely closed. A round pointed roof covered the whole in the form of a tent ; it was well thatched with long reeds or the straw of the holcus. From the centre to the back of the house there was a circular apartment with a narrow entrance into it, where the head of the family took his nightly rest, the remainder occupying the more open portion. All the houses were surrounded with palisades, and the space between these and the dwelling served as a granary and store for their grain and pulse. The receptacles for corn were constructed in the form of enormous oil jars of baked clay, the capacity of each being at least two hundred gallons ; they were supported on tripods composed of the same material, which raised them about nine inches from the ground. The upper edges of the jars were from five to six feet from the ground, and they were covered with a round straw roof erected on poles.
Old Lithako took its name from the numerous ruins of cattle kraals and stone fences on the neighbouring hills, the word meaning walls. They are supposed to have been built about the days of Tlou (the Elephant), one of the greatest of the Barolong chiefs. The Batlapin were not the builders. They were at the time of Tlou a comparatively insignificant tribe, which had been forced to become tributary to him. It was at his death that they threw off the Barolong yoke, and gradually rose to influence and fame.
Mr. Campbell, who visited Old Lithako in 1820, believed that the ancient Bahurutsi once lived in the neighbourhood of this town, although he was unable to discover the cause of their removal, and he considered that the several ancient cattle enclosures of stone were relics of this occupation. At the time of his residence there the Batlapin had no tradition concerning them, only they felt certain that they could not have been built by their ancestors, as the Batlapin enclosures are all formed of thorn bushes, and one generation adheres strictly to the customs of that which preceded it. The Bahurutsi and other nations in that direction build their enclosures of stone, exactly similar to these ruins.
According to other native authorities, however, there appears every reason to believe that these fenced ruins and fortified huts were constructed by the pioneer tribe of the Leghoya, which ever pressed forward in the van to the southward, and which was the first to cross the 'Gij 'Gariep or Vaal, near its junction with the Vet, or as it was called by the aborigines of the land the 'Gij 'Goup and 'Gum-'Gariep, or Little River. From their own traditions they passed through this line of country, and it is said that they were not only the first to adopt the practice of fortifying their huts and kraals, but also finished these constructions with greater care and neatness than any other tribe.
Shortly after 1790 the Batlapin were nearly ruined by the Koranas carrying off the greater part of their cattle. According to Mr. Campbell, old Cornelius Kok, who was still living in 1820, happened to be hunting with some of his people, and found them in this forlorn condition. He remained with them nearly two years, protecting, and also assisting them with food by shooting game, till he had recovered many of their cattle from the Koranas. On this account, even to the time of Mr. Campbell's visit, these Batlapin styled Cornelius Kok " their father." It was about this time that the northern clans of Koranas were reinforced by the Springboks, who ultimately elected Jan Bloem the elder as their captain, from among whom he took the wives by whom he left at his death seven sons besides daughters.
At this period the Batlapin had extended themselves as far to the southward as the valley of the Nokannan, on the confines of the Kalahari. Batshwa was the captain of the outlying kraals in that direction. This Batshwa had married Pikwane, the wife of Mashoe, whose son had been raised to the chieftainship by Manaka after the death of the great chief. From this union Pikwane had a son who was named Munametse. He was an old man in 1820. Her second husband Batshwa was killed by a Bushman near Nokannan, while on a hunting excursion. It was soon after Batshwa's death that the Koranas first made war upon these Batlapin outposts. The two Korana clans which thus pushed on to the northward were the Taaibosches and Scorpions, until they penetrated and settled as far as Malapitzi, to the east of Lithako. On this occasion they drove the Batlapin from Nokannan to Katuse, and afterwards to the source of the Koeromanie, capturing almost the whole of their cattle, which were their chief means of support. A famine ensued, and they were reduced to the necessity of living on roots and whatever game they could occasionally kill.
During this famine Pikwane, the mother of Munametse, died, when the latter was taken under the protection of Molehabangwe, the paramount chief of the tribe and the father of Mothibi, who had him circumcised, paying for him the cattle expected from a captain on such an important occasion. He became one of his half-brother Molehabangwe's great fighting captains ; the first warlike expedition, however, in which he was engaged was a disastrous one.
The Batlou and Batlapin tribes entered into an alliance to attack a neighbouring nation. A place of meeting was agreed upon, but owing to some mistake the junction was not effected. The Batlapin, although disappointed at this mischance, resolved to attack the nation single-handed, without waiting for the Batlou. In their first assault they carried everything before them, defeating the people and capturing many of the cattle, the sole object of their enterprise. Next day, however, their opponents rallied, attacked them in their turn, and gained a complete victory over them. All the cattle were recaptured, and the Batlapin were pressed in their flight so warmly that most of them threw away their karosses, that they might be able to escape with greater speed. Eight of the chief captains and many young chiefs fell in the battle, or were overtaken and slain in their rapid retreat. After the pursuit was abandoned, the fugitives nearly perished from the coldness of the weather and the want of provisions.
Some time afterwards a party of this tribe went to purchase cat-skin karosses from the Bakalahari, who lived at some distance to the north-east of their territory. During three days journey in the Kalahari they found no water. A short time before finding it they were attacked by Madraka, the chief of a clan of Barolong that had taken the title of Bataung,N who succeeded in cutting off the whole party. As soon as the news of this unprovoked attack reached Lithako, the Batlapin sent an expedition against these Bataung to revenge it, and succeeded in taking many of their cattle. Elated, but not satisfied with this success, these Batlapin marched a second time against the Bataung, and again defeated them, burning their great-place and slaying many of its inhabitants.
Notes: This is not the great Bataung tribe of which the Leghoya were the elder branch, but a small clan of the Barolong, that was afterwards annihilated in the native wars, which led Dr. Livingstone to imagine that the Bataung had become extinct.
After this signal defeat and the destruction of their town, the remnant of the Bataung fled for protection to a nation beyond the Bangwaketse, probably a portion of the Bakuena. But even here the Batlapin would not allow them to remain in peace, but started a third expedition after them.
On the road thither they fell in with Makaba, the chief of the Bangwaketse, who was engaged on a hunting excursion, and who on hearing the object of their expedition tried to divert them from it, and in lieu thereof to unite with him in an onslaught on one of his neighbours. They refused compliance, proceeded onward with their original determination, and attacked Madraka and the tribe with which he had taken refuge. Here they met with such a severe repulse that they were obliged to make a hasty retreat. In the meantime Makaba had determined to intercept them upon their return, and placed his warriors in ambush for that purpose. Upon their near approach Makaba's men took them by surprise, and slew many of them, thus giving a disastrous ending to their expeditions against the Bataung.
Notwithstanding the numerous forays that were being continually made by these tribes for the sake of capturing one another's cattle, such was the natural timidity of many of the Bachoana that if a party of them was attacked by a superior force, and there did not appear any prospect of escaping, they made no resistance, but calmly allowed themselves to be butchered. This trait in their character will explain the sudden reverses and collapses in which so many of their expeditions ended, as well as the facility with which more determined and warlike invaders overran the country from whatever direction they made their appearance.
About the beginning of the present century the Batlou sent envoys to the Batlapin, inviting them to join in an attack upon the Leghoya, with whom the former had a quarrel. The Batlapin sent a strong party, of which Munametse was one. The united attack was successful, and many cattle were captured and carried off from the Leghoya. On their return, this combined force of marauders attacked a kraal of Bachoana-Bushmen, to seize the few cattle which they possessed. In the struggle Munametse was wounded in the leg. At this time the Leghoya lived on the left bank of the 'Gij-'Gariep or Vaal, as Munametse in his narrative mentioned the fact of their crossing it. He also stated that the Batlapin made an attack upon the Bakuena, but omitted mentioning the result.
The following occurrence, which took place shortly after the commencement of the rule of Molehabangwe, may serve as an illustration of the manners of his times. A party of Bastaards from the Falls, or Pella, on the Great river, then the headquarters of the embryo-Griquas, paid a visit to Lithako to improve their fortunes in the usual manner of the natives of those days. They were all well armed and mounted on oxen, and had some women with them. When they left they resolved not to return without a fortune. Pursuing their course a great distance along the western boundary of the Kalahari, and favoured with a rainy season, they directed their steps east and south-east until they reached the Mosheu river, thus coming into the Bachoana territory from a quarter in which they were least expected.
Here they found some cattle outposts belonging to the Batlapin under Molehabangwe, who was then residing at Lithako. They soon supplied themselves with what they liked, took some of the cattle, dispatched those who resisted their depredations, and pursued their course for some days along the river. They reached the great town of Molehabangwe, where the tidings of the robbery had arrived before them, and the inhabitants had the mortification of beholding two or three of their pack oxen in the possession of the marauders. No notice was taken, and more than usual courtesy was shown towards them. In order to keep up an appearance of an abundant quantity of ammunition, they filled some bags with sand, to deceive the Batlapin.
When the appetites of the guests had been whetted, and the whole party were anxious for a revel in beef, two oxen were presented to them. One of them, being extremely wild, which was part of the stratagem, took fright at the appearance of the motley group, and darted off, when all pursued, eager to secure their fat and tempting prey. This was the moment for revenge, and at a given signal several were speared at once. Others rallied, and retreated to one of the stone folds, but having scarcely any powder or shot they made but a feeble resistance. Mercy in vain was asked, no quarter was given, and night put a close to the struggle, when the Bachoana lay down by fires, surrounding their intended victims, as they usually do even on the field of battle, and slept. Those of the travellers who were not wounded, aided by the darkness of the night, made their escape, and directed their course to the southward, as the Cape Colony was in that direction. At daylight the women and wounded were all dispatched, and those who had escaped were pursued for three successive days, with the determination to exterminate the whole party. They had well-nigh succeeded, for one alone of about fifty, covered with wounds, returned to the Waterfall on the 'Gariep, there to relate the fearful catastrophe which had befallen them.
In 1807 the relative positions of the several tribes were, from west to east and north-east, 1, the Batlapin ; 2, the Barolong ; 3, the Bangwaketse, and 4, the great Bakuena group, or the Bakone tribes as they were frequently called.
About 1811-12, in the later days of Molehabangwe, a somewhat startling incident took place, in the appearance so far in the interior of a numerous body of plundering Kaffirs from the border of the sea, who came against the Batlapin, intending to steal their cattle. In 1810 a similar, or probably the same horde had threatened to attack Griquatown. From the date of these attacks it is certain that the marauding Kaffirs belonged to neither the Amazulu nor Matabili, but were a portion of the emigrant Abatembu or Amaxosa, about whom there are a number of traditions along the valley of the 'Nu-'Gariep or Upper Orange river, as well as among the Eastern Frontier Kaffirs themselves, as will be more fully explained when specially treating of those tribes.
This inroad is a strange illustration of that inherent craving after cattle which possesses the native mind, when we find that these very Kaffirs, to avoid the harrying of the more powerful branches of their own tribes, fled from the lower or coast districts into what was to them an unknown interior ; but no sooner had they arrived there and made the discovery that there were other tribes not only rich in cattle, but also less warlike than themselves, than they at once made an attempt to commence the same system of strife and spoliation from which they themselves had attempted to escape. They came in such insignificant numbers that they could be isolated and cut off from supplies by those whom they assailed, instead of being able to strike an immediate and crushing blow like the overwhelming hordes of the Amazulu and Matabili, which bore down everything before them by sheer force of numbers, leaving nothing but the silence of desolation and death behind them.
Lithako, the great place of the Batlapin, was at this time divided into two distinct districts. The Kaffirs first attacked Molehabangwe's division of the town, when the inhabitants of the opposite, or Mira division, seized the opportunity to flee with their cattle. The attacking Kaffirs, observing their flight, took possession of their cattle kraals and enclosures, under shelter of which they resisted the assaults made upon them by Molehabangwe and the remaining inhabitants. The Kaffirs were possessed of some muskets. After this the Batlapin placed themselves between the Kaffirs and the water, and thus cut off their supply. In this they succeeded for the greater part of a day, when the Kaffirs, almost overcome by thirst, fought their way through the opposing Batlapin, killing and wounding many of them.
While the Kaffirs were obtaining a supply of water, some Koranas who were with the Batlapin advised Molehabangwe to retire with his cattle from the town to the open field, and there stand on the defensive. This plan was rejected. The Kaffirs did not, however, return to the attack that evening, but the contest was renewed the next day. Molehabangwe with two others had gone out to watch their motions, and this was observed by the attacking party, who sent several men after them. They fled, but were closely pursued almost the whole day, during which time their pursuers on different occasions got so near to them as to be able to throw several assagais at them, but without effect. This continued until near sunset, when both sides being equally weary, the chase was given up.
The main body of the Kaffirs besieged the town the whole day, and killed one of the captains, but they were not successful in obtaining many cattle, though they killed some. The third day the Kaffirs renewed the attack, when several captains were killed, among whom were a father and two sons with many of their people. In the evening the Batlapin, taking advantage of the darkness, left the place with the cattle. The next day the Kaffirs pursued, but instead of coming up with Molehabangwe, fell in with the Mira division, which fled at the commencement of the attack. In the battle which followed, Mahumu-Pelu, the eldest son of the chief, was killed, and many of their cattle were taken, with which their enemies, being satisfied, departed without pursuing Molehabangwe.
These attacks from the southward rendered the Batlapin so jealous of the intrusion of strangers from that direction, that if any of the inhabitants saw travellers in the country, he was bound to report the circumstance at once to the great chief at Lithako, under pain of death.
In 1813 the south-western boundary of the Batlapin territory was the ridge of mountains several hours' journey to the north of the Great Kusie fountain.
The same insatiable lust for cattle was not only the ruling passion of all these people, but also the impetus which urged them to undertake enterprises with which one would scarcely have credited them, had we not been assured of the fact upon good authority. From time to time it gave birth to a migratory spirit which impelled them to undertake long journeys, either for the purpose of obtaining more extended pasturage, or for the protection of their own, or the acquisition of cattle from other tribes. The long distances to which some of their plundering expeditions were pushed by the most daring of these people in the hope of capturing the great treasure of their lives, is well illustrated by the following account of one of them, given by Makwetse, a captain of the Batlapin, to Mr. Campbell.
The narrator was engaged in the enterprise which he described, and which also demonstrated at the same time that even up to a recent period the various tribes found in Southern Africa were living in detached groups, with considerable areas of open territory between them, inhabited only by the scattered aboriginal hunters, who at one time had the whole of these wide-spread lands to themselves.
For a long time the Batlapin had been in the habit of trading with the Bakalahari, principally with a view of obtaining the wild cat skins of which some of their most prized karosses were made. From these people of the desert they learnt of a nation called Mampua, living to the north or north-west of the Kalahari, who were said to be very rich in cattle. Whether these belonged to the Hottentot or Bachoana race was not stated, but judging from their position most probably to the Ovaherero or Ovambo. The Bakalahari had received their information from a remarkably small race of Bushmen who roamed over part of the Kalahari, and who had made some successful excursions against the Mampua. The arrows of these Bushmen were composed of nine inches of reed and nine inches of bone, the whole of the latter being covered with poison.
After hearing this, the Batlapin resolved to send a strong commando into the country of the Mampua, with the hope of seizing a large booty of cattle in their unexpected attack. They started under the command of Makwetse. On their way they did not meet any of these Bushmen, although on their return they were attacked by them. The march upon the Mampua people occupied two moons, travelling every day from sunrise to sunset. They took pack oxen with them to carry food, but obtained so little to eat upon the road that they were ultimately obliged to kill the oxen, and even all these were consumed before reaching the place of their destination. Many of the Bakalahari accompanied them as guides on the road and to the pools of water. They likewise assisted them in plundering the Mampua.
At one part of the road they were ten days without finding any water, using watermelons in its stead. On one occasion they came to a pool, in which elephants had been standing during the night ; they all drank of the water, and were seized with violent sickness. They found a large pool in a cave under a cliff, into which the oxen went and drank. On the seventeenth day after this they came to the Great Water (the Atlantic), of which they were all afraid ; it had, they said, stars upon it (probably meaning the sun's rays), and great waves that ran after them, and then ran back again. They had never seen such a sight before. The country was level near the sea, but there were hills in the distance.
Notwithstanding the secrecy of their expedition, the Mampua had by some means been warned of their approach, and were making their cattle swim to an island at a short distance from the shore. Makwetse, being a young man, volunteered to push forward with some others and intercept them ; and thus they succeeded in capturing about 150 oxen and cows. The Mampua, who at first expected that the invaders would attack their town, when they saw them retreating with the cattle they had taken, pursued them, but were repulsed with a loss of three men. The next day they made a second attempt at recapture, but were again beaten off. Observing the courage of the natives, the freebooters, whose only object was the acquisition of cattle, determined without further delay to retrace their steps with what little spoil they had been able to seize.
It was fortunate for them that they had made even this capture, otherwise they must have perished from want of food on their way home. Three moons were occupied on the journey, as they were retarded by the cattle they had captured, yet notwithstanding all their toil not more than thirty head survived upon their arrival at Lithako. It is probable that the Mampua, owing to the repeated attacks which had been made upon them by Bushmen, Bakalahari, and others, had stationed sentinels on the neighbouring hills to give timely warning of an enemy's approach, and thus escaped the treachery the Batlapin had meditated against them.
Notwithstanding the failure of this first attempt, having once discovered the existence of this strange tribe possessing cattle, several other expeditions were undertaken against them, in one of which Mothibi, son of Molehabangwe, was absent ten months. Mr. Campbell states that he learnt from the evidence of another Motlapin named Mutire, that they repeated their attacks upon these people on the west coast. Mutire affirmed that he had accompanied one expedition, and that they first travelled north by Chue, the valley of Honey, and afterwards westward, passing through a portion of the Kalahari, substituting wild watermelons for water. These they found strewn in abundance over the desert.
After a journey of five moons they reached the nation called Mampua, who resided on a great water, across which they could observe no land, and on which they observed the sun to set. They saw people go on the water in bowls, who had pieces of timber which they put into the water, and pushed themselves forward. Mutire stated that the Mampua were a peaceable and unsuspecting people ; that they killed a great many of them, and took away their cattle. Those whom they did not kill fled, and left them to carry off their cattle without molestation, with which they returned in five moons to Lithako. This was probably the same attack as that in which Mothibi was engaged. After this Tsela-Kgotu, Mothibi's uncle, made several successful expeditions against the same people.
The death of Molehabangwe, the first Batlapin chief who raised them into notice, appears to have taken place during the period between the Kaffir attack and Mr. Campbell's visit in 1812-13. In the early part of 1817 the Batlapin were attacked by the warriors of Makaba, the warlike chief of the Bangwaketse, their ancient foes, on which occasion they lost a large portion of their cattle. Irritated at the loss, but fearing to attempt their recapture from so formidable an antagonist, Mothibi, who by this time had succeeded his father Molehabangwe, determined to make reprisals upon the people of some other tribe who he imagined would be less capable of resisting him. He therefore resolved to make another onslaught upon the Bakuena, who being nearly 200 miles to the north-east would be less suspicious of such an attempt from so distant a quarter. For this purpose he mustered so large an expedition that the men composing it imagined themselves sufficiently powerful to overcome any force which might be opposed to them, and as a consequence great was their joy and loud their boasting at the hour of their departure, in anticipation of the easy but richly rewarded triumphs they expected to gain.
Their object, as ever before, was to capture cattle. The invading force was commanded by Mothibi in person. The women, says Moffat, had just been wailing over the loss of many cattle taken by the Bangwaketse, and now their husbands were gone to inflict the same distress upon others ! The Batlapin warriors, full of confidence, arrived at their destination," but instead of the success they had anticipated, their supposed invincible commando was repulsed and scattered. Many were slain, others dashed to pieces over precipices, and Mothibi himself, wounded in the foot, narrowly escaped with many of his warriors. Again bitter were the lamentations of the women, as each succeeding party announced to many a distracted mother and child that they were widows and orphans. This calamitous event produced such a depressing influence upon the Batlapin that in June 1817 Mothibi, with the majority of the inhabitants of Lithako, removed to the Koeromanie river.
Besides these greater events in their tribal history, the intervening times were filled up with more petty raids of the marauding Bushmen, the men of the old hunter race, which sometimes ended in a terrible massacre of every man, woman, and child of the latter that fell into the hands of the Batlapin. The Bushmen were once the sole possessors of the territory now occupied by the Bachoana, equally with that taken possession of by either the Koranas or Griquas, or those other tribes which it will be necessary to notice in the sequel.
With regard to the Batlapin, it is quite certain that a considerable number of the original inhabitants were still scattered over all portions of the country which the former could not themselves personally occupy. The Batlapin had neither been able to conquer, annihilate, or expel the old race from its territories. These aborigines clung to their ancient haunts with that astonishing tenacity against all odds and all dangers, which has ever been such a remarkable feature with regard to them. The Bushmen of the country had, according to Moffat, kept up a constant predatory warfare with the Bachoana from time immemorial, upon whom they wreaked their vengeance whenever an occasion offered.
Mr. Campbell asserts that some time previous to 1820 a large party of Bushmen went to Old Lithako, and at midday captured some of their cattle in sight of the town. The inhabitants, in consequence of a late discomfiture they had received from the Bushmen, were so intimidated that they declined to pursue them. This timidity so emboldened the Bushmen that they advanced to the side of the town, and demanded pots to boil the flesh of the captured cattle ! On another and later occasion the Batlapin acted with more spirit, and completely overcame a party of those plunderers, after which time they were not again molested ; but even up to 1820 a great cave near Koeromanie was the general refuge of the robbing Bushmen. It was a cave which contained gloomy mysteries, into the depths of which the more timid Batlapin had not the courage to penetrate.
A characteristic and graphic description is given by Mr. Campbell of the return of one of the Batlapin commandos after pursuing some of the nimble-footed Bushmen. There had been a great hue and cry, and about sunset the warriors who had given chase were seen approaching on their return. There were about eighty, the others had been left behind from lameness and fatigue. They marched in rows about six deep, each carrying before him a shield and spear in an upright position, and singing in concert without taking any notice of those around. One or two at a time were constantly running out of the ranks to a distance of thirty or forty yards, imitating attacks upon Bushmen or pretending to defend themselves against them.
On entering the town they proceeded directly to the chief's house, where he and his captains were seated on the left side of the gate. A considerable assemblage of women greeted them on their arrival. The captains were seated in the form of a crescent, the chief sitting in the middle and in front. The commando on arriving within twenty yards halted, and took their seats immediately opposite the chief, and after a short pause a description of the pursuit was given by the leaders, the women frequently shouting their applause during its recital. It appeared that they followed the track of the greatest number of oxen till they came to the Bushman kraal, where they found nine of the animals lying dead. The Bushmen fled with five of the oxen, one of which they also killed in the flight. To entice the Bushmen to return, they left everything in the same state in which they had found it, and retired to a distance out of sight. The Bushmen did return, but having observed some of the Batlapin, they instantly fled. On seeing this the Batlapin feasted on the dead oxen, and then returned home.
After this occurrence Mothibi and his captains determined to take signal revenge on the Bushmen for their late robberies, by sending out a numerous party against them. Some time before, when the Bushmen killed a brother of Mothibi, a similar party was sent out against them, who massacred all of that miserable nation that came in their way, men, women, and children, to the number of about 200. When the Batlapin attack a Bushman kraal to revenge robberies of cattle, they kill without distinction men, women, and children ; women, they say, to prevent them breeding more thieves, and children to prevent them from becoming like their parents !
On a previous occasion, when a considerable party of these Batlapin were on a hunting expedition, they pursued a buck which had been previously wounded by a party of Bushmen. The pursuit continued until sunset, when they halted, but in the morning they recovered the trail, and continuing the chase, overtook and killed the animal. The carcase was cut up and put on a pack ox, and sent by one of their number to Lithako. The natives of this part, and amongst them the Batlapin, had a recognised custom that any game killed belonged to the one who had first wounded it. The knowledge of this fact will probably throw some light upon what followed. The Bushmen had first wounded this animal, which they lost through the intervention of a stronger party of Batlapin. Thus considering themselves wronged, they determined to recover by stratagem what they had lost by force. On the road the messenger was joined by some Bushmen, who walked with him and assisted to drive the ox. However when they arrived at a convenient place, they attacked and wounded the man with a poisoned arrow, and then carried off the ox with the flesh on its back.
The Motlapin managed, notwithstanding his wound, to rejoin the hunting party, and although he died soon afterwards, was able to communicate the information of the robbery. The hunters returned hastily to Lithako, and sent out Bushman spies, i.e. tame Bushmen in their service, to discover the retreat of the depredators. They soon returned with the desired information, when a large party of Batlapin proceeded against them. The aggressing Bushmen living in two kraals, the Batlapin divided themselves into two bodies, in order to attack both kraals at the same time. One party reached one of the kraals before daylight, while all the inhabitants were fast asleep, and a general massacre of men, women, and children took place. Only one Bushman escaped the carnage, who fled to the woods, pursued by the enraged Batlapin. He was overtaken, and although he defended himself boldly for a considerable time and wounded several of his assailants, he was at length overpowered and numbered with the dead. Of the Bushmen of the other kraal, who were attacked by the Mira division of the Batlapin, the men escaped, but the women and children were all slaughtered.
About the time of Mr. Campbell's visit the Bushmen stole twenty head of cattle from Mothibi's people, a commando immediately pursued and overtook them on the plain, when they killed ten men, five women, and five children. On returning from the slaughter, all the circumstances attending it were related at a pitso, or general meeting, after which men and women dispersed over the town, imitating the screams of those persons who had been killed, repeating their expressions of terror, and representing their actions when begging for their lives. The Lithako women displayed on this occasion a more cruel disposition than even the men. They imitated, with much apparent pleasure, the screams of the Bushmen when put to death by the Bachoana.
Thompson informs us that the expeditions of the Batlapin against the Bushmen were peculiarly vindictive, and conducted with all the insidiousness and murderous ferocity, without the heroic intrepidity of American or New Zealand savages. This was evidently the natural effect or reaction of the inherent cowardice of these untutored savages, great in courage when they found they had an enemy weaker than themselves, and whom they had overpowered by stratagem or surprise, when nothing but dabbling in the blood of their helpless victims, women and children, seemed to satisfy them. On such occasions their ferocious cruelty knew no bounds, and they were guilty of as horrible atrocities as ever stained the traditionary history of the most barbarous and ruthless tribes of South Africa.
Campbell relates another instance when, on the 1st of April 1820, an alarm was given that the Bushmen had carried off both oxen and cows belonging to the mission society. Immediately all was bustle and confusion, the men arming themselves and hastening out of town in little parties, which continued for more than an hour, till nearly every man had gone in pursuit of the Bushmen. Some parties marched in regular order with their spears suspended and their shields hanging over their backs. The hatred which many of the Batlapin felt against the Bushmen was so great that they were glad of such an occurrence, because it afforded them an opportunity of taking revenge on that miserable portion of the human species.
In July of the same year another alarm was given, in the evening, that the Bushmen had carried off a lot of cattle from an outpost under Polikane, an old captain living in the lower district of Lithako ; and it was further reported that the herdsmen also had been forced away by the Bushmen, with the design, it was feared, of murdering them, to prevent them giving the alarm. A general gloom was spread over the place by the news. Not a whisper was heard after sunset, no one was seen moving about, all was perfectly still, nor was their concern to be wondered at on such occasions, as their chief dependence for support was their cattle, the droughts so constantly blasting their hopes of obtaining a supply from their fields.
Mothibi and the Batlapin started in pursuit, accompanied on this occasion by a Christian Griqua, who Mr. Campbell trusted would prevent the murder of the innocent, for, says he, if the Batlapin were to come to a kraal of Bushmen, however guiltless of the offence, while enraged against that people, they would murder man, woman, and child with as much indifference as boys would kill mice. The poor Bushwomen must be wretched in the extreme, he adds, not knowing but that every time their husbands leave home in search of food, they may bring after them a host of barbarians thirsting for their blood and crying for vengeance.
Those who went on horseback in pursuit of the Bushmen returned at midnight. After leaving Lithako they galloped forward about twenty miles, when they came in sight of four Bushmen driving the same number of oxen as fast as they could make them go. At first the Bushmen thought the Batlapin who followed them were on foot, therefore they thrust their spears into the two weakest oxen, and continued to drive the others towards Reyner Mountain. The instant however they discovered that their pursuers were on horseback and armed with guns, they wounded the remaining oxen, and drove them a little way back, after which they fled and concealed themselves amongst bushes and holes.
The Batlapin did not pursue them, aware how much risk they ran from their poisoned arrows shot from among bushes. They contented themselves therefore with driving back the wounded cattle. The leaders of the party were doubtless disappointed at finding none of the cattle dead of their wounds. In that case they would have prepared to feast, whereas they were now obliged to go to bed fasting, for on such expeditions they carry no provisions, but depend upon the cattle which are generally slaughtered by the Bushmen before they can be overtaken ; and thus it is when they come up to any cattle left dead by the Bushmen, instead of pursuing the robbers with greater ardour, they sit down and feast.
Mothibi in his hunting and other expeditions was accompanied by many attendants carrying spears and poles dressed with black ostrich feathers, which were stuck in the ground around places where they halted, to frighten away lions, which, from Bushman experience, it was discovered were not fond of their appearance.
The loss of cattle to such cattle-loving races as the Bachoana, Basutu, and Kaffirs must have been galling and irritating in the extreme. When captured by people like themselves, there was the chance of recapture, with perhaps a few additional beeves to compensate for the temporary loss ; but when seized by the Bushmen, in most instances it became a total loss, as when the latter found themselves hotly pursued, those they could not escape with were generally stabbed or hamstrung, so that the avengers who followed them could not avail themselves of the recapture, nor make reprisals upon the hunter-race, whose only cattle were the wild herds of the eland, the quagga, and the gnu. The pursuers therefore, whenever an opportunity was afforded them, revenged themselves upon the persons of the wild hunters, by slaying them without pity when they fell into their hands. But is it possible for us to say that the Bushmen had neither injustice nor wrong to complain of ? They were not the invaders, it was not they who attempted to appropriate the country of others ; and after such recitals as the foregoing of the treatment which they constantly received at the hands of the Koranas, the Griquas, and as we now find of the Bachoana, can the deadly and vindictive hatred which seemed to animate their untutored minds, and which was frequently displayed in their actions and in their attempts at retaliation, be wondered at ? They found that every hand was raised against them, and that none showed them mercy or pity.
Numerous intermarriages had taken place between Bushmen and Batlapin and Koranas and Batlapin, and this not only between the commoner people, but also between some of their leading chiefs ; thus Mahutoe, the great-wife of Mothibi, was the daughter of a Korana captain living near the Vaal, still she was at the same time descended from Morakanela, an ancestor of Mothibi, thus proving a prior marriage between some ancestor of her father and a daughter of the royal house of Phuduhuchoana.
It was said that Phethloi (the Peclu of Philip and other writers), the eldest son and heir of Mothibi and Mahutoe, who died young, perished through witchcraft; as the Batlapin, in common with all other native tribes in South Africa, had a firm belief that all deaths except those occasioned by violence and old age were caused by enchantments or sorcery. He left an only son, named Phuitsile (the Dove has come), who was afterwards killed fighting against the Dutch, leaving four sons and three daughters.
The great-place of Mothibi, which was visited in 1823 by Thompson, is thus described : the huts of which it was composed were all of a circular form, and of a very peculiar and convenient fashion, considering the climate and circumstances of the people. The roof was raised upon a circle of wooden pillars, including an area of from twenty to thirty feet in diameter ; about two yards within these pillars is raised a wall of clay, or of wattle and plaster, which is not generally carried quite up to the roof, but a space is left above for the free admission of air. In the centre, or back of the hut, is constructed a small apartment where they keep their most valuable effects. Between the wall and the pillars the people generally recline during the sultry hours. Each of these houses is enclosed within a close wattled fence, about seven or eight feet high, which is carried round it at a distance of six, eight, or ten yards, thus forming a private yard, within which are placed the owner's com jars and other bulky property.
Each of these yards has a small gate, and all the houses are built in exactly the same style, and nearly of the same dimensions, except that belonging to the chief, which is almost double the size of any of the rest. His house and those of his principal captains were erected near a large camel- thorn tree, which was left there as a sign of rank. The streets and lanes were kept perfectly clean, neither bushes, rubbish, bones, or any other nuisance was allowed to be thrown upon them. The place allotted for public assemblies was in the centre of the town, enclosed with a wattled fence. It was about 150 yards in diameter. One side was set apart for the warriors, the other for the old men, women, and children.
The arms of the Batlapin at this time were bows and arrows, assagais, battle-axes, and shields. We have already described the paint that was used for war and for festive occasions. The commonalty were debarred the use of particular skins ; that of the jackal was reserved for the use of the chief men of the tribe. Mr. Campbell describes one of these subordinate chiefs, named Malawu, who had a short time before joined Mothibi with 500 men, as being seated on a quagga skin, which was striped like that of a zebra ; his beard was black and about an inch long on his upper lip and on the lower part of his chin ; he had also the skin of a long serpent wrapped round his head, and the head of the animal hung over his brow. The writer has been informed by the Basutu chief Mapele that all the men of the Bachoana and Basutu tribes prided themselves exceedingly upon any display of beard, considering it an index of strength and virility. We shall omit for the present any consideration of their various ceremonies, their rites of initiation and other customs, and proceed once more in our attempt to unravel the thread of their history.
Owing to the marauding Griquas and nomad Koranas who infested the country to the south, a belt of neutral ground had been tacitly agreed upon between Griqualand and the Bachoana territory, in which, however, as we have seen, a considerable number of Bushmen still lingered ; but formidable as their attacks had proved, there were about this time other dangers of a still more terrible character looming above the horizon in an opposite direction.
The Native Races of South Africa
01. Editor's Preface
15. The Koranas
17. The Griquas
24. The Barolong