THE NATIVE RACES OF SOUTH AFRICA
GEORGE W. STOW, F.G.S., F.R.G.S.
25. THE BAKUENA OR BAKONE TRIBES
The group which we have now to consider was one of the most important of those which migrated from the north. Its multitudinous ramifications were at one time more widely spread than those of any other. They were found scattered over a larger area, extending from the Maluti in the south to Lake Ngami in the north, and from the flanks of the Drakensberg towards the seaboard on the east to the confines of the Kalahari on the west, while the present Transvaal territory formed the principal focus around which they concentrated. Taking them in their entirety, they had made further advances towards civilisation than any other branch of the Bantu race. The main tribes trace back, through an unbroken line of chiefs, to the great founder or common ancestor of the group, some twenty generations, representing therefore a probable length of time of six or seven hundred years.
It is evident that the siboko of the ancient stem was the Kuena, or Crocodile, even before the lifetime of the chief Kuena, the special founder of the Bakuena proper. He therefore probably derived his name from the ancient siboko of his race. The great antiquity of this tribal emblem is proved by the fact that originally all the great branches from the old stem retained the same siboko, although some were earlier offshoots than that of Kuena himself. Thus the Bahurutsi branch is called Bahurutsi a Malope, the Bamangwato, Bamangwato a Malope, and the Bangwaketse, Bangwaketse a Malope, the people or men of a son of Malope, while the Bakuena are called Bakuena a Masilo, the people of Kuena the son of Masilo. This plainly shows that, although a branch tribe may have selected a new object of veneration, in which they were frequently guided by the name of their founder, or it may be that the founder himself took the name of the new siboko in order to shew that he was the man of, or representative of, the emblem adopted by his clan, whichever way it may have been, the origin of this superstition was beyond that, though the commencement is lost in the dim obscurity of past ages.
The term Bakone or Bakoni, which has been applied to them, has been considered by some as a term of reproach, and of Kaffir origin, being an appellation bestowed upon them by the latter people, who looked with contempt upon the less warlike character of the interior tribes than that of themselves. M. Arbousset states that he has heard that the denomination of Bakoni was applied without distinction by the Kaffirs to all the coloured people they had known, that of Basutu to the Bachoana in general, and the name Baroa to the Bushman race. Moffat appears more correctly to confine the title to the group of the Bakuena ; while we shall find as we proceed that the term Basutu was applied exclusively to those clans which represent the Southern Bakuena. The Bushmen on the other hand called the Bachoana and Basutu collectively by the name 'Ku, while they designated the Coast Kaffirs 'Tolo, and themselves 'Khuai and 'Khuai- 'Khuai.
Fortunately the connection between the various branches of this group has been preserved, N which enables us to follow out our inquiry with considerable precision. We will therefore do so under the following heads, viz. : —
1. The Bahurutsi, the people of Mohurutsi,
2. The Batlaru, the men of the Python,
3. The Bamangwato, the people of Ngwato,
4. The Batauana, the men of the young Lions,
5. The Bangwaketse, the people of Ngwaketse,
6. The Bakuena, the men of the Crocodile.
Notes: The merit of this is largely due to the energy of the Rev. Roger Price, who upon being written to by the author for information, at once applied himself to the collection of this valuable addition to the tribal history of South Africa.
Under the last we shall, on this occasion, merely speak of the northern tribes of these people, and reserve whatever remarks we have to make upon the remainder of the clans until we treat of the great migration of these tribes to the south of the Vaal.
The Bahurutsi, or the People of Mohurutsi.
Malope, the great ancestor of this tribe, was the eldest son of Masilo I, but, according to native tradition, having wrenched a portion of the town or tribe from his father during the lifetime of the latter, his second son Kuena was looked upon as the true lineal representative of the house of Masilo I. At the death of Malope, his people were again subdivided under his three sons Mohurutsi, Ngwato, and Ngwaketse, who laid the foundations of three powerful tribes of the great Bakuena nation ; although, in the first instance, Ngwato and Ngwaketse left their brother Mohurutsi with their portions of their father's town, and joined Kuena, where they remained with his tribe until a subsequent period, when their followers, having retained their individuality throughout, left it, and became independent tribes distinguished by the names of their respective chiefs as the Bamangwato and Bangwaketse.
It was evidently from this lengthened intimacy with the Bakuena that these two branches retained the old national siboko of the crocodile, the Bamangwato taking the antelope called the puti or phuti (the duiker) as an additional object of their veneration, while as we have already seen, the Bahurutsi having separated under different circumstances became the Bachwene, or the men of the Baboon, at an early period of their separation. Notwithstanding this alteration, all the tribes derived from the ancient stock of the Kuena hold the crocodile in particular fear, even to the present day looking upon any contact with it as the sure prognostication of evil ; thus showing that they still retain some of the early habits of their race.
Although the national symbol ceased to be the special emblem of their tribe, it is quite certain that the Bahurutsi rulers were still acknowledged as the paramount chiefs of all the others, with the exception of the representative Bakuena. This ancient rank of the Bahurutsi is even now recognised amongst them. This is unmistakably the case at any of their rites and ceremonies : thus it is the prerogative of the Bahurutsi to be the first to eat the first fruits of the new year, and it would be a serious breach of international etiquette for any of the kindred tribes to partake of the first fruits of the season before they had received intimation from the Bahurutsi that they have already gone through that ceremony. Even should a travelling Mohurutsi be on a visit to any other tribe when any of their rites and ceremonial mysteries are being performed, he would take precedence of all the others, notwithstanding the presence of the ruling chiefs of any of the other branches, even were he merely one of the commonalty among his own people, a sure acknowledgment, according to native law and custom, of priority both of rank and of tribal existence.
Little has been preserved of their intervening tribal history from their separation to the last few years which preceded the Mantatee invasion, except that they had numerous wars with almost every tribe. They look, according to the authority of Marete, upon Masilo as the great warrior chief of their race, who spread his conquests far and wide in every direction. They have the same traditions as all the other tribes of having migrated from the north, and it would appear that these conquests of Masilo were achieved during this process of migration.
For a considerable period previous to 1812 their great town appears to have been Kurrechane, about two hundred miles north-east of Lithako. It was situated in the Mosega basin, which contained the sources of the Marikwa, and was bounded on the north and north-east by the Kurrechane range of mountains. The beauty and fertility of this tract of country formed a theme of admiration for several of the early travellers. Kurrechane, like all the chief towns of these agricultural tribes, was of considerable dimensions. Dr. Casalis describes the country around the town as being very beautiful. To the north, he says, rose the mountains of Kurrechane and Lehorutse, to the east was the valley of the Magame, covered with fields of millet, and to the south, hills carpeted with verdure beautified the landscape by the variety of their forms.
Mr. Campbell, who visited them in 1812-13, states that Sibiware was then chief of the tribe, and that their manners and customs were similar to those of the Bangwaketse. Their great place was larger than Lithako, and their cattle kraal was so large that animals frequently grazed in it. The climate of their country was cold, on account of its elevated position, while the grass was peculiarly short and sweet. The country abounded also in wood, particularly one sort, of which they made large wooden bowls which they called Magwana, and which grows tall and thick. It was from the Bahurutsi that the Batlapin obtained the copper for rings which they manufactured, and iron for making assagais. The ore was said to resemble the earth, which they dug out of a mountain, after which it was smelted, and made into various articles. The iron was also dug out in stones, and under- went the same operation. The Bahurutsi were two days' journey from the Bangwaketse, and five days from the Batlapin.
Some of the principal houses were of considerable size. One, described by Mr. Campbell, was circular, like all the others, having not only the walls plastered within and without, but like-wise the inside of the roof. The wall was painted yellow, and ornamented with figures of shields, elephants, camelopards, etc. It was also adorned with a neat cornice on a border painted of a red colour. In some houses there were figures, pillars, etc., moulded in hard clay, and painted with different colours, that would not have disgraced European workmen. They shewed themselves an ingenious people. Various vessels were in their possession, painted of different colours and glazed for holding water, milk, food, and a kind of beer made of corn. They had also pots of clay of all sizes and very strong. Every part of their houses and yards was kept very clean. They were also acquainted with the method of smelting metals.
Alarms from sudden forays made upon them were as much a normal condition among these Bahurutsi as among the other tribes. Mr. Campbell has given us a description of the excitement which one of these alarms occasioned. The hue and cry was raised, and a scene of confusion quickly followed. A number of shrill whistles sounded in every direction, men bawling, and the enclosed cattle bellowing with all their might, while the warriors armed with their assagais, shields, and battle-axes, started in pursuit. On their return they came marching in regular order, carrying their arms in stately array, their faces bedaubed with pipe clay, every face marked differently ; their legs were painted with the same clay up to the knees, resembling stockings. On halting, they went through all kinds of manoeuvres used in attacking an enemy, with their assagais, etc. Some- times they would leap to a great height, as if to escape an arrow or an assagai. Their movements in advancing or retreating were in a zigzag direction, as if to prevent the enemy from taking aim at them. When the exercise was over, they retired outside the gate, and sat down.
On another occasion, some of these Bahurutsi warriors painted their bodies with a pipe clay of a French-grey colour.N Most of them were armed with four assagais, also battle-axes and shields made of the hide of an ox. They exhibited their war manoeuvres in a terrific manner ; now advancing, then retreating, and suddenly returning to the attack, sometimes imitating the stabbing of an enemy. The height of their leaps into the air was surprising. At a great meeting, notwithstanding the great diversity of dresses, they all resembled each other in having their bodies painted with white pipe clay from head to foot, and in wearing a white turban made from the skin of the wild hog, the bristles of which were as white as the whitest horsehair. Many wore panther or leopard skins, and several were ornamented with eight or ten coverings resembling fur tippets hanging from their shoulders ; and others wore them depending from the middle of their bodies. One warrior alone was painted red from head to foot.
Notes: These tribes used different colours for their war paint, the Tamaha and Batlapin red, some of the Mantatees black, and the Bahurutsi different shades of white.
These tribal colours would almost seem to intimate that such distinctive adornment was used to enable the warriors of any tribe to distinguish those of their own clan from those of their enemy, in the day of battle, as in the confusion of the combat, with men speaking the same language and using the same dress and weapons, an error, especially in one of their night attacks when they could not very readily by any other means distinguish friends from foes, might easily arise.
There seems very little doubt that before the desolating invasions of the formidable Mantatees, and still more terrible Matabili, the country around the Bahurutsi was very thickly populated. Mr. Campbell noted some of these tribes at the time of his visit. He states that to the north of them the Bamangwato and Bakuena were living, to the north-east the Makalaka, to the eastward the Bahatja, the Bapalangi, and the Mashona, to the south-east the Barolong, the Basetja, Maribana, Babuklola, Bamuhopa, and Bapuhene, to the south-south-east the Bapoo (the men of the Bull), Bamatou, Baliciana, Bahoba, Bapiri, Baklokla (probably the Batlokua), Mulihi, Muhubilu, Mumanyana, Bahoupi, and Bamaliti. Many of these were doubtless minor offshoots or clans of the great tribes of this group, which were afterwards swept from the face of the earth by the invading hordes that, within the ten years which followed, devastated the entire country occupied by the Bakuena group ; after which many of these smaller tribes were never more heard of, and were as clean gone as if they had never existed.
At the time, although some portions of the country were thickly populated, it was not evenly peopled throughout ; but there were numerous centres round which the tribes were densely congregated, with great zones of open country around and intervening between them, the resorts of countless herds of game, and where the aboriginal Bushman still followed the chase, like his forefathers before him, in spite of the intruders who had occupied all the most arable portions of the land, where the invading hordes had for some generations established their great agricultural settlements.
As will be seen, on a reference to the table of chiefs, the Bahurutsi divided into three great branches, the eldest or great branch was the house of Mangope, whose representative now resides at Kolobeng, and whose chief has always been acknowledged as paramount over the others ; the second or inferior branch was looked upon as the house of Moilo, whose members are now far more numerous than those of the elder ; the third offshoot was that of the Batlaru, or the men of the Python. Many minor clans, now lost sight of, have been thrown off from these, whose history it would be unnecessary for us, even if we were able, to pursue.
The paucity of traditions which appear to have survived with regard to their chiefs would seem to indicate that no one of the original stock rendered himself, for many generations, so conspicuous, or sufficiently famous, as to have left his impress upon the tribal history. What little is to be learnt about them has always been from fragmentary allusions to them in connection with other tribes. It is thus that we gather that the Bakuena sometimes made forays upon them, with the hope of relieving them of some of their sleek herds ; and that their powerful relatives, the Bangwaketse, attacked them under their warlike chief Makiba, when Wakanye, one of their captains, was slain. Their vast wealth in cattle was no doubt the great inducement which instigated these onslaughts upon them.
Crocodiles were so numerous in the rivers of the country that in the days of the Bahurutsi occupation they have been known to attack and overpower both cows and oxen which incautiously approached the water to drink.
In our memoir of the Batlapin, we saw that the daughter of the great house, or that of the chief wife or queen, asserted her prerogative of appointing a successor to the chieftainship when no male heirs had been born to the house which she represented, at the time of her father's death. The history of the Bahurutsi chiefs furnishes us with another instance of the old-time customs which still survived among these South African tribes.
The great queen of Sibiwure, at the time of his death had no children by her husband, but still, although he had left sons by his other or inferior wives, the right of succession was in her house. It was therefore ordained, in accordance with ancient custom, that his brother Lekweleng should consort with her that he might raise up seed for his brother, Sibiwure being looked upon as the reputed father of any offspring which might arise from such a union. In consequence of this arrangement, a son was born to the great house, whose rights and privileges were exactly the same as if he had been the actual son of the chief himself, Lekweleng, his actual father, remaining until his coming of age his guardian, and acting as regent until that time arrived.
This Lekweleng, according to Campbell, appears to have been, for his time, a considerable traveller. He had traversed the country for eight days' journey to the eastward of the territory of his own tribe ; and it is interesting to learn that it was probably through this channel that the Bahurutsi first heard of a people still farther to the eastward than their daring chief penetrated, called Matabili, living near the " Great Water." These were probably the original Amazulu, who were then beginning to drive the coast tribes before them ; and thus some of the fugitives crossing the Drakensberg commenced to spread the terrible fame of " the men who disappeared," as they were called by the Bakuena tribes when they saw them advancing under cover of their great shields. Through the same channel they learnt of the existence of another nation to the north-east, called Molokwam, that used only bows and arrows in war. He stated on his return that all the intervening tribes which he passed had houses, dress, and fields similar to the Bahurutsi.
In 1823 Lekweleng or Ithlasing was still at the head of the tribe at Kurrechane, when the Mantatees first fell upon the Bakuena tribes, destroying many of their towns and slaughtering immense numbers of the people, after which, while advancing towards the west, the invaders met their first check at the hands of the redoubtable Makaba and his Bangwaketse warriors. Thus baulked of their expected prey, these swarming hordes, burning with a vindictive desire to wipe out the rebuff they had just received, invaded the Bahurutsi territory, darkening the hills with their savage and relentless legions. Kurrechane was taken by storm, and not only laid in ruins, but almost completely razed. An indiscriminate butchery of the inhabitants who were not fortunate enough to make their escape accompanied the onslaught, the invaders stripping them of the greater portion of their great herds of cattle, and carrying havoc and desolation wherever they went. Then turning upon the Barolong, as we have already seen, they stormed their towns and scattered the inhabitants. The alarm spread to the Batlapin, and the terrible report of their cannibal propensities increased the consternation and dismay of the tribes threatened with invasion.
Ithlasing's death must have occurred about this time, as no further mention appears to be made of him. After the storm had passed, some Bahurutsi fugitives again settled themselves near the site of old Kurrechane. In 1829 these fragments of their tribe were living at Mosega, under Mokatla. They had lost all their flocks by the Mantatees, and were living congregated in a glen, their wide spreading corn lands, which had once covered the sides of the sloping hills and filled the valleys, were lying almost totally neglected ; and they were subsisting on game, roots, berries, and what little food they could raise from their diminished cornfields.
At this time another terror was growing upon them, and they were living in fear lest Moselekatze should one day make them captives. The most advanced outposts to the eastward of these dreaded Matabili were in this year at a distance from the Bahurutsi of about one hundred miles, or about four or five days' journey by waggon from Mosega, the intervening country being beautiful and fertile, so that no barrier now interposed between them.
Shortly after the terrible catastrophe which befel the great Griqua raid under Barend Barends into the Matabili country in 1831, Moselekatze rapidly extended his conquests to the westward. The French missionaries, Messrs. Pellissier and Lemue, had by this time visited Mokatla, and established a mission at Mosega. As the Matabili chief advanced, he sent to summon the white men to his headquarters, but fearing the wily despot, they fled to Lithako. Almost immediately afterwards the incensed Moselekatze attacked Mokatla and his people, and put the Bahurutsi to flight ; most of them, however, fled at his approach. Whatever remained of the once populous town of Kurrechane, the former great-place and pride of their tribe, was rooted out, and the remnant of the inhabitants scattered in various directions.
Mokatla, the chief, fled from his country with his people, a portion of whom took refuge in a small forest not far from the banks of the Kolong. Others sought refuge in the confines of the inhospitable Kalahari ; while the great Abaku-Zulu conqueror established his headquarters on the Tolane river, near Marikwa, and fixed one of his great military stations in the fertile basin of Mosega, asserting his sway at the same time as far as the Malopo.
Harris, who visited Moselekatze at this spot, says that the scattered inhabitants of this part of the country consisted principally of the Barolong, Bangwaketse, Batlapin, and Bahurutsi. These poor wretches, he writes, lived in small communities, and being destitute of cattle, depended entirely for subsistence on locusts or such game as chance might direct to their pitfalls. Near Sitlagole river many extensive villages totally deserted were passed, rude earthen vessels, fragments of ostrich eggshells, and portions of the skins of wild animals, however, proved that they had been recently inhabited. During the whole of two days, he adds, not a human being was seen.
At the time of Mr. Moffat's visit the remains of the ancient great-place of the Bahurutsi, which had taken its name from the range of mountains Kurrechane or Chuenyane, could not be found, while the number of lions which had congregated in this desolated region was fearful. Such had become the condition of the country that the lions of this part, having gorged on human flesh, did not spend their time in looking at the human eye, but sought the easiest and most expeditious way of making a meal of a man.
After the defeat of the previously invincible Matabili by the emigrant farmers and the flight of Moselekatze to the north, the remnants of the Bahurutsi, Bakatla, and other tribes returned to their old land ; but the terrible experiences of former years did not bring peace to the country. They were no sooner rid of their great common enemy, than the former system of never-ending raids and petty wars and struggles for the possession of cattle once more commenced among them, and continued without intermission until the Boers, pressing in from the south, forcibly subjected all those who came within their reach, and occupied the country.
For the purpose we have in view it will not be necessary to pursue the career of the Bahurutsi further ; we will therefore pass on to the consideration of the next branch which presents itself.
The Batlaru, the Men of the Python.
In the appellation and siboko of this tribe, we have an instance of either the symbol being adopted in honour of the name of their chief at the time of their separation from the parent stem, or else the chief himself assuming on the occasion the proud title of the Man of the Python par excellence, a designation upon which it is certain the chiefs of the Bakuena and Bataung particularly prided themselves, namely, of being called " the Man " of the Crocodile or of the Lion respectively.
The Batlaru were also sometimes known by the name of Bamothlo-a-re, the men of the Wild Olive, from the fact of their great ancestor Motlaru, who first separated with his people from the main branch, erecting his hut and those of his followers under wide-spreading olive trees. This double object of veneration would seem to suggest the probability of some incident having occurred at this halting-place which aroused their superstition, in which the visit of some enormous python to the shady grove which afforded them shelter was connected, and from which circumstance it acquired the name of Matlarung, the (actual) place of the Python, as well as that of the chief, the Motlaru, or the man of the Python.
In 1820 Mr. J. Campbell visited this tribe, when he obtained the following corroborative evidence with regard to them. The Batlaru originally constituted part of the Bahurutsi nation ; but wishing to separate, they pretended to start some two hundred and twenty years ago upon a jackal hunt. This excuse would naturally appear a feasible one, on account of the great value which was placed upon the skins of these animals for making the most admired karosses. From this hunting expedition, however, they never returned. They migrated with their herds, their wives, and little ones in a southerly direction, towards the Koeromanie, where after thus asserting their independence, they settled, taking up their first residence near a shady grove of trees (wild olives), which ever after obtained the name of Matlarung.
From that time to 1820 they were ruled by an unbroken line of chiefs in eight descents. At the time of Mr. Campbell's visit, Lahesi, then an old man, was the chief of the tribe. The Batlapin claimed the tract of country in which their forefathers had settled, and they had ever since acknowledged them as superiors, by giving presents as a kind of tribute, and agreeing that they would not engage in any wars or expeditions without the consent of the Batlapin chief. In other respects, however, they were perfectly independent.
The great place of their chief was at Patane ; Kuice and Turiche were two other towns belonging to them. The Batlaru painted their bodies red, in a similar manner to the Batlapin, and powdered their hair with a blue sparkling powder. They sowed Kaffir corn, melons, and beans. During the hunting months, from May to September, the chief resided at Kuice six days' journey from Lithako ; this place was situated in what was formerly the bed of the Malopo.
Lahesi stated that when he was a boy the Koeromanie river ran along the desert, but since that time it had ceased to do so. Formerly, he said, no buffaloes came near them, but of late they had come. Neither had they lions or hyenas in 1820, but some panthers. None of the Bushmen, he added, now robbed them, formerly they did, but he killed many, and they had never troubled his tribe since.N He declared that the Batlaru were the only people who had a clean country : no robbing Bushmen, lions, or hyenas, but many serpents, some of which were very large.
Notes: Evidence, nevertheless, that the aboriginal inhabitants clung to their old country until a recent period.
About the time the confederate tribes attacked the Barolong under Gontse, Tauana, Sihunelo, and other leaders, and the fatal " battle of the chiefs " was fought, a formidable horde of banditti under the leadership of Jacob Cloete and Klaas Dreyer, from the Langeberg, made a desperate onslaught upon the Batlaru. These marauders were a heterogeneous mass of Griquas, Bastaards from the Cape Colony, Namaquas, Koranas, Bushmen, and others collected in the Langeberg of Griqualand West, on the border of the Kalahari. Being armed with guns, they soon made themselves formidable, and committed many outrages throughout the neighbouring country ; while their attack on the Batlaru proved only the precursor of a succession of disasters to that people.
Mothibi, the chief of the Batlapin, in speaking of this second set of Bergenaars, said that when an enemy came from the interior, they had neither guns nor horses, and there was some chance of escape ; but when the Griquas and Koranas came, who could obtain these means of destruction from the white people, the heart of the Batlapin could think of nothing but the calamities which awaited them. The Batlapin professed to assist the Batlaru against these lawless banditti, but, notwithstanding Mothibi bewailed so pathetically the evils such marauders committed, instead of rendering the necessary aid, he seized the cattle of the weaker tribe.
This act of treachery excited the indignation of the Batlaru ; they made reprisals, and as in all such cases, bloodshed followed rapine. A meeting was convened at Koeromanie, to which the Batlaru chiefs were invited, but as Mothibi had neither the wisdom, honesty, nor decision to order his people to resign their ill-gotten spoil, the Batlaru returned mortified, and held him up to derision in their dance and song. Irritated at this behaviour, the Batlapin chief resolved to muster his warriors once more. The next day the commando set off thirsting for plunder. The result of this was the devastation of the towns and villages of the Batlaru, who fled at their approach.
In the midst of this the Batlapin discovered that they themselves were attacked by the same marauding Griquas. Their women and children were seen flying in all directions, while the immense columns of smoke shewed that many of the towns and villages were on fire. At the same time the very people who might have been their most serviceable allies at such a juncture were fugitives in the wilderness, owing to the acts of treachery and spoliation which they themselves had committed.
The date of Lahesi's death is not known, but Tlogu was the great chief of this tribe when Mr. Moffat wrote of them. His great place was at the same Patane, some twenty miles west of Koeromanie. Such being the slight sketch we have been able to make of this branch of the great group we are treating of, we will now make a passing allusion to the next which presents itself.
The Bamangwato, the people of Ngwato, and The Batauana, the men of the Young Lions.
Very little is known either of the people of Ngwato, the son of Malope, as the men of this tribe frequently designate themselves (Bamangwato a Malope), or of their history, except the facts which have been previously mentioned. We have seen, when treating of the siboko of the Bachoana, Bakuena, and Basutu tribes, that the Crocodile is as much an object of superstitious dread to a Momangwato as to a Mokuena himself. We have already pointed out that this arose probably from their longer connection with the main branch of the Bakuena, and the more friendly conditions under which their ultimate separation took place, than that of the Bahurutsi, when their common ancestor Malope appears to have parted in anger from his father, and was partly disinherited by Masilo I in consequence.
The Bamangwato have long been looked upon as one of the most industrious tribes of the interior. Their skill in the working of metals is unsurpassed by any of the native tribes, the Mashona being the only people who can attempt to compete with them. The elaboration and finish, especially when we take into consideration the primitive methods and crude implements they employ in their manufacture, of their assagais, their elephant-spears, harpoons, double-barbed arrows, and formidable battle-axes, and the ornamentation which they sometimes attempt upon their ironwork, are surprising. It was this wonderful skill in metals which saved their tribe from annihilation when their territory was invaded by the hitherto pitiless Matabili. Their skilled workmen were spared upon condition that Moselekatze should receive as an annual tribute a certain number of assagai blades, axes, etc. Some few of them fled to the north-eastern side of the Kalahari, but the great majority remained near the mountains they had formerly occupied, to the north of the old Bakuena country, the vassal smiths of the great " conqueror of nations," as the ruler of the Matabili was frequently styled.
The traditions of this tribe have never been collected, so that nothing of their history is at present known, except that during the lifetime of the old chief Kgama I a quarrel took place between his two sons Kgari and Tauana, when a division of the tribe took place, and Tauana became the founder of the branch clan Batauana, the men of the Young Lions, whose descendants have been found by modem travellers in the region of Lake Ngami.
The Bangwaketse, the People of Ngwaketse.
The siboko of the Bangwaketse was the same as that of the ancient stem from which they had sprung, and after their separation they continued to dance and revere the Crocodile until they became one of the most powerful and noted of all the numerous offshoots of the family to which they belonged. They also boasted in the title of Bangwaketse a Malope in a similar manner to the Bahurutsi and Bamangwato, and were therefore more nearly allied to the paramount chiefs of the Bahurutsi than even the great Bakuena themselves.
As agriculturists, the Bakuena alone equalled them in the extent of their operations, and the enormous corn jars which they built up of earthenware, capable of containing upwards of two hundred gallons, were the astonishment of early travellers who visited them. Campbell states that they cultivated more ground, and had a greater abundance of millet, beans, pulse, and watermelons than any of their neighbours, and more than this, they did not paint themselves so much as the Batlapin, and were cleanly in their houses, in cooking and eating, and, what would seem rather surprising with people possessing abundance of cattle, neither they nor the Barolong practised riding of any kind, not even on a pack ox.N
Notes: This shews a marked distinction between them and the nomadic pastoral Hottentot race, who seem to have practised riding from a remote period ; probably their erratic propensities, in contradistinction to the agricultural proclivities of the former, may account for this.
Great centres of population like that of the Bangwaketse depended more upon their extensive agricultural operations than their pastoral pursuits, although some of the more powerful tribes possessed immense herds of cattle. From this cause therefore there was less inducement to wander about in search of pasturage, and they would, as a natural consequence, form more permanent settlements, selecting the most fertile localities for their great- places, or chief towns, or rather collections of towns. These more fruitful and favoured tracts of country formed the nuclei around which the people of the respective tribes congregated, which from the amount of their population and the extent of cultivation which surrounded them filled the early missionaries and travellers who visited them, before the great native wars, with amazement. Under such conditions, it was but natural that they were found to have made greater advances in the construction and comfort of their dwellings, and had arrived at a greater degree of perfection in various manufactures. Their pottery, their weapons, their agricultural implements, and their wooden utensils far excelled those produced by other tribes living under less favourable circumstances.
These Bangwaketse, together with the Bakuena themselves, the Bamangwato, and some other branches of the group, may therefore be looked upon as having made greater strides towards civilisation than any of the others then pressing to the southern portion of the African continent ; while, as a necessity, from the very conditions of life by which they were surrounded, the period occupied in their migration would, under ordinary circumstances, be of far longer duration than that of those whose chief means of support were their flocks and herds.
Nevertheless a continuous struggle was ever going on between the various tribes, and even branches of tribes, for the possession of cattle ; and when from time to time a more ambitious and warlike chief than ordinary arose, his fame and that of his tribe quickly spread among the others, while some of the weaker tribes in his immediate neighbourhood became tributary to him, and thus increased his strength. The warlike renown of any particular tribe seems almost in every case to have been derived more from the personal daring and energy of the particular chief ruling them at the time than from any other cause, a fame which generally collapsed at once at the time of his death, when not unfrequently, owing to the dissensions of the rival claimants for power, the tribe itself was torn into several branches, the only remains of their loyalty to the elder branch being shewn in some slight acknowledgment of precedence and brief authority to the paramount head of the original stock, which allowed him the right of priority in all tribal rites and ceremonies when any members of that particular portion of the tribe were present.
Their wars were more cattle forays on an extensive scale than determined invasions for the purpose of securing territorial aggrandisement. Such expeditions were not unfrequently undertaken against tribes living at a distance, sometimes of two hundred miles or more, with the view of taking their intended foes by surprise, and being able to pounce down upon their cattle with little risk to themselves. The possibility of carrying out such incursions, and traversing the intervening country without discovery, or interfering, or coming in contact with the tribes which must have been passed on the way, shews that there must have been even at that time considerable tracts unoccupied by these stronger races, which were still merely roamed over by countless herds of game and the scattered hunter tribes who were the true and original possessors of the soil, but who were never taken into consideration when speaking of the inhabitants of the country. Doubtless all the rich and well-watered portions, specially adapted for their primitive mode of agriculture, had long been appropriated by the intruding tribes, and were in many parts densely populated by them.
Such appears to have been the condition of these various tribal groups at the time when Makaba II commenced his ambitious career ; but even he (judging from the fragmentary portions of his history which have been preserved) seems to have been more desirous of increasing the bovine riches of his tribe by making large and continuous captures of his enemies' or rivals' cattle, than of subduing them by actual conquest, in order to bring them under his dominion. Much less had he a desire of annihilating them, as was frequently the case in the terrible wars which broke out about the time of his death. This warlike chief adopted the custom of sending an expedition against one or other of the surrounding nations every moon, while the moonlight lasted, the expeditionary force always returning when the nights grew dark.
The warriors of this tribe had a custom of making scars on their left sides, as marks of distinction, which recorded the number of enemies they had slain in battle, and which reflected honour upon them among their fellow countrymen. Thus the principal messenger sent to the Batlapin during Mr. Campbell's visit by the chief Makaba had five cuts or scars across his left side, a proof that he had killed five men. This mode of recording the number of enemies slain by any warrior, by making a corresponding number of long scars on his body, was also practised by some of the other tribes as well as the Bangwaketse ; one of the Batlou was observed with ten of these distinctive scores upon his back, which were marks for ten men he had killed in his lifetime.
In 1820 the Bangwaketse appear to have been one of the most restless and formidable tribes in the Interior. They were generally successful both in capturing cattle and in inflicting loss of life upon their opponents in their frequent expeditions. Their power was shewn when a combination of ten other nations or large tribes was formed with the intention of attacking and crushing Makaba, but they could not make any impression upon him. His country was of a character well adapted for defence, being intersected with precipitous hills, with deep gorges and ravines, and still more mountainous towards the north and east. The vigour of his warriors was also remarkable when compared to some of the Bachoana tribes. They did not paint their bodies like the latter, but were accustomed to frequent ablutions, habits which probably conduced to their superior physical development.
Little is known of the history of this tribe from the time of Ngwaketse, its founder, to the death of Moleta, the father of Makaba. It is said that this chief was poisoned by his son Makaba, for the sake of obtaining one of his wives, to whom the son was attached. Of the intervening ancestors of Makaba nothing is known, except the sequence of their names, as shewn in the list of the Bangwaketse chiefs.
Makaba the Second, or as he was sometimes called, Mori-Moleta (the son of Moleta), had his great-place at a spot called Kuakue, about two hundred miles to the north-east of Lithako It was sometimes called Moleta, probably after his father during his lifetime. It appears that he caused his father's death about 1790 ; after which it is said that this native despot had nearly all his younger children put to death, lest they should murder him as he had murdered his father. T'shouse or Choase,N his eldest son, was, however, allowed to survive. Tchoi, his great-wife, fled from him to her father, who instead of returning her, gave her to a powerful chief named Brumila, as his wife.
Notes: This son is called Tsusane by Moffat. The custom of the same individual altering his name at different stages of his life leads to this apparent confusion in the names of individuals.
Makaba's entire life was filled up in making attacks and reprisals upon his neighbours. The Bakuena seemed special objects of his restless maliciousness. In his father's lifetime he led an expedition against them, when he succeeded in capturing many of their cattle. In a second raid against the same tribe he was equally successful, and even made one of their chiefs, named Sichangwa, a prisoner, whom he afterwards liberated. In a third attack, however, he slew Sichangwa, which so enraged the Bakuena that they rallied, made a furious attack upon Makaba, killed many of his people, and captured many of his cattle.
Notwithstanding this repulse, he attacked and killed Wikanye, a great captain of the Bahurutsi ; he drove away his own uncle Kanye and murdered his children, and carried on continuous forays, harrying the neighbouring tribes on every side, until the Bakuena on the one hand and the Batlapin on the other entered into an offensive and defensive alliance against him. Their attack was to be simultaneous. Makaba, however, not only defended himself, but beat them off with great slaughter. Hence arose the uniform enmity of the Batlapin chief against Makaba, while the former and his tribe lived in constant dread of an attack from so powerful an enemy.
Makaba, like all South African despots, possessed such absolute power over his people that all his orders, however hazardous, were instantly obeyed. Thus when Jan Bloem the Elder, at the head of the plundering horde that elected him their chief, made his desperate attack upon the territories of the Bangwaketse, Makaba became so exasperated that he ordered a chosen emissary to go and assassinate Bloem. The man went, but mistaking his victim, struck down another person instead of Bloem. He then fled, and attempted to make his escape ; but being hotly pursued was overtaken and put to death.
In the latter part of Molehabangwe's reign, the chief of the Bangwaketse invited the Batlapin and some of the neighbouring Koranas to join him in an expedition against a nation beyond his territories. They complied with his request, and marched together to attack the enemy. On the field of battle, before the engagement commenced, the Bangwaketse left the Batlapin and the Koranas to fight it out by themselves, when about eighty of them were killed. This act of treachery the Batlapin considered as a snare which had been laid to entrap them, and thus ensure their destruction.
Makaba by such means at length established his fame as the most formidable and restless chief among these native tribes. It was doubtless this continued state of war and uncertainty on the part of this powerful and objectionable neighbour which induced several branches of the Bakuena and other tribes to migrate more to the south about this time, as we find that some of them had already established themselves in the eastern portions of the present Free State before they were overtaken by the devastating wars carried on by the Amangwane under Matuana, the Mantatees under their Amazonian chieftainess, and the Matabili under Moselekatze.
At this time a considerable number of nations occupied the country to the north-east and east of the territory of this tribe, which afforded an extensive field for the marauding expeditions of this irrepressible chief. Among them were the Bapula (the men of the Rain), Bapuana, Bapiri (a branch of), Batpu, Mulihe, Matshakwa, Bapurgi, Ba-poo (the men of the Bull), Mahehe, Boperis, Bachacha, Omanribe, Selulana, Bokoti, Sebotya, Bakohe.
All these tribes extended in the directions specified, until, as the natives stated, the borders of the Batshou reached a great river so broad that you could scarcely see the other side. Its course was towards the rising sun and they affirmed that it ran into a great water that would frighten one to look at. They reported that all the nations beyond the Bahurutsi were similar in their manners, customs, and method of building houses, and so thickly was the country populated that their large towns were hardly ever more than a day's journey from each other, so that there was no occasion to sleep in the fields.
Mr. Campbell obtained the following list of tribes living to the east-south-east of the Bangwaketse in 1813 :— Maklootua, Moonshuyane, Bakuena, Boramateesa, Leghoya, Bochakapeele, Mooboobe, Makoane, Bamootslaatsa, Barapootsaane, Bakote, and Mapantue. On the south side of the Vaal river the Molesanyane, and beyond them in a north-easterly direction, towards Delagoa Bay, the Maquapa and Matslakoo.
It is very probable that in the above list of tribes the name of the chief who ruled them at the time is given as the tribal designation, thus increasing the difficulty in any attempt to identify them. At any rate they serve to show the comparatively dense native population which had congregated in portions of the country now called the Transvaal, although the greater number have disappeared from the face of the earth, and that in a shorter space of time than fifty years.
The hostile collisions of the Bachoana and Bakuena tribes of the period we are now treating of appear to have been as a rule of short continuance, and differed greatly from the terrible exterminating wars which followed, that took their rise from the wide-spreading struggles which originated among the Kaffir tribes of the coast group, who, like a devastating tide wave, ultimately rolled inward among the more effeminate and less warlike Bachoana and Basutu. The warriors of the latter made their onslaughts, like an irregular, undisciplined multitude, every one considering himself at liberty to act almost as he pleased. If one side was bold and furious at the onset, some of their opponents were quickly panic-stricken and gave way. Their example was readily followed by those who were near them, and the flight soon became general. The pursuit of the defeated army continued as long as the main body of the conquerors were able to run ; all during the flight was devastation and slaughter, as it was not their custom to take prisoners. In their attempts to escape, many threw away their caps, karosses, sandals, shields, and even assagais to increase their speed. The pursuit being over, the vanquished generally occupied themselves with rest, or in venting their chagrin in mutual reproaches for cowardice.
Moffat states that Makaba dreaded the displeasure of none of the surrounding tribes. War was almost perpetual between him and the Bakuena. From this it is evident that a great many of the tribes mentioned in the previous lists were clans, or minor offshoots of the great Bakuena group, under which name they are comprehended when speaking of them collectively. Beyond the Bakuena, Moffat adds, the Bamangwato were found, distinguished for industry and riches, and beyond the Bamangwato, the Bamagata-tsela, who seemed to form the limit of these tribes in that direction.
The chief town, Kuakue, covered a vast extent, and appeared larger than any other South African native town ; while a number of smaller ones were spread throughout the surrounding valleys. With regard to their houses and various domestic utensils, the Bangwaketse were far in advance of the Batlapin, not only in their construction, but in their cleanliness. They were also great corn growers. Some of their com jars were from eight to twelve feet in diameter, and nearly the same in height.
Owing to the fatal jealousy which Makaba displayed towards his children, his chief wife fled with her two sons, one of whom was Tsusane or Tshouse, the eldest, who was ultimately slain by the warriors of his father for treason. This incident is thus related by Moffat. Tsusane, the eldest son of Makaba, was an ambitious youth, and planned the murder of his father that he might seize the chieftainship. At first he attempted to win over the men of the tribe ; this failing, he secretly got a deep hole dug in the path his father was wont to frequent, in which he got sharp stakes fastened, and the whole covered as if to entrap game, hoping that on the coming morn his father might be the unfortunate victim. The plot was discovered, and Tsusane fled. He then attempted to influence the Barolong and Batlapin to assist him in an attempt to dethrone his father. Again he was unsuccessful.
Makaba, who appears to have been greatly attached to his rebellious son, gave strict injunctions to his warriors that in any conflicts between them and his son's adherents, they were to spare his son's life. In one of his attacks upon a cattle outpost he was defeated. Although a man of great swiftness, one still swifter overtook him, who shouted, " throw down your weapons, and your life is safe ! " He turned and threw his assagai at his pursuer, but missed his mark. He was again overtaken, when the same kind message was sounded in his ears, with the addition, " your father loves you, and will not kill you." Again he hurled another assagai at his pursuer, and fled. The third time the voice of mercy reached him, and while drawing his battle-axe from his shield, his pursuer transfixed him with a javelin. The infatuated father so mourned the loss of this unworthy son that he nearly took vengeance upon the man who thus in sheer self-defence deprived him of his intractable firstborn.
The year 1823 was an eventful one in the history of the Bangwaketse. The formidable hordes which were marshalled under the fierce inspiration of the fiery Amazon Ma Ntatesi, after spreading havoc among a considerable portion of the Bakuena tribes, lured with the hope of seizing rich spoils from the Bangwaketse, turned with their full forces into the territories of Makaba. Here they succeeded in surprising and storming some of his outstations, and dispersing some of the outlying portions of his tribe. The invaders thought victory was certain, and their dense legions swarmed over the hills towards his great-place ; but the old warrior chief proved himself equal to the danger which threatened him.
Gathering every available warrior, he guarded every pass, entrapping his enemies by the same tactics which had proved so effectual in resisting the elder Bloem at the head of his Korana clans. He laid clever ambuscades in every direction, into which they fell when they endeavoured to penetrate to his great town. Hundreds were thus slain, so that in the end they were not only defeated, but driven back with considerable slaughter. He was thus able to boast of having accomplished that which no other tribe, however powerful, had yet succeeded in doing, forcing the redoubtable Mantatee warriors to recoil before the impetuosity of his own. After this achievement he styled himself " the Man of Conquest ! " When speaking of this conflict, he said, " There lie the bleached bones of the enemy, who came upon our hills like the locusts, but who melted before us by the shaking of the spear ! "
After this great triumph, the Bangwaketse were at the pinnacle of their greatness, but their fall and overthrow followed quickly. The terrific Matabili war cloud was already ominously looming above the horizon, and throwing its advancing shadow over the Bakuena country. The Mantatee hordes, shattered as they finally had been before Lithako, were still spread over many parts of the land, filling it with dread, while a number of the dispossessed tribes strengthened their ranks, and by coalescing with the scattered divisions rendered them powerful enough to inflict upon others the same cruel wrongs which they themselves had suffered. It was such a combined force, composed principally of Bafukeng, Bapatsa, and Baperi warriors, under the leadership of Sebitoane, who on the dismemberment of the Mantatee hordes had separated himself from the main body of the invaders, which now attacked the Bangwaketse, an attack which resulted in the death of the powerful and hitherto invincible Makaba.
It seems strange at first sight that the chief who had shown such bravery and fortitude in repelling the entire force of the Mantatee hordes should at last be conquered by a single division of that formidable confederacy ; this was caused, however, not so much from any degeneracy in his people as by the treachery of his son, Sebogo or Gasiitsiwe, his surviving heir, who, according to Dr. Casalis, committed the most atrocious parricide to obtain the object of his ambition, the chieftainship of his tribe.
Of his infamous conduct this writer gives the following account. His father, feeling himself too old to fight, placed his son Sebogo at the head of the younger warriors, and sent him to repulse the invaders, who were advancing towards his capital. Sebogo set off, but hardly was he out of sight when he ordered his men to halt, and addressed the following speech to them : " I am weary of obeying old men, it is time we ourselves should be men. When the enemy appears do not hurl your assagais, flee away and hide yourselves in the woods. The Baperi, thinking we are vanquished, will go and massacre the old men in the town ! " The wretch was obeyed. The enemy passed, without opposition, and stormed the town. The veteran chief was slain amidst heaps of his equally veteran warriors, some incapable from their extreme age of bearing arms ; and thus the men whose valour had raised the Bangwaketse fame to the height it had attained cruelly fell beneath the battle-axes of the confederate invaders.
When Sebogo and his men considered they had allowed sufficient time for the accomplishment of this portion of the tragedy, they suddenly reappeared, and rushing upon the overconfident enemy, who were indulging in all the license of their easily purchased victory, drove them from the town with considerable slaughter, and retook from them the booty they had seized. Thus Sebogo or Gasiitsiwe succeeded his father as chief of the Bangwaketse. This event took place some time about 1824, but his rule was neither a long nor a prosperous one.
Notwithstanding the consecutive attacks of the Mantatees and of the horde under the Bapatsa chief Sebitoane, the Bangwaketse were still rich in cattle, and the Matabili, after deluging the Bakuena country with blood and marking their track with the smoke of burning towns, at length in their turn attacked Sebogo and the once-powerful tribe of the Bangwaketse. The short-stabbing assagai of the Matabili proved to the Bangwaketse warriors a more terrible weapon than the javelin and battle-axe of their former opponents. They displayed some of the old martial bravery of their tribe, but it availed nothing, and only increased the carnage by their irresistible enemies. They fought, but they were half annihilated ; men, women, and children were mercilessly butchered, their prosperous towns were wrapt in flames, and the fugitives who escaped dispersed in various directions.
Some fled and took shelter in the wilds of the Kalahari, where a great number of them and their cattle perished of thirst. The Bakuena and the Bamangwato, writes Dr. Livingstone, as well as the Bangwaketse, all fled thither ; and the Matabili marauders, who came from a well-watered coast, perished by hundreds in their attempts to follow them. One of the Bangwaketse chiefs, more wily than the rest, sent false guides to lead them on a track where, for hundreds of miles, not a drop of water could be found, and they were parched to death in consequence. Many of the Bakuena themselves sank under the privation, and their old men who could have told stories relative to the history of the tribes died in these flights.
After a life of trouble and dangers, the treacherous Sebogo himself died far from the land of his fathers, on the roadside, where three of his old companions-in-arms dug a grave for him with their assagai points.
It will not be necessary to follow the career of this tribe further. The great influence which they exerted upon the surrounding tribes, increasing the tendency in the weaker branches to migrate towards the south, was all centred in the life of a single chief, Makaba II, or as he proudly styled himself, " the Man of Conquest," and the power which he had built up during his life-time seemed to fall helplessly to pieces as soon as he was removed from the scene.
The Native Races of South Africa
01. Editor's Preface
15. The Koranas
17. The Griquas
24. The Barolong