Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

The western boundary of this Kafirland, after running along the western plateau skirting the Lulu range, strikes the Oliphants River opposite the village marked Mafefer. It then runs east along the north bank of the Oliphants River to the 32d degree of S. lat., along which it should proceed northward to the Limpopo. For the rest, following a line of nearly a thousand miles in length, with a general westerly direction, finally bending southward, the whole Transvaal is surrounded by Kafirs. The only great distinction between these Kafirs and those on and east of Drakensberg, is that the tribes of the east are all Zulus or Kafirs proper; those of the north, west, and east, are of the Bechuana race. Far north of the Republic, however, but separated from it by Bechuanas and peaceable tribes, dwells another Zulu nation called the Amandebele. These are a powerful people, occupying an enormous territory, but who have had no important conflict with the Boers since they fled into the land they now occupy.

Having, I think, now roughly but plainly stated how the Kafir tribes enclose the Republic, I shall deal with the most important points in relation to them and their neighbours the Boers.

First in importance come the Zulus of Zululand, alleged to be the fiercest and best warriors in Africa. They are at present united under one king, have a fixed government, which may be briefly described as a despotism tempered by polygamy. Their numbers have been vastly exaggerated, and their prowess in war magnified by interested persons for purposes which, I trust, the whole course of this narrative will tend to expose. They were a conquering people until 1840, when they were utterly and thoroughly humiliated by about four hundred farmers, armed with flint-lock guns and pocket-knives, who attacked the majority of the nation with the assistance of a small minority under one of its chiefs— the brother of the reigning king—whom they, the farmers, then declared and appointed king of the Zulus. Since then, excepting raids against the Amaswazi and other neighbours, the Zulus have done nothing to justify the reputation for skill and courage in war which South African tradition, fostered by the intrigues of cunning self-seekers, has secured

PAGANISM AND POLYGAMY. 135

to them. The Red Kafirs of the Cape Colony, who, under their undoubtedly brave and experienced chiefs, Kreli and Sandilli, have been recently utterly destroyed by the colonists and soldiers, with a total loss of only fifty on our side, are as much braver and better men than the Zulus, as Tartars are to Mongolians, or New Zealanders to either. The Zulus, however, have a peculiarity on which sufficient stress has not been laid by political scribblers and colonial press men. They cannot be converted. They are an utterly impracticable, polygamous, pagan race. The Rev. Mr Thomas, in page 346 of his excellent book on ‘South Africa,' after ten years' work amongst the Amandebele, who are the very best of the Zulus, says, in regard to his long and weary labours: “It would have been very pleasant and satisfactory to have been able to enumerate instances of positive and direct spiritual results. Nor would it have been less pleasing to Christian friends at home to read the accounts of such. But, unhappily, I have no such bright stories to relate, nor has our mission been a success—if, indeed, by that is meant a number of people crying out “Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?’ or even a church formed; for we cannot boast of such glorious things in the Amandebele country.” Again, at page 415, this excellent and truthful writer says, referring to those same northern Zulus, “We cannot speak of direct or evident conversion in any one instance.” His experience exactly tallies with the result of inquiries I have made as to the possibility of converting any Zulu. I remember well, in 1869, asking the Right Rev. Dr Allard, who had been most successful amongst the Basutos, why his priests had neglected the great open field for them amongst the Zulu Kafirs of the coast. He told me “that it was useless; they were lost in paganism and polygamy.” He had known a Zulu made worse, but never better, by teaching. The Rev. Father Barrett, 0.M.I., of Maritzburg, stated subsequently that his was a similar and equally sad experience. In June last I asked the Roman Catholic pastor of Durban, who has now laboured for twenty-one years on the coast, how many Zulus he had improved by his religious instruction; he said, “Not one.” I also spoke to the lady-superior of the convent at Durban—an Irish lady—one of the distinguished and devoted sisterhood over whom Mrs Somers (Mother Scholastica) presides at Rathfarnham, near Dublin, what she thought of the Zulu mission. At the same time I asked permission to make use of her answer. She said: “When I came first to this country I was most hopeful and earnest in my desire to do good amongst these people. It is impossible, and will remain so, unless God changes them very much.” I know it is said that Zulus have been converted; but so far as my own experience goes of them, they are a nation of liars, and have only been converted into more expert and greater liars. Now these barbarians have by degrees been permitted to fill Natal up with refugees from the cruelty of their king, or who had left his country and come under British protection to avoid the arduous military servitude to which they were subjected at home. In Natal, consequently, Zulu politics are of importance, and the Zulus, both within and without Natal, constitute a real danger to the 22,000 white men, women, and children, who are compelled by vicious laws almost to encourage, as they certainly are to permit and protect, the fearful polygamy and female slavery of those most abandoned and impracticable pagans. It is stated, and with some show of reason, that Sir Theophilus Shepstone a few years ago had attained to a wonderful degree of power over the barbarous races in Natal. This power had to be fostered and strengthened by a policy that played off one savage against another—that made Pagadi an instrument to destroy Langalibalela 1 and the power of the Zulu king, a terror to all the chiefs and sub-chiefs south of the Tugela. In the same way the whole of the Natal Kafirs threatened Cetywayo, whom Sir Theophilus actually went into Zululand to visit, and whom he added to the anointed kings of the earth. This king, as is alleged by the Boers, has for years been encouraged to seek causes of quarrel with them. The Boers laid claim to a piece of territory which was equally claimed by the king. It lies between the most northerly corner of Natal—the westerly border of Zululand —and the late Republic. I do not say that there is any truth whatever in the allegation so made against Sir Theo

[ocr errors]

philus Shepstone by the people whose country he has, rightly or wrongly, added to the empire of England. But it is a very unfortunate circumstance that this annexation was accompanied by Zulu demonstrations, which at the same time were put forward, along with other matters, in vindication of the policy by which the Natal Native Secretary forced himself on Pretoria. It is still more unfortunate that the Right Rev. Dr Colenso has produced a witness—one Magema Mahala—who asserts most positively that the Zulu king considered Sir Theophilus a possible ally against the Transvaal, and that at the critical period of annexation. Now I do not believe in the Zulu power at all. They have 30,000 warriors more or less, organised on a regimental system ; but their first appearance on the great plateau of the Transvaal would be their last on any battle-field. This very organisation, with the reputation they have got among silly people for unconquerable valour, would lead them to instant destruction, at the hands of even very inferior numbers of mounted Boers. That the Zulus would be formidable enemies in their own country I have no doubt. Even there, however, they would be found to be no better or braver than other savages, and perhaps, from their inexperience, not even such dangerous enemies as the Basutos, who have frequently fought with the whites with varying success during recent years. The Zulu nation is a bugbear, and the sooner Bogy is got rid of the better. An aged Transvaal farmer, speaking of this matter to an officer some time ago, said: “Profane people and blackguards often say that the devil is necessary to the existence of the parsons. If things go on much longer as they have been going for years past, political scoffers will say that the Zulus serve the Shepstones in much the same way.” There can be no doubt whatever that the farmer merely echoed public opinion. South African politicians keep up a sort of domestic devil for everyday use. His name is Cetywayo. As I have stated before, north of the disputed territory live the Swazis, whose name in full is Amaswazi; and as their power comes next in Kafir estimation to that of the Zulus, I shall deal with them now. These people are of the same race with all the east-coast Kafirs, speak a modification of the same language, use similar weapons, and are subject to similar tribal laws. They are at deadly feud with Cetywayo, and have been the subject of endless intrigues with the Kafir wire-pullers in Natal. Many years ago, when they were threatened with extermination, a Boer led them to victory, saved their lives, and preserved them as a people from destruction. Since then they may have been flattered and courted ; but however much they may pretend to be influenced by the promises of the enemies of the late Republic, they never ceased to be its allies in war. Here a singular feature in their character discloses itself. They respected the man who had saved them, and amongst all the whites his voice alone had power with them while he lived. If poverty came on him it made no change in their allegiance; if he even had sunk as low as it is possible for man to sink, they would still have obeyed his orders, and striven to the utmost to gratify his wishes. This man died and left no sons of his own; but he had reared two orphans—children of his adoption—and to these, on his death, the Swazis transferred the fidelity and love they bore him. Their friendship with the whites must be manifested by and through these men only ; to none other would they, or will they, listen. I have known great man after great man to visit them with presents and solicit their assistance. They would not listen to Bell; they turned a deaf ear to Thomas Burgers; and they were not even to be charmed by Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who is believed to have more influence over Kafirs, and to understand Kafir character and nature better than any living man. They will say “yes,” and pretend acquiescence in every proposition made to them by great men, whether English or Dutch; but at the beckoning of Philip Custar's little finger they would leave their homes to engage in the most distant foray. This fact, known well to the Lydenberg officials, was communicated to Captain Clarke, who in the beginning of this year relied on the Swazis to assist him against Secocoeni. His Excellency the Administrator was also informed of it. Both ignored the fact. The result of this—a result patent to the whole Transvaal, and which lowered British prestige very much amongst the English and Dutch who were ac

« AnteriorContinuar »