Imagens das páginas


quainted with the facts—has been that Government asked in vain for the aid of the Swazis, which was of course promised, without any intention that it should be given. In April last, Matatyana, a general of the Swazi king, came to Lydenberg to see the Special Commissioner. But those who were skilled in Kafir customs remarked that he did not wear his war-dress, nor was he accompanied by a retinue of armed and properly caparisoned chieftains; on the contrary, he was half naked, and appeared more as a beggar than an ambassador. Captain Clarke was in Fort Weeber, and the Swazi general went to see him there; but like Mabonk and others of the allies of the late Republic, he finally refused to assist the new masters of the country in their wars with Secocoeni. Before leaving the Swazis, who, like the Zulus, have a most exaggerated reputation for valour and skill in war, I think it right to mention that they have never proved themselves at all worthy of the character that has been given to them. They are good at a dash, and have even undertaken long and distant expeditions; but whether they win or lose the first fight, the minute it is over they make for their homes to mourn their dead or to rejoice over their victory. Like all the other savages I have known, they are incapable of sustained and continued effort in the field, and their wars are consequently merely a series of irruptions and flights. To so great an extent is this the habit of the nation, that they have been known to proceed against an enemy a march of many days without bringing with them anything to satisfy the cravings of hunger. Thus they have been twice defeated, with terrible slaughter, by Secocoeni, whose people are supposed to be a race of cowards utterly inferior to both Swazis and Zulus. Even recently I have seen the bones of lost Swazi expeditions whitening the plains of “Mosegu.” These people extend for a considerable distance along the New Scotland border, some of them live away from the tribe amongst the white people, and are entirely faithful to them. On the other hand, two petty chiefs who broke away from their home many years ago—Umsoet and Mapethle—have joined themselves to the Bapedi, and constitute, when fighting on their own ground, not the least formidable portion of Secocoeni's little nation.




The present quarrel—Death of Jonathan—A critical position—White witchcraft—Amenities of Kafir war—An error of judgment—Soldiers' wardance—A contrast.

This chief, whose name has been brought so frequently before the public by recent transactions, has had more or less justice done to him in my sketch of the Lydenberg Volunteers and history of the second war. He is a tall man, over the middle age, very fond of drink, pock-marked, and continually suffering from inflammation of the eyes. It would not be surprising if he is really seeking to make himself, in the eyes of the Kafirs, a great statesman and leader, as Moshesh was in Basutoland proper. Many indications tend to show that Secocoeni has all along pursued a somewhat similar course to that by which Moshesh, when he discovered a country suitable to his purpose, welded together all the scattered and broken peoples, whose power afterwards became so formidable. The chief may not be brave, but he is undoubtedly a politic and very deep-thinking man. It is a remarkable fact that during the present war his people have carefully avoided attacking the Boers, but have in every instance, save one case of shooting, which might have been accidental, confined their demonstrations to essentially English farms and locations. Whatever may be Secocoeni's reasons for the adoption of this course, it is the most interesting feature of the war. Sir Theophilus came into the Transvaal avowedly to protect the Kafirs from the Boers, and, as he himself repeatedly asserted, to prevent the Zulus from invading the Transvaal, and to stay the progress of


Kafir insurrection against white power, from endangering the peace of the essentially English colonies. The Bapedi, however, again went to war, not with the Boers and the Borderers, but with Captain Clarke, Sir Theophilus Shepstone's special commissioner and ambassador to native races; and with the late administrator himself, the only man in South Africa who can manage the native races. This is very odd, and needs no comment. That Secocoeni is clever, as most Basutos are, is perceptible by plenty of proof. The Boers think that if Secocoeni appealed to the law courts to-morrow, and the judge acted with a due regard to his oath, it would be very doubtful whether he would not be able to prove, not only that he was not the aggressor, but that the present proceedings against him have been unjustifiable, if not criminal. Secocoeni's friends argue thus: The first question before the Supreme Court would undoubtedly be, Who is Captain Clarke; and what authority had he to make war, or to undertake hostilities either in or out of the Transvaal territory? That territory has laws which set forth precisely when, how, and by whom Commandoes are to be placed in the field, or wars undertaken. There is no such officer known to the law as Special Commissioner, nor are his powers defined by any warrant or proclamation. No war has been declared against Secocoeni, nor has the formal proclamation of the Commando law, required by the constitution, been gazetted. As this has not been done, say Secocoeni is merely a rebel, and has been proceeded against as such. In this case a still greater wrong has been committed. Legal forms and proper proceedings being utterly set at nought, Captain Clarke, who is not authorised by any published law or authority to put down rebellions, and who is acting in execution of no legal process, has caused sad bloodshed. Secocoeni can say: “I told Clarke that people under me were doing wrong, they committed breaches of the peace and stole cattle—they laughed at me and treated me as if I was no longer a chief. Clarke went away whilst this was doing. He did not punish these people who got for me a bad name, and committed crimes in every direction. I sent to the office word that I would send Commandoes to punish these bad people; but on coming back Clarke encouraged the disturbers of the peace by taking ten guns from my men and giving them to the rebels. Then he attacked my sister with a force consisting of enemies of my name and race—barbarous and bloodthirsty Zulus from Natal. I am only defending myself from unjust attacks. Seel I have not meddled with the Boers, who plough and sow and go about in peace, even in the valley of Origstadt, where I am strong, and from which I have driven Mr Wainwright. I put Government's cattle together when told to do so in September. I looked for Clarke every day, thinking he would come for them; but he was away in Natal for months, during which lung-sickness came, and the cattle died. When Clarke did come, Zulus, my enemies, of whom I am very much afraid, came with him. He attacked me; he killed my people. What must I do? I asked Government to help me against the Boers. Who will help me against Government?” This is not only a statement which the Kafirs may make, but is the substance of what they were actually saying in Lydenberg on the 12th May. Captain Clarke's friends, on the other hand, can say “that his authority is derived directly from the Crown, and that in the disturbed condition of the frontier, much must necessarily be left to his discretion; that when the best interests of the Transvaal are at stake, the action of Government cannot be impeded by local restraints; and that the Crown must necessarily hold him indemnified for all acts done in the course of his duty.” Secocoeni and his people are not to be confounded with utterly uncultivated and entirely barbarous savages. Many of them, as I have said elsewhere, are well acquainted with the use of both breeches and breechloaders. Nearly all of them have worked on the Diamond Fields. There are amongst them a great number of half-instructed Christians, among whom I must especially notice, Aaron, the brother of the late chief Johannes; Martha, the head woman of this tribe; and forty-four men—the remains of her people, who, when her town was broken up, went over to Secocoeni, whilst the other half came to dwell in the Lydenberg mission station. It is interesting to know that the principal victim on the


Kafir side, as yet, has been “Jonathan, the preacher,” who was cut off by the Government people in the Waterfall, with five or six others, towards the end of April. As well as having some little cultivation and much cunning, Secocoeni's people have also some slight sense of honour. I would never forgive myself, nor would I be worthy of consideration as a just and impartial writer, if I did not give at least one instance of this. On the morning of the 7th February last, when surrounding Fort Burgers, 500 war Kafirs, under Secocoeni's own brother, got possession (of course without any resistance) of an exposed store on their side of the river, belonging to a gentleman named Ryan. When they called a parley with Mr Eckersley, the native commissioner, whom they wanted to surrender the fort, Ryan was with the other white men. The chief therefore knew him to be his enemy; still, desirous to detach him from Eckersley's small force, he told him to cross the river and go to his store—that no harm would come to him. As, however, Mr Ryan would not desert his friends, the wily Kafir tried another plan. He taunted Ryan, saying, “You are afraid to go over there among my warriors; you don't like to die, -that is why you won't go back to your house to watch that my people pay for the blankets they are taking.” Mr Ryan very resolutely told him that he was not frightened to go anywhere under the protection of a chief's word; and accordingly he accepted the invitation, and went with every outward sign of confidence amongst them. Notwithstanding their rage, which was great at being checked by the small force opposed to them, they did not harm their visitor, who left them and accompanied Eckersley on a retreat made that night under circumstances of unusual danger. Of course, amongst the Bapedi there are also very ignorant men, to whom our arms and habits were quite strange. I remember one of these calling out to Captain Reidel from the rocks at the close of a fight in which he had been throwing shell,—“You witch you witch you are a great doctor. I would like to be near you to learn what spell you use to make your guns shoot twice.” He referred, of course, to the explosion of the gun, and the bursting of the shell.

« AnteriorContinuar »