The missionaries

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Missionaries arrived in Pondoland in 1830 when Faku, the ruler of the Mpondo Kingdom from 1818 to 1867, allowed Wesleyan missionaries to establish a mission station within his kingdom. The missionaries were first given land in the west of the Mzimvubu River where they built the mission station called Old Buntingville Mission. Eventually, Reverend Edmunds, a missionary, moved east of Mzimvubu River and established a printing press at Palmerton near Lusikisiki. It published Christian literature as the most effective tool in the outreach of the church.

In April 1830, the Reverend William Shaw, Director of the Wesleyan Society in South Africa, travelled to the Mpondo Kingdom to introduce King Faku to his new missionary, the Reverend William B. Boyce from England. On 22 November 1930, the Wesleyan mission was officially recognised by Faku, and was named Buntingville, in honour of the Reverend Doctor Bunting who was the founder of the Wesleyan Society. Faku’s primary reason for accepting the missionaries was protection against the Zulus. He requested missionaries to pray for peace in Eastern Pondoland where there was a war between the Xhosas and Zulus.

The missionaries became Faku’s main channel of communication with the Cape Colony, and later Natal. King Faku never showed any serious inclination to convert to Christianity. On 11 July 1882, the Reverend Peter Hargreaves arrived at the Mfundisweni area, near Flagstaff in Eastern Pondoland, as the newly appointed pastor assigned to the Mpondo Mission. Reverend Peter Hargreaves established schools, training schools for teachers and vocational schools.

In the 1930s, Missionaries from the Dutch Reform Church, Anglican Church and the London and Glasgow Missionary Societies arrived in Pondoland. They gained the trust of the Paramount chiefs, which made it easier for them to establish churches in Pondoland.The church was often a vehicle for the progress, growth, development and enlightenment of many Black women and men of South Africa in the early 1950s and 1960s, and naturally played a key role in mission schools.

Missionaries were the first and the only agency that brought education to Black people in South Africa from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. Institutions such as Healdtown (Methodist), Holy Cross Missionary school in Flagstaff, Lovedale (the Church of Scotland Missionary Society), and St Francis College (Roman Catholic) were founded by missionaries. Well-known leaders in South African history such as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe and Ellen Kuzwayo attended mission schools. In the early 1940s most Black teachers, nurses, pastors, interpreters, businessmen and women received their education from mission schools.

As the socio-political history of the Pondos changed, land became the property of the Crown. The exclusive rights to cultivate certain arable land were now given by magistrates in the service of the Colonial government. Paramount chiefs were no longer in charge of Pondoland, but were told by the colonisers how to control their people and manage their land. The occupation, followed by the introduction of the mining industries (diamond in 1867 at Kimberly and gold in 1884 on the Witwatersrand), forced Pondo men into migrant workers, and the separation (ucando) which placed people according to their ethnic groups and the class system, was imposed immediately by colonial government in Pondoland.

The districts were subdivided into smaller sections, which were no longer under the management of the dominant Pondo Chiefs, but were governed by a magistrate who gave orders to the Chiefs. The magistrates introduced the system of Tribal Authorities (iiNqila), the main purpose of which was to act as an appeal court regarding the chief’s rulings. The new system of administration in Pondoland forced the Paramount chiefs to take instructions from the magistrate and enforce them on their people, even when such instructions were against the will of the people.

Not all chiefs were prepared to take orders from magistrates, which caused conflict amongst the Pondo people. One such example was Mhlangaso, chief councillor to the Paramount of Eastern Pondoland. He pursued a policy of encouraging the activities of traders and concessionaires in the 1880s and rumours spread among the people that he was ‘’selling’’ them and the land for his own benefit. Botha Sigcau, the Paramount Chief of Eastern Pondoland, Transkei in 1939-1976, promised labour recruiters that he will help with finding migrant labourers. He was later accused of taking gifts from labour recruiters. In 1960, Pondo people opposed the rehabilitation scheme and Bantu Authorities. All of this led to the Pondo revolt from 1960 to 1963.

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Last updated : 29-May-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 31-Jan-2014