Xhosa King, Hintsa ka Phalo, is killed by British troops

Tuesday, 12 May 1835

On 12 May 1835, Hintsa, king of the Xhosa nation was shot and killed by George Southey while allegedly attempting to escape from British forces. This event came about while Hintsa was accompanying British forces to recover raided cattle. During this period, there were attempts by the British to bring the Xhosa people under their sway, however Hintsa resisted these overtures, and maintained that he was interested in peace with the British. He was adamant in this assertion to the point that he did not show support for those Xhosa chiefs who acted against the British of their own accord. However the British suspected him of colluding with these chiefs and it was in this regard that Sir Harry Smith, accompanied by Southey and mixture of military and civilian forces approached the kraal of Hintsa in order to recover looted cattle. They then insisted that Hintsa accompany them to the kraals of the chieftains they claimed had looted cattle. It was during this journey that the British claim Hintsa had attempted to escape. They claimed that as they approached the Rarabe River, they noticed Xhosa warriors moving in the undergrowth.

They then suspected Hintsa was leading them into an ambush. They further claimed that when Hintsa realised that his subterfuge had been uncovered he then took off on his horse. Despite a warning shot fired, Hintsa persisted in his course, and only after he was wounded twice and dismounted did he ask for mercy. The colonial record states that though Hintsa asked for mercy, Southey, who was fluent in Xhosa and one of the claimants regarding cattle theft, then shot and killed the Xhosa king. What followed is still under much dispute as some historians claim that Hintsa was beheaded and his head taken as a souvenir, others claim that his body was left whole to be recovered by his compatriots.  

• Hintsa's memorial postponed [online], Available at: https://www.dispatch.co.za [Accessed 30 April 2010]
• Hintsa kaKhawuta [online], Available at: https://viswiki.com [Accessed 30 April 2010]

Last updated : 12-May-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011