Pondoland

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The territory known as Pondoland or, more correctly Mpondoland, incorporated the divisions of Bizana, Libode, Ngqeleni, Port St John's, Tabankulu, and Umsikaba. In 1899 provisions of Proclamation 314 allowed for Umsikaba to be partitioned into the divisions of Lusikisiki and Flagstaff.

Although the amaMpondo were never directly involved in the border conflicts between their southern neighbours and the Cape Colony, they did not escape unscathed from the incursions of European colonialism. In 1845 Faku, Paramount Chief of the amaMpondo, signed the Maitland Treaty whereby he agreed that trade goods would not be landed on the Pondoland coast without the express permission of the British Colonial Government. In March 1861 the northern reaches of Pondoland, also known as "no-mans-land", were ceded by Faku to the Cape, and the following year were used by the Cape for Griqua resettlement. This was followed by the annexation of a tract of land between the Umzimkulu and Mtamvuna Rivers, later known as Alfred County, to the Colony of Natal in September 1865.



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Following breaches of the Maitland Treaty, Sir Henry Barkly proposed that the British be allowed to locate a customs-house at the mouth of the St John's River, in return for an annual royalty of 250 pounds in 1874. The new Paramount Chief, Mqikela, refused this offer and in September 1878 the British unilaterally issued a proclamation absolving minor Mpondo chiefs from their allegiance to Mqikela, while asserting British sovereignty over the tidal estuary of St John's River. At the same time they extended their protection over the amaXesibe, a group inhabiting the northern corner of Pondoland, and incorporated their territory into Griqualand East. This blatantly transparent attempt to impose a policy of "divide and rule" over the amaMpondo was taken one step further when Nqiliso, a nephew of Mqikela's, was paid 1000 pounds in exchange for a strip of land about 3km wide extending on either side of the St John's River and 16km upstream from its estuary.

This was followed by the establishment of a port at the river mouth, including a customs house and a magistrate's court. On 15 September 1884 the sliver of land known as the Territory of Port St John's was annexed to the Cape. Such interference in the internal affairs of the amaMpondo nation caused considerable friction within the territory. Following rumours of German interest in Pondoland, the British put forward a treaty whereby the amaMpondo formally acknowledged the loss of both Xesibe lands and Port St John's in December 1886. In addition the Rhode Valley was also ceded to the Cape. In 1888, when the British proposed the appointment of a Resident Commissioner for Pondoland, this was turned down by their new Paramount Chief, Sigcawu. Nonetheless, on 17 March 1888, the first magisterial seat was located at Ntsingixi, some 9km from Bizana. A few months later it was transferred to Bizana. Meantime internal dissension had seriously weakened Mpondo political structures and, faced with the threat of British military intervention, they surrendered their independence in March 1894.

The Territory of Pondoland was formally annexed to the Cape in September 1894. It was also divided into two parts, and its eastern portion, comprising of the divisions of Maclear, Mount Fletcher, Qumbu, and Tsolo, was ceded to Griqualand East. Presumably, the divisions of Bizana, Libode, Ngqeleni, Port St John's, Tabankulu, and Umsikaba were also proclaimed at the same time.

The following census figures are available for the territory:

DIVISION pop 1904 lit'cy

PONDOLAND, territory of ........................... 202 757 3 952

Division of Bizana .............................. 33 146 495

Division of Flagstaff ........................... 25 964 673

Division of Libode .............................. 24 926 401

Division of Lusikisiki .......................... 42 380 539

Division of Ngqeleni ............................ 37 963 643

Division of Port St John's ...................... 8 916 351

Division of Tabankulu ........................... 29 462 850


References:
• By Franco Frescura
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Last updated : 27-Apr-2018

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