Schweizer-Reneke en Sannieshof sanggroep

On 7 August 1993, Eugene Terreblanche, the leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), had just been given the freedom of the White section of the town, Schweizer-Reneke. Addressing a full military parade of the AWB, he announced :
This land is our by right of conquest! [Schweizer-Reneke] is where we ended and the third Boer War, another South African war, will start here again. The town has a history steeped in bloody relations between the Afrikaners and the African inhabitants of the area.

A written of history of Schweizer-Reneke/Maamusa

In the early 1880s, the indigenous Koras of Mossweu, and the Tswan/Thlaping of Mankurwane had competed for grazing and firewood in the region between the Vaal and the Harts River. This area was known as Maamusa. In the war that resulted from this competition, both sides had enlisted the aid of White mercenaries. In order to pay for this help, the Koras had given land to the Boers and this had resulted in the establishement of the Boer Republic of Stellaland.

In 1885, the Koras of Mossweu were defeated by the Boers, led by President Kruger, and they established the town of Schweizer-Reneke. The town was named after Capt C.A. Schweizer and Field Cornet C.M. Reneke, both of whom died in the battle against the Korannas. The name of the town thus reflects the White history of the area, where Afrikaners trekked into the interior, confronted the indigenous inhabitants, and through conquest, seized their land. The name 'Schweizer Reneke' provides no insight into the pre-colonial history of the area.

In official documents relating to the proclamation of the town, Maamusa is referred to as "Mamusa, die voorige Stad van Massouw". The name "Massouw", as written by Afrikaner historians of the area, is a name of European descent.

The first question that is raised is - who is Massouw?

Massouw clearly refers to the Kora chief, Mosweu, who initially collaborated with the Boers against the Tswana/Thlaping, and then was killed in battle between the Boers and the Kora. In a number of oral interviews, historian Zipporah Moichela uncovered the following explanation. When the Whites arrived in Maamusa/Schweizer Reneke, they engaged in discussions with David Rossouw, the chief of the Koras. The Thlaping of Maamusa referred to him as Mosweu because he was lighter in skin colour as compared to the Tswana who are darker. The Tswana tended to refer to Whites as 'Batho Basweu' (plural) and 'motho mosweu' (singular).

In this way, Rossouw possibly became Mosweu. And the Boers, who possibly could not pronounce the Tswana dialect, called him Massouw.

Massouw was a Kora chief, and this does suggest that the original occupants of this area of land were the Kora.

The second spelling error which has been carried into the historical record is the spelling of Maamusa as Mamusa.

While this may appear as a mere spelling mistake, it does have important implications for understanding how people named places. Firstly, a real problem in understanding the naming of places in South Africa relates to the tendency of White writers to change the original names of African people and places because they appeared to have problems of phonetics with regard to African dialects. This seems to be the problem in relation to both the name Massouw, and to the place Maamusa.

To the Afrikaner historian, H.P. Maree, who wrote a history of Schweizer-Reneke, th e name of the African settlement and its meaning, was of little concern to him. He was clearly writing a history of a White community, and the African settlement and the people who lived there were not a real part of his narrative. Nevertheless, he did try to provide his readers with some understanding of the naming of 'Mamusa'. He believed that the name "Mamusa" comes from the sound made by the wind when blowing through the reeds - "Maa-moe-saa! When pronounced quickly, it sounds like 'Mamusa'.

However, Zipporah Moichela found out something completely different. Through a series of oral interviews, she uncovered a different story about the name Maamusa.

Michael, Seiphemo, a resident of Maamusa, said that the name 'Maamusa' originated from the Tswana concept of Ma - mother - amusa - breastfeeds - who breastfeeds milk to her children. The naming implies that the Tswana/Tlhaping of Maamusa had abundant cattle milk to 'breastfeed' the local community. The fact that the Twsana/Tlhaping people named their settlement in this way tells us much about the history of their community and how they regarded themselves. It suggests that they were a wealthy community as cattle was an important indicator of wealth. It also suggests that the original land belonged to the Tswana/Tlhaping.

However, when the trekkers arrived in this area, they chose to conduct their transactions with the Kora, ignoring the local inhabitants. The Kora were made to pose as "landlords" over the affairs of the local tribes in the area. But the name Maamusa suggests that the land belonged to the Tswana/Tlhaping.

By the trekkers calling Maamusa by a different name - Mamusa, they were denying who the rightful owners of the land were and they were also asserting their dominance over the local population.

• Krige, S. et al, (1997). Teachers Transform History, Johannesburg: Heinemann.
• Moichela, Z. (1993). The Relevance of Oral Tradition in Local History: A Case Study of 'Maamusa/Ipelegeng/Schweizer-Reneke, 1881-1902 , unpublished thesis, University of the Witwatersrand.
• Van Onselen, C. (1996). The Seed is Mine: The Life of Kas Maine, Cape Town: David Philip.

Last updated : 07-Jun-2017

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