Tsolo

(prior to 1910)

St Augustine's was established in 1865 by the Reverend Bransby Key as a station of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel on Foreign Parts. It was located on the Inxu river, near the capital village of Chief Mhlonthlo of the amaMpondo. In 1874 the British Colonial Government offered to extend its "protection" in the Transkei to amaMpondo territory and, as a result, Mhlonthlo was persuaded to accept the appointment of Hamilton Hope as resident magistrate for his district. A second magistrate, Alexander Welsh, was posted with Chief Mditswa, an elderly kinsman of Mhlonthlo, whose village was on the Xokonxa river. Hope established his magisterial seat near St Augustine's, on a site known locally as Tsolo.

The name is of isiXhosa origin and describes a number of sharply pointed hills found in the region. In 1879 the Governor of the Cape, Sir Bartle Frere, attempted to implement a new policy which barred Black residents of the Colony from carrying weapons of any description. Understandably these measures were not welcomed by the people concerned, and within the year indigenous groups throughout the Transkei and Basutoland had united in common revolt.

Under the pretence of joining the British in a police action against the baSotho at Matatiele, Chief Mhlonthlo lured Hope and his staff to Sulenkama where, on Saturday 23 October 1880, they were massacred. The only person to be spared was Alfred Davis, son of Mhlonthlo's missionary at Shawbury, who was allowed to leave unscathed. Mhlonthlo and his warriors, now armed with 100 rifles captured from Hope, advanced towards Maclear.

News of the killings reached Tsolo later that day, and before riding off to Umtata for reinforcements, Welsh advised all concerned to fall back upon his residency at Mditswa where, he felt, they would be safe. The next day the party, which included the mission staff and the family of the local trader, were escorted by Chief Mditswa to his village where they took over the local jail, a small but substantial stone structure. Later in the day their number was augmented by the arrival of further refugees. Eventually their number included thirty five men, women and children of all races.

Despite repeated assurances on their safety from Mditswa, they remained penned in until the Saturday when a rescue party escorted them to Umtata. At the end of hostilities Mditswa was banished to Robben Island, while the magisterial seat, still known as Tsolo, was moved to a site near his village. In September 1894 the administration of West Pondoland was transferred to Griqualand East. The 1904 census indicated that Tsolo had a population of 241.

References

  • Prepared by Franco Frescura.