Land: dispossession, resistance and restitution

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11

Chief Maqoma

Timeline of Land Dispossession and Segregation in South Africa 1800-1899

The nineteenth century was a period of several events whose socio-political and economic impact profoundly changed South Africa and the African continent. Colonial conquest and rapid land dispossession was accelerated during this period. Conversely, fierce resistance was launched by African people in response to their loss of land, livestock and political power. As voortrekkers moved away from the Cape Colony to escape British rule, they fought, seized and occupied land while dispossessing Khoi, San and African communities in the process. This opened up the interior of South Africa to further colonial conquest. The British in turn, pursued the voortrekkers by annexing more land and at times even claiming it back from the voortrekkers. In some instances, land dispossession was achieved by stealth through “treaties” which colonists claimed were signed by leaders of communities. The mineral revolution which exploded during the century further contributed to land dispossession as the white colonial government sought to force Africans off their land to become cheap labourers in the newly established mines in Kimberley and the Transvaal.
1803
February, The British returns the Cape Colony to the Batavian Republic. The new administration reinforces the colonial government’s claims to the frontier zone in the east and vows to restore the European dominated social order.  Subsequently, the district of Uitenhage is established with Ludwig Alberti as the landdrost and several white farmers who had deserted the area due to attacks by the Khoi and Xhosa return.
May, A peace settlement is reached between the Batavian government and Khoisan after the parties fought over issues of land and livestock raids.
1809
1 November, The Caledon Code is promulgated as an attempt to regulate the relationship between the Khoikhoi and the colonists. In terms of the Act, each Khoikhoi within the confines of the colony had to have a fixed place of residence and carry a valid passes should they move from one place to another.
1811-12
The British assisted by about 700 men of the Cape Regiment drive an estimated 20 000 Xhosa people, men, women and children over the Fish River from Zuurveld in the Fourth War of Dispossession. They then establish 27 military garrisons along the River to prevent Xhosa people from returning and station more British troops in Grahamstown and Cradock.
1813
The freehold land tenure under a perpetual quitrent system is introduced. It replaces the old system of the loan farms.
1814
Cape Governor Sir John Cradock changes the system of land tenure from leasehold to freehold for white farmers. Prior to this period, farmers paid little for the land nor made major developments as they recognized that they did not own the land. This measure was introduced to allow for a denser population of white people on the eastern border to act as buffer against black people.
1817
Lord Charles Somerset meets the Ngqika, a Xhosa chief, at the Kat River and is forced to cede land between the Fish and Keiskamma Rivers to the British.
1818
The British invade Xhosa territory by attacking Ndlambe and seize 23 000 cattle marking the outbreak of the Fifth War of Dispossession. Subsequently, those Xhosa people whose cattle had been seized rally behind Makhanda ka Nxele who leads an attack of 6000 warriors on Grahamstown.
1825
Landdrost Andries Stockentroom begins issuing temporary permits allowing white farmers to graze their livestock north of the Orange River, but they are not allowed to trade or erect buildings. This changes later in the decade as farmers stop asking for permission and simply inform the magistrate.  
1828
Ordinance 49 of 1828 is passed. The Ordinance allows the government to source labourers from ‘Frontier Tribes’. All black workers were given passes for the sole propose of working and all contracts over a month long were to be registered.
1829
January, Maqoma raids Bawana a Thembu chief forcing the latter’s followers to flee across into territory seized by the colonists.

Stockenstroom orders the expulsion of Maqoma from the Kat River Valley and establishes a settlement for landless Khoikhoi to create a buffer zone between the Xhosa and white settler farmers, and to consolidate territory seized by the colonists. Maqoma responds by increasing cattle raids on white farms forcing them to informally allow him to return to the territory.
1834-35
21 December, The Xhosa launch an attack on the British after Xhoxho was injured by a British patrol sparking the Sixth War of dispossession. Other long standing grievances such as loss of land, cattle also fuel the rebellion. A massive herd of 276 000 stock was seized by the Xhosa fighters and 456 farms are destroyed. The British retaliate and later murder Hintsa, and Colonel Harry Smith annexes the area between Keiskama and Kei renaming it Queen Adelaide Province.
1835
May, Benjamin D’Urban proclaims the annexation of what he called Queen Adelaide Province  which was land extending to the Kei River, and announces his intention to fight the Xhosa and expel them across the river. He appoints Harry Smith to incorporate African chiefdoms into the newly proclaimed province.
1836
October, The British abandon their annexation of the Queen Adelaide Province and hand the seized land back to the Xhosa.
1837
The voortrekkers under the leadership of Hendrik Potgieter defeat the Ndebele under Mzilikazi at the Marico River and seize vast tracts of land between the Limpopo and Vaal Rivers.
1838
16 May, The voortrekkers led by Andries Pretorius fight and defeat the Zulu at the banks of the Ncome River (“Battle of Blood River) and dispossess them of their land. Subsequently, they establish the Republic of Natalia.
1845
Two parties of voortrekkers arrive near areas settled by Pedi people and establish a settlement at Ohrigstad.
5 July, King Sekwati and Boer leader Hendrik Potgieter ‘sign’ a peace treaty. The treaty becomes a subject of dispute between the Boers and Pedi. The former claim the treaty gave them full ownership and title to a large area of Pedi lands, while the latter claim treaty merely allocated land on which trekkers could settle without relinquishing his people’s ownership to the land.  When trekkers offer cattle as payment to acquire more land to establish a farming settlement Sekwati refuses their offer.
1846
A Land Commission is appointed to demarcate locations for Africans in Natal. The commission recommends that seven large locations be set apart for the settlement of black people.As a consequence, Theophilus Shepstone the Commissioner of Native Affairs moves an estimated 80,000 African people to 'Locations' in different parts of the country.
26 July, King Mswati signs a treaty with voortrekkers as a way of protecting his kingdom against Zulu invasion. He grantstrekkers the right to lands bounded by the Oliphants River in the North and the Crocodile and Elands River in the South. The land covered areas settled by the Pedi, Ndzundza Ndebele and several Sotho speaking groups.
1847
The British colonial administration displaces the Korana and /Xam from their lands to increase grazing pastures for sheep. This results in the raid of the settler farmer’s livestock by the Korana and other San groups whose lives had been disrupted.
1848
10 February, A Land Government Commission established during the year states that the extent of land recommended by the 1846 - 47 Commission is excessive. The commission apportions land to white settlers.
1850
Sir George Grey confiscates land from black African people leaving them to search for work in farms.
1852
The British under Sir George Cathcart attack the BaSotho under king Moshoeshoe.  
1853
November, A resolution taken by the Volksraad enables District Commandants to grant land for occupation by Africans on condition of ‘good behaviour’. However, the under the resolution there was no individual title, Africans had to use the land communally, chiefs were regarded as trustees of the tribe. However, power over the land still remained the hands of the white government.
1855
18 June, Resolution 159 is adopted by the Transvaal government. It prohibits anybody who was not a burgher from owning land and also prohibits Africans from having burger rights.
1856
Voortrekkersdeclare an independent Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) and lay claim to the Transvaal and the land up to the Limpopo River.
1857
29 April, Lieutenant General Scott issues a Proclamation offering vacant crown lands which are between 300 and 3000 acres. This increases land speculation by white settlers who in turn after purchasing the land lease it to Africans at yearly rental of five shillings.
1858
The First Basotho Boer War breaks out as avoortrekkercommando attacks Thaba Bosiu. In response, the Sotho mobilise an army of 10 000 warriors who raid unprotected settler farms and defeat the voortrekkersand force them to retreat.
The Tlhaping /Kora of the Tswana ethnic group raid outlaying Boer farms sparking retaliation by the voortrekkers, who in turn seize thousands of cattle, behead a Chief and carry away women and children as apprentices.
1864
April, The Natal Native Trust is created enabling the British colonial government to place under its control all the unalienated location land in Natal. This land was to be held in trust for the African population with the Executive Council of Natal acted as trustees.
1865
J.H Brand launches an attack on Thaba Bosiu but the voortrekkers are repulsed. They then besiege the Mountain and resort to a ‘scorched earth’ policy burning crops, villages and seizing livestock. King Moshoeshoe refuses to surrender and appeals for British protection.
1866
The voortrekkers go to war with the BaSotho in order to seize the fertile Caledon Valley, and defeat the BaSotho. They force them to ‘sign’ the Treaty of Thaba Bosiu under which the BaSotho lost all of their land north of the Caledon River, and a large area in the northwest.
June, Thirteen beacons are erected to fix a boundary between Swaziland and the South African Republic taking some of the kingdom’s land, and despite objections by the Swazi, the beacons become a recognized boundary which was accepted by both the voortrekkers and the British.
1867
Village raids of the Venda conducted by voortrekkerarmies in the Transvaal spark a rebellion led by king Makhado. The voortrekkersare defeated and pushed out of lands which they had occupied. Makhado also destroys the settlers’ settlement at Schoemansdal.
War breaks out between BaSotho and voortrekkersafter king Moshoeshoe refuses to give up land to them. 
1868-9
The first Korana rebellion breaks out after /Xam speaking San groups joined forces with the Korana to halt the advance of the white settler famers who were increasingly taking over their land and grazing pastures.
1870
February, Ruiters and 25 followers are captured bringing to an end active operations against the Korana. All three captured chiefs, Kivido, Rooy and Ruiters are tried, convicted and imprisoned on Robben Island.
1876
July, The South African Republic declares war on the Pedi which ends in defeat for the Afrikaner owing to combination of Pedi ingenuity and division within the combined Afrikaner force.
1877
The British occupy the South African Republic and in terms of the Article 21 of the Pretoria Convention appoint a Commission to investigate land ownership by Africans. Amongst its members are S.J.P. Kruger, Vice-President of the Transvaal State, George Hudson, British Resident, and H.J. Schoeman Native Commissioner for Pretoria and Heidelberg. The Committee recommends that Africans can purchase or acquire land in any manner; however the transfer of that land should be registered on their behalf in the name of a Native Location Commission.
The Second Korana War which lasts until the following year breaks out around the Orange River after the Korana and San launch livestock raids on settler farms. Subsequently, more Korana chiefs are arrested and imprisoned on Robben Island, and the British propose to enlist the landless communities as servants.
1878
Xhosa people who had settled in the Prieska region south of the Orange River, ally with the Kora and San to launch an attack on white farms in the southern districts of Griqualand. As the attacks spread they are joined by the Griqua and Tlhaping. Loss of land to white settlement and loss of authority by chiefs over their own people were primary causes of the rebellion.
July, The colonial forces launch an attack and quell the rebellion Xhosa, Kora and San rebellion.
1879

Zulu warriors defeated the British in 1879 at the Battle of Isandlwana

22 January, The British forces are defeated by the Zulu impis at the Battle of Isandlwana.
28 November, The Pedi under the leadership of Sekhukhune are defeated by British forces leaving about 1000 Pedi warriors dead. Sekhukhune is captured and imprisoned in Pretoria.
The Cape government annexes Fingoland (Mfenguland) and Griqualand west which constitutes two thirds of the territory between the Cape and Natal.
1882-3
White farmers lay a siege of Ndzundza-Ndebele for nine months who when faced with starvation are forced to surrender. Their fertile lands are seized and divided among the voortrekkers. Each war participant is given five families to use as servants who work for little or no pay on the farms.
1885
Gcalekaland and Thembuland are incorporated into the Cape Colony.  
1887
After defeating the Zulu warriors at the Battle of Ulundi, the British formally annex Zululand to pre-empt simmering threat of the Zulu people fighting back to recover the loss of their territory. The kingdom is broken up into 13 chiefdoms by Garnet Wolseleyand placed under different chiefs each with a British resident. 
1891
Squatting on crown lands by black people was prohibited by Volksraad Resolution No. 359.
1894
The Glen Grey Act (No. 25 of 1894) is passed. Under the Act, the alienation and transfer of land was to be approved by the governor. Subletting or subdivision of the land was prohibited and the principle of ‘one man one plot’ was to be applied, thus the rest of the people who were not allocated land were forced to go and find work out elsewhere. Although declared in the Glen grey District, itis immediately extended to the Transkeian districts of Butterworth, Idutywa, Ngqamakwe and Tsomo by Proclamation No. 352 of 1894.
The Cape government incorporates Pondoland along the east coast.
1895
British Bechuanaland passes into the hands of the Cape Colony.  The Act of Annexation makes special provision that no lands reserved for the use of Africans in the territory were to be alienated.
Law No. 21 of 1895 prohibits farmers from employing more than 5 African householders on one farm without government permission. However, this proves to be ineffective as Land Companies repeatedly break the law.
1898
Voortrekker commandos underJoubert isolate the Venda chiefdoms and attack them one by one resulting in their defeat. Some of the Venda people are driven across the Limpopo River and their territory is incorporated into the Transvaal.
 

References:
• Kevin Shillington, (1987), A History of Southern Africa, (Essex), pp. 57-59, 93-103
•  Elphick, R, The Shaping of South African Society 1652-1840, pp. 443, 448, 482-489.
•  Eldredge, E.A, (1993), A South African Kingdom: The Pursuit of Security in Nineteenth-Century Lesotho, (Cambridge University Press), pp.53-56
•  Mats Lundahl, C. Colin L. McCarthy, Lennart Petersson, In the Shadow of South Africa: Lesotho's Economic Future, pp.18-22.
•  Magubane, P, (1998), Vanishing Cultures of South Africa: Changing Customs in a Changing World, p.127
•  Delius, P, (1984), The Land Belongs to Us: The Pedi Polity, the Boers, and the British in the nineteenth century Transvaal, (Johannesburg) pp.32-33
•  Giliomee, H.B, (2003), Afrikaaners, (London), p.283 -285.
•  Bonner, P, (1982), Kings, Commoners and Concessionaires: The Evolution and Dissolution of the nineteenth-century Swazi state, (Cambridge University Press), pp.53-60
•  C. H. Feinstein, (2005) An Economic History of South Africa: Conquest, Discrimination, and Development, (Cambridge University Press), p.22-39
•  Spillman, D. S., (2012), British Colonial Realism in Africa: Inalienable Objects, Contested Domains, (New York), pp.198-199
•  Keegan, T, (1996), Colonial South Africa: Origins Racial Order, (David Phillip Publishers) pp. 175-176, 187

Last updated : 12-Jan-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 01-Mar-2013