From the book: The Role of the Missionaries in conquest by Nosipho Majeke
OF ALL THE functions of the missions, that of divide and rule is the most characteristics and as the history of the 19th century unfolds we shall see it operating again in various ways. In their war of aggression against the maXhosa, the British found themselves up against Ndlambe, who had ignored the attempts of several governors to make the Fish River their temporary boundary line. He occupied a stretch of territory south of the Fish River, known as the Zuurveld, and here the Dutch had come looking for pasturelands- for their trekking in search of land and cattle began long before the so-called ”Great Trek” across the Orange River Ndlambe did not dislodge them, though the situation had to end sooner or later in an open clash, and the Xhosa chief had proved the stronger.
British tactics, however, were totally different from those the Dutch. They weren’t just looking for grazing lands. Unable to make headway against Ndlambe, they realized the necessity to split the maXhosa asunder, and then attack. For this they needed the help of missionaries, whose business it was to persuade one of the Xhosa chiefs to accept the friendship and “protection” of the British Governor. It took the missionaries several attempts before the succeed in penetrating the Xhosa wall at its weakest point, namely, Ngqika, and that only because they young chief was determined to get the better of his uncle, Ndlambe, who, together with the paramount chief, Hintsa, had whipped him in more than one encounter between their warriors.
Dr. Van der Kemp was the first missionary to undermine Ngqika's resistance, having finally received permission to establish a mission station near him at the Tyhume River. This paved the way for a meeting between Ngqika and the Governor's military representatives, who came to a verbal agreement with him as paramount chief, a title which both he and they 'knew to be invalid””but it served the purpose of the invaders. By 1812 the British were ready to launch their first determined attack against Ndlambe and succeeded in driving him across the Fish River. In this they were assisted by the Khoikhoin of the missionary reserve at Bethelsdorp, so that the Government had double reason to be grateful to the missionaries. Dr. Philip put it on record that:
"The Hottentots belonging to the institution of Bethelsdorp”¦ . contributed much to the success of the enterprise”¦ . Military posts were afterwards established (in Ndlambe’s territory) to prevent the return of the Caffers, and the Boors and Hottentots were put under requisition with a view to this effect.” It will be remembered that the site of Bethelsdorp had been chosen with an eye to military operations against Ndlambe, and now 1813, a mission station at Theopolis, seventy mile Ndlambe's territory, was set up for the same purpose.
It is apparently with pride that Dr. Philip recorded that: "The institution of Theopolis has from its establishment . . proved equivalent to a military station.'' It is understandable, therefore, that he was able to point out to the Government that:
"Mission stations are the most efficient agents to promote the internal strength of the colony and cheapest and the best military posts that a wise Government can employ against the predatory incursions of savage tribes.”
The British bided their time for the next attack against Ndlambe, meanwhile strengthening their hold over Ngika by sending several missionaries in succession to reside near him. Then the Rev. Williams brought the chief another massage of “friendship” from the Governor, Lord Somerset, and when he showed great reluctance to meet him, Major Fraser, his military representative, begged the missionary to pledge his honour that no evil should befall the chief through meeting the Governor.” The verbal treaty that followed (1817) was to result in Ngika’s “ally” , the British, swallowing up both his land and that of all the Xhosa tribes. Ngika himself once said, referring to the British.
Sizo kuty isigqokro” .
Rendered into English, it means something like this:
"The cold, calculating, wily ones, who having bound the cow’s legs securely, stand by waiting for it to calve, and so make sure that they will catch the first rich flow of milk from her udders.” Now the maXhosa at this time had a great leader in the warrior -prophet, Makhanda (Makana), who at the head of armies of Ndlambe and the paramount chief, Hintsa, routed Ngqika. This gave the British their opportunity. Under the pretext of coming to the assistance of their "ally." Ngqika, two large commandos entered Xhosa territory, committing slaughter and devastation on a colossal scale (1818). For this we have the word of Andries Stockerstrom, who himself led one of the commandos. Describing how his Government deliberately interfered "in a quarrel that did not concern us,”
he goes on to say that they
"took from a vast population the flocks upon which they, men
women and children were exclusively dependent for their very
Though the British, as in all their wars of aggression, aimed to defeat the people by the plunder of cattle and the destruction of their crops, they were met with a stubborn resistance from all the maXhosa, united into a strong force by Makhanda, who planned a campaign of attack that well-nigh succeeded. The warrior-prophet seems to have known and destructed the missionaries, for he had refused to allow the Rev. Read of London Missionary Society to establish a mission station near Ndlambe. His first step was to lay siege to the military-mission station of Theopolis, and so little did the Khoikhoin know their real enemies that they gave their lives defending it.
The intrepid Makhanda, however, resolved to oust the English garrison from the fort at Grahamstown. Wave after wave of Xhosa warriors descended ended from a nearby height upon the English soldiery, who were on the point of surrender, when a contingent of Khoikhoin under their captain, Boesak and reinforced by those from Theopolis turned the tide in their favour. Thinking to save his people, Makhanda came to meet the Governor's representative, but was seized Stockenstrom and sent as a prisoner to Robben Island. Not long afterwards he died as bravely as he had lived, when he and fellow prisoner were attempting to escape from the island, and for the next half century he remained the symbol of Xhosa resistance Makhanda's defeat opened the floodgates of British invasion into Xhosa territory. The Governor, who had treated Ngqika as paramount chief only until he had defeated Ndlambe, and the chiefs Phatho, Kama and Chungwa, who had joined him, was now in a position to confiscate not only the lands of all these chiefs, but also part of Ngqika's lands between the Fish River and the Keiskama. Such were the first bitter fruits of "divide and rule."
From their new vantage ground the British could prepare for their next land seizures, while meantime carrying on a daily war of attritition, cattle-plunder and crop-burning, to describe which we once more fall back upon the words of Andries Stockenstrom, Commissioner-General at Grahamstown and supervisor of these of regions.
"To have denied the extermination of the Hottentots and Bushmen, the possession of their country by ourselves, the cruelties with which their expulsion and just resistance had been accompanied, the hardships with the laws were still pressing upon their remnants, the continuance of the same system against the kaffirs, or the iniquity of the aggressions and murders lately perpetrated upon the latter race”¦ would have been ridiculous”¦ " (From this Autobiography.)
In the peculiar language of the herrenvolk the land that had been confiscated from the maXhosa went by the name of the Ceded Territory or the “Neutral Belt” . Africans were excluded, but on the day on which Ngika was supposed to agree to the new treaty, the Governor was writing to the Imperial Government about the colonization of the Neutral Belt” since it was “as fine a portion of ground as is to be found” . Here military posts were set up, British settlers were granted farms and according to Stockenstrom, “some Boers had already been encouraged to squat up to the source of the Koonap." And these were not all. In the Kat River valley, the fairest land in that region and the home of Maqoma, who had succeeded his father, Ngqika, a military-missionary settlement of Khoikhoin was placed.
Kat River settlement
The story of the Kat River settlement demonstrates on a larger scale than even Bethelsdorp or Theopolis, the disruptive influences put into operation when one dismembered people is used for the purpose of destroying another, who are actually their natural allies. According to a contemporary Wesleyan missionary, the Rev. William Boyce, the idea of settling a body of "deserving” Khoikhoin, including the best of Bethelsdorp and Theopolis, in a Reserve on Maqoma's land, resulted from talks between Stockenstrom and Rev. Read of the London Missionary Society. Its specific aim was to "strengthen the colony's defences against the Xhosa.” While Stockenstrom was military head of the settlement, a great deal of the control rested with the missionaries. This is how he described its success to Pringle, an 1820 settler and friend of Dr. Philip:
"They pay ever tax. They have cost the Government nothing except a little ammunition for their defence, some seed corn and the annual stipend for their minister. They travel great delight of the fruits of their labours”¦ The same plan on a more extensive scale would enable the Government to withdraw troops altogether against the natives."
To this encomium, the Rev. Read, co-begetter of scheme, added:
"The success of the settlement is unquestionably owing in pre-eminent degree to the zeal, judgment and indefatigable labours of the missionaries.''
The way in which the land for this military Reserve was seized is an object lesson in British tactics. At the time of discussions between the Rev. Read and Stockenstrom, it was still occupied by Maqoma, who had re-claimed it when he found that the Whites were swarming into the so-called “Neutral Belt” . Now Stockenstrom had “allowed” him to remain, provided he kept down cattle-theft. It was part of the peculiar terminology of the invaders to ascribe cattle-theft to those from whom they had plundered thousands of cattle. Under the conditions of anarchy then prevailing in those parts, it was not difficult for Stockenstrom to find a pretext for Maqoma's expulsion, and the device adopted was precisely that which was to be used some sixty years later when the Ndebele chief, Lobengula, was attacked under the pretext of " protecting” the maShona. In this instance Maqoma was found guilty of pursuing some baThembu into the "Neutral Belt," and this, according to Stockenstrom, was an "insult to the protectors of the suffers.” When he was later questioned on this point before the Commission of the Aborigines (Protection) Committee, he had to admit that he had made no treaty with the baThembu, who were completely unaware that they were being "protected" by the Colonial Government. Thousands of Maqoma's cattle were confiscated, and when the people resisted, Stockenstrom proceeded to drive them out of the Kat River valley at the point of the bayonet. He then advised the Governor to let the "Tambookies" (baThembu) know of the Government's "interest in their cause." Why? "Because,' he continued frankly, "this will secure a counterpoise to the Gaikas’ (maNgqika) power and therefore make a salutary diversion in our favour."
The missionary-controlled Khoikhoin, then, were placed in the Kat River Settlement in 1829, this being the only way in which they received grants of land after their "liberation" in 1828. In keeping with the consistent labour policy of the Government, it was split up into 47 locations, with plots no bigger than two to fifteen morgen, so that in addition to being a buffer state between the Whites and the maXhosa, they were a reservoir of labour for the surrounding farmers. It took the Khoikhoin some twenty years to discover how misplaced had been their gratitude to the missionaries for procuring land for them. Here we can do no more than mention that in 1850 the Khoikhoin of the Kat River Settlement and the mission station at Theopolis joined forces with the maXhosa in an attempt to defeat the British soldiery. But it was too late.
Dutch and British farmers clamoured for the settlement to be broken up because it had become a "hotbed of sedition." But the truth is the tide of invasion was ready to engulf it, together with the land of the maXhosa.