From the book: The Role of the Missionaries in conquest by Nosipho Majeke

Treaty or no Treaty, the control was in the hands of the military and at this stage of conquest it could not be otherwise. Governors were first and foremost soldiers, whose hand held the sword more comfortably than the pen. For the Xhosa people, the period of "peace" differed little from that of open war. The viewpoint of the frontiersmen was remarkably sympathetic to that of the military and the explosion of war was only a matter of time. The clamour of the farmers against "depredations" and for a "revision" of the "Stockenstrom Treaties" were loud and long. In other words, they wanted a free hand in the matter of land plunder. The missionary communications with the Governor painted a picture of the "growing demoralisation" of the Xhosa, which fell in with the general attitude that it was time to scrap the treaties.

In official language, the treaties were "revised." It is hardly necessary to ask in what direction. The new treaty tightened up the measures against "cattle-theft," it made provision for the building of more military forts and it extended the colonial boundary. But one particular clause put the missionary stamp on it, so much so that it has been called "the missionary charter." This clause gave special recognition to the "rights" of Christian subjects within the tribes.

Its effect was to split the tribal system more widely asunder by encouraging christianised Africans to violate their tribal customs.

They were exempt from the morals and customs of their tribe, which, in the light of Christian morality, were condemned as immoral.

The chiefs themselves were quick to catch the implications of this move on the part of the missionaries and strenuously objected to this missionary clause. Indeed it was not difficult for the chiefs to draw their conclusions, since the Governor, Maitland, saw fit to impose the revised treaties with a great show of military might, while his negotiator and interpreter was young Theophilus Shepstone, son of the Rev. Shepstone and Resident-Agent with Chief Phatho. Captain Stretch, another Resident-Agent, reported that the chiefs were convinced that the missionaries "meant to steal their people and be magistrates and chiefs themselves."

The missionaries seem to have shown their hand too openly, particularly the Rev. Henry Calderwood (known as "Kondile" ), who had been placed with Maqoma, and the chiefs totally rejected them as "peacemakers." In 1845 Dr. Philip made the following significant observation in a letter to the London Missionary Society:

"The Gaika chiefs have no advisers, no intercourse with the missionaries and no confidence in them. . .."

The conciliators between oppressor and oppressed were for the time-being prevented from carrying out their proper function””a state of affairs that always alarms a liberal, and to-day more than ever.

The Rev. Calderwood felt called upon to warn the Governor that:

"The mind of the nation is in a perfect fever on the land question. . . . The feeling is deep and bitter in the extreme. . . .

The agitation of the land questionis a powerful engine by which the war party can work upon the feelings of the more peaceably inclined. . . . The feelings of the nation seem now to be against all whitemen, and in the event of war ... even the lives of missionaries would be placed in extreme peril." (His emphasis.)

The result of the Rev. Calderwood's communication was to prompt the Governor to inform the Colonial Secretary (Lord Stanley) that the maXhosa were "ready to uniteto oppose our endeavours to put down depredations." (His emphasis.)

Marching to Fort Peddie, the Governor had begun by imposing a new treaty on the Gqunukhwebe, chief, Phatho, then on the baThembu and the maNgqika and on the Gcaleka chief, Sarili, whose territory had not yet been confiscated. At the same time his agent brought a message of "friendship" to the Mpondo chief, Faku.

This was done, states Walker in his "History of South Africa,"

"in the hope that they would protect travellers along the mission road to Natal, prevent the landing of goods unlicensed by the Colony on their coasts and overawe the frontier (Xhosa) tribes from the rear." The farmers rejoiced in the treaties. "The end of the wedge was now in, and Kaffirland must soonlall," they said. The situation, charged with tension on both sides, was ready for the spark that would ignite the whole. A'German missionary was murdered by a warrior of Phatho's””he who had once listened to the Rev. Shaw's promises of "protection" and redress. It was said that the missionary, a new arrival, was travelling in a coach lent by Theophilus Shepstone (who had negotiated the treaties) and was killed in mistake for him. Thus the missionary's son was spared to become the future "father" of the maZulu. Phatho refused to give up his man and the Ngqika and Ndlambe chiefs supported him in this.

The chiefs had been learning from bitter experience. While the British were pursuing the policy of "divide and rule" in every conceivable way, and succeeding, there was at this time among the chiefs a strong drive towards unity. Captain Stretch reported that the Thembu and Ndlambe chiefs had declared that "We must stand by the House of Gaika (Ngqika) lest we be broken up as the Hottentots (Khoikhoin) were."

The usual small incident started the War of the Axe in 1846.

Then the Governor issued a war manifesto declaring that "it was impossible to refrain any longer from punishing the systematic violation of justice and good faith on the part of the Kaffirs." But the first victories went to the united Xhosa tribes. Chief Phatho, disillusioned with missionary promises, threw in his lot with the maNdlambe and the maNgqika and only a section of the Fingos stood on the side of the British. This time the maXhosa did not spare the mission stations, but destroyed every one of them in their path: Wesleyan, London Missionary Society, Scottish and German.

Two things seem to have prompted this act. The chiefs were resentful of the missionary interference with their christianised subjects, even though they were not in a position to understand fully all that the missionary was doing. The more immediate provocation, however, was the discovery that the mission stations were used as military camps. Light is thrown on this point by an incident recorded in the "History of Lovedale," by R. H. W. Shepherd. After the announcement of the Governor's war manifesto, British soldiers under Colonel Hare marched from Fort Beaufort to Burnshill Mission station, which had been set up near the Ngqika chief, Sandile, and up to this point "they did not meet the slightest resistance." From Burnshill they spread out on a man-and-cattle-hunt, but as they were manipulating their booty through a narrow pass, the Xhosa counter-attacked and recovered their cattle, as well as some ammunition and stores. The fleeing British soldiery found refuge in Lovedale Missionary Institution, whose classrooms were turned into military barracks and its mission buildings into military stables, until Fort Hare, the largest fort in these parts, was built in 1847.

The war followed its usual course; for protracted fighting the assegai was no match for the gun and the "war" resolved itself into a cattle-driving, hut-burning expedition, with the fields laid waste. The British never failed to destroy the food of the people, knowing famine to be the strongest weapon of war.

And where were the Humanitarians? Where were the missionaries and "friends" of the African? They were unusually silent.

Dr. Philip, we read, collected information for the Aborigines Society "which made no obvious use of it." And, after all, the missionary-superintendent had always advocated outright annexation of land. While protesting against the wastefulness of the military machine, he would have been illogical if he had quarrelled with its main result.

We must not forget that he was a humble servant of British imperialism, and but one of its many servants, each of whom had to play is respective part. The liberal Fairbairn, his son-in-law and editor f the Commercial Advertiser,also supported the Governor and rejoiced that "the Fingos are as hostile to the Kaffirs as any could desire." The historian, Macmillan, comments that "there was an unusual consensus of opinion" amongst all sections of the population against the maXhosa, who had alarmed them by their strong resistance. But we are not surprised that the superficial differences between governor, missionary and frontier farmer should melt into thin air when it was a question of subjugating the African.

The "restraint" of the Humanitarians at this time was the restraint that the liberals always exercise at the right moment and especially when they find the oppressed rejecting their overtures.

Now Stockenstrom came out of his retirement to "serve his country" and led a burgher commando against the maXhosa (1846). As D'Urban had done in 1835, he entered the country of the Gcaleka beyond the Kei River and imposed on Sarili a treay, making him responsible for the actions of the other Xhosa chiefs. He next entered the territory of the baThembu, where his exploits are best described in his own cynical words

"I attacked . . . Mapassa . . . driving off 7,000 cattle, killing many of the enemy and destroying numberless huts. . . . The inglorious task, unredeemed by the least risk of danger, was was performed with unmitigated severity."

This collaborator with the missionaries, he whom Philip had recommended as the only man fit to carry out his policy, concluded his Report to the Governor as follows:

"On one point all must be agreed. With their late acquired knowledge of their strength . . . their power must be broken. . . . I contemplate the permanent incorporation of the Kaffir country to the Kei."

From now on till the climax of the Nongqause Cattle-Killing in 1856 the British pursued a policy of systematic devastation. The sheer ferocity of bullet, fire and famine was battering at the tribal system of the Bantu, and as the disintegration accelerated, so the plans for the control of the ever-increasing labour force were being put into action. The chiefs put up a strong and united resistance, but the forces of disunity were stronger. The chiefs could not rally their people as a whole, because hunger and destitution were driving great numbers of them to seek work with the very people who were destroying them. Economic necessity was dissolving tribal loyalty.

The chiefs themselves were hunted men, their very office usurped by missionaries and the sons of missionaries. Sandile, the young chief of the maNgqika, was declared an outlaw and Charles Brownlee, son of the Rev. Brownlee, was made "chief" in his place.

It is not part of this history to detail the military campaign of these ten years, except in so far as it concerns our picture of the working togetherof the disruptive forces. It is sufficient to say that it was in the hands of a succession of military governors, each one more ruthless than his predecessor.

By 1847 the Governor, Maitland, had begun a system of registering those who gave up their arms and made submission as British subjects. He planned to place these under the direct control of magistrates and ignore the authority of the chiefs. This was an effective instrument of detribalisation. At the same time the British never failed to employ "divide and rule" to break the back of their military resistance. While Phatho and other chiefs were still refusing to capitulate, the Governor was planning to fill up their lands with Fingos, Khoikhoin and "friendly Kafirs ... in some measure organised for defence, under British superintendence and supported by the military posts . . . with the desirable addition of a missionary."

While he planned to break the resisting tribes by "systematic devastation," he set aside new Reserves for the Fingos, who, armed with muskets, had destroyed the flower of Phatho's army, and he placed them under conditions that ensured further detribalisation, namely, under the control of a magistrate and a missionary.

The missionaries for their part identified themselves with the actions of the Government. In a memorial addressed to Maitland and signed by the Rev. William Shaw, the Wesleyans said:

"From an intimate knowledge of the people and their history on both sides of the boundary, we feel high satisfaction in supporting your Excellency's declaration, that this war has not been the result of any conduct of the border colonists towards the tribes of an oppressive or unjust character, nor is it chargeable upon any act of your Excellency's. . . ."

As before, the missionaries also constituted themselves the Governor's advisers, precisely because of this vaunted "intimate knowledge" of the people. But a new function now devolved upon them. This we shall best see if we follow the activities of the Rev. Henry Calderwood during this period.

New functions

The Rev. Henry Calderwood was well-fitted to carry out the policy which the missionary-superintendent, Dr. Philip, had long since formulated, of integrating the conquered people into the economic system of the rulers. He looked beyond the military conquest to the second stage when an ordered society would be in a position to control the people it had subjugated. Hence his repeated emphasis on the necessity of the Government ”” a military Government ”” to "understand the Caffre Question"

As missionary to the Ngqika people he very soon demonstrated his usefulness to the Government by his penetrating observations on the people among whom he had been placed. He was largely responsible for those clauses in the Revised Treaties which attacked African custom and differentiated between the Christian African and the rest of the tribe. It was a perfectly logical step, therefore, to turn him into their Commissioner or chief magistrate, armed with legal authority to usurp the function of the chief. This was but to confirm what the chiefs themselves had already feared would happen. Throughout 1847 he noted that amongst the maNgqika, whom he described as the "strongest," there was a breakdown of tribalism. The upheavals caused by invasion were cutting across the tribal divisions and breaking up tribal unity, since the people sought refuge by dispersing themselves among the tribes beyond the Kei River, some going as far afield as Griquatown, where the chief, Waterboer, held uneasy rule between the missionaries and the Boers.

But many more turned southwards to their old lands, hungry men looking for work, and this was a step fraught with much greater change in their mode of life.

Now the missionary-commissioner-magistrate assumed yet another function. The war-enriched farmers, who had paid high prices for land, were "in great distress" for labour, so the Government came to their assistance and encouraged recruiting through the Commissioners. It is recorded that "The Government approved of Calderwood engaging even the lately independent Xhosa for service with masters who were prepared to take charge of and provide for them on their own premises." (Macmillan: "Bantu. Boer and Briton." ) As recruiting agent, Calderwood despatched hundreds into the Colony to meet the farmers' needs. Applications," we are told, came from far afield and complaints were made that they "could use four times as many." It was a very significant fact that Calderwood recommended that the Africans should be sent in separated, and "as far into the Colony as possible." The missionary thus aimed to expedite their detribalisation.

Thus we see the labour pattern developing. The engine of war was ceaselessly grinding the people and its wheels could not turn fast enough to feed the ever-growing demands of the colonists.

For land-plunder meant economic expansion; it meant the springing up of towns and villages and sea-ports; it meant the increase of trade and agriculture and the beginnings of industry. The wheels of this great new machine were also turning, though slowly as yet, for gold and diamonds had still to be discovered. But this economic machine already demanded black hands in thousands and tens of thousands.

Government proclamations and enactments are often the barometer of economic needs; from the Glen Grey Act of 1894 down to the Bantu Authorities Act of to-day laws for the control of African labour follow-each other in a steady progression. So it was at the beginning of 1848 when a Government Proclamation proposed to "apprentice" Africans to add to the "scanty supply of labour."

It also proposed to "reclaim a number of the youth of British Kaffraria." We who are acquainted with the dire application of the "Rehabilitation Scheme" in the Reserves do not need to be told what devastation and exploitation lay behind that phrase.

The new Governor, Colonel (now Sir Harry) Smith had just dictated "peace" to the Xhosa chiefs. This he did in his capacity as High Commissioner for South Africa, a new title instituted by the Imperial Government to represent the Great White Queen in its negotiations with the Chiefs. In language of which only the British are masters, the Colonial Secretary declared that:

"The welfare of our uncivilized neighbours, and not least the welfare of the colonists, require that the Kafir tribes should no longer be left in possession of the independence they have so long enjoyed and abused."

Henceforward the maXhosa were to occupy a fraction of the land they had once possessed. The land of the Ngqika people was annexed as Victoria East; in the Tyhume valley above the Lovedale Missionary Institution, the soldiers who had carried out the "loot" policy of Governor Pottinger (Maitland's successor) were settled in villages.

"British Kaffraria" extended to the Kei and beyond it Sarili, Chief of the Gcaleka, was commanded to recognise the Queen's sovereignty over the main road to the mission stations of Butterworth and Clarkebury. The Government's appreciation of the missionaries is further reflected in this special clause:

"All missionaries are invited to return to their missions; and, that no misunderstanding or misconception may arise, Her Majesty's Commissioner gives notice that the land of their mission stations shall be held from Her Majesty, and not from any Kafir chief whatever."

Lovedale and other missionary institutions, which had served as military barracks during the war, were restored to their former function. And, as the Rev. Robert Shepherd comments in his "History of Lovedale," "missionary work was easier in many quarters because the chiefs had lost much of their power."

As soon as Sir Harry Smith assumed office he entrusted the Rev. Calderwood with the important task of working out "Native" policy in detail. The Governor's appreciation of his fitness for the task can be judged from the following reference in his Despatches:

"Considering the services of the Rev. Henry Calderwood, valuable as they are, would be of even greater utility within the new colonial border ... he is appointed Civil Commissioner of Victoria and Resident Magistrate of Alice."

Thus the Rev. Calderwood took his place in the long line of missionaries and sons of missionaries who have distinguished themselves in this field of service on behalf of their Governments: such men as Dr. Philip, the Rev. Shaw, and the Rev. Boyce, of the older generation, and among the younger, Charles Brownlee, Theophilus Shepstone and the sons of the Rev. Ayliff, all of whom eventually became Minister of "Native" Affairs or Government officials.

Calderwood worked out his "Location Scheme" ””as it has been called””on the Fingos, who came under his jurisdiction. In the Fort Peddie and Fort Beaufort districts, where the Fingos were placed, the land had been divided up amongst the English and Dutch colonists so that there was a more or less settled community in which to carry out experiments in the Government's labour policy. In the treatment of the Fingos we see the shape of things to come. It may be said that Calderwood acted throughout in close co-operation with his former colleagues, the missionaries.

Calderwood instituted a system of taxation which had the double purpose of forcing the Africans to work for the neighbouring farmers and also paying for, the whole system of control over the Reserve.

The Reserve was divided into individual small holdings for which an annual quit-rent of £ 1 had to be paid; passes were issued to control "vagrants" coming into the Reserve. In the first place the idea of individual property, together with the payment of money, cut right across the tribal custom of common ownership. This did not liberate the individual, however, but on the contrary, was designed to turn him into the White man's labourer. The holdings were too small to provide him with a livelihood for himself and his family, so that he had to seek work to pay his tax. The Reserve thus constituted a reservoir of labour for the local farmers. Of course the idea was not entirely new. The Khoikhoin of the Kat River settlement held their land on similar terms and Smith (assisted by the Wesleyan missionaries) had been working on the same scheme at the end of the war against Hintsa in 1835. The second principle involved in the scheme was the undermining of the authority of the chiefs. The magistrate himself usurped an important function of the chief by judging cases and imposing fines, and Calderwood further instituted rule by headmen under Government control.

All these were methods deliberately designed to hasten the disintegration of tribalism in order to draw the people into the new economic system. What the Rev. Calderwood began. Sir George Grey was to continue on a much larger scale.

The Government also turned its attention to the all-important question of education, and for the same purpose. It is a task that it has always assigned to the missionaries. In 1848 the Secretary for the High Commissioner sent out a circular to the various missionaries asking for their views on the best methods of "inducing the Bantu to follow habits of industry, the first step to civilization."

The circular also emphasised the following points:

"Too much pains cannot be taken to impress them with the necessity for wearing clothes and of the use of money, which, industriously gained, honestly obtains what their wants desire.

His Excellency also requests your (the missionaries') opinion as to the best method of establishing schools on such a footing as would ensure hereafter teachers from among themselves, and of all things His Excellency requests that the English language be taught to the total exclusion of the Kafir dialect."

The far-reaching implications of these educational plans will be examined presently when we review the achievements of Sir George Grey, who became Governor and High Commission of the Cape Colony in 1854, the same year in which the liberals at last achieved their goal of Responsible Government. From that time onward the social and economic pattern of South African society could begin to unfold, even though the wars of conquest were not yet over.

In the Cape Colony the conditions for development were established in advance of any other part of Southern Africa.

For this the way was paved by the war of 1850-52 (known as the "War of Umlanjeni" ””Mianjeni being a Xhosa prophet of the time).

In it, British aggression reached a new peak of ruthlessness. Sir Harry Smith stated:

"The Kafirs must be totally deprived of arms; kept under subjection by military force for years to come; ruled at the outset through chiefs, whose power must gradually diminish; they must be held in subjection and taught their own insignificance. . . . Peace is not the word. They must surrender and implore for mercy."

And again:

"The only means of ending this distressing war is to wrest his (Sarili's) much-prized cattle from him in the heart of his fastnesses."

It is noteworthy that the Nongqause Cattle-Killing not long afterwards did this and much more. Various reasons prompted the British to this rage of suppression.

They were aware that never before had the Bantu tribes come together with such a determination to resist the invader. Sections of the baThembu and the maMpondo had joined the Xhosa; Sarili, chief  of the Gcaleka, together with the old fighter, Maqoma, and the younger Sandile, chief of the maNgqika, and Phatho, planned three concerted points of attack on the Colony. And their forces were augmented by sections of the Khoikhoin of the Kat River Settlement, and from the mission stations of Theopolis and Shiloh. There is no doubt that the Government viewed this evidence of unity with alarm. It must be remembered that at this period the whole of Southern Africa was in a ferment. British and Boers were in "Natal" ; the Boers were over the Orange River into the land of the Griqua and the baSotho; the story of plunder and fraud enacted on the Eastern Frontier was being repeated in other parts of the country as far as the Vaal River and even beyond it. But in the north there was one chief whom the British feared more than any other, and that was Moshoeshoe, chief of the baSotho. They knew that he sought to strengthen his nation by alliances with other tribes, and that unity between him and the Xhosa chiefs would seriously threaten their position. Colonel Maclean, the Commissioner stationed among the maNgqika, expiessed the opinion that "a shrewd people like the Kaffirs would not overlook so promising an ally as Moshesh."

We do not for one moment, however, subscribe to the view (commonly put forward by herrenvolk historians) that Moshoeshoe instigated the unnatural act of the Nongqause Cattle-Killing in order to drive the maXhosa into an attack on the Colony. On the contrary, we would point out that for the British it was necessary at all costs to break any unity between the chiefs and they would therefore use any and every means to do so. Another factor that seriously alarmed them was the increasing use of guns on the part of the Bantu, for this reduced the military advantage they had previously had over a people armed only with assegai and shield.

There is one other aspect of this "War of Umlanjeni" which calls for comment, because it has a bearing on the final destruction of the maXhosa effected through the Nongqause Cattle-Killing. We refer to the fact that Government Despatches noted the great influence exercised by Mianjeni, of the tribe of Ndlambe. This Mianjeni, they were informed, was like the warrior-prophet, Makhanda, whom the people believed would one day return to save them. He claimed to hold converse with the dead; he prophesied the miracle of turning bullets into water and driving the English into the sea. He seems to have combined the mysteries of the witchdoctor with the appeal to the miraculous common to the Hebrews of the Old Testament. Tribal superstition infused with the fanaticism of Christian faith held dangerous possibilities.