Maqoma: Warrior and Peacemaker
The third book of three on Maqoma tells how this great leader became a peacemaker as he grew older. In a land full of strife, with the different Xhosa clans – and the British, the Boers and the missionaries – each with their own agendas, finding peace would not prove easy. Read this extract to find more about what Maqoma worked to maintain peace with the powerful Cape Colony.
Maqoma’s half-brother Tyali was ill with tuberculosis and was close to death. This situation gave Maqoma an opportunity to expand his power. If he could cast suspicion on Suthu, then Sandile would be weakened further. Tyali realised the intention of his half-brother and told Stretch, but the diplomatic agent saw this as an internal family matter and did not want to get involved. Maqoma brought in a Fingo witchdoctor who worked for his friend Field Cornet Botha to visit Tyali’s kraal and expose the person responsible for bewitching Tyali.
As the family gathered around the dying Tyali, the witchdoctor pointed at Sandile’s mother.
As the family gathered around the dying chief, the witchdoctor pointed at Sandile’s mother and accused her of giving Tyali medicine from the witchdoctor. He also accused her of King Ngqika’s death. Not long after this, Tyali died. Suthu feared for her life, and in the subsequent confusion, she escaped from the kraal.
Suthu took refuge at Burnshill mission station with Reverend Laing. Charles Stretch informed Colonel Hare of the situation and a hundred additional infantrymen were sent to Fort Beaufort. He sent a message to Maqoma saying that should Suthu come to any harm, an immediate return to the patrol system would be introduced. Maqoma’s plan to usurp his physically challenged brother Sandile had failed.
Maqoma worked actively to maintain peace with the powerful Cape Colony and was quick to return any stolen colonial stock. His visits to Fort Beaufort increased and the stories of alcohol abuse continued. It may have been that the colonists were eager to give Maqoma alcohol to loosen his tongue and take advantage of him. But he held his ground and never allowed British officers to enter Xhosa territory. Maqoma never let the amaJingqi down and even successfully influenced Stretch to persuade the commander of Fort Beaufort to supply them with military rations. This would supplement the meagre diet of the amaJingqi in the ongoing drought.
At no time did he give up on the amaJingqi.
Maqoma continued to try and discredit Sandile. He also retained his powerful authority among the Xhosa. Throughout 1842 and 1843 he ensured that all livestock and horses seized by the amaJingqi were returned to the colonists. For this purpose he spent most of his time at the canteen in Fort Beaufort having meetings with the British military and at the same time having a few drinks. At no time did he give up on the amaJingqi.
Sandile continued to be a weak leader and soon gave in to colonial demands. In 1843 he agreed to assist British troops in driving a young Xhosa leader called Tola east of the Keiskamma River. This action infuriated Maqoma as it was a return to the old patrol system. The British military return to Xhosaland was a personal threat. Sandile informed Stretch that his older half-brother was planning to kill him. However, the amaJingqi chief was planning no such thing as he feared a Ngqika civil war.
Sandile arrived to meet with Colonel Hare with five thousand warriors.
Kona, Maqoma’s eldest son, was trying to create a semi-autonomous chiefdom before his younger brother Namba approached circumcision age. He, too, was against the colonial interference: he did not allow their disapproval to stop him from executing one of his villagers for witchcraft. Stretch was incensed. He complained to Maqoma, warning him that the settlers were dissatisfied and were demanding more land.
“If the treaties are forced from us nothing can preserve us from war.”
Maqoma replied to Stretch in these words: “Seeing the colonists have only taken half the treaties and they are beginning to break down the other half – I will not – nor do I agree with them. I will hold by Stockenström’s word until I die and my people put me in the grave. If the treaties are forced from us nothing can preserve us from war.”
Colonel Hare immediately demanded that Stretch get all the details from Maqoma of how the settlers had contravened half of the treaty. Within days the leader of the amaJingqi sent a letter to Hare accusing the Europeans of causing skirmishes along the frontiers, as well as interfering in the internal affairs of the Xhosa chiefdoms.
During the whole of 1844, Maqoma kept his pledge to the amaJingqi by protecting those accused of stealing livestock from the colony and giving up quantities of cattle demanded by the settlers. It was in March of 1844 that Sir Peregrine Maitland was made the new governor of the Cape Colony. He was a very authoritarian leader and sympathetic to the settlers’ demands for new border arrangements.
When a white frontier farmer was murdered, allegedly by Xhosa rustlers, Governor Maitland sailed to the Western Cape. He refused to meet with the Ngqika chiefs, which made Maqoma furious. Instead he met with the Gqunukhwebe, Ndlambe and Mbalu chiefs at Fort Peddie. Maitland immediately announced the end of the Stockenström Treaties and gave permission to soldiers and settlers alike to enter Xhosaland in search of stolen stock. In addition, amaXhosa living at mission stations would no longer fall under traditional law.