A MOUN­TAIN FALLS

To cel­e­brate Her­itage Month, we are pub­lish­ing new ex­tracts from the grip­ping, easy-to-read South African his­tory book series Our Story. We have pre­vi­ously fo­cused on the life of Mzilikazi, the Great Bull Ele­phant, who es­tab­lished his kraals where Pre­tori

CityPress - - Voices - Mzilikazi: A Moun­tain Falls (book four) South African Her­itage Pub­lish­ers 48 pages, il­lus­trated R 105

The story of the Great Bull Ele­phant, the ruler Mzilikazi, son of Mashobane and grand­son of Zwide, is told over four ti­tles in the Our Story series. In our first three, we found out that Mzilikazi was the fore­fa­ther of the amaNde­bele na­tion, and both the friend and ri­val of Shaka Zulu. As an emerg­ing leader, he took his peo­ple far from KwaZu­lu­Na­tal to the rolling plains of Limpopo. We fol­lowed the great path of the rov­ing con­queror as he trav­elled from the east of what we now call South Africa to the far west, and the ef­fect he had on the peo­ple he met along the way. In the fi­nal chap­ters of his life, the great Chief Mzilikazi ex­panded his ter­ri­tory and led his peo­ple fur­ther than he could have imag­ined.

The fourth and fi­nal book in the series about Mzilikazi takes us on the last leg of his great road. The amaNde­bele, also re­ferred to as the Mata­bele in times past, still had a long way to go and many bat­tles to fight. In this ex­tract, read how Mzilikazi con­tin­ues the long march of his peo­ple, strug­gles to keep the colo­nial forces at bay and is com­pared to Napoleon Bon­a­parte by a French mis­sion­ary.

Mzilikazi’s at­tack on the Bang­waketsi set a pat­tern for fu­ture at­tacks on other tribes. The Mata­bele struck in the dead of night with flam­ing torches, driv­ing the Bang­waketsi vil­lagers out and mur­der­ing them as they fled.

Not all of them were slaugh­tered, how­ever, as the young men and women were cap­tured. They would be­come war­riors and moth­ers for the Mata­bele. Dur­ing the day, the Mata­bele sent out their best war­riors to con­tinue the fight.

The javelins, bat­tle axes and clubs of the Bang­waketsi would not hold up against the sturdy ox-hide shields and as­segais of the Mata­bele, so they fled far west to the Kala­hari desert, where thirst caused more suf­fer­ing.

Even­tu­ally, the thirst even af­fected the Mata­bele who chased them. They turned back, col­lect­ing the scat­tered cat­tle along the way. The ex­iled Chief Sebitoane would later die in the dry desert of the Kala­hari as the Mata­bele took con­trol of the land.

Mzilikazi’s path of de­struc­tion would con­tinue as he trav­elled west to de­feat first the Bak­gatla – the Ba­boon Peo­ple – and then the Bak­wena – the Croc­o­dile Peo­ple.

In five years, the Mata­bele had marched as far as the Kala­hari. By then, Mzilikazi’s ter­ri­tory had grown very large. The only Bechuana com­mu­nity left in the area was the Bahu­rutsi.

Mzilikazi made it clear that he wanted to de­feat them by the au­tumn, but was in­ter­rupted by the ar­rival of three white men from across the seas. In March 1832, three French­men ar­rived at the vil­lage of Mosega on be­half of the Paris Evan­gel­i­cal Mis­sion So­ci­ety.

These men were Pros­per Le­mue, Sa­muel Rol­land and Jean Pierre Pel­lissier, and they hoped to open up a mis­sion­ary in the Bahu­rutsi ter­ri­tory. When they saw the wars that had rav­aged the coun­try­side, they de­cided to visit Mzilikazi’s friend Robert Mof­fat in­stead. They would wait with him in Ku­ru­man un­til peace re­turned to the land.

Dur­ing the next three months, they re­ceived let­ters from Paris de­mand­ing they set up the mis­sion­ary sta­tion as soon as pos­si­ble. When they learnt from Chief Mok­gatla that there were no fur­ther in­va­sions from Mzilikazi, they de­cided to leave Ku­ru­man.

Mzilikazi had, how­ever, heard of the French mis­sion­ar­ies and in­vited them to his royal kraal to find out what they wanted. Pel­lissier thought this would be a good time to dis­cuss start­ing a mis­sion­ary sta­tion in the area, so he trav­elled to Mzilikazi’s kraal.

Af­ter a long jour­ney, Pel­lissier ar­rived at enKung­wini to visit Mzilikazi. In the let­ters he sent to Paris, he de­scribed the Great Bull Ele­phant as charm­ing but very strict, and told how the en­tire Mata­bele pop­u­la­tion lis­tened to him.

He com­pared the Mata­bele chief to an­other pow­er­ful ruler, Napoleon Bon­a­parte, who had waged war in far­away France. He said Mzilikazi seemed more stern and thirsty for ter­ri­tory than the French ruler.

Mzilikazi wel­comed Pel­lissier and even spoke about let­ting him work among the Mata­bele. Pel­lissier soon re­alised that Mzilikazi was more ea­ger to learn how to use firearms than to build a church.

Af­ter some time, Pel­lissier tried to re­turn to Mosega and he glimpsed some­thing of the pow­er­ful ruler’s au­thor­ity when Mzilikazi said he alone would de­cide when the mis­sion­ary would leave. Mzilikazi put Pel­lissier to work clean­ing a stack of firearms that the Mata­bele had taken from the Gri­qua at the Bat­tle of Mo­ord­kop. Pel­lissier was even­tu­ally al­lowed to leave, re­turn­ing to Mosega as quickly as his wagon would go.

At Mosega, the ten­sion be­tween the Mata­bele and the Bahu­rutsi con­tin­ued to grow. An in­ci­dent hap­pened a few months af­ter Pel­lissier’s re­turn, when the Bahu­rutsi found a troop of six Mata­bele war­riors they thought were sent to spy on Mosega. They were taken to Chief Mok­gatla and ex­e­cuted be­fore the French mis­sion­ar­ies could in­ter­vene. Pel­lissier knew the re­sponse from Mzilikazi would be quick and ruth­less, and he was right.

In June that year, a con­voy ar­rived at Mosega to de­mand that the mis­sion­ar­ies re­turn to enKung­wini to see Mzilikazi. The mis­sion­ar­ies guessed their jour­ney would end badly, and de­cided to pack up their be­long­ings and leave the Ba­harutsi and nearby Ku­ru­man. Mof­fat even of­fered to send a guide with them to enKung­wini, but they still re­fused. Mof­fat sent a mes­sen­ger to Mzilikazi, but, af­ter the mes­sen­ger’s dis­ap­pear­ance and four months of si­lence, the mes­sage be­came clear: Mzilikazi had no in­ten­tion of al­low­ing the French mis­sion­ar­ies to set­tle in Mata­bele coun­try. Be­fore Mzilikazi could march on the Bahu­rutsi in re­tal­i­a­tion, he was at­tacked from the south by Din­gane and his Zulu war­riors. The clash ended in a stale­mate, but both the Zulu and the Mata­bele held a vic­tory dance af­ter the bat­tle. This was in spite of the re­treat of the Zu­lus on the one hand and the se­vere losses suf­fered by the Mata­bele on the other.

Af­ter the bat­tle, Mzilikazi was ea­ger to con­tinue with his plan of ex­pand­ing into Bahu­rutsi ter­ri­tory. He was cau­tious, but, af­ter a few months, gave his war­riors or­ders to at­tack. At the same time, Mzilikazi de­cided to move his royal kraal fur­ther west into the Marico Dis­trict. As they marched, the Mata­bele were sur­prised to find that the Bahu­rutsi ter­ri­tory was largely aban­doned, so they were met with lit­tle re­sis­tance.

Af­ter se­cur­ing the land from the flee­ing Bahu­rutsi, Mzilikazi moved his royal kraal to Mosega. The women car­ried pots, sleep­ing mats and bas­kets, while the men drove herds of cat­tle to their new home. It was in this new place that Mzilikazi would en­counter the bat­tle that changed his life.

. Ask your near­est book­seller to or­der a copy if they do not stock the series, or con­tact the pub­lish­ers at info@sa­her­itagepub­lish­ers.co.za

. For a full list of ti­tles in the series, visit sa­her­itagepub­lish­ers.co.za

. Read more about Mzilikazi in books one, two and three: Mzilikazi: A Khu­malo Prince; Mzilikazi: The Rov­ing Con­queror; and Mzilikazi: The Great Bull Ele­phant

. For up­dates and more in­for­ma­tion, fol­low Our Story on Face­book at face­book.com/an­ces­torsto­ries or on Twit­ter at @sa­her­itagepub

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