EL prepares for War of Mlangeni
Historic battle enactment to take place in honour of brave Xhosa warriors
East London will be turned into a battlefield with cannons and gunfire on Saturday as thousands of Xhosa warriors armed with spears and shields re-enact their brave fight against the sophisticated weaponry of the red-jacketed British troops in the 1800s.
They will re-enact the longest and most expensive frontier war ever fought between the British and AmaXhosa – The Eighth Frontier War, also known as the War of Mlangeni, (1850-1853) at Fort Pato in Phumlani village near East London.
The Buffalo Volunteer Rifles Museum invited people to the historic battle enactment near the site of Fort Pato, in the Fort Pato Forest.
Museum curator, historian and retired Major Anthony Step said such re-enactments could “lead to a better understanding of past events which have created divisions in this wonderful country of ours”.
He said the museum was approached by AmaGqunukhwebe researcher Siyabonga Jabavu, on behalf of Nkosikazi Nongenile Pato of AmaGqunukhwebe AseLwandle of Tsholomnqa, to look at the possibility of staging the re-enactment at Fort Pato to commemorate the war.
Fort Pato was named after Nkosi Pato, a senior traditional leader of AmaGqunukhwebe who was one of the major role players during the War of the Axe in 1846-7.
With the establishment of the port at Buffalo River mouth, military supplies for King William’s Town were transported by wagon to established forts in the interior.
The Buffalo Line – from Fort Glamorgan at Buffalo Mouth via Fort Grey, Fort Pato, Needs Camp and Fort Murray – afforded protection against sporadic attacks by the AmaXhosa, who resented the presence of the military and traders in their land.
The war broke out in earnest not long after.
Significantly, Nkosi Pato remained loyal and the British forces were able to utilise the Buffalo wagon route for supplies.
It was a square redoubt enclosed by earth parapets, with two small, square, loop-holed bastions at opposite corners.
It contained three stone buildings, a commissariat, a powder magazine, a cookhouse and brick officers’ quarters.
Soldiers’ barracks and stables were built of wattle and daub. Some of it can still be seen today.
“Nkosi Pato would like to see Fort Pato become a tourist attraction and would like to see the battle enactment become a yearly event.
“It is felt that the locals could be sensitised to the rich heritage of the area and be trained as guides for visitors,” said Step.
On Saturday, the Buffalo Volunteer Rifles will supply 20 men for security in the area and 10 men to act as Xhosa warriors.
The Amagqunukwebe tribe will provide 15 men as Nkosi Pato’s warriors, while the East London Caledonian Pipe Band will provide 10 members to act as British soldiers.
The Arms Collectors Association will participate using black powder rifles under the control and approval of the SA Police Service.
An open area adjacent to the fort with two ruined buildings will be used for the enactment.
REMEMBERING: The Xhosa Wars were a series of nine wars or flare-ups between the Xhosa tribes and European settlers in what is now the Eastern Cape. The Eighth Frontier war, also known as the War of Mlangeni (1850-1853), is to be relived at Fort Pato near East London on Saturday.