HEEDING THE CALL TO FIGHT FOR THE FATHER­LAND

In this se­ries, fea­tur­ing Dr. Tlou Se­tumu’s works on our own his­tory, her­itage and cul­ture, this week the ex­cerpt is from TT Cholo bi­og­ra­phy, en­ti­tled, HEEDING THE CALL TO FIGHT FOR THE FATHER­LAND.

African Times - - African History -

Here now we trace the roots. We trace the roots of a tree. We trace the roots of a tree that has grown and bore the fruits of free­dom in South Africa. A tree that bore the fruits of free­dom that we en­joy to­day. That tree is Theophilus Tlou (T.T.) Cholo. Here we trace his roots within the Bakone peo­ple of the Mat­lala royal house, from where he has orig­i­nated.

The Bakone peo­ple orig­i­nally came from some­where around the Zam­bezi River re­gion al­most at the same time when all the Ban­tus­peak­ing com­mu­ni­ties mi­grated from north and cen­tral Africa about 2 500 years ago. On their mi­gra­tion route, they trav­eled south­wards along the coast and en­tered the former colony/prov­ince of Transvaal at Pha­l­aborwa. Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence in­di­cates that the Bakone set­tled there for a while as they were also in­volved in cop­per min­ing. When they even­tu­ally moved south­wards, they split into three sec­tions. One por­tion took the di­rec­tion of the present-day Mid­dle­burg, while an­other one re­mained in the Bok­gaga coun­try, around the present-day Leyds­dorp. The third and the largest sec­tion of the Bakone set­tled at the place which later came to be known as Ga Mat­lala (Mat­lala’s Lo­ca­tion). Around the Mat­lala Moun­tains, this sec­tion of the Bakone found a small chief­dom un­der their head leader, Ng­wepe. The small Ng­wepe chief­dom was eas­ily sub­ju­gated by the Bakone, but was later al­lowed to move on to Mak­gabeng Moun­tains.

The royal house of this sec­tion of the Bakone came to be known as Mat­lala, which be­came a hered­i­tary name for the suc­ces­sive magoši of the Bakone. They adopted tl­hanhla­gane (scaly-feath­ered finch) as their totem. This has been a dis­tinc­tive Bakone iden­tity marker up to this day. Af­ter the Bakone had set­tled for some time, at about the early years of the 19th cen­tury, one of Kgoši Mat­lala’s sons, Rakodi, trav­eled to Mak­gabeng and set­tled there with his own peo­ple. Kgoši Mat­lala, fear­ing that Rakodi in­tended to es­tab­lish him­self as an in­de­pen­dent ruler, sent a force to at­tack him. Rakodi and a num­ber of his peo­ple were killed.

By the mid­dle of the 19th cen­tury, the Bakone at Ga Mat­lala were be­gin­ning to ex­pe­ri­ence the grad­ual in­flux of peo­ple of Euro­pean ori­gin. Ini­tially, it was the Euro­pean trav­el­ers, hun­ters, traders and ex­plor­ers who did not seem to be in­ter­ested in set­tling on one place as they were in­volved in their dif­fer­ent busi­nesses. Fol­low­ing these ini­tial no­madic Euro­pean groups were the mis­sion­ar­ies, who came to set­tle among black com­mu­ni­ties as their busi­ness was to spread the Holy Gospel among those com­mu­ni­ties which they re­garded as “sav­age”, “back­ward”, “un­civilised” hea­thens who needed sal­va­tion.

The Ber­lin Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety was among the first batch of Euro­pean Holy Gospel spread­ers to ex­pand to the then north­ern Transvaal. In 1860 Alexan­der Meren­sky ar­rived at the Ba­pedi cap­i­tal at Tšate and was wel­comed by Kgoši Sek­wati. Meren­sky was later fol­lowed by other mis­sion­ar­ies, Grützner, Nachti­gal and En­de­mann. The first mis­sion sta­tion which was built in the Ba­pedi coun­try was Ger­larch­schoop. Later Kgalat­lou was built.

Af­ter hav­ing ar­rived and set­tled among the Ba­pedi, the Lutheran mis­sion­ar­ies be­gan to spread and es­tab­lish them­selves among other black com­mu­ni­ties in the north­ern Transvaal. Among the ar­eas in which the Ber­lin Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety es­tab­lished its mis­sion sta­tions in­cluded Malokong (in Water­berg), Mphome (in Ga Mmam­abolo), Leipzig (in Blou­berg), Mak­gabeng, Medin­gen, Mo­letji, Tshakhuma, Sibasa, Ge­or­gen­holtz and Ga Mat­lala. The mis­sion sta­tion at Ga Mat­lala was es­tab­lished in 1865 and was placed un­der Rev­erend Kühl.

Around the time of the es­tab­lish­ment of a Lutheran mis­sion sta­tion at Ga Mat­lala, Kgoši Mong­wati was a ruler in the Mat­lala royal house. The juris­dic­tion over which the Mat­lala dy­nasty ruled over, bor­dered with the area of Mate­bele of Langa in the south-west. In the east the Mat­lala coun­try shared its bor­ders with the Mo­letji area. From the north-eastern, north­ern and north-western sides, the Mat­lala author­ity stretched up to Blou­berg where it shared bor­ders with the Ba­hananwa of Male­bogo.

Kgoši Mong­wati was a re­gent on the Mat­lala throne act­ing on be­half of his nephew, Railo, who was still un­der­age. Kgoši Mong­wati was friendly to­wards the mis­sion­ar­ies as he showed that by al­low­ing them set­tle­ment among his peo­ple – the Bakone. The fact that he had al­lowed them to build a mis­sion sta­tion in his coun­try in­di­cated his cor­dial re­la­tions with them. In 1879 Mong­wati was re­placed by the right­ful heir to the Mat­lala throne, Railo. The cor­dial re­la­tions be­tween the mis­sion­ar­ies and the Mat­lala author­ity dras­ti­cally de­te­ri­o­rated dur­ing the reign of Kgoši Railo. He was not pre­pared to co-op­er­ate with the mis­sion­ar­ies.

The next Mat­lala ruler, Kgoši Se­laki, died un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances and he was sus­pected of hav­ing been poi­soned. Kgoši Se­laki was suc­ceeded by Kgoši Se­phuti in 1906. Se­phuti was act­ing on be­half of Sekg­wari, who was still a mi­nor. Kgoši Sekg­wari, who was pop­u­larly known as Mokoko, was in­au­gu­rated in 1918 at a time when protests against the whites-only gov­ern­ment poli­cies had reached un­prece­dented lev­els. It was dur­ing this pe­riod that the pro­test­ers at Ga Mat­lala de­cided to for­mally es­tab­lish a branch of the South African Na­tives Na­tional Congress (SANNAC, later be­came ANC in 1923), the or­gan­i­sa­tion which had been the voice of the de­prived Africans na­tion­ally.

T.T. Cholo, has his roots em­bed­ded in the cul­ture and tra­di­tion of fight­ing for free­dom as demon­strated by how his peo­ple at Ga Mat­lala, in­clud­ing his im­me­di­ate rel­a­tives, his father, Phuti Rase­naka Thu­pela Cholo, and his un­cle, Mafotšha Cholo, be­came heav­ily in­volved in a bit­ter strug­gle try­ing to free their peo­ple from dis­pos­ses­sion, op­pres­sion, ex­ploita­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Mafotšha Cholo, as the found­ing mem­ber of the SANNC branch in Ga Mat­lala, was a brave and vo­cal man who led from the front. He was a fearless leader of Ma-Congress, the ref­er­ence given to the mem­bers of the SANNC at Ga Mat­lala, which only meant that they were Congress mem­bers. His brav­ery was clearly demon­strated in one in­ci­dent in 1927 in which he beat up one white Na­tive Com­mis­sioner, nick­named, Nye­la­masepa, who went into a comma. The said white Na­tive Com­mis­sioner was treat­ing black peo­ple as shit, as his deroga­tory name, which the lo­cals gave him, sug­gests. Mafotšha’s fearless as­sault of a white high-rank­ing of­fi­cial was out of anger and frus­tra­tion be­cause of the ill-treat­ment meted against black peo­ple.

Be­sides Mafotšha Cholo, there was Phuti Rase­naka Thu­pela Cholo, the father to the tree (T.T.) whose roots we are trac­ing and lo­cat­ing. Rase­naka was also a free­dom fighter like his brother, Mafotšha. Rase­naka was a mi­grant labourer who once had con­tract jobs in the mines in the Jo­han­nes­burg area. Dur­ing those pe­ri­ods of the short­age of cheap labour in mines, many able-bod­ied black men were co­erced in many ways to en­ter into con­tracts with min­ing com­pa­nies. Con­tracts of up to six months were forced to black labour­ers who were pe­ri­od­i­cally ro­tated and ex­changed. It was dur­ing his stint in the mines that Rase­naka be­came ac­tively in­volved in the SANNC and trade union pol­i­tics. Rase­naka was an ar­dent sup­porter of Cle­ment Kadalie, the leader of the then pow­er­ful work­ers’ union, the In­dus­trial Com­mer­cial Union (ICU). Rase­naka’s po­lit­i­cal and trade union in­volve­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence were later used at Ga Mat­lala when he had fin­ished his con­tracts in the mines. That ex­pe­ri­ence was vi­tal at a time when the SANNC branch had just been es­tab­lished at Ga Mat­lala. When the SANNC branch was es­tab­lished in Ga Mat­lala in 1919, Rase­naka was 33 years old as iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments put his date of birth at 1886.

Be­sides his po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment, fam­i­ly­wise, Rase­naka mar­ried Ng­wana Nkoko. Ng­wana Nkoko’s adult name was Seemole, while her other name was Mang­wala. The union be­tween Rase­naka and Seemole pro­duced eight chil­dren: five boys and three girls. The first born was the tree whose roots we are trac­ing in this sec­tion: Tlou Theophillus (T.T.) Cholo. He was born on 20 Oc­to­ber 1925 (Er­rors in his iden­tity doc­u­ments in­di­cate that he was born in 1926). The sec­ond child was Ramokone Ma­noele Cholo, who was born on 8 Oc­to­ber 1928. She was later mar­ried to the Tladi fam­ily at Ga Chipana. The name, Ma­noele, was given to her af­ter a cer­tain Em­manuel first saw her af­ter she was born. It was a com­mon prac­tice in those days that if you were the first per­son to ar­rive in a fam­ily where a baby was born, you could give the small baby a gift and then ask that that baby be named af­ter you; sim­ple as that! But that was just go­ing to be an­other name just like a nick­name. How­ever, in some cases, such names stick to their own­ers to such an ex­tent that they re­place orig­i­nal fam­ily names.

The third child of Rase­naka and Seemole was Mak­wena ‘a Mathinya, who was born on 20 Septem­ber 1932. He was given the “Chris­tian” or Euro­pean name, Jame­son. Just like T.T., he was given a name from his pa­ter­nal side of his an­ces­tors. That was an im­por­tant rule in which chil­dren were named al­ter­nately be­tween the par­ents of a wife and a hus­band. A first-born child de­rived a name from its father’s fam­ily, par­tic­u­larly, the father of the hus­band. The sec­ond born would be named af­ter one per­son from the wife’s fam­ily, par­tic­u­larly, the father of the wife. The third born child, like Mak­wena in this case, got the name from the pa­ter­nal side of his an­ces­tors.

The forth one, who got a name from the ma­ter­nal side, was Mak­wena ‘a Tlo­gela (Ephraim) and was born on 28 July 1934. He later as an adult, went to live in the Mak­gabeng area, at Kgatu vil­lage. Ephraim was fol­lowed by the twin brothers born on 20 Oc­to­ber 1938, Ki­bela (Abel or Mathinye) who got the name from the father’s side and Kwena (Ken­tric) who got his name from the mother’s side. Ki­bela as an adult, went to set­tle at Sodoma vil­lage in the Mogalakwena area, while Kwena Ken­tric, known as K.K, set­tled at Se­ma­neng vil­lage at Ga Mat­lala. Mmak­gabo (Seemole or Jinny), born on 24 Oc­to­ber 1943, was the sev­enth child, and she was later mar­ried at Se­ma­neng in the Moa­belo fam­ily. The last-born child was En­nie (Mma­choene) who was born on 12 Fe­bru­ary 1947 and she stayed at Ga Chipana with her elder sis­ter, Ramokone (Ma­noele).

TT Cholo and his fam­ily later moved from Ga Mat­lala; set­tled in Mmakala (Lennes) near the Mogalakwena River. It was in Mmakala that TT re­ceived his pri­mary and se­condary school­ing be­fore he went to Gaut­eng to seek em­ploy­ment in bright-light cities in 1945 like his peers at that time. In Jo­han­nes­burg TT be­came in­volved in pol­i­tics un­til he escaped from the coun­try in 1961 when the apartheid white mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment was ruth­lessly hell-bent on de­stroy­ing its op­po­nents. Dr. Tlou Se­tumu is Au­thor and Re­searcher of His­tory, Her­itage and Cul­ture. His books in­clude: Bi­ogra­phies of Bra Ike Maphoto, TT Cholo and Max Mo­japelo; His Story is His­tory; The Land Bought, the Land Never Sold; Ideas with no Space; Foot­steps of Our An­ces­tors; etc. Books are avail­able on www.mak-herp. co.za; and also in Polok­wane Aca­demic Book­shop (op­po­site CNA Check­ers Cen­tre); and Budget Book­shop (c/o Ris­sik and Lan­dros Mare Streets).

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