Home­grown author looks at Kat River re­bel­lion

Talk of the Town - - Neighbourly Notes -

lo­cal peo­ple still re­mem­bered the Kat River re­bel­lion.

Their “oral his­tory jaunt” is recorded in her book

(2017) – the story of an ex­tra­or­di­nary val­ley in the Ciskei circa 1829.

There are peo­ple liv­ing there who still re­mem­ber sto­ries of Oom Paul (Kruger), and doc­u­ments such as the Diary of Sarah Ralph in the Fort Beau­fort Mu­seum re­call­ing the at­tack on Fort Beau­fort, which Ralph ob­served from her bed­room win­dow in the Bar­racks.

In 1819, the gover­nor of the Cape colony, Lord Charles Som­er­set, made the area between the Kat and Keiskamma Rivers a Bri­tish Pro­tec­torate in ex­change for brandy and pro­tec­tion. But the peace was dis­turbed by Nc­qika’s “right-hand” son, Maqoma, who formed his own clan, the amaJingi, and de­fied the agree­ment by oc­cu­py­ing the area between the Kat and Koonap Rivers.

Com­mis­sioner Gen­eral for the Eastern Prov­ince, An­dries Stock­en­ström, whose house still stands in Gra­ham­stown, ex­pelled Maqoma for mas­sacring the amaTembu and steal­ing their cat­tle.

At this time, the Khoi-Khoi were in dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion as they were com­pletely dis­pos­sessed.

An 1848 or­di­nance per­mit­ted them to buy land, but there was none.

Mean­while, the mis­sion sta­tions were over­grazed and over­pop­u­lated and no longer sup­port­ive.

Stock­en­ström con­sulted Field Com­man­der Chris­tian Groepe whose fa­ther was a Ger­man set­tler and whose mother was a Khoi-Khoi woman. Chil­dren of mixed Khoi-Khoi and Euro­pean de­scent were known as “basters”.

Some of the basters lived in Euro­pean houses, wore Euro­pean clothes and farmed Euro­pean crops like wheat, maize and bar­ley to avoid a racial stigma. They were given guns and asked to de­fend the Bri­tish Em­pire dur­ing the eighth Fron­tier War, aka Sandile’s War.

But the Basters of the Kat River set­tle­ment re­belled and at­tacked farms, stole stock, and took weapons.

Rebel women made good spies and would sneak into Som­er­set’s camp and make the call of a jackal to sum­mon the rebels to pass on in­for­ma­tion to them.

The Khoi-Khoi were sus­cep­ti­ble to TB and lep­rosy and woman lep­ers in par­tic­u­lar were hated and feared and would be shot by the Bri­tish even when un­armed.

The set­tlers on Isa­iah Sta­ple’s farm, Cold Val­ley, formed a lager with other Win­ter­berg fam­i­lies, and when the lager be­came in­se­cure, trav­elled through the nar­row busy Koonap River val­ley to reach the safety of Post Retief.

In the end, Som­er­set laid waste to the Kat River set­tle­ment and Maqoma was ban­ished to Robben Is­land with his wife Katje, where he died. Af­ter a hunger strike she also died.

To­day, the de­scen­dants of Chris­tian Groepe, Hymie Groepe and his peo­ple still live in Groepeskloof in the Ciskei. They have lodged a land claim, but 28 years later noth­ing has come of it.

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