The Bakgatla Baga Mmanaana (Part 3)

We left off in 1852 with the peace and independence of the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana under Kgosi Mosielele, along with that neighbouring merafe, under threat by the Transvaal Boers led by Andries Pretorius.

In the wake of the Sand River Convention, in which the British had agreed to cooperate with Pretorius in supressing the continued sale of firearms to Batswana, the only thing delaying armed confrontation was divisions in the Boer ranks.

In early February 1852, those Boers who wished to maintain peaceful trade with western Batswana merafe scored a small victory by ousting Adriaan Standers as Commandant-General in the Madikwe after he called for the arrest and execution Kgosi Mosielele. This occurred after Mosielele objected to supplying more of his men as free labour for a Boers irrigation project.

Standers was replaced by the seemingly more moderate Pieter Scholtz. The new Commandant immediately summoned all the Dikgosi to a meeting at Mosielele’s centre, Maanwane, on the February 25, 1852, where they would acknowledge their submission to Pretorius. The Bakwena Kgosi Sechele and rival Bangwaketse Dikgosi Senthufe and Segotshane refused to attend.

Pretorius then won Volksraad approval for an expedition to disarm the Bakwena and Bangwaketse. At Rustenburg the sum of 2, 600 Rixdollars was initially allocated to equip this force. An outbreak of flu delayed preparations for a few months, but, in July 1852 Scholtz assembled a mounted commando of 430 Boers and about 100 coloureds.

Scholtz then called upon all of the Dikgosi to once more meet with him on July 31, 1852. The purpose of this second pitso was to raise additional black troops. Only one Kgosi, Moilwa of the Bahurutshe at Dinokana, volunteered his men. Thereafter he was known to himself, as well as others both black and white, as “a Dog of the Boers.” Some rulers, such as Mangope of the Bahurutshe booManyana, were seized as hostages to force their people to cooperate. Scholtz was thus able to add about 600 Batswana to his commando.

Following this incident Mosielele, along with Kgosi Montshiwa of the Barolong booRatshidi, decided to join the fight against the settlers.

When summoned before Scholtz, the long-suffering Mosielele reportedly replied: “I live in peace with the Boers, have not molested or injured them, or killed their cattle, or stolen a dog from them; the country is theirs, I have nothing to say about it, but I am afraid to go to the meeting.”

Some of the BagaMmanaana are said to have vented their anger upon the Rev. Edwards for “bringing war upon them”. Their suspicions had been raised by Edwards’s reluctant role as an interpreter for Scholtz and Standers in the past. But, as events unfolded, Edwards’s loyalty to the Batswana became manifest to all.

On August 14, 1852 Scholtz told Edwards to move from Mabotsa. The missionary decided to remain, sending his family to stay at the neighbouring Rev. William Inglis’ station amongst the Bahurutshe at Mathebe. Edwards had apparently hoped his presence as a witness and/or potential mediator might deter the worst.

For his part, Mosielele had considered making a defensive stand at Maanwane, but when the size of Scholtz commando became apparent he resolved instead to evacuate his people to Dimawe. On August 15-16, 1852 he conferred with Sechele. But, events overwhelmed his hopes of an orderly retreat.

The Boers attacked without warning on the 17th, firing indiscriminately with their guns and artillery. As many of the men had gone off to round up their livestock, most of the victims were women and children. In panic, the whole community fled into the adjacent hills. The Boers kept up their fire killing about 90. Edwards was briefly reduced to tears at the ongoing massacre.

Having been caught off guard, Mosielele desperately tried to regroup his men to rescue as many of the woman and children as he could. The Boers nonetheless, captured some 400. While many later escaped, over 200 ended up enslaved.

Besides BagaMmanaana, the victims included some Bakwena exiles living under the BoRatshosha Kgosi Kgakge at Mabotsa. Having submitted to the Boers, Kgakge had assumed his people were safe. But, members of his immediate family were amongst those rounded up.

Tying a white rag to a stick Kgakge’s mother-in-law then astonished Batswana and Boers alike by marching through the turmoil to where Scholtz was sitting on his horse. Their exchange as recorded by Edwards:

MmaKhutsanyane: “Where is an interpreter? Give me an interpreter?

Scholtz: “Who are you?”

MmaKhutsanyane: “Kgakge’s mother [in-law], I seek my child.”

Scholtz: “What, you a mere woman, not afraid to come where there are so many guns? You might be killed.”

MmaKhutsanyane: “To kill me there can be no objection; but I want my child. We are Kgakge’s people and live with the teacher [i.e. Moruti Edwards] I want my child!”

Scholtz ordered the child’s release, prompting MmaKhutsanyane to insist he do likewise to the other Batswana who were present: “All these women and children are Kgakge’s people and live with the teacher.” The Commandant then released the entire group.

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