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Montshiwa, Mosielele, Edwards And Mmakhutsanyane

In our last episode the Transvaal Boer leader Andries Pretorius, having first forged a strategic partnership with the British through the infamous Sand River Convention, gained his Volksraad’s approval for an expedition to disarm the Bakwena and Bangwaketse.

Having assembled a core commando of some 430 mounted Boers and about 100 “coloureds”, Commandant General Pieter Scholtz then called upon all of the Dikgosi to meet with him at Groot Marico on July 31, 1852. The purpose of the pitso was to raise additional support for the expedition.

Only one Kgosi, Moilwa of the Bahurutshe at Dinokana, volunteered his men. Thereafter he was known to himself, as well as others, as “a Dog of the Boers.” But, some rulers, such as Mangope of the Bahurutshe booManyana, were seized as hostages to force their people’s cooperation. In this way about 600 Batswana were also dragooned into the commando.

Two Dikgosi- Mosielele of the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana and Montshiwa of the Barolong booRatshidi – refused to attend the meeting. From messages between Scholtz and Montshiwa:

Scholtz: “You are hereby commanded to send immediately 200 armed men on horseback and provided with victuals for a fortnight to assist us in punishing Sechele”

Montshiwa: “As I am responsible to God and man for what I, or people under my command, do, ere I can accede to your orders, please first distinctly inform me what sin unto death of Sechele is? Has he stolen your cattle? Burnt your homesteads or molested your woman? Or what else is the sin that demands his blood?”

Scholtz: “Sechele is insolent; but if you do not feel disposed to expose your men to fight, I will be satisfied if you send a troop of men to act as guides, as wagon drivers and as herders to drive back to the Transvaal the Bakwena cattle.”

Montshiwa: “....since the message does not disclose the exact point of the offence for which Sechele is to be punished, I shall find it difficult to persuade my people to provide a force to accompany an expedition against him.”

Scholtz: “As you thus refused to obey my orders, I shall settle with you after my return from Sechele.”

The shooting war finally began in the third week of August 1852, when the Boer commando moved against Mosielele’s capital, Maanwane. When initially summoned before Scholtz, Mosielele had 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 a Boer interpreter in the past. But, as events unfolded, the missionary’s loyalty to the Batswana was clear.

On August 14, Scholtz told Edwards to leave Mabotsa. While sending his family away, Edwards nonetheless decided to remain, apparently hoping that 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 news of the size of Scholtz expanded commando reached his ears he resolved instead to evacuate his people to Dimawe.

On the 15th and 16th, Mosielele thus conferred with Sechele. But, events overwhelmed his hopes of an orderly retreat. The Boers attacked without warning on the 17th, firing indiscriminately with their long 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.

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 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 among those rounded up. Tying a white rag to a stick Kgakge’s mother-in-law MmaKhutsanyane 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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