Our last episode concluded in about 1790, if not somewhat earlier, with Kgosi Moleta being succeeded on the Bangwaketse throne by his son, Kgosi Makaba II, who initially established himself at Sebatleng.
The second Makaba continued to build on his father’s military legacy, earning for himself the praise name “Rramaomana”. During his long reign, he fought against almost all of his neighbours, with his mephato usually prevailing.
Makaba II’s reign, however, began inauspiciously, after his raids on Bakwena cattle posts touched off a sustained and mutually destructive conflict. Seeking to recoup their initial losses, the Bakwena raided Bangwaketse cattle posts at Gapeana in the vicinity of Lobatse. But, their coming had been anticipated, resulting in a bloody Bangwaketse victory.
Thereafter, Makaba’s men fell upon and killed the by then aging Bakwena Kgosi Seitlhamo, who was said to have been virtually alone at his home stead. It is said that the Mokwena’s assassins had been led to their target by a son of Seitlhamo’s named Mooketsi. After the incident, Mooketsi went with the Bangwaketse back to Sebatleng, where Makaba had him executed, saying that since he had betrayed his own father he could just as easily kill him as well.
Notwithstanding the above, the now enraged Bakwena, led by another son of Seitlhamo named Maleke, attacked and destroyed Sebatleng in revenge for their loss. Makaba then resettled at the top of Kanye Hill, Ntsweng, which he fortified with extensive stone walls.
Makaba’s sophisticated defences proved their worth when the Bangwaketse were attacked in 1798-99 by the Barolong boo-Ratlou whose ranks were reinforced by a party of gun-wielding Korana and Griqua (mixed race groups of Khoe origin known to Batswana as Makgothu or Masetedi) led by the infamous German fugitive, Jan Bloem (Johannes Blum).
Having fled the Cape, where he is said to have murdered his first wife, Bloem joined the Katse Korana, amongst whom he assimilated to become a clan leader, as well as notorious brigand. He ultimately sired children with a dozen wives, resulting in numerous modern descendents; the city of Bloemfontein was originally named after the most prominent of his immediate offspring, the Griqua leader Jan Bloem II.
Along with another Cape fugitive named Coenraad De Buys, Bloem is the earliest European known to have ventured into Botswana. It was an unhappy encounter for all parties concerned.
Notwithstanding their lack of firepower, the Bangwaketse successfully resisted the invaders, whose motive was to relieve them of their cattle and in the case of Bloem’s party, perhaps, also to capture slaves. Bloem, himself, perished in the campaign after drinking water from a well that had been poisoned by Makaba.
The arrival of Bloem and De
After the British in 1809 banned the importation of overseas slaves into the Cape Colony, many women and children were also captured by the intruders to meet the insatiable Boer demand for forced labour. As a missionary in1829 noted:
“Amongst the Griquas and Bergenaars, who are in considerable connection with the Cape, slaves obtained by barter, or by capture from Bootchuanas and Bushmen, are a common article of saleable property.”
While The Grahamstown Journal newspaper in 1834 reported that:
“Amongst the Basotho, cattle have now become scarce, and commandos do not now as usual go out in search of them so much as of children, whom they carry off in great number, and dispose of them to farmers, who readily give a horse or inferior gun for each.”
In the context of these events, Makaba II’s 1799 defeat of Bloem may be credited with keeping similar brigands out of Botswana for a generation. By the same token, the rising levels of violence in the south also provide a context for better understanding the increasing militarisation of the Bangwaketse and their neighbours.
Makaba’s next victory was against the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana, who were then living to the east at Maanwane under the rule of Kgosi Kalaota II. Having challenged the Bangwaketse, the Bakgatla were decisively defeated, losing all of their cattle. In return for their herds, BagaMmanaana accepted Makaba’s overrule, eventually settling at Gamafikana. There Kalaota was succeeded by his son Kgosi Kontle II. The latter married Makaba’s daughter Berekonyane, who bore him a son named Mosielele.
In alliance with the Barolong, Makaba resumed his raids on Bakwena, Bahurutshe and Batlhaping. This resulted in a grand alliance against him, which included the combined might of the Bahurutshe, Balete, Bakgatla bagaKgafela, Bakwena, Batlhaping, and Batlaro, as well as some Korana.
In the face of this formidable challenge, Makaba retreated once more behind the stone walls of his Kanye stronghold. A final assault by his opponents was beaten off in a fierce battle at Mathabanelo on the eastern side of the hill.