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Ghanzi In History (Part 10) – Samakao Escapes

In last week’s episode the Ghanzi Magistrate, Alan Cuzen had forwarded a report to his superiors in Mahikeng that the prominent Ovambandero figure, Karcho Sheppard had travelled from Rakops to Windhoek via Tsau, Kalkfontien and Lehututu spreading the "Africa for African’s" message of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

Shortly thereafter, Cuzen’s anxiety was increased when “Mosarwa” named “Samson” was brought in by his European master to give the following sworn statement:

“I was at Tsau with Mr. P. Lewis and he sent me back to Kgoutsa. While at Makakon a few miles south of Tsau, I was spoken to by a Mocuba [Moyei], named Tau, who is living with a Mosarwa woman at Makakon. He told me that he had been to Maun lately and Chief Mathiba told him and others who have posts away from Maun to sell their oxen and buy guns.

Tau told me that when the people had sufficient guns, the Batawana would make war against the Europeans, Tau did not tell me to take the message to the Mocubas in this district. I reported the matter to my master, Mr. C. Lewis.” 

Sensational reports were also then emerging from the other side of the border. An informer named Ngxiki reported that “three days beyond Gobabis there were a lot of natives including Hereros, Bushmen and American Negroes [probably a single Liberian U.N.I.A. activist] waiting for the white people to come and start a fight. There are altogether about three hundred natives there with rifles.”

As fear gripped the region, Cuzen further reported to the Government Secretary in Mafikeng, 18 November 1922: “Referring to my previous reports regarding alleged unrest among the Natives, I have just received information that a rising is contemplated but no time decided upon. The Dutch community are taking precautions, but they fear isolated attacks. A native, whom I could not identify came one evening and told me to take precautions and that I should send my family away. I am doing so. One can now trace the very insolent manner when dealing with the Damaras [in this case OvaMbanderu]. At any rate I will try to obtain more definitive information.”

In the early 1920s Ghanzi was not in high demand as a posting. Compared to the bright fires of Kanye or Serowe never mind Francistown with its two tennis courts and Tati Hotel veranda, Ghanzi was thus a perfect place to send overzealous, overeducated junior officers like Lt. Cuzen. There a young Resident Magistrate might learn the art of doing very little with a minimum of stress to both himself and his superiors.

There thus may been some initial scepticism at the

Imperial Reserve, Mahikeng, when their new man on the western border began forwarding dispatches about Bushmen rebellions and “Africa for the Africans” meetings.

Not that Cuzen seemed to be the overly excited sort. Unlike Capt. Stigand in Molepolole, who linked Sebele II’s troublesome nature to a Jewish “Hidden Hand”, while maintaining the annoying habit of shooting cows, frogs and lunatics who disturbed his sleep, or the Government Secretary, Dutton, who spent his evenings digging tunnels under his neighbour’s lawns, Cuzen appeared to be the balanced sort.

Further news of his Gobabis counterpart, Van Ryneveld’s, death in a clash with Samkao’s “wild Bushmen” had certainly cause for alarm. Cuzen reported:

“Information has been received today that a large number of Bushmen have crossed from Rietfontein, S.W.A. to Okwa, 60 miles south of Ghanzi, where a section of the Makoko [/Auin] Bushmen reside. These travellers carried quantities of reeds from which they make arrows.

“I was at Olifants drift when the trouble started in S.W.A., before Capt. van Ryneveld was killed, and a number of Bushmen from the Epicuro District came over to see me, they simply begged for tobacco and behaved in the usual manner. They could not live under the existing laws in S.W.A., as they are punished for killing game and must carry Passes and prefer the easy existence on this side. If they are not able to kill game they will kill cattle.”

Across the border the manhunt for Samekoa ran into more difficulties. On 18 August 1922 an armed police patrol numbering 35 under a certain Sergeant Castle ambushed Samekao’s party at Eiseb. The reported result: “Six Bushmen killed, 23 captured, including leader. No police casualties. Prisoners and 60 women and children being brought in.” On 26 September 1922 the acting Resident Magistrate at Gobabis reported to Cuzen on the prisoner’s fate:

“In the end rather more than 100 were dispatched to Gobabis but on the night before they should have reached the village a number of them escaped and 7 have not been recaptured. Among these are Zamekou [Samakoa] and his principal adherents.

Zamekou himself appears to have obtained an influence over the whole of the Bushmen in his area, which has been most unfortunate. They have been implicated in stock thefts upon an unprecedented scale and have fired not only upon the Police but private individuals....

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