Episode 37 – How the amaXhosa waged war and Governor Van Plettenberg takes a trip to the Great Fish River

This is episode 37 and we’re continuing the saga of late 18th Century Xhosa kingdoms.
By late in the 18th Century, the Zuurveld was home to small groups of San, some khoekhoe chieftans, several Xhosa chiefdoms and the trekboers. They were mixing up together in a fairly confined territory and jostled each other increasingly angrily to secure the summer and winter grazing. While the San weren’t particularly interested in the grazing as they did not keep livestock, the pressure on the land was increasing.
Cultural ignorance concerning each others understanding of the nature of land ownership made things worse. Colonists had a sense of private property and they were spreading across the territory using the concept of Leningsplaatsen – loan farms – that we’ve heard about. For the trekboer, the leningsplaatsen was not a shared space – it belonged to a single person or investors and had defined boundaries which could be mapped.
In contrast, the amaXhosa saw land as communal property with its usage to be allocated by a chief. Where the cattle-owning parties saw their herds and flocks as their capital assets and indication of wealth and power, the temptation was to supplement their livestock through raiding or violence.
And Governor Van Plettenberg decided he'd take a trip to the Zuurveld along the Great Fish River to see how things were going between the Dutch settlers and the amaXhosa.