Episode 102 - Tales of the Trans Vaal and how Magaliesberg got its name
The development of the highveld to the late 1820s is quite a tale, with the first Tswana people made their way here by the 1100s, although much of the high ground was avoided.
However, by the late 1600s, people had moved onto hilltop defensive locations through the region.
Rooikrans for example, a small stone-walled Sotho, Tswana and Pedi site on the Waterberg plateau north west of the Witwatersrand. There was also a similar development at Bruma on the Linksfield Ridge right in the heart of Johannesburg. I used to walk up that slope from the back of my house and the original stone settlements had been frittered away by Boer and British defenders during the Anglo Boer war who used the 500 year-old Tswana stone to build Sangars and trenches.
So over hundreds of years, the original peoples of the highveld moved about a great deal, sometimes living on hilltops, sometimes in the valleys depending on how politically stable it was. Oral tradition points out the Hurutshe founded the hill-top village of Chuenyane - also called Witkoppies, which is near Zeerust by the early 1500s. By the 17th Century, there was significant Tswana state growth in the west where it is warmer than around Johannesburg, with the rise of the Kwena and Kgatla dynasties, but these shattered in the 18th Century as trading power shifted north.
If you’ve followed the series to this point, you’ll remember the descriptions of the trading routes from Delagoa Bay and how they criss-crossed central southern Africa. There were even traders who arrived here from the West Coast, modern day Angola. By the end of the 17th Century, the transvaal Ndebele began to emerge - and by the 18th Century they were regarded as a separate people by the Sotho, Tswana and Pedi speakers.
They became known as the Matabele, and they lived on the steepest hills where they built fortifications around the Waterberg plateau. The southern Trans Vaal Ndebele were spread over the Witwatersrand high veld adjoining the Drakensberg, up to where Pretoria is today and they were in this region by the end of the 17th Century. They all trace their history to a man known as Busi, and the dating of this man is around 1630-1670.
Busi’s son was called Tshwane, and that’s why we know Pretoria area today as Tshwane - because that was its first name. Oral stories are a bit more murky when it comes to the northern trans vaal Ndebele, who settled west of the Waterberg Plateau in the 1500s.
Some headed further west across the Limpopo to the Tswapong hills in eastern Botswana. While they were migrating north west, the other transvaal Ndebele called the LAka aka, Langa, and the Hwaduba, remained behind in the WAterberg plateau. These people clung onto their linguistic identity, they spoke an Nguni language, whereas the others to the west became Tswana, Sotho, and Pedi speakers.
One man by the name of Mogale refused to dilute his language, and it is his name that morphed into the Magaliesberg - that wonderful and imposing steep and craggy range of mountains the west of Johannesburg. The very phrase sounds Afrikaans - Magalies, but it is actually an early Ndebele word from the 1500s.
By Mzilikazi’s time in the mid-1820s, there was significant jostling for territory and ascendancy around inland southern Africa. A series of small wars amongst the Tswana which have become known as the ivory and cattle and fur wars, and some known as the Wives wars, were on the go around this time.