Episode 103 - Barend Barends battered and the men in black on the frontier

Last episode we heard how Jan Bloem and Kora leader Haip had launched a raid on Mzilikazi’s Ndebele people arraigned along the southern reaches of the Vaal River in 1830 - and Mzilikazi’s bloody response where he not only recovered his cattle but killed 50 Kora.

This was the first of a series of incidents which convinced Griqua captain Barend Barends to put together a massive commando and deal with the Ndebele once and for all.

Barends is regarded as the founder of Griqualand, he settled north of the Orange River early in the 19th Century - and was the first Griqua to do this. He was also more adventurous than his fellow people, and was a profoundly focused Griqua nationalist.

His spirit still moves the people of Griqualand today - it is a fiercely independent folk who live around Kuruman, to Upington, Kimberley. The land there is fierce as well - only the hardiest people can take the splendid isolation of the searing summer temperates and the freezing winds in winter.

Barend Barends had left the Cape because he disliked the Dutch and the colonists generally - and he refused to cooperate with authorities when they demanded he hand back escaped slaves. He was far away from their centre of power - who was going to try and stop him?

He became known as a protector of runaway slaves, a man whose name was whispered amongst the slave community of Cape Town, his towns a place for the so-called Hottentots to reach if they could across the barren Namaqua wastes - and past the unfriendly Dutch farms.

Barends was also a staunch paternalist when it came to the Tswana around him presuming that his people were a cut above - he was condescending at times. And he was luke-warm about Jan Bloem’s first plan to raid Mzilikazi.
Mzilikazi attacked Griqua hunting parties north of the Molopo River. Barends himself had hunted there, and he’d traded with the Hurutshe folk who by now had been turned into one of the Ndebele vassal peoples.

Mzilikazi is also reported to have told Barend and his Griquas to steer clear of the Ndebele land which the Griqua had regarded as their ivory hunting grounds. This was not acceptable to the Griqua view of themselves as superiors to the Tswana, the Sotho, the Ndebele.

By early 1831 Barend Barends began to talk in messianic terms - that he was sent by God to sweep Mzilikazi and his “gang of blood thirsty warriors from the fine pastures and glens of the Bakone country…” as Robert Moffat the missionary wrote in his book “Missionary Labours”.

The Bakone country was the highveld just fyi.

Barend said he wanted to emancipate the people of the region from Mzilikazi’s thrall.
I’ll return to what Mzilikazi was up to by 1833 and it will be a story of blood, gore, pain and suffering, raiding, raping, pillaging and other inappropriate activities because now allow our gaze to swing south once more.

Here the relationship between the missionaries, the amaXhosa and the settlers was growing more and more complex. The missionaries thought amaXhosa were living in sin and cursed by damnation, the amaXhosa thought the missionaries were borderline insane and I’ll explain why - although its nicely summed up by one young woman quoted by the Scots missionaries of the time.

“I am young, and in health, I have a husband and we possess corn, and cattle and milk. Why should I not be happy? Why do I need more?”

Such disregard for the soul horrified the poor missionaries, so did just about everything about the amaXhosa, their nudity, the circumcision dances, and missionaries reporting that their land

“… is filled with fornication, whoredom, and all uncleanness, witchcraft, their doctors, polygamy, conversations full of frivolousness and filth…”
29 Jan 2023 English South Africa History · Places & Travel

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