Monday, July 22, 2024

History of the Bangwaketse Part 20 ÔÇô The end of the Kingdom

At the end of 1852-53 Batswana Boer War the Bangwaketse were living under Senthufe at Kgwakgwe and Gaseitsiwe at Sekheng. Within months both groups had taken up residence together at Kanye, which has since remained the merafe’s centre.
Notwithstanding the unity that had been forged during the conflict, Senthufe continued to resist Kgosikgolo Gaseitsiwe’s authority. While Robert Moffat described relative harmony in the village during an 1854 visit, the continued division gave rise to disputes over cattle and the allegiance of Bakgalagadi communities in the interior.
Matters came to a head when Senthufe began to establish a second headquarters for himself at Male. In December 1857, Gaseitsiwe finally moved to forcibly assert his authority, supported by Montshiwa’s Barolong booRatshidi. From 1853 until 1877 Montshiwa’s own headquarters was inside Gangwaketse at Moshaneng, while his loyal brother Molema remained with a large following south of the Molopo boundary at Mafikeng.
Male was burned to the ground in an attack which is reported to have claimed a total of 14 lives. With his cattle looted and many of his former followers having deserted, Senthufe fled to the Bakwena Kgosi Sechele. The latter’s subsequent mediation efforts were rewarded in 1859, when Senthufe returned to Kanye as Gaseitsiwe’s subject, where he died in peace in 1885.
The reconciliation between the houses of Gaseitsiwe aTshosa and Senthufe aSebego survived. Between 1919-23 Senthufe’s grandson, Tshosa, acted as regret for Gaseitsiwe’s great-grandson Bathoen II.
For the region as a whole the 1852-53 war had established both a boundary and temporary balance of power with the Boers. But, ultimate power now rested with the British. It was thus with as much an eye on the British to the south as the Boers in the east that the Gaseitsiwe continued to nurture close ties with Montshiwa and Sechele. The value of this alliance was demonstrated in 1868, when the Bakwena and Barolong joined the Bangwaketse in threatening the Transvaal Boers with renewed war after some of the latter began to settle in Lehurutshe in violation of the post-war understanding. The Boers withdrew.
In an attempt to counter further encroachments by either the British or Boers, Gaseitsiwe joined Montshiwa in promoting the formation of some form of union of among the free merafe. The idea gained brief momentum in 1871 after the British annexed Batlhaping territory containing the newly discovered diamond fields in and around Kimberley. In October 1871 Josef Ludorf, a Wesleyan missionary who also occasionally served as Montshiwa’s secretary, copied a letter to Gaseitsiwe and Batlhaping dikgosi, advocating:
“And now chiefs: rulers of the land, I appeal to you. Awake: arise and unite soon before your trophy is torn asunder by wolves; come ye together, make protective laws; stop all breaches and gaps and close your gaps. Safeguard the heritage of Tau your ancestor. Hear ye all chiefs: Come together and unite.”
The following month Ludorf circulated a draft a constitution for “The United Barolong, Batlhaping and Bangwaketse Nation”, while appealing for British diplomatic recognition. In the same month Sechele reportedly agreed to join the process. But, following Ludorf’s death in January 1872, further efforts to promote some form of sovereign unity among the western Batswana failed in the face of British expansion.
In 1878 the Batlhaping rebelled against the British. With their guns they put up a gallant resistance, defeating one enemy column in the 2nd July 1878 Battle at Kho. But, the imperialist’s firepower was far superior. The core of the resisters were surrounded at Dithakong, which fell after a three hour artillery barrage.
Using the supposed need to protect the LMS mission at Kudumane as an excuse a British commander, General Charles Warren, then invaded the Batswana lands up to the Molopo River demanding their submission. A British agent named Alex Bailie was also dispatched to the Bangwaketse, Bakwena, Bangwato, and Amandebele to seek their cooperation in supplying migrant labour for the Kimberley mines.
Warren’s 1878 invasion and Bailie’s mission were part of a wider British expansionist effort to bring much of southern Africa under their control, which during 1877-81 resulted in them also fighting with the Amaxhosa, Amazulu, Basotho, Bapedi, and Transvaal Boers. However, a change in government at London led to a pullback in 1881. The Transvaal, Kwazulu, and Batswana territory north of the diamond fields were evacuated.
During the same period Gangwaketse’s population increased significantly as a result of an 1880 agreement between the Bakwena and Bangwaketse that demarcated their border to include both the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana at Moshupa and the Bahurutshe booManyana at Dimawe in Gangwaketse.
Having been settled by the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana in 1863, Moshupa had been abandoned in 1870 as a result of a bogosi dispute, after Pilane claimed the throne from his biological but not customary father Mosielele (seantlo). Pilane’s followers stayed for a few years at Kgabodukwe from where they defeated Bakgatla bagaKgafela raiders in 1876. Meanwhile Mosielele’s followers permanently settled in Kanye at Gamafikana; where he died in 1873. These events coincided with Pilane’s wife, Gagoangwe aSechele, leaving him to become the wife of Gaseitsiwe’s heir Bathoen. Gagoangwe thus became the Queen Mother of both Pilane’s successor, Kgosi Baitirile, as well as Bathoen’s, Kgosi Seepapitso III.
The new border also brought the Bangwaketse into conflict with the Balete in Ramotswa, who refused to pay tribute to Gaseitsiwe. The Kgosikgolo had hoped to avoid armed conflict, but in November 1881 Bathoen rashly led two mephato in an ill-fated attack on Ramotswa, which resulted in more than hundred Bangwaketse deaths. Seeing opportunity, the Transvaal Boers claimed authority over the Balete living on both sides of the Ngotwane.
The Bangwaketse were further humiliated when the Boers called Gaseitsiwe to talks, only to violate the flag of truce by seizing him as a hostage, releasing him after receiving 529 head of cattle.   
Meanwhile to the south, Montshiwa along with the then leading Batlhaping Kgosi, Mankurwane, were attacked by white brigands claiming to fight on behalf of two dikgosi who had already submitted to Boer overrule. Their real interest was in grabbing land for themselves. With the support of the Transvaal Boers, in 1882 the brigands set up two small states, the “Stellaland Republic” on Batlhaping land, and the “Goshen Republic” on Barolong land.
Led by the mining tycoon Cecil Rhodes, imperialists in the Cape Colony joined local missionaries and traders in calling for British intervention, arguing that the brigands were disrupting the flow of goods and mine labour from “Bechuanaland” and central Africa. Their arguments were strengthened in April 1884 when the Germans occupied the Namibian coast. London feared that the two republics could become a wedge linking the Germans and the Transvaal Boers, who were now led by the anti-British, pro-German Paul Kruger.
Montshiwa’s position was strengthened in 1883 when the Bangwaketse joined the Barolong in an offensive to destroy the Goshen Republic. It was at this point that Sechele’s cannon was also transferred to the Barolong arsenal. The brigands where pushed back to the Transvaal border farm of Rooigrond, which was torched in May 1884.
A subsequent raid on Bangwaketse, as well as Barolong, cattle-posts led to the last battle of the war. On 1 August 1884 the Goshenites were intercepted by a combined Bangwaketse and Barolong force near Mafikeng. In the engagement 181 Batswana and some 50 Boers were killed before the raiders retreated back into the Transvaal. Goshen was no more.
Notwithstanding Kruger’s subsequent false claim that Montshiwa had accepted his protection, the Boer threat to the Barolong and Bangwaketse had thus been eliminated by January 1885 when a 4,000 man British military expedition, once more under the command of General Warren, arrived south of the Molopo. Montshiwa, along with Mankuwane, then signed documents agreeing to submit to British “protection”.
Also in January 1885, London decided to end any further possibility of a linkup between the Germans in Namibia and the Transvaal by extending the Bechuanaland Protectorate north of the Molopo to include the entire southern half of Botswana. This coincided with the passage of a small German military reconnaissance through Gatawana and Gammangwato.
Warren then invited Gaseitsiwe to meet him in Mafikeng, where accompanied by Bathoen, he detailed his claims of losses, mostly of livestock, against the Boers. In response, Warren wrote his superiors recommending that Gaseitsiwe’s claims be favourably considered, though in the end no compensation materialised.
Warren further sent a British reconnaissance team led by a Lieutenant Stokes to survey Gangwaketse and report back on possible sources of tax revenue to be found in the territory. The resulting March 1885 document provides an overview of the merafe on the eve of British occupation.
Warren finally set out to communicate with “kings” Sechele and Khama III of the Bangwato in April 1885, crossing the Molopo with only seventy men. Meetings were held in Kanye, as well as Molepolole and Shoshong where the Bechuanaland Protectorate north of the Molopo was announced and to varying degrees accepted. On the 30th of September 1885 “British Bechuanaland” was administratively divided, with the lands north of the Molopo remaining a Protectorate, while the south became a colony, subsequently absorbed into the Cape Colony.
Although it might not have been apparent at the time, the history of Gangwaketse as an independent kingdom had ended, while the history of the Bangwaketse as a merafe had entered a new era.


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