Mqikela to Frederick Chesson, 1 August 1883
Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C149/103
Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson
Sent from: Pondoland
Date: 1 August 1883
The Great Place,
Pondoland, South Africa
1st August 1883
Aborigines Protection Society
I have the honor to inform you that I wish to send a deputation for the purpose of representing to the Imperial Government the unsatisfactory relations that exist between the Cape of Good Hope Government and myself.
For the information of your society I will give you a brief outline of what has led to the present unsatisfactory state of affairs.
The treaty of 1844 made between the Imperial Government and my father Faku – the then Paramount Chief – recognize his sovereignty over all the tribes and country from the sea to the Drakensberg Mountains, bounded on the East by the Umquikulu River from its sources to its mouth, on the West by the Umtata River from its source to its mouth.
At the request of the Natal and Cape Governments several large tracts of land have been given to them which reduced the country to that defined by the Commission sent by Sir Henry Barkly in the early part of the year 1872, viz., On the East from the source of the Umtamvuna River to its mouth on the North, from the source of the Umtamvuna River, along the Ingeli Range, Nolaugani Range, Insiswa Range, down to the Umgimvubu Port, from then to the Papana Mountain, then on to the Gongululu Range and Umtata Township from which town the boundary line is the Umtata River to its mouth, that being the Western Boundary. Such was the boundary made by the Commission and agreed to by me.
This boundary has several times been broken and encroached upon by the Cape Government as for instance, the taking of the Rhode – the country occupied by the Amasesibi tribe, and the mouth of the Umzimvulu River, called St John’s by the Europeans – The Rhode has been returned but the two latter are still retained by Government.
The Government base their claim to the St John’s River Mouth as having purchased it from a subordinate chief called Nquilso who occupies the country situated on the Western bank of the Umzimvulu River, and who had no right whatever to sell any portion of the country occupied by him and his people, as he well knows, and has since expressed his sorrow for what he has done, which he says, he was tempted to do by the large sum that he was given.
No chief or tribe can part with or sell any portion of Pondoland such being the privilege of the Paramount Chief alone, and that only with the advise and consent of his council.
You will therefore perceive that the Cape Government have done a most injust as well as an illegal act in this case as also in that of taking that part of Pondoland occupied by the Amasesibi tribe. The Government assign as their reason for taking over these people and country, that they complained they were oppressed and illused by the other Pondo tribes. The same complains were made as far back as 1870-71 when the Commission appointed by Sir Henry Barkly to define the boundary had instructions to inquire into their complaints, and ordered the Amaxesibis to recognize the sovereignty of the Paramount Chief of Pondoland his heirs and successors and to pay me a tribute of 20 head of cattle which was done.
In 1878 they again complained of oppression and applied to be taken over by the Cape Government – the government then appointed a magistrate to that part of the country occupied by them and I believe informed them (although no information was given to me at the time) that they were taken over by the Cape Government.
Matters since that time have grown yearly more serious constant affrays resulting in loss of life taking place between the Amaxesibis and border tribes. The Amasesibi – being protected and provided with arms and ammunition by the Government – have stolen more than they did previously the Government. Government taking them over and naturally the other Pondo tribes adjoining them have resented the thefts in force and in such numbers as to alarm the magistrates in East Griqualand who have at different times called out native and European forces.
Mr Sauer Secretary Native Affairs, Cape Government, visited my country in the latter part of 1881 and had a meeting with me at which all my principal chiefs and counsillors were present, he then promised (on behalf of the Cape Government):
1. That all the grievances of which I complained would be redressed,
2. And that the country occupied by the Amaxesibis,
3. And St Join’s River Mouth would be returned.
Shortly after this the Amaxesibis were ordered by the Government to leave my country and go to that lately occupied by the rebel Pondomise Chief and his people – this they refused to do – and in April of this year I was informed that a Commission had been appointed by the Government for the purpose of defining a boundary line between that portion of the country occupied by the Amaxesibis, and that occupied by the Pondo tribes, and I was requested to send representatives to meet this commission – this I refused to do, giving as my reason, “that I did not consider the government were justified in taking any part of my country, and I further refused to recognise any commission appointed for that purpose” – the commissioners however put up beacons marking a boundary which has cast off a large tract of my country. I have not received any notification of the boundary they made, but am aware of it from the beacons that they have put up.
The action of the Government:
1. In taking over the Rhode and its people,
2. The Amaxesibi and the country occupied by the,
3. The purchase of the Umzimvubu River Mouth
Has been a source of considerable irritation to my people, and I have steadily and persistently refused to recognise their right in doing so, and have all along strongly protested against their action.
I consider that any complaints made to the Government against me by my subjects – i.e. Amaxesibi – ought to have been investigated by a commission appointed for that purpose. I have no wish to exercise authority – if distasteful to them – over the Amasesibi nor do I object to the Government taking them over, but I strongly object to the Government taking part of my, already must curtailed, country with them.
The population of Pondoland has during the last 20 years nearly doubled itself and should it continue increasing at the same ratio, in a very few years the country as defined by the 1872 Commission will not be large enough for them.
The sole subsistence of my people is the milk they get from their cattle and the corn they grow, it is therefore necessary that they should have sufficient land, for their cattle to graze upon and grow corn! Already the cattle (which have increased in proportion to the people) are dying from sickness, poverty, etc., owning to the want of sufficient ground to graze on.
These grievances I wish fully represented to the Imperial Government as also all the details in connection therewith, and for that purpose I wish to send a duputation to England, and have called upon my people to give cattle to defray the necessary expenses, but from several reasons, such as the difficulty of getting cattle, owning to the amount of sickness amongst them this year and my inability to obtain cash for those now collected, as the traders will not buy for cash, giving as their reason that on account of the stagnation in the colony cattle realize a very low price.
I therefore – with the advise of several white friends resident in my country – make an appeal to your Society to assist me with funds for the purpose of sending the above mentioned deputation so that what I complain of will be properly represented. I do not solicit as a gift, but as a loan which I will repay as soon as I can collect sufficient cattle – but it is necessary owing to the unsettled state of my country that these grievances should be represented and rectified, if possible, immediately, and owning to the reasons I have already given I cannot collect sufficient cattle, for this purpose, in time to prevent, what I much dread, viz. a rupture with the Government.
I am quite willing to give any security, your Society may deem necessary, should the money I require be advanced.
I have as my father who reigned before me always remained peaceable and friendly to the whiteman, and although often asked by other native tribes to join with them in war against the Government, have either remained neutral or assisted the Government – I am an old man now and wish, if possible, to pass the remainder of my days in peace – but it appears to me – unless I can with your assistance send a deputation immediately to England to get my grievances redressed – that I shall be forced by the Cape Government into war. I have now to exert my authority to restrain my people, “who are greatly irritated from hostilities and I will continue to do my utmost to prevent any collision between my people and the Government – no matter what further aggressions the Cape Government may commit – I will not sanction a resort to arms, till all hope of my grievances being obtaining anything by peaceable measures from the Cape Government.
I have the honor to be
Your most obt servant
Paramount chief of all Pondoland
Witnesses to Umquikela’s mark
W Pleydell Bouverie