Harold Stephens to Frederick Chesson, 6 October 1883
Archive location: Bodleian Libraries, MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 18 / C148 – 78a
Author(s): Harold Stephens
Recipient(s): Frederick Chesson
Sent from: Cape Colony
Date: 4 October 1883
I hope your Society are doing all they can for the unfortunate prisoner Mapoch or Niabel who has been sentenced to death. The trial was a foregone conclusion and the prisoner had no council given him until almost the last moment. To give a shadow of justice to the sentence an old document 23 years old was produced in which it was alledged Mapoch was to pay taxes to the Lydenburg Republic in consideration of his having three farms. It is very doubtful if this document is genuine as the Boers are in the habit of getting the kaffirs to sign all sorts of documents under false pretences and misrepresentations knowing that they cannot read. But granting that this was an exception it never appears to have been acted upon by either party and Niabel denies all knowledge of it. In fact, if it is a genuine document than it has been treated by both parties as a dead letter and is only now raked up for the purpose of taking away this chief’s life by showing that he was a subject of the Transvaal and is therefore guilty of rebellion in having resisted its authority.
Mampoer’s case I am not as well acquanted with but from what little I do know am convinced he has not been treated fairly. Putting on one side the question of rebellion the Mapoch war, or rather its termination, was a most disgraceful affair. Niabel was taken prisoner when he came into the Boer camp under a flag of truce, not only did the Boers abuse the flag of truce but Joubert promised Niabel after he was a prisoner that he life should be spared and yet he now lies under sentence of death. I don’t think the Boers will execute the sentence but very probably they, if pressed by the English government, will spare his life and make a merit of having thus conceded to the English government and then be enabled to keep him a life long prisoner! Where natives are concerned there appears to be no such thing as honour or justice for the Boers. Two Boer landdrost (i.e. magistrates) found guilty by the High Court of Pretoria for embezzling 1,400 pounds of the public money were sentenced to 9 months imprisonment without hard labour, while two kaffirs were sentenced to 3 years imprisonment with hard labour for stealing blankets of the value of 5 pounds. No wonder Niabel fought for his liberty.
Very faithfully yours,
Make these facts public if possible.