Harold Stephens to Frederick Chesson, 16 July 1882, C148/73

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Stephens, Harold








Cape Colony

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C148-73


I have sent you several Kimberley newspapers but I don’t know whether they reach your. I intend to try another letter to the Standard.

c/o Knights and Hearle
South Africa
July 16/82

Dear Sir,

Your letter of June 22nd just received and I am glad to find that my efforts have met with some recognition. Many people in the Transvaal would have written about what has been going on with regard to the natives but for two reasons.

1st they believe that their letters would not be published, or if published the English government would take no notice of them.

2nd they are afraid of the Boers finding out their (that is to say if any notice was taken in England) names.

You must bear in mind that the Transvaal is non longer under English government and that the Boers have it in their power to make it (to say the least) very unpleasant for the few English remaining there. They have already pretty well made up their minds not to allow Englishmen a vote in the country and their expressions on the Volksraad show what their feeling is. However I don’t wish to wander off into politics except to show you the reason why people resident in the Transvaal are afraid to speak.

The South Western border, Mankoroane’s country, lies on the borders of Griqualand as well as the Transvaal, and the Kimberly papers have for the last six months contained news of what has been going on. Week after week there have been accounts of atrocities, and of acts which show the complicity of the Boer leaders and yet the English government have taken no notice of them. It is impossible to suppose that Sir H Robinson has not heard of them. It may be however that Sir H R has taken the British Resident (Mr Hudson’s) version of them and in that case it will account for nothing having been done.

I was in Pretoria when the chief Kalafin was despoiled of everything belonging to his tribes and I saw several eye witnesses of the affair and they one and all condemned it as a most heartrending sight and barbarous …

One of these eye witnesses told me that he went to see Mr Hudson about it but that when Mr Hudson found out what it was he wished to tell him, he (Mr H) left him abruptly, at the same time making some excuse that he was wanted elsewhere.

I don’t know what motive actuates Mr Hudson but I know of myself, and it is the opinion of almost every one I have spoken to in Pretoria (except Boers and their sympathisers) that he has done nothing towards stopping what has been going on, beyond now and again making a mild remonstrance by way of keeping up appearances. I don’t ask people to take my unsupported testimony, but I equally object to their taking Mr Hudson’s! Why don’t the government if they wish to find out the truth send some reliable person out to Mankoroane’s country and also to Montsioa’s and let them take evidence on the spot! They would then be able to find out what is the truth and if their report did not endorse what I have said I shall be very much surprised.

What is the position of these loyal chiefs at the present moment! On the one side (Griqualand) they are surrounded by a sort of semi police force who are instructed not to allow them to obtain ammunition or assistance, and on the other side the Boers are encamped all about and every day make raids on them shooting them down and stealing their cattle. They have several times sent messengers into Kimberley for assistance or advice but the government take no notice. They would do anything the English government tell them to, but to them it is to all appearance dead! The Boers alone hold communication with them and they tell them ‘we have beaten the English so its no use your looking to them for protection and now we are going to take everything you have including your country, and to destroy your tribe.’

You seem to hope that there may be some exaggeration in what I have said as to the complicity of the Boer leaders but I can assure you I have understated the matter rather than exaggerated it. I don’t mean to say that there are not a good many irresponsible men engaged in this war, but I am positing that it was commenced by responsible men in the Boer government and that they are still countenancing it in an underhand way.

Commandant Feriera (a Boer commander) in the pay of the government went to the scene of the fighting in Mankoroane’s country and ordered a truce, or cessation of hostilities, for 12 days. During which time he sent messages to Mankoroane to the effect that if he would give the Boers a large piece of his country the war should cease, but if not at the end of the 12 days the war would commence again! This truce is still going on.

What better evidence than this is wanted to show that if the Boers liked they could put down the war!!

It is not likely that I should exaggerate for I have no object in so doing. As it is I run a great risk.

If the English want to know the whole truth the only way is to send a reliable man to the spot i.e. to the scene of the fighting, but unless something is done quickly Mankoroane cannot hold out and will have to hand over his country to the Boers to escape destruction. Mankoroane would be only too willing to hand over the government of his country to the English because he believes he would be treated fairly and not despoiled.

According to the Convention the Boers were not to interfere with the natives outside the Transvaal but they pay no attention to this.

Lastly, I must again urge the necessity of sending someone to the spot to report otherwise the truth will never be known.

In haste,
Yours faithfully,
H Stephens