Harold Stephens to Frederick Chesson, 31 December 1883, C148/79

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Stephens, Harold








Cape Colony

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C148-79


Decb 31/83

Dear Sir,

Many thanks for the Standard you sent me. It however only contained a very brief summary of my letter which was rather disappointing as I endeavoured in the leeter to show up the way in which the war against Mapoch had been carried on and the treachery by which the Boers ultimately conquered. Mapoch or Niabel frequently sent on messengers to Joubert, asking for peace, but Joubert’s answer invariably was that Niabel must come in person. Niabel therefore a little while afterwards sent in a flag of truce and under its protection came in to see Joubert. Joubert sent some one to tell the chief he was not in and induced him to go into a house in the midst of the Boer lines and wait for him. No sooner did the unsuspecting chief enter the house than the key was turned and the demeanor of the Boers towards him underwent a marked change. After some time waiting in vain for Joubert the chief’s attention was called to the burning of his people’s huts (by the Boers) and he then said he couldn’t wait any longer now, but must go and endeavour to stop the fire. The Boers then told him he would not be allowed to leave as he was their prisoner. His indignation at this treachery knew no bounds, but it was of no use and altho his life was promised him yet as you know he was tried (it is unnecessary to say the trial was a disgraceful farce) and sentenced to be hanged. The extreme penalty would have been carried o ut but for the intervention of the English government.

The chiefs of Mapoch’s tribe are treated by the Boers as the vilest criminals: heavily ironed they are sent out to mend the roads and at night receive a little mealie meal to eat. I heard that five of these managed to escape the other day but the Boers went after them on horseback and managed to recapture three of them. That they should attempt to escape with irons on and risk starvation shows pretty well what their position is and yet the only crime they have been guilty of is that of defending their country. England surely ought to do something for them!

I see that Mr President Kruger says thay (the Boers) treat the kaffirs just as well as the English do and there upon ensues a lot of newspaper talk. But why in the name of all that’s reasonable if the English government care to know the truth don’t they ask the kaffirs. Surely the answer of the kaffirs would be conclusive and settle the question once and for all. Who can be the best judge of how the kaffirs are treated. Why the kaffirs of course but I suppose this course is too straightforward for civilized governments to adopt.

I don’t think Lord Derby’s settlement of the Boer’s claim to extend their boundaries a good one. It is rumoured that they are to take over Moshete’s and [Massoun’s?] countries provided they don’t touch Mankoroane and Montsioa. This is a direct encouragement for the Boers to go on stealing land because they know now that they have only to make claim to an enormous piece of country to ensure their getting some of it. The convention gave them more land than they were entitled to and now because in violation of the convention they have gone in for ill-treating and robbing the natives they are rewarded with more land still. Under this system their boundaries will never remain fixed. I see that Mr P [Bodenstein?] chairman of Transvaal volksraad is Landdost (i.e. magistrate) of Stellaland and yet the English government scarcely believe that Transvaal government have anything to do with those robberies.

Yours faithfully
H. Stephens