On the 19th March 2016, I have attended a celebration event at Mohlaletsi village, Maroteng mošate wa Bapedi, to honour King Sekhukhune I. The event was spectacular but poorly attended. As much as we have to know where we come from and that we should love our history, we should also celebrate people struggles and their victories in a way of teaching them their history.
We must teach people how the past generations had survived and how they have addressed the challenges they have come across as organized groups. In this event the history was told to the people about the reign of King Sekhukhune I and his forefathers.
But very less was told of how people themselves were organised in the battles. We can celebrate Kings and Queen and their victoriess, but if we do not celebrate the people themselves we do not teach our people that through their organisation they can defeat enemies, people would learn only to be conquered by Kings and Queens.
Kings and Queens, during their times they have only conquered their nations and organized them to serve their empires. It was a pre-medial capitalism of some sorts. During their times as leaders of communities there are those that have resisted colonialism and those that have sold their people into colonialism for money.
The history told us that there were many battles fought between the colonisers and Kings, and that colonialists won in many battles. They took the land and forced Kings into submissions to their colonial rules. Many people were killed including the beheadings of the Kings who refused to obey colonialists. Those who were defeated became servants of colonialist rule. The land and peace belonged to the colonialists. The defeated people became servants of colonialism until today. But this brought in new struggles.
The new struggles were waged in all site to end colonialist conquest of Africa; the struggles to be free and the struggles for land. This is a history that tells beautiful, but sad stories. It tells us that in between 1870 and 1881 King Sekhukhune I of the Bapedi nation fought relentless battles with the British colonial settlers in Tubatse. He was defeated in a fiercely battle in 1881 at Thaba Mosega. He was arrested and taken to jail in Pretoria prison for 1 year. He was released later in 1881 and died in 1882 after his brother stepped him with a spear. This is a history of a King that organized his people against colonial settlers and fought until death.
The conquest of the people started with British colonialism over vast Southern African land until the independence of some colonies. South Africa and Rhodesia (currently known as Zimbabwe) were colonized by the British. Namibia was colonized by Germany. South Africa was divided into independent homelands. These independent homelands were Transvaal, Natal, Bophuthatswana, Venda, Kwandebele, Lebowa, Qwaqwa, Transkei and Ciskei. Transvaal and many other independent homelands had their own apartheid systems of government, to rule over a huge population of black race.
In each homeland there were policies introduced to govern black people. National Party came to power in 1948, British colonial administrators in the 19th century, and earlier South African government had established reserves in 1913 and 1936, with intention to segregating black South Africans from white.
This made native people as second citizens in their own country. Resentments built in and within workplaces. Many people organized against the laws and staged protests. In 1954, migrant workers in Witwatersrand mines, in Johannesburg, started to be inexorable with these apartheid laws. From their hostels they organized a peasants uprising in each homeland. The introduction of the Bantustan Administrative Act, in 1948, that forced black families to reduce their lives stock, to stop cutting trees in the forests and to move from their productive and grazing land to useless land brought in the new phases of struggles for a black man.
The migrant workers in Johannesburg organized the committees of resistance in all the regions; in Transvaal, Ciskei, Natal, Bophuthatswana and Transkei and in many parts of the homelands. In Sekhukhune region the workers and communities started their own resistant movement called “Sebatakgomo”. In 1956, the Sebatakgomo committee had managed to build a strong movement. The resistance movement was so strong that it builds its branches all over Sekhukhune region, raised funds under the name “Fetakgomo” and organized protests. The resistance movement was supported by some Kings and others were blocked by the apartheid police for supporting the movement. Other Kings where dethroned of their Kingships because of their resistance to colonial rule.
The Sebatakgomo movement in Sekhukhune region was able to confront head-on the apartheid regime. In April 1958, at Schoenoord police station during the handing of a memorandum to the apartheid police, the police reacted with brutal force; beating , shooting and arresting people who were there just to hand over a memorandum. More than 200 people were injured and some 14 dead.
Violence erupted everywhere. The communities started to destroy and burn the houses of the people who were collaborators with the apartheid regime. The organisers of the protests were arrested and others had to go into exile. Some are today missing.
Now let us learn also from the struggles of the Tanzanian people. During the “scramble for Africa” era that began with the Treaty of Berlin in 1885, European powers dominated much of Africa, carving out vast territories as their own and establishing often brutal regimes to enforce their rule. The Maji Maji Rebellion in Tanganyika (modern-day Tanzania), beginning in July 1905 and ending in July 1907, was the most significant African challenge to German colonial rule. The uprising lasted two years of murders and brutal attacks.
A prophet, named Kinjikitile Ngwale, emerged and claimed to know a secret, sacred liquid that could repel German bullets called “Maji Maji,” which means “sacred water.” The war medicine, Maji Maji, was water mixed with castor oil, an oil once referred to as “The Hand of Christ” due to its healing abilities, and millet seeds.
Tanganyika had been acquired largely through the efforts of the German Colonization Society, founded by Dr. Karl Peters. This earned Peters, who was the Tanganyika colonial governor, the name “Milkono wa Damu,” meaning “Man with Blood on His Hands.”
One reason for the rebellion was the Germans’ forceful and invasive control of the region’s forests, which were important to regional commerce and filled with rubber, ivory and copal. The forests were also important to physical and spiritual healing since mediums derived authority and power from them for healing sicknesses and social ills.
The Tanganyika people were prepared to fight foreign invaders and protect themselves against invasion. According to British officer Frederic Elton, 10 years before German colonial rule, a British officer visited the southeast Tanganyika forests and was met by 800 men, more than half of whom were armed with guns with the leader making it clear that they were there to guard against invaders. Where did they acquire guns, no one knows.
Julius Nyerere, leader of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), stated in his 1956 speech to the U.N. that “the people fought because they did not believe in the white man’s right to govern and civilize the black. They rose in response … to a natural call, a call of the spirit … to rebel against foreign domination.”
The German invasion had serious effects on the social fabric of African society, with gender and social roles changing to fit the needs of the community. While Tanganyika men were forced to work away from home, women were forced to assume traditional male roles, making it difficult for communities to self-sustain.
Germans inflicted biological war on the Tanganyika people as well, taking the women and infecting them with sexually transmitted diseases that spread and devastated families and communities.
The King and military leader, Kinjikitile Ngwale, was eventually caught by German forces and hung for treason, but his ideas lived on, and small groups of Germans continued to be attacked. In Sekhukhune region the very same fade was realized when Mampuru was also hanged for killing Sekhukhune I.
Although the Maji Maji Rebellion was unsuccessful, it forced the Germans to institute reforms in African colonies. The rebellion would later inspire 20th century freedom fighters struggling against colonial rule.
The British as well where defeated many times, by King Sekhukhune I and his people. The reason I am arguing is that we should celebrate the struggles and not the Kings. We should be able to educate our people in their struggles, not their conquests. While I was listening to the speakers almost in every sentence they mention “kill” many times. It means the history of our Kings where of killing and conquest. We should celebrate the days like “Sebatakgomo Day”; to educate our people that it is only through organisation, strategy and tactics that people could win in any struggle. People must celebrate their struggles not the Kings.