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A FEW MONTHS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA.

BY LIEUT.-COLONEL E. NAPIER.

THE AMAKOSE.

"The tribe that occupies the country on the Eastern Frontier of the Colony, is called Amakosæ, and their country is called by them Amakosina. These words are formed from Kosa,' which is used to designate a single individual; and the plural, by prefixing the article' ama.'

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ROSE'S "Four Years in Southern Africa,” p. 78.

Of all the various ramifications into which the human species is divided, probably few exceed in number, and the wide extent of territory they occupy, those of the Bechuana race, of which the Kaffir nation is an undoubted branch; and if similarity of language, customs, and appearance be proofs of a common origin, the course of this people may be traced as flowing south of the equator, from the furthest discovered limits of the interior of Africa, and along its eastern shores,-extending thence, and skirting the vast sandy deserts which divide this little known continent, across the Peninsula to the western coast, through the country of the Damaras, as far as the Portuguese settlements of Benguela and Angola.

"The Bechuana, or, as some term it, the Sichuana dialect, prevails universally amongst the interior tribes, so far as they have yet been visited, and varies but slightly from that of the Damaras and Delagoans, situated so widely apart on the two opposite coasts."*

Captain Owen, whose labours in surveying the eastern shores of Africa, are so well known, states that the language at Delagoa Bay is the same as that spoken to the eastward, as far as the Bazaneto Islands, and that both Kaffirs and Zoolahs can communicate readily with the Delagoans; and Major Denham, who succeeded in penetrating from the western coast, further into the interior of Central Africa than probably any other European, describes the Fellatahs, inhabiting the portion of this immense and nearly unknown continent, which is situated about 10 deg N. and 5 deg. E. as clothed in the "spoils of the chase," and possessing characteristics which are recognised as common to the Kaffirs, and other hordes of the Bechuana race.

The many theories advanced as to the origin of the Kaffirs, have already been adverted to, but although Barrow and other writers boldly affirm them to be the descendants of Ishmael, there appears, as I have elsewhere observed, more reason to consider them analogous with the Negroes of Central Africa, or to trace their derivation from Abyssinia; an hypothesis which might perhaps be greatly elucidated by Sir Cornwallis Harris, who, from his mission to that part of the world, and former travels in Southern Africa, would, no doubt, be well qualified for such a task.

Of the three Bechuana nations, viz.: the Amatomba (or Tamboukies) the Amapondæ, and the Amakosæ, (indiscriminately known to us under the extraneous appellation of Kaffirs), with the latter-from their geographical position, and constant depredations during the last half century, on the eastern province of the Cape of Good Hope-we have had more

*From Thompson's "Travels in Southern Africa," vol. i. p. 332.

intimate relations, and are better acquainted than with any other tribe of the whole race; and as part of this knowledge has been acquired at a cost of several millions to the British nation, it may not at this moment-when hostilities with them have so lately been brought to a close-be deemed out of place, to give a short account of these restless barbarians.

The nominal territory of the Amakosa now extends from the Umtata to the Keiskamma; and though Kreili, whose residence is beyond the Kye, be acknowledged as their paramount sovereign, the nation is divided into several tribes, independent of each other, and governed by hereditary chiefs, who possess the power of life and death over their subjects. The principal Amakosæ tribes, besides those of Kreili, are the T'Sambies and the Gaikas, but these are subdivided into several minor chieftainships, whose aggregate amount of population is supposed to exceed 170,000 souls, amongst whom may be reckoned, at the very least, between 40,000 and 50,000 warriors, though some aver that they can bring even a larger number into the field; and it says little in favour of the prudence or precautionary measures adopted by the British government for the protection of its colonial subjects, that in face of such a host of treacherous and warlike barbarians, united by the strongest and most tempting motives to plunder, the eastern frontier has so often been left nearly denuded of troops; the whole amount of force for its defence in 1834, and for several previous years being :-"400 British Infantry, and 200 Hottentot Cavalry, to protect 100 miles of a fertile and tempting frontier, in the face of 80,000 savages on the opposite border, of habits innately predatory; a frontier, too, without fortified works or cannon;-a weakness which invited the spoiler, who was a close observer, and knew it well."*

I have in a former chapter, described the principle of succession amongst the Kaffirs as hereditary; but though the powers of the chiefs are great -being both legislators as well as judges of their respective tribes-the "Amapakati," or councillors, composed of the most experienced of their subjects, are always consulted in affairs of importance.

Their laws are few, and having no written documents of any kind, are transmitted by tradition; the decisions of their courts of justice are founded on precedents handed down from father to son, and which the elders of the tribe take care to inculcate on the minds of the younger warriors.

The crimes chiefly prevalent amongst the Kaffirs are murder, theft, adultery, and witchcraft; the latter considered by far the most heinous offence of all, and often made by the chief a pretext for extortion, committed under circumstances of the most revolting barbarity. As to the former delinquencies, they are rarely punished with death, a proportionate fine of cattle being generally deemed an equivalent, even for the shedding of blood.

Their belief in a supreme being, or knowledge of a future state, is extremely doubtful; and the celebrated missionary Van der Kemp, who probably possessed more information relative to the Kaffirs than has ever been since attained by any other European, states that he could never perceive they had any religion at all, or any idea of the existence of God; but like most of the savage nations of Africa, they appear to entertain some indefinite sort of veneration for the moon, the full of which is generally with them a season of gladness and rejoicing, and they will then often pass whole nights in song and dance, under the mild influence of her benignant rays.

* From Sir B. d'Urban's Despatch to Lord Glenelg, dated 9th June, 1836.

This custom, or, possibly, vague species of worship, was likewise prevalent, if we may believe Kolben, with the Hottentots of old; it is still observed by the modern Bushmen; the Fingoes, and other Bechuana tribes, practise it to the present day, and it also prevails-according to Mungo Park and Lander-even amongst the Negro nations on the banks of the Niger and the Gambia.

The Kaffirs still adhere to certain customs, which lead to the supposition of having reference to previous religious institutions, now sunk in oblivion, and to a former much higher state of civilisation than that which they at present enjoy. Amongst these, may be reckoned the rigid manner in which they abstain from any thing approaching to incestuous intercourse; an observance carried to such an extent, that if a Kaffir happens to meet the wife of his brother, she instantly steps aside and endeavours to screen herself from his view; nor are persons coming within this, and certain other degrees of relationship, allowed to sit together in the same hut, mix in the same company, or hold any sort of communication, though for years inhabiting a common neighbourhood.

The universal practice of circumcision amongst the Kaffirs, has, by some authors, been adduced as a certain proof of their Jewish or Arabic extraction; but a like custom prevails amongst some of the Negro tribes to the north of the equator,* and affords no more grounds for such an hypothesis, than the habit of exposing their dead to be devoured by wild animals would lead to the conclusion of tracing a common origin with the ancient Guebres, or fire-worshippers of Persia, who adopted a similar mode of disposing of the remains of humanity.

The Kafirs have other striking peculiarities, to which an imaginary importance has been attached by writers wishing to establish some favourite theory: such as an aversion to the flesh of swine, and to certain kinds of fish; but nothing, either in their appearance or language, (the latter the strongest of all evidence in such cases), seems to justify the supposition of the Kaffirs, or, in short, any of the Bechuana race, being of Caucasian origin.

Though tall, well made, and in body and limbs a model of symmetry, the Kaffir head-whatever some authors may aver to the contrary-bears too evidently the African stamp, ever to be mistaken; the crisp, woolly hair, thick lips, and depressed nose, are certainly no proof of Asiatic derivation, nor could I even in the most extensive vocabulary of their language-spite of Barrow's surmises founded on the Oriental sound of "Eliang" (the sun)-discover more than a single word having any affinity to the Arabic, and that is the affirmative "Eywah” (yes) which is common to both.

Although the Kaffirs possess a knowledge of cultivating the ground, even make bread, and also brew a sort of beer, they may be considered as almost exclusively a nomadic race, living chiefly by the produce of their herds; and cattle being by them regarded as specie-the current coin of the country—a proportionate value is therefore set, on what this people look upon with real veneration, almost approaching the symbolical worship evinced by the ancient Egyptian for his god Apis, or that homage paid by the modern Hindoo to the sacred cow.

*See "Mungo Park's Travels," p. 226.

Which certainly bears little resemblance to "El Shums," the Arabic appellation for the sun. See Barrow, vol. i., p. 219.

Cattle may therefore be said to constitute the whole "capital" of the Kaffirs; every commercial or bartering transaction is carried on amongst themselves, generally speaking through this medium, and-as with other savages-woman is likewise considered by them merely as an article of trade, adapted to purposes of labour and servitude. The Kaffir who wishes to enjoy the domestic felicity of a wife, or rather the useful commodity of a female slave, has to consult-not the taste or inclination of the latter,-but the cupidity of her relations, the price of the bride being fixed at a certain number of oxen; which amount he calculates on realising (as if purchasing a cow or a mare) by the service she may be supposed capable of rendering, and in the amount of "stock" she is likely to produce in the shape of female children, to be at some future period, with interest, converted into cattle currency!

Now, although the candidate for matrimony may not possess the requisite "funds" to conclude the purchase, and make such an investment, he knows they can be readily procured in the colony, and therefore associating with other youths in the same predicament as himself, the party unhesitatingly cross the frontier,-rob the colonists of the required amount of cattle; with the fruits of their plunder take unto themselves wives, and beget children, the male part of whom, in due course of time, do not fail, in their matrimonial speculations, to follow the example of their sires; whilst the girls when marriageable, fetch their due price at the same market.-Hence-with other concomitant causes-the real origin of our never-ceasing "Kaffir wars," or rather of those retributive measures on the part of the colonists, which in the end always lead to such an unavoidable consequence.

From the earliest period of European occupation in Southern Africa, aggression has ever in this manner originated on the part of the Kaffirs; in fact, neither the colony nor the British government can have any possible interest in waging war with these savages; for whatever may be the result of such hostilities, their effect has always been loss of life and property to the former, together with a severe drain on the exchequer of the latter.

In the face of these incontrovertible truths, the government at home and the opinion of the British public-from our first intercourse with this part of the world-have ever been, as before remarked, constantly misled as to the nature of our relations with the native tribes of Southern Africa, by theorists who, blinded to facts and carried away in support of a fancied conclusion of their own, were themselves the victims of artful misrepresentation; or by others who have shamefully lent themselves as tools of imposition, employed by certain designing and meddling societies, which under the cloak of religion, have been long suffered to hold the most unaccountable and undisputed sway in this part of the world, and been the cause of incalculable mischief to the colonists and to the colony in general.*

I have already shown that the Kaffirs, so far from having been driven back from the boundary they occupied at the period of their first relations with the Dutch, have ever invariably encroached, and crowded on the eastern province; and in proof that they are now-spite of "philanthropic"

* See "Case of the Colonists," by the Editor of the " Graham's Town Journal," P. 29, et seq. This compilation, published at Graham's Town in 1847, throws much light on the subject in question.

assertions to the contrary-infinitely more opulent and powerful than they were half a century ago, instead of being impoverished, or having in any manner suffered from their vicinity to the "white man," it need only be stated, that when Mr. Barrow was sent in 1797, on a mission by Lord Macartney, to Gaïka, not a single horse or firelock appeared then to be in possession of the tribe, and the chief himself approached the place of rendezvous mounted " on an ox in full gallop, attended by five or six of his people."*

This offers a strong contrast to that interview which took place immediately before the commencement of the late war, between Sandilla, the son of Gaïka, and the lieutenant-governor of the eastern province, when the former was accompanied by a host of warriors, several thousand of whom were mounted (on horses stolen from the colony) and a still greater number were provided with fire-arms and ammunition.†

To revert to the comparative state of the Kaffirs fifty years ago, with that of their condition in the present day-at the first mentioned period they possessed neither sheep nor goats; their flocks of the latter are now innumerable, they have robbed the colony of immense quantities of the former (the more valuable, being chiefly of English breed); by the same nefarious means, their herds have in like manner greatly increased both in quality and number; and, as a proof of this augmentation of their riches, no better evidence could be adduced, than the depreciation which has taken place amongst the Kaffirs, in the value of cattle.

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Barrow states that the amount generally paid in his time for a wife "one ox or a couple of cows." Of late years the price of a bride has increased to ten oxen; this refers to women of " plebeian" origin; but the chiefs, when they take unto themselves partners of high lineage, are expected to open their "cattle kraals" to the tune of five or six times that number.

As no alteration has probably within the last half-century taken place in the intrinsic qualifications of either "women or oxen," we must come to the conclusion that the former are ten times more scarce, or the latter ten times more numerous than in the good old times above referred to.

The Kaffirs, like all other barbarous nations, treat the female sex (for it would be a misnomer to call it either "fair" or "gentle,") with the greatest harshness and neglect; women with them—as before observed— are like bullocks, considered a sort of currency, and mere articles of barter; but the Kaffir shows to his oxen far more kindness, consideration, and respect, than he deigns to bestow on his unfortunate wives; for whilst the greatest care is lavished on the former, who lead a life of indolence and repose, the latter are condemned to every sort of drudgery; the occupations of their lordly masters being confined to the pleasures of the chase, to the care of milking their cows, or idly basking about the precincts of the kraal, whilst, smoking and reciting to each other the news and gossip of the day, which with the Kaffirs is a most favourite

recreation.

The temperate habits of the Kaffirs, combined with the exercise of

Barrow's "Travels in Southern Africa," vol. i. p. 191.

† A detailed account of this interview will be found at p. 217 of a late publication called "Case of the Colonists (1847)," by the Editor of the "Graham's Town Journal."

It still remains a mystery how and by whom the Kaffirs are supplied with muskets and gunpowder; a mystery which, however, Sir Harry Smith will probably succeed in unravelling.

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