Harry George Wakelyn Smith.

The autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B.; online

. (page 6 of 32)
Online LibraryHarry George Wakelyn SmithThe autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B.; → online text (page 6 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

widow Suta, and with the heir-apparent Sandilli,
Gaika's young son, I had Captain Stretch; with
Dushani's tribe, the widow Nonibe,t and her son,

♦ Sec p. 83.

t Alexander, vol. ii. p. 222 : << Nonub^, the mother of the young
Siwana of the TSlambies, ... is the great widow of Dushani."

Digitized by VjOOQIC

1835-36.] A CENSUS TAKEN. 77

I had Captain Southey ; with Umhala and the
T'slambie tribes, Captain Rawstorae.

The missionaries all came back to their respec-
tive missions, and wit^ the magistrates, the mission-
aries, and other aid afforded by the kind attention
paid by Sir Benjamin D' Urban to all my wants, I
proceeded to take a nominal census of the whole
male population arrived at puberty, with the number
of their women, children, etc. At first the Kafirs
were much opposed to this, but through the aid of
my councillor Gan)ra, the common sense of which
they have a great share, and my patient explanation
of the utility of the measure, I succeeded. I found
I had upwards of 100,000 barbarians to reclaim
who had no knowledge of right or wrong beyond
arbitary power, desire, and self-will. To attach the
people to the new order of things was of vast im-
portance ; to lessen the power of the chiefs equally
so ; but this had to be gradual, for if I removed
the hereditary restraint of the chiefs, I should open
the gates to an anarchy which I might not be able
to quell.

A fortunate circumstance occurred, which enabled
me to make gigantic steps. The Kafirs have a
barbarous festival, when all the maidens are com-
pelled to attend to undergo a sort of *' Rape of the
Sabines." These maidens, during the festival, are
appropriated by the chie& to themselves and their
followers, and then sent back to their families. Old
Ganya» who came to tell me this, said, ^* Now you
have an opportunity, by preventing this brutal

Digitized by VjOOQIC


custonii to restrain the lawlessness of the chiefs, and
to win the hearts of their subjects." He added
that there were many fathers of families in camp,
who had come to appeal to me for protection. I
immediately gave them an audience,* as I invariably
did every one who desired to see me. I acquired
great ascendancy by first ascertaining through the
interpreter the grounds on which they had come,
and when they were ushered into the presence,
exclaiming, " Ah, you want so and so ! '* The poor
wretches were much astonished at this, believing
that I had the power to divine their thoughts ; and
I frequently saved myself from listening to a string
of lies very plausibly linked together,

I also established with every magistrate a police
of Kafirs, and I had a considerable number with me,
to apprehend delinquents and culprits and summon
the heads of the kraals. These police carried with
them from the magistrate a long stick with a brass
knob. This is a custom of their own. Fakoo has
a cat's tail on his wands of office. At headquarters
I had a very long stick with a large knob^ which
was always held by my Gold Stick when I was in
council, or upon trials, cases of appeal, mandates,
issuing proclamations, etc. And when I seized the
stick, held it myself, and gave a decisive order, that
was formal and irrevocable. For when once I had
decided, no power could induce me to swerve from
that decision.

* The author seems inadvertently to have omitted the rest of this
particular story.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

1835-36.] KAFIR POLICE. 79

When the police were out, if they were treated
with contumely, and the head of a kraal refused
obedience or compliance, this stick was stuck in his
cattle-kraal, and he was obliged to bring it himself
to the authority whence it emanated ; while so long as
it remained in the kraal, the proprietor was under
the ban of the Empire^ excommunicated, or out-
lawed. The fear they had of this wand was literally
magical. I never had to use military aid in support
of my police but once, and then I did so, more as a
display of the rapidity with which I could turn out
troops and rush them to the spot than from any
absolute necessity. Such was the respect for these
policemen, that the neighbours of a delinquent would
voluntarily turn out in their support, and I always
rewarded such support by a present of cattle from
my treasury (formed from fines levied for offences).

Having now begun to have some weight and in-
fluence among the whole of the tribes, and having
taught the people to look up to me rather than to
their own chiefs, I had next to re-establish the
power of the chiefs as derived from myself. I
therefore, with the sanction of the Governor, resolved
on a great meeting on the 7th January of all the
chiefs, their relatives, councillors, rain-makers, and
as many as chose to attend. I had previously pre-
pared English clothes for Macomo, Tyalie, Umhala,
and some others, with a medal, which was to be the
emblem of their magisterial power. Some thousands
assembled in a most orderly and obedient manner.
I had taken very good care to strengthen my force

Digitized by VjOOQIC


at headquarters, for I made it an axiom never to place
myself in such a situation with these volatile savages
as not to be able to enforce obedience to my com-
mands like lightning.

I gave them a sort of epitome of their own
history, especially of the Kafir wars. I dwelt
particularly on their cruelty and treachery in the
late war, and reminded them that they had
voluntarily proposed to become British subjects.
I then administered the oath of allegiance to all
the chiefs in the name of their respective peoples.
Two councillors from Kreili (the new Hintza and
Great Father) whom I had invited to the meeting,
proposed that they should take the oath of allegiance
too, which of course I could not accept, all the
inhabitants beyond the Kei being independent.
It is a curious fact that after this meeting had been
held, and the messengers from Kreili had dissemi-
nated throughout the tribe the improved state of
things under my rule, Kreili himself and many of
his influential men were most anxious to become
British subjects, and I received many deputations
to that effect.

To return, however, to my meeting. I described
the duties of the magistrates, British and native, and
the necessity of the people's obedience, and declared
that, while no one should be ** eaten up " ♦ or any
way punished except for robbery, etc., I should
oblige them to be obedient to the laws and the
jurbdiction of their respective magistrates.!

♦ See p. 75. t See Appendix III.

Digitized by VjOOQIC

'835-36.] A MEETING OF CHIEFS. 8 1

After this meeting, my system began to work
with the greatest facility, and the rain-makers, who
had most scrupulously kept aloof from me, began to
pay me visits, particularly the chief of that depart-
ment of deceit. I received these first visitors with
great ease and ceremony of reception, made them
all presents, and dismissed them without any dis-
cussion of their power and respectability. At the
great meeting I had prohibited every branch of
witchcraft, so that the rain-makers, being fully
aware that the axe was laid to the root of their
power, thought it as well to worship the rising sun
and court me. Knowing that the presents would
bring back the great rain-maker, and induce the
little rain-makers to come to me, I was prepared, on
the visit of the great one, to prove to him the fallacy
and deceit by which he led the people to believe
that he possessed a power which he knew he did

One day when the great rain-maker was in my
camp, and many others, as well as an unusually large
number of Kafirs, I assembled them all for the
avowed purpose of hearing a disputation between
the *' Great Chief or " Father," as they invariably
called me, and the rain-makers. My first question
to them was, " So you can make rain, can you ? *' I
never saw in men's countenances more caution.
I said, " Speak out, speak freely to your Father."
The great rain-maker said he could I then showed
him one by one all the articles on my writing-table,
knives, scissors, etc, my clothes, my hat, boots, etc.,


Digitized by VjOOQIC


etc., asking, "Can you make this?" "No." "Do
you know how it is made?*' "No." Having ex-
plained everything and how it was made through
the medium of my invaluable interpreter, Mr.
Shepstone, I then called for a tumbler of water. I
showed all the people the water, and asked the rain-
makers if what was in the glass was of the same
quality as the water or rain they invoked. All
agreed " Yes." Their anxiety was intense. I then
threw down the water on the dry ground, which im-
mediately absorbed it, and desired the rain-makers
to put it again in the tumbler. They were aghast,
and said, " We cannot." In a voice of thunder, I
said, " Put the rain again in this glass, I say.'' I then
turned to the spectators. " Now you see how these
impostors have deceived you. Now listen to the
' Word! " (This is the phrase they use in giving
orders and decisions on all points of law and in
trials.) I took my wand of office, planted it
violently before me, and said, "Any man of my
children hereafter who believes in witchcraft, or
that any but God the Great Spirit can make rain,
I will ' eat him up.' " I then left the meeting and
the rain-makers thunderstruck and confounded.

On principle, however, I never directly con-
tradicted or prohibited their customs, or left them
without hqpe or a friend ; so in about two hours I
sent for the great rain-maker and two or three
others, — clever, acute fellows all, and I said, " Your
Father has now proved to the people that you are
impostors, but as you have been taught to fancy

Digitized by VjOOQIC

1835-36.] RAIN-MAKERS. 83

that you possess a power you have not, I must
provide another and an honest livelihood for you,
and I shall expect you to assist me in administering
the new and true laws." I then made each presents,
giving them so many bullocks apiece — a stock-in-
trade. These fellows were many of them of great
use to me afterwards. By the line of conduct I
had pursued, I had carried them with me instead of
rendering them my secret and bitter enemies.

In Umhala's tribe, I heard of an awful case of
his "eating up" a man for witchcraft, and after-
wards cruelly burning him with red-hot stones.
The poor wretch, so soon as he could move, came to
me and showed me the cicatrized wounds all over
his body — how he had lived was a wonder. I
kept him closely concealed. I sent for Umhala
and his English magistrate and council to come to
me immediately. This Umhala was a man of
superior intellect, and the only one who could judge
cause and effect, and future results. He never
quailed in the slightest, as all others did, under my
most violent animadversions. He gave me more
trouble to render obedient than all the other chiefs.
Still, he respected me, and I him; and he after-
wards showed more real and pemianent affection
for I

1 all in his power to find

out r, and he apprehended

the ] s he and all his people

wer< rthouse, I went in with

my y my great councillor

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Ganya. Umhala then saw something was coming.
I came to the point at once, as was my custom.
" Umhala, did I not give the word — no more witch-
craft ? " He boldly answered, " You did." " Then
how dare you, Umhala, one of my magistrates
sworn to be obedient to my law, infringe the
Word } '* He stoutly denied it. I then brought in
the poor afflicted sufferer, and roared out, " Umhala,
devil, liar, villain, you dare to deceive me. Deny
now what I accuse you of." He then confessed all,
and began to palliate his conduct To this I would
not listen, but seized my wand to give the Word.
** Hear you, Umhala ! you have eaten a man up.
Give back every head of his cattle, and ten head of
your own for having eaten him up. And you
forfeit ten head more to me, the Great Chief, for my
government" He was perfectly unmoved, but I
saw that he intended to do no such thing. I then
deprived him of his medal of office, and said,
" Now go and obey my orders," and I desired the
English magistrate to report in two days that he
had done so. He had 30 miles to return to his

According to my custom, I sent the " news " all
over Kafirland immediately. I sent out a Court
Circular daily. I had no secrets. This they much
admired. There never were such newsmongers.
Their greeting is "Indaba" ("the news"). The
mode adopted to give the news was by so many
messengers running out at night-time in different
directions, waving their cloaks or karosses. The

Digitized by VjOOQIC


whole country is strongly undulating, and there are
always a number of fellows on the look-out. My
messenger called out the news. Others took it up,
and so it passed from hill to hill by a sort of tele-
graph; and every day I could communicate in-
formation throughout the whole province in a few
hours. This open procedure was of vast impor-

The hour arrived when the news of Umhala's
obedience should be received by me. The report
came that Umhala had not obeyed my order nor
did Captain Rawstorne think he would. This letter
was brought me by two Kafir messengers. I had
held two troops of cavalry ready to march to rein-
force the post of Fort Wellington at Umhala's kraal.
I sounded the assembly, and in five minutes they
were on the march. When I ordered Rawstorne to
" eat up " the chief, a thing never done before in
Kafirland, my old councillor Ganya asked me in
consternation what orders I had given, and when
I told him, he said, ** Then war is again over the
land.'' For in old times such an act as seizing any
of the cattle of a chief was regarded as a formal
declaration of war. I roared out, ^^ Either obedience
or war. / mil be Chief, and Umhala shall see it,
and every chief and man in Kafirland." I seized
all Umhala's cattle, and I desired the magistrate
cautiously to count every head, to give him a regular
receipt, and send a copy to me. The cattle were to
be guarded by Umhala's own people. I saw that
now was my time to establish or lose my power

Digitized by VjOOQIC


throughout my government For this Umhala was
much looked up to throughout Kafirland, and re-
garded as the boldest warrior, having distinguished
himself by many daring acts in the war.

The news was sent out, and I immediately sum-
moned to my " Court " Macomo, Tyalie, Suta, and
Gazela, a chief of whom I must speak hereafter. I
knew that this would so intimidate all parties that
there would be no danger of a war. Scarcely was
Umhala's cattle seized than he sent in succession the
most penitent messages, promising to obey my
orders and never transgress again. I would not
''listen," but desired Umhala to come to me, and
meet the chiefs for whom I had sent. He boldly,
though penitently, came, as did all the chiefs I had
sent for.

I then had a council, told everything that had
occurred, and asked if Umhala merited what I, the
Great Chief, had done to him, being one of the
magistrates who had sworn allegiance and obedience.
There was a mutter of assent I had previously in-
structed Ganya to watch my eye and to speak in
mitigation of punishment I said, " Now, Umhala,
you see how insignificant you are, unless obedient,
and bow powerful I am. I will be obeyed, and I
will ' eat up ' every chief who dares disobey me or
sanction witchcraft Here is your medal of magis-
trate, which I place under my foot"

The crowd were perfecdy petrified, and looked
at old Ganya, who stood up and made a most eloquent
speech. (Some of the Kafirs speak beautifully.)

Digitized by VjOOQIC


He dwelt on their own desire to be British subjects
and my exertions for them ; and then turned most
judiciously to Macomo and Tyalie. " Now, sons of
my old chief, whose councillor I was, the great
Gaika, speak to our Chief for Umhala ; and I hope
he will * listen/ *' Macomo instantly stood up, and
spoke capitally and to the purpose. Umhala sat
unmoved, until I said, *' Now, Umhala, all depends
on you. Can I ' listen ' or not } " He spoke
modestly, but powerfully. I made a merit of forgiving
him, put his medal again on his neck, ordered his
cattle to be restored the moment he had returned
the cattle of the burnt man and paid the fines ; and
I inunediately sent off the news throughout the
province. Umhala returned, received all his cattle,
and reported to me that he had got every head
back, and had paid his fines and restored the cattle
to the sufferer.

This decision and determination established most
effectively my absolute power. I was fully prepared
for some underhand work on the part of the chiefs,
and it was speedily started through the instru-
mentality of Macomo ; but the people whom I pro-
tected were with me, and nothing occurred which I
was not informed of immediately.

Macomo had driven his cattle to graze over the
Keiskamma contrary to treaty and my orders, where-
upon I strongly desired that he would never do it
again. This offended the gentleman, a restless, turbu-
lent, uncontrollable spirit, and he sent to all the other
chiefs to say that if they would join, he would strive

Digitized by VjOOQIC


for independence. At all the courts this message
was received most contemptuously. Tyalie turned
the messenger from his kraal ; Suta and young
Sandilli were indignant and would not " listen " ;
Umhala listened, but his council opposed the
measure, and a subordinate chief of Umhala's, a
noble little fellow, Gazela, stood up and spoke out
like a man. "You, Umhala, and all know how I
fought during the war, and never was for giving in
until I saw we had no chance of success. Macomo
made peace. He has received more kindness than
all of us put together. He is now false, and wants
to make us break the word given to our Great
Chief," etc.

All this I knew in a few hours. I sent for
Macomo, received him as usual, and said, '* I have a
fable to tell you." They are very fond of speaking
in parables themselves. I then recounted a tale,
viz. myself and himself. I never saw a creature in
such a state of agitation. " Now," I said, *• if you
were the Great Chief, what would you do ? " He
threw himself at my feet, bathed in tears. '*Ah,
Macomo," I said, " if I were only to say the Word,
your people would no longer know you'* Oh, how
Ganya did abuse him ! '* Ah, cry," he said ; " your
tears can't wash away your sins. You caused the
last war, disregarding the dying words of Gaika.
You are now treated with every kindness, yet
treachery and that same restlessness which has
plunged the Colony and Kafirland in blood, still
guide you." I said, " Rise, Macomo, and go. I will

Digitized by VjOOQIC


not touch my stick and give the Word for two hours.
I must cool. Englishmen are generous, but they
must be just to all. I must consider for two hours
how my actions may be guided, but for the good of
all my children, go.^*

He never had such a lesson. I sent for him and
forgave him, with a full assurance that on the next
offence I would eat him up and banish him over
the Kei. I sent off the news, and my authority was
ever after perfectly undisputed.

I now b^^ to turn my attention to teaching
them cultivation and the use of money. In the
former I had but little difficulty compared with
what I anticipated, although previously their fields
had been cultivated by their women in a miserable
manner. I gave them Hottentots to teach them,
and I had soon several chiefs with ploughs and
good yokes of oxen. The chief Gazela, a man of
great use to me, and with more idea of honesty than
any one, had also a conunercial turn. I proved to
him that it was by the use of money that we became
a great people, and could make everything and do
everything, and I made him perfectly understand
our banking system — which I could induce no other
Kafir to attend to. Gazela sold me some bullocks
for the Commissary. Afterwards he let out horses
to people travelling at so much a day, and he in-
duced others to sell me cattle; this I considered
the greatest step towards civilization.

The missionaries had all returned to me, and
were excellent good men, doing all in their power.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


The chief Tyalie, in the English clothes I had given
him, attended divine service every Sunday, and the
missionaries had a considerable degree of moral
influence ; but as to spiritual instruction or conver-
sion, few indeed were the converts. Macomo knew
more theology than many Christians, but was still a
perfect heathen. Had I remained long enough, as
cultivation and sale progressed, I would have built
churches, and by feasts and slaughtering cattle have
induced all influential men to attend ; I would have
had schools, and, by educating the children, would
have reared a generation of Christians, but to con-
vert the aged barbarian was a hopeless task.

The world does not produce a more beautiful
race of blacks than these Kafirs, both men and
women ; their figures and eyes are beautiful beyond
conception, and they have the gait of princes. It
was one of my great endeavours to make them
regard appearing naked as a grievous sin, now that
they were British subjects ; and no one was ever
permitted in my camp, much less in my presence,
but dressed in his karosse. This karosse is the
skin of a bullock, but beautifully dressed so as to
be pliant and soft, and then ornamented by fur,
beads, buttons, etc. The head-dresses of the chiefs'
wives are really beautiful. No creatures on earth
are more the votaries of fashion than these Kafirs.
In Grahamstown I could procure no beads and
buttons of the mode of the day, but great quantities
exceedingly cheap, which the Kafirs would not buy
because they were out of fashion. I therefore

Digitized by VjOOQIC

1835-36.] BURIAL OF THE DEAD. 9 1

bought Up the whole. I had always about me some
of the rejected buttons and of the blue beads that
had been once their delight, and I found fault with
every button that was not of my shape and every
bead that was not of my colour. The discarded
buttons and the blue beads were soon established
as the haut ton of fashion.

My wife, who took equal interest in the reform
of these poor barbarians with myself, was always
surrounded by numbers of the chiefs* wives and
hangers-on, particularly the queens Suta and
Nonibe (the former was Gaika's widow, the latter
Dushatii's, and both had sons in their minority). She
taught many of them needlework, and was for hours
daily explaining to them right and wrong, and
making them little presents, so that she became so
popular she could do anything with them.

The Kafirs have a horror of burying their dead,
or even touching them. They will carry out a
dying creature from their kraal, mother or father,
wife or brother, and leave him exposed to wild
beasts and vultures for days, if nature does not
sink in the mean time. I not only prohibited this,
but I had three or four Kafirs who died in my
camp regularly buried. (Many came to me to be
cured of diseases.) In each case I made my Kafir
messengers dig the grave, and I, with my inter-
preter, read the funeral service over the dead.
Then the news was sent over the land — the Great
Chief does it» and whenever any one came and told
me he had buried his deceased relative (I took care

Digitized by VjOOQIC


to prove it, though), I gave him a bullock, and sent
the news over the land.

The Levitical law as to uncleanness is fully in
force among the Kafirs, and they practise circum-
cision, but not until the age of puberty. It is a
great ceremony, after which the youths are able to
marry, provided they have enough cattle to buy a
wife from the father. (A plurality of wives is tole-
rated. Macomo had eleven, all very handsome
women.) This buying of wives is the great source
of all robbery and inroads into the Colony. I
just began to prohibit it gradually by making the
parents of the bride and bridegroom contribute to
the establishment of the newly married pair, and
myself giving a present.

I directed the magistrates to decide all cases of
law themselves, but when they were in any doubt,
to send me, for my approval, the parties and the
opinion or decision proposed to be given. This

Online LibraryHarry George Wakelyn SmithThe autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, baronet of Aliwal on the Sutlej, G.C.B.; → online text (page 6 of 32)