by Patric Tariq Mellet
I have become very tired – sick and tired in fact – by the succession of false histories concerning who the ‘FIRST PEOPLE’ of the Cape were, and also the misrepresentation of the Xhosa as foreign alien blacks who invaded the Cape, and indeed blanket claims that the ‘Coloured’ people are the Khoena or Khoi and therefore we are the ‘First People’ who demand control of this land.
Much of this is based on false Apartheid and Colonialist history that has unfortunately been embraced by a significant number of our people along with much racism and bigotry.
Having said this I will go on to explain why I say it, but I first want to state that I do believe that there are genuine Cape Khoena or Khoi communities, and when revived memory and organisational forms are done in a proper manner with due regard to the real history and heritage of the Khoena, then I fully support such initiatives. I believe that there is a place for Khoena revivalism of this sort but it certainly is not a solution or appropriate way for all to follow…. And I say this with due respect. Here I note that revival of tribalism as a way forward can and should be separated from reviving heritage and memory and there are many variants of ways in which this can be done.
In some parts of the three Capes there are strong grounds for a revived association of Khoena people and there are serious claims to be considered soberly in terms of restorative justice. Here in particular the recognition of Revivalist Cape Khoena groups as among the five most marginalised Indigene groups who are discriminated against in South Africa must be recognised. However in other parts of South Africa – the Cape Peninsula in particular only a very small minority have Cape Khoena roots and even then it is but part of much stronger roots relating to slavery and various other migrations of people of colour. I have carefully studied the 1865 census and the 1891 which were the most reliable until 1904. In the 1904 census 85, 892 are identified as Cape Damara, Nama, Korana and Cape ‘Hottentot’ (+/- 60 000) as distinct from Coloured/Mixed numbering 279, 662. After the Union of SA was established and had its first census there was only one category now called ‘Coloured/mixed’ numbering 454,959. Thus as a rule of thumb we can extrapolate that just over a million of today’s “Coloured” population have a claim on Cape Khoena ancestry and around a further 400 000 could have mainly Nama, as well as some Damara and Korana ancestry. If we interrogate the figures of the locations of the Cape Khoena of that time a very negligible percentage were to be found from Koeberg to the so-called Hottentot Holland Mountains and across to Cape Point. Over 91% of persons of colour in this area had other historical roots, which I describe as Camissa.
Now to understand firstly who the only ‘FIRST PEOPLE’ of the Cape can be said to be, we have to go a long way back in history to understand this. Through coming to a proper understand of who the /Xam-ka were, we will also come to an understanding of how they were first displaced from the coastal areas of the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape by the first migrants – the Cape Khoena pastoralists from the Northwest and their earliest cousins the first //Kosa ancestors (not to be confused with those called Xhosa today). We will also need to look at the much later entry of the Nguni into the Eastern Cape and what truly unfolded there. To be able to understand this we will have to look at who the Nguni were, because there is a lot of confusion about this because of the false Colonial narratives unfortunately embraced by a number of peddlers of psuedo-history. Some of these con-artists cannot tell the difference between Homo Sapiens and Archaic Humans when it comes to archaeological diggings, of which there are a number of sites in South Africa, which are treasure troves that shed light on human evolution.
All of these matters pertain to ancient PRE-COLONIAL HISTORY. There is also a fascinating history between 100 BC and 1300 AD around the ‘Peopling of South Africa, with the coming together of hunters, herders, herder-farmers and farmers in the Limpopo. From 1300 to 1652 a further fascinating history emerges as segmentation and differentiation spreads among South African indigenes. Thereafter another history begins with colonialism and I have covered this elsewhere in explaining how the Colonists over 176 years involving 15 wars first forcibly removed or pacified the Cape Khoena and then committed genocide on the /Xam-ka ‘First People’ and then moved on in the overlapping 100 years wars against the amaGcaleka and amaRharhabe Xhosa and against the abeThembu and those others referred to as Nguni tribes right through to Pondoland.
Let me start with first explaining that the earliest Homo Sapiens emerged along East Africa around 250 000 years ago, and around 90 000 to 130 000 years ago the ‘real ‘First People’ – Homo Sapiens moved out of East Africa to populate the world and by 70 000 years ago hundreds of small groups of Homo Sapiens were dotted all over Southern Africa, not just South Africa. These and their differences have been genetically mapped with what is called SA dna (Southern African dna) which some refer to by using the anthropological and linguistic terms which is not quite accurate – San or Khoisan dna.
By 40 000 years ago half of these ‘First People’ with as much diversity in way of life as they were in number, had died out. By 20 000 years ago they had again reduced considerably, but hundreds of micro-communities which European anthropologists labelled as San were scattered from the tip of Africa to Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. Only in the very broadest sense can these diverse peoples be regarded as a broad human family of people that anthropologists, linguists and geneticists labelled as San. They commonly engaged in hunting and gathering for subsistence, but as herding entered the Zambezi basin and, to the south, at the Shashe-Limpopo basin, a new southern African herding population emerged whom European anthropologists in the 20th century would refer to as the Khoi. These in turn migrated all over South Africa.
Over 20 000 years, distinctive social identities developed to which archaeologists and anthropologists gave the broad label SAN. But with the huge distances between these different groups each had distinctive names and cultures of their own. Down in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Central Cape the descendants of the first homo-sapiens who we can call ‘FIRST PEOPLE’ were the /Xam and and !Ga !ne and they were far removed from the Tshua and #Hõā San tribes on the Northwestern Kalahari and Limpopo…. As much so as the Scots, Irish, English and French. The Kohena were not related to the Cape San but were part descended from the Tshua people and the herder descendents from East Africa but also with some other admixture who some refer to as Bantu. Indeed very little distinction would have existed between the earliest micro-communities of herders and farmers who made their way into the Eastern Cape around 650 AD. Archaeologists have not found any evidence of herder peoples before that time in the Eastern Cape and certainly not before 1050 AD in the Western Cape. Archaeological finds of Archaic Human hunter-gatherers.
Here it is important that we stop a moment to look at the evolution of humanity as a number of the pseudo-history peddlers do not understand the findings at South African archaeological digs and confuse these with proof of later human developments.
Homo or Human is the genus that encompasses different progressions towards modern humans or Homo Sapiens. This is basic to archaeological mapping. Several extinct species are closely related and ancestral to modern humans but are not Homo Sapiens – the most notable being Homo Erectus. The human genus is shown to have emerged with the appearance of Homo Habilis, just more than two million years ago. This clearly is not modern humans, let alone the San, as some lacking understanding of archaeology attempt to project. Even for non-archaeologists like myself this is considered basic general knowledge. Homo Erectus appeared about two million years ago and, in several early migrations, it spread throughout Africa (Homo Ergaster) and Eurasia.
The latter was likely the first Archaic Human species to live in a hunter-gatherer society and to control fire. An adaptive and successful species, Homo Erectus persisted for more than a million years. About 500 000 years ago Homo Erectus gradually diverged into new species, most notably Homo Heidelbergensis. It is from this species that both Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis are considered to have derived.
Homo Sapiens which are also referred to as anatomically modern humans years ago and it is generally agreed that this occurred in Eastern Africa while Homo Neanderthalensis emerged at around the same time in Europe and Western Asia.
It is generally argued that around 130 000 years ago (possibly longer) that Homo Sapiens dispersed from Africa in several waves, Those who dispersed southwards were said to have done so in a gradual drift starting 90 000 to 70 000 years ago. Both in Africa and Eurasia, Homo Sapiens met with and interbred with Archaic Humans (Non Homo Sapiens). The later only died out around 40 000 years ago, with some exceptions being those hybrid species dying out as late as 12,000 years ago.
Now the uninformed read a newspaper article about diggings at Mossel Bay and Blombos Caves and elsewhere where amazing archaeological finds have been made and the erroneously think that all of the findings relating to the Homo genus are Homo Sapien and then jump thousands of years ahead and incorrectly suggest that these findings are of San or the Khoi.
As with the false assumptions made about the path to the emergence of Homo sapiens and the long path from that point to the emergence of San societies and the very much later emergence of Khoi herder societies, there is also many erroneous assumptions that Archaic Humans did not display make tools etc. The evolution of behaviours is a much debateable subject with much less exactitudes. This subject spans the early stone-age which lasted for around 3.4 million years and ended in different places between 9000 BC and 2000 BC as the making of metal and metal implements was born. The stone age is divided into early, middle and late stages and likewise with the metal ages.
The caves of the Southern Cape contains Middle Stone Age deposits, and technological insights dated between 70 000 years ago and 100 000 years ago. This has to be understood in the evolutionary context explained. But it also at different layers expose a Late Stone Age sequence dated between 300 to 2000 years ago. One has to look at these two periods with very different eyes and the Homo genus of these different periods also require different ways of reading the past. We also have to note that these sites and no other sites have yielded evidence of presence of Khoi Herders in the last thousand years and Archaelogists have been hunting for such evidence for a long time. It is a dead giveaway of pseudo-historians imbued with modern day crackpot ethno-nationist ideas to misrepresent archaeological findings and make statements like “our ancestors were here for hundreds of thousands of years”. Much of what has been discussed here is what we can call pre-history. So back to the focus on history.
The Khoena or Khoi as a distinct people, first emerged 2100 years ago in the Northwestern Kalahari and Limpopo. They separated from the ancestors of the Tshua and #Hõā (distinct San peoples of the area), when pastoral people (herders), descended over 1000 years from East Africa, crossed the Limpopo and brought sheep and a new way of living into the region. Geneticists have also found that the ancestors of these people had also mixed with Nilotic peoples (North Africans from the Nile) who were the ones who introduced sheep to the East Africans. Sheep originate in the Middle East and were conduited down the Nile either through Southward migration from the Middle East or by trading links with the Nilotic people. Some evidence such as the existence of the Lembe with their customs and dna suggests the possibility too of another link with South Africa, but that is another story.
Sheep pastoralism and milk drinking cultures trace along very specific routes and interface with South Africa parallel to the emergence of Khoena people. It is these Khoena or Khoi people who became migrants to the Cape, to join the /Xam ‘First People’ who had been there ever since evolving from the first Homo Sapiens in the area. Indeed the San also have probable linkages with hybrid humans who existed due to inter-relations between Archaic humans and modern humans.
This Limpopo gateway into South Africa tells us a lot about pre-colonial times as it is from here that various people migrated across the Limpopo to KZN and also down to the Gariep River and from there into the Eastern and Western Cape, with a lesser used route also down the West Coast. At this gateway the San of that area and the new arrivals both from East Africa and Bantu from the Great Lakes regions mixed and the Khoena emerged in three formations. One remained around what would become the Kingdom of Mapangubwe, another, moved westwards and southerly into Botswana and Namibia, while others moved Eastwards right through to KZN. There were also those that moved Southwards to the Gariep and then beyond to the Eastern Cape; and finally into the Western Cape by 1050 AD.
By 800AD a powerful African Kingdom developed along the Limpopo with its centre at Mapagubwe made up of a mix of San, Khoena, Bakoni and Bantu peoples.
The Mapangubwe Kingdom presided over by the Tshua San and Khoena Royalty who were held in great esteem by the mixed population of Kalahari Tshua, Khoena, Bakoni and Bantu peoples who all lived in accord. It was an advanced African civilisation of people who lived in stone walled towns, smelted and fashioned golden objects and who likely from evidence found, traded with the East African Coast, Arabs Indians and Chinese in the 10th century. Hundreds of these stone walled city ruins can be found all the way to Mozambique. Great Zimbabwe is just one of these. These people were multi-ethnic and were a combination of of hunter-rainmakers, herders, herder-farmers and farmer-metallurgists. They were also traders and it was from this trading tradition to which the Cape Khoi trace back to, that African trading traditions in the Western Cape (pre-European) evolved.
Further developments resulted in the emergence of the Kalanga peoples whose descendents can be found in the BaTswana, the Sotho, the abaThembu and among the early //Kosa as well as among the Koni civilisation of Mpumalanga. When the Bakoni travelled East into KZN there were another distinct San people, the //Xegwi or BaTwa in that region who were one of the foundation peoples of the new Nguni creation in Southern Africa made up of strands from BaKoni. Abatwa, Khoi and Tsonga. There was never an invasion of Nguni people. The Nguni was a new creation from around 400 AD in South Africa brought about by hunters, herders, herder-farmers and farmer-metallurgists.
Many of the //Xegwi were also assimilated into the Bakoni who themselves then assimilated with Kalanga and later with the Tsonga Bantu tribes who crossed into Northern KZN and indeed crossed too and from across the Limpopo. It is this mixed people who came to be called the Nguni – the Ndwandwe Kingdom and the Mthethwa Kingdom were the most powerful. In the late 18th and early 19th century a revolution took place in this region in which the small original Zulu tribe and Khumalo tribes played a huge role and a new modern national group, the Zulu emerged as a Kingdom.
Through this revolution of the early 19th century known as the Mfecane a number of Nguni tribes – the Ngwane, Qwabe, Hlubi, Bhaca, Bhele, Zizi, Xesibe and Mpondomise were pushed southwards. Only the Mpondo under King Faku, on the Southern borders of KZN, were able to withstand the Zulu forces now operating way out of their rear supply bases.
As a result the Mpondo, Mpondomise, Thembu and Bomvana put pressure on the mixed Cobuqua-Xhosa in the area north of the Kei River. So did other refugee groups who were a mix of Khoena and Sotho (Ngqosini) also fleeing the Mfecane from the surrounds of Mosheshwe’s mountain kingdom which also checked the Zulu advance. This takes us up to the time of Shaka’s death in 1828.
But long before then – some more than 1000 years previously, the Khoena who travelled down southwards from Limpopo and had settled alongside other San formations along the Gariep, and also move further down southwards through the Eastern Cape seaboard into the Western Cape right down into the Cape Peninsula by 1050 AD. Not long after them, probably as the Mapangubwe Kingdom flourished from 800AD there was a trickle of Bantu into the Eastern Cape alongside the Cobuqua. Historians suggest that there was little differentiating between these two groups. This was around 650 AD. They were people who were use to each other over a lengthy period. The original occupiers of the land, the /Xam named these people, the Xhosa. These people spoke a funny mix of Khoena and SiNtu language, and had adopted many of the religious and cultural traditions of the Khoena and San and were thoroughly inter-married with San and Khoena. They were initially also not a kingdom but rather just a small loose federation of clans.
When the Nguni drift occurred and when refugees started pressing down South much later, this pre-Nguni,”Xhosa-Khoena” mixed people came under a much stronger and more well organised Nguni influence both pre and during the the Mfecane. But already there were Khoena tribes further south all the way to the Cape Peninsula by this time.
The Khoena that migrated to the Cape had no direct genetic linkage to the /Xam. It is only in antiquity that there is a connection and that this connection is to the Tshua San. They were thus not indigenous to the area in the old-fashioned use of the term. In modern UN terminology indigenous is used much more broadly and thus Khoena are an Indigene people as much as all whose forebears are Africans on this continent are indigene. But the Khoena certainly are a marginalised Indigene people in South Africa who face discrimination still to this day. That is not the same as being the ‘First People’ in the older sense of the word indigene. The UN and AU and the SA government recognise the San, the Nama, the Korana, the Griqua and the Revivalist Cape Khoena as being “Indigenous people who are marginalised and discriminated against”.
The Khoena pastoralists nudged out the /Xam and !ga !Ne hunter-gatherer ‘First People’ from their traditional hunting grounds and as pastoralists took dominance of the seaboard areas. The /Xam ‘First People’ were gradually pushed from their traditional lands over a 500 year period to the /Xam-ka area of the central Cape, so that by the time the European shipping started regularly pulling into bays along the coast, the Khoena in the Western Cape and the Xhosa-Khoena of the Eastern Cape were the indigene Africans whom they met.
In the region of the Zuurveld and down to the Gamtoos River the mixed Xhosa-Gonaqua tribe called the Gqunukwebe lived alongside other independent Gonaqua, Damasqua, Gamtoos and Hoengeyqua. The name Gqunukwebe is exactly the same as Gonaqua in a different dialect.
From the Zuurveld area, the following Khoena tribes who had taken over the /Xam lands in the past 500 years were in place at the time of the first European invasion of the Cape. The Gqunukwebe-Xhosa, (Gonaqua, Hoengeyqua, Damasqua,Gamtoos), Outeniqua, Attaqua, Hessequa, Chainouqua, Cochoqua, Chariguriqua, Goringhaiqua and the Gorachoqua. On the western seaboard there were also the Chariguriqua and the Nama. Later some hybrid clans would develop as the result of warfare. In addition to those tribes/clans who over time merged into the ever changing Gqunukhwebe, seven other Khoi tribes merged into the Xhosa confederation even earlier.
Drifters from the Cochoqua, Goringhaiqua, Gorachoqua and Chainouqua who changed their way of life and established a new economy servicing European shipping during the 52 years before Jan van Riebeeck were loosely referred to as the Goringhaicona of Camissa. (Goringhaicona meaning “our kin who have drifted away”).
The formation of the Camissa traders was highly influenced by a number of them travelling abroad and back – long before van Riebeeck’s arrival. Two of the most prominent were Chief Xhore who visited London in 1613 with the English and Chief Autshumao who visited Java in 1631 with the English who assisted him to establish a servicing settlement. These two men were the real founders of the Port of Cape Town which serviced 1071 ships and over 200 000 European visitors before van Riebeeck. Visits ranged from 3 weeks to 9 months in duration. Without us fully understand the significance of this part of our pre-colonial history we can also never be able to navigate our future. It is in this Camissa experience of a new economy and mode of living among Indigenes and how this was crushed that our understanding of our past is greatly enhanced.
The Goringhaicona were not a tribe….. they were a paradigm shift….. a revolution, that was crushed. But that is a story that I have dealt with elsewhere.
The Khoena or Khoi were the first to encounter the Europeans on the shoreline frontier when their ships dropped anchor in search of meat, water, salt and repair materials. When the European settlers came to stay they were highly reliant on the advanced animal husbandry and pastoral skills of the Cape Khoena whose understanding of sustainable grazing, water conservation and insect-borne diseases was invaluable to the European greenhorn farmers. At the time of the first interactions with the Europeans, the Khoena were very successful livestock farmers with tens of thousands of head of sheep and cattle. Indeed the Khoena had introduced livestock to the Cape.
In the Central Cape mountainous area were the bulk of the /Xam and initially the Europeans steered clear of them. From the moment the VOC started a colony they consciously started a process of forced removals or ethnic cleansing of the Khoena communities from what became the Cape Colony and it took the 176 years – so fierce was the resistance. Those that would not be pacified were forced to flee to the Gariep or to join the amaXhosa resistance in the Eastern Cape.
The Cape Peninsula up to the Hottentots Holland Mountains, down through Paarl and the outskirts of Malmesbury to the West Coast, was by 1720, a virtual Khoena-free zone, so bad was the ethnocide implemented. By the 1865 census there were less than 8% of the 85 000 recorded Khoena (Hottentots) in the whole Colony, living in the Peninsula area. Over 90% of people of colour in this area were recorded as slave descendants and descendants of migrants of colour.
The largest concentrations of Khoena were recorded alongside some of the largest concentrations of Xhosa in the Eastern Cape or in the Northern Cape and the West Coast of the Western Cape and the Karoo and part of Hessequa. Smaller concentrations were in the Overberg.
By the late 1600s the Europeans first encountered the /Xam in warfare when some of the Peninsula Khoena refugees team up with these Cape San to resist the Dutch advance. Increased contact was made after the 1740s as the Europeans in their pushing the Khoena out of the Cape began to encounter more and more /Xam inland. But from the 1770s for 25 years the /Xam valiantly held their own against Dutch-Khoena Commandos. The Commandos were under Dutch leadership but about 60% of these Commandos were pacified Khoena and in this period is when the great genocide slaughter of the ‘First People’ /Xam was at its worst.
The Khoena in the Commandos were instructed to wipe out the adult /Xam. Only a few of the children were spared and taken prisoners and shared out to work on white farms alongside slaves and pacified Khoena. The Khoena Commandos were also allowed to take some of the girls as concubines. Both the European and Khoena Commandos favourite aberration was to cut off the breasts of /Xam women to make leather tobacco pouches.
Much of the 30 000 /Xam community were wiped out, with the survivors moving northward short of the Gariep. There by the mid-1800s the British, Nama, Orlams and the Griquas carried on massacring the /Xam. This is the real tragic story of a genocide with many role-players taking part but largely overseen by the Dutch VOC and the British. This genocide spread from the /Xam victims to wiping out many of the Gariep San too.
It is this fact that makes it painful for the collective surviving San peoples across Southern Africa, when Khoena descendant inappropriately use the term KhoiSan, an anthropological, archaeological and geneticist academic term coined by a German anthropologist in the 1930s. It is adding insult to injury. It also adds insult to injury for any group to assume the title ‘First People’ in the Cape because all were migrants who displaced the /Xam.
Let us now just go back again to the pre-colonial period to see a little bit more closely what occurred in the Eastern Cape with the Khoena. As already noted the earliest original pre-Nguni “Xhosa-Cobuqua” were the first already back as far as the 15th century, feeling some impacts of Mpondomise, Mpondo and Thembu engagement with the “Xhosa-Cobuqua” of the area above the Kei River. Gradually assimilation took place with some Nguni offshoots from the Thembus, Mpinga-Ngwevu, Mpondomise, and the Ntshilibe-Mfene-Vundle Sotho, as well as the Ntlane and Zangwa Mpondo , all joining the mix. This was not a sudden event as some postulate but a gradual drift and engagement long prior to the Mfecane. The Mfecane itself precipitated other impacts on the Xhosa.
A trickle became a greater flow when a game-changer occurred much later. The Nguni domination of the federation of the Xhosa-Cobuqua-Nguni clans began with a fratricidal battle between two royal brothers Cira and Tshawe. The heir to the throne, Cirwa, was defeated when Tshawe called on the Mpondomise to come to his assistance. This led to the initial Nguni domination.
But then Tshawe offered sanctuary to a number of Khoena clans and this again balanced the mix. Expediency had most accepting the new arrangement but those who did not voluntarily accept sanctuary under one Tshawe Kingdom were forced into the Kingdom.
But here we need to backtrack a bit. A mythology was created over time by the victors, that does not stand up to scrutiny. The storyline goes that Tshawe’s father was a great Chief called Nkosiyamntu. This seems more to be a storyline to give credibility to the suggestion of an older direct link to the northern Nguni, than what may factually be the case. The problem is that there is nobody and no record to verify what the facts may be.
Many people have come up with concoctions about when to date the time of Tshawe and nobody has been able to do so credibly with any accuracy, and again we cannot put an exact date on the Birth of Tshawe and the conflict over succession. The best that one can do is to work backwards from the birth of Togu some time in the mid 1660s to mid 1670s given that the death of his son Tshiwo kaNgconde was in 1702. He was succeeded by Mdange kaNgconde, and he was succeeded by Phalo kaTshiwo (king from 1736 – 1775).
Thus if Ngconde kaTogu lets say was born in 1670, then his father Skhomo could have been born between 1640 – 1650 minimum. His father, Ngcwangu, in turn could have been born in the 1620s which then has us looking at the 1580s – 1590s at least being the time of Tshawe’s early years.
In 1736 with the birth of the HOUSE OF PHALO the period of ubuTshawe House (approximately 150 years) had seen lots of changes and the submerging of clans and tribes came to reside under ubuTshawe patronage. Casual dabblers in history do not understand what Tshawe means in its use of conferring royal status. Tshawe and the rule of Tshawe when alive and posthumously had become a synonym for royalty and it remained respected even from the time of the new outstanding stamp on royalty – Phalo.
What people also tend to do is to confuse the development of Kingdoms with history. Before Kingdoms were imposed there were just clans and very little rigidity as every clan was a mix of Khoena, Bantu and even /Xam or !Ga !ne to some extent. The “Kingdoms” ideology was often ahistorical, just like today when people are creating kingdoms from thin air, simply because it may result in a government cheque every month and some land and a grandious title. The Xhosa identity was never hetrogenous as is pointed out by Jeff Peires author of “The House of Phalo”. By King Phalo’s time the practice of confederacy by the Xhosa was sealed.
The following Khoena clans joined the Xhosa Kingdom of ubuTshawe in time – the Ngqosini, Giqwa, Cete, and isiThathu voluntarily joined in accepting the ubuTshawe as a royal confederal umbrella constituting a mixed Xhosa-Khoena Kingdom and the customs and language was a mix of Khoena and SiNtu. By Phalo’s time this was entrenched and Khoi merging into the confederation continued. By Ngcwangu’s time in the mid 17th century Peires makes argument to demonstrate that the Xhosa had political ascendancy over most of the coastal Cape Khoi extending to the fringes of the Cape Peninsula. It is my opinion that this is only adequately demonstrated up to the territory of the Attaqua and Hessequa, and only by with mid 18th century during Phalo’s time, even although the Xhosa enjoyed a special relationship with the Chainoqua.
All of this happened some-time before the first conflictual engagements between the colonists and another tribe known as the Gqunukwebe is recorded when a commando of Europeans rode out of Stellenbosch in 1702 and moved up as far as the Zuurveld to raid cattle and encountered these people.
Who were the Gqunukwebe? After Tshawe’s time and before 1700 one of the Khoena clans (which also had a Sotho mix) – the Ngqosini under Chief Tshiwo revolted against the Xhosa Kingdom and made an alliance with a medicine man Khwane who had quietly built up a small Khoena army in the forests over some time. They were victorious and this is how these Khoena Xhosa joined by a number of Gonaqua Khoena people in the forests, formed the Gqunukwebe, (it actually is Xhosa word for Gonaqua) and became the southernmost Xhosa living alongside the Gonaqua in relative harmony. These were the first so-called Xhosa that the Europeans started raiding cattle from when commandos rode out from Stellenbosch in 1700.
The Gqunukwebe became a melting pot for the Hoengeyqua, Gonaquea, Gamtoos and even Hessequa refugees and Confederation military alliance was forged between them all under the elderly Chief Chungwa and the Khoena Chief Klaas Stuurman, and after his death with Chief David Stuurman. This was of course all in the South of the Eastern Cape.
In the north, the end of the 18th century saw the build up to the Zulu Mfecane which also added to the impacts when other Nguni refugees followed – the Ngwane, Bhele, the Zizi, the Hlubi, the Bhaca, the Qocwa and the Mfengu. The Mfecane at this time was preceded by the extension of the Mthetwa Empire, into which Shaka was born in 1787 in a the minor Zulu clan. All of this took place as the Colonial Conquest of the Eastern Cape began. Just as the VOC Dutch wars were starting in the region and then carried on in tandem with the first few British wars that seized Khoena and Xhosa land, so too by 1811 all hell had broken loose engulfing the Ndwandwe and Mthetwa, and within this fray the minor clan of Zulu under Shaka was becoming popular in Zululand. By 1819 Shaka was in ascendancy and in his short reign until 1828 when he was murdered, having consolidated the Ndwandwe and Mthetwas he finished what the Mthetwa Empire had started by expanding control north, west and south. The impact of this on the Sotho, Mpondomise, Mpondos, Hlubis, Bhaca and others put further pressure on the Xhosa pinned between British war and expansion in the South and the refugee groups and upheaval in the north. Colonial historians presented this very differently by projecting that the Xhosa were an Nguni invasion, and quack psuedo-historians punting 21st century ethno-nationalism through a degree of Khoi fakery present the same colonial and Apartheid history as though it were factual.
When in 1736 the House of Phalo emerged it did so with another fratricidal conflict within the Xhosa Kingdom. Next door to the original Cobuqua-Xhosa pre-Nguni were another powerful Khoena tribe – the Inqua also called the Humcumqua. They made a huge political military mistake in the region when they got involved in taking sides with one brother against the other in the Xhosa conflict. The Inqua took the side of the brother that lost and they were conquered in the process.
The Inqua Chief Hinsati made an alliance with the Xhosa King Gwali and gave him protection against his brother Mdange. The latter defeated the Inqua and installed Phalo as King and then assimilated the Inqua clans – Sukwini, Gqwashu and Nqarwane into the House of Phalo. So thereby another whole Khoena tribe with all its clans simply had a name change. They were Khoena or Khoi who suddenly became part of this by now more than 800 year old ever metamorphosing entity called “Xhosa”.
The House of Phalo also eventually split into two antagonistic tribes – the amaGcaleka of Chief Gqaika and the amaRharhabe of Chief Ndlambe. The Rharabe allied with the Gonaqua and Gqunukwebe against the colonists and Gqaika allied with the colonists against the Xhosa-Khoena Confederacy. Two amazing resistance fighters emerged from this alliance under the Rharhabe – General and Itola, Makhanda known As Nxele, whose mother was Khoena and father Xhosa; and Khoena Chief David Stuurman. Bothe ended up together as prisoners of war on Robben Island and both were in the same escape boat that made it to Bloubergstrand. Makhanda unfortunately drowned when the boat hit the rocks. Chief David Stuurman survived but was banished to Australia as a POW convict.
All of the Khoena tribes from the Zuurveld down into the Cape Peninsula had very strong familial links to the Xhosa, who were in fact to a great degree Khoena themselves as well as part Nguni. In modern times we tend to call all of the people of the Eastern Cape Xhosa and then assume all are Nguni. That is much too simplistic and it also feeds into the “Great Lie” that a Black invasion occurred more or less at the same time as a white invasion, and both are aliens to the Khoena.
From this historical falsehood has grown a false Khoena or Khoi separatism, and also the falsehood that the Khoena or Khoi are the ‘First People’ of the Cape, whereas they were pastoral migrants and only the /Xam were the ‘First People’. Besides everything else the commandos who slaughtered the /Xam were 60% made up of pacified Khoena. The few /Xam surviving the 1780s genocide by the VOC Commandos faced further genocide at the hands of the British and the Griquas in the 1800s.
We really need to hit this nonsense on the head fed by historical quakery. It is all based on notions of superiority indoctrinated among ‘Coloured’ people by the colonists and Apartheid racism and bigotry. Our history as Africans is much more complex and integrated than we want to believe. The evolution and the falling away and recreation of tribal and kingdom identities happened before Colonisation and was exploited to divide our ancestors at that time, just as it is dividing us now. And all sorts of opportunists and racists are climbing on board. There should be no place for racism in any united association of indigenes, and these cannot just be open to those labelled “Coloured” when history shows us that only a third of “Coloured” have Khoena heritage and probably an equal number of those today called “Xhosa” also have Khoena Heritage in the Cape. In the Gariep, Free State and right up to Limpopo and then across to KZN, there are also descendants of the Khoena.
The Cape Khoena heritage is real but it has nothing to do with race, colour, features and geo-location. The story is a lot more complex.
If we want to be true to ourselves and to our ancestors we should proceed cautiously and get to first embrace a non-colonial historical understanding of our roots. We also cannot just be trendy and adopt models from Canada, the USA and Australia.
I believe that in going forward and looking at all the components of our heritage that has been forced under this label “Coloured” we must honestly address the past, and there is much research to consult and everyday new information arises. We cannot neatly separate our indigene heritage which some carry in more weight than others from our Slavery ancestry from Africa, India and Southeast Asia, nor from the many other tributaries of migrants of colour whose descendants too were labelled “Coloured”.
I firmly believe that together we should be in exploration mode least fraudulent charletons and the Zuma State bamboozle us all for their own benefit just like previous regimes have done…. And then our people are betrayed. The dead give-away of the false doctrines floating about is that they are firmly a matter of the age old “DIVIDE & RULE”.
One of our old late stalwarts wished to leave a legacy of understanding that he as someone labelled ‘Coloured’ wanted to claim his African-ness by correction the colonial historical nonsense that created a wall between one indigene African people and another.
This colonial lie of “separateness” needs to be challenged at its roots. One of our late old stalwarts believed that we must be honest and face up to history and write our own pre-colonial narratives. Until we do so this notion of ‘Coloured’ superiority will not die out. We are an African people and will never find our African home and African rights if we keep following the ‘white’ lies. We are an integrated African people and separatism is not the answer to our problems. It is when we truly accept our African heritage in all its wonderful facets, and merge this with our slavery heritage seamlessly as the very blood that flows in our veins – then we will find peace and liberation.
He would say, “We have allowed the Europeans world view to become our world view. It is a common argument of the Europeans that where would Africa and South Africa be if it was not for the Europeans skill and hard work. They shout –look what good colonialism has done for you.” The only way to counter this is to stop believing their half-baked stories and making these our own. Look at the pre-colonial situation with honesty.
Disclaimer: The Indigenous First Nation Advocacy South Africa (IFNASA) posted this article as part of a new project called “Who Am I, Who Are We”, soon to be launched. This article is purely for information and analysis. IFNASA appreciate the tireless efforts of Patric Mellet who are shading light on arguably the most difficult narrative and history of the South African people.