Thursday, June 27, 2013


"I am an African, I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetswayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers that Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom".  Thabo Mbeki, Former South African President.

Pedi also known as Bapedi, Bamaroteng, Marota, Basotho, Northern Sotho, are group of related people in South Africa which share cultural and linguistic similarities known as Northern Sotho. The term Pedi was previously used to describe the entire set of people speaking various dialects of the Sotho language who live in the northern Transvaal of South Africa, more recently, the term "Northern Sotho" has replaced "Pedi" to characterise this loose collectivity of groups.

                                     Pedi people

The Northern Sotho have been subdivided into the high-veld Sotho, which are comparatively recent immigrants mostly from the west and southwest, and the low-veld Sotho, who combine immigrants from the north with inhabitants of longer standing. The high-veld Sotho include the Pedi (in the narrower sense), Tau, Kone, Roka, Ntwane, Mphahlele, Tšhwene, Mathabathe, Kone (Matlala), Dikgale, Batlokwa, Gananwa (Mmalebogo), Mmamabolo, and Moletše. The low-veld Sotho include the Lobedu, Narene, Phalaborwa, Mogoboya, Kone, Kgakga, Pulana, Pai, Kutswe. Groups are named by using the names of totemic animals and, sometimes, by alternating or combining these with the names of famous chiefs.

                                           Pedi people

Pedi in the narrowest sense, refers more to a political unit than to a cultural or linguistic one: the Pedi polity included the people living within the area over which the Maroteng dynasty established dominance during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Even this narrower usage should not be understood in a rigid sense because many fluctuations occurred in the extent of this polity's domination during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and processes of relocation and labour migration have resulted in the widespread scattering of its former subjects.

                                      Pedi women from

The present-day Pedi area, Sekhukhuneland, is situated between the Olifants River (Lepelle) and its tributary the Steelpoort River (Tubatse); bordered on the east by the Drakensberg range, and crossed by the Leolo mountains. But at the height of its power the Pedi polity under Thulare (about 1790–1820) included an area stretching from the site of present-day Rustenburg in the east to the lowveld in the west, and ranging as far south as the Vaal river.

The area under Pedi control was severely limited when the polity was defeated by British troops in 1879. Reserves were created for this and for other northern Sotho groups by the Transvaal Republic's Native Location Commission. Over the next hundred years or so, these reserves were then variously combined and separated by a succession of government planners. By 1972 this planning had culminated in the creation of an allegedly independent national unit or "homeland" named Lebowa. In terms of the government's plans to accommodate ethnic groups separately from each other, this was designed to act as a place of residence for all northern Sotho speakers. But many Pedi had never resided here: since the polity's defeat, they had become involved in a series of labour-tenancy or sharecropping arrangements with white farmers, lived as tenants on crown land, or purchased farms communally as freeholders, or moved to live in the townships adjoining Pretoria and Johannesburg on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. In total, however, the population of the Lebowa homeland increased rapidly after the mid 1950s, due to the forced relocations from rural areas and cities in common South Africa undertaken by apartheid's planners, and to voluntary relocations by which former labour tenants sought independence from the restrictive and deprived conditions under which they had lived on the white farms.
Bapedi women`s wera

Sepedi is also sometimes referred to as Sesotho sa Laboa or Northern Sotho. The language of Sepedi is spoken by approximately 4,208,980 individuals and it is one of the eleven official languages in South Africa.
The Sepedi language is usually spoken in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Limpopo province, but a little bit of it is also spoken in Botswana.

                                     Bapedi girls

Sepedi is also sometimes referred to as Sesotho sa Laboa or Northern Sotho. The language of Sepedi is spoken by approximately 4,208,980 individuals and it is one of the eleven official languages in South Africa.
The Sepedi language is usually spoken in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Limpopo province, but a little bit of it is also spoken in Botswana. This language is a part of the Bantu Group which belongs to the Niger-Congo and it is very closely connected with the Setswana and Sesotho languages. As many religions and cultures do, Sepedi has their own traditions. Many people take a liking to this culture and language because of their wedding ceremonies. The bride and grooms closest family members will get together to discuss the wedding and most importantly, the lebola.

Apart from Sepedi itself, the other languages or dialects covered by the term "Northern Sotho" appear to be a diverse grouping of communal speech-forms within the Sotho-Tswana group. They are apparently united by the fact that they are classifiable neither as Southern Sotho nor as Tswana.
Very little published information is available on these other dialects of Northern Sotho, however, which have been reported to include: kheLobedu (khiLobedu or seLobedu), seTlokwa, seBirwa, thiPulana (or sePulana), Khutswe, seTswapo and also Pai (transitional between Sotho-Tswana and Zulu). The morphological and possible lexical variation among these dialects has led to the above assertion that 'Northern Sotho' is no more than a holding category for otherwise unclassified Sotho-Tswana varieties spoken in northeastern South Africa. Maho (2002) leaves Phalaborwa and the "East Sotho" varieties of Kutswe, Pai, and Pulana unclassified within Sotho–Tswana. Their precise classification would appear to be a matter for further research.
Some examples of Northern Sotho words and phrases:
EnglishNorthern Sotho
WelcomeKamogelo (noun) / Amogela (verb)
Thank youKe a leboga (I thank you) / Re a leboga (we thank you)
Good day / HelloDumela (singular) / Dumelang (plural)
Good bye!Sala gabotse (keep well) / Sepela gabotse (go well)
I am looking for a jobNna ke nyaka mošomô
No smokingGa go kgogwe
No entranceGa go tsenwe
Beware of the steps!Hlokomela distepse!
Beware!Ela tlhoko!
Congratulations on your birthdayMahlatse letšatšing la matswalo
Seasons greetingsDitumedišo tša Sehla sa Maikhutšo
Merry ChristmasMahlogonolo a Keresemose
Merry Christmas and Happy New YearMahlogonolo a Keresemose le ngwaga wo moswa wo monate

                                    Bapedi women

The Pedi are of Sotho origin. The name Sotho is derived from batho ba baso,meaning dark or black people. All available evidence indicates that the Sotho migrated southwards from the region of the Great Lakes of Central Africa. The Kgalagadi were apparently the first Sotho to settle in Southern Africa, followed later
by the Digoya. The Rolong, Fokeng and finally the Hurutse followed them. The Rolong and Hurutse relate their origin to Mopedi (also called Motsito), who had amongst his descendants one Napo. One may accept that these groups had a single origin.
 The Pedi eventually descended from the Hurutse, who claim descend from one Malope, the son of Masilo. Malope had three sons, Mohurutse, Kwena and Mokgatla each eventually establishing their own tribes. Very little is known of the history of the Kgatla for the first two generations after their founder, Mokgatla, had succeeded from the parent group. Legabo, Pogopi and Botlolo succeeded him. After the death of Botlolo, the tribe divided into two sections, under Mogale and Tabane. Mogale, the elder son, remained near Rustenburg and this section became known as Masetlha. Tabane left with his group and settled at what is known as Schilpadfontein. This group eventually gave rise to the Mmakau, the Motsha and the Pedi.
It seems that his son Motsha succeeded Tabane.

                                             Pedi people

 During his reign his son Diale had a number of wives, the youngest of which, Mmathobele, was his favourite. By his superior wife he had a son Modise, the founder of the Mmakau section. When Mmathobele was expecting her first child, the other wives of Diale, being jealous of her favoured position, said they could hear the child crying in her womb. This was attributed to witchcraft, and the Kgatla wanted to kill the mother and her child. Diale interceded for her and the child was born normally. The child Thobele was nicknamed Lellelateng (it cries inside). Modise could not accept this event and left with his section.
As the child grew older Diale saw that the tribe would never accept Mmathobele’s son and he instructed him to leave with his mother and followers. He was cautioned to keep facing the sunrise until he found a suitable site for settlement. Leaving behind the main section Thobele founded his own tribe, the Pedi. After crossing the Leolo Mountains the Pedi eventually settled at Mogokgomeng, just south of the present Steelpoort station on the Thubatse (Steelpoort River) approximately in 1650. When the Pedi arrived a number of tribes, like the Kwena, Roka, Koni and Tau were already living there.
When the Pedi moved into the country their totem was a kgabo (the monkey). On crossing the Leolo Mountains they found a porcupine bristle, and accepted the porcupine (noku) as their totem. For many years after the Pedi settled the group lived prosperously, growing in numbers and wealth. Kabu, (who had two sons, Thobele and Thobejane), eventually was succeeded by Thobele. Thobele had misbehaved and eventually had to flee with a following and some cattle. The Ramapulana later absorbed them. Many years later the Pedi chief, Sekwati, could use this connection to seek refuge with the Ramapulana.
Thobejane then succeeded Kabu. He is still remembered today for the peace and prosperity of his reign and his name is used as a form of greeting. His son Moukangwe succeeded him and ruled for a long time. He outlived his eldest son Lesailane and was eventually succeeded by his second son Mohube, who acted as
regent in the old age of his father.
Mohube and a party of hunters trespassed on the hunting grounds of a Koni tribe, the Komane. He and some of his followers were killed in the ensuing fight. Both the Komane and the Pedi referred the incident to the Mongatane (Kwena) who were recognized as the superior tribe of the region. The latter decided in favour of the Komane, and sent out a regiment against the erring Pedi. Under their new leader Mampuru, a younger brother of Mohube, the Pedi successfully repulsed the Mongatane. Mampuru then attacked and disbursed the Komane, killing their chief and many others. The Komane eventually asked for peace, sending a young girl as peace – offering. The Mongatane also sent the son of their chief as hostage. Mampuru, however, returned the young man, together with his own daughter as a wife. This was an event of great importance, which in the creation of the Pedi Empire was to become the pattern. Daughters of the Pedi chief were married to defeated or neighbouring tribes, which ensured that the future chiefs of those tribes, had Pedi blood in their veins.
After his initial success Mampuru organised his regiments into fighting units. He first defeated chief Mmamaila, followed by the Tau at Mmopong and the Koni at Kutwane. When the old chief Monkaugwe died Mampuru buried him. According to Pedi custom it is the prerogative of the new chief to bury his predecessor. Mampuru then claimed the chieftainship, for which he had long acted as regent. After some time Morwamotse, the rightful heir, refused to accept Mampuru’s orders and eventually matters came to a head in a battle between their two parties. In the fight Mampuru was wounded and captured by Morwamotse. Despite demands that he should bekilled, Morwamotse respected his uncle and let him go free to move away northwards with his followers.

Morwamotse had three sons, Thulare, Mothodi and Dikotope. Morwamotse died at a young age and was succeeded by Dikotope. Mampuru attended the burial and instated Thulare as chief. Thulare eventually attacked Dikotope, who fled to the Mongatane. The Mongatane joined Dikotope in a war against Thulare who was supported by Mampuru. Dikotope’s death reunited the tribe. Thulare returned home as the undisputed chief of his tribe and also as paramount chief of Bopedi. The Pedi now entered their most prosperous period. Thulare is always recalled as the greatest and most loved of their chiefs. During his time many tribes were conquered, and the Pedi Empire greatly extended. It is said that his Empire to have covered most of eastern, southern and western districts of the Transvaal. Thulare died in 1824. There is some uncertainty as to Thulare’s successor. Some say he was succeeded by his son Malekutu, others say his younger brother Mothodi succeeded him as regent. Others maintain that Mothodi succeeded Malekutu for some time.
At this stage in time Mzilikazi one of the lieutenants of the great Zulu warrior chief Shaka, started raiding the area. Eventually he defeated the Pedi, killing most of the sons of Thulare except Sekwati and Seraki, the sons of Thulare’s fifth wife Mmantlatle, and Kabu the son of his seventh wife. Mzilikazi’s warriors razed all the villages and lands, and plundered all the cattle and anything else of value. Men and women were enslaved and made to carry captured loot to Mzilikazi’s stronghold.Sekwati, the senior living son of Thulare, gathered together what he could of the Pedi and fled north, where he took refuge with the Ramapulana with whom the Pedi were related through Thobele, the brother of their old chief Thobejane, five generations ago. Sekwati remained there for four years before returning to Bopedi.
In the troubled time many people, forced by hunger and despair, turned to cannibalism. There was no food and people had to live of roots and berries. It is said that people trained their dogs to hunt men. Under these conditions a Koni warrior, Morangrang, raised himself to the position of chief, and started organizing the
remnants of tribes to resist cannibalism. He succeeded in restoring some order so that people could rebuild their villages and work in the fields.
When Sekwati returned he intended to re- establish the old Pedi ascendancy. He sent Morangrang beads and a woman as appeasement. This woman eventually led Morangrang to the Kgaga of Mphahlele where the latter was waiting in ambush. After fierce fighting, Morangrang and all his warriors were killed. Sekwati then
destroyed his half-brother Kabu who was an ally of Morangrang. He finally rid the country of cannibalism. He re-established the paramountcy of the Pedi, and settled at Phiring, a rocky hill, which today is Magalies Location. Here he successfully repulsed a Swazi attack under Dhlamini.The first contact between the Pedi and Boers under the leadership of Louis Trichardt was in 1837. In 1845 another group under Hendrik Potgieter entered Bopedi and settled at Ohrigstad. The initial relationship with the Boers was very friendly, but did not last long. Accusations and counter accusations of stock theft and encroachment of land soon began. In 1847 Potgieter attacked the Pedi and again in 1852, beleaguering Phiring and capturing a great deal of stock.

As a result Sekwati moved his village to Thaba–Mosego (Mosego Hill) under the eastern slopes of the Leolo Mountains. He fortified this village, which was called Tjate, very strongly. On 17 November 1857 Sekwati signed a peace treaty between the Pedi and the Boers. After many years of fighting and strife, Sekwati eventually obtained a period of peace for his people. Many tribes voluntarily moved into Bopedi and settled under his reign to share the fruits of peace and prosperity. Towards the end of his life Sekwati commanded some 70 000 people and an army of 12 000 men of whom a third were fully armed with guns.
In 1860 Alexander Merensky of the Lutheran missionary of the Berlin Mission Society visited Sekwati, who allowed him to build a mission station. On 14 August 1860 Merensky and Grützner established their first mission station at Gerlachshoop near Bopedi among the Kopa tribe of chief Boleu. In 1861 two more missionaries, Nachtigal and Endemann, joined them. In 1861 Merensky again visited Sekwati, and obtained permission to build a mission station a few miles from Tjate at a hill, Kgalatlolu. Merensky and Nachtigal
immediately began work and on 22 September 1861 Merensky held the first service at the new station. Sekwati died on that same evening.
To understand the position caused by Sekwati’s death, the situation caused by the death of Malekutu, the successor to Thulare must be understood. Malekutu had not married a tribal wife who could produce an heir. Malekutu’s rightful tribal wife was supposed to be Kgomomakatane, from the royal house of the Magakala. Malekutu died and was eventually succeeded by his half-brother Sekwati. On his return to
Bopedi, the latter sent for Kgomomakatane and married her with all due formalities.
According to the Ba-Pedi customary law, Sekwati could not be chief in his own right, and was only regent for Malekutu until an heir could be raised for the latter. Sekwati must thus have married Kgomomakatane in the name of his brother. As Sekwati was too old to father children Kgomomakatane, as is customary, had a son, Mampuru, by a man designated by the chief. Kgomomakatane then left the tribe, but on request of
Sekwati returned Mampuru to the Pedi, where Thorometsane, the first wife of Sekwati and mother to Sekhukhune, raised him. Sekwati and the whole tribe regarded Mampuru as the rightful successor to the chieftainship.
On Sekwati’s death, Sekhukhune was living some distance away, but was immediately informed by his mother. He returned and forcefully claimed the chieftainship. He immediately killed all the councillors who were in support of Mampuru. The greater power of Sekhukhune prevailed in the end and eventually
Mampuru was forced to flee on 17 June 1862. He fled to Lekgolane, a sister of Sekwati, who was tribal wife of the Tau tribe. Mampuru took with him the royal emblems including the royal beads. Sekhukhune followed him but Lekgolane interceded for Mampuru and Sekhukhune spared his life, only ordering the beads to be cut from his neck. Mampuru was subsequently joined by his own regiment and in due time was joined by many other people who fled from Sekhukhune.

Under Sekhukhune there was a time of strife and unrest. Over years he accumulated a large hoard of guns and ammunition. His initial relations with the Boers and missionaries were friendly, and they recognized the Steelpoort River as the boundary. Inter-tribal warfare however did not cease. Two groups of Swazi people fled from the Swazi region and obtained permission to settle in Bopedi. A large Swazi army followed and was crushed by the Pedi.

The relations with the missionaries had in the meantime prospered to such an extent that they were allowed to build a station, Ga-Ratau, much nearer to Tjate. As a result of Sekhukhune’s friendship with the missionaries and their success in treating the ill and wounded, the mission made progress beyond expectations. Among the important converts was one of Sekhukhune’s wives and his half-brother Johannes Dinkwanyane.  The converts, however, antagonized Sekhukhune, who realized that his absolute authority was being undermined. He began to impose restrictions on Pedi Christians. The situation worsened and finally Sekhukhune drove the Christians away.
During this time Merensky was appointed as representative of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Z.A.R.). He had at first been well received by the chief. Soon afterwards all belongings of Christians were confiscated. The missionaries were forbidden to do any further work in Bopedi. Finally on the night of 18 November 1864 the Christians, led by Merensky and Johannes Dinkwanyane, fled to the south. They bought a farm near Middelburg and started the mission station Botshabelo. Eventually Johannes left
Botshabelo with his followers and settled in the Lydenburg district. Sekhukhune openly recognised him as a Pedi chief, thus extending his empire beyond the Steelpoort River. Relations between the Boers and the Pedi became more and more strained.
On 16 May 1876 the Boers declared war against the Pedi. They first seized Johannes Dinkwanyane’s village. In the battle he was slain. They then advanced on Sekhukhune’s stronghold Tjate. Though the Boers managed to take and raze part of the village they were unable to dislodge the Pedi. The Boers retreated and built Fort Weeber, west of the Leolo Mountains. It later became known as Ferreira’s Horse. A second fort was built and named Fort Burgers at the Steelpoort River. From these two forts the Boers continuously harassed the Pedi. Sekhukhune, realising that his position had become untenable, sent for Merensky and asked him to mediate with the Republic. Early in February1877 the two parties met at Botshabelo to discuss peace terms. It was finally decided that the Pedi were to pay two thousand head of cattle to the Republic, that the Pedi would become subjects of the Republic, and that the land beyond the Steelpoort River would be recognised as their location. On 15 February 1877, Sekhukhune signed the treaty.
Two months later Sir Theophilus Schepstone annexed the Transvaal on behalf of the British Crown. He considered the treaty between the Boers and the Pedi as valid, notified Sekhukhune that the Pedi would be recognised as British subjects and demanded the payment of the two thousand head of cattle. Sekhukhune refused this payment. The situation deteriorated and Captain Clarke, who was stationed in Bopedi, started a campaign against the Pedi. After a few minor skirmishes he sent for more troops. Additional troops under Colonel Rowlands were sent but had little success.
After the Zulu war General Garnet Wolseley stipulated that Sekhukhune should recognise the British Crown, pay taxes and permit the erection of a number of forts in Bopedi. He also had to pay the fine of two thousand five hundred head of cattle immediately. When Sekhukhune refused, Wolseley mobilised his task force of a number of regiments, aided by eight thousand Swazi warriors and Mampuru’s men, a total force of twelve thousand men.
Wolseley’s plan of attack was that while the main column would approach Tjate along the valley, the Swazi warriors would descend upon it from the heights, which lay behind it. Under the cover of the first bombardment, two assaults were launched. With the attack thus halted, Wolseley and his troops anxiously awaited the delayed arrival of the Swazi army. When it finally appeared it had a decisive impact.The Pedi regiments were unprepared for an attack from the rear. With the advantage of such a surprise attack the Swazi swept down the mountainside. While they sustain heavy casualties they were driving the defenders before them. With the Pedi warriors trapped between the descending Swazi and the advancing British troops, a terrible carnage ensued. By 9.30 a.m. the valley had been cleared and the town Tjate was in
Fighting Kopje (Ntswaneng) nonetheless remained unconquered. A combined attack was launched on it from four sides, and after heavy fighting the assailants reached the summit. The caves, however, remained crowded with men, woman and children who refused to surrender. Large charges of gun cotton were placed at cave entrances to destroy the stone defences and to terrify their occupants into submission. The explosions did not have the desired effect as few of the Pedi surrendered. It was then decided to starve the defenders out. As night fell, however, a heavy rain drenched the valley and reduced visibility. Taking advantage of these conditions, the besieged Pedi emerged from the caves and forced their way past the pickets.
The day’s fighting took a heavy toll on the lives of both attackers and defenders. Although only thirteen Europeans were killed and thirty-five wounded, between 500-600 Swazi warriors perished in the attack and an equivalent number were wounded. It is difficult to establish the extent of Pedi casualties with any precision, but conservative estimates place the number of dead in excess of a thousand. The record of the fatalities within the paramount’s family provides an indication of the extent of the carnage. Three of Sekhukhune’s brothers and nine of his children, including his son and designated heir Morwamotse, died in the battle. The paramount chief that sheltered in a cave behind the town during the battle, made his escape from the valley the following day. He was, however, tracked to another cave where he had taken refuge and surrendered to Captain Ferreira on 2 December 1879. Sekhukhune was taken to Pretoria where he was imprisoned. Sekhukhune’s tribe was forced to leave Tjate and to build a new village on the plains, far removed from any hills, which could be fortified. This village was eventually named Manoge. Mampuru and Nkopedi were appointed as joint chiefs of the Pedi. The latter ruled the tribe at Manoge, while Mampuru settled at Kgono in the Middelburg district.
The Berlin Lutheran Mission had in the meantime already re entered Bopedi at its station Lobethal. They were now allowed to build a new mission station on the site of the ruins of Tjate. They send a young missionary, J.A. Winter, to this station, from where he exercised considerable influence on later events. Winter soon became dissatisfied with the attitude of his fellow missionaries towards the Pedi, wishing to
give his converts greater control in the church. He finally adopted the Pedi way of life, which forced the mission authorities to expel him. In 1889 he founded the Pedi Lutheran Church, one of the first of the separatist church movements in South Africa.

After the first Anglo Boer War the Transvaal (Z.A.R.) regained its independence on 8 August 1881. One of the stipulations was that Sekhukhune be released from prison. He immediately went back to Manoge where he took over the chieftainship. Mampuru remained at Kgono, but when he refused to acknowledge the new
Republican Government (Z.A.R.) he had to flee to avoid arrest. Abel Erasmus was appointed Native Commissioner for the area and had to collect taxes. Sekhukhune assisted him by lending him a number of men to act as police.Mampuru, dissatisfied with the tribe being divided, sought to rid himself of
Sekhukhune, who had wrested the chieftainship from him. On the night of 13 August 1882 he and a group of his men stole into Manoge and killed Sekhukhune. This did not have the desired effect of uniting the Pedi under Mampuru, who now had to flee for his life. He sought refuge under Nyabele, the Ndebele chief.
When the government requested Nyabele to hand over Mampuru he refused. Boer forces attacked the Ndebele at their fortified settlement. The blockade lasted nine months till Nyabele surrendered on 11 July 1883 and handed over Mampuru. The latter was found guilty of murder and hanged in Pretoria on 22 November 1883.

Subsequent to their defeat at the hands of the British, the Pedi were relegated to a series of officially designated reserves. Foremost among these was the Pedi heartland, Sekhukhuneland. Together with the adjoining reserves, Sekhukhuneland was incorporated into Lebowa in the 1960s, designated as a homeland for the Northern Sotho people.

Population increase and land degradation in these reserve areas have made it increasingly difficult to live from cultivation alone. Men have been compelled to leave home and work for wages. But there is still a keen commitment to the maintenance of fields, with ploughing done during periods of leave or, increasingly, by professional ploughmen. The typical pattern has been for Pedi men to spend a short time working on nearby farms, and later to find a job on the mines or in domestic service, and then in industry. The management and execution of all other agricultural tasks have been entrusted to these men's wives.

Although subjected to spiraling controls in their lives as wage laborers, Pedi men fiercely resisted all direct attempts to interfere with the 'home' economy - the sphere of cattle-keeping and agriculture. Families have continued to practice cultivation and to keep cattle, not so much to subsist but more as a way of showing their long-term commitment to the rural social system in order to gain security in retirement. More recently, women have begun to work for wages as well. Some work only before marrying, for short periods on farms. Others, divorcing or remaining unmarried, have since the 1960s have been working in domestic service in the towns of Gauteng.

Despite their military defeat during the 19th century, the Pedi have continued to hold the chieftainship in high esteem. Especially in Sekhukhuneland, in which the former seat of the paramount Mohlaletse is situated, the Pedi have made concerted efforts to reconstruct the chieftainship. These exertions became most strenuous during the 1950s, when the apartheid government was attempting to use local chiefs as go-betweens in their 'Bantu Authorities' system of rule. Pedi resistance against Bantu authorities in the 1958 Sekhukhune revolt resulted in the deportation of Morwamotse, Sekhukhune's grandson and heir. Migrants played a key role in carrying political ideas and organization strategies between town and countryside, and a number of ANC branches were founded during this era.

Although a number of Pedi have settled permanently in the towns of Gauteng, most continue to have an abiding commitment to Bopedi (the place of the Pedi) in the countryside. Chiefs and commoners have witnessed the dismantling of the apartheid government's Lebowa and its subsuming within the new South Africa's Northern Province.

Subsistence and economy
Pre-conquest economy combined cattle-keeping with hoe cultivation. Principal crops were sorghum, pumpkins and legumes, which were grown by women on fields allocated to them when they married. Women hoed and weeded; did pottery and built and decorated huts with mud; made sleeping mats and baskets; ground grain, cooked, brewed, and collected water and wood. Men did some work in fields at peak times; hunted and herded; did woodwork, prepared hides, and were metal workers and smiths. Most major tasks were done communally by matsema (work-parties).

The chief was depended upon to perform rain-making for his subjects. The introduction of the animal-drawn plough, and of maize, later transformed the labour division significantly, especially when combined with the effects of labour migration. Men's leaving home to work for wages was initially undertaken by regimental groups of youths to satisfy the paramount's firepower requirements, but later became increasingly necessary to individual households as population increase within the reserve and land degradation made it impossible to subsist from cultivation alone. Despite increasingly long absences, male migrants nonetheless remained committed to the maintenance of their fields: ploughing had now to be carried out during periods of leave, or entrusted to professional ploughmen or tractor owners. Women were left to manage and carry out all other agricultural tasks. Men, although subjected to increased controls in their lives as wage-labourers, fiercely resisted all direct attempts to interfere with the sphere of cattle-keeping and agriculture. Their resistance erupted in open rebellion – ultimately subdued – during the 1950s. In later decades, some families have continued to practise cultivation and to keep stock. These activities should more accurately be seen as demonstrating a long-term commitment to the rural social system to gain security in retirement than as providing a viable form of household subsistence.
In the early 1960s, about 48% of the male population was absent as wage-earners at any given time. Between the 1930s and the 1960s, most Pedi men would spend a short period working on nearby white farms followed by a move to employment on the mines or domestic service and later – especially in more recent times – to factories or industry. Female wage employment began more recently, and is rarer and more sporadic. Some women work for short periods on farms, others have begun, since the 1960s, to work in domestic service in the towns of the Witwatersrand. But in recent years there have been rising levels of education and of expectation, combined with a sharp drop in employment rates. Many youths, better-educated than their parents and hoping for jobs as civil servants or teachers, stand little chance of getting employment of any kind

The Pedi once held sway over most of the area flanked by the Limpopo, Vaal and Komati rivers, their power centralized in what is today known as Sekhukhuneland, its heartland between the Olifants and Steelpoort rivers. Although subordinate groups appeared to enjoy autonomy, social controls maintained Pedi authority. Foremost was the Pedi insistence that subordinate chiefs take their principal wives from the ruling dynasty. Over generations, this evolved into a system in which the son and heir of a subject chief was compelled to marry a cousin, and to make an inflated bride wealth payment to the Maroteng for this privilege. Pedi rulers and chiefs were thus tied into a relationship of inequality. In addition to bride wealth, lesser chiefs were expected to pay tribute to the paramount in other ways as well, and to keep him informed on all important events, such as the inauguration of initiation lodges. In theory, the paramount chief's court was one of appeal for subordinate peoples but, in practice, its jurisdiction tended to be restricted to political issues, such as relations between groups, boundary disputes and succession to chieftainship. Communication between the paramount chief and lesser chiefs took place by means of an elaborate system of intermediaries (batseta).

Like the Sotho and Tswana, the Pedi, in pre-conquest times, lived in large villages divided into kgoro groups centered on family clusters favouring the paternal line. Each consisted of a group of households, built around a central area which combined meeting place, cattle byre, graveyard and ancestral shrine. Homes were ranked in order of seniority. Each wife had her own round thatched homestead, joined to the others by a series of open-air enclosures (lapa) encircled by mud walls. In the centre was the ngwako wa mollo (the hut of the fire), a large enclosure containing the hearth, for cooking on rainy days. It could be distinguished from the dwellings by the mathudi (covered veranda) surrounding it.
Bapedi elder performing tribal dance (Manyakane, Kosha ya bogoshi ya Bapedi)

 A circular framework of poles, about 3 meters (10 feet in diameter, formed the perimeter wall, enclosed within a wall (leboto) made of sun-dried mud bricks. The trusses of the conical roof rested on these poles. The thatched roof extended beyond the wall of the house, creating the mathudi. Two smaller enclosures (ngwakana) were usually situated behind the main homestead. The homestead unit was enclosed by an angular 1.75-metre-high (5 feet 9 inches) wall made either of mud (known as the moduthudu), or of reeds (known as the lefago). This wall enclosed a wedge-shaped precinct, so that the separate homesteads, which adjoined each other and which belonged to the different wives of one man, made up a circular formation. Between the homesteads and the surrounding walls could be found the courtyards (lapa), in which Pedi people spent most of their time when they were at home. Each home had a public courtyard in front of the main hut, where guests were entertained, and a private courtyard behind main hut, which served the members of the household.

The word kgoro, besides denoting this basic unit in the Pedi social structure, was used to describe the building-block of judicial and political structure as well. The unity of the disparate homesteads within the extended homestead was maintained through allegiance to a council of men, which usually met in a special open-sided thatched structure under a big tree. Kgoro meant both council and meeting place. Today, many people wanting to live in a more modern style have abandoned the round style of building in favour of rectangular, flat-tin-roofed houses. Forced relocation and agricultural planning schemes instigated by the government have meant that many newer settlements, and the outskirts of many older ones, consist of houses built in grid format occupied by individual families unrelated to their neighbours.

Pedi culture traditionally distinguished sharply between the sexes at all levels. This affected every sphere of their lives, from the knots to tie their clothes - men using reef-knots and women granny-knots - to initiation, status in the family and community, and division of labour.

Women did agricultural work, and men and boys work related to cattle. Male superiority was reinforced in daily life: for example at meals men and initiated boys sat together and were served first, and women ate with the other children. Legally women were, and often still are, perpetual minors, and had to remain under a male guardian. When women married they assumed their husbands' status. Thus a woman born a commoner could become a noble on marriage and attain a superior status to her elder sister, who then had to serve her. A woman could never rise above the level of her brother. Inheritance and succession were passed down through the male line, and women lived at their husbands' homesteads. This is, sometimes, still the case today. Many families, however, prefer to allow their daughters rather than their sons to inherit their fields and residential stands, since daughters - especially those undistracted by the obligations of marriage - are thought to be able to look after their parents better than sons can.

Traditional Pedi culture was more extreme than most other male-orientated societies in distinguishing between the sexes, tending to attribute amoral qualities and asocial behaviour to women. The inherent compulsion to do evil - witchcraft 'of the night' - was associated exclusively with women, and was passed from mother to daughter. Witchcraft 'of the day', however, was learnt, could be acquired by any-one, male or female, and was used only occasionally to harm someone.

Royal Highness accompanied by her sister in laws, in sepedi ke di ngwetshi. They all dressed in the same attire.

Land tenure
The pre-colonial system of communal or tribal tenure, being broadly similar to that practised throughout the southern African region, was crystallised, but subtly altered, by the colonial administration. A man was granted land by the chief for each of his wives; unused land was reallocated by the chief, rather than being inherited within families.

                                Bapedi elders

Overpopulation resulting from the government's relocation policies resulted in this system being modified – a household's fields, together with its residential plot, are now inherited, ideally by the youngest married son. Christian Pedi communities who owned freehold farms were removed to the reserve without compensation, but since 1994 South Africa many have now reoccupied their land or are preparing to do so, under restitution legislation. The few Pedi who still live as labour tenants on white farms have been promised some security of tenure by land reform legislation.

The kgoro – a loose collection of kinsmen with related males at its core – was as much a jural unit as a kinship one, since membership was defined by acceptance of the kgoro-head's authority rather than primarily by descent. Royal or chiefly kgoros sometimes underwent rapid subdivision as sons contended for positions of authority.

Marriage was patrilocal. Polygyny was practised mostly by people of higher, especially chiefly, status. Marriage was preferred with a close or classificatory cousin, especially a mother's brother's daughter, but this preference was most often realised in the case of ruling or chiefly families. Practised by the ruling dynasty, during its period of dominance, it represented a system of political integration and control recycling of bridewealth (dikgomo di boela shakeng; returning of bride cattle). Cousin marriage meant that the two sets of prospective in-laws were closely connected even before the event of marriage, and went along with an ideology of sibling-linkage, through which the bohadi (bridewealth) procured for a daughter's marriage would in turn be used to get a bride for her brother, and he would repay his sister by offering a daughter to her son in marriage. Cousin marriage is still practised, but less frequently. Polygyny too is now rare, many marriages end in divorce or separation, and a large number of young women remain single and raise their children in small (and often very poor) female-headed households. But new forms of domestic co-operation have come into being, often between brothers and sisters, or matrilineally linked relatives.

                                               Pedi man

The Bapedi  people believe in their High God (Modimo o mogolo) called Huveane, and they pray to him for rain. He made the sky and the earth, and when he had finished them he climbed up into the sky (conceived, of course, as a solid vault) by driving in pegs on which he set his feet, taking out each one as soon as he had
stepped on the next, so that people should not be able to follow him. And in the sky he has lived ever since.
Ancestral worship (phasa) involved animal sacrifice or the presenting of beer to the shades, on both the mother's and father's side. A key figure in family ritual was the kgadi (father's older sister). The position of ngaka (diviner) was formerly inherited patrilineally, but is now commonly inherited by a woman from her paternal grandfather or great-grandfather. This is often manifested through illness and through violent possession by spirits (malopo)of the body, the only cure for which is to train as a diviner. There is a proliferation of diviners in recent times, with many said to be motivated mainly by a desire for material gain.

                                            Bapedi woman at "Malopo" an ancestral ceremony for Bapedi

The birth of the first Pedi child was an event of great importance: it not only brought a new member into the household, but also raised the mother to the highest status attainable. In addition, it concluded the obligations of the mother's family to the father and his family, while proving the manhood of the father and perpetuating his line. Confinement and the birth of the first child normally occurred at the home of the mother's family. After the birth, both mother and child returned to the father's household where a feast was held, to which the mother's family made a contribution of meat and beer. This discharged their final obligation to the father's family to provide a child through one of their members, for which magadi, a set number of cattle and livestock or their monetary equivalent, was paid. In recognition of the mother's new status, the father built a separate dwelling for her, as she now had the right to possess and control her own homestead. On her return with the baby, mother and child were secluded for a period in the new homestead. After this, a special feast (ngwana o tswa ntlong) was held to celebrate the arrival of the child in the paternal home. During the feast, ceremonies were performed which concluded the initiation of the child into the family and the mother into her new status.                            

Sekororo tradition:Each year around July the Sepedi boys and girls in Sekororo participate in the “coming of age”  tradition. For two weeks they stay in the mountains above our house. At night one can see a line of camp fires burning in the mountain. This is the time when boys are circumsized and become men and girls enter into womenhood.

In traditional Pedi society, gender distinction was a fundamental characteristic of initiation, emphasizing the essential differences between the sexes. Initiation simultaneously marked the passage to adulthood and invested the initiate with citizenship of the community, and, in the case of males, the right to participate in political and aural functions. An important benefit that initiation traditionally gave was to reinforce Pedi paramountcy over the other peoples within their empire or sphere of influence: lesser chiefs had to obtain permission from the Pedi paramount chief before they could start a new initiation. The right to grant or refuse permission enhanced the authority of the Pedi paramount chief, in that it gave him control over the right to citizenship and political and jurally participation. In more recent times, with individual chiefs at liberty to license initiation independently of central control, the ceremony is a source of considerable wealth to these chiefs, who are often accused of misusing the funds they collect in this way.

Initiation, known either as koma (from go koma, to circumcise) or lebollo (from go bolla, to hurt), was one of the most sacred institutions and important cornerstones of traditional Pedi culture. Attendance at the initiation schools was compulsory for all boys and girls of the appropriate age (which varies widely), but the two sexes were initiated separately. The boys underwent two sessions; the girls one. Through initiation 'they attained full adulthood and were incorporated into a distinct group. Initiation is still important to many Pedi, but has become a source - or perhaps a reflection - of social division. A major cleavage in contemporary Pedi society, between baditshaba (traditionalists) and bakriste (Christians), derives partly from contrasting religious beliefs but also from attendance or non-attendance at initiation. It may also reflect differences of social status and education. Early converts to mission Christianity were required to transfer their allegiance from the chief to the missionary, and their passage to adulthood was marked by being confirmed rather than initiated. The split between the two categories of people has occasionally flared up, in the contemporary period, with traditionalist youths kidnapping Christian ones and forcing them to become initiated against their will. While much of the Pedi initiation has remained the same, there may have been certain changes since the details were gathered on which the following account was based. It is therefore rendered in the past tense.
Bapedi circumcision initiation

The first of the boys' sessions (bodika) introduced them into full membership of the group. The second (bogwera) incorporated them into the society of men, according to the class and position in society to which they were born. Bogwera entitled the man to sit around the ceremonial fire and take part in political and judicial activities. In contrast, the girls' initiation (byale) simply incorporated them into membership of the group. They were barred from participating in any political and judicial activities. They were also excluded from the elite status which males attained through their second initiation session.

                                Bapedi initiated boys

The timing of initiation, which was (and is) always in midwinter, was dependent on the presence of a high-ranking son or grandson of a chief among the initiates. He was leader of the initiation lodge and life-long leader of that regiment or age-set (mphato); in this way the men were linked to the chieftainship. A few days before the bodika, a mas-ter (rabadia) and a deputy-master (moditiana) were nominated by the chief's inner council to control and direct the ceremony. They carried out their functions as the envoy of the chief. A medicine man (thipana) was also elected to perform the circumcision of each initiate. He was to be from outside the group, to reduce the threat of witchcraft.

During the night of the opening ceremony, the badikana (initiates of the first session) lined up in single file, with the leader in front. Behind him, in descending order of rank, were the others from the royal kgoro, followed by the boys from the next kgoro, down to the boy from the most inferior kgoro. The boys bent over and were given, in descending order, two severe lashings on their naked backs by the rabadia. The lashing by rank consolidated for ever the tradition that status was conferred by birth alone, and not by personal prowess. This process underscored the function of initiation in Pedi society, both to educate, and also to position candidates within the structure of the group.

Before dawn the next day, the war-horn (phalafala) was blown and, on the order of the rabadia, the badikana went to a river, where they were circumcised by rank. After the operation the boys sat in the cold water of the river, which helped to numb the pain. After resting for the day the boys were marched to the mphato (initiation lodge), again in rank. The lodge was constructed out of wooden poles and laths lashed together in a lattice work, which was then covered with grass and branches. It had two entrances, one in the east, for the exclusive use of the men officiating at the initiation school, and the other in the west for the boys. The men and boys also slept separately. Each kgoro had its own fireplace, around which the initiates of that family gathered and slept. The fires built had great symbolic significance, as they were lit by an ember taken from the chief's fire and, for the duration of the bodika initiation process, they were not allowed to die.
Daily routine during the whole bodika session varied very little. Most of the day was taken up by hunting and practising the crafts of men, such as leather and woodwork. The early mornings and late afternoons were devoted to formal instruction and the singing of initiation songs. The badikana were taught the masculine qualities of courage and endurance, obedience to their fathers, with a great deal of stress on demonstrating deference towards and respect for the chief. Traditional lore and formulae (which included history, rituals and rules) were taught using archaic language which had to be learnt by rote. Throughout, the boys were subject to tests of endurance, including daily lashings. Discipline was rigidly enforced, and death during initiation was not unknown.

The members of the bodika consisted of an age-set which, shortly before the end of the bodika, received a name. This group used to have a military function and was under the command of the kgosana ya mphato. The members measured their age by referring to this regimental name, distinguishing themselves in age from the members of other initiated regiments. Once the naming process was finalized, the group was notified of the date the bodika would end, and food was prepared for a great feast to celebrate the homecoming of the initiates.

On the final morning, the initiates washed off the white colouring with which they were decorated throughout the process. Each father cut his son's hair and gave him a new loincloth in recognition of his newly acquired manhood. The boys' bodies were then smeared with a mixture of fat and red ochre. At this stage they were known as dialoga (survivors). They were lined up in rank order and ceremonially lashed for the last time. After this, they marched off without looking back while the rabadia set fire to their mphato.

Some two years later the bogwera initiation session was convened. In form, this was almost identical to the bodika, except it was less for-mal and lasted for only about a month. During this session, the initiates were incorporated into male society, which enabled them to fulfill the responsibilities of men. The bogwera would also cement the bonds of brotherhood created through membership of regiments. Lifelong ties of solidarity and cooperation were created during the bogwera. Since the onset of labour migration, these ties have formed the basis of groups of 'home-boys' - banna ba gagesu - who have helped each other find accommodation and work in town, repatriated the bodies of deceased members, and kept each other informed about matters of importance which occurred in the countryside while they were working in town. Such groups even formed the core of fledgling ANC branches in the countryside and were at the heart of the 1958 Sekhukhune revolt, in which the Pedi rebelled against state attempts to control the use of land and cattle and to interfere with the chieftaincy.

The stages of male growth and development in traditional society were clearly defined and required the fulfillment of set rites of passage. These stages can be summarized as: baby (lesea); boy (mosemane); youth (lesoboro); circumcised youth (modikana); member of a short transitional period (sealoga); initiate (leagola); initiate undergoing the bogwera (legwere); and finally adult man (monna).

On the day the bogwera initiation session ended the byale (the girls' initiation) began. Only girls who had undergone a puberty ceremony were eligible to be initiated. Assisted by the old women, the byale was directed by the principal wife of the chief. Although the chief had the overall responsibility and authority for the byale, he was not directly involved in it in any way.

The girls were summoned to the chief's kgoro by the blowing of the war horn (phalafala). They were led to a secluded place in the veld where all their hair was cut off. Their mothers gave them a special leather apron (kgakgo) which they wore in front, combined with a back-apron (nthepana). They also wore a short smocked shirt (gentswana or nyebelese). The smocked style was originally introduced by missionaries but has become an article of clothing which denotes a traditionalist orientation. Their bodies were smeared with a mixture of red ochre and fat, after which they had to collect firewood and return to the chief's kgoro for the night. Before sunrise they were lined up in rank and treated with protective medicines. This was followed by individual lashings in rank order, prior to being marched off into the veld. At a secluded spot they underwent a frightening circumcision charade which emulates that undergone by boys. The girls would then be taken to a lodge where they were secluded for a month. During this time they received formal instruction on the work and duties of women. They were taught to respect all men, particularly the chief, given instruction in sexual matters and subjected to endurance tests. Singing and dancing played an important part in the byale and a special drum (moropa), which was normally kept by the chief, was used for this purpose.
Bapedi initiated girls

After the seclusion, the girls bathed and participated in rituals and were then allowed to return home. In traditional times their legs were tied together at the knees and the girls' bodies were covered from the neck to the ankles in grass mats. They had to remain in this stage of transition for nine months, or until the harvest had been reaped. In recent times this period has been considerably shortened, to accommodate the demands of formal schooling. During this time the initiates assisted their mothers by day in their chores and retired at night to a special enclosure (thupantlo) which was built behind the homesteads of every kgoro. Here their tuition continued in the form of special initiation songs and monotonous repetition of formulae.

At the conclusion of the byale, the initiates were secluded in the veld for about 10 days while dikomana (initiation secrets) were revealed to them. The initiates were incorporated into a regiment, whose leader was the senior initiate. Again their hair was shorn and they bathed, after which they were smeared with fat and ochre. They proceeded to the royal kgoro, where they remained for two days. During this time the initiate was known as a sealoga. Once this period was over, they bathed in the river for the last time. Their parents gave them new clothes, which consisted of the stringed apron of the unmarried gin m the front and, reaching to the ankles, the back apron of marred women (nthepa). They wore a longer version of the smocked shirt (hempe or nyebelese). They changed their hairstyle to the tlopo, where the hair was formed into a flat bun on top of the head with the back and side hair shorn off. This was once the everyday head-dress of marriageable and married women, but its use is now restricted to initiation itself. The initiated girl was now known as mothepa, a stage leading up to full initiation (kgarebe). After this the girl was eligible to marry.

                                       Pedi people

Pedi girls passed through stages of development and incorporation into society: lesea (baby); mosetsana (girl); lethumasa (uninitiated girl); kgarebe (mature maiden); sealoga (member of a brief period of transi-tion); mothepa (initiated maiden); kgarebe (maiden with recognition of her status of maturity). However, a female attained the status of being a woman (mosadi) only once she was married and had borne a child.

Like other Bantu-speaking peoples, a Pedi marriage (Ienyalo) does not just legalize a relationship between individuals: it is a group concern, legalizing a relationship between families. In essence, it involves the transfer of payments (magadi) from the groom's relatives to the bride's relatives.
Bapedi woman in her traditional wedding dress

 In return, the bride's family publicly transfers the fertility capacity of the bride to the place of the groom (bogadi), and thus their commitment to the groom and his relatives is fulfilled only after the birth of a child. Marriage was virtually obligatory in traditional Pedi society.

 It was a legal process and did not involve religious rites. Unlike the rites of passage involved in the initiation process, marriage did not change the status of either the bride or groom, but instead it advanced their existing status as fully initiated adults in Pedi society. The new status acquired through marriage was a legal one, which increased the powers, obligations and duties of a status already acquired.

                                             Sepedi couple

Important Pedi crafts include pottery, house-painting, woodworking (especially making drums), metal smithing and beadwork. Traditional music (mmino wa setšo) has a six-note scale, formerly played on a plucked reed instrument (dipela).
Bapedi art

Today musicians use instruments such as the Jew's harp and the German autoharp (harepa), which have come to be regarded as typically Pedi. Perhaps best known is the kiba dance, which used to be rural but is now a migrant style.

 The men's version has an ensemble of players, each with an aluminium end-blown pipe of a different pitch (naka), producing a descending melody with rich harmonies. Men wear kilts (harking back to Pedi involvement with the Allies in World War II) with traditional regalia. The women's version features songs (dikoša) in which individuals improvise on older lyrics.

 Singing and dancing kiba is one of the few occasions when women wear the smocked clothes of the kgarebe, first worn after initiation. Both men and women's kiba are accompanied by an ensemble of drums (meropa), now made of oil-drums and milk-urns.
Bapedi woman

child in outfit
Ditlokwa: The story is about how the Bapedi people use grass to make a bamboo clothes called Ditlokwa, using their hands to harvest, dry and then craft the clothes.
Ditlokwa is well known traditional and stylish clothes which are used to clothes young girls from initiation session. The grass is a high quality product that has the feel of bamboo; however, it is actually a form of grass with a sturdy, hollow stem. It is harvested in the river and it is then dried by putting it in direct sunlight to remove plant oils and water while also reducing the likelihood of cracking.
In the past our grandmothers and ancestors used to wear the Ditlokwa only on special occasions for example in Christmas times, but recently it has moved from being a need to being a fashion statement. It is now mostly used for maidens coming back from the initiation school, so they need to wear Ditlokwa when they come home so that everybody can see where she is coming from.

Names: King Sekhukhune
Born: 1814
Died: 13 August 1882
In summary: King of the Marota people (Bapedi)
Sekhukhune was King of the Marota people (commonly called Bapedi) who originated from the Bakgatla of the Western Transvaal. Sekhukhune, like Moshoeshoe King of the Basotho people, was an illegitimate ruler who came to power using military force. As a result, his half brother, and legitimate heir, Mampuru was forced to flee from the Kingdom. As a result of lack of legitimacy, he built his power by entering into diplomatic marriages with various royal dynasties, by incorporating other societies into his empire, and by military conquest. This increased his support base and gave him legitimacy.
To defend his empire from the encroaching European colonization, Sekhukhune sent young men under the authority of 'appointed' headmen to work in white farms and diamonds mines. The money they earned in these employments was taxed and used to buy guns from the Portuguese in Delegoa Bay and cattle to increase the wealth of the Marota people. By the middle of the 19th century the Marota empire had grown to unite all the disparate people in the area under a common Royalty.
The Marota lived in the land between the Vaal and Limpopo rivers. They regarded this territory as their country and admitted or excluded all corners to it. The political landscape has, of course, changed greatly since those far-off days. After Sekhukhune's death, Pretoria divided Sekhukhuneland into small "tribal" units that owed allegiance not to one central' Marota Authority but to "Native Commissioners". This effectively destroyed the Marota Empire. Thereafter, the Bapedi people were forced to seek employment on white farms, in factories and mines as migrant labourers. The migrant labour system that the Bapedi used to build their empire was now skewed against them. In a curious sort of way this fulfilled Sekhukhune's prophecy of December 1879, that after him no other chief would be able to stand up to Pretoria since they would all be its tools.
Wars of Resistance
When Hendrick Potgieter and the Voortrekkers arrived in the Marota Empire in the middle of the 19th century, Sekhukhune's father, Sekwati (1775-1861), resisted them. In a famous battle at Phiring in 1838 Sekwati defeated the Voortrekkers by the simple tactic of establishing his stronghold on an impenetrable hill. But Phiring was insecure and so Sekwati moved his headquarters to Thaba Mosega (the fighting koppie) in the Lulu Mountains of the Eastern Transvaal from which his people were dislodged only by a series of bitter wars ending in December 1879.
In 1846, the Boers, claiming to have purchased the land from the Swazis, sought to expel the Marota from the land east of the Tubatse (the so-called Steelpoort) River. They were rebuffed. In 1865, Rev. Dr. Alexander Merensky (1837-1917), Superintendent of the Berlin Missionary Society and who had been welcomed among the Marota first by Sekwati and later by Sekhukhune, was expelled for activities that were deemed to be subversive of Sekhukhune's authority and favourable to the Pretoria Boers. He took refuge in Botshabelo, near Middleburg where he established a Mission station and a school of that name. Merensky continued to play a double game, hunting with the hounds and running with the hares, until Sekhukhune disappeared from the scene in 1879 when the Boers rewarded him (Merensky) by granting him land in Maandagshoek from which he carried on his dubious activities under the cloak of religion.
Johannes Dinkoanyane, Sekhukhune's half-brother, at first supported Merensky and became a Lutheran convert. His stay in Botshabelo was short-lived and soon he was back with his followers in Spekboom Hills, in the Tubatse Valley. He assumed a very independent demeanor, which Sekhukhune by no means discouraged. On March 7, 1876, Dinkoanyane detained a wagonload of wood belonging to one Jankowitz, a Boer farmer who had trespassed on Dinkoanyane's land to cut wood. At the same time false rumours of cattle theft spread - also false rumours to the effect that Dinkoanyane had burnt down Rev. Nachtigal's German mission.
When the news reached Pretoria, an enraged President Thomas Francois Burgers decided to set out "to deal with the Sekhukhune menace" himself. Burgers quickly assembled a largest army not seeing before in the Republic. Armed with 7 pounder Krupp guns they marched to Thaba Mosega, which he reached on August 1, 1876. He was supported by African troops hoping the land under Sekhukhune would be given to them after Sekhukhune was defeated. Sekhukhune came to Dinkoanyane's rescue and, although Dinkoanyane himself was killed in action, Sekhukhune inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Boers and President Burgers. This defeat cost him his position and lost it to Paul Kruger.
In response to the humiliating defeat suffered by President Burgers, the Boers sponsored an army of mercenaries (sometimes called the falstaffian gang of filibusters or free booters). Styled the Lydenburg Volunteer Corps. Their leader was "a reckless adventurer of Diamond notoriety" named Conrad Hans von Schlieckmann, a German ex-officer and soldier of fortune who was closely connected with the German Establishment and who had fought under Otto von Bismarck in the Franco-German War of 1870-71. Other mercenaries were Gunn of Gunn, Alfred Aylward, Knapp, Woodford, Rubus, Adolf Kuhneisen, Dr. James Edward Ashton, Otto von Streitencron, George Eckersley, Bailey, Captain Reidel and others from America, Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria and other European countries. They committed the grossest atrocities in the Tubatse Valley. All acted in total disregard of the British Foreign Enlistment Act, 1870; the American Neutrality or Foreign Enlistment Act, 1818 and similar laws.
They also acted with the connivance of their home countries. Many of these soldiers of fortune were recruited from the diamond diggings in Kimberley where they had gone in a vain search for diamonds. The Lydenburg area attracted them because it was said to hold large deposits of gold, diamonds and other precious minerals. So when Pretoria established the Lydenburg Volunteers Corps, von Schlieckmann's men fell for it. They fought fiercely from behind the rampart to avenge the defeat of President Burgers. They lost, and Von Schlieckmann himself was killed in battle on November 17 1876, to be succeeded by Alfred Aylward, an Irishman. But this was not the end of the war only of a battle, albeit an important one.
Sekhukhune versus the British
On April 12, 1877, Sir Theophilus Shepstone annexed the Transvaal on the pretext, inter alia, that a Boer Republic that failed to "pacify" the Bapedi threatened, by its very existence and weakness, to destabilize the British colonies of the Cape and Natal. Up to 1877 the British had "supported"' Sekhukhune's attitude to the Boers.
Sekhukhune's attitude was that his Empire fell outside the jurisdiction of Pretoria ; that the land between the Vaal and the Limpopo rivers belonged to him, and that although he would never accept Boer rule, he might as a last resort, like Moshoeshoe, accept Protectorate status under the British Crown.
However, after the British Annexation of the Transvaal (April, 1877) British attitudes changed. James Grant, a Briton, confirmed: "... the view taken by our government was that Sekhukhune was not a real rebel against the Transvaal, in-as-much as his territory formed no part of that dominion (Transvaal Republic), and that the war waged against him was an un justifiable aggression against an independent ruler; but when, in 1877, the Transvaal was annexed, Sekhukhune's country was included without any question, in the new territory added to Britain's possessions".
Sekhukhune rejected this new British position scornfully. By March 1878 drums of war were beating again in Sekhukhuneland - this time it was against the British. Captain Clarke who was sent to subdue Sekhukhune, was routed with heavy loss of life and barely escaped with his life at Magnet Heights. Immediately after this first British failure to subdue Sekhukhune, a fully equipped force of 1,800 men under Colonel Rowlands made another attempt from August until October 1878, to reduce Sekhukhune to submission. The mission failed (again with much loss of life on both sides) and had to be abandoned on October 6,1878.
The British made a third attempt at subduing Sekhukhune in June/July 1879, under the command of Colonel Lanyon. This too failed. There was little more the British could do at that time since, they had on their hands colonial wars in the Eastern Cape Colony, in the Colony of Natal, in Lesotho (the Gun war), in Ashanti (Ghana), Afghanistan and Cyprus, military logic forced them to await the outcome of these wars before challenging Sekhukhune again. This stage was reached after the Battle of Ulundi and the exile of King Cetshwayo to Britain.
Thereafter Sir Garnet Wolseley moved his motley troops of Britons, Boers and Africans (10,000 Swazi troops) to bring down Sekhukhune. This was the fourth British attempt to reduce Sekhukhune to submission. Wolseley chose November 1879, for his move. It was a major military operation. Sir Wolseley's men moved in a pincer movement from Fort Kruger, Fort MacMac, Fort Weeber, Jane Furse, Bebo, Schoonoord, Lydenburg, Mphablele, Nkoana, Steelpoort, and Nchabeleng, Swaziland - literally from all sides - to Thaba Mosega. The battle raged furiously from November 28 to December 2,1879. Sekhukhune fought with muskets obtained from Lesotho where he had royal support and French Missionaries as friends; from Kimberley Diamond fields where his people worked; from Delagoa Bay ( Mozambique ) with which he had close trade and other links.
The British used their more modern Mausers. Much life was lost. Sekhukhune himself lost his son and heir, Moroanoche, and fourteen other members of his immediate family. As the battle raged, Sekhukhune was taken by surprise in the form of an attack from behind by 10,000 Swazi troops in the service of the British. These had been recruited on direct British instructions by Captain MacLeod of Macleod (British political agent in Swaziland ) and his Lieutenant Alister Campbell, R.N. This surprise attack virtually brought the war to a close. Sekhukhune took refuge in Mamatarnageng, the cave on Grootvygenboom (high up in the Lulu Mountain ), some 15 miles from Thaba,Mosega. There he was cut off from all sources of food and water. So when on December 2, 1879, Captain Clarke and Commandant Ferreira were led to the cave and called him out, Sekhukhune had no choice but to comply. He was accompanied by his wife and children, his half-brother, Nkwemasogana, Makoropetse, Mphahle (a Swazi national) and a few attendants. Commandant Ferreira, who was obsessed with the myth that Sekhukhune owned large quantities of gold and diamonds, searched diligently but found nothing.
So ended the colonial war against Sekhukhune. On December 9, 1879, Sekhukhune (then 65 years old), his wife, a baby, a child, Nkwemasogana, Mphahle, Makoropetse and a few generals were led to prison in Pretoria. He remained there until the Pretoria Convention of 3 August 1881 was signed between Britain and the Boers after the first South African War. The Boers, who had never accepted the British Annexation of the Transvaal, called it the First Boer War of Independence. Article 23 of the Convention provided that Sekhukhune be set free and returned home. He could not return to Thaba Mosega, which had been burnt down in the war and which had fresh military associations, but to a nearby place called Manoge.
Sekhukhune Murdered
There on the night of August 13, 1882, he was murdered by his half-brother, Mampuru, who claimed that he was the lawful king of the Marota and that Sekhukhune had usurped the throne on Sep. 21, 1861, when their father Sekwati, died. Thereafter Mampuri, fearing arrest escaped and sought refuge first with Chief Marishane (Masemola) and later with Nyabela, king of the Ndebeles.
The Pretoria Boers asked Nyabela to surrender Mampuru for trial on a charge of murder. Nyabela refused, saying that Mampuru was in his (Nyabela's) stomach. Another war thus broke out between Nyabela and the Boers. It raged for almost a year - nine months to be precise. Ultimately Nyabela surrendered and gave up Mampuru to the Pretoria Boers. Marishane, Nyabela and Mampuru were tried in the Pretoria Supreme Court. On January 23, 1884, Marishane was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for having granted Mampuru temporary refuge and for "causing a tumult". He returned to his village Marishane (Mooifontein) thereafter to die.
Nyabela was sentenced to death (later commuted to life imprisonment) on September 22, 1883. Mampuru was sentenced to death for murder and rebellion and was hanged in Pretoria prison on November 22,1883.
Thus ended one of the stormiest politico-military careers in our country. And thus too ended the Marota Empire. It had been defended bravely against great odds: The death of Sekhukhune did not pass unnoticed. The London Times of August 30, 1882, announced his death to the world and paid reluctant tribute to him in a long editorial:
"...There is yet no sign of permanent peace among the native races of South Africa. We hear this morning from Durban of the death of one of the bravest of our former enemies, the Chief Sekhukhune. He with his son and fourteen followers, has been killed... The news carries us some years back to the time when the name of Sekhukhune was a name of dread, first to the Dutch and then to the English Colonists of the Transvaal and Natal... It was, indeed to a great extent the danger caused by the neighbourhood of this formidable chief that led to the annexation of the Transvaal by England. When war was declared against the Zulu king, operation went on simultaneously against Sekhukhune and early in 1879 his stronghold was attacked... Obstacles stood in the way of these operations, and when after Ulundi, Sir Garnet Wolseley entered the Transvaal, he endeavoured to humiliate the Chief.
But Sekhukhune was safe, as he imagined, in an impregnable mountain fortress, and scornfully rejected the terms offered by the British General. It became necessary to attack him in force. A combined movement of columns, containing 2,000 English and 10,000 Swazis and other native troops was planned and carried out with great skill, and on the 28th November, 1879, the kraal was taken by assault. Still the Chief and a great number of his men held the "koppie" and from the caves and cracks in the rock they poured an incessant fire upon their assailants. At last the Summit was gained, and after a desperate and sanguinary struggle, the enemy was subdued. Sekhukhune however, like Cetswayo, succeeded in escaping and was only captured a few days later. He was treated for a time as a State prisoner and his land was settled somewhat after the Zulu manner... If, however, the death of Sekhukhune portends anything, it means that the displaced Chief in these savage and warlike regions still retain some power, and that on occasion they are able to rise successfully against him who has superseded them..."
This tribute, however, reluctant, is significant because it was paid at all - in the 19th century the London Times was not in the habit of devoting columns of editorial space to the passing of African kings.
On 13 August 1982, it was King Sekhukhune's 100th anniversary of his death in 1882.(
The Name Bapedi
It is not clear where the name Pedi or Bapedi comes from. There was a Venda clan called Vhambedzi who were outstanding iron workers and as the Bapedi at that time used iron hoes for lobolo, and as they esteemed iron work very highly, they accepted the Sotho equivalent of the Venda name. It could be that they took the name from a resident minor group of dispossessed Karanga people from Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and called themselves Pedi which was the nearest their language could get to the Karanga name of Mbedzi, the dispossessed people.
The Rev. Alexander Merensky, however, who probably knew more about the Bapedi than any other European at that time, tells us, inter alia, that King Sekhukhune's people were made up of a conglomeration of various tribes, the most important branch of which called themselves the "Bapedi" or "Baperi", meaning the "Family of the King". Furthermore, Merensky affirms that it must have been 200 years since this tribe settled along the Steelpoort River, and he mentions that on some Portuguese maps about 150 years old he had found the name of the kingdom of the 'Biri' on exactly the same spot where the Bapedi then dwelt.

It seems probable, however, that they took the name either from an ancestor, a mythical Mopedi of Bahurutse origin, or from the country in which they settled. What is important, however, is that the tribe established by Thobele and the various divisions and offshoots that broke away all have the porcupine as their totem and are the only tribes that primarily call themselves Bapedi.

1 comment:

  1. I love my history as a Pedi nationality and citizen of South African History.