University of Botswana History Department
"El Negro of Banyoles"
El Negro of Kgatlane?
El Negro of Kgatlane?
Ethnographer P.-L. Breutz on Batlhaping of the Lower Vaal
The village of Kgatlane has been identified by the MacGregor Memorial Museum at Kimberely as the most likely place from which the body of "El Negro" was stolen by the Verraux brothers in about 1830. Its ruins are on the north bank of the Orange near its confluence with the Vaal, today in the vicinity of a town called Douglas.
The Batlhaping of Kgatlane and the Lower Vaal went to the Schmidtsdrift "native reserve", about 60 kilometres up the Vaal from the Orange confluence, when they were expelled from white farms in the 19th century.
Under apartheid the inhabitants of Schmidtsdrift were chased off the land there as recently as 1978, when they were exiled to the "BophuthaTswana" Bantustan. They were replaced by a South African army reserve, which came to prominence after the independence of Namibia in 1990 - because the army dumped its Angolan/Namibian San and Khwe ("Bushman") mercenaries and their families there.
Notes from P.-L.Breutz's The Tribes of the Districts of Taung and Herbert (Pretoria, 1968), pp.33-34,38,& 243-61 re. Batlhaping of Schmidtsdrift:
In the mid-19th century, Kgosi Jantjie [son of] Mothibi, the Kgosi [king or chief] of the BaTlhaping, sent a royal headman from Kuruman [in the area of earlier Dithakong] to rule the people in the lower Vaal area - thereby establishing the Sehunelo dynasty still ruling up to 1978. I would guess that Jantjie was taking advantage of the decline of Griqua ("republican") power in the area.
In the days before apartheid, of course, these BaTlhaping ["BaTswana"] were living and marrying among GriQua, KoraNa, SaN, etc.
It in interesting to note that:
- (a) the BaTlhaping originally got their name as "fish-people", or rather as people of the place of fish, when living on the Vaal;
- (b) the BaTlhaping briefly ruled the lower Vaal area in the 18th century, after their defeat of the KoraNa of Taaibosch, but were subsequently pushed out as rulers - if not as inhabitants - by the GriQua;
- (c) the senior line [by patrilineal descent] of the BaTlhaping ruling dynasty, which Breutz dates to c.1530, lost power to the junior line of Mogosi c.1710; and the senior line continued without political power through the line of Marumo and his son Maruping. But the senior line is not recorded after the death of one Samuel Makane, who lived on the lower Vaal and must have been born in about 1800.
[Samuel Makane must have been an almost exact contemporary of "El Negro" at Kgatlane, given the latter's death at age about 27 years, i.e. born about 1803. Could they have been cousins or even brothers? Or was "El Negro" part of the Sehunelo family, the dynasty of the headman on the lower Vaal? ]
"The descendants of Maruping are unknown and...do not form a separate group. They live scattered under various headmen in Schmidtsdrift No.5, Thamasikwa, and Bothitong in Vryburg." (Breutz 1968, p.34).
The Tlhaping kingdom itself flourished under the rule of Kgosi Mathibi 1812-c.1835, but then broke up (under the strain of the Difaqane wars?) into competing dynasties among his sons and brothers. Mathibi himself is said to have abdicated and retired to live for 4 or 5 years (to.c.1839) in Griqua country, at a place I cannot locate called Gabodigelo (Breutz 1968 p.38).
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Last updated 30 September 2000