The White Giant and the Black King

Part 2 in the series on Black and White South African Allies

♦ Cape of Good Hope Eastern Frontier, 1785

— In December 1785, the Cape Government appoints [1] Maurits Woeke as magistrate to the new district of Graaff-Reinet. The following year Adriaan van Jaarsveld, who we met in Part 1, and Josua Joubert, the author’s ancestral brother, are selected as members of the first Regional Council of Graaff-Reinet. We also find three generations of the author’s direct Booyens ancestors registered in that Graaff-Reinet militia.Graaff-Reinet

The Drunken Magistrate and the Suurveld

Woeke turns out to be an incompetent and corrupt drunk. Many amaXhosa insist that Woeke has in his personal capacity accepted cattle from them in exchange for land in the Suurveld. The Frontiersmen are inclined to believe anything about Woeke. This allegation will continually resurface in the future [2]. Eventually, after estranging the Frontiersmen, Woeke is dismissed from his post on 31 October 1792. [3].

The Suurveld amaXhosa are overrunning farms, but the Council at the Cape does not believe the complaints of the farmers. In March 1793, the Cloete family from Rissiesvalleij (Pepper Valley) flees their burning farm under the leadership of Stephanus Abraham Cloete, who is murdered by the Suurveld amaXhosa [4].

The misplaced “Son of Jean Jacques Rousseau”

On 29 April 1793 the Governor injects into this intensely confrontational situation the new Graaff-Reinet Landdrost, Honoratius Maynier, secretary to the dismissed  Woeke. Maynier has passionately liberal convictions and sees in the Frontiersmen all that is bad and in the Khoekhoe and amaXhosa all that is good; a true Son of Jean Jacques Rousseau and his naive “Noble Savage” theory. In AmaBhulu the reader will find detail about these wayward convictions of Maynier. He believes the farmers to be lying about the depredations of the Suurveld amaXhosa. He believes the amaXhosa to be peace-loving people and ignores all evidence to the contrary, even when the amaXhosa kill one another by the hundreds.

In the world of the amaXhosa

Umlawu was Rharhabe’s Number One Son, but both of them have died in battle in 1782. Umlawu’s son, Ngqika (commonly pronounced “Gaika”), is too young to ascend the throne, and hence Umlawu’s “Right-hand brother” Ndlambe has been appointed regent for the young Ngqika. Hide Army2He moves quickly to cement his position by appointing his own son as chief of the people of his brother Cebo. Ndlambe thereby temporarily commands all the amaRharahbe; a powerful man indeed. The various Suurveld amaXhosa royal houses near the Fish River are all wary of Ndlambe’s ambitions and, as with his father Rharhabe before him, they are resisting his efforts. After all, they are Royal Houses of longer standing than the amaRharhabe. So it is that a number of White Afrikaner Masters of the Watch  in the Suurveld (image above) report battles between Ndlambe and the amaGqunukhwebe [5]; this while Maynier considers them “peaceable”.

These wars with the amaRharhabe are pushing the Suurveld amaXhosa onto Afrikaner farms. These particular amaXhosa see the Afrikaners as a distinctly smaller threat than the amaRharhabe. It is not clear that magistrate Maynier understands any of these internal amaXhosa complexities and rivalries.

 Cousin Coenraad

By 1793, we find three brothers Bezuidenhout living on the frontier. Two of them, Frederik and Johannes, will later feature prominently in one of the defining events in South African history (Part 5). The third and eldest brother is our ancestor Coenraad. He and his 7-foot giant first cousin Coenraad de Buys, along with friend Chris Botha, are in amaXhosa territory. There they have sided with Ndlambe against the Suurveld amaXhosa, whom Ndlambe regards as renegade underlings.

Hinrich Lichtenstein [6] says of De Buys:

...his great strength of body, a countenance full of courage and ardor, a daring and active mind, with superior eloquence of speech, […] …the strength, yet admirable proportion of his limbs, his excellent carriage, his firm countenance, his high forehead, his whole mien, and a certain dignity in his movements, made altogether a most pleasing impression. Such, one might conceive, to have been the heroes of ancient times; he seemed the living figure of a Hercules, the terror of his enemies, the hope and support of his friends.

De Buys submits to no man and subscribes to no societal norms. In a nation of independent-minded men, he more than anyone else is his own man. He has taken up residence with the young amaRharhabe heir to the throne, Ngqika. He knows how the amaXhosa Royal House System works and he understands the game Ndlambe is playing. Ndlambe wants to unite all the right hand houses under his rule before Ngqika can ascend the throne. Meanwhile De Buys has taken as concubine a girl  recently married to chief Ulanga of the amaMbalu Xhosa [7]. This has incensed the Suurveld amaXhosa and they are venting their anger on the Frontier farmers.

The alliance of the Frontiersmen and the amaRharhabe

In frustration at the inaction of the authorities, the author’s ancestral brothers Willem and Johannes Grobler, as well as Coenraad de Buys and Carolus Johannes Tregard [8], along with some other senior men in the area decide on independent action under the leadership of Barend Lindeque. Their aim is to retake the cattle stolen from them by the Suurveld amaXhosa. Willem, Johannes, and three more men are deputized [9] to discuss the matter with Ndlambe of the amaRharhabe.

So it is that on 18 May 1793 a joint Boer Commando and amaRharhabe force attacks the Suurveld amaXhosa, takes 1800 cattle from these tribes, and divides the booty 50:50 between Ndlambe’s force and the Commando [10].

Featured_Suurveld_GhaapThese men have underestimated the Suurveld amaXhosa, who retaliate  in the last week of May 1793. Ndlambe stays out of this fight, having got what he wanted. Theal reports that, of the 120 farms in the Suurveld, 116 are laid waste [11]. All over the Suurveld the Khoekhoe and Afrikaners now flee westward for their very lives. Johannes, oldest brother of ancestor Cornelis Grobler, along with several other men, dies a horrific death by torture at the hands of the Suurveld amaXhosa horde.

The Cape Government, hitherto actively misled by Maynier, finally realizes that something is indeed wrong and orders magistrates Maynier and Faure to raise Commandos from the districts of Graaff-Reinet and Swellendam respectively. These men set out to attack the Suurveld amaXhosa, who attempt to retreat to chief Khawuta of the amaGcaleka for safety. However, Ndlambe cuts them off [12] and crushes them, killing Shaka of the amaGqunukhwebe and capturing Ulanga of the amaMbalu. Ndlambe actually offers Ulanga to Maynier, who refuses the offer, letting Ulanga die in Ndlambe’s hands.


Ndlambe is now at the peak of his power, but Maynier does not seem to comprehend any of this. Despite having failed to recover the farmers’ cattle, he sets about making peace with the Suurveld amaXhosa. In effect, he has ceded the Suurveld to the collection of defeated Suurveld amaXhosa – he has given them victory in defeat. Through burgher eyes, Maynier is rewarding the amaXhosa on the Frontier for attacking the farmers. Indeed, the ignominious peace made by Maynier leads to a series of cattle raids and murders by the Suurveld amaXhosa [13].

Not content with this result, Magistrate Maynier now formally indicts the men of the original Commando that initially made the pact with Ndlambe. With this, the men of the frontier have finally had their fill of this wayward Leftist lost in Africa. AmaCover2In February 1795, inspired by the little they know of the American Revolution, Adriaan van Jaarsveld (See Part 1), Marthinus Prinsloo, and the local burghers, calling themselves the Volkstem (“Voice of the People”), confront Maynier, read him a list of complaints, and run him out of Graaff-Reinet, declaring their independence. Hundreds of miles to the west, Swellendam follows suit.

However, as always in the history of this tortured country, fate has other plans for these sorely tried people. Read more in AmaBhulu- The Birth and Death of the Second America


  1.  Cape Archives, Resolutions of the Council of Policy of the Cape of Good Hope, Ref. C. 169, pp. 354-385.
  2. The British Colonel Collins still refers to it 16 years later in 1809: D. Moodie, The Record V, (1960), p. 10.  Col. Collins was quite an incredible man. In his report he exhibits acute powers of interpretation and comprehension, suggesting a man of superior intellect and excellent judgment. It was a great loss that this brave and intelligent man should have gone back to Europe to fight Napoleon and lose his life in the process. He would have been a superb Governor of the Cape.
  3. Cape Archives, Resolutions of the Council of Policy of the Cape of Good Hope, Ref. C. 208, pp. 32-91
  4. Cape Archives, Resolutions of the Council of Policy of the Cape of Good Hope, Ref. C. 220, pp. 354-395
  5. J.S. Marais, Maynier and the First Boer Republic, (1944), p. 16
  6. Hinrich Lichtenstein, Travels in Southern Africa in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806, (1812), p. 210
  7. Cape Archives, Resolutions of the Council of Policy of the Cape of Good Hope, Ref. C. 223, pp. 178-268.
  8. Father of Louis Trichardt, the 1836 Leader of the earliest part of the Great Trek.
  9. Cape Archives, Resolutions of the Council of Policy of the Cape of Good Hope, Ref. C. 223, pp. 178-268.
  10. J.S. Marais, Maynier and the First Boer Republic, (1944), p. 41
  11. George McCall Theal, History of South Africa (1691-1795), (1888) p.314
  12. J.B. Peires, The House of Phalo, (1981), p. 51
  13. George McCall Theal, History of South Africa (1691-1795), (1888) p.321

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