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Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa
Chapter 10


The Fever -- Its Symptoms -- Remedies of the native Doctors -- Hospitality of Sekeletu and his People -- One of their Reasons for Polygamy -- They cultivate largely -- The Makalaka or subject Tribes -- Sebituane's Policy respecting them -- Their Affection for him -- Products of the Soil -- Instrument of Culture -- The Tribute -- Distributed by the Chief -- A warlike Demonstration -- Lechulatebe's Provocations -- The Makololo determine to punish him -- The Bechuanas -- Meaning of the Term -- Three Divisions of the great Family of South Africans.

On the 30th of May I was seized with fever for the first time. We reached the town of Linyanti on the 23d; and as my habits were suddenly changed from great exertion to comparative inactivity, at the commencement of the cold season I suffered from a severe attack of stoppage of the secretions, closely resembling a common cold. Warm baths and drinks relieved me, and I had no idea but that I was now recovering from the effects of a chill, got by leaving the warm wagon in the evening in order to conduct family worship at my people's fire. But on the 2d of June a relapse showed to the Makololo, who knew the complaint, that my indisposition was no other than the fever, with which I have since made a more intimate acquaintance. Cold east winds prevail at this time; and as they come over the extensive flats inundated by the Chobe, as well as many other districts where pools of rain-water are now drying up, they may be supposed to be loaded with malaria and watery vapor, and many cases of fever follow.

The usual symptoms of stopped secretion are manifested -- shivering and a feeling of coldness, though the skin is quite hot to the touch of another. The heat in the axilla, over the heart and region of the stomach, was in my case 100 Deg.; but along the spine and at the nape of the neck 103 Deg. The internal processes were all, with the exception of the kidneys and liver, stopped; the latter, in its efforts to free the blood of noxious particles, often secretes enormous quantities of bile. There were pains along the spine, and frontal headache. Anxious to ascertain whether the natives possessed the knowledge of any remedy of which we were ignorant, I requested the assistance of one of Sekeletu's doctors. He put some roots into a pot with water, and, when it was boiling, placed it on a spot beneath a blanket thrown around both me and it. This produced no immediate effect; he then got a small bundle of different  kinds of medicinal woods, and, burning them in a potsherd nearly to ashes, used the smoke and hot vapor arising from them as an auxiliary to the other in causing diaphoresis. I fondly hoped that they had a more potent remedy than our own medicines afford; but after being stewed in their vapor-baths, smoked like a red herring over green twigs, and charmed `secundem artem', I concluded that I could cure the fever more quickly than they can. If we employ a wet sheet and a mild aperient in combination with quinine, in addition to the native remedies, they are an important aid in curing the fever, as they seem to have the same stimulating effects on the alimentary canal as these means have on the external surface. Purgatives, general bleedings, or indeed any violent remedies, are injurious; and the appearance of a herpetic eruption near the mouth is regarded as an evidence that no internal organ is in danger.

There is a good deal in not "giving in" to this disease. He who is low-spirited, and apt to despond at every attack, will die sooner than the man who is not of such a melancholic nature. The Makololo had made a garden and planted maize for me, that, as they remarked when I was parting with them to proceed to the Cape, I might have food to eat when I returned, as well as other people. The maize was now pounded by the women into fine meal. This they do in large wooden mortars, the counterpart of which may be seen depicted on the Egyptian monuments. Sekeletu added to this good supply of meal ten or twelve jars of honey, each of which contained about two gallons. Liberal supplies of ground-nuts (`Arachis hypogoea') were also furnished every time the tributary tribes brought their dues to Linyanti, and an ox was given for slaughter every week or two. Sekeletu also appropriated two cows to be milked for us every morning and evening. This was in accordance with the acknowledged rule throughout this country, that the chief should feed all strangers who come on any special business to him and take up their abode in his kotla. A present is usually given in return for the hospitality, but, except in cases where their aboriginal customs have been modified, nothing would be asked. Europeans spoil the feeling that hospitality is the sacred duty of the chiefs by what in other circumstances is laudable conduct. No sooner do they arrive than they offer to purchase food, and, instead of waiting till a meal is prepared for them in the evening, cook for themselves, and then often decline even to partake of that which has been made ready for their use. A present is also given, and before long the natives come to expect a gift without having offered any equivalent.

Strangers frequently have acquaintances among the under-chiefs, to whose establishments they turn aside, and are treated on the same principle that others are when they are the guests of the chief. So generally is the duty admitted, that one of the most cogent arguments for polygamy is that a respectable man with only one wife could not entertain strangers as he ought. This reason has especial weight where the women are the chief cultivators of the soil, and have the control over the corn, as at Kolobeng. The poor, however, who have no friends, often suffer much hunger, and the very kind attention Sebituane lavished on all such was one of the reasons of his great popularity in the country. The Makololo cultivate a large extent of land around their villages. Those of them who are real Basutos still retain the habits of that tribe, and may be seen going out with their wives with their hoes in hand -- a state of things never witnessed at Kolobeng, or among any other Bechuana or Caffre tribe. The great chief Moshesh affords an example to his people annually by not only taking the hoe in hand, but working hard with it on certain public occasions.

His Basutos are of the same family with the Makololo to whom I refer. The younger Makololo, who have been accustomed from their infancy to lord it over the conquered Makalaka, have unfortunately no desire to imitate the agricultural tastes of their fathers, and expect their subjects to perform all the manual labor. They are the aristocracy of the country, and once possessed almost unlimited power over their vassals. Their privileges were, however, much abridged by Sebituane himself. I have already mentioned that the tribes which Sebituane subjected in this great country pass by the general name of Makalaka. The Makololo were composed of a great number of other tribes, as well as of these central negroes. The nucleus of the whole were Basuto, who came with Sebituane from a comparatively cold and hilly region in the south. When he conquered various tribes of the Bechuanas, as Bakwains, Bangwaketze, Bamangwato, Batauana, etc., he incorporated the young of these tribes into his own. Great mortality by fever having taken place in the original stock, he wisely adopted the same plan of absorption on a large scale with the Makalaka. So we found him with even the sons of the chiefs of the Barotse closely attached to his person; and they say to this day, if any thing else but natural death had assailed their father, every one of them would have laid down his life in his defense. One reason for their strong affection was their emancipation by the decree of Sebituane, "all are children of the chief."

The Makalaka cultivate the `Holcus sorghum', or dura, as the principal grain, with maize, two kinds of beans, ground-nuts (`Arachis hypogoea'), pumpkins, watermelons, and cucumbers. They depend for success entirely upon rain. Those who live in the Barotse valley cultivate in addition the sugar-cane, sweet potato, and manioc (`Jatropha manihot'). The climate there, however, is warmer than at Linyanti, and the Makalaka increase the fertility of their gardens by rude attempts at artificial irrigation.

The instrument of culture over all this region is a hoe, the iron of which the Batoka and Banyeti obtain from the ore by smelting. The amount of iron which they produce annually may be understood when it is known that most of the hoes in use at Linyanti are the tribute imposed on the smiths of those subject tribes. Sekeletu receives tribute from a great number of tribes in corn or dura, ground-nuts, hoes, spears, honey, canoes, paddles, wooden vessels, tobacco, mutokuane (`Cannabis sativa'), various wild fruits (dried), prepared skins, and ivory. When these articles are brought into the kotla, Sekeletu has the honor of dividing them among the loungers who usually congregate there. A small portion only is reserved for himself. The ivory belongs nominally to him too, but this is simply a way of making a fair distribution of the profits. The chief sells it only with the approbation of his counselors, and the proceeds are distributed in open day among the people as before. He has the choice of every thing; but if he is not more liberal to others than to himself, he loses in popularity. I have known instances in this and other tribes in which individuals aggrieved, because they had been overlooked, fled to other chiefs. One discontented person, having fled to Lechulatebe, was encouraged to go to a village of the Bapalleng, on the River Cho or Tso, and abstracted the tribute of ivory thence which ought to have come to Sekeletu. This theft enraged the whole of the Makololo, because they all felt it to be a personal loss.

Some of Lechulatebe's people having come on a visit to Linyanti, a demonstration was made, in which about five hundred Makololo, armed, went through a mimic fight; the principal warriors pointed their spears toward the lake where Lechulatebe lives, and every thrust in that direction was answered by all with the shout, "Ho-o!" while every stab on the ground drew out a simultaneous "Huzz!" On these occasions all capable of bearing arms, even the old, must turn out at the call. In the time of Sebituane, any one remaining in his house was searched for and killed without mercy.

This offense of Lechulatebe was aggravated by repetition,  and by a song sung in his town accompanying the dances, which manifested joy at the death of Sebituane. He had enjoined his people to live in peace with those at the lake, and Sekeletu felt disposed to follow his advice; but Lechulatebe had now got possession of fire-arms, and considered himself more than a match for the Makololo. His father had been dispossessed of many cattle by Sebituane, and, as forgiveness is not considered among the virtues by the heathen, Lechulatebe thought he had a right to recover what he could. As I had a good deal of influence with the Makololo, I persuaded them that, before they could have peace, they must resolve to give the same blessing to others, and they never could do that without forgiving and forgetting ancient feuds. It is hard to make them feel that shedding of human blood is a great crime; they must be conscious that it is wrong, but, having been accustomed to bloodshed from infancy, they are remarkably callous to the enormity of the crime of destroying human life. I sent a message at the same time to Lechulatebe advising him to give up the course he had adopted, and especially the song; because, though Sebituane was dead, the arms with which he had fought were still alive and strong.

Sekeletu, in order to follow up his father's instructions and promote peace, sent ten cows to Lechulatebe to be exchanged for sheep; these animals thrive well in a bushy country like that around the lake, but will scarcely live in the flat prairies between the net-work of waters north of the Chobe. The men who took the cows carried a number of hoes to purchase goats besides. Lechulatebe took the cows and sent back an equal number of sheep. Now, according to the relative value of sheep and cows in these parts, he ought to have sent sixty or seventy.

One of the men who had hoes was trying to purchase in a village without formal leave from Lechulatebe; this chief punished him by making him sit some hours on the broiling hot sand (at least 130 Deg.). This farther offense put a stop to amicable relations between the two tribes altogether. It was a case in which a very small tribe, commanded by a weak and foolish chief, had got possession of fire-arms, and felt conscious of ability to cope with a numerous and warlike race. Such cases are the only ones in which the possession of fire-arms does evil. The universal effect of the diffusion of the more potent instruments of warfare in Africa is the same as among ourselves.

Fire-arms render wars less frequent and less bloody. It is indeed exceedingly rare to hear of two tribes having guns going to war with each other; and, as nearly all the feuds, in the south at least, have been about cattle, the risk which must be incurred from long shots generally proves a preventive to the foray.  The Makololo were prevailed upon to keep the peace during my residence with them, but it was easy to perceive that public opinion was against sparing a tribe of Bechuanas for whom the Makololo entertained
the most sovereign contempt. The young men would remark, "Lechulatebe is herding our cows for us; let us only go, we shall `lift' the price of them in sheep," etc.

As the Makololo are the most northerly of the Bechuanas, we may glance back at this family of Africans before entering on the branch of the negro family which the Makololo distinguish by the term Makalaka. The name Bechuana seems derived from the word Chuana -- alike, or equal -- with the personal pronoun Ba (they) prefixed, and therefore means fellows or equals. Some have supposed the name to have arisen from a mistake of some traveler, who, on asking individuals of this nation concerning the tribes living beyond them, received the answer, Bachuana, "they (are) alike"; meaning, "They are the same as we are"; and that this nameless traveler, who never wrote a word about them, managed to ingraft his mistake as a generic term on a nation extending from the Orange River to 18 Deg. south latitude.

As the name was found in use among those who had no intercourse with Europeans, before we can receive the above explanation we must believe that the unknown traveler knew the language sufficiently well to ask a question, but not to understand the answer. We may add, that the way in which they still continue to use the word seems to require no fanciful interpretation. When addressed with any degree of scorn, they reply, "We are Bachuana, or equals -- we are not inferior to any of our nation," in exactly the same sense as Irishmen or Scotchmen, in the same circumstances, would reply, "We are Britons," or "We are Englishmen." Most other tribes are known by the terms applied to them by strangers only, as the Caffres, Hottentots, and Bushmen.

The Bechuanas alone use the term to themselves as a generic one for the whole nation. They have managed, also, to give a comprehensive name to the whites, viz., Makoa, though they can not explain the derivation of it any more than of their own. It seems to mean "handsome", from the manner in which they use it to indicate beauty; but there is a word so very like it meaning "infirm", or "weak", that Burchell's conjecture is probably the right one.

"The different Hottentot tribes were known by names terminating in `kua',  which means `man', and the Bechuanas simply added the prefix Ma, denoting a nation." They themselves were first known as Briquas, or "goat-men". The language of the Bechuanas is termed Sichuana; that of the whites (or Makoa) is called Sekoa. The Makololo, or Basuto, have carried their powers of generalization still farther, and arranged the other parts of the same great family of South Africans into three divisions: 1st. The Matebele, or Makonkobi -- the Caffre family living on the eastern side of the country; 2d. The Bakoni, or Basuto; and, 3d. The Bakalahari, or Bechuanas, living in the central parts, which includes all those tribes living in or adjacent to the great Kalahari Desert.

1st. The Caffres are divided by themselves into various subdivisions, as Amakosa, Amapanda, and other well-known titles. They consider the name Caffre as an insulting epithet. The Zulus of Natal belong to the same family, and they are as famed for their honesty as their brethren who live adjacent to our colonial frontier are renowned for cattle-lifting. The Recorder of Natal declared of them that history does not present another instance in which so much security for life and property has been enjoyed, as has been experienced, during the whole period of English occupation, by ten thousand colonists, in the midst of one hundred thousand Zulus. The Matebele of Mosilikatse, living a short distance south of the Zambesi, and other tribes living a little south of Tete and Senna, are members of this same family. They are not known beyond the Zambesi River. This was the limit of the Bechuana progress north too, until Sebituane pushed his conquests farther.

2d. The Bakoni and Basuto division contains, in the south, all those tribes which acknowledge Moshesh as their paramount chief. Among them we find the Batau, the Baputi, Makolokue, etc., and some mountaineers on the range Maluti, who are believed, by those who have carefully sifted the evidence, to have been at one time guilty of cannibalism. This has been doubted, but their songs admit the fact to this day, and they ascribe their having left off the odious practice of entrapping human prey to Moshesh having given them cattle. They are called Marimo and Mayabathu, men-eaters, by the rest of the Basuto, who have various subdivisions, as Makatla, Bamakakana, Matlapatlapa, etc. The Bakoni farther north than the Basuto are the Batlou, Baperi, Bapo, and another tribe of Bakuena, Bamosetla, Bamapela or Balaka, Babiriri, Bapiri, Bahukeng, Batlokua, Baakhahela, etc., etc.; the whole of which tribes are favored with abundance of rain, and, being much attached to agriculture, raise very large quantities of grain. It is on their industry that the more distant Boers revel in slothful abundance, and follow their slave-hunting and cattle-stealing propensities quite beyond the range of English influence and law. The Basuto under Moshesh are equally fond of cultivating the soil. The chief labor of hoeing, driving away birds, reaping, and winnowing, falls to the willing arms of the hard-working women; but as the men, as well as their wives, as already stated, always work, many have followed the advice of the missionaries, and now use plows and oxen instead of the hoe.

3d. The Bakalahari, or western branch of the Bechuana family, consists of Barolong, Bahurutse, Bakuena, Bangwaketse, Bakaa, Bamangwato, Bakurutse, Batauana, Bamatlaro, and Batlapi. Among the last the success of missionaries has been greatest. They were an insignificant and filthy people when first discovered; but, being nearest to the colony, they have had opportunities of trading; and the long-continued peace they have enjoyed, through the influence of religious teaching, has enabled them to amass great numbers of cattle. The young, however, who do not realize their former degradation, often consider their present superiority over the less-favored tribes in the interior to be entirely owing to their own greater wisdom and more intellectual development.


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