KING HINTSA, Ah! Zanzolo! was the King of amaXhosa from around 1820 to the day of his brutal murder by British on the 12th May 1835. He was the heir to King Khawuta kaGcaleka kaPhalo kaTshiwo kaNgconde kaTogu kaSikhomo kaNgcwangu kaTshawe kaNkosiyamntu kaMalangana (mXhosa) kaMnguni. He was born in around 1789, roughly 10 years after the first War of Resistance against European invaders began, which was fought in 1779.
The Xhosa Wars of Resistance which lasted for 100 years from 1779 to 1879 were initially called the “Kaffir Wars” in many books written by Europeans. This was later modified by Europeans as the so-called “Cape Frontier Wars” or “Africa’s 100 Years War”, but in actual fact, these were Wars of Resistance by African people fighting for their land from bloody thirsty invaders, who eventually succeeded in colonising most of the African people, including amaXhosa. These wars lasted for generations, led by many brave warriors at different periods such as Chief Ndlambe kaRharhabe, Chief Chungwa kaTshaka of amaGqunukhwebe, Chief Mdushane kaNdlambe, Makhanda Nxele, Chief Maqoma kaNgqika, Chief Tyhali kaNgqika, Chief Mhala kaNdlambe, King Hintsa kaKhawuta, Chief Bhurhu kaKhawuta, King Sarhili kaHintsa, King Mgolombane Sandile kaNgqika, Bhotomani and many other African heroes who paid the ultimate prize and died fighting land thieves from Europe. The Wars of Resistance were about the fight against land dispossession; a fight against the introduction of Christianity and the killing of African spirituality; a fight against the theft of property such as cattle and a fight for the survival of the peoples of Africa!
The War in which King Hintsa was killed in, has been classified by European writers as the 6th Frontier War. This War of Resistance began with the expulsion of Chief Maqoma kaNgqika, Tyhali kaNgqika, Mhala kaNdlambe and other Xhosa Chiefs from their lands in the Thyume River valley in 1829 and 1833. The actual spark that infuriated amaXhosa was the shooting of four Xhosa warriors by Lietenant Sutton under the instructions of Henry Somerset on the 12th December 1834. Among those four Xhosa warriors, was Chief Xhoxho kaNgqika and younger brother of Chief Maqoma. AmaXhosa, led by Chief Maqoma, then a regent of amaRharhabe, Tyhali and other Xhosa leaders led an army estimated to have been about 12 000 men on a mission to reclaim their land from colonialists in the Cape Colony. They fought bravely against European invaders who were led by Piet Retief along the Winterberg area and Harry Smith, who is said to have rode on his horse from Cape Town to Grahamstown in six days. AmaXhosa forces were fighting very hard and Europeans invaders had to call for reinforcements who were sent by sea to Algoa Bay (eBhayi) and burgher and Khoi troops were called out. After a series of battles, it got difficult for amaXhosa and many retreated to the fastnesses of Amathole Mountains.
Benjamin D’Urban, after whom the City of Durban is named, who was at the time the Governor and commander-in-chief of the Cape Colony, devised a plan to completed dispossess the land of amaXhosa. In this scheme, he was assisted by other European thieves such as Henry Somerset and others. They saw that the best way to completely break the backs of amaXhosa, was to put the blame for the War squarely on King Hintsa’s shoulders, as he was known to be the King of all amaXhosa. On the 20th of January 1835, Benjamin D’Urban and arrived on the frontier area to personally direct his army and to quench his thirst for more African land and cheap labour. Working with Harry Smith, he succeeded in driving amaXhosa back over the Keiskamma and stealing about 4000 cattle, and capturing many Xhosa women and children who were sent to work on the farms of European settlers.
Chief Maqoma, Ah! Jongumsobomvu, and other Xhosa leaders saw it best to send many of their remaining cattle to King Hintsa for protection. Since Benjamin had already devised his devious plan of wanting to attack King Hintsa, he marched his marauding army over the Mkwayi River (Kei) and looted, pillaged and burnt huts and fields and stole more Xhosa women and children along the way who were then sent to be slaves of European invaders in the colony.
By the 20th April 1835, Benjamin and his forces set up camp at Ndabakazi near Gcuwa (Butterworth). “Under the guise of punishing King Hintsa for encouraging the Rharhabe attack on the colony, the governor declared war on the Gcaleka.” Stapleton, T.J.(Maqoma, 2016:107)
Harry Smith on the other hand continued terrorizing the villages of amaXhosa. He “scoured the surrounding countryside, burning villages and rounding up thousands of cattle.” Seeing the brutality that was meted on his people, King Hintsa decided to ride and go and confront Benjamin D’urban. Some scholars say he wanted to negotiate a settlement. King Hintsa and his men were disarmed on arrival and taken prisoner and the European thieves led by Benjamin D’urban demanded that he “surrender 50 000 cattle and 1000 horses and admit responsibility for Rharhabe hostility.” He also demanded that the King of amaXhosa should tell all Xhosa Chiefs and Warriors to stop fighting and surrender to the British as subjects of the the Cape Colony and the British Crown. King Hintsa totally objected to all these demands and was shocked at how some Europeans would come and make such demands on his land. He immediately sent a message to Chief Maqoma, military general and commander-in-chief of Xhosa warriors, telling him of his capture and warning him not to trust Europeans and telling him to hide all the cattle.
While the King was still kept prisoner, Benjamin D’urban and Reverend John Ayliff, who had a Wesleyan mission station near King Hintsa’s Great Place in Gcuwa collaborated on yet another scheme. They enticed abaMbo who had fled conflict areas in present-day KZN as a result of Portuguese invasions that led to iMfecane wars some years before. AbaMbo had been given land by King Hintsa about 15 years before. On arrival at King Hintsa’s place they had pleaded with him, saying that “Siyamfenguza” asking for land and anything else they could get. AbaMbo at the time had nothing due to the devastations that they had fled from near uThukela River, where their homes had been. They were to be known as amaMfengu/ Fingoes.
Well, Benjamin D’urban and Reverend John Ayliff observed the dynamics around the Xhosa Kingdom. Benjamin was a master thief and a very deceitful character. They promised abaMbo heaven on earth if only they could join them and leave the Xhosa Kingdom. Little did abaMbo know… Benjamin D’urban wrote to the British Crown in London and informed them that they had “emancipated 17 000 Fingoes”. He then announced that all the land between the Keiskamma and Kei rivers was annexed by the Cape Colony. He also announced that all the Rharhabe people would be expelled from this new province that he called Queen Adelaide that he had just stolen.
The plan of these thieves was unfolding well. Harry Smith then forced King Hintsa to accompany him on a mission to steal even more of the King’s stock on the 12th of May 1835, and Smith was accompanied by among others, George Southey and some Khoi servants who were also armed. At some point during their horse ride near Nqabarha River, King Hintsa managed to escape on his horse and Harry Smith pursued him, shooting at the King and missing a couple of times, some European writers say the gun malfunctioned, oh well. Harry Smith managed to catch up with the King and pushed him off his horse. King Hintsa got up and ran, still holding his assegai. Harry Smith shouted at George Southey to shoot at King, and Southey fired and hit the King on his leg, but he still continued running. Southey fired again and hit, but King Hintsa continued limping and ran into Nqabarha River in Gatyana (Willowvale). At that point, it is said that King Hintsa was in deep water and couldn’t stand properly. It is said that the European thieves asked their Khoi servants to shoot at the King as they were closer, but they refused saying that they won’t shoot a King. George Southey managed to get closer and the King and had his hands raised asking for mercy but Southey got behind him and very close range and shot at the King of amaXhosa, King Hintsa!
“Southey got to the body first and took off Hintsa’s brass body ornaments for himself. Others grabbed for his beads and bracelets. Southey or his brother William cut off one of Hintsa’s ears as a trophy and someone else cut off the other. A doctor travelling with them was seen trying to pull out some of Hintsa’s teeth. Later, even Smith could no longer bear the barbarity he had caused and ordered Hintsa’s body dropped from his horse and to be left in the bush for his followers to find.” (Mostert, 1992). There have also been claims that Harry Smith and his accomplice, George Southey and Benjamin D’Urban, also cut off the King’s head and took it back to the United Kingdom.
That was the end of an era in the history of the Kingdom of amaXhosa!
Professor Ncedile is one of the most outstanding scholars of isiXhosa and has been a lecturer of this language at UNISA from 1982 until recently, around 2013, when he left to join the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. While at UNISA, he produced more than 26 Doctoral scholars. He has also published 6 novels – Unyana Womntu, Idinga,Ukhozi Olumaphiko, Indlalifa, Umlimandlela, and Ilizwe Linjani. His Ukhozi Olumaphiko won the M-Net Book prize for Nguni in 1997. The television adaptation of his Unyana Womntu was broadcast in 1988. Saule has written several radio plays and won the South African Script Writers’ Association Literary Award three times (1986, 1987, 1988).