Episode 120 - Ploughs in the Platberg, the BaSotho, the MaBuru, MaNyesemane and the BaKhothu

We join Moshoeshoe just before the arrival of the trekkers, as he sought to build his political power once the Ngwane and other roving bands had been defeated. Mzilikazi was attacking the area which would become known as Lesotho, from his headquarters on the Apies River north of modern Pretoria. His regiments were praying on the Shona people across the Limpopo and all the way down to the southern Basotho throughout the mid 1820s into the 1830s.

Moshoeshoe was at great pains to avoid fighting the Ndebele impis, and in 1828, he had delivered oxen to Mzilikazi with the message that

“Moshesh salutes you, supposing that hunger has brought you into this country, he sends you these cattle, that you may eat them on your way home…”

Later Moshoeshoe would send cattle to the British governor Sir George Cathcart in a similar attempt at placating a threatening power. That would not work out - but it did work with Mzilikazi, who did not send another attack on Moshoeshoe, although he continued predating on neighbour Sekhonyela. Mzilikazi had also found it easier to plunder the Shona across the Limpopo anyway.

From 1831 the Ndebele chief was also defending himself from attacks by the Zulu because Dingane ordered his impis into the highveld at times. Of course, the Griqua to the south were also of some concern to Moshoeshoe, but the Kora were a much bigger problem. Nothing was quiet in this part of southern Africa in the third decade of the 19th Century.

In June 1833, what we know as LeSotho came into being for the first time and their creation was observed by French missionaries who wrote down everything they saw. French Protestants reached Thaba Bosiu from Cape Town via Philippolis, and of these, Thomas Arbousset was probably the most eloquent.

On the 29th June 1833 he wrote that Moshoeshoe,

“… has a Roman head, an oval face, an aquiline nose .. a long chin, and a prominent forehead, his eye is lively, his speech animated, and his voice harsh….”

Later Arbousset’s fellow missionary Eugene Casalis would jot down a few thoughts in his memoirs, and his notes were more exaggerated and flowery

“…I felt at once that I had to do with a superior man, trained to think, to command others, and above all himself. ..”
And thus, in1833 the two French missionaries arrived, Eugene Casalis and Thomas Arbousset, along with a third Frenchman called Constant Grosselin,

Remarkably, because they were tough back in 1834, Arbousset was a Huegenot of only 23, and Casalis was just 20. Grosselin was 33, a Catholic who converted to Protestantism, a mason, a tough subordinate.

Krotz the freed slave guided them to Thaba Bosiu and this is where the first proper descriptions were noted about the bones scattered on the veld — and they saw the signs of the devastation that had been visited up these people, it was clear that many battles had been fought along the Caledon valley.
27 May 2023 English South Africa History · Places & Travel

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