Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Reclaiming our History

One of the interesting developments in post-apartheid South Africa is that we are now reclaiming our rightful history. Under the old system we were taught that South Africa began in 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape to build a refreshment station for the Dutch East India Company. Black history was more or less ignored and relegated to a history textbook chapter on the life of Shaka Zulu.

Recently the Mankele clan in Mpumalanga province were given back their ancestral lands, in the process the clan's history was brought to light. The Mankele are descendants of a legendary warrior, King Sudwala, and their land was stolen by British soldiers over 100 years ago. The clan initially came to the land 150 years ago having defeated armies from the Pedi empire's powerful King Sekhukhune, and came to carve themselves a small kingdom near Nelspruit. The clan absorbed Sotho and Pedi refugees from ongoing wars in the region, and peaked under the leadership of King Sudwala Mankele in the 1870's.The king eventually lost power after constant raiding by white colonialists and the eventual settlement of his Sudwala valley by retired British veterans of the Anglo Boer War. The new British farmers enslaved Mankele villagers and put them to work as labour tenants. Future decades saw the clan being systematically dispossessed of their land under apartheid laws until they became completely landless in the 1970's.