Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Limpopo Province – A Heritage Under Siege!

On two separate occasions during this past month, I’ve travelled up north to the Limpopo Province to visit old friends and family I don’t see too often. A large portion of my relatives on my mother’s side of the family reside in the town of Potgietersrus (Now know as Mokopane). Other members of the family manage farms further north bordering the Mogalakwena river between Tolwe and Alldays. I also have close relatives living in the town of Louis Trichardt.

Mokopane is only two hours drive on the N1 highway from Pretoria, --- also known as the Great North Road. About 15 years ago the extensive farming activity along the N1 route was still prominent. Memories of those scenes are still quite fresh in my mind, and I can clearly recall how the fields of sunflowers, maize, wheat, lucern, cotton, and peanut plants (grondbone) flashed by for miles on end like one long dreamy video.

Today, as one travels along the Great North Road (N1) there is not much to see. Evidence of the old flourishing farmlands are now vaguely visible as plots of barren grassland speckled with shrubs. As one plods along at the monotonous pace of 120km per hour the signboards that flash by at regular intervals become an incessant reminder that South Africa has changed. I noticeable phenomenon is the fact that the old familiar Afrikaans names have been obliterated completely from all signposts. They don’t even appear in brackets below the new names!

Old name – (New Name)

Warmbaths – (Bela-Bela)
"Belabela" is a Sesotho word simply meaning "hot spring" or "bubble bubble", in reference to the hot water springs in this area.

Nylstroom - (Modimolle)
The word literally means "the forefather's spirit has eaten" (Modimo o lle). According to tradition, it often happened that someone would climb the mountain (known as Kranskop), only to disappear without trace. The Basotho attributed such disappearances to an ancestral spirit that ate (killed) the unfortunate. (See also my brief synopsis below regarding how Nylstroom got its name.)

Naboomspruit – (Mookgophong)
The town was named after the huge candelabra tree (the naboom). The new name of Mookgophong essentially has the same meaning.

Potgietersrus – (Mokopane)
The true meaning is unclear.
The town was supposed to be called Mngombane as the original name of a Northern Ndebele (or BaTlou) king was Mngombane. His name was not Mokopane!

Pietersburg – (Polokwane)
The true meaning also seems unclear. Some sources say that it means "little storage space", while other sources say it means "place of safety".

Louis Trichardt
This town was for a short period known as Makhado but has now changed back to Louis Trichardt. (See further details below in this posting.)

Frankly, I don’t really care much about name changes in this country. I suppose as time goes by and if I do decide to keep this place my home, I will eventually get used to the new names! The names will probably change again in 100 years from now after the Zimbabwean aliens from further north have invaded the place. (South Africa already has about three million refugees from Zimbabwe living here. In the years to come there will be many more pouring in over the uncontrolled northern borders of this country. Source)

What really gets me worked up though, is the manner in which this government is managing the process of “Democratic” change. Besides the fact that prominent places in Afrikaans Boer History have been given new names that have no apparent relation to that area, it is blatantly obvious that the government of the day is also deliberately distorting history and progressively obliterating all traces of the Afrikaner Heritage in the Limpopo Province. It appears that if they cannot delete it, they will try their utmost to distort or ridicule it!

The fact that it was the original pioneering Voortrekkers who played a significant role in cultivating and developing that part of our country, is a truth they do not want advertised, --- hence the reason why the kids of today will never be taught those facts in public schools!

Christian Nation Tuition

It’s reassuring to note that the modern Afrikaners living in the area have not sat around idly while the government has attempted to destroy their legacy. While the classrooms in local schools in every single town are filled to the brim with black students, the Afrikaners have established private schools for their kids, called CVO (Christelike Volks Onderrig), which translates directly to – Christian Nation Tuition. Apart from providing education of a high standard, these schools also aim to keep the students proud of their Afrikaans language, their culture and their religious beliefs.

The Louis Trichardt – Makhado controversy

Another noticeable example of Afrikaners standing up for their rights is the controversy over the name change of the town Louis Trichardt to “Makhado”.
In October 2005 the Louis Trichardt Chairperson's Association, an alliance of 51 organisations representing more than 80,000 residents of the town, fought the name change in the Pretoria High Court. They claimed that less than 1% of the towns total inhabitants were consulted about the name change and that a public meeting advertised to discuss the change was rescheduled without any notification, resulting in a very small attendance --- (typical dirty government tactics). They also held that “Makhado” was never the name of a person, and that the town Louis Trichardt didn't displace any other settlement in the area. The Pretoria High Court dismissed their application in November 2005, but gave them permission to appeal the decision. In January 2006 the group decided to do just that. On 29 March 2007, the Supreme Court Appeal (SCA) ruled in favour of an appeal to reverse the name change.

Many maps in print and online still reference the town Louis Trichardt as “Makhado”. I really doubt if anyone will bother changing the name back to Louis Trichardt, --- despite the favourable court ruling in this regard.

Distorting and Deleting History

One of the most significant occurrences in the history of the Limpopo Province was a horrific event that occurred in the year 1854, when 28 Voortrekkers were brutally murdered in the most savage and ritualistic fashion imaginable.

The murders were so shocking that missionaries, philanthropists, and historians of the day, as well as some of the press in the Cape, decided that it would be best to conceal the true nature of the barbaric acts. At the same time, one of the murdered men namely, Hermanus Philippus Potgieter, the brother of the Voortrekker leader Andries Hendrik Potgieter, was blamed as a contributory factor in the tragedy. (They obviously had to blame someone for purposes of sensationalism!)

During the past years there have been a considerable amount of different versions of this incident, but then one must also consider the fact that the Voortrekkers who moved up north from the Cape were not in the best books of the British-controlled press at that time. The British cared two hoots about the White babies and children whose heads were bashed against trees and wagon wheels, and also the fact that the woman and men were skinned alive in a barbaric ritualistic fashion. (If one considers the horrific acts of violent crime taking place in this country at this very moment, then it appears that nothing has changed much since then!)

Over time the true nature of the Makapanspoort murders and also what happened afterwards when the Boers retaliated became totally distorted --- with every Tom, Dick, and Harry adding a new piece to the puzzle, --- as long as it did not place the Black Savage in a bad light. All the beter, if the Whiteman was exposed as the real villain in the story!

I’ll be covering the true facts of the 1854 Makapanspoort murders in my next posting. In the meantime, allow me to share another example of how easy it is for history to become distorted....

How did Nylstroom get its name?

John Thomas Baines arrived in Cape Town on 23 November 1842 from his country of birth in Norfolk, England. He is best remembered as an artist of numerous landscapes, nature studies, historic paintings and representations of people, --- but he mentions in his journals that the river at Nylstroom was mistakenly thought to have been the biblical Nile River of Egypt by a group of religious zealots known as the Jerusalemgangers.

Since then Thomas Baines’s version has been repeated so many time in countless publications that it will be near impossible to convince people otherwise. Several modern-day tour-guide publications, in both the English and Afrikaans languages, go one step further and state bluntly that the ignorant “Voortrekkers” made the biggest navigational error in the history of South Africa when they believed that they had finally arrived in the “Promised Land”.

Just like the Makapanspoort murders (which I’ll cover in my next posting), this story is also a mixture of truths and untruths.

Firstly, the Jerusalemgangers (Jerusalem Travelers) were not Voortrekker pioneers in the true sense of the word. They were a small religious sect who cherished the eternal desire to travel north to Jerusalem --- as far as possible from the encroaching influence of the evil British, whom they perceived as “The Anti-Christ”. At the time they were settled in the Marico district of the Western Transvaal. While they where making preparations for the long journey to the “Promised Land” the malaria epidemic in the summer of 1851 – 1852 claimed the lives of many members of the group, including their leader Jan Enslin. It was only in the early 1860’s that the remaining members of the group decided to finally pack their ox wagons and leave the Marico district for good. Their fear of English dominance and also their continual conflict with thieving Black savages was the dominant factor why they wanted to flee from the Marico district.

When they arrived in the Waterberg district they discovered a strong-flowing river running northwards. The vegetation in the area was lavish green with plenty of game roaming about. The setting was perfect! This small group of peace-loving and God-fearing people decided there-and-then that they were not travelling further northwards; --- they had found their “Promised Land”! The river and the town they established was named Nylstroom (The Nile Stream --- NOT the Nile River). The story that these people made a navigational error and mistook the nearby lonesome mountain (Kranskop) as a pyramid is also total hogwash.

The town, Nylstroom, was established in February 1866 on the farm called “Rietvlei”. It later occurred that the river was actually the top portion of the Mogalakwena river that flowed north through the bushveld to the Limpopo. Mogalakwena means “the river of the crocodile”.

Mogalakwena Land Claims

My ancestors have been living in the Mogalakwena district for approximately 78 years now. The land was uncultivated and uninhabited when they first arrived there. It cost these hardy souls much blood, sweat and tears to developed the farm into the thriving business it is today. Despite several years of severe drought in the area, they have also managed to preserve and enhance the serene beauty of the place. At enormous personal expense and a dedicated love for nature they have managed to preserve the original fauna and flora. Hunting on the farm is strictly prohibited.

During my recent visit to the farm I was saddened to hear that the land is under a land claim dispute. What more can I say?

Please do not miss my next posting concerning the 1854 ritual murders at Makapanspoort – Limpopo Province.

Sources Consulted:

Bly Blank my Volk!


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