Glossary - Sound
|"It is understood that you have armed Bastards, Fingos,
and Barolongs against us - In this you have committed an enormous act of
the matter even if it cost you the loss of Mafikeng... disarm your blacks
and their by act the part of a white man in a white man's war. "
General Cronje's message to Baden-Powell
- 29 October 1899
Colored and blacks were part of the fighting as well as the non fighting forces during the war. Blacks were the majority in the two republics during the 19th century. The blacks came under the control of the whites for various reasons. They lost their economical independents and a system of migratory labor came in existence. Due to the overwhelming numbers both sides felt that they could tip the scale.
In the beginning of the war British as well as the boers provided the well meaning tribes with weapons to guard their own borders. This took an unfortunate turn when the Kgatla tribe in the Marico district attacked a Boer laager under instruction and with the help of Co G S Holdsworth. The fatalities amongst the Boers were somewhere between 6 and 35 people (sources differ) 15 Kgatla died and 17 were wounded. At the same time the Kgatla attacked a white settlement and two women were murdered, while 17 white women and children were abducted to Bechuanaland (Botswana).
The English used the blacks mainly as wagon-drivers. They also helped with the constructions of British forts, worked in the military camps, helped to look after the horses and cattle and to unload the supplies and other manual work. Later the English used them to terrorize women and burn the farms.
The Boers had many loyal farm workers that escorted them on commando and was mainly used for auxiliary services. They were not given weapons and were sometimes used as spies. In February 1900 General J.P Snijman provided them with arms for "security reasons" during the Siege of Mafikeng. As soon as the ZAR republic heard of this they were disarmed.
The "Agterryer" (henchman) was usually very loyal and of the utmost importance. Their tasks were to lead the packhorses. They had too look after the horses, fetch water and wood and light the fires. During battle they stayed behind to look after the horses with a few burgers . Many Boers had high gratitude and good remembrances of the agterryers. Unfortunately there were always absconders which proved to be a great risk as they knew exactly what went on in the Boer laagers.
During the Siege of Mafikeng Baden-Powell used the Blacks for digging trenches, unarmed scouts, grooms and drivers. It is said that there were about 8 thousand blacks and coloreds in Mafikeng during the Siege. Baden-Powell believed that he knew how to handle the blacks. He sacked the Barolong chief for "want of energy". He executed by firing squad some starving Africans caught stealing food and he had 115 other flogged
With these little encouragements he persuaded the Africans to do as he wanted e.g. dig the trenches. Baden-Powell armed 300 Africans with rifles and called them the "Black Watch" He did this for two reasons. He enlarged the size of his garrison and he knew that the Boers would want to attack Mafikeng from the native stadt.
During January the food was starting to run short. Supplies were taken from the Africans and given to the white garrison. The black garrison were given the choice to leave here or starve here.
Emerson, Neilly of the Pall Mall Gazette wrote the following: " I saw them fall down on the veldt and lie where they had fallen, too weak to go on their way. The severest were mostly little boys - mere infants ranging from four or five upwards... hunger had it in its grip and many of them were black specters and living skeletons... their ribs literally breaking their shriveled skin - men , women and children...probably hundreds died from starvation or the diseases that always accompany famine. Certain it is that many were found dead on the veldt.....word could not portray the scene of misery - five or six hundred frameworks of both sexes and all ages dressed in tattered drags, standing in lines, each holding a old blackened can or beef tin awaiting turn to crawl painfully up to the soup kitchen were the food were distributed. The other 2000 Africans, outcasts, hunted for bones on rubbish heaps and dug up the corpses of dogs buried outside the town."
From the Boer side the treatment of the leaving blacks were just as bad.
7 April, 700 Barolong women tried to escape Mafikeng only 10 got away the rest returned many had been stripped naked and flogged by the boers.
On the 15th of April a party of 15 women was caught 9 were shot and killed only 4 returned 2 of them wounded.
It was indeed "a White man's war" as both Boers British were fond of saying.
The suffering of the Blacks in the concentration camps will not be discussed as it falls outside the topic of discussion.