At the end of the 17th century Europeans had settle within 80 Km from Cape Town.
During the next hundred years
European hunters, traders and cattle farmers moved eastwards into the interior.
During this time the Xhosa who were living along the southeastern coast and slowly
moved westwards.In about 1770 the two peoples met giving rise to the Eastern
frontier.So began confrontation between the settlers and the Xhosa. Both sides
jostled for control of contested land until 1812 when the British army forced the
Xhosa back to Fish River.
In this context, that a young girl called Nongqawuse, had a prophecy that would devastate the Xhosa Nation. According to the young Nongqawuse, two strangers appeared in front of her and gave her the following message: "Tell the people that the whole nation would rise from the dead and the British would be blown into the sea if all the living cattle were slaughtered and the stores of corn were destroyed".
This prophecy was supported by King Sarhili, the Xhosa King at the time. He ordered his people to kill their cattle and burn their crops. They did so in increasing numbers. By the time this was all over (June 1857), about 70,000 people died of starvation 400,000 cattle were killed. The starving survivers had to walk to towns in the Cape Colony. The British took advantage of the situation by offering food to those who signed contracts for farm labour. Altogether, the Xhosa population of dropped from 105,000 in January 1857 to 26,000 in December 1858.