I—Rev. H. H. Dugmore's Papers


[Extracted from Maclean's A Compendium of Kafir Laws and Customs, etc. (1858), pp. 1-53.]



THE present article will contain a brief sketch of the Geography of Kaffraria, and is intended to be followed by others on the Internal History, Manners and Customs, &c., of the Kafir tribes, derived from the observations made during a personal residence among them, and from native sources of information.

The general designation of Kaffraria has been applied to the whole of the territory extending from the Great Fish River to Delagoa Bay. In treating of the subject here, however, it will be restricted to the sense in which it is usually understood by the Cape colonists, and confined to the tract of country occupied by the Amaxosa and Abatembu tribes, as the Amampondo and the Amazulu are sufficiently distinguished by their dress, mode of warfare, and other customs, to warrant their [p.2] being considered as quite distinct from the tribes above mentioned. Excluding, then, the two latter, the country occupied by the Kafir tribes, in the colonial acceptation of the term, extends from the Great Fish River to the Umtata, eastwards, and from the sea coast to the chain of mountains containing the sources of the Keiskamma, Buffalo, Kei, and Bashee, northwards. Beyond the Umtata River, the territory of Faku, the chief of the Amampondo, commences; and beyond the mountain ranges to the north, lie the Tarka division of the Colony, and a tract of country stretching to the Orange River, and occupied by migratory Dutch African farmers, and a few scattered Bushmen.

The region thus bounded, and known by the general designation of Kafirland, may be estimated at about 250 miles in length, and 120 in average breadth. The line of sea-coast, and the courses of the boundary streams to the east and west, mark its limits in these directions with sufficient precision; but the northern boundary is irregularly defined, from the mountainous character of the country.

The mountains of Kaffraria, which run nearly parallel with the coast, arc distributed into two distinct regions, divided by the course of the Kei. Those to the westward, and next the Colony, are commonly known as the Amatoli range. The eastern ranges are called on the mans. "Fooboo’s mountains," from the name of a Tembu chief who still resides amongst them. The most distant sources of the Kei lie beyond these, in the "Stormbergen," a branch of the Kwahlamba, the central range which divides the waters of Southern Africa; the western side being drained by the numberless branches of the Orange River, which flows [p.3] into the Atlantic; and the eastern by the numerous streams, much shorter in their course, which enter the Indian Ocean, between the Cape Colony and Delagoa Bay.

The mountain regions of Kafirland, both eastern and western, present many magnificent scenes. They are sufficiently lofty to be covered with snow during most of the winter months. Their sides are clothed with noble forests, that abound with excellent timber. Streams without number have their sources among them, and wind their way through rich fertile valleys, where their waters, with scarcely any labour, might be available for the purposes of irrigation to an incalculable extent. A lover of the sublime and beautiful in nature may find much to gratify his taste in a tour through the "Highlands" of Kaffraria. The perpetual verdure, the rich flora, the wildly picturesque views to be found among the crags and precipices, the extensive prospects which many commanding positions afford, and the pure and bracing mountain breezes, which bring health and vigour on their wings, combine to give an untiring interest to a journey through this region of beauty and grandeur.

At the foot of the mountains lies an irregular belt of plain upland, varying considerably in breadth, and skirting the southern base of nearly the entire range. It forms a kind of steppe or plateau, considerably elevated above the sea-coast division of the country, and terminating in that direction very abruptly. This tract consists of undulating plains and open valleys, increasing greatly in extent as they proceed eastwards, abounding in pasturage, but in many parts entirely destitute of wood, and but scantily supplied with water. The larger [p.4] rivers, receiving their principal tributaries before they leave the mountain region generally issue from thence nearly complete in volume; and while they cut the upland into large sections, confer little benefit upon it by their waters.

From the edge of this plateau we look down upon the Kafir lowlands, a district averaging about forty miles in breadth, and generally of a most broken and rugged character. This character is conferred upon it by the secondary rivers; which rising in the abrupt southern face of the upland above, and flowing in deep and tortuous channels within a few miles of each other, cause an almost constant alternation of hill and dale. The courses of the still smaller streams, which flow into these from either side, partake of the character of their principals; and tend still farther to break up the country into fragmentary portions. Deep woody kloofs, dense thickets, extensive mimosa groves covering hill and valley, and often impervious to a traveller; fearful precipices and rocky passes, rifted apparently by some terrible convulsion of nature, abound in this almost untravellable district. And yet there is a general feature of tameness pervading it as a whole. The hills never rise into mountains; the thickets but rarely expand into forests; and there is uniformity in the ruggedness which renders it as wearisome to the eye, as a journey through it is to the limbs. Exceptions, however, occur. Here and there a stream is to be found that winds its open course through alternate meadow and woodland, its banks fringed with flowering shrubs in endless variety; while at intervals appear the dark rich foliage and the majestic figure of the Umkoba; and the Umsintsi, with its bright green leaves, and clusters of crimson blossoms; there a stream is to be found that winds its open course through alternate meadow and woodland, its banks fringed with flowering shrubs in endless variety; while at intervals appear the dark rich foliage and the majestic figure of the Umkoba; and the Umsintsi, with its bright green leaves, and clusters of crimson blossoms; [p.5] seeming like the patrons and protectors of the rest. I know a few pastoral landscapes of this character in Kafirland, that would scarcely allow a Greek to regret Arcadia.

The rivers of Kafirland may be divided into two classes. Those that rise in the mountain ranges, and those that have their sources in the steppe already described. Of the former class are the Keiskamma (Ixesi), the Buffalo (Iqonci), the Kei (Inciba), am! the Bashee (Umbashe). The first and second of these rise in the westerly range, or Amatoli. They are fine streams of water, but their course is only a short one. The lower portion of that of the Buffalo is remarkably picturesque and beautiful. The most distant sources of the Kei are beyond the boundaries of the Kafir territory. It receives, however, several tributaries from both the eastern and western Kafirland ranges. The Klipplaat (Unwele), the Tunxe, and the Kabusi, all strong and beautiful streams, enter it from the eastern side of the Amatoli and Kat River mountains; and the Tsomo, a stream equal to the Keiskamma, joins it from the western portion of Fooboo’s range. Below the confluence of its numerous branches, the Kei is much the largest of the Kafirland rivers. Its course is extremely rugged and inaccessible, lying among frightful precipices. In many places its channel appears as though rent for it through immense masses of rock, which rise on each side in natural walls to the height of several hundred feet. The Bashee, and its principal tributary, the Umgwali, have their sources in Fooboo’s mountains, where the Umtata likewise takes its rise. These are strong streams, but their course is much shorter than that of the Kei.


Most of these rivers might be navigated to a considerable distance from their mouths, could the obstacle of their "bars" he removed.

The secondary rivers are the Beka (Bira), between the Fish River and the Keiskamma; the Chalumna (Tyolomnqa), between the Keiskamma and the Buffalo; the Nxarune,1 Gqunube, Kwelera, Kwenxura, and Quku, between the Buffalo and the Kei; the Gcuwa, Qora, and Shixina, between the Kei and the Bashee; and Inklonyane, Xora, and Umncwasa, between the Bashee and the Umtata. Some of these are only periodical streams, that are frequently dry, but others are strong and permanent. The tides of the ocean flow for several miles up these secondary streams, giving them the appearance of canals, and keeping them stocked with exhaustless supplies of fine fish.

On the animal and vegetable productions of Kafirland it will be sufficient for the purposes of the present article to say, that they are similar to those within the colonial boundary. There is, however, a very perceptible increase of luxuriance in the vegetation as we proceed toward the tropical regions of the continent. The alluvial lands become richer and more extensive, the supply of water more abundant, and the grass and herbage of a ranker and more succulent character. The grass, especially, attains in some places to an enormous height, sufficient even to hide from view a man on horseback as he rides through it. The pasturage, generally, is fit only for the larger kinds of cattle, excepting [p.7] towards the northern boundary, where some good sheep walks may be found.

The population of the tract of country of which the above sketch has been given may be estimated at 300,000 souls; to be allotted, however, in very unequal proportions to its two national divisions. The Abatembu, or Tambookie branch, cannot be considered as numbering more than 90,000, while the Amaxosa may be safely calculated at 210,000. Of the various tribes into which the latter are subdivided, the first in rank is that of the Amagcaleka (the tribe of Khreli), numbering about 70,000. The second is that of Amangqika, (Sandili's tribe), which, including the smaller tribes of the Imidange and Amambalu, that are dependent upon it, may also be estimated at 70,000. Third in rank stand the Amandhlambe, headed by Umbala, in number about 55,000, including their various branches. The Amagqunukwebi, or Pato’s tribe, may be set down at 15,000.

The relative local position occupied by these tribes is as follows:

The Amagqunukwebi extend along the sea-coast from the mouth of the Fish River nearly to that of the Buffalo, reaching between the Fish River and the Keiskamma, to the sources of the Beka, but confined to a much narrower strip of territory, between the Keiskamma and the Buffalo. Above the Beka, and extending across the Keiskamma and Chalumna, comprising all the lower course of the Buffalo, and that of the secondary rivers, as far as the Kwelera, lies the territory of the Amandhlambe. The Amambalu (Eno’s tribe) lie next to the Amandhlambe, extending upwards from the Gwanga, between the Fish and Keiskamma [p.8] Rivers; and beyond these, in the same line of country, are the Imidange, reaching, along the immediate colonial border, to the vicinity of Fort Beaufort. The Amangqika possess the whole of the Amatoli range of mountains, from the colonial frontier to the banks of the Kei. The territory of the Amagcaleka is the valley of the Kei, including the secondary rivers to the Kwelera westward, and to the Qora eastward, and extending upwards beyond the junction of the Tsomo. The Abatembu formerly occupied the whole of the country between the Bashee and the Umtata; but in consequence of the repeated formidable inroads of the Amampondo and the Amabaca (the tribes of Faku and Ncapai), nearly the whole tribe has migrated to the country watered by the upper branches of the Kei. A few of the inferior clans have been left near the mouth of the Bashee; but nearly the entire territory formerly inhabited by this tribe is abandoned to desolation.

One general remark is applicable to the whole of the above tribes. The limits of their respective territories are not closely defined, and hence their "Borderers" are frequently intermingled; which has been the occasion of many feuds, and in some instances has involved whole tribes in war.

In a future article will be attempted a sketch of the internal history, and the mutual political relations of the various tribes.


The history of barbarous tribes, possessing no records of the past, nor any mode of perpetuating the knowledge of events, except tradition, must of course be very vague [p.9] and uncertain. It is almost needless to say that such is the case with the various tribes of Kaffraria. Their authentic history extends but little beyond the memory of the old men of the present generation. There is reason, from the affinity of language, and the similarity of national customs, to believe that the Kafirs, Fingoes, and Bechuanas, are the offshoots of some common stock; but the stock itself can be little more than matter of conjecture, until the interior of Eastern Africa shall have been more fully explored, and ethnographical researches more extensively prosecuted in relation to this region. The variations in dialect amongst the tribes above mentioned appear generally to have followed the rule of relative geographical situation; the chain of mountains, which separates the various tribes of Bechuanas from those of Kaffraria, marking the respective boundaries of the two great divisions of the language. Each of these comprises several varieties of dialect, which appear to favour the theory that the languages have diverged from their original point of separation in about the same degree that the tribes themselves have done. Taking the dialect spoken by the Kafir border tribes as the starting point, and proceeding eastwards through the Abatembu and Amampondo till we reach those spoken by the Zulus and Fingoes, we find a gradual approximation to some of the dialects of the Basuto and Bechuana tribes. Nor is it perhaps an extravagant supposition, that the languages may be substantially blended amongst the tribes yet to be discovered.

The common origin of the Kaffrarian tribes is much less a matter of conjecture. Many of the tribal distinctions obtaining amongst them are of very recent [p.10] date; and have arisen from a peculiarity in the "law of succession" to the chieftainship. The principal divisions of Amaxosa, Abatembu, and Amampondo are of earlier formation, although probably arising from the same cause.

A genealogical list of the principal chiefs of Kaffraria has been constructed, which extends through a period embracing sixteen generations; and marks the successive separation of the tribes from the original stock. The order of succession among the more remote generations is, however, very uncertain; although the names there given are generally familiar in the traditional remembrances of the various tribes.

The accompanying table, comprises twelve generations, beginning with the chief from whom the Amazosa Kafirs profess to derive their national designation. Of the ramifications of the parent stock from Xosa to Oconde, nothing is known, and it would seem that the remembrance of the direct line has been preserved chiefly through the perpetuation of the national name, and a desire on the part of the antiquarians of Kafirland to be able to trace it to its source. None of the tribes at present recognized as distinct, date their origin earlier than the time of Gconde. Accordingly, from this epoch the order of succession to the various branches of the chieftainship is generally known, and the relative rank and period of formation of the separate tribes may be pretty clearly ascertained. Rejecting the names of such chiefs as are not considered leading men in the tribes at present existing, it is believed that this genealogical table embraces, with general correctness, all the principal branches of the ruling family.


An explanation of the Kafir law of succession will be necessary to a clear comprehension of the above table, and to throw light on the tribal distinctions existing amongst the Kafir nation. It will be inferred on a reference to the table itself, that the chiefs of all the tribes are of one family; which (with one exception, to be hereafter noticed) is really the case. The process by which the separate tribes have been formed is the following:

At some specified period, the chief of a tribe, who, it is assumed, has a plurality of wives, assembles his relatives, with his principal officers and councillors, to decide as to the investment of two of his wives with the respective dignities of "the great one" (omkulu), and "the one of the right hand" (owasekunene). These two wives rank superior to all the rest. The eldest son of the "great" wife is presumptive heir to his father’s dignity, and succeeds him in his general government. The "right hand" wife, however, lays the foundation of a new "house," as her eldest son is constituted the head of a certain allotted portion of the tribe; and assumes, on the death of his father, the separate jurisdiction of that portion. He thus becomes the originator of a new tribe, acknowledging precedency of rank on the part of his brother, "the great," but independent of him, except in matters involving the general relations of the tribes at large. The sons of the inferior wives possess no distinct authority, excepting among such retainers as their personal influence may gather around them; unless, indeed, the "king" be "a child," in which case one of them is invested with a kind of regency until the period of minority has expired. They are, however, attached to the courts of their "great" brothers, [p.12] enjoying their share of the exclusive privileges of the "blood royal," and constituting the aristocracy of the nation. As their immunities extend to all their descendants through successive generations, this class now forms a considerable portion of the population. The subdividing system above explained has been in operation amongst the Kafir tribes from the earliest known period of their political existence, and a reference to the preceding table will exhibit the effects of that operation in the formation of distinct tribes. An additional element of subdivision was introduced by the chief Gaika (Ngqika), who was an innovator, in several respects, upon the customs of his forefathers. He originated the custom of investing three of the chief's sons with distinct authority, instead of two, as had previously been the case. The third son thus invested was made the representative of his grandfather, and the families of his grandfather's councillors were attached to him, as standing in the place of their own deceased chief. As these families were naturally among the most influential of the tribe, the young chief who was constituted their head, assumed at once a high relative position amongst his brethren. The introduction of this new custom has greatly accelerated the geometrical ratio of subdivision into separate tribes, and its effect, if undisturbed, would be to break the nation up into fragmentary clans in the course of a very few generations. The only existing check to its influence is that its operation is not uniform. Some of the branches wither. The unpopularity of the head of a particular "house" will gradually lessen the number of his adherents, and reduce his tribe to insignificance, while it increases the power of others. The relative inferiority of the tribes in [p.13] point of rank increases in proportion to the distance of the period of their separation from the original stock. The people share in a sense of the inferiority, and as they have not the privileges of "blood" to compensate for it, they relieve their feeling of humiliation by joining the more modern and influential "houses," and leaving the representatives of their ancient chiefs "alone in their glory" of aristocratic descent and immunity. The predominating influence of the principal divisions of the ruling family overpowers that of the inferior branches; and the moral gravitation following the analogy of the physical, the greatest body exerts the most powerful attraction. Despite of this, however, the number of distinct tribes is rapidly increasing, and their various relations are becoming increasingly complicated and embarrassing. This is especially the case since the institution of the Owasexibeni (as the representative of the grandfather is called); for the institution being a modern one, the relative rank of this third participator in hereditary dignity is not yet fully adjusted; and the disputes for priority serve to show that the desire of pre-eminence is a vice of human nature not confined to civilized nations.

The original rule for regulating the gradations of rank amongst the tribes is to be found in the custom of the "right hand." This custom has existed from time immemorial; nor is the cause of its origin now known. By its operation, each successive generation adds a step in relative inferiority to the right hand tribes of previous formation; as that of the existing generation always takes precedency of those of earlier date, on the round of its standing in closer relationship to the existing head of the nation. Bearing this rule in his mind, the [p.14] reader is now requested to turn to the preceding table.

The first column contains the names of the paramount chiefs from Xosa down to Khili. The latter is the present nominal head of the Amaxosa. Over the Abatembu he claims no authority; as that division of the Kafir nation is now considered a distinct people. Khili, being but a young man, has as yet formed no "right hand house." The chief, therefore, who is next in legitimate rank to himself is his brother, Umtikhakha,2 who is the head of that formed by his father, Hintsa. The "right hand" of his grandfather Kauta ranks next. This is Bukhu. Then follows Gcaleka's "right hand," Velelo. And then, fourth in the scale of inferiority from the paramount chief follows the house of Khakhabe, the "right hand" of Palo. This branch of the "royal" tree, however, flourished in a very extraordinary degree. The causes assigned are, the popular character of Khakbabe; the extreme cruelty of the mother of Gcaleka; and the adoption, by Ocaleka himself; of the profession of wizard doctor, although great chief of the nation. So greatly and so rapidly did the power of Khakhabe increase, that he at length ventured to wage a war with his "Lord paramount," and laid the foundation of a tribe, which now, even when the Amandhlambe, its offshoot, are deducted, is equal in numbers, and far superior in power, to the Amagcaleka themselves. For their numbers the Amakhakhabe (as the tribe of Sandili is still designated beyond the Kei) may thank the character and fortunes of their founder; but their power may be traced to their proximity to the colonial [p.15] frontier. The maxim that "might is right" is as well understood by barbarous chiefs us by civilized monarchs; and accordingly Sandili, the representative, in the "great" line, of his great-grandfather, Khakhabe, acknowledges no superior but Khili, and pays him merely the formal respect that the ceremonies of ancient custom require.

Practically, therefore, Sandili is the head of what might justly be termed the third division of the Kafir nation; the Amakhakhabe and their subordinates standing in a similar relation to the Amagcaleka to that which the latter bear to the Abatembu, and neither party interfering, in ordinary cases, with the political affairs of the other.

Postponing the consideration of the subdivision of the Amakhakhabe, we pass on to the line of Langa, the originator of what is commonly known as "Eno’s tribe." Langa was a brother of Khakhabe, and a "mighty hunter." His courage and skill in hunting the elephant, rhinoceros, and other large animals, the chase of which required dexterity and daring, gathered around this Nimrod the kindred spirits of his day; and although he was neither a "great" son, nor a "right hand," his personal qualities attracted followers that in two generations have grown into the present Amambalu; a tribe which, although of little importance in point of numbers, is considered one of the most warlike on the frontier.

Receding another generation, we reach the "right band" of Tshiwo. This was Gwali. A lasting stigma has rested on the name of this chief, which may account for the present insignificance of the tribe formed by him. Tradition relates that Palo, the "great" son of [p.16] Tshiwo, was not born until some months after his father's death. Gwali, already a young man, was desirous of increasing his own power; and laid a plot for murdering the child at its birth. The plot was, however, discovered. The Inkosihazi took refuge with her deceased husband's brother, who had her secreted until the child was born, and ascertained to be a son. The old councillors of the tribe, well knowing the advantages of a long minority to themselves, rallied around the infant chief; and the ambitious designs of Gwali were defeated. The latter fell into disrepute, and his tribe appears to have felt the consequences of his disgrace, as it has been quite eclipsed, in respect both to numbers and barbarian fame, by others that ought to have been its inferiors.

The formation of the Imidange tribe dates a generation still farther back. Umdange, its founder, was the "right hand" of Gconde, and was the chief who afforded an asylum to the widow of his brother Tshiwo, on the occasion referred to above. Owing, it is supposed, to some death, or failure of issue among the earlier generations, the "Succession" as respects the chiefs of this tribe has been involved in more confusion and uncertainty than that of any other on the frontier. The result is, that for a long time past the tribe has been virtually without a legitimate head. The chief (Nciniswa) whose pretensions are considered to be best founded, has, apparently from sheer imbecility, surrendered his right, and is attached to the umzi wakwomku1u3 of Sandili as little more than an Umpakati. The inferior chief have thus come into note; and Botumane, by [p.17] birth one of the lowest of them, has, by the force of circumstances, been thrust into a position which has led the colonists to regard him as the head of the tribe.

The Imidange have also been separated widely in the local position of their various clans; and in the different, and sometimes rival, interests they have espoused. Botumane has adhered to the Gaika tribe; Kuse to that of Dhlambe; Tola appears to have passed over from the one to the other. Smaller fragments, under their petty leaders, have settled in separate localities; and it is many years since one chief was acknowledged by the whole tribe. It is not extraordinary that, under such circumstances, the Imidange should have acquired the unenviable notoriety of being the most lawless and predatory of all the tribes of Kafirland.

The position of the founder of the Amantinde is a subject of dispute. The antiquaries of Kafirland are at variance on the question. By some it is said that Tinde was a son of Qconde, by one of his inferior wives. Others assert that he was only adopted by his reputed mother, to avoid the disgrace of furnishing no support to the umzi wakwomkulu; and in the disputes on the subject of hereditary honours, which sometimes occupy the leisure hours of Kafirs as well as those of their "betters," the Amantinde are challenged to name the "house" from which they are descended. These things are, of course, treated as slanders by the partizans on the opposite side. Whatever be the truth, however, on the hereditary question, the personal character of Tinde enabled him to found a tribe, which, though small, has remained distinct to the present time.

Before explaining the origin of the Amagqunukwebi, whose chiefs occupy a different position from that of [p.18] all the others, it may be well to notice the subdivision of the Amakhakhabe into the distinct tribes of which they now consist. This will complete the view of those tribes whose chiefs belong to one family.

Khakhabe, who appears to have been of a restless, warlike spirit, was killed in battle with the Abatembu. His "great" son was Umlau; his "right hand" was Cebo. Urnlau died young, leaving his "great" son, Ngqika, and his "right hand," Ntimbo, both children. Dhlambe, who was a brother of Umlau, by the same mother, and who would have become the head of the tribe, had Umlau died without issue, was invested with the guardianship of his young nephews, and the government of the tribe during their minority. His "regency" was popular; and when Ngqika assumed the government, he found a very numerous party ready to support his uncle's pretensions to a continuance in independent authority. These were farther favoured by the death of Cebo, who left no son to succeed him as head of the "right hand" tribe; and whose daughters were excluded by the Kafir "salic law" from the succession. The amapahati of that tribe requested to be supplied with a representative of their deceased chief from amongst the sons of Dhlambe. Dushane was appointed, and proved the most able chief in all Kafirland. Resentment for the abandonment of his mother, detached Dushane from his father's interests for some years. The old councillors of Dhlambe, however, at length effected a reconciliation, being jealous of the influence which the rising fame of a son of their own chief was giving to the house of Ngqika; a house they were disposed, from the peculiar position of Dhlambe, to consider rather as a rival than as a superior. Accordingly [p.19] Dushane, on rejoining his father, brought him such an accession of strength as enabled him, with his other auxiliaries, to overthrow Ngqika in a pitched battle on the plains of the Debe, which, from the slaughter that took place, has formed an epoch in the annals of Kafirland.

The above observations will serve to explain the origin of the Amandhlambe and the Imidushane as distinct tribes. We return now to the sons of Umlau, Ngqika and Ntimbo. The latter, his father's "right hand," died quite a youth, leaving no successor. His tribe remained without a distinct head until Ngqika gave it one in the person of a son of his own. Hanta, the son who was appointed to this chieftainship, is now commander of Sandili's "household troops," it being he who heads, by right of office, the impi yakwomkulu, or regiment of the "great place."

It has been already remarked that Ngqika originated the custom of the owasexibeni. The example of the head of the house of Khakhabe was sure to be influential amongst the other tribes. Every chief's family, accordingly, has now its "first three," in the order of "great son," "right hand," and "representative of the ancients." For the family of Ngqika, these are Sandili, Maqoma, and Tyali.4 For the family of Dhlambe, Umhala, lJmqai, and Umxamli.5 For that of Dushane, who died in the prime of his years, Siwane, Fundisi, and Siyolo. Fur that of Nqeno, Stokwe, Ngcweleshe, and Tonto. The position of Umhala is somewhat different from that of the rest of the principal chiefs. The son of [p.20] Dhlambe, who should have been his father's successor, died before him; and Dhlambe, on a reverse of fortune, which placed him for a while in the power of his nephew, Ngqika, engaged not to appoint another in his room so long as he was alive. Umhala's mother was but a concubine of Dhlambe, and had been allotted to the house of his principal wife as an attendant upon her. On the death of Dhlambe, Umhala was found to be the only male descendant of his father connected with that house. This circumstance, together with his own popular character, gave him a strong party amongst the amapakati. The son of Dhlambe (Jan), who was in charge of the "residence of the great one," at the time of his father's death, was destitute of the energy of character requisite to maintain his position against his more enterprising brother, A fit of illness supplied Umhala with a convenient charge of witchcraft against him. He fled, leaving his cattle behind; and thus at once relieved his rival of his presence, and enriched his treasury. Umhala, adopted by the old councillors, was acknowledged by the tribe generally; and Tyali and Maqoma, the sons of Ngqika, confirmed his authority by the formal admission of his claims to be recognized as the successor of his father.

There is yet one tribe, the origin of which remains to be noticed, and that is the Amagqunukwebi, the tribe of Pato. In point of numbers, this tribe is superior to several of those already spoken of. Its chiefs are, however, deemed inferior to the rest, as not belonging to the same family,—as being, indeed, the descendants of a man who was raised from amongst the common people, and invested with the rank and authority of a chief by Tshiwo.


There is something of romance in the history of this man, as it has been preserved in the traditions of the tribe which he founded. It is probable that the facts of the case have been somewhat adorned in the course of transmission. The following, however, is the result of a comparison of accounts:

Kwane was a councillor of Tshiwo, and a man very popular with the tribe at large. He was also a great favourite with his chief, and was employed by him on most matters of importance. There was another councillor, of great influence with the chief; but a man of a very different character. Amongst the "matters of state" of which these two ministers had the direction, was the execution of frequent sentences against the victims of accusations of witchcraft. These sentences, involving not merely the confiscation of the cattle, but also the massacre of the parties involved, were carried relentlessly into effect, whenever the second of the councillors abovementioned had the management of the proceedings. Kwarie, on the contrary, systematically spared life; and, leaving them a few head of cattle to subsist upon, connived at the escape of the accused and their families to the mountain region towards the Orange River. His own great influence, and the popular character of the proceeding, enabled him to continue it for several years. At length a quarrel with the other councillor threatened him with the consequences of exposure, on which he adopted the bold resolution of assembling his mountaineers (now an imposing-looking band), appearing at their head at the umzi wakwomkulu, avowing what he had done, and putting it to the old chief whether he had not better served his interests by preserving the men alive, than he would have done [p.22] by putting them to death. He did so; and the measure was perfectly successful. Tshiwo, instead of punishing Kwane, constituted the people he had saved a distinct tribe, and invested him with the chieftainship of it. His insignia of rank consisted of a milksack, a selection from the chief's milking cows to replenish it with, and an allotment of blue crane's wings for war plumes for his bravest warriors.6 These, bestowed by the hand of Tshiwo, served instead of the ribands, stars, and garters, as eagerly sought for, though perhaps not more highly prized, in a higher state of society.

The tribe of Kwane is the present tribe of Pato. Its fortunes have been various; but at the commencement of the present war, it far exceeded in numbers several of the other tribes, whose chiefs had long looked down upon it with the contempt which the imaginary superiority of blood inspires.

The successive formation of the Kafir tribes affords an actual specimen of the process by which the Pastoral nations of the world are formed. It exhibits, on a small scale, an exemplification of the periodical swarming by which, from the ancient hives of nations, the earth was overspread. In this point of view it will form an interesting illustration of some branches of the study of Man, to those who can free their minds from the influence of temporary circumstances. A sketch of the history of the tribes, and a view of the character and operation of the system of government obtaining amongst them, are the proposed subjects of some future articles.



It is common to talk of the despotism of Kafir chiefs. If by the use of this term it is intended to be implied that the will of the chief is the sole law of the nation, it is incorrect. The government amongst the tribes on this side of the Bashee is not a despotism. Such a term may be applicable to the rule of Mosheshe, the Basutu chief, who boasted that when he spoke the mountains moved; or to the tyranny of Tshaka, the head of the Amazulu, who would order a number of his people unarmed to catch a hippopotamus alive, and be obeyed, too, so far at least as the attempt was concerned, although it involved the certain and wanton sacrifice of many lives. The government of the Amaxosa and Abatembu tribes is a sort of mixture of Patriarchism and Feudalism. Age gives great weight and influence to the will of a chief and most chiefs of rank can generally find means to accomplish their wishes; but if these wishes involve the death or the spoliation of any of their subjects, they are usually obliged to resort to some form of law to give colour to their procedure. In the case of a Kafir chief the principal checks to the despotic inclinations which the possession of power always induces, are, 1st, the division of the tribes, and 2ndly, the existence of a very influential council. The operation of succession to the chieftainship, which was explained in the "Christian Watchman" for September, has led to the formation of various tribes nearly equal in power to each other. It is very common for persons who have exposed themselves to the ire of their own chiefs, to take refuge amongst some tribe adjoining; and on doing so, they become so far safe as to be within [p.24] the protection of a custom which forbids their arbitrary seizure by their own chief and places them on the same footing (until investigation take place) as the subjects of the chief amongst whose people they have taken refuge. Any attempt to interfere with them by violence, when once they are within the territory of another tribe, would be resented by an instant rising of the clans nearest them in their defence, and that without any inquiry as to the merits of the case. The desire of each chief to increase the number of his retainers often induces him to throw obstacles in the way of any investigation that would be likely to lead to the surrender of any man who had placed himself under his authority and protection from another tribe. It is therefore very common for all farther prosecution of a chief's quarrel with his delinquent subject to be abandoned, on the culprit once gaining the "city refuge" which another tribe affords him. The practical limitation of the power of the chiefs, arising from the above circumstances, is easily perceived.

The existence of a council, in which all matters of importance are discussed at length, is another check upon the power of the chiefs. This council, the members of which are called amapakati (literally "middle ones"), is composed of commoners, who, by their courage in war, or their skill in debate on public questions, or in unravelling intricate law suits, have acquired great popular influence, and are thus qualified either to sustain or control the power of the chiefs. They generally reside in different parts of the country, and have a sort of civil jurisdiction over their respective neighbourhoods. A few of them are mostly to be found at the chief's residence, but on the occurrence of any matter of public [p.25] importance, the arrival of a message of consequence from the chief of another tribe, or the proposition of any particular measure on the part of their own chief; they are all summoned to the umzi wakwomkulu, and no decision is come to till the matter has been thoroughly discussed in all its bearings. As every one of these Amapakati has his own partizans and favourites in the tribe, so the shield of the patron is often interposed between his client and his chief.

The operation of the influence of the Amapakati in modifying the power of the chiefs is remarkable, as it has its periodical revolutions, its waxings and wanings. Some idea of the nature of these alternations may be acquired by tracing the operation of a custom, which exists amongst the principal chiefs, of making one of the youngest of their wives the "great wife." The ground of this custom will be best understood from a view of the usual career of a chief in relation to his matrimonial alliances.

The first wife of a Kafir chief, "the wife of his youth," is not unfrequently taken from amongst the families of his own councillors. He is as yet "unknown to fame;" his wealth is not so considerable as it is to be. After awhile his alliance becomes more worthy the attention of those of other tribes, whose daughters demand a higher dowry than was required by the humbler parents of his first wife. Another and another are sent to him; for it must be borne in mind that a Kafir chief does not choose his own wives. He is surprised from time to time by the arrival of a bridal party, bringing with them as his offered bride some chief's daughter whom he has never seen before. The danger of refusing her is according to the rank and [p.26] power of the family to which she belongs, for to decline such an alliance is to offer a public insult to the whole tribe. The usual order of things, then, is, that as a chief grows older and richer, wives of higher rank are sent to him, and the reasons which operate against their refusal operate also against their having an inferior rank allotted to them in the successional distribution. The mother of him who is to be the "great son" may thus be the last wife the chief has taken, which is, in fact, sometimes the case.

The result of this process is, that a chief dying in his old age, leaves a minor, often a mere child, to succeed him. What, then, is the position of the young chief? He finds himself surrounded by a number of grey-headed veteran associates of his father, who are strong in the possession of long-continued popular influence, and insolent from their consciousness of possessing it. If he will yield himself to their sway, his course is smoothened for him; if he manifests much self-will, they do not scruple to remind him that they were the councillors and companions of his father before he was born; that his mother owed her appointment, and consequently her son his rank, to their advice and influence: and they will sometimes hint that they can unmake as well as make chiefs; and threaten him with the elevation of a brother as a rival.

The rule of a young chief is thus in reality the rule of the old councillors of the tribe. The relative position of the two parties, however, gradually changes. While the young chief is advancing towards the vigour and resolution of manhood, the course of nature is carrying the most venerable of his haughty mentors to the grave, and thus removing some of the most formidable obstacles [p.27] to his own exercise of power. On the other hand, his own party, formed of the young and active spirits of the tribe, is growing in strength. By degrees he ventures on bolder measures. One after another of the old Amapakati falls a victim to an accusation of witchcraft, the Kafir state engine for the removal of the obnoxious, and by the time the young chief has grown old in his turn, he has surrounded himself with another set of councillors, who, enriched by the spoils of their predecessors, and inheritors of their influence, are prepared to do for the successor of their master what their own forerunners and victims did for himself, to be in their turn the victims of a system perpetuated from generation to generation.

Such in one point of view is the practical working of the Kafir system of government, as regards the tribes individually considered. That under such a system there should be more than enough of tyranny, might be inferred from the natural rapacity of power. But it is not the tyranny of one, whose will no other dares to thwart. It is divided amongst many, and is often more or less neutralized by the rival popular interests of the tyrannizers themselves.

A view of the constitutional sources of a Kafir chief's revenue, and its expenditure, will throw a little more light on this subject.

As cattle constitute the sole wealth of the people, so they are their only medium of such transactions as involve exchange, payment, or reward. The retainers of a chief serve him for cattle; nor is it expected that he could maintain his influence, or indeed secure any number of followers, if unable to provide them with [p.28] what at once constitutes their money, food, and clothing. He requires, then, a constant fund from which to satisfy his dependents; and the amount of the fund required may be judged of from the character of the demand made upon him. His retinue, court, or whatever it is to be called, consists of men from all parts of the tribe, the young, the clever, and the brave, who come to busa (do court service) for a time, that they may obtain cattle to furnish them with the means of procuring wives, arms, or other objects of desire. On obtaining these they return to their homes and give place to others. Thus the immediate retinue of the chief is continually changing, and constitutes a permanent drain upon his resources. To meet this he has—

1. The inherited cattle of his father. Not that he inherits the whole of his father's cattle. A prospective division of these is made at the time of the successional division of the chieftainship. The portion allotted to the "great" house, the cattle of the umzi wakwomkulu, constitute the inheritance of the "great" son. This previous division of his father's property thus obliges every chief to begin his "reign" with less wealth than his father possessed.

2. The amawakhe, or inauguration offerings. These consist of cattle, made on the day the chief completes his novitiate after circumcision. it having been previously announced to all the chiefs of rank in the nation, a grand meeting of the principal men of the tribe takes place on the day appointed; the young chief is presented to the councillors of his father, who lecture him, in terms not the most courteous or respectful, on his future conduct; the offerings and presents of the chiefs [p.29] of other tribes are received, and constitute a formal recognition of their young compeer, and an acknowledgment of his rank, which accordingly dates from that ceremony.

3. The ukuqola. This is a sort of occasional tribute or benevolence, as our old English Sovereigns would term it, and consists of cattle furnished by the rich commoners of the chief's own tribe, to assist him in some special emergency.

4. Fines and confiscations. The universal punishment for crime is fining: cases of supposed witchcraft excepted, which usually involve the torture and cruel death of the party accused, and the seizure of all he possesses. In levying fines, however, a distinction is made between cases involving personal injury and those which affect property merely. Persons are considered the property of the chief. Fines imposed for acts of violence committed on the person—cases of "blood"—are accordingly claimed by him, and the person or family whose blood has been shed receives no part of it. In what may be termed the civil cases,—i.e., those infringing the rights of individual property,—the party aggrieved claims the fine levied; but is nevertheless expected to fee the chief and his officials pretty liberally out of it; supposing the case to have been brought before him for legal investigation, which, however, is, generally speaking, only when the "lower courts" have been unable to settle it.

The above may be termed the regular sources of a Kafir chief's revenue. Presents extorted by personal importunity during visits of friendship, and the suits of predatory excursions, belong to the "unfixed contingencies."


From the above remarks it will be seen that a Kafir chief is in some respects dependent upon the good will of his people, and that it is necessary he should to a certain extent cultivate the arts of popularity. Accordingly, the cases of glaring oppression are only occasional, and occur where the hope of sharing in the spoil leads the majority of the amapakali to support their chief in victimizing some unfortunate individual whose wealth constitutes his crime.

The foregoing observations chiefly respect the administration of the tribes separately considered. There is, however, a sort of general government, centring in the chief and council of the tribe first in hereditary rank, which extends to all the other tribes. It is, indeed, of rather a loose character, and interferes with the internal affairs of individual tribes only in cases of appeal, or when, as sometimes occurs, the chief of the tribe himself refers the case to the "great chief" for decision. Its general sphere of exercise is in such matters as affect the relations of the tribes with each other. In any case of this nature which may arise, the decision is supposed to rest with the ukumkani, as the paramount chief is designated. It is accordingly expected that the parties concerned will send their respective representations on the merits of the case to the council of the ukumkani, to be tried there. The sickness or death of any secondary or subordinate chief; disputes with regard to "the succession" in any of the secondary tribes; insults or injures deemed to afford cause for an attack by one tribe on another; are among the cases of which the general government takes cognizance: and any subordinate tribe which should neglect to send a formal report of such matters to the "great place," and [p.31] abide by the decision there pronounced, would be considered as having contemned the authority of the supreme government, and would be amenable accordingly. Such is, in brief outline, the system of government which obtains amongst the tribes of the Amaxosa. It is, like other governments, the offspring of circumstances to a considerable extent; and, although defective in many important respects, forms one amongst a variety of facts which give a practical contradiction to the assertion that the Kafirs belong to the lowest grade of the earth's population in point of intellectual development.7 That it is very desirable it should be superseded by something better, may, however, be readily granted, and will perhaps appear all the more fully if we notice a few of the defects which it presents.

1. With the exception of the principle of hereditary succession, it recognizes no fixed constitution or system of legislation The appointment of the primary chieftainship is frequently the subject of caprice or intrigue, as might be expected where a plurality of wives obtains, and rival family interests present their clashing claims. There is at present a case in point, in the circumstances of the Imidushane, one of the principal tribes on the Frontier; where, a fit of personal disgust having led Dushane to the informal supersession of his "great wile" by another, two rival candidates for ubukulu (greatness) have arisen in the two sons whose mothers have thus at different times been claimants of the rank so much coveted. Nor was the disputed succession settled when the present war broke out. And then with regard to the principles of administration:—Some regard is paid to the decision of such [p.32] chiefs of former days as were of note for sagacity and wisdom; and appeals are often made to them in the council debates, as furnishing general grounds upon which to decide existing cases. These are, however, forgotten in the course of a generation or two; and thus cease to influence after the lapse of a few years. Besides which, a chief of the present generation may equal or surpass his forefathers in wisdom, and thus his decisions, although differing in many respects from theirs, may come to be the oracles of his children in preference to those of an earlier date. The government is thus liable in this respect to incessant fluctuation, being destitute of the solid basis for regular action which fixed principles alone can afford.

2. It confounds the legislative, judicial, and executive departments. The laws originate in the decisions of the chief and his council; but the same council forms the great law-court of the tribe, in which the chief sits as judge, and afterwards enforces the execution of his own sentences, or perhaps inflicts the awarded punishment with his own hand. It is needless to enlarge on the practical effect of this. It is universally admitted to be dangerous to the claims of justice when the same party that is to administer the law is entrusted to make it.

3. It affords no guarantee for the uniform administration of justice. There is no "letter of the law" to appeal to, and thus there is much scope for the exercise of favouritism; of which, doubtless, from the powerful influence of the principal councillors, very much exists. The facility of escape to another tribe, already noticed, is farther obstructive of the impartial administration of justice, even in cases where the law is clear, and thus [p.33] greatly checks the repression of crime by the impunity which it offers to delinquents in affording them a place of refuge.

The above considerations may serve to show that for the true ends of government, the conservation of order, and the promotion of social comfort and happiness, the system existing amongst the Kafir tribes is destitute of energy and efficiency.

On the other hand, lawless and predatory habits are greatly fostered by the peculiar position and privileges of the untitled members of the chiefs' families. In the numberless ramifications of these which exist, there is provided an exhaustless supply of leaders for any enterprise which promises booty, and there are always numbers of young men of a restless, roving disposition ready for any career of adventure that holds out the prospect of obtaining cattle. Disputes and quarrels furnish frequent excuses for petty expeditions of this kind, in which cattle are swept off as a speedy mode of settling what the regular process of law might take some time to decide. These give occasion for others of a similar character by way of reprisal; and as opportunities for displaying courage and address are afforded by such forays, and as there is little to lose in them for those who have nothing, and at least the prospect of gain to stimulate them, in addition to the pride of distinction, such enterprises are very popular, although they often lead to feuds of a serious character, and of course oppose a formidable obstacle to social advancement.


it would be scarcely correct to speak of a system of Kafir law. The laws of the Kafir tribes are but a [p.34] collection of precedents, consisting of the decisions of the chiefs and councils of bygone days, and embodied in the recollections, personal or traditional, of the people of the existing generation. That these decisions, in the first instance, were founded upon some general notion of right, is not unlikely. It is not, however, to the abstract merits of a case that the appeal is now ordinarily made, in legal discussions, but to what has been customary in past times. The decisions of deceased chiefs of note are the guide for the living in similar circumstances. The justice of those decisions is usually assumed as a matter of course, no one presuming to suppose that an Amaxosa chief any more than an English king, can do "wrong." The changing condition of the tribes, arising from their growing intercourse with a civilized people is, however, gradually introducing more complicated questions amongst them; and thus the Ancients are becoming less applicable to the circumstances of the Moderns than formerly. The result is, that more difficulty is felt in deciding, and the "glorious uncertainty" of the law of more enlightened lands is finding its way into the "courts" of Kaffraria.

In presenting a brief sketch of "Kafir Law," it may be observed in the first place, that a distinction obtains in some respects similar to that which exists amongst us between criminal and civil law. In one class of cases the chief is always considered the aggrieved party, and the action is always entered on his behalf. In the other, the people are the only parties concerned, the chief having to do with the matter in his capacity of judge merely. The principle which regulates the classification of cases is, however, one that makes a very different division of the civil from the criminal to that which [p.35] obtains in civilized jurisprudence. This principle is, that a man's goods are his own property, but his person is the property of his chief. Thus, if his possessions be invaded, he claims redress for himself; but if his person be assaulted, and bodily injury be the result, it becomes his owner's concern. In the latter case, however heavily the offender may be fined, the actual sufferer derives no benefit. "No man can eat his own blood," is the maxim which regulates this procedure; and as the fines levied for personal injuries are considered the "price of blood," whoever should receive any part of such fine in a case where lie had himself been the sufferer, would be regarded as violating this maxim.

The Kafir "criminal code," then, may be viewed as comprising whatever cases can be arranged under the general heads of treason, murder, assault, and witchcraft. The "civil," all that have reference to property; including as such, a man's wife as the principal article, and his character as the next; and proceeding downwards through his various kinds of live-stock to his houses, granaries, and cornfields. A "good name" is deemed of such worth (possibly on the principle that the scarcity or rarity of an article enhances its value) that whoever attempts to "filch" it, runs the risk of a serious prosecution.

The penal sanctions of Kafir law resolve themselves into the general system of pecuniary fines, varying, according to circumstances, from a single head of cattle to the entire confiscation of property. The exceptions to this are, cases of assault on the persons of wives of the chiefs, and what are deemed aggravated cases of witchcraft. These usually involve the punishment of death, very summarily inflicted. This punishment, however, seldom follows even murder, when committed without [p.36] the supposed aid of supernatural powers; and as banishment, imprisonment, and corporal punishment, are all unknown in Kafir jurisprudence, the property of the people constitutes the great fund out of which the debts of justice are paid.

The principle upon which fines are levied is not very rigidly defined. Family and personal influence, and favouritism, have much to do with regulating the amount where the decision is given by the chiefs. In cases of cattle stealing, the law allows a fine of ten head, though but one may have been stolen, provided the animal has been slaughtered, or cannot be restored. The principle of ten for one is not, however, so applied as to involve the maintenance of the rule whatever be the number stolen. Though ten are levied when one has been stolen, it is not admitted to follow that a hundred may be demanded when ten have been stolen. The circumstances of the case are taken into consideration, and the decision varies accordingly. And then, "by a fiction of law," iron pots, axes, and assagais, are allowed to represent cattle; so that the man who pays for his theft five or six head of cattle, and a goat or two, making up the number of ten by the addition of some of the above articles, is frequently released from all farther legal claim, so far as that case is concerned.

Should a delinquent be too poor to pay the fine himself; his father, or nearest living relatives are held responsible; and many a grey-headed parent has the disagreeable task of doing for his scapegrace of a son, what his own father in his younger days had to do for him. Should neither the offender nor his relatives be able to satisfy the present claims of justice, the law is so accommodating as to give credit; and five, ten, or twenty [p.37] years afterwards, if his altered circumstances render it worth while to re-open the case, it is found carefully registered in the living records kept in the heads of old councillors.

When it is ascertained that stolen property has been shared by the thief with others, the fine imposed by law is levied upon the receivers and the thief in common, in proportion to the amount of plunder received by each participator.

In cases ranked as "criminal," that is, where the chief himself is the prosecutor, the penalty very often consists in being "eaten," to use the rather expressive figure by which entire confiscation of property is implied. In some cases, the nature of the crime fully warrants this, and would justify even more. In others, a looker-on might feel it a difficult matter to find good reasons for such procedure: the chiefs, however, easily find reasons sufficient to satisfy themselves.

The course of law in Kafirland proceeds on a principle the very reverse of that which regulates English administration of justice. We assume the accused party innocent till his guilt is proved. In Kafirland he is held guilty till he can demonstrate his innocence. With us, witnesses must supply the grounds upon which the case is to be decided. Amongst the Kafirs, the accused party himself is subjected to a most rigorous cross-examination, varied and repeated at the pleasure of his examiners, and every advantage is taken of his mistakes or self-contradictions.

The conduct of a Kafir law-suit through its various stages is an amusing scene to any one who understands the language, and who marks the proceedings with a view to elicit mental character.


When a man has ascertained that he has sufficient grounds to enter an action against another, his first step is to proceed, with a party of his friends or adherents, armed, to the residence of the person against whom his action lies. On their arrival, they sit down together in some conspicuous position, and await quietly the result of their presence. As a law party is readily known by the aspect and deportment of its constituents, its appearance at any kraal is the signal for mustering all the adult male residents that are forthcoming. These accordingly assemble, and also sit down together, within conversing distance of their generally unwelcome visitors. The two parties perhaps survey each other in silence for some time. "Tell us the news!" at length exclaims one of the adherents of the defendant, should their patience fail first. Another pause sometimes ensues, during which the party of the plaintiff discuss in an under tone which of their company shall be "opening counsel." This decided, the "learned gentleman" commences a minute statement of the case, the rest of the party confining themselves to occasional suggestions, which he adopts or rejects at pleasure. Sometimes he is allowed to proceed almost uninterrupted to the close of the statement, the friends of the defendant listening with silent attention, and treasuring up in their memories all the points of importance for a future stage of the proceedings. Generally, however, it receives a thorough sifting from the beginning, every assertion of consequence being made the occasion of a most searching series of cross questions.

The case thus fairly opened, which often occupies several hours, it probably proceeds no farther the first day. The plaintiff and his party are told that the [p.39] "men" of the place are from home; that there are none but "children" present, who are not competent to discuss such important matters. They accordingly retire, with the tacit understanding that the case is to resumed the next day.

During the interval the defendant formally makes known to the men of the neighbouring kraals that an action has been entered against him, and they are expected to be present on his behalf at the resumption of the case. In the meantime, the first day's proceedings having indicated the line of argument adopted by the plaintiff, the plan of defence is arranged accordingly. Information is collected, arguments are suggested, precedents sought for, able debaters called in, and every possible preparation made for the battle of intellects that is to be fought on the following day. The plaintiff's party, usually reinforced both in mental and in material strength, arrive the next morning and take up their ground again. Their opponents, now mustered in force, confront them, seated on the ground, each man with his arms by his side. The case is resumed by some "advocate for the defendant" requiring a re-statement of the plaintiff's grounds of action. This is commenced perhaps by one who was not even present at the previous day's proceedings, but who has been selected for this more difficult stage of the case on account of his debating abilities.

"Then comes the tug of war." The ground is disputed inch by inch; every assertion is contested, every proof attempted to be invalidated; objection meets objection, and question is opposed by counter question, each disputant endeavouring, with surprising adroitness, to throw the burden of answering on his opponent.  [p.40] The Socratic method of debate appears in all its perfection, both parties being equally versed in it. The rival advocates warm as they proceed, sharpening each other's intellects and kindling each other's ardour, till, from the passions that seem enlisted in the contest, a stranger might suppose the interests of the nation to be at stake, and dependent upon the decision.

When these combatants have spent their strength, or one of them is overcome in argument, others step in to the rescue. The battle is fought over again on different ground; some point, either of law or evidence, that had been purposely kept in abeyance, being now brought forward, and perhaps the entire aspect of the case changed. The whole of the second day is frequently taken up with this intellectual gladiatorship, and it closes without any other result than an exhibition of the relative strength of the opposing parties. The plaintiff's company retire again, and the defendant and his friends review their own position. Should they feel that they have been worsted, and that the case is one that cannot be successfully defended, they prepare to attempt to bring the matter to a conclusion by an offer of the smallest satisfaction the law allows. This is usually refused, in expectation of an advance in the offer, which takes place generally in proportion to the defendant's anxiety to prevent an appeal. Should the plaintiff at length accede to the proposed terms, they are fulfilled, and the case is ended by a formal declaration of acquiescence.

If, however, as it frequently happens, the case involves a number of intricate questions, that afford room for quibbling, the debates are renewed day after day, till the plaintiff determines to appeal to the decision of the umpakati, who has charge of the neighbouring district. [p.41] He proceeds with his array of advocates to his kraal, and the case is restated in his presence. The defendant confronts him, and the whole affair is gone into anew on an enlarged scale of investigation. The history of the case, the history of the events that led to it, collateral circumstances, journeys, visits, conversations, bargains, exchanges, gifts, promises, threatenings, births, marriages, deaths, that were taken, paid, made, given, or occurred in connection with either of the contending parties, or their associates, or their relatives of the present or past generation, all come under review, and before the "court of appeal" has done with the affair, the history, external and internal, of a dozen families, for the past ten years, is made the subject of conflicting discussion.

The "Resident Magistrate" decides the case, if he can, after perhaps a week's investigation; but if not, or if either party be dissatisfied with his decision, an appeal can still be made to the chief "in council."

Should this final step be resolved on, the appealing party proceeds to the "Great Place." Here, however, more of form and ceremony must be observed than before. As soon as he and his company arrive within hearing, he shouts at the full extent of his voice, "Ndimangele!" (I lodge a complaint.) "Urnangele ‘nto nina?" (You lodge a complaint of what?) is the immediate response, equally loud, from whichever of the "men of the Great Place" happens to catch the sound. A shouting dialogue commences, the complainants approaching all the while till they have reached the usual position occupied on such occasions, a spot at the respectful distance of some fifty paces from the council hut. The dialogue lasts as long as the umpakati chooses to [p.42] question, and then ceases. The complainants sit still. Bye and bye some one else comes out of the house and sees the party. "What do you complain about?" "We complain about so and so;" and the case is begun afresh. He listens and questions as long as he likes, and then passes on. A third happens to be going by. The inquiry is repeated, and again a statement of the case is commenced. The umpakati wakwomkulu questions as he goes, and without stopping continues his interrogations till he is out of hearing. This tantalizing and seemingly contemptuous procedure is repeated at the pleasure or caprice of any man who chances to form one of the "court" for the time being, and it would be "contempt of court" to refuse to answer. At length, when it suits their convenience, the councillors assemble, and listen to the complainant's statement. The opposite party, if he has not come voluntarily to confront his accusers, is summoned by authority. On his arrival the former processes of statement and counter-statement are repeated, subjected to the cross-examining ordeal through which old Kafir lawyers know so well how to put a man. The chief meanwhile is perhaps lying stretched on a mat in the midst of his council, apparently asleep, or in a state of dignified indifference as to what is going forwards. He is, however, in reality as wide awake as any present, of which he can generally give proof should he see fit to assume the office of examiner himself. He sometimes does so, after having listened to the debates that have taken place in his presence, and then decides the case. At other times he forms his decision upon the result of the investigation conducted by his councillors, and takes no part in the case but to pronounce judgment. On this being done, the party in whose [p.43] favour judgment is given starts up, rushes to the feet of the chief; kisses them, and in an impassioned oration extols the wisdom and justice of his judge to the skies. A party from the "Great Place" is sent with him to enforce the decision, and bring back the chief's share of the fine imposed, and the affair is at an end.


Amongst the national usages of the Kafirs, as amongst those of other tribes and nations, the customs connected with marriage rank first in importance, as influencing the entire social condition of the people. Some account of these will form the subject of the present article.

Polygamy is universally allowed throughout all the tribes, nor is there any legal limit to the number of wives a man may take. The actual number generally bears some proportion to the wealth of the husband; not, perhaps, so much from its regulating his desire to increase it, as from its determining the inclinations of those who have marriageable daughters to dispose of; for as the refusal of a proffered bride is regarded as an insult to her family, to reject one when sent would often involve the party doing so in considerable trouble, and might, indeed certainly would, in some cases, expose him to the danger of seeing his cattle swept off to wipe away the affront. On the principle, therefore, "of two evils to choose the least," an old man sometimes consents to take another and a young wife, when his inclinations would lead him to demur. For in Kafirland, at least, such an enlargement of the domestic establishment by no means guarantees an increase of domestic happiness. The jealousies and rivalries of the spousal [p.44] "sisters," as they designate each other, and the still greater evils flowing in such a state of society from such unnatural associations, often prove the plague of the husband's life, and frequently result in the dismissal or abandonment of such of his wives as cause him the greatest annoyance. The average number of wives to each married man amongst the common people is about three. Some of the rich amapakati are known to have as many as ten, and some of the chiefs twice that number.

Concubinage is also allowed, and amongst the chiefs exists to a considerable extent. Their concubines are usually women selected from amongst their own people, who have become objects of attraction to their rulers, but whose parents are not of sufficient consideration to demand on their behalf the more honourable rank of wives. It is, however, by no means uncommon for a chief to raise a favourite concubine to that rank, after some years' cohabitation. Amongst the common people concubines consist of two classes, the voluntary, and the bestowed. The former are those who have become such by personal consent, and arrangement with the relatives in whose guardianship they are. The latter are such as the chiefs have authoritatively allotted to the young men of their retinue, who have acquired their special favour during their term of service at the "Great Place;" and who have therefore obtained permission to select female companions from amongst their acquaintance, without incurring the expense of the marriage dowry. As concubines have a legal standing, their offspring are not considered illegitimate. They rank, however, inferior to the children of the "married wives;" nor can they inherit, except in default of male issue on the part of the latter.


In a preceding article, an account is given of the peculiarity in the law of inheritance, which arises from the investiture of certain of the wives of the chiefs with a rank above the rest. The same custom obtains throughout all the grades of Kafir society. The "great wife," the "wife of the right hand," and the representative of "the house of the father," are found amongst all classes, should the husband have as many as three wives; and should they exceed that number, the children of the rest have no claim on their father's property, beyond the portions given to them by their father himself during his lifetime.

The younger sons of a family are not competent to marry while their elder brother remains single. The order of seniority is not, however, observed any farther. The firstborn once "settled in life," the rest may follow, as inclination and circumstances lead. The origin of this custom is probably to be found in the priority of claim which the eldest son, in virtue of his primogeniture, is deemed to have upon his father's aid in providing a dowry.

The business of negotiation in matrimonial affairs differs accordingly as the proposal comes from the representatives of the bride, or from those of the bridegroom. A man sometimes fixes his desire upon a young woman, and at once proposes to her guardians that she shall be sent to his residence in the ordinary manner. If his proposal be accepted, it serves to cut short some part of the ceremonies afterwards to be described.

It is sometimes the case, also, that two young men select as the object of their choice the same young woman. They commence a course of rival bidding for the father's consent and the daughter's affections. The [p.46] cattle of the respective candidates are sent to the father of the object of their rivalry by one or two at a time, as may be necessary in each case to advance a step beyond the opposite side. When the highest bidder has reached his maximum, the cattle of both are surveyed together, and the lady is called upon to declare her own choice of the candidates themselves. If this should happen to coincide with that of her parents with respect to the cattle, so much the better. If not a contest commences of persuasion versus authority. It sometimes occurs that the entreaties of the daughter prevail over the avarice of the father; but such cases, the Kafirs admit, are rare. Kafir fathers have for the most part their full share of those principles of human nature which in more enlightened countries lead parents to sacrifice the "foolish" inclinations of their children at a golden shrine; and accordingly the highest bidder usually gains the prize. The cattle of the unsuccessful candidate are then driven by the fair one herself, arrayed in her best ornaments, to the home of their owner, and left in his kraal. This is the coup de grace of rejection, and is a piece of refinement in punishing a stingy suitor, worthy the notice of the undervalued ladies of more civilized nations.

Such cases as the above often occur. In the ordinary course of things, however, negotiations are begun by the father of the bride, and especially so, if she be a person of rank. The process is frequently a very lengthy one. A husband having been fixed on, the first step is to send a person by night to his residence, with an introductory present, called umlomo, or "the mouth." This present, consisting of ornaments, such as beads, or brass wire for bracelets, must be left secretly, [p.47] as otherwise etiquette would require its being returned. Whether or no this custom has had its origin in the excessive bashfulness of the men does not appear. The discovery of the "mouth," after its bearer is gone, is frequently the first intimation of a proposed matrimonial alliance, and it may still be unknown from what quarter the proposal comes. Sometimes the requisite information is left in the neighbourhood. At other times, where more caution is required, a visitor, or rather a passer by, calls the next day, quite accidentally, it should appear. In the course of "telling the news," in compliance with the universal requisition made upon strangers, he mentions cursorily that he happened to hear so and so drop some hints of an intention to send his daughter to be married in the neighbourhood. Of course he happens also to know something of the lady herself as of her family, and can give some information respecting her personal attractions, and other good qualities. He may even be gallant enough to advocate her cause, although of course quite disinterested. From the character of the conversation that follows, he is soon able to gather in what way these first advances are received, and what are the probabilities of a prosperous issue to the negotiation. If the ambition of the lady's friends should have led them to aim at too high a mark (for family pride is by no means too refined a feeling for a barbarian breast), or if other circumstances should determine the selected party to decline the alliance, the "mouth" is sent back to tell its owner of her rejection. If on the contrary, either the desires or the fears of the bridegroom elect induce him to regard it favourably, the way is open for the next step in this interesting and important business.


It should not pass unremarked, that when the proposed bride is a chief's daughter, the introductory present is not left secretly, but dropped in the presence of those to whom it is sent. They instantly endeavour to seize the bearer, who takes to his heels, pursued by all the young men of the place. Should he outstrip them, and escape capture, his credit is saved. But if he is caught, his hands are tied behind him, the present bound to his back, and himself sent home to become the laughing-stock of his associates, of whom the female portion are not the least severe, upon his failure. The "mouth" is then entrusted to the care of some light footed messenger, while the former one bears his disgrace as he can.

The next step in the process is the arrival, at the kraal of the bridegroom elect, of two or three persons, usually women. These also arrive in the night. They seat themselves near one of the huts in the open air in silence, and remain there till discovered by some of the people of the place. On being questioned, they give some fictitious account of themselves. On being invited to lodge for the night, they decline. This is the intimation that they form the party sent to hlolela or "spy for" the bride. A hut is then appropriated to their use, and they there await the result of this second step. Weeks sometimes elapse, during which they have little [p.49] of the dowry. When this important matter has been fully discussed, the "spies" are informed that the bride may come. This information being transmitted, the uduli, or bridal party, makes its appearance, consisting of the bride herself a number of young female companions, the representatives of her father or guardians, and some young men as attendants or messengers. The party takes possession of the hut occupied by the "spies." In due time the master of the kraal sends word that the bride is to present herself "to be seen." She accordingly proceeds with one or two of her companions to where the men are assembled. She kneels before them at a short distance, uncovered from the waist upwards, while her defects or beauties of person are freely criticised. When this is over, site retires, leaving behind her a present of beads or buttons. She is afterwards called for by the women, and a similar ordeal is endured, another present being left on retiring. In the meantime the dowry negotiation is going forwards between the representatives of the two parties; the demands of the one, and the statement of difficulties of the other, occupying a considerable time. At length the men of the bridal party are summoned to the cattle kraal. An ox is caught in their presence. They look on in silence and retire. The animal is slaughtered, and the meat sent to them. This is the ratification of the contract, and the signal for the marriage festivities to commence. The presents of the father of the bride to his son-in-law are produced. These are, one head of cattle for a kaross, another, the hair of the tail of which is to be worn round his neck as a charm, and, if the bride be a person of rank, a number of cows to furnish a milksack and its contents for his sustenance. [p.50] The number of the latter varies from two or three to ten, according to the wealth or ostentation of the party who sends them. The neighbours are invited to the wedding, and the dancing and feasting begin. These festivities usually last three days among the "commonalty." When a chief of rank is married they continue eight or ten days. On the last day, when the sun is declining, the ox races are held. While the youth and more fiery of the elder guests are absent at this sport, the ukutshata takes place. This is the great ceremonial of the occasion, but strikingly characteristic of the barbarism of the people. The bride, and two of her companions as supporters, walk in procession. Their only clothing consists of the skins of the oribie, tied round the loins. Their heads are bare, and their bodies coloured with light red ochre, which presents the more remarkable appearance from the bright yellow of the oribie skins. They proceed arm in arm, "with solemn steps and slow," towards the gate of the cattle kraal, the bride carrying in her hand a single assagai. Their air is that of victims about to be offered in sacrifice, for which they would certainly be taken by any one ignorant of the customs of the country. As they proceed on their way, one of the male attendants removes any sticks or stones that may chance to lie in the path. On reaching the kraal gate, the bride throws the assagai within it, and leaves it there. The procession then moves towards where the men are assembled, the women of the place preceding the bride, and imitating in dumb show her future duties, such as carrying wood and water, and cultivating the ground. On reaching the assembly of the men, the procession halts, and the bride is lectured on her future conduct by any one of them who chooses. [p.51] There is no deficiency of coarse brutality of remark in this part of the ceremony, which continues as long as the lecturers please, the bride standing before them in perfect silence. It is, however, the finale of the ceremony. On receiving permission to retire, the procession returns to the place from which it set out, the guests depart, the bride takes possession of a new hut that has been erected for her, and assumes her assigned position in the domestic establishment of her new "lord and master."

The number of guests present at these festivities is sometimes very great. At the marriage of chiefs of high rank, they amount to thousands. On such occasions the greater portion of the tribe assembles, and all the other chiefs within one or two days' journey are expected either to attend in person, or send their racing oxen. To neglect to do either would be considered an affront. The bridegroom and his friends provide the slaughter cattle for the feast; but the guests bring their own much cows and milksacks. From four or five to fifty head of cattle are slaughtered, according to the wealth and rank of the parties.

Such is the marriage ceremonial in the "respectable circles" of Kafir society. There is also an abridged form, in which the ukutshata and the ox racing are omitted, and the feasting and dancing much curtailed. This, however, is considered a discreditable mode of getting married, and is therefore chiefly confined to the poorest of the people.

There is another custom connected with the marriage of chiefs, or rather supplementary to it, very characteristic of the people; but which, like several others, is falling into disuse among the frontier tribes. At the [p.52] close of the first year of marriage, the male relatives of the bride muster and form a party to go and pay the congratulatory visit. On their coming in sight, however, a rival muster takes place of the friends and retainers of the husband, who go out to resist the advance of the other party. The result is a cudgel match on a large scale, from pure friendliness, of course, but which nevertheless does not prevent heads and limbs from being broken. Should the friends of the bride drive the other party off the ground, the welcoming present of cattle made by the husband is expected to be so much larger; but if the opposite side win the day, the demands of the congratulators are proportionably lessened.

The general eastern custom of paying a dowry, or marriage price, for their wives, obtains throughout the Kafir tribes. Cattle, the number varying according to the rank of the bride, from ten to a hundred head, constitute this dowry; and the desire of obtaining as many cattle as possible usually leads her father or other guardians to send her to the richest man their own rank will warrant, without any regard to her own inclinations, or the age, disposition, or domestic circumstances of her intended husband. As this custom has been considered to reduce the wife to a mere article of merchandize, it has been condemned in strong terms, on the ground of its degrading influence. It must be acknowledged that although the principle of the usage has the sanction of patriarchal antiquity, and is mentioned, without prohibition, in the Old Testament, its circumstantial, as existing amongst the Kafir tribes, partake of the grossness to be expected in a barbarous state of society. It is but fair, however, that the whole case should be exhibited. The transaction is not a mere [p.53] purchase. The cattle paid for the bride are divided amongst her male relations, and are considered by the law to be held in trust for the benefit of herself and children, should she be left a widow. She can accordingly legally demand assistance from any of those who have partaken of her dowry; and her children can apply to them on the same ground for something to "begin the world with." Nor can the husband ill-treat her with impunity. On experiencing any real grievance, she can claim an asylum with her father again, till her husband has made such atonement as the case demands. Nor would many European husbands like to be subjected to the usual discipline on such occasions. The offending husband must go in person to ask for his wife. He is instantly surrounded by the women of the place, who cover him at once with reproaches and blows. Their nails and fists may be used with impunity, for it is the day of female vengeance, and the belaboured delinquent is not allowed to resist. lie is not permitted to see his wife, but is sent home, with an intimation of what cattle are expected from him, which he must send before he can demand his wife again. And this process, should it be necessary, may be repeated over and over again, to be closed, in incorrigible cases (should the woman have borne any children), by the father's finally detaining his daughter and her dowry together. So that the husband may at last lose wife and cattle both.




(continued from p. 53.)


This national rite, venerable for its extreme antiquity, prevails amongst all the tribes of South Eastern Africa that are connected with the Kafir and Bechuana stocks. Its origin is, however, unknown among them, nor do any traditionary remembrances appear to exist with regard to it, beyond that of its prevalence as a national custom from generation to generation. "Our forefathers did so, and therefore we do the same," is all the account the present generation can give of this and various other observances that have been transmitted from age to age.

As respects the signification of the rite, it is not viewed at all as a religious ceremony. It bears a strictly civil character, being the rite by which the youth of the male sex are introduced to the rank and privileges of manhood. So essential is it deemed in this point of view, that a person who had not undergone it would be regarded as but a child, however old he might be. He would not be allowed to inherit; he would find no one that would receive him as a son-in-law; and would be treated with universal scorn and ridicule, as well by the women as by the men.


As the Kafirs keep no records of the age of their children, there is no specified period at which circumcision takes place. The marks of puberty supply the general rule; and as soon as a lad has reached this state, he is eligible for the initiatory rite of manhood. Its performance is hastened or deferred accordingly as his courage is greater or less. Cases are on record of cowardice on the part of youths which has led them to postpone their consent, until, after several years delay, they have been seized and circumcised by force. Such cases are, however, not very frequent. The idea of ranking with the men is generally sufficiently pleasurable to overcome the repugnance of fear at an early period, and youths may sometimes be seen who have thus attained their "majority," while scarcely in appearance more than fourteen or fifteen years of age.

As the youths who have been circumcised form a separate community during the period of their novitiate, and are secluded from general society, it is usual to perform the rite when a number of lads of the requisite age are to be found in one neighbourhood. The commencement of the sowing season is the time for its performance. From that period until the harvest has been gathered in (about six months) is the duration of the novitiate. All this time the abakweta, as they are called, inhabit a hut by themselves, built for them in some secluded spot. Here they have a kraal of their own, milking cows being furnished by their fathers, and certain persons appointed to prepare and supply them with whatever other food they require.

The operators in the performance of the rite, in the case of the common people, are some of the old men of the families to which the lads belong. When, [p.155] however, the sons of chiefs are to be circumcised, and especially when the rite is to be performed upon the successor of a chief of high rank, great care is taken to select some operator of known skill.

The youths, generally a large number, who are circumcised at the same time with a young chief of rank, become his retinue. The prospective “prime minister” is the first operated upon; the second is the chief himself; the third becomes the councillor second in order to the urnzi was wornkulu of his young sovereign. The rest range in subordinate positions according to circumstances.

During the period of their seclusion, the novices are distinguished by having their faces and legs smeared with a kind of white clay, and their karosses left undressed with the usual preparation of red ochre. The appearance they present is, accordingly, a most hideous one. They may often be seen standing in a group, and gazing from a distance at passers-by, when they look like a company of lepers interdicted from general society. Their appearance in the presence of married women is strictly prohibited, excepting at the uknyeyezela, or dance of their order. It is accordingly no uncommon thing to see a party of abakweta take instant flight to some hiding place while a woman of that class passes by. No such interdict exists with regard to the unmarried.

The ukuyeyezela alluded to above is an amusement peculiar to the period of abakweta-hood. The youths themselves appear in their dancing dresses at the kraals of their fathers on certain days, and entertain their friends by an exhibition of their skill. These dresses consist of broad kilts, formed of the young leaves of the palm tree. The, leaves are strung together at one end, [p.156] and bound round the loins. Waving head-dresses are likewise worn, made of the same material. The peculiar movement of the body in the dance keeps the kilts in a swinging motion from side to side, with a strange rustling noise; and the appearance presented by five or six of these exhibitors, with their whitened faces, stooping plumes and semigyratory evolutions, is the very perfection of the grotesque. During the dance, the females of the place, collected in a company, stand together at a short distance, beating time with sticks upon a shield, and accompanying it with a sort of chant abounding with licentious allusions.

The termination of the novitiate is a festive ceremony to which great importance is attached. It takes place about harvest time, when there is a supply of fresh corn to make the fermented liquor called utyalwa, which is drunk freely on such occasions. The friends and relatives of the young men assemble to give them a formal recognition as having entered the class of arnadoda. The youths lay aside the abakwela costume, and appear for the first time with their heads dressed and their bodies anointed with imbola, or red ochre. Forming for the last time a separate company, they are lectured by the old men on the duties of their new position. They are directed to lay aside the deportment of "children," and act for the future as "men." Contributions are made by their friends and neighbours to enable them to "set out in life." One presents an assegai, another a brass girdle, a third a head of cattle. The social standing of the youths is now an entirely new one. The restrictions of boyhood are at an end. They mingle with the men as equals, and are now eligible as husbands, warriors, pleaders, or depredators.



The treatment of the dying and the dead amongst the Kafir tribes indicates a very low state of moral feeling, and forms a very striking contrast to the care and attention bestowed on this mournful subject by other nations far from being in a state of civilization. The death of a child, especially if young, is a matter which attracts very little notice. Its principal result is the temporary incapacitation of the parents from appearing in the presence of the chiefs. In the case of adults, the individual, when apparently at the point of death, is taken out of his house to die, and in too many instances is dragged to the edge of some neighbouring thicket, where he expires alone, uncheered by any of the kind offices which tend to alleviate the last sufferings of those who, in happier climes and under brighter auspices, close the mortal scene. As soon as the death is ascertained, the relatives of the deceased break forth in loud and violent lamentations, and the husband (or wife, as the case may be) casts away his garments and abandons his dwelling. He is now ceremonially unclean, and would incur a legal action were he to enter the dwelling of any other person while the period of his impurity lasts. There does not appear to be any fixed time for this, but it sometimes extends to several days. On its expiration, the bereaved person, his head shaved, and his garments new, is permitted to mingle again with society.

As to the body of the deceased, it was formerly customary in the case of the common people to drag it to some distance, and leave it to be devoured by wild beasts; the rite of sepulture being an honour appropriated to chiefs alone. But since the mission of Makana, [p.158] the "warrior prophet," the Frontier tribes have extended the practice of burial to all, this having formed one subject of his exhortations. A rude grave is accordingly dug at a short distance from the former habitation of the deceased; the body, wrapped in a mat, is laid in it, and a short address is made to it, the purport of which is, "Thou art gone home; intercede for us above, that no evil may befall thy relatives that survive." The grave is watched day and night for some time, to prevent the exhumation of the body, this being greatly dreaded, and sometimes practised for avowed deadly purposes.

The funeral of a chief, especially if he be of rank, is attended with several remarkable ceremonies, and followed by observances which last a considerable time. In the first place, particular persons are fixed upon to bury him; and these must be sought and found wherever they may be, even though the body in the meantime should be approaching a state of decomposition. The most valuable trinkets, arms, &c., of the chief are buried with him, a "kraal" is made over the grave, and certain cattle selected which are kept there by those appointed to be watchers. These persons remain on the spot sometimes for a whole year, should the deceased be a "great chief," during which time they are not allowed to visit any other "kraals," nor to anoint or wash their bodies, nor mingle in any of the customary amusements. When the period is expired, a contribution of cattle is made for them by the successor of the deceased chief and the principal councillors; and their persons become sacred, nor can they he legally put to death under any circumstances. The "cattle of the grave," as those are termed which were folded upon it, are never slaughtered; [p.159] no one may milk them but the watchers; nor can anything whatever be done with the increase of them, until the last of the original cattle has died. The grave itself becomes a sanctuary where any offender may take refuge, with the certainty of safety so long as he remains there.

The death having been formally made known to all the other chiefs of importance in the country, they shave their heads, and abstain from the use of milk for a certain period. Sometimes it is forbidden that any tiling be bought or sold, or removed from the tribe of the deceased chief, for a whole year.



Marriages are incestuous where the male and female are of any known or remembered degree of relationship by common descent; but marriages between those connected only by the marriage of relations are not incestuous. A man, also, may marry two sisters, the first being yet alive and his wife, when he marries the second. And among the Fingoes and upper tribes a mall may marry his uncle’s widow,8 and a younger brother his elder brother's widow, though these things are not held to be right amongst the Amaxosa.

The principles of these rules resemble those somewhat misunderstood ones on which the Mosaic prohibitions of marriage are founded. They [p.160] politically speaking, the prohibition to breeding in and intends much to keep up a bond of union and sympathy between the sub-tribes.

In Tshawe's time, and in that of his immediate successors, these marriages, and those who promoted them by false statements, as well both male and female who committed adultery, were punishable by death.


1. If a stranger sleep at a kraal, the head of that kraal is responsible for all thefts of the stranger’s property, cattle or horses.

2. If the spoor of stolen cattle is traced to a kraal, and one of the cattle be killed, and any persons from the neighbouring kraals be found partaking of the flesh, those other kraals are considered guilty, and fined accordingly.


The existence of the name utixo, and formerly of that of umdali, the Creator, and various customs and ejaculatory expressions, now, or till lately, in use, prove the traditional knowledge among the Kafirs of a Supreme Being. Any verbal or ceremonial acknowledgment is, however, a mere matter of form and custom, and probably has been so for several generations back. In accordance with this, they have no form of oath by which the Supreme Being is called to witness to the truth of their statements. Neither have they any form of cursing. But in accordance with their pride of birth, and veneration for the spirits of the dead, and in accordance with Arab and other Eastern customs, they swear (funga) by their ancestors. They take also to witness their chief, or some great deceased chief of his [p.161] line, or sometimes their chief's great wife (mother of the succeeding son) or their own father’s daughter. The form consists in putting forth the right hand, whence perhaps the name for it, "isandhla sokunene" (nene meaning in various dialects either true or great, or both), and in putting it forth with the fore and middle fingers extended, the thumb and other fingers being kept closed. This latter peculiarity refers, probably, to the sacred number seven (two plus five understood, the first five being naturally counted on the left hand), and this belief has been confirmed by the fact, that in a tribe above Delagoa Bay the name for seven seems to signify the swearing, or swearer, and is of the root funga, just as the Hebrew seven appears to be connected with the Hebrew holy.

Unfortunately, however, neither the thought of their ancestors, nor of their chiefs or sisters, has any effect on the minds of the Kafirs of the present generation. They acknowledge that they will lie as readily after their adjuration, as before taking it; and the causing a Kafir, therefore, in a court of justice, to funga, would be a worse than useless waste of time and words.

1 The Kafir orthography (dropping some of the prefixes) is here adopted; as it would be impossible to convey the sound of these names by attempting to Anglicize them. For an explanation of the power of the letters, a reference to the Kafir Grammar will be requisite.

2 This chief is to be distinguished front the chief of the same name who is the head of the Abatembu. The latter is related to Khili only by marriage, his sister being Khili's first wife.

3 Literally, "residence of the great one."

4 Tyali is dead, and his son, Fin, represents him.

5 Umxamli was killed at the battle of the Gwanga.

6 None but chiefs of rank are allowed to possess these; nor are any permitted to wear them but men of tried bravery, upon whom the chief bestows them as marks of his favour.

7 See Pritchard's Physical History of Man.

8 This particular, though it has been heard of as a fact, is somewhat doubtful, and requires confirmation.