Macheng   

Sekgoma (wearing traditional dress), McCabe jnr, (son of Joseph McCabe) seated in the front with hat and light suit, Khama standing behind McCabe (wearing a hat): hunter Edward George Chapman (standing to right of Khama and obscured) (Gustav Theodor Fritsch - Stellenbosch University).

Khama in 1864 (Gustav Theodor Fritsch - Stellenbosch University).

An early photographer Gustav Theodor Fritsch came as far north as Shoshong in around 1864, and was able to capture both Sekgoma and his son Khama in the same photograph. [1]

According to John Mackenzie’s reports, the arguments between Sekgoma and his sons Khama and Kgamane reached a point where he tried to kill them, they fled into the hills, and only after a few weeks was a truce called. [2] Around 1865, Macheng again came to Shoshong at Sekgoma’s invitation. Macheng was half brother to Sekgoma but had been captured and lived with the Matebele for 15 years, before being “rescued” by Sechele and Robert Moffat in 1857. Macheng was first in line to the chieftainship, and Sekgoma deferred to him, but after some time it became impossible for both dikgosi to live in Shoshong and Sekgoma left.

Map showing Gustav’s route which loosely follows the Missionary Road (Stellenbosch University).

Shoshong had become a very important trading centre. The Missionaries’ Road became a key artery from South Africa to the North, linking the LMS mission stations in Griquatown and Kuruman (in modern day South Africa) to Kanye, Molepolole and Shoshong. From Shoshong, routes developed to Ngamiland (around Maun), the Zambezi (Victoria Falls) and to Bulawayo.

Shoshong became a stop over for people travelling north, but also people found it convenient to buy goods at higher prices in Shoshong rather than make the six-month journey to the Cape.

In 1866 the total population was estimated at around 30,000, with a white population of 42 men, 6 women and 13 children. By comparison, the population in Cape Town in 1875 was 33,239, although obviously Cape Town was very different in character. Estimating the population was difficult since people would stay at their fields and cattle posts for long periods.

Shoshong was “undoubtedly the most important town in any of the independent native kingdoms in the interior of South Africa” according to a visitor, and the biggest town for thousands of kilometres. [3]

1867 saw the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley and the need for workers in the mines, and in later years many Batswana men travelled to South Africa for this work.


LMS Church

Photograph of the abandoned church in 1895 by Willoughby (see also photo on page 51), which suggests the church was some way downstream of where the plaque is located..(Botswana National Archive)

In 1867 John Mackenzie started construction of the LMS church in Old Shoshong, which was finished in 1868.

When the church was finished, I resolved to celebrate its opening in a manner which would give me at once the opportunity of publicly thanking Macheng for his assistance in procuring both wood and grass, and also of addressing the old men if the town, who, as a class, gave least attention to the preaching of the gospel…

Early on Tuesday morning the people began to assemble at the church. Each division of the town came headed by its chief. Heathen men with hoary heads, toothless and tottering with old age, came leaning on their staffs. Full grown men – the haughty, the cunning, the fierce – came with those younger in years, of brighter eye and more hopeful mien.

As to their clothing, the heathen dress admits of little variety. But many appeared dressed partly or wholly in European attire, and here there was variety enough. We had the usual members of the congregation, some of whom were neatly dressed. But sticklers for “the proprieties” would have been shocked to see a man moving in the crowd who considered himself well dressed, although wearing a shirt only; another with trousers only; a third with a black “swallowtail”, closely buttoned to the chin, the only piece of European clothing which the man wore…

I concluded my part of the engagements of the morning by solemn prayer. We then adjourned to the vicinity of the kitchen, where Mrs Mackenzie and the servants had had a busy time cooking the ox… A considerable quantity of sour milk, and a few camp-kettles full of tea completed the fare for this Bechuana breakfastparty…[4]

Photograph of the site in 2013, showing the “Livingstone Bell” rock which is rung using a second stone. It seems unlikely that Livingstone actually rang the bell. © Jacob Knight


James Hepburn

In 1869, in the same year as the birth of Khama’s son Sekgoma, John Mackenzie and his wife went on leave to the UK. While in the UK he tried to use his influence to protect Batswana against the encroaching Boers. On their return in 1871, they were accompanied by new missionaries James Hepburn (from Newcastle) and his wife. Although based in Shoshong, James Hepburn spent some time trying to establish a mission station at Lake Ngami. [5]

References

[1] Dietrich K and Bank A (2008) “An Eloquent Picture Gallery – the South African portrait photographs of Gustav Theodor Fritsch 1863-1865.” Jacana
[2,4] Mackenzie J (1871) “Ten Years North of the Orange River.” Edmonston & Douglas
[3] Holub E (1881) “Sieben Jahre in Süd-Afrika (Seven Years in South Africa).” Alfred Holder
[5] Hepburn J.D (1895) “Twenty Years in Khama’s Country.” Hodder & Stoughton

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