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Eight Years in Kaffraria, 1882-1890.

By Alan G. S. Gibson, M.A.
S.P.G. Missionary to the Pondomisi, and Archdeacon of Kokstad

London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1891.

Chapter VIII. A Year in England, and Return to Kaffraria

WITH the work of that year in England we have nothing to do here, but only with what went on during the same time in S. Augustine's parish, so that the continuity of the record may not be altogether broken.

Although when the boys came to S. Cuthbert's in February 1885 they knew absolutely nothing, by March of the following year they had learnt to write legibly in Kaffir, and sent letters to me not unfrequently during my absence, as did also Tshele and Lokwe. Thus Mtshazi wrote (of course in his own language) on April 30th: "I am sending to you, missionary, to ask if you are still well. When will you come here to take me away? I don't like to be here, now that you are gone; I am killed here." And again, on June 24th; "This letter comes from Mtshazi. I send to you, missionary, to ask when you will come back again? It is horrid your not being here. Also all the people have not yet got blankets; the magistrate refused when we went to him, so there are eight people left without blankets. That is all." After an interval of another two months he wrote once more on August 20th: "My dear Rev. Sir" (these four words were in English), "I am sending to you, missionary, to say that we are still well here, but your not being here is bad. When will you come back to us at Ncolosi? When you were here all was pleasant; we seemed to be living with our father, and it was pleasant then. Then you said you were going away, and that was bad; and although we still remain, it seems bad to us."

All these letters indicate a feeling which also appears in his mother, Nogqili, for the Bishop wrote on May 6th: "I went to the Great Place, and had a long talk with Mtshazi's mother. She seems very much a widow, not knowing whom to trust. She is anxious still that Mtshazi should go home to you." Meanwhile I was making arrangements for sending for the lad, and had actually written to the Bishop on the subject, but before my letter could have reached him, I received on December 22nd the following news from Lokwe and Tshele, bearing date November iSth (the letter was written in English): "We are very sorry to tell you that your child Umtshazi is lost, with his mother and sister, on the 4th inst., in the night, at the great place, where Umtshazi has been staying from Friday, October I5th; never turn back to school untill the former date. During the former two weeks absent the teacher, K. Tshele, inquired what was the reason for Umtshazi not coming to school. Answer was that Umtshazi he is always in the court at Tsolo asking for a horse from Mr. J. P. Gumming; he got the horse at last from the above gentleman; he shortly afterwards disappeared.

"As he got lost on the 4th, a message came to me on the jth reporting that he is not seen, saying they have no suspicion of anything which can make him to run away with his mother. I simply turned back the message to say, I do not believe that he is lost, because last May they (Mkondweni and others) sent me a word to be on the lookout for Zembe, who was going about in the district looking out for Umtshazi to kill him; now, after keeping the boy all this time, you sent now to me, saying, 'the boy is four days lost.' Why did you not tell me at the same morning you missed him? I further put the question to the message, how far did the people go in search of him? Answer, No one sent out in search of him. Now strongly I said, tell Ranuga, Mkondweni, and Mabasa to bring back TJintshazi. Two days after I collected the mission men on this question. We concluded to send E. Tshele, White Ngewu, and Mauwela to hear from the chiefs what they mean to say Umtshazi is lost? Ranuga answered, It is true Umtshazi is lost; no quarrel nor row was made with Nkosikazi (the queen), but without knowing, she was gone in the morning with her family. Did you send any one to look for them? Yes, three men are gone to Gcalekaland to see. Perhaps she may remember her father Sarili (Kreli), and take her children with her. Did she ever speak of going to her father? No, she did not. What will make us to believe that the boy is not killed, as you told us last May that Zembe is in search of him? I do not know, he said, but as soon I find out where the boy is I will let you know. Did you ever report this in the office? Yes. What did Captain O'Connor say? He said we must try our best to find him; also, he will write down to the Major at Umtata and to Mnqanduli office to inquire about him; after that he sent a word to us (chiefs) to find Umtshazi soon as possible. There are no fresh news about him yet."

So the year ended for me in gloom and anxiety, for it was not for some weeks that I heard certainly that Nogqili and her children were at Kreli's. It appeared that a series of misfortunes had fallen on the family; the crops had failed, the cattle died, and Mtshazi himself had been ill; the witch-doctors had stated that all this was caused by Ranuga, Mkondweni, and Majangaza (all three brothers of Umditshwa), and Mtangayi, late commander-in-chief in the war of 1880; so that for safety, as they thought, they fled to Gcalekaland.

The little boarding-school at this time seemed in a poor way. Lohana and Joel ran away home, alleging that they were bullied by the bigger boys; but after a time they were brought back again. Neither of these two wrote to me at all, nor did Maqela. From Qunqu I heard once, from Sogotyo and Qanqiso several times. I subjoin a few specimens of these letters translated. From Sogotyo: "I am sending to you, missionary, to ask if you are still well, and how you are altogether? We are still quite well, and our teacher treats us as well as you did. We still miss you. All is going on well at our homes, as far as we have heard. I am very glad to hear that you had a pleasant journey, and to know that you received our letters reporting we were still well: one thing you failed to answer, my request for a blanket." Qanqiso wrote on June 24th: "I am sending to you, missionary; I greet you cordially, missionary; are you still well, my chief, and comfortable? We are still well and comfortable, altogether happy, missionary. I am wanting to cross the sea to come to the place where you are, missionary; when you come to take Umtshazi, take me also; I want to come where you are. Again, I have no trousers, my trousers are worn out. That is all." Another letter of Qanqiso's never failed to raise a laugh, when read out at meetings in England: "I send to you, missionary, I greet you, my missionary, my chief. I am still well here, my chief; I remember you, my chief; I think of you very often indeed; my heart, my chief, remembers you, my missionary. I should be glad to be told that I might come across the sea. That is all to-day. P.S.--I have no trousers, and I have no coat. My trousers are worn out. Still I am not asking, I am only reporting!"

In other respects the work, as a whole, went on satisfactorily. That which suffered most from the absence of the parish priest was the European department, where services had to be almost entirely in abeyance for the time being. The native work was carried on with greater ease by the various catechists and teachers, and opportunities of communicating were provided from time to time by the Bishop and Canon Waters. It speaks well for the staff that, during this period, two new out-stations were constituted, on tho Tsitsana (in Maelear district) and the Roza (in the district of Qumbu). Before leaving for England, I had reported in a preachers' meeting that an application would probably come in from Menyo on the Tsitsana, who had been accustomed to services in Canon Waters' district, and had written to him to ask for a preacher, the Canon referring him on to me. As for the Roza, services on Sunday had for some time been supplied there from Mbokotwana, among the Christians who had recently been moved tip thither from the diocese of Grahamstown in the old colony.

The commencement of the Tsitsana work is so graphically described by Lokwe, in a letter dated May 29th, that I cannot do better than reproduce his account here, in the English in which it was written.

"On Saturday, 8th (May), a man called Kaai Ndhlwana came, being a message from the headman Menyo of the Upper Tsitsana (this Menyo is the one you mentioned in our last Preachers' Meeting, of whom Mr. H. Waters spoke of), applying for a Preacher and a Teacher. But after few questions I put to him, he was not able to give satisfying answers. I turned him back to tell his chief or Headman that I shall be there myself with other preacher to hear what he wants. After the man left I sent an information of this to the Bishop. . . . On Friday, 21st ult. (sic), being the appointed day, I set off my journey. . . . We got a lunch at Mr. W. Sigenu, a Wesleyan minister at Cornelius' location. The above minister asked me where I was going, and what for. I told him I am going to Menyo, to visit friends and our Church people. 'No Church people at Menyo's, except one woman and two others whom I do not know whether are Christians or not, only there are my people (Wesleyans), also the spot is my plan, you will see a preacher to-morrow,' so he said. 'Is it?' said I; 'will you let me say the morning prayers, then?' 'Oh yes, you can take the prayers, but not preach.' 'Thanks,' I said. So we went on; we got to the place 3.30 P.M. The chief came immediately after saddling off; he began to talk with us on the subject, saying, 'I have sent a man to apply for a preacher and a teacher from the Church, because I am use to it, though I personally am a Red Kaffir. Some of my Father's people are Christians; we use to be under Mr. Waters, though I never had an umfundisi (minister) of my own; we were two Headmen having one umfundisi.' 'It is not true,' said I,' you want not umfundisi, because I have passed your Wesleyan umfundisi.' 'No, he is not mine. Yes, I have an open hut for every one who calls upon God, so when a man came from that Wesleyan umfundisi to preach I showed him the hut, not because I excepted (sic) him to be my umfundisi. On another hand, I never collect my people for him, as I shall do to the Church umfundisi. Another thing, the Wesleyan umfundisi is too strict to the people, because when the women become Christians are not allowed to make food for their husbands--i.e., K. Bear (sic). Therefore to you I do declare that I give out the spot for a Church building, and an umfumdisi's house. I meant to give a piece of land, but my location is rather small.' So we slept. The following morning, after his inquiries, he wanted me to tell him the Church rules, so that he may know what difficulties he will come across (as he has been asked for some money already for the ticket by the Wesleyans, and he objected, saying, 'I never joined the Wesleyans'). I told him that--

"i. He is to give out a spot for the Church and missionary's house and the land.

"ii. He is to pay £10 yearly to the missionary to pay the preacher and a teacher.

"iii. That children are to pay school fees, i.e., 3d. a month each child.

"iv. Services are to be held morning and evening daily.

"v. School to be attended five days weekly.

"vi Preacher or teacher to be fed until he get crops from his own land.

"All of these rules he consented, except the third one, of which he complained of scarcity of money these years; therefore they cannot afford it; asking to be excused for the present.

"So before our morning prayers, a Wesleyan preacher came; he went by the kraal where all the men were collected discussing this. After a short time, he came up towards us; he asked me whether I have taken the morning prayers? 'Not yet,' I said. He said, 'You better take the sermon as well.' I said, 'No; your ordinary allowed me to take prayers.' He said, 'I think you ought to take the service through.' So I did: the hut full of men and women all sorts. I dare say, before we went the Church I gave work to my fellow-men to take in the Church. I charged the Wes. Preacher to ring the bell (i.e., a piece of iron hanged), so he did. After putting on my cassock (all the people astonished to see a man wearing a frock), we went down to the Church hut, passing the Wesleyan preacher sitting by the bell admiring; we stood by the hut and put on our surplices; we called the preacher to touch the bell, but looking at us he could not hear until I sent another man to awake him from his admiring, so he touched it. In the hut his second work was to listen to the end. After the service I invited him to where I am. He told me that he very much excited; it is the first time to see the Church. I asked him to take the evening service; he objected, saying he is not worthy to take it, so he went half-way with us speechless."

I am very glad to be able to say of this work that it went on side by side with the Wesleyan work in the location of Cornelius in the most friendly way, neither communion interfering with the other. On my visit to the Tsitsana, after my return to Kaffraria, I frequently became the guest of the Rev. W. and Mrs. Sigenu, where I was always welcomed with the utmost cordiality, and treated with colonial hospitality and English comfort.

A good deal of building in the various mission stations was also going on at this time, as follows: at Gqaqala, a sod church with thatched roof; at Esiqunqwini, a wattle-and-daub school; at S. Cuthbert's, a wattle-and-daub school; at Tsitsana, a school-chapel of wattle-and-daub; at Qanqu, a church of wattle-and-daub, with sod gables and iron roof. The size of these buildings varied: at Gqaqala it was 34 1/2 by 15 feet; at S. Cuthbert's, 29 feet 5 inches by 19 feet 4 inches; at Tsitsana, 30 by 15; at Qanqu, 50 by 27 (width of sanctuary 16). Of the Esiqunqwini school, which was an excellent circular hut, I have no dimensions. Of the five buildings named, that at Qanqu alone was any cost to the parochial funds. The three first enumerated were not finished until some time after my return; in fact at Gqaqala the people were so slack about completing the last two days' labour, that, after previously warning them, I found it necessary to withhold their monthly communion from them on one of my visits, on the ground that they were not fit to communicate. This drastic but very necessary action had the desired effect, and the Church was at once finished. This dilatoriness and failure to appreciate the value of time is one of the most trying defects in the Kaffir character: one of the weaknesses which most prevents them from standing alone for the present.

On May 19, 1887, a party embarked at Southampton for S. Cuthbert's, consisting of the Rev. H. B. Webber, a newly ordained deacon, formerly student of Burgh Missionary College; A. Cross, of Heaton Norris; R. T. Stainer, of S. Peter's, Eaton Square, and myself. On our arrival at Capetown, while the rest of our party transhipped, and went on viâ East London to King Williamstown, I obtained leave to remain on the Moor so as not to be separated from our baggage, which was considerable.

We had previously arranged for Lokwe's waggon to come down and meet us; and when I reached Kei Road on the evening of June 16, it was very pleasant to see again not only the three white members of our party, but also Lokwe and Tshele, who had come down on horseback, Petros Umti and Zacchseus Nomlala, driver and leader of the draught oxen, and four of the Pondomisi boarders, whose mingled curiosity and fear at the trains was most amusing to witness. Cross and Stainer were to go up with the waggon, walking or riding as the case might be (but it was so piled up with luggage that the latter alternative was almost out of the question), and sleeping at night under it. Webber and I intended to walk; but neither of us carried out our design, for he fell footsore on the second day, and came on as best he could after that, while I was fortunate enough to reach Butterworth just as the Rev. W. Y. Stead was starting to attend the Diocesan Finance Board at Umtata, and to get a lift with him for the rest of the way. I may mention that, though it was a convenience to hire a waggon from S. Cuthbert's, as by this means we obtained our goods and chattels much sooner than we should otherwise have done, yet the plan was on the whole a mistaken one, for it involved much more expense.

After attending the Finance Board at Umtata, I reached S. Cuthbert's on the 25th, and was joined here by Webber on the 28th, in time for the festival celebration which had been fixed for June 2pth, and which was attended by Church people from most of our stations, about one hundred communicating. As we came out of Church, Cross and Stainer were seen approaching on foot, having done one of the most remarkable walks on record. At eleven the previous morning they had left the waggon at Gungululu, some fifteen miles from Umtata, had walked all the rest of the day and part of the night, the rest being spent on the veldt, and at eight that morning found themselves at Umjika, still fifteen miles from Umtata!

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