NEWSLETTER No.256 Cape Town Branch MAY 1999
At our 23rd Annual General Meeting on 8th April, the Honorary Treasurer, Mr. Bob Buser, reported that our finances are in a
healthy state and that the Branch's annual subscriptions for Associate Members remain unchanged for 1999. Full Members,
however, are affected by increases asked for by Johannesburg. We gained five new members and three members resigned, and so now
our membership stands at 95.
The previous Committee was re-elected unopposed:
Chairman: Derek O'Riley Vice-Chairman: John Mahncke
Hon.Treasurer: Bob Buser
Members: Maj Tony Gordon, Johan van den Berg
On behalf of the Committee John Mahncke proposed that our former Secretary, Paul Lange, who is unable to participate actively in
our Society any longer due to illness, be honoured in recognition of his long and devoted service to this Branch by being made an
Honorary Associate Life Member. This proposal was unanimously and enthusiastically approved by all present.
Any member, not present at the AGM, but wishing to obtain a copy of the Balance Sheet can telephone Bob at (021) 689-1693.
Committee Members: JOHANNESBURG
Martin Ayres (Chairman), Joan Marsh (Hon.Treasurer) George Barrell (Scribe).
Members: Kemsley Couldridge, Marjorie Dean, Colin Dean, Heinrich Janzen, Tony Lever, Lt.Col.Dr.Felix Machanik,
John Murray, Hamish Paterson.
Contact Member: George Barrell (011) 791 2581
Committee Members: DURBAN
Paul Kilmartin (Chairman), Bill Brady (Vice-Chairman) Dr.Ingrid Machin (Hon.Secretary), John Yelland (Scribe),
Philip Everitt, Ken Gillings, Prof.Mike Laing, Dave Matthews.
Contact Member: Dr.Ingrid Machin (031) 21 3983
The main lecture of the evening was presented by fellow member
ALAN MOUNTAIN: THE BAPEDI AND THE SEKHUKHUNE CAMPAIGN 1876-1879, illustrated with slides and maps.
The baPedi tribe lived in a flat bottomed valley between the confluence of the Steelport and Olifants rivers and the Leolo
mountains in what was then known as the north-eastern Transvaal. Their ruling dynasty, the Maroteng hegemony, dated back to 1500
AD. However, in 1845, the Voortrekkers, under Hendrik Potgieter, established a settlement at Ohrigstad in terms of a treaty with
the baPedi. But this did not stop the baPedi from stealing their cattle, and soon there were also problems with grazing rights and
This situation festered for many years until in 1876 the ZAR was
forced to wage war on the baPedi under Sekhekhune. The Voortrekker's main objective was to capture their capital, but it was so
well defended by what could only be described as a "trench system", that they had no option but to lay siege and try to starve
the baPedi into submission. They harassed them in every way possible and hindered their crop cultivation and the grazing of
their cattle. The Voortrekkers demanded 2 000 head of cattle as reparation, but Sekhukhune refused to pay.
They had hoped for a quick peace, but this indicisive situation lasted until the British annexed the Transvaal in April 1877. In
early 1878 the war was resumed - this time by the British under Theophilus Shepstone, who saw Sekhukhune as a thorn in the side
of the British Imperial ambitions in Southern Africa. The war was divided into three phases. The first phase was initiated by an
attack on Sekhukhune's sister, Lekgolane, who, after defecting, rejoined her brother fearing he would attack her. But
the British underestimated the baPedi's resistance and the action ended in stalemate.
The second phase took place in August 1897 after the completion
of the Anglo-Zulu War when the British tried to dislodge Sekhukhune with a force of 139 infantry and 338 mounted men - all
regular army. The bapedi ambushed them and, using the rugged mountainous terrain to their advantage, frustrated the British
advance so much that they were forced to retire to Fort Burgers.
The third and final phase took place after the Zulu War in November 1879 when 3 500 British regular troops and 3 000 Transvaal
levies combined forces with 8 000 Swazi warriors to dislodge
Sekhukhune from his stronghold. While the British and the Transvalers made a frontal attack, the Swazis swarmed over their
entrenched positions on the mountain at their rear. In a battle lasting over five hours the baPedi were defeated.
However, a number of them were able to escape and hide in the holes of a small, honeycombed hill, the Ntswaneng, from where
they had to be smoked out. When night fell, the few survivors escaped under cover of mist and darkness.
Sekhukhune was captured and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment, but when the British withdrew from the Transvaal after
the first Anglo-Boer War, he was released.
This was a most detailed presentation, carefully researched and well documented, and it was a pity that not more members were
there to enjoy it.
- Thursday 13th May 1999
- Maj HELMOED ROEMER-HEITMAN will speak about a Contemporary Military Subject
- Thursday 10th June 1999
- LIFE AND TIMES OF GENERAL GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER - Illustrated Talk by STAN LAMBRICK
- Thursday 8th July 1999
- D.I.Y. Evening. (So far FIVE speakers on a variety of subjects agreed to present short talks.)
- ADDITIONAL SPEAKERS ARE INVITED TO COME FORWARD.
- Thursday 12th August 1999
- ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN - Illustrated Talk by FRANK BULLEN from Johannesburg
about the Foot Guards of the Household Division
- Thursday 9th September 1999
- THE BOER WAR AT SEA. A talk by PETER HUMPHRIES:
- 1) The blockade of Lourenco Marques
- 2) The naval battles of the Boer War
- 3) The loss of HMS Sybil.
- Thursday 14th October 1999
- A TALE OF TWO SKIRMISHES ON 17.Sept.1901 - 1) MODDERFONTEIN 2) BLOOD RIVER
- Talk by JOHAN VAN DEN BERG
- Thursday 11th November 1999
- GERMAN AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS IN ThE GERMAN COLONIES 1911-1915. - Illustrated talk by JOHN MAANCKE
- December 1999 - IN RECESS
DRIVE FOR NEW MEMBERS: For the past few years your Committee has tried hard to recruit new members. However, there appears to be
an increasing resistance from radio stations and local newspapers to advertise any topic tarnished with the word: Military. It is
therefore up to all members to interest their friends in our Society; just spread the word or, even better, bring your friends
along to a meeting.
Committee member Tony Gordon offers owners of Deneys Reitz' softcover book "COMMANDO" a free photocopy of the map originally
included with the hardcover version, but left out of the softcover version.
Meetings of the Cape Town Branch are normally held on the second Thursday
of each month (barring December) at 20h00 (8.00 pm sharp), in the Recreation
Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank,
(off Alma Road), opposite the Rosebank railway station, below the line.
Visitors are welcome. Donation R 3.00. Scholars and Students free. Tea
and biscuits will be served.
John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167
Military History Society /