Episode 161 - Moshoeshoe signs a Treaty then collects gunpowder and horses

History of South Africa podcast

10-03-2024 • 21 mins

This is episode 161 — and what’s this I hear? The sound of wind whipping and howling through the mountain recesses, snow-capped mountains, where the rivers have torn deep ravines in the geography, terraphysics scraping rocks, rushing waters plunging from the escarpment into the eastern cape and free state, foaming and roiling.

It must be the home of the BaSotho.

Many South Africans make the fatal mistake of thinking that Lesotho is such a small place, reliant on its big neighbour, it is basically another province of the RSA.

My friends, harbouring that misconception will get you in deep trouble. Its not size that matters, its pure unbridled pride. Moshoeshoe and his descendents have fought long and hard for independence, albeit in a nation surrounded by a single other nation.
By the mid-1940s, Moshoeshoe had turned to the British authorities and their policies were more favourable to him than those of the Boers. The British at least at this point showed no sign of coveting his land, nor had they ill-treated his people, unlike the amaXhosa to the south.

Moshoeshoe was being kept up to date about diplomatic events by the influential Frency missionary, Eugene Casalis. By 1843 the Paris missionaries had realised that the biggest threat to Moshoeshoe and his Basotho were not the English, despite the bad blood between the French and the English, but the trekboers.
This is important because the Boers didn’t see the Basotho as original owners of the land, they say the owners as San. In the years of discussions, letters, meetings, official notes, logs, missionary biographies, it became obvious that to the Boers, the San being the original owners, meant that the Basotho couldn’t really own the land at all.
Basotho national existence began in the midst of what we’d call settler colonialism as well as the intra-African wars between rulers like Mzilikazi, Mantatisi, Shaka. It’s remarkable because this is one of the African states that grew out of a response to invasions by brown, black and white.

Sotho oral tradition speaks of the royal family line of Bakoena Ba Mokoteli — which forms the totemic core of Basotho aristocracy, and existed way before these invasions.

Casalis and his colleagues became Moshoeshoe’s external voice, writing his communications, and despite their patriotism as Frenchmen, they regarded the British in the Cape as their allies.
The reason is simple. France had zero interests in southern Africa by now, so this decision to sidle up to the Brits in Cape Town was not a contradiction.
By 1844 treaties with Adam Kok and Moshoeshoe were concluded, with the eye-catching line in both agreements where each undertook to be “the faithful Friend and Ally of the colony…”
This was not regarded as a valid claim by the trekboers. Nor Moshoeshoe’s implacable enemy, Sekonyela of the Batlokwa people among others.