Shepstone and ABW

Sir Theophilus Shepstone was a British statesman who was responsible for the annexation of the Transvaal to Britain in 1877.   Theophilus Shepstone was born at Westbury-on-Trym near Bristol, England. When he was three years old his father, the Rev. William Theophilus, emigrated to Cape Colony. Young Shepstone was educated at the native mission stations at which his father worked, and the lad acquired great proficiency in the indigenous languages of South Africa, a circumstance which determined his career.

Image result for “Somtseu” (the “father of whiteness”).


(8 January 1817 – 23 June 1893)

During the Xhosa War of 1835 Shepstone served as headquarters interpreter on the staff of the governor, Sir Benjamin d’Urban, and at the end of the campaign remained on the frontier as clerk to the agent for the native tribes.    Shepstone married in 1833 Maria, daughter of Charles Palmer, commissary-general at Cape Town, and had six sons and three daughters. One of his sons was killed at Isandhlwana; of the other sons HC Shepstone (b. 1840) was secretary for native affairs in Natal from 1884 to 1893;

Theophilus was adviser to the Swazis (1887–1891); and AJ Shepstone (b. 1852) served in various native expeditions, as assistant-commissioner in Zululand, in the Anglo Boer War, 1899–1902, and became in 1909 secretary for native affairs (Natal) and secretary of the Natal native trust. A younger brother of Sir Theophilus, John Wesley Shepstone (b. 1827), filled between 1846 and 1896 various offices in Natal in connection with the administration of native affairs.

Shepstone was active in regional affairs. He attempted to impose a pretender on  the  Ndebele people following the 1868 death of their king, Mzilikazi, which was a source of trouble for Mzilikazi’s successor, Lobengula.

Shepstone also vied with the president of the Boer Republic (ZAR), Marthinus Pretorius, in making claim to much of the African interior not already occupied by Europeans. He was present at the coronation of the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, in 1873 and negotiated with him. Also that year, Shepstone led the attack on the Hlubi chief Langalibalele, who had ignored orders to give up his people’s firearms.

In 1876 the British colonial secretary, Lord Carnarvon, consulted with Shepstone as to how best to bring about a federation of the Southern African colonies.

It was in working toward that goal that in April 1877 Shepstone annexed the ZAR to Great Britain as the crown colony of the Transvaal.

The annexation and Shepstone’s subsequent role as administrator in the Transvaal (1877–79) have given rise to considerable controversy.

Critics insist that Shepstone was a crafty, secretive “South African Talleyrand” whose “soaring ambition” led him to employ deceit and intimidation with the Transvalers when he took over their land and that his high-handed, autocratic rule contributed much to the successful rebellion of the Boers (1880–81).

After the rebellion, relations between the Boers and the British were poisoned for generations. Also during this time, Shepstone fomented war against Cetshwayo’s Zulu and, together with the high commissioner of Cape Colony, Sir Bartle Frere, was largely responsible for the British ultimatum to the Zulu in December 1878 and the resulting war in 1879.

Shepstone retired from public life in 1880 but in 1883 served briefly as administrator in Zululand, where the Zulu called him “Somtseu” (the “father of whiteness”).


During the Wars

Germany and Russia supported the Boers, supplying them with weapons, as well as sending military missions and medical assistance to the Boers republics. Among this crowd of people there were Poles. Many came individually to defend a nation that found itself in a similar position to Poland.

During the Anglo-Boer War, some 270 Russian volunteers fought in the ranks of Boer armies. In 1900, Russian Red Cross and Russian-Dutch ambulance units were deployed in South Africa, which provided medical assistance to both combatants and civilians.

There were several hundred Italians fighting on the side of the Boers. Two well-known Italian names on the side of British were Peppino Garibaldi, nephew of the famous General Garibaldi of the Italian War of Independence, born in Australia from an English-speaking mother.

Thousands of Irish men served in the Boer War, including an Irish Brigade, led by Major-General Fitzroy Hart, which included the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Connaught Rangers and Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

British horses during the Anglo-Boer wars

AFTER the wars

The treaty recognized the British military administration over Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and authorized a general amnesty for Boer forces. In 1910, the autonomous Union of South Africa was established by the British.   They also annexed minerals.


Gold and diamonds are some of the reasons to make war against a handful Boers and their families to take their land.

The British empire legislated apartheid, but the blame is placed on the descendants of the Boers in particular after 1910.

Anglo Boere oorloë –  Shepstone

Jan Smuts – Churchill –  Rhodes –  apartheid  : British rules

Shepstone –  Natal, roots of segregation

Commonwealth and suppression by British Colonialism

Apartheid 1854

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