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Rulership and Colonialism in the Mpondo Kingdom (c. 1780-1867)

Timothy J. Stapleton

Publication Year: 2001

From roughly 1818 to 1867, Faku was ruler of the Mpondo Kingdom located in what is now the north-east section of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Because of Faku’s legacy, the Mpondo Kingdom became the last African state in Southern Africa to fall under colonial rule.

When his father died, Faku inherited his power. In a period of intense raiding, migration and state formation, he transformed the Mpondo polity from a loosely organized constellation of tributary groups to a centralized and populous state with effective military capabilities and a prosperous agricultural foundation. In 1830, Faku allowed Wesleyan missionaries to establish a station within his kingdom and they became his main channel of communication with the Cape Colony, and later Natal. Ironically, he never showed any serious inclination to convert to Christianity.

From the 1840s to early 1850s, this Mpondo king played a central, yet often understated, role in the British colonization of South Africa. While over the years his territory and power declined, Faku remained quite astute in diplomatic negotiations with colonial officials and used his missionary connections to optimum advantage.

Timothy J. Stapleton’s narrative and use of oral history paint a clear and remarkable portrait of Faku and how he was able to manipulate missionaries, neighbours, colonists and circumstances to achieve his objectives. As a result, Faku: Rulership and Colonialism in the Mpondo Kingdom (c.1780-1867) helps illuminate the history of the entire Cape region.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

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pp. v-vi

Although this book has a single author, many people and institutions contributed, in a variety of ways, towards its creation. I would like to offer particular thanks to the staff of the William Cullen Library at the University of the Witwatersrand who were extremely helpful and friendly to a researcher who had much to do in a limited amount of time. The staff of both the Cape and Natal...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

Mpondo Royal Genealogy from c. 1800

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p. ix-ix


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pp. x-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

Centuries before the arrival of the first Europeans and the foundation of the country of South Africa that we know today, its indigenous peoples had formed complex states with sophisticated trade networks and dynamic Iron Age technological innovations. Geographically, South Africa is divided by the Drakensberg Mountains, which run parallel to its long Indian Ocean coast. North of these mountains, on the elevated grassland known as the Highveld, the...

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pp. 1-10

From roughly 1815 to 1867, Faku was ruler of the Mpondo Kingdom, which was located in what is now the northeast section of the Eastern Cape. After his father was killed in a campaign against the neighbouring Bomvana, Faku inherited power in a period of intense raiding, migration and state formation, the causes of which have stimulated an almost equally intense debate among historians. In order to survive...

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1. The Rise of Faku and the Centralization of the Mpondo Kingdom (c.1780–1829)

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pp. 11-32

Although it is impossible to determine the exact date, Faku was born around 1780 at Qawukeni, the Mpondo great place, which is near the present-day town of Lusikisiki in the northeastern part of South Africa’s Transkei region. His father, Ngqungqushe, was ruler of the Mpondo Kingdom, which had been an organized state since at least the 1500s. As the name Mpondo means “horn,” it is likely that Faku’s...

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2. Missionaries, Colonial Officials and Mpondo Power (1830–36)

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pp. 33-50

There is an engaging Mpondo oral tradition about European missionaries coming to live in Faku’s kingdom. Allegedly, Faku’s mother advised him to fetch missionaries to pray for peace in Eastern Pondoland where there had been war with the Zulu. As a result, Faku sent ten men to Grahamstown with elephants’ tusks as presents for the missionaries whom he hoped would come to his territory. During their...

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3. Trekkers and Treaties (1837–44)

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pp. 51-64

At the same time that Faku was conducting large-scale raids against the Thembu and Bomvana in 1836, considerable numbers of Dutch-speaking settlers were leaving the Cape Colony and moving northeast into the interior. Historians have offered many explanations for this movement. Describing it as the “Great Trek,” Afrikaner nationalists of the twentieth century maintained that their ancestors...

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4. The Expansion of the Cape Colony and Natal (1845–52)

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pp. 65-94

Shortly after the re-establishment of Qawukeni, the Mpondo capital east of the Mzimvubu River, and the treaty of 1844, tension began to develop between Ndamase, Faku’s eldest and right-hand son, and supporters of the young Mqikela, his great son and heir. By 1845 Ndamase was in his mid-forties and had led Mpondo armies in many campaigns over the previous two decades. Over the years he had built up his own...

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5. Direct Colonial Intrusion in Faku’s Final Years (1852–67)

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pp. 95-122

In late August 1852, just after a final abortive attempt to launch a raid on Gcalekaland, Faku, now about seventy-two years old, became extremely ill. Many people did not expect him to survive. The Reverend Jenkins of the Palmerton mission believed that Faku’s illness would prompt a wave of witchcraft accusations and executions as various factions within the great place battled for political control. However...

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pp. 123-130

In examining Faku’s career as king of the Mpondo, there are a number of recurring themes that merit further discussion. Most of these concern his reaction to the various forms of European contact that continued throughout his reign. Since Wesleyan missionaries featured prominently in many aspects of Faku’s life after 1830, they will be mentioned in several of the following thematic sections. Additionally...

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pp. 131-142

Faku died at a time when colonial dominance was closing in on the Mpondo state. Less than six months later, in early March 1868, the Reverend Jenkins, advisor to the late Mpondo king for nearly thirty years, also passed away. This left Mqikela, now thirty-seven, without the benefit of an experienced missionary with contacts in the colonial governments of both the Cape and Natal. Although Mqikela seems to have become the new Mpondo king without any opposition, in effect...

Appendix 1: Cast of Characters

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pp. 143-155

Appendix 2: List of Terms

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pp. 156-166

Appendix 3 Chronology of Major Events

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pp. 167-172


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pp. 173-186


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pp. 187-192


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pp. 193-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780889205970
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889203457
Print-ISBN-10: 0889203458

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2001