This was sent to me by Katamboega - outdoor activities co-ordinator in KNP .
S 23 04.081
NOTES ON GRAVES OF TWO MURDERED BOERS AT THE CONFLUENCE OF THE ZARI AND PHUGWANE RIVERS IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
By Joep Stevens – 07 July 2009
With the onset of the guerilla phase of the Second War of Independence (Boer War) (12 October 1899 to 30 May 1902) in September 1900 the north eastern corner of South Africa (eastern Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces) became the battleground for a bitter struggle between the British occupying forces and a small group of Boers who refused to accept defeat in their effort to hold onto their Orange Free State and South African Republics (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek). The Boers were showing some success in attacking the British all over the annexed republics and in November 1900, Lord Roberts was replaced by Lord Kitchener. In February 1901, the notorious Bushveldt Carbineers was formed to deal with the Boer resistance in the Zoutpansberg area (now Limpopo Province), a huge arc of land stretching from the Limpopo River in the north to the Olifants River in the south, the Waterberg in the west and the Mocambique (then Portuguese East Africa) in the east. They were a tough corps of Colonials that could should and ride well, live off the land, recruited to be able to beat the Boers at their own game. The guerilla war grew in intensity by July 1901 with the Boers blowing up the trains on the Pietersburg (now Polokwane) – Pretoria line and attacks on British garrisons. The British in turn became more radical and the Bushveldt Carbineers started to murder Boer civilians and prisoners-of-war and also a witness to the atrocities, Reverend CAD Heese. In October 1901 a Court of Inquiry was constituted to investigate the illegal shootings of the Boers. The trial commenced on 16 January 1902. Luitenants Harry Harbord “Breaker” Morant (09/12/1864 – 27/02/1902) and Peter Joseph Handcock (1869 -27/02/1902) were sentenced to death and executed in Pretoria on 27 February 1902.
The Zari Graves
Approximately at the same time (circa 23 September 1901) that Boer Commandant John Thomas “Tom” Kelly (02/01/1848 – 27/03/1923) was captured by the Bushveldt Carbineers, Luitenants Harry Harbord “Breaker” Morant (09/12/1864 – 27/02/1902) and George Ramsdale Witton (28/06/1874 – 14/08/1942), there were reports of Boers, at the Louis Moore or Birthday mines, that were in possession of significant amounts of gold. Captain Alfred “Bulala” Taylor (14/11/1862 – 24/10/1941) decided to loot this gold and set off in pursuit with a section of Bushveldt Carbineers. The Boers received notice that they were being pursued and knowing Taylors reputation, they decided to flee eastwards with their gold and other possessions on a wagon into the area that is now the Kruger National Park. Apparently their route was along the Bububu River in the direction of the Phugwane River. Upon arrival at the Phugwane River, the Boers were informed by the local residents that Taylor and his gang were close bye and they decided to push the wagon with all the contents into a deep waterhole (possibly Dili Waterhole). This they did and continued fleeing. However Taylor and his gang on horseback quickly caught up and they were captured. When the men refused to point out where the gold was buried they were shot dead. Their Black oxen leader was apparently also shot dead. The wives and children were just left behind and Taylor and his gang returned to Fort Edward without having achieved their mission.
These murders were never mentioned in the court hearings but circumstantial evidence points out that the two tidy unmarked graves with headstones, that were found by Ranger Mike English in 1964, just east of the Zari River Mouth, were those of the two victims of the Taylor murders. Friendly locals residing at the site of the murders, assisted the women and children to return home, where they reported the murders to Boer Assistant Commandant-General Christian Frederick Beyers (23/09/1869 – 08/12/1914). Of significance is the possible link to a tributary of the Phugwane, called the Mashadya, meaning “crying children” possibly named that as a result of the sorrowful return journey of the wives and children of the murdered men.
Then and Now
During a recent trail run of a newly approved Backpack Trail in the Mphongolo Wilderness area, north west of Shingwedzi Camp, these graves were visited again. Below are the photographs taken of the site on 28 April 1984 with Ranger Mike English, followed by one taken 25 years later on 03 July 2009 showing Nxanatseni Activities Co-ordinator, Robert Bryden. It is interesting to note the increase in vegetation over the 25 year period and the Rain Tree (Lonchocarpus capassa) in the top left part of both photographs. The Backpack Trail will offer the guest the opportunity to experience the pristine beauty of this part of the Kruger National Park. There will be no base camp and the participants will be expected to provide their own tent, bedding and food for the three night experience, which is aimed to be launched by 01 April 2010.
Dr U de V Pienaar
ORIGIN OF RELEVANT PLACE NAMES
Bububu: Tsonga ideophone that describes “the faraway rumbling of a river in flood”.
Alternative meaning “to wake up very early or quickly”.
Dili: Possibly the name (Tsonga) of a former inhabitant.
Mashadya: Tsonga “(place of) incessant crying (of a child)”.
Mphongolo: The name of a headman who lived near this river long ago.
Literal meaning in Tsonga “a barrel or cask”
Phugwane: The name of a chief who, long ago, lived on the banks of this river.
Shingwedzi: From Tsonga word “Ngwetse” meaning “the sound of metal objects rubbing against each other”.
Zari: A Hlengwe name (Tsonga) “son of Manguli”.
1. Kloppers, JJ and Hans Bornman – A Dictionary of Kruger National Park Names – First Published 2005.
2. Pienaar, U de V (Dr) – Neem uit die Verlede – First Edition 1990.
3. Woolmore, William (Bill), - The Bushveldt Carbineers and the Pietersburg Light Horse – First Published 2002.