Stephen Hayes's Reviews > Die Derde Oorlog teen Mapoch

Die Derde Oorlog teen Mapoch by Hans Pienaar
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it was amazing

Last year at our monthly literary coffee klatsch this book -- the title, translated, means The Third War against Mapoch -- was mentioned (see Postfiction/Truth? Literary Coffee Klatsch | Khanya), but I didn't think much more about it until I found a copy in our local library. It turned out to be an amazing and eye-opening book, from which I learnt a great deal, facts both trivial and important.

Among other things I learnt how the town of Roossenekal got its name -- two heroes of the first Anglo-Boer War, named Roos and Senekal, on different occasions stuck their heads into caves where members of the Ndzundza (Mapoch) tribe were hiding during the Second War against Mapoch, and had them blown off by snipers within.

I learnt how peach brandy came to be called mampoer -- the Second War against Mapoch in 1883 was when the government of the South African Republic (ZAR) made war on the Ndzundza people whom they accused of harbouring a murderer, Mampuru, who had killed his brother and rival ruler of the Bapedi. The ZAR army was made up mainly of mercenaries who had been promised that they could have the land of the Ndzundza people once they had been conquered. They didn't want (or know how to) farm the land, they were mostly speculators. So when they took over the land, which was planted with peach trees, the only thing they could think of to do with the peaches was make brandy, which they named "Mampoer" after Mampuru.

That story also indicates how the book can help to explain the background to the vexed land question in South Africa today, which is partly about how competent black farmers were dispossessed, sometimes violently as in this case, by incompetent white ones.

The Third War against Mapoch took place a century after the second one, in the 1980s. For all that time the Ndzundza people had no land at all. Their fate was to become landless labourers on land they had previously owned and farmed. Other tribes had "reserves" and "locations" but the Ndzundza people had nothing. When the apartheid government decided to establish the KwaNdebele "homeland" there was therefore a rush, mainly of the landless farm labourers, and its population grew rapidly.

The South African government wanted KwaNdebele to be "independent", which would mean that most of the people would lose their rather tenuous right to work in South African cities. So the "war" was between the puppet parliament of KwaNdebele and the South African security forces on the one hand, and the tribal leaders of the Ndzundza clan and the people of KwaNdebele on the other.

Hans Pienaar has documented this, and its historical background, extremely well. As I said, I learned a great many things from it. It is not a formal history, and so, rather to my regret, it lacks some things I wish it had -- footnotes, an index, and a bibliography. Pienaar explains this in his acknowledgements section, where he refers to his main sources. He says:

This book does not pretend to be a scholarly investigation. It is rather a journalistic report, and not even that, because it includes my own interpretations of a set of facts derived from a wide historical investigation. My own personal experiences were often more important to me than the striving for objectivity (my translation).

It is thus a mixture of many different kinds of book. Chapters of sober history are interspersed with biographies of some of the main characters in the story, and others with information about Pienaar's own experiences in gathering the material.

So, for example, he not only gives the content of his interviews with Brigadier Lerm, who was in charge of the police in KwaNdebele at the height of the war, and whose main aim at the time was to suppress any opposition to KwaNdebele independence; he also describes the atmosphere of the interviews, right down to a description of the furniture and ornaments in Lerm's house.

So the book is three genres in one, and in my view that adds to its value and gives the reader a fuller picture. If you want to understand Afrikaner nationalism, and how the ideology of apartheid developed, and how apartheid still affects South Africa today, read it. It's an excellent account of all this. I'd still like to have had an index and footnotes, though.

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Reading Progress

November 21, 2019 – Started Reading
November 21, 2019 – Shelved
November 23, 2019 –
page 14
November 29, 2019 –
page 34
November 29, 2019 –
page 36
December 1, 2019 –
page 70
December 4, 2019 –
page 150
December 9, 2019 –
page 225
December 12, 2019 – Finished Reading

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