Documentary Glimpses I


Samuel Johnson, History of the Yorubas, 1921.

Treaty between Adeyemi, Alafin of Oyo and Head of Yoruba-land and Her Majesty, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, July 1888

I, Adeyami, Alafin of Oyo and Head of Yoruba-land, the four corners of which are and have been from time immemorial known as Egba, Ketu, Jebu and Oyo, embracing within its area that inhabited by all Yoruba-speaking peoples, being desirous of entering into, and maintaining for ever, friendly relations with the subjects of Her Majesty, the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and of developing the resources of Yoruba by means of legitimate trade with the subjects of Her Majesty and those under her protection or who may hereafter come under her protection, and in gratitude for what the Queen has at so much expense and risk to life done from time to time for my country, have at this day at the city of Oyo in the presnece of witnesses declared my intention of abiding by the following articles:

I. From henceforth there should be peace and friendship between the subjects of Her Majesty the Queen and those under her protection, and the Alafin of Oyo and King of Yorubaland and his people, and all other peoples over whom he has authority and influence.

II. The subjects of the Queen may always trade freely with the people of Oyo, and the Yoruba-speaking countries in every article they may wish to buy and sell, in all towns, rivers, creeks, waters, markets and places within territories known as Yoruba: and I, Adeyemi, pledge myself to show no favour and to give no privilege to the traders or people of other countries which I do not give or show to those of the Queen.

III. British subjects and others under the Queen's protection are to have the first consideration in all trade transactions with my peoples.

IV. No tolls, duties, fees, imposts or charges shall be charged or levied upon the person or property of any British subject or other person under Her Majesty's prtoection other than and beyond that or those which are customary and reasonable, or may from time to time be agreed upon to be so levied or charged by the Governor of Lagos and myself.

5. I will not allow any disputes that may arise between people frequenting or visiting the markets in my territory to interfere with or stop the markets; and all differences or disputes that may arise other than trade disputes between my peoples and those of other nations and tribes visiting the markets shall be adjusted by me or referred for adjustment and settlement to the decision of an arbitrator appointed by the Governor of Lagos, and the decision and award of such arbitrator shall be finally conclusive.

6. I engage as far as in me lies to bring about new markets between the Oyos and toher Yoruba-speaking peoples, to promote the enlargement of existing ones, and to keep open all the roads through my kingdom to the Niger, and towards the coast.

7. It is hereby further agreed that no cession of territory and no other Treaty or Agreement shall be made by me other than the one I have now made without the full understanding and consent of the Governor for the time being of the said Colony of Lagos.

8. In consideration of the faithful observance of the foregoing Articles of the Agreement the Government of Lago will make unto me a yearly dash to the value of 200 (two hundred) bags of cowries, but such dash may upon breach or neglect of all or any one or more of the provisions of the Agreement and at the discretion of the Governor of the Colony of Lagos be altogether withdrawn or suspended.

Sealed and signed at Oyo this 23rd day of July 1888.

Samuel Johnson, History of the Yorubas, 1921

Governor Carter was not the man to leave his work half done. The refractory and irreconcilable Ijebus had been subjeugated; the Egbas had submitted and their apologies accepted. He now proceeded to the further interior to put an end to the protracted war, fraught with so much evil to the country. The measure adopted for this purpose was the only one capable of dispersing suchfierce combatants, viz., an armed intervention advocated for by the writer all through these wearisome years. Although it might not be necessary to pull a trigger, yet a display of force offered a far more convincing weight of argument than volumes of treaties, faultless though these may be in aim and purpose. The presence of the Governor himself gave additional weight and importance to the Mission. Governor Carter left Lagos on the 3rd January 1893, for his tour. He was accompanied by a posse of Hausa soldiers, with Captain Bower, one of the officers who came out for the Ijebu war. The Maxim gun was en evidence throughout the whole way.

Samuel Johnson, History of the Yorubas, 1921

Your Excellency, We are not unmindful of all the kindness done to us by Her Majesty the Queen, nor are we unappreciative of it: and, in order to be frank we desire to state to you our fears in objecting to a Resident European which we trust Your Excellency will see to.

First, we fear the authority and respect of the Bale and chiefs will suffer deterioriation, as there may be two courts of appeal.

Second, we fear our slaves will assert their freedom by running to the Resident.

Third, we fear our wives will be taken by the soldiers which will be a source of great offence to us.

Fourth, we consider our land as our inalienable property inherited from our foretahters, and never subject to sale. We consider it also the greatest wealth bestowed upon us by the Almighty and we do not desire it to go out of our hands.

If the Governor will see that our rights are not trespassed we make no scruple to sign all the terms of the Treaty.

We are your good friends,

Fijabi the Bale X (his mark)

and other Ibadan authorities

Samuel Johnson, The History of the Yorubas, 1921

With the establishment of the British Protectorate, a new era dawned upon the country...When we have allowed for all the difficulties of a transition stage, the disadvantages that must of necessity arise by the application of rules and ideas of a highly civilized people to one of another race, degree of civilization and of different ideas, we should hope the net result will be a distinct gain to the country. But that peace should reign universally, with prosperity and advancement, and that the disjointed units should all be once more welded into one under one head from the Niger as in the happy days of ABIODUN, so dear to our fathers, that clannish spirit disappear, and above all that Christianity should be the principal religion in the land--paganism and Mohammedanism having had their full tiral--should be the wish and prayer of every true son of Yoruba.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

The primary object of this book is to place on record, for the information and guidance of Government officials and of the Tswana themselves, the traditional and modern laws and related customs of the Tswana tribes of the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

The Tswana themselves employ a variety of terms to denote all or certain of their rules of conduct. They speak. e.g., of popego or maitseo (manners, etiquette, polite usages), letso or moetlo (custom, traditional usage), tlwaelo (habitual practice), moila (taboo), and tshwanno or tshwanelo (duty, obligation). Most frequently, however, they speak of them collectively as mekgwa le melao ...Mokgwa in general applies to what we would term: 'manner, way, fashion; habit, usage, wont; custom, traditional usage'; and, always in the plural form, to: 'manners, etiquette, polite usages'. Molao, again, may refer to a single 'law of ordinance', to 'the law' as a whole, or more rarely, to an 'order or command of the Chief'. But the two terms are really not sharply discriminated in ordinary Tswana usage. The same rule of conduct may be spoken of on one occasion as molao , and on another as mokgawa. Nevertheless, if pressed to distinguish them, the Tswana will sometimes say that one can be punished by the tribal courts for breach of a molao but not for breach of a mokgwa.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

The lack of written codes and records of cases makes it impossible to isolate legal rules absolutely from other rules of conduct. We know that some rules, which we may term 'laws', are enforced in the courts; we know also that others, which we may term 'customs', cannot be so enforced. In both cases our knowledge is based on current practice and upon remembered judicial decisions. But there are some rules about which it is impossible to be dogmatic.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

We must look for the basic source of Tswana law in the customary usages and observances of the people. The Tswana themselves speak of their laws as having always existed, from the time that man himself came into being; or as having been instituted by God (Modimo ) or by the ancestor spirits (badimo ). This does not imply that no laws at all are held to have been made by man. But it does serve to direct attention to one important fact: the mechanism of the courts is used for the most part to enforce the observance of usages which have already established themselves in practice and become accepted through tradition.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

According to Tswana law, no marriage is regarded as complete unless bogadi has been given by the husband's people to the wife's people...There is no barganing over the number of cattle to be given: the husband's parents give as many as they like and can, which fact alone should dispel the ide of a purchase. It is certainly true that a woman married with bogadi is under the control of her husband to a greater extent than a woman who has not; and that if she leaves him her parents will usually send her back, unless there is very good reason for her action. It is also true that in old Tswana law, when such a woman's husband dies, his younger brother or some other close male relative has the right to cohabit with her. On the other hand, a woman married with bogadi holds a far more honoured position in the tribe generally than a woman who has not bee thus married...The Tswana themselves speak of bogadi as being a thanksgiving (tebogo ) to the wife's parents for the care they have spent on her upbriging and as a sign of gratitude for their kindness in now allowing her husband to marry her. Some say also that it is no compensation to the wife's parents for the loss of her services, and others that it is a sort of register of the marriage...Others stress the fact that bogadi creates a special bond betweent he two family-groups.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

If a husband and wife quarrel, and the wife is at fault, the husband may beat her. Wife-beating is common and considered quite justifiable if the woman is unfaithful, stays out late at night, or neglects any of her ordinary domestic duties. If she continues to misbehave, her husband will complain to her family...If she still does not reform, the husband may send her back to her people and so divorce her. He is then no longer responsible for maintaining her. If the husband is at fault, his wife will first complain to his parents or other relatives. They will take him to task, remininding him that it was through them that he got her in marriage...If he continues to neglect or ill-treat her, she may ultimately leave him and take shelter with her own family...if she leaves with just cause, public opinion will be on her side.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

Control over the land and its resources is vested in the Chief, who exercises it through the headmen of villages and wards. Except for those portions reserved for him and his family, on more or less the same basis as everyone else, none of the land is his property; nor can he dispose of the use of it except gratutiously and to members of his own tribe. All members of the tribe are entitled to the use of as much land as they need.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

A man committing adultery with a married woman can be severely punished if caught. In the olden days, it is said, the injured husband had the right to kill the adulterer if caught in flagrante delicto. Nowadays, if a man discovers that his wife has been unfaithful to him, he can claim as many cattle as he wishes from her lover by way of damages; and if he catches him red-handed will also thrash him severely if possible. Cases of adultery (sebatedi ) are often settled out of court, for the adulterer will realize that he is in the wrong.

Isaac Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, 1938

Sorcery or witchcraft (boloi ), the malicious use of poison or magic to inflict harm upon people or their property, is one of the things most dreaded by the Tswana...In the olden days, when a man was ill, or some other misfortune had befallen him, a magician would be called to divine the cause of his misfortune. The magician, if satisfied from his divination that the misfortune was attributable to sorcery, would never directly mention the name of any person as responsible, but would state his totem, his complexion, sex and the direction from which he usually came when bewitching. If the people could from the description identify the sorcerer, they would hold an inquiry and try to obtain further evidence of his guilt. If satisfied that he was the culprit, they would report him to the Chief. The alleged sorcerer would then be tried at court. If it was clear from the evidence that he was guilty, the Chief would order him to cure the patient (go mo dirolola , 'to undo him') and if he refused to do so he would be tortured until he consented. If the patient recovered, the sorcerer would be released; but if the patient died the sorcerer would be killed...Since the introduction of European control over the Protectorate, the Chiefs have no longer the right to kill sorcerers; nor even, of recent years, to punish any man accused of sorcerey. It has further been made a penal offence by the Administration to impute the practice of sorcery against any person."

Madge Haines Morrill, Fighting Africa's Black Magic, 1938

Chongo was one of the first patients to come to the new hospital Once she was the belle of her village. Her well-rounded chocolate-colored body and full-moon face were envied by the thin, scrawny ones. Her father received many offers of cattle as a marriage dowry for his buxom daughter. But he bided his time. He would wait for the best possible offer. Why should he not be one of the chief men of the village, with many cattle?

The village drums beat a long and loud welcome to the new bride when Chongo's husband took her to his home. For many months she was respected for her strong body and for the good garden she made for her husband. But gradually the attitude of the people changed. Chongo could notice their cold stares, pointing fingers and low whispers. At first, she could not understand why the women should scorn her.


That night, while her husband slept loudly on his mat by the fire, Chongo crept out of the hut. Hurrying through the cluttered paths of the village, and guided by the dim light of a new moon, Chongo made her way to the hut of the witch doctor. 'Oh, witch doctor,' she called in a muffled tone, 'I want some medicine.' The door of the hut opened slowly, and a head poked itself outside. There were questions and answers, and more questions. At last the 'doctor' gave his presciprtion: 'Wear this tiger's tooth around your left wrist, and drink this medicine for two days. The evil spirits will leave you and you shall bear many children.' With nimble feet Chongo scurried past the sleeping dogs and pigs in the narrow path and made her way again into her own hut. Her thumping hear would not let her sleep. How hapy she was that her reproach would be gone, and she would have children! But the months multiplying into years still saw Chongo walking with empty arms...All through the years that came and went, the village witch doctor continued to prescribe for Chongo, always being sure that his fee was paid in advance. Poor Chongo! What treatments and medicines she must endure!...

At last, tired and weary of the witch doctor's prescriptions, she stole away from her village. She would try the white Doctor. What if he did kill her? Even death would be more welcome than the life of an outcast. The witch doctor called the white man's hospital 'the house of death'. But she would go anyway. As Chongo walked up the cement steps into the hospital, saw white-uniformed women carrying trays of peculiar-looking magic, and smelled the strange odors, her resolutions almost failed her...But just then a white lady led her into a room where a white man was sitting, dressed in a simple white gown. Was he the white Doctor? Where were all his beads and feathers, and where was his basket of charms? As she continued to look into his kindly, smiling eyes, and heard his friendly voice speaking to her, all fear left. This gentle man could not be a witch doctor. He must be a great, kind white man. A few questions from the Doctor, asked in a kindhearted way, led her to tell him her story. 'We can help you', the Doctor said after the examination, 'if you will let us operate.' Once that word 'operate' would have sent her fleeing into the jungle, but not now when the white man said it. 'Whatever the kind Bwana says, I will do,' she answered.

The James Stuart Archives, Vol. I, pp. 222-223

29.10.1900, 1.15 p.m. File 73.

119 This morning I had a further talk with John Kumalo, after which he returned to his home at Roosboom. I had asked him to come for two or three days. He said, chiefly in answer to direct questions: I think the best way to solve the native question is by referring the matter to parliament. Through discussion, ways will be found of dealing with the matter. Some single man even might be able to find out something of a solution. As for myself, I am unable to propose a solution. It seems to me that instead of endeavouring to deal with each grievance or difficulty, some definite policy should be discovered and announced.

There are several grave objections to the Indians and Arabs. The former become domestic servants in the principal places like hotels, refreshment places etc., thereby displacing natives. Moreover the money earned by them is not spent in the country; it is sent out of South Africa to India. This applies specially to the Arabs. An Indian once said, 'We have come here to South Africa to fight, not against the Europeans, but against you. We have come to compete and enter into rivalry with you.'

At Kimberley there was a protest made by Europeans against the employment of native labour in the mines. A white man got up and said such protest was monstrous, for these Europeans who were clamouring to be employed in the mines were the very ones who, as soon as they had filled their pockets, would carry their earnings out of the country, not spending them in it as every (native) does. I do not remember the name of this white man. We do not understand the Indians and Arabs; we cannot communicate with them, however much Europeans may manage to do so.

Many amakolwa continue to hlobonga, seduce girls, etc. Some of them, though Christian converts, revert to the former way of living and take more wives than one. In former times kolwas were more careful about infringing the canons and regulations of the church. I, for instance, would never have dared to behave thus.

There appears to be a growing tendency amongst kolwas to become exempted from the operation of native law. This seems to be due to inheritance. Natives see that exemption carries with it the following positive advantage: every man's property is enjoyed by his own progeny rather than by his elder and younger brothers. If a man's daughter is married and lobola received by him, then, at his death, he is unable to assign any of his goods to his married daughter, for, being married under native law, her husband would appropriate anything so given. A man has a natural and great wish that the fruit of his labour should be enjoyed by his own children. For this reason I have a wife and five [?] children, girls and boys -- I have made a will (written) under which, at my death, my wife will have charge of the whole estate. At her death the property will be divided up in 120 equal portions-to my children, in the same way as Europeans.

The divisions in the church are to me inexplicable and a very serious matter. I saw a good deal of the quarrel between Bishop Colenso and Dean Green's party. I noted then that members of the opposing sides would pass one another by in the street without speaking. I observe many differences between Johannes Kumalo's people (Wesleyans) and our church. Johannes's people are said to be converted when, having a presentiment that they have seen God, they burst into tears. I do not believe in that sort of thing; no-one has ever seen God. Their method of praying, their services etc.,are different. We belong to the root church. So long as these various denominations are at one with the root church fundamentally, there does not appear to be much objection to their being apart.

7.20 p.m., same continued. There are no mission stations in Natal which can be called good. The Trappists are doing good work. They teach trades to young men and make girls labour in the fields.

Kolwas have many grievances of their own, the chief being (refusal of) education. Kolwas may not be educated above standard IV, and they are not allowed to enter the government service. Benjamin Kumalo, in spite of the fact that he had the highest testimonials from his magistrate, Mr Paterson, at Estcourt, yet was compelled to leave the service. Benjamin was much affected by the apparent injustice of this step. He, after this, resolved to enter the church and left Natal for the Cape, where he now is. 27

Kolwas' wives do not cause much trouble, likewise their children [any more, possibly, than European children etc.]. There is a bad woman here and a disobedient child there -- not more than that. My wife, John says, has never given me any trouble, nor my children.

There are large numbers of the Kumalo people in Natal in various places. Sibamu in Estcourt is a Kumalo chief.

Kolwa women do commit adultery with raw natives, and kolwa girls are often seduced by natives who are not Christians.

There are not very many kolwas who refuse to receive lobola for their children; many do refuse and many don't. The reason for refusal is the desire to settle the fruit of one's labour on one's own children, wife etc.

A kolwa man and wife sleep together as Europeans do. What is noticeable is that kolwa women, finding they have the husband to themselves, have engendered the desire always to be having sexual intercourse with him. The man may go away for a short time and the woman will crave for his return. But it seems now that many kolwas are taking to the old native custom of living apart from their wives. 1, for instance, says John, have my own room (ilawu) and my wife her room. The children will be made to sleep with the woman and they, as men find, are a relief by causing women to devote their attention to them instead of expecting the husband perpetually to be having intercourse night after night.

Naboth Mokgatle, The Autobiography of an Unknown South African , 1971

Three episodes had influenced me into thinking that Europeans were not friendly towards the Africans. The three of them followed each other and I resented them all. The first was at Kroondal with the Langes, when I found that I could not sit on the same chair, eat from the same plate, drink from the same cup or mug, and sleep in the same house with them. The second was at Kommissiedrift, when Mr. William Rex tried to discourage me from going to school. The third was in Rustenberg, in the native commissioner's office, when Mr. Daniel Branke shouted at me with a brutal voice ordering me to take my hands out of my trouser pockets, telling me that I was in the white man's place. The three episodes left undying memories with me. All the Europeans I worked for earlier treated me well, as I have already stated, but their nice treatement never managed to remove those memories until later, when I was in politics and had more to do with other Europeans. Until I was in politics I thought the Europeans needed us only as long as they could make use of us, to create pleasures for themselves and nothing more. I thought that they looked upon us as a man would look upon his cow or ox...Before these experiences I had never known that South Africa was occupied by people who thought of men not as equals, but as superiors and inferiors.

Naboth Mokgatle, The Autobiography of an Unknown South African , 1971

Many people in the world wonder why the Africans, being the majority, allow themselves to be downtrodden, oppressed and forced to carry that badge of slavery, the pass. I hope I have given the reason. An African, who was born and has lived in the police state, takes a long time to get convinced that he is as good as any human being regardless of colour or language. I have gone through that experience myself; I have seen myself carry the whole system of a police state system with me in my mind in European countries and in London. I was like a person who had been sick for a very long time, whose blood had been heavily poisoned by the sickness, and who could not get cured in his own country, so had gone to another country where doctors began to work on him. My sickness was a very old one and my cure was long.

Transcript of a meeting of Chiefs and Government Officials at Melsetter, Southern Rhodesia, 1915

GARIDZA: There are many things that trouble us. We pay our taxes and we pay the Dog Tax, but we have no means of earning money. We live on private land and have to work for the farmer but we get no wages.

INDEMA: We live at peace but we are hard pressed for money. We work for nothing on the farms and when our men go away to work the rate of pay is very small. Our family life is also not so smooth as it might be. Before the white man governed us, if our wives committed adultery the person she slept with was punished and could be killed. We are told we can demand our dowry back if our wives prove unfaithful, but that is not what we want. Another matter is the Missionary influence, they encourage our children to leave their kraals and when they get married we lose our dowry as they marry Mission boys."

SHIKUKWA: We live at peace with the Government, but our hearts are sore. My people have lived on the land we occupy for many years. Now we are told by the farmer we must move off the land. What can I do? My young men go away to work and when they are called upon to work on the farm they are not there and because I cannot produce them I have been given notice to leave the farm. Many of my people have been obliged to move into Portuguese territory.

GORIMA: Yes we have to work. Sometimes we are hungry. We work for no pay and if our crops fail we have nothing to buy food with. The Missions too are undermining our influence with our young people. They only want to go to Church and school and we old men have now to do the work of youths. We have to mind the sheep and goats.

SAUROMBE: Yes all these things are true and the greatest hardship is that we have to work for no wages. How can we pay the Government for our dogs and our wives when we do not get any money or time to work for money."