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The King Mampuru II Annual Celebration

The King Mampuru II Annual Celebration is held in Limpopo, Mamone Ga-Sekwati, in January.

This event is held to celebrate and honour the memory of Kgosi Mampuru II who was slain in 1883 by the colonial powers of the time. He is remembered for his bold stance against colonial domination and his refusal to recognize a repressive and non representative regime.

Photo:Execution of Kgoshikgolo Mampuru II, 22 Nov 1883.

The day was a mix of Traditional dance, speeches from Kings and officials from across the country and music celebrations in remembrance of the fallen.

Most recently in honour of the late Kgosi Mampuru II, President Jacob Zuma renamed the Pretoria Central Prison after him on 10 April 2013 to the Kgosi Mampuru II Prison.

Short history of the late Kgoshikgolo Mampuru II

If there is any hero in this part of the  world,  worthy of  a recognition among  South African first Freedom Fighters, that individual, is  Kgoshikgolo Mampuru II, the son and the rightful successor of Malekutu 1 to the Bapedi throne. He was executed brutally,  in public by the boer Government, at the old Pretoria Central Prison, situated at Visagie Street, on 22 November 1883,  for refusing to pay an imposed hut tax. 

After the retrocession of the Transvaal in 1881, Mampuru, who was the incumbent king of the Bapedi nation  at the time, refused to acknowledge and thereby submit to the rule of the new Republican Government (Source : Transvaal  Native Affairs Department, 1905). For instance, when a Native Commissioner, Abel Erasmus was appointed to collect a hut tax, he found difficult to subject Mampuru to such a tax and every attempt was made to arrest him and bring him to justice ( Monnig, 1967). It was on this occasion that Mampuru wrote a letter to President Paul Kruger which reads as follows:
To the Gentleman Paul Kruger, I am astounded that I have to see you. I do not know why you want to catch me, and I do not know what the reason is because I am not guilty. I am not prepared to pay tax and I think that it is not acceptable that you want to catch me and take my belongings: cattle, the guns and set alight my belongings ( File CR1195/82 in KG 271).
The new Republican Government then sent a flag to Mampuru as a sign of recognition of his local status  but to no vail. Not only did Mampuru refuse the flag but he also refused to go to Pretoria when summoned to do so by the authorities, arguing that he was independent from white rule and most certainly not under the Republican Government. Precicesly because he refused to acknowledge the Boer Government in this way, Mampuru had to flee to avoid arrest. As the Boer forces approached , Mampuru ran away to TjeTje  on the Steelpoort River ( G.M Theal). He later fled to Phokwane and then to Marishane who gave him refuge against the Boer forces who were supported by Sekhukhune’s men. Mampuru managed to escape and he sought refuge with Magali and he killed sekhukune who was hell bent trying to usurp his throne on 13 August 1882 and  eventually he fled to Roosenekaal and sought asylum from the Mapoch chief Nyabela at the famous Mapoch Caves ( Erholweni).
The Government then ordered Nyabela to surrender Mampuru but Nyabela refused and claimed  that he had swallowed him and those who really wanted him would better cut open his tummy and take him out. Infuriated by this response, the Government sent a commando against chief nyabela, thus the beginning of what would be an eight –month long Mapoch War. It was in terms of the State Proclamation of 12 October 1882, that General Piet Joubert was ordered to arrest Mampuru and commandos  from Lydenburg, Middleburg, Rustenburg, Standerton, Potchefsroom and elsewhere joined in the campaign as a result of which a force of about 2000 men was raised for the purpose of compelling Nyabela to surrender Mampuru. Because of hunger in the Mapoch Caves, Nyabela finally sent an armed escort guarding a handcuffed Mampuru. Subsequently , Nyabela himself  also surrendered and together with Mampuru they were arrested on 8 July 1883. They were tried on 17 September 1883 and sent to Pretoria Central Prison. After they were both found guilty and sentenced to death, Chief Nyabela ‘s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment as follows “ The executive council has decided to alter the sentence of death passed on Nyabela at the late criminal sessions into one of hard labour for life” ( Die Volkstem, 23 November 1883).
According to the same source,the sentence passed on Mampuru on the same occasion was to be carried out the following Thursday morning between 6  and 8 o’clock in the morning. The execution was planned to take place about 50 yards from the prison walls. Thus Mampuru was executed on 22 November 1883 ( Die Volkstem 23 November 1883). According to the historical record and journalistic reporting of the event, something very unusual happened on the occasion of Mampuru’s execution. For example, it was reported that the scaffold was put up in the  “Garden” where the public which was scantily represented could view a naked King being executed. A glimpse of what really took place could be gained from the following accounts:
An indecent and repulsive scene on this occasion. The rope having been fixed, the high sheriff gave the signal to draw the bolt. The unfortunate delinquent dropped but the rope snapped, and a scene ensued of which we would rather not give a description. Suffice it to say that the body was again affixed to the gallows. Death must however have ensued immediately or almost immediately after the drop, as the neck was broken ( Die Volkstem, 23 November 1883. See also Natal Witness, 28 November 1883.
Reporting in almost the same chilling words, another source states as follows:
Mampoer was executed on Thursday, the gallows being erected outside the gaol. He was hanged naked and 200 whites witnessed the scene. The rope broke and the wretched man fell into the pit. He was dragged out and hoisted up again. It was a disgusting spectacle. ( New Castle Correspondence  of the advertiser “ Telegraph”
According to Van Coller, The rope broke so that his body fell to the ground. The body of the unfortunate Mampoer was hoisted into the air for a second time and this scene was so harrowing that even Niabel, who was present at the execution cried bitterly (Van Coller,1942)
According to foreign news paper “ Aroha News “volume 1 issue 33, 19 January 1884 Page 3, Details have been received from Cape Town of the Hanging of Chief Mampoer of Pretoria. Mampoer was led naked to the jail yard. First the rope broke when the trap was sprung and Mampoer fell into the yard below. The second attempt was successful.
In the words of an English writer J.W Mathews, who authored an old book which exists today only in a form of a digital copy that was preserved for generations and accessible only online, called “ Incwadi Yami Or Twenty Years Personal Experience in South Africa”
“The story of Sekukuni’s murder, Mampoer’s execution and Mapoch’s imprisonment, reads like a novel.” He goes on to say about this story :
Sequati a Bapedi Chief on the North Eastern Border of the Transvaal, had two sons Mampoer, a son by a Royal Mother, and Sekukuni a son by a wife of inferior rank...Sir Garnet Wolseley gave Mampoer back the country which Sekukuni had usurped, knowing well that Sequati his father had in former years proclaimed him chief... His Execution was a sad biiital exhibition. Pretoria was full even on my visit, of the accounts of the scene, how the rope round his neck broke, how he was hoisted again into position, and how the day of his execution was looked upon by the boers as a gala day, and an opportunity exhibiting their independence of the ‘verdomde Englishmen’. Even photographic art was called in to perpetuate this, the accompanying view of the execution being openly sold in the streets of Pretoria ( See Chapter xxvii, p.445 of Incwadi Yami)

In his book " IMMORTAL History of South Africa" published in 1885,  Mr M.J Boon has this to say :

To verify the words of Fowler, I have print the account of the murder of mampoer, a kaffir chief, who maintained that he owed no allegiance to the Transvaal Government, and therefore, he is no way bound to pay any taxes, or to account for any acts done and committed by the tribe over which he was the chief.
Transvaal Advertiser, 24, November 1883
The Executive Council of this state having decided that the sentence of death pronounced upon the Kaffir Chief Mampoer at the last Criminal Sessions of the High Court for murder and rebellion should be carried out, the execution took place on Thursday morning of 22 November. Generally the dread sentence of the law is carried out within the precincts of the gaol, but, for some reason or other, it was resolved to vary the practice in the case of Mampoer, and the gallows was erected on the western side of the gaol, within the enclosure. Shortly after 6am, Mampoer was marched from his Cell to the enclosure, and after some delay, consequent upon a defect in the arrangements, he mounted the platform with a firm step, and without any outward sign of fear at the preparations made for depriving him of life in so ignominious manner. He was then pinioned, and his legs bound, and the halter adjusted about his neck, and then only a nervous twitching of the fingers was visible. Shortly afterwards the bolt was drawn, and the drop fell. A horrible scene then ensued. The rope broke, and the unfortunate wretch fell into the pit, which had been dug to give the requisite fall. The hangman, Booth, was for a short time, unnerved by this incident, and did not know what to do, but the gaoler and another official went to his assistance, and the body was once more hoisted on to the platform, and the rope knotted, and the body left to hang for the prescribed time. It is stated that the neck of the unfortunate kaffir chief was dislocated by the fall, and, if so, probably life was already extinct before the body was suspended for the second time. At all events, the spectacle was a horrible one, and one not very much calculated to impose the spectatory with the system of strangulation as the recognised and legal means of doing a criminal to death.
We have to record that some 260 white persons took advantage of the opportunity of witnessing a public execution furnished to them by the Executive. It is not difficult to understand that curiosity to see such a horrible spectacle should have existed amongst a low and uneducated class of people, but it is extraordinary that men of education and standing in society should have turned out early in the morning to behold a scene that, under any circumstances, is most repulsive and horrible. The Government , however, enforced the attendance of the kaffir prisoners, who had been more or less compatriots of Mampoer; and they were compelled to witness the death agonies of the Chief. It may be mentioned that the Government did not consider it necessary to provide the condemned prisoner with a shirt, and he was hanged in all his nakedness.

THE NEW YORK TIMES of 19 Dec 1883 reads as follows :
Cape Town – Details have been received here by mail of the recent hanging of the Chief Mampoer at Pretoria. Mampoer was led naked to the jail yard in the presence of 200 whites. The first rope used broke when the trap was sprung and Mampoer fell into a pit below. He was dragged out however and another attempt to hang him was successful.

Durban, Dec 12- The Chief Mampoer who was convicted of treason by the boers, at Pretoria in December last, and sentenced to death has been hanged, despite the assurances of President Kruger that the sentence should not be carried out until he had held a connference on the subject with Lord Derby, British Colonial Secretary.

YONKERS NEW YORK STATESMAN, 1883-1884 (old fulton history) reads as follows :
Chief Mampoer has been convicted of treason by the boers, at Pretoria and hanged.

A black Chief , Mampoer , was executed in the Transvaal in 1883 for rebellion and other offences.

The rebellious Chiefs Mampoer and Mapoch, who were defeated by the Boer General and captured early in August, have been tried at Pretoria found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.

Durban, Dec, 12, 1883  Chief Mampoer, convicted of treason by the Boers has been hanged.

 It is perhaps not out of place to conclude this brief report by stating that to date, the mortal remains of Kgoshikgolo Mampuru II have yet to be located. Unlike many people who were executed before and after him whose mortal remains have been  found, exhumed and reburied where it was deemed necessary, it is still a mystery where Kgoshikgolo Mampuru II was buried. No record of his burial site has survived, not even in the local and international newspapers which have reported so comprehensively about the events surrounding the execution itself. The Bapedi Nation has since made a request to the Government to assist in the research and ultimate location of the grave site of their King. Until this is done, there cannot be a closure on this matter.
It was precisely against the backround of Kgoshikgolo Mampuru II’s stance against white misrule during his time, his refusal to recognise a non-representative government  such as the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek and his refusal to pay the tax imposed by such an illegitimate government that former president Dr. Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela regards him as one of the heroes who were in the forefront of the wars of resistance and he speaks of him with such respect and admiration( Mandela, 2010. Page 13)

On Page 530 of the Digital Version of the Book “Long Walk to Freedom” Dr. Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela stated the following  “South Africa’s History includes many famous Political Trials. There was the case of Mampuru, the rightful heir to the Bapedi throne, who was executed for public violence and revolt and murder of Sekhukhune in 1883 and who gave Commandant General P.J Joubert and his burgers a lesson in Mobile warfare. There was also that of Langalibalelein in 1874, the Hlubi Chief who was convicted by a special court  for rebelling against Natal Authorities and exiled to Robben Island. Dinizulu, the Zulu King, was sentenced in 1907 on 23 counts of treason. There was also the C.C Stassen Case following the 1922 strike on the Witwatersrand in which Stassen and 4 others were sentenced to death. One of the recent political trials which had a significant impact was the Marathon treason Trial which was the first case in South Africa in which patriots, black and white were jointly charged. That case involved perhaps the largest number of accused and top leaders of the entire congress movement. It was the longest case in our History and attracted much interest in the country and abroad. While it is not easy to compare political trials  the Rivonia Trial has a special significance because it marked a turning point in the history of the liberation movement in south Africa. Here the Congress movement made deliberate plans for a countrywide uprising. It involved only 10 accused . We were charged for conducting the sabotage campaign that had rocked the country since late 1961 and for planning and preparing for an armed struggle to overthrow the government “


-   Potgieter Street in Pretoria is named Kgosi Mampuru Street in 2012.
-The Jane Furse Township Development that was announced by the President during the month of May this year, is now called Mampuru Township Development.
-Mzwakhe Mbuli has dedicated his new album Amandla to King Mampuru II who was hanged naked in public infront of more than 200 whites for refusing to pay imposed hut tax.
-In April  2013, Pretoria Central Prison was officially renamed by President Zuma as Kgoshi Mampuru II Management Area.

Die Volkstem, 23 November 1883
File CR1195 /82 in KG 271, Letter from Chief Mampuru to SJP Kruger, 30 May 1882, Bapeti
Hunt, D.R. “ An Account" 1933
Mandela. NR. Conversations with myself ( London, Mac millan, 2010)
Mathews .J.W. Incwadi Yami Or Twenty Years ‘ personal experience in South Africa ( London, Searle & Rivington, 1887). The Book can only be found on Google book search.
Monnig. H.O. The Pedi ( Pretoria, Van Schaick, 1967)
The Natal Witness, 28 November 1883
Theal.G.M.  History of South Africa from 1873-1884 : Twelve eventful years with continuation of the History of Galekaland, Tembuland, Pondoland and Betshuanalana until the annexation of those territories to the Cape Colony, and of Zululand until its annexation to Natal ( Allen and Unwin)
Transvaal Native Affairs Department, Short History of the Native Tribes of the Transvaal ( Pretoria.  Government Printer, 1905)
Van Coller. H.P. “ Mampoer in die stryd om die Bapedi-troon : die Mapoch –oorlog 1882 -1883” . Historiese Studies , Jaargang 3, nr 3-4 October – Desember 1942 ).
Boon, M.J , 1885 - The Immortal History of South Africa.
The New York Times, 19 December 1883
The Evening Post of New York, 12 December 1883


Pedi-Mamone Traditional Council




February/March 2020

















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