Jeff Peires: Matiwane’s Road to Mbholompo

In a chapter for a 1995 book based on a prior conference paper, Peires mounted a defence of the established notion of the Mfecane in so far as it concerned the battle which took place in Mbholompo in August 1828, fought between British forces and Matiwane’s Ngwane in what is today the Eastern Cape. Peires strongly criticised Julian Cobbing’s account of the battle as presented in his ‘alibi’ argument, calling into question Cobbing’s selective use of sources and his unfounded speculation. He even highlighted three African sources Cobbing had ignored: the oral histories published in N.J. Van Warmelo’s History of the Matiwane; Moloja’s “The Story of the ‘Fetcani Horde’ by “One of Themselves”; and Nehemiah Moshoeshoe’s “A Little Light From Basutoland”. Peires refuted Cobbing’s claim that Matiwane was driven south by slavers operating out of Delagoa Bay on the grounds that there was no evidence to support this. On the contrary, making close reference to his sources, Peires argued that Matiwane had taken this decision himself. Peires also rubbished Cobbing’s claim that the term ‘Mfecane’ had no roots in any African language. He concluded by suggesting that Cobbing’s ‘alibi’ argument was far more dubious than the established notion of the Mfecane.

Relevant Works

Cobbing, Julian. “The Mfecane as Alibi: Thoughts on Dithakong and Mbolompo”. The Journal of African History 29, no. 3 (1988), 487-519.

Hamilton, Carolyn. Editor. The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1995.

Jeffrey, Peires. “Matiwane’s Road to Mbholompo: A Reprieve for the Mfecane?” In The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History, edited by Hamilton, Carolyn, 213-240. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1995.

Moloja. “The Story of the Fetcani Horde, by One of Themselves”. Cape Quarterly Review 1 (1882), 267-275.

Moshoeshoe, Nehemiah Sekhonyana. “A Little Light from Basutoland,” Cape Monthly Magazine (April 1880) 221-233 and (May 1880) 280-292.

Peires, Jeff. “’Fellows With Big Holes in their Ears’: The Ethnic Origins of the amaMfengu’. Quarterly Bulletin of the National Library of South Africa 65, no. 3 and 4 (2011), 55-64.

Van Warmelo, Nicolaas Jacobus. Editor. History of Matiwane and AmaNgwane Tribe as told by Msebenzi to his Kinsman Albert Hlongwane. Pretoria: Government Printers, Ethnological publications, no. 7, 1938.

Online from: 16 Jul 2021