Makhanda (prophet)

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Makhanda Nxele ("the left handed") or Makhanda the prophet (also spelled Makana) (died 25 December 1819)[1][a] was a Xhosa warrior and prophet who, during the Xhosa Wars, led an attack against the British garrison at Grahamstown in 1819.

Makana was born near the coast in the Uitenhage area of the Eastern Cape. He was the son of Balala, a commoner of KhoiKho.

During his youth, he heard the gospel message preached by the first missionary in the area, Johannes van der Kemp and for a long time thereafter maintained a strong interest in Christianity, combining it with elements of ancient Xhosa beliefs.[3] His powerful oratory style attracted people in their thousands and earned him the status of chief and military adviser to Chief Ndlambe, son of Rharhabe.

In 1818 at the battle of Amalinde, Makana fought alongside a combined force of the Xhosas against Chief Ngqika, who was seen as selling out his people in return for personal gain as an ally of the British Empire.[3] At the battle AmaNgqika suffered heavy losses.

When a British led force commanded by Colonel Brereton seized 23,000 head of cattle from Ndlambe’s people in retaliation, Makana urged all the Xhosa to unite to try to drive the colonizers out of Xhosaland once and for all. Makana advised Ndlambe that the gods would be on their side if they chose to strike back at the British at Grahamstown, and promised that the British "bullets would turn to water".[4]

Ndlambe took Makana’s advice, and on 22 April 1819 Makana led an attack on Grahamstown in broad daylight with a force of about 6,000 men (some sources say 10,000 men), all under the overall command of Ndlambe's warrior son Mdushane. They were accompanied by women and children, prepared to occupy the land which had formerly been theirs. The British garrison of approximately 350 troops was able to repulse the attack only after timely support was received from a Khoikhoi group led by Jan Boesak.[4]

Defeated by superior British firepower, Makana eventually surrendered himself in the interests of promoting peace. The British imprisoned him on Robben Island, but treated him with great respect, giving him private accommodation, food and furniture. On 25 December 1820, Makana escaped along with 30 other prisoners, mostly Xhosa and Khoisan rebels from the Eastern frontier districts. Although several survived, Makana drowned.[1] Since he had promised his people he would never abandon them, they continued to hope for his return for another 50 years before funeral rites were observed.

Makana is credited with attempting to unite the Xhosas in their struggle against the British Empire.[1] His dedication to this cause and the sacrifice of his own life in its pursuit led twentieth century prisoners on Robben island, including Nelson Mandela, to call for renaming that island after Makana. The Makana Local Municipality is named after him, and so was Makana F.A., a sporting body formed by political prisoners on Robben Island during the apartheid years.[5]

South African Ship[edit]

Main article: SAS Makhanda

SAS Makhanda was named after this man.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Other sources date his death 9 August 1820[2]

External links[edit]