The incorporation of Alfred County: aspects of colonial Natal's annexation strategy and subsequent consolidation on the South-Western Frontier 1850s-18180s.
Mbhodiya, Sipho Henry.
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The official and permanent British occupation of the Cape was finalised by the convention concluded in London on 13 August 1814, when Britain decided to retain the strategic Cape from the United Province!:» of the Netherlands. Britain had previously twice taken over the Cape during the twenty years of mortal struggle with France. Natal, on the other hand, became British territory in 1843, and it received its Representative Government in 1856. The point is, by 1860, one would have expected Natal and the Cape Colony to have established a tradition of friendship or mutual trust, not for its own sake, but for a combined effort to overcome the common problems in the sub-continent that faced these two coastal British colonies head on. Both colonies were confronted with the preferred British home policy of non expansion. Both colonies experienced the temptation to violate this non interventionist policy, as turbulence beyond the borders continued to threaten stability, law and order within their territories. Thus they were keenly concerned , about preserving piece among the African Chiefdoms within and beyond their borders. They also had a similar task of devising a measure of ruling the indigenous people within their territories. Both colonies relied upon the High Commissioner, who spent most of his time in the Cape Colo.n y, to handle their affairs beyond their borders. Thus one would have expected that the Cape Colony and Natal would have cemented a complementary relationship for the mutual benefit of both colonies. The envisaged mutual relationship foundered on the rocks of colonial rivalry. There were accusations and counter-accusations. Natal did not accord the High Commissioner full trust, because, at times, he appeared to represent the interests of the Cape Colony alo_ne. The situation was delicate, because the High Commissioner was the Cape Governor, the Commander-in-Chief and then the High Commissioner for the territories adjacent to both Natal and the Cape Colony. Thus the expected collaboration between Natal and the Cape Colony could give way to apathy and jealousy, and, to make the situation worse, their spheres of influence overlapped. The Treaty of Amity of 1844, signed between Faku, the Mpondo Chief and Sir Peregrine Maitland, the Cape Governor, recognized the former as paramount chief of the whole territory abutting on Natal's southern boundary, the Mzimkhulu river, down as far as the Mthatha river. It, therefore, followed that, if Faku failed to stabilize the territory and if the resulting in stability affected Natal, the latter would read the riot act to Faku. Faku would eventually opt to cede the Mzimkhulu Mtamvuma territory to Natal in 1850. But the Cape Colony cried foul, because the High Commissioner was not consulted; and this Faku-Harding Treaty of 1850 then clashed head on with Sir George Grey's plan for the Transkeian territories. Neither side was prepared to back down. The scene was set for Shepstonism versus confederation, with Sir George Grey being both a "player" on the Cape side as Governor and an "umpire" as High Commissioner. Thus Shepstonism (in "Nomansland") was to be contained. Natal and the Cape Colony, it appeared then, were operating on one dogmatic principle: whatever Natal could do, the Cape Colony could do better! This trend of antipathy and rivalry transcended the term of office of Sir George Grey. Sir Philip Wodehouse inherited the rivalry and, on the side of Natal, Lieutenant-Governor Scott was more than willing to take up the challenge of Cape domination. This rivalry thus placed the Duke of Newcastle on the horns of dilemma: it would be awkward for him to overrule the High Commissioner, Sir George Grey, and.later Sir Philip Wodehouse; nor could he completely ignore the views of John Scott. Both parties wanted to reverse imperial non-expansion and annex "Nomansland" in order to stem the tide of turbulence in that territory. Ultimately, Newcastle was brave enough to take the decision. He offered the division of "Nomansland" in the hope it would accommodate both sides - that is, Sir George Grey's Cape plan of settling the Griquas of Adam Kok could be carried out south of the Drakensberg Mountains; while Natal could annex the smaller northern part of "Nomansland". At the time of annexation, the question of who obtained land and closed the frontier was, thus, essentially a competition between the larger southern (Cape) colony and the smaller northern (Natal) colony. For Natal, it was a question of "half-a-loaf of bread is better than none", as the most valuable land, which was suitable for farming, was given to the Griquas of Adam Kok. On 1 January 1866 Natal annexed her small pickings and named them the "Country of Alfred". Natal's plans for "Nomansland" were disrupted, as the most fertile lands were lost to Adam Kok. But the colony did need a committee to report on the three essential elements in any situation where a frontier has to be "closed". These are: details of the terrain and its geography, the characteristics of the basic cultures to be accommodated, and plans for the process by which relations between the indigenous societies and the colonizing authority would be maintained. Such a committee was set up under the chairmanship of J. Bergtheil. On the strength of the findings and recommendations of the Bergtheil Committee, it was resolved to appoint a magistrate whose administrative task was to dominate, and give the law to, the entire territory annexed to Natal along the European or colonial lines of administration. The first magistrate was Lieutenant H.K. Wilson. His administration experienced major problems, as there was lack of capital, markets, towns and the necessary infrastructure. This meant that the "closure" of the frontier in Alfred County, 1866- 1880, was a long, slow and uneven process which cannot be easily subjected to any strictly cumulative chronological order.