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The Event

Bridget Hilton Barber in discussion with David Hilton Barber : “The past no longer belongs only to those who lived in it; the past belongs to those who claim it, and are willing to explore it and infuse it with meaning for those alive today” - with reference to his book, the Malaboch War and other stories.

I am a writer of non-fictional historic works. My book, The Infamous Malaboch War and other gripping stories of the Old Transvaal and Beyond is an eclectic collection of stories of people and events that in my view have been under-recorded and warrant exposure. Although I do not warrant comparison with them, I identify with the genre of writers such as TV Bulpin and AP Cartwright who popularised travel and history. I subscribe to the notion that was first expressed by George Cory, the eminent historian whose name is embodied at the Cory Collection at the Rhodes University Library: “It is no more than the grateful duty of a succeeding generation to revere the memory of those who bore the heat and burden of the days long gone. But better than merely holding in one's memories of departed heroes is the placing on permanent record the account of their lives and works.”

The war against Malaboch has been extensively covered in articles published by the South African Military History Society and elsewhere. However it was my reading of Notes from my Diary on the Boer campaign of 1894 against the chief Malaboch of Blaauwberg, district Zoutpansberg, South African Republic by the Rev Colin Rae (published by Juta in 1898) that sparked this fresh look at the campaign. The Rev Rae observes that “through the campaign the poor Malabochians were seldom aggressors, their attitude being nothing more or less than a gentle protest against what they considered an unjust encroachment on their ancestral rights.”
The author wrote: “In presenting the following account to the indulgence of the public, I am keeping a promise made to my comrades in the Malaboch campaign, who were kind enough to think that a published diary of events would be of interest, not only to those who were engaged in the expedition, but to a larger number who watched the proceedings of each day with anxiety, and who are deeply interested in South African affairs generally.” 

I believe the reasons given by Rae are no less relevant today.

The exploration of the Limpopo was undertaken by a military man stirred to adventure. His aim was to find an easier outlet to the sea, and hence England, for the gold mined at Tati, than the yet undeveloped land route. Whether he was paid is moot. Nevertheless he was the first person to travel the full extent of the river to its outflow into the Indian Ocean.

The Lady Trader ended her days on a farm in the northern Drakensberg. It was called Ravenshill and I have visited it many times. It is redolent with the history of its time – Frank Eland, who was her farm manager, was killed during a skirmish with a Boer commando while serving with the Bushveld Carbineers.
The Bechuanaland piece was triggered by my visits to Francistown while researching my book on the Tati Concession.
Rory Hensman’s was a story to be told. I inspired my friend John Gordon Davis to write it and he visited us several times from his home in Spain. There’s much more to be said about Rory and his elephants but that will have to wait for another time.

I met Albert Machimani at the behest of Tito Mboweni while penning his memoir – yet to be published.

The other chapters in the book are wide-ranging.

When and where?

Casterbridge Hollow Boardroom
Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre
Hazyview Road
White River
South Africa

Sat 19 Aug 2017 at 1:45 PM (SAST)
Sat 19 Aug 2017 at 2:30 PM (SAST)

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Organiser details

Lowveld Book Festival

071 134 8172
071 134 8172