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					COMMEMORATION OF THE XHOSA CATTLE-KILLING AND THE PROPHETESS NONGQAWUSE – 150 YEARS (1856 – 1857)
Venue: 5 Queen Victoria Street Cape Town Date: Speaker: 20 February 2007 Andrew Charles Offenburger

The Cattle-Killing between the years 1856-1857 amongst the Xhosa people of the Eastern Cape left an indelible landmark in the history of all South Africans. At the successful

commemoration event, the honourable Minister of Arts and Culture Dr. Pallo Jordan launched the National Library public lecture series. The event was initiated by the Friends of the National Library of South Africa, and supported by staff of the National Library. The presence of the National Librarian Mr. John Tsebe was very prominent and he too was part of the exciting programme. The vibrant Programme Director for the evening, Dr. Sindiswa Magona, brightened up the whole event with her presence. The Chairperson of the Board of the National Library, Professor G.M. Nkondo, did the opening address, where he welcomed all from different professions, including

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academics and the media. The Chairperson of the Friends of the National Library of South Africa, Mr. Paul Mills, gave us an introduction to the event, and told us more about the Friends, and how they support the National Library. The Minister, Dr. Jordon, opened the series, by looking into the past, as to what really happened during those dark days. He told about Nongqawuse who was born near the Gxarha River. She was an orphan, brought up by her uncle, Mhlakaza. One day she went to a river pool and spirits appeared to her. Nongqawuse told her people that the spirits had told her a new day would come for the Xhosa nation. Their ancestors would rise from the dead and they would bring new cattle with them. The witchcraft would stop, and the land would be full of grain. The sun would set in the East and a whirlwind would come and blow all the Whites into the sea. However for this prophecy to come true, the Xhosa had to kill their cattle, and destroy their grain. After three failed

prophetic promises, the Xhosa nation suffered greatly and experienced terrible deprivation. The Xhosa people died because of starvation and war amongst themselves. Dr. Jordon also noted that during this period of time, a lung sickness was already destroying the cattle of the Xhosa nation. The speaker, Mr. Andrew Offenburger, a Masters student from Yale University, made reference to the Minister’s indepth account of the Cattle-Killing. Mr. Offenburger’s

extensive research provided a different and thought provoking view of events. His view of the prophecy is that it is being lived out today in the democratic South Africa. His findings lead to an interesting discussion about the educational school curriculum of today. He elaborated that, “it is interesting to find that before the first democratic elections, the Cattle-Killing was part of history in the school curriculum, but today, during the post-Apartheid period, little to no reference is made to the happening at all.” Mr. Offenburger interviewed a lecturer, at one of South Africa’s higher educational institutions, and the lecturer suggested that it might be that the story of the Cattle-Killing was told so much that people stopped telling

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it. The success of the event was due to the support of many who wanted to know more about this pivotal and important time in South African history. Proudly the National Librarian, Mr. Tsebe, thanked all for attending. More events like these will follow in months to come, and hopefully it reaches the same success as the first.

Andrea Roux

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