The land struggle of the Newlanders of Thaba Phatswa

  • P. A. Erasumus University of the Free State, South Africa
Keywords: Wesleyan mission, Intergroup relations, Basotho, Violence, Orange Free State, Wesiliaanse sending, Intergroep verhoudinge, Geweld, Oranje Vrystaat


The current (2018) South African public discourse is dominated by land issues. Land attributes are not unknown
modalities in the South African political landscape. For centuries land was an important identity marker, which
constructed the national, political and economic parameters for the existence of various communities in South Africa.
The significance of land ownership was the proverbial golden thread that weaved through intergroup relationships in the central interior of South Africa during the early to mid-1800s. The struggle for land was not a one-sided affair between the Boers of the Free State and the different indigenous communities. In order to survive and obtain political/ethnic recognition, leaders like Moshweshwe (Basotho), Moroka (Barolong), Barend Barends (Griqua), Jan II (Hanto or Jan Kaptein) and his brother Gert Taaibosch (Korana), and Carolus Baatje and his followers, known as the Newlanders, were also involved in various land skirmishes amongst themselves. Against this background, the quest for land by the Newlanders of Carolus Baatje forms the basic structural framework of this article.
The Newlanders of Carolus Baatje have lived in the Caledon River valley since the 1830s. Up to now, no comprehensive
historical research has been done on them and very little is known about their origin and their doings. Almost without
exception in the literature, references to the Newlanders are made only insofar as their actions connect with the main role-players in events and occurrences under discussion. In other words, these references are indirect and do not present, in themselves, a point of departure. The epistemological challenge hereof was that only through the interaction between the various internal groups could the Newlanders be singled out and highlighted.


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