The second Boer War (or Anglo-Boer War) lasted from 1899-902 and was an important war in southern Africa. The colonial power of the British Empire was up against the tiny republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Boer and the British had decided this was to be a white man’s war, but in reality both sides tried tried to enlist other forces as well.
One of the battles that took place and fired the imagination of people at home and abroad was the siege of the village Mafeking. The Boer forces had encircled Mafeking under the command of Cronjé (later Snyman was in command). The British forces and the village were under the command of colonel Baden-Powell. From October/November 1899 till March 1900 the two forces bombarded and shot. Cronjé was not a very aggressive commander for strategy implied a wait-and-see attitude. In this way he gave ample time to Baden-Powell to reinforce the defences of Mafeking and the settlement of the ‘natives’.
One of the people living in the settlement was Sol T. Plaatje, who worked at the court in Mafeking as a translator at the court cases. He was fluent in both English and Dutch, besides speaking his own language Setswana. During the siege Plaatje kept notes nearly every day. He wrote about his work, about the impact of the bombs and the snipers, about food shortages, about people who died or who were wounded, the way Mafeking was defended, the local press, the attempts to get outside help from British forces, the keeping of the Lord’s Day without war, the fear of having to eat horse meat, the smaller food rations for people in the settlement and the larger portions for the white population (including some Boer families). In this way Plaatje gave an important insider’s view of the siege.
The diary of Plaatje had been ‘lost’. During a time of research in Mafeking among the Barolong boo Rathshidi the editor of this present book asked for any kind of letters or documents that the people might have. A young man turned up with a scrapbook. It had belonged to his grandfather. The name of the grandfather? Sol T. Plaatje. And the scrapbook contained his diary.
John L. Comaroff has done an excellent job in editing this famous diary of this eyewitness of the siege of Mafeking. He has added endnotes to give extensive added information and explanations. He added a nice map of Mafeking and the settlement named Mafikeng.
I Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It give me more insight an an important part of the history of South Africa, penned down by one of the founding fathers of thye ANC.
John L. Comaroff (editor) – The Boer War diary of Sol T. Plaatje. An African at Mafeking – London 1973