I have always loved history – especially knowing that it is never a true account of actual events that really happened.
Winston Churchill is purported to have said: “History is written by the victors.” Don’t you believe it – history is written by skelms. Eric de la Vega de Castro told me so!
The story which I am about to relate to you, was told to me on the deathbed of Gerhard Lodewikus Zacharias Wagenaer Potgieter Retief – the great-great-great-great grandson of Pieter Mauritz Retief (PBUH). It is a tale of trickery, debauchery, kerfuffling, and murder most foul. Let me tell you about it:
Piet Retief’s household (his wife, Magdalena Johanna Greyling née De Wet, and their
35 36 37 offspring), departed in two wagons from his farm in the Winterberg District, early one morning in February 1837. They joined a party of 30 other wagons. And, man! Did they party! Morning, noon, and night! Party, party, party! There were no cops or laws in this godforsaken country back in those days. You could rob, rape, and murder, to your heart’s content. Just like today.
Piet, because of his capacity for drinking copious amounts beer without urinating in public, was elected “Governor of the Lagers.” The main aim of the Trekkers was to get seriously (ge)lager. From there the name the Great (ge)Trek.
One fine day, Piet woke up with the mother-of-all hangovers. In a robust, Boere accent, he announced to the gelagerde Trekkers: “I say, you chaps, it’s getting awfully boring out here. What say we get this show on the road, and relocate to Port Natal (Durban) for some passionate frivolity with yonder indigenous inhabitants? Whot?”
Note: (In those days, the region between Port Natal and the Drakensberg was known as Kwa – the Zulu word for the sound that is heard when Eskom cuts the electrical power supply. The hills would echo: “Kwa!” And the Zulus would say: “Eish! We are in duckness again. Time to Waka Waka!”)
Later, the region was named Natal, by a Portuguese café owner who had a fruit and vegetable shop in Pietermaritzburg. (He was a good Portuguese – there were no flies about him.) And finally, it became KwaZulu-Natal. Why, we’ll never know…
Due to his favourable impression of the region, Retief started negotiations with the Zulu royal family: the House of Aan. (The Aan’s were distant relatives of the British Royal family, the Mountbatten-Windsor’s. King James MCXLVVIII, on relocating to South Africa in 1367 AD, shortly after the battle of Sirmium, had married a Zulu maiden and had changed his surname from Mountbatten-Windsor to Aan; a name which his new wife found much easier to spell; what with her OBE education, and all, and all. But that’s not important right now.)
Retief met up with the Zulu king, King Ding Aan; the king’s brother, Bobby Aan; and their youngest brother; Oomph Aan. They also had an uncle, Skokkie Aan, who was completely blind in his left eye. As well as in his right eye. (But more about him later.)
King Ding Aan (known as old Dingus to his friends), welcomed the getrekte Boere with open arms – releasing wafts of underarm body odour (BO) that could stun a full grown bull elephant at fifty paces. No one complained – the Trekkers smelled even worse. They had had their last bath back in the Colony, more than two years ago. A Trekker could kill a black mamba just by moving upwind from the poor creature.
The Trekkers and the Royal Aan’s spent many a pleasant night; sitting around the campfires in old Dingus’ compound (which was much smaller than Nkandla); drinking Lion lager; smoking aapgras, and being entertained by a troupe of 30,000 topless Zulu virgins doing the traditional reed-dance, to the popular rap song: Inkosi Sukkel met iAfrika. And doing the Waka Waka.
Comes morning, there would always be a smaller number of virgins than when the party had started the night before. (This was because of all the Waka Waka going on behind the bushes in the dark, Sakkie.)
Sometimes, Uncle Skokkie Aan would join them in the revelry and carousing – drinking lager until he was blind drunk. But no one would notice as he was blind anyway. It was considered normal for him to bump into huts, and trees, and cattle, and stuff. One night he fell into the fire pool and swam around in circles for several hours.
Piet Retief, or Baas Pieta, as he was now called by the Zulus, convinced Gerrit Maritz and Andries Hendrik Potgieter, two Boere who were also getrek most of the time, to join him. This they did – in January of the year 1838 – nearly a 100 years before the start of World War II. (They didn’t actually start the war. I’m just saying: it was before the War.)
King Ding Aan agreed to Boer settlements in Kwa – provided that the Boer delegation recovers 7,000 head of cattle, and a cell phone, stolen from him by his rival, Stink-like-hella, King of the Tlokwa nation.
The Boers did this in record time – their reputation as stinking, drunken brawlers – and flash-in-the-pan riflemen, quickly cowed and bullied the Tlokwa’s into handing over the stolen cattle and Dingus’ BlackBerry™ cell phone.
But, before handing the stolen goods back to king Ding Aan, Piet (who had one of those: “Don’t talk to me, talk to my lawyer,” stickers stuck to the back of his wagon), ordered his lawyer, Mr. J.G. Bantjes (from the firm Bantjes, Gupta, Mahlangu, and Cohen, in Durban), to draw up the famous Piet Retief/Ding Aan Treaty.
And what a nice Treaty it was! Nogal in English! I mean, just look at it:
Unkuginsloave 4th February 1838 (corrected to 6th February, because the 4th was on a Sunday – a day of Rest and Recovery from Saturday night’s Lagers and Waka Waka).
“Know all men by this that whereas Baas Pieta, Governor of the Lagers, has retaken my cattle and cell phone which Stink-like-hella had stolen, which cattle and phone he, the said Retief now deliver unto me, I, Ding Aan, King of the Zulus, as hereby certify and declare that I thought fit to resign unto him, this said Retief, and his getrekte countrymen (in reward of the case here above mentioned), the Place called Port Natal together with all the land annexed, that is to say from O.R. Tambo Parade in Durban, westward, and from Swartmodder Street in Upington, eastwards. Then: southward from Memel Road in Newcastle, and north from 14th Avenue in Port Edward. I give this Land unto them for their Everlasting property. So help me, Bob.”
Signed: HRH King Ding Aan: X
Getrekte witnesses: M. Oosthuijse, A.C. Greyling, B.J. Liebenberg: X X X
Royal witnesses: Bobby Aan, Oomph Aan: X x
Royal uncle: Skokkie Aan: ^\<
(Fine print: Bantjes, Naidoo, Mahlangu, and Cohen: Registered as Financial Service Providers and Consultants to the Royal Zulu House of Aan. T’s and C’s apply.)
After the signing ceremony, Piet and the Trekkers went back to the wagons for their usual midday siesta.
Ding Aan and his brothers, Bobby Aan and Oomph Aan, watched them leave, and rubbed their hands with glee. (Glee is a homemade concoction, Sakkie. Made from cattle dung and beeswax. Can also be used to mend leaking petrol tanks.)
“There,” said king Dingus. “We’ve fooled them. Now we’ll just wait for tonight’s party, and then I’ll put my plan into action. Eh-eh-eh-ehe!”
To be continued...
PS You can see a copy of the original Treaty here: