Unknown arm of the Shepstone bloodline?

2015-10-01 06:00

COULD there be a secret line of mixed-race children carrying the bloodline of KwaZulu-Natal’s colonial fathers, the Shepstones?

Certain information that was recently uncovered suggests that Sir Theophilus Shepstone and another male Shepstone may have a line of unknown mixed-race children around the province.

The story begins with Gibson Makhaye­ (78), who was spotted by our reporter in a Pietermaritzburg cemetery­ two weeks ago.

Makhaye, bent over a walking stick, approached the reporter and asked for help finding the grave of Sir Theophilus Shepstone.

Makhaye said he had travelled all the way from Camperdown to search for the grave of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, his great-great grandfather.

Upon engaging Makhaye it was discovered that while Sir Theophilus was not directly linked to Makhaye, either Shepstone’s son Henrique Charles Shepstone or his nephew Percy William Shepstone may well have fathered Makhaye’s great grandfather.

He said he had always been told his great-great grandfather was a white man by the name of Wohlo, which is the name for the sound of bones rubbing together.

“Recently I found out that he was actually called ‘Somtseu’ and he was the father of my great-grandfather, Mdingi Makhaye.”

Sir Theophilus Shepstone was nicknamed “Somtseu” and, in the book Shepstone by Ruth Gordon, the author says Percy and Henrique were the only other Shepstones to be called “Somtseu” as a courtesy.

“The people named him Wohlo because he was skinny,” said Makhaye.

“I do not know where my great-great-grandmother met him but I think they met in Stanger. I was told that Somtseu used to frequent Stanger. I was told he was a pastor and/or a judge.”

Makhaye said the story of the family lineage was carried down in the oral tradition through the generations.

Henrique served as a magistrate in Harding for four years, but not much is known about Percy.

In 2008, a chapter in the book Orb and Sceptre: Studies on British Imperialism and its Legacies suggests that Shepstone had an affair with a woman of mixed race named “Meeta” and suggests she bore Shepstone’s child.

The chapter, called Shepstone in Love and co-authored by Jennifer Weir and Norman Etherington, quotes a letter written by the 19-year-old Shepstone to the 33-year-old Henry Francis Fynn in 1836.

“As to Meeta, I am glad to hear she is getting on so well.

“I can assure you I have been as virtuous as the newborn babe ever since I have been in this horrible town. I should be delighted to see her again, but am afraid of the burden you speak of. I shall send her something by the first conveyance of wagons I meet with and shall direct it to you.

“Please tell her and let her kiss the seal three times — as I have done. Oh what a foolish fellow I am, this is my weak point, pray excuse me. I know you will — tell me if she does — destroy this letter.”

A 2008 article written by former Witness reporter Stephen Coan said as Meeta is spoken of in familiar tones, it suggests she is of mixed race.

Coan’s article goes on to say there is little doubt regarding Shepstone’s relationship with Meeta.

The phrase “newborn babe” and words “I should be delighted to see her again, but am afraid of the burden you speak of” seem to suggest a pregnancy for which Shepstone feels responsible, as he offers to “send her something by the first conveyance of wagons”.

An extract from Theophilus Shepstone and the Forging of Natal: African Autonomy and Settler Colonialism in the Making of Traditional Authority­ by the late Jeff Guy speaks of Henry Francis Fynn and his relationship with African women.

“Shepstone had lived in King William’s Town, in the company of Henry Francis Fynn, the pioneer settler at Port Natal, now a minor Cape official.

“He found Fynn, father of a number of children still living with their African­ mothers in Natal, a liberating companion, not only from the censorious­ piety of the Wesleyan communities in which he had grown up, but also in his youthful relations with women.”

Shepstone’s subsequent letters from Grahamstown to Fynn stand out in the surviving correspondence for their rude formality, even a touch of moral recklessness and one has to suspect that this is the reason Fynn preserved them

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