IT MAY never be known what went through Kgoši Mampuru’s thoughts when he was led naked by his captors to the place of his execution in Pretoria on 22 November 1883. What is known though is that his captors reduced him to an undignified man who did not deserve any mercy or respect.
The gory details of his execution were immortalised in report carried in the pages of The Transvaal Advertiser newspaper two days after the Bapedi Marota king’s public hanging. It reads: “Shortly after 6am, Mampoer was marched from his Cell to the enclosure, and after some delay, consequent upon a defect in the arrangements, he mounted the platform with a firm step, and without any outward sign of fear at the preparations made for depriving him of life in so ignominious manner.
He was then pinioned, and his legs bound, and the halter adjusted about his neck, and then only a nervous twitching of the fingers was visible. Shortly afterwards the bolt was drawn, and the drop fell. A horrible scene then ensued. The rope broke, and the unfortunate wretch fell into the pit, which had been dug to give the requisite fall. The hangman, Booth, was for a short time, unnerved by this incident, and did not know what to do, but the gaoler and another official went to his assistance, and the body was once more hoisted on to the platform, and the rope knotted, and the body left to hang for the prescribed time.
It is stated that the neck of the unfortunate kaffir chief was dislocated by the fall, and, if so, probably life was already extinct before the body was suspended for the second time. At all events, the spectacle was a horrible one, and one not very much calculated to impose the spectatory with the system of strangulation as the recognised and legal means of doing a criminal to death.
We have to record that some 260 white persons took advantage of the opportunity of witnessing a public execution furnished to them by the Executive… The Government , however, enforced the attendance of the kaffir prisoners, who had been more or less compatriots of Mampoer; and they were compelled to witness the death agonies of the Chief.
It may be mentioned that the Government did not consider it necessary to provide the condemned prisoner with a shirt, and he was hanged in all his nakedness.” The Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture is now planning to bestow on the slain king the honours he was denied by his captors. In its recent budget vote speech, the department revealed that a statue in Mampuru’s honour has been erected and is ready for unveiling by the department as part of its Limpopo Liberation Heritage Routes project.
Limpopo MEC for sport, arts and culture Onicca Moloi revealed in her budget vote speech recently that the statues of two other provincial heroes, Josias Madzunya and Manche Masemola are also ready for unveiling. Madzunya was one of the leaders of the Alexandra bus boycott in the 1950s, and an an anti-apartheid political activist who later joined the PAC of Azania.
Masemola is a Christian martyr who as a teenager, was executed by her parents in February 1928 after a long struggle in which she refused to renounce her faith. “The anti-colonial role played by our warrior kings, queens and unsung heroes and heroines shall be documented,” Moloi said.
She said in partnership with the Limpopo Heritage Resources Authority (LIHRA), they have identified three pilot projects for Liberation Heritage Route, namely Tshitangadzimeni, University of Limpopo and Tjate Provincial Heritage Site.
Moloi said the impact assessment to establish the existence of material evidence has been completed and that this the process of formally declaring the sites will be finalised. In December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared this year the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
The UN said this was “in recognition of the tremendous potential of the tourism industry, which accounts for some 10% of the world’s economic activity, to contribute to the fight against poverty and foster mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue, which are at the heart of UNESCO’s mission.”
Moloi said “this brings to the fore, the concept of cultural tourism” and that “tourists are not necessarily interested in our shopping malls.” “They want to learn about the heritage of our history, our cultures, our food and our lifestyle,” she said.
The erection of Mampuru’s statue follows on the department of correctional service’s decision to rename Pretoria Central Prison, where the king was executed, in his honour in 2013. It is now known as Kgoši Mampuru Management Centre. Mampuru is regarded as a hero of the struggle against colonialism because he refused to accept the authority and laws of the Boer Transvaal Republiek which had sought to impose its rule over the mighty Bapedi Marota kingdom.
But he is regarded as a cowardly killer by descendants of his brother and rival to the throne Sekhukhune I. Mampuru killed Sekhukhune I and 13 of his supporters in August 1882 after he had initially fled from a challenge to fight to the death over the throne by his brother.
After the killing of Sekhukhune who had ruled by force between 1861 and 1879, Mampuru formed an alliance with Ndebele King Nyabela and put up a gallant battle until their surrender to the Boers in 1882.
Mampuru argued that the Boers had no authority over matters that happened in the Bapedi Marota kingdom as he considered himself the rightful ruler of the territory known as Lekoebepe, which stretched from the Vaal River in the south to the Limpopo river in the north.
To date, the remains of Mampuru’s mortal remains are still a mystery. The statue, at least, could provide some form of closure to his descendants. – Mukurukuru Media