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Sixth Frontier War

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1834-1835

By early 1830s the line of clashes had spread to the Keiskamma River, now regarded as the Cape's eastern frontier. Segregation had broken down. Whites, Khoikhoi and Xhosas lived in the 'neutral', now significantly called the 'ceded', territory, and trade and employment were permitted. Insecurity persisted. The effective extension of the Cape frontier to the Keiskamma River increased overcrowding among the Xhosas beyond, already subject to considerable pressure from other tribes displaced by the Zulu empire. The Government pursued a vacillating policy towards allowing Ngqika's sons to occupy land in the Tyume Valley. In 1829 Maqoma and his tribe were expelled from the Kat River area (where Khoikhoi were settled) and settled on inferior land farther east but were allowed to return to the Tyume Valley in 1833, to be expelled again almost immediately.

Tyali and Botomane ('Botma'), other Ngqika chiefs, were treated in a similar fashion. In 1834 the British government instructed Sir Benjamin D'Urban to institute a civil defence system supplemented by treaties with chiefs paid to keep order and advised by Government agents. Before this could be done, the bitterness aroused by the renewed expulsion of Maqoma and Tyali from their Tyume lands in 1833 was exacerbated by drastic reprisals by colonial patrols as a result of increased cattle theft by Xhosas during a period of drought. On 31 December 1834 a large force of some 12 000 Western Xhosas - led by Maqoma, the regent of the Ngqika tribe, Tyali, other Ngqika chiefs, as well as some clans belonging to the Ndlambe branch - swept into the Colony. Raiding parties devastated the country between the Winterberg and the sea. Piet Retief managed to defeat them in the Winterberg and Lt-Col Harry Smith was immediately sent on his historic six-day ride from Cape Town to Grahamstown to take command of the frontier. Reinforcements were sent by sea to Algoa Bay and burgher and Khoi troops were called out. After a series of engagements including that of Trompetter's Drift on the Fish River, the chiefs fighting between the Sundays and Bushmans Rivers were defeated, while the others (Maqoma, Tyali and Mhala) retreated to the fastnesses of the Amatole Mountains. D'Urban arrived at the frontier on 14 December 1834.

He believed Hintsa, the chief of the Gcalekas and presumed paramount over the whole Xhosa nation, to be responsible for the attack on the Colony and held him responsible for the theft of colonial stock captured during the invasion. Therefore D'Urban led a force of colonial troops across the Kei to Butterworth, Hintsa's residence and dictated terms to him. They comprised the annexation of the area between the Keiskamma and Kei Rivers as British territory (to be called Queen Adelaide province) and the expulsion across the Kei of all tribes involved in the war. Queen Adelaide would be settled by loyal tribes, by rebel tribes who disowned their chiefs and by Fingos, remnants of tribes who had been destroyed by the rise of the Zulu empire and who had hitherto been living in Hintsa's territory under Xhosa subjection. However, expulsion of the undefeated Xhosa from Queen Adelaide proved impossible, so in September 1835 D'Urban made treaties with the 'rebel' chiefs, allowing them to remain in locations there on condition of good behaviour as British subjects under the control of magistrates who, it was hoped, would rapidly undermine tribalism with missionary help. But territorial expansion contradicted British desires for economy, and the British government, doubtful of the justice of the war and ignorant of the details of D'Urban's actions because of his long delays in sending explanations, disannexed Queen Adelaide. New treaties made the chiefs responsible for order beyond the Fish River (December 1836).