The history of slavery and colonisation in South Africa has largely been ignored in favour of the more dominant narrative of apartheid. (Nadia Kamies, African Independent, February 26, 2018)
The ‘Slave’ in the first story is Helena Bas, who escaped from a ship in Cape Town harbour with the help of a young clerk, Gerrit de Goede, in the employ of the Dutch East India Company. She is caught and Gerrit attends the trial where he learns that she is likely to be sentenced r to be tethered to a post with an ox-hide over her head, to be scourged, branded and then banished from the Cape forever.
He manages to secure her release into the care of a Moravian whose ‘mission to the Cape has been authorised by the Directors so that he might be blessed as an instrument for the conversion of ignorant and barbarous heathen.’ This was at a crucial time when the Heeren 17 were pondering whether slavery was ‘a malignant sore in the human frame’ or whether ‘black people were destined to be slaves’.
The Hunter is a young Tswana, Motsumi, who fashioned bows of greater size, with the gut bowstring being cut from the intestines of a giraffe. The arrows fitted with vulture feathers could be sent away with unprecedented velocity. It was on his fifteenth year that he achieved a distinction that was to change the course of history for the tribe. He killed a fully-grown elephant bull which was feeding on the mealie crops that were due for harvesting.
Another hunter was Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, second son of Queen Victoria. Highlight of his visit was the great hunt. From twenty to thirty thousand large animals --- white-tailed gnus, Burchell’s zebras, hartebeests, blesboks, bonteboks, springboks, ostriches, had been collected in a small area. No European prince had ever seen such a number and variety of wild animals in one spot before. The day of the great hunt was the most exciting one in the journey. It was not recorded how many animals were killed but it must have been a great many.
The Missionary, Vater Friederich, surveyed the chief and his elders seated under a huge tree on the edge of the desert. Secretly he was quite amazed that his reception was so cordial. He was immediately fired with added zeal in bringing light to these children. “I bring you the Word of God,” he told his uncomprehending audience. He was soon to realise, however, that he was expected to teach the chief the secret arts which made the white men so rich and so powerful. Makotla was quite convinced that this could be done through potent charms and medicines. For Friedrich, this was the start of an arduous, frustrating and heart-breaking period. In his seemingly hopeless task of instructing the people in the way of God, he was to learn with dreadful despondency that the black tribes were not easily changed from their traditional ways
The Smous was Aaron Hertz. Anna Maria sent the wagon, the one that had transported them to safety at the time of the invasion, to Algoa Bay in the charge of an itinerant trader or smous to use the Boer name. She looked to the opportunity to build up capital for the family, that of trading with the black tribes across the frontier. She was far-sighted in her resolve, if a little light-headed at considering the risks attached to the enterprise.
Other chapters include The Siege of Bathurst, The Craft Shop at the Mission Station, Ted and the Rhino Poachers, The Ivory Heist, The Viper Strikes and Ted’s Funeral.