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The Griqua

The people of Adam Kok I

The Griqua were galvanised, as a people, by Adam Kok, born about 1710. He probably was a cook in a prestigious home - a slave - but he bought his freedom. By around 1850, he was wealthy, living on the West coast, with vast herds. He gathered up the Khoi people called the Grigriqua, and he was granted a staff of office by the Cape authorities. He lived most of his life along the Orange River, trading with nearby Tswana tribes.

The two Griqua dynasties: Griquatown and Danielskuil

Adam Kok I launched the dynasty of the Koks, including his sons, Cornelis Kok. Cornelis's son would become Adam Kok II.

His clan also attracted other disposessed Khoi people, including Klaas Barends, the grandson of a slave. He had already accompanied explorers to the Orange River. Klaas married Adam Kok's daughter, and his son was Barend Barends, who became an important leader of a section of the Griqua.  

Adam Kok II would later be based at Griquatown and Campbell, and Barend Barends at Danielskuil.

The Griquas - a force for peace 

The Griquas were Dutch-speakers, and knew about the advantages of modern technology - horses, wagons and guns. They also adopted western manners, habits, dress and livelihoods, including stock-rearing. Some travelers, such as Lichtenstein, noted that the Griquas were superior in morals and religious observance, compared to the white frontier farmers. 

The Griquas were, initially, a nomadic people, migrating in small parties to find pasture for their cattle, and sometimes undertaking extended hunting expeditions.

And they wanted to live in peace with their neighbours along the Orange River. Cornelis Kok employed local Koranas and Bushmen as herders, giving them sheep as payment, so they could build up their own flocks.

Cornelis Kok, Barend Barends, and their Griquas settled  at Klaarwater (now called Griquatown).

The battle of Dithakong, 1823

In June 1823, the BaThlaping found themselves threatened by thousands of Basotho - the Phuting and the Hlakwana. They were also refugees, fleeing the Difaqane (the"forced migration" set in motion by the rise of the Zulu Kingdom in  the east). Tribes fought each other for dwindling supplies of cattle and corn. They were armed, hungry and intent on raiding the BaThlaping's cattle. This conflagration was rolling westwards - in the direction of Kuruman.

 

Reverend Moffat rushed from Kuruman to Griquatown to persuade the Griqua to assist the BaThlaping.  Rev Waterboer in Griquatown, assisted by other Griqua leaders (Berend Berends from Danielskuil and Adam Kok II from Campbell) rode northwards with about 200 men.  They were accompanied by BaTlhaping warriors.

About 200 Griqua horsemen, armed with guns, faced the massed ranks of the Basotho armed with spears and cowhide shields. The BaTlhaping age regiments were held in reserve as the Griqua launched their attack. The Griqua demonstrated their particular form of fighting: They would ride up to just outside spear-throwing range, then fire a volley with their muskets, and then withdraw to reload while another group rode forward. The Basotho suffered terrible casualties - possibly up to 500 men. After seven long hours, the BaThlaping were sent in to finish off the opposition.  Those who fled were pursued by the Tlhaping warriors, up to the Vaal River.

Not a single Griqua was killed in the fighting.  Significantly, the Battle of Dithakong had turned the tide of the Difaqane, in the Northern Cape.

For the BaThlaping, the Battle of Dithakong showed the crucial importance of firearms in modern warfare. From then onwards, they did everything in their power to acquire guns, gun powder, horses and ox wagons.