Golf,Birding and a National Suicide
West Bank Golf Club in East London, South Africa, has some of the most spectacular sea views imaginable. Sitting in the lounge or in front of the clubhouse, as we were today, you are likely to see a pod of dolphins or a couple of whales in the deep blue water of the Indian Ocean. Today, as we sipped our coffee, Neville, Kobus and I saw none of these. We did see a Cape Gannet, though, diving for food just behind the breaking waves along the rocky coastline. We had earlier stopped to admire four beautifully marked Bontebok and a large group of Impala. One of us had nearly managed to hit one of the Impala, after over clubbing on the 13th.
The birds were also out on this lovely autumn morning and I ticked off on the list in my mind, three kinds of Plover (Crowned, Black winged and Blacksmith), a Black-collared Barbet, an Amethyst Sunbird, a Dusky Flycatcher,a Forked -tailed Drongo, a Red-eyed Dove, a Stone Chat and a Dark-capped Bulbul. The Sunbird was feeding on the Wild Dagga bushes that flower at this time of the year. At the same time I made a mental note to return with my binoculars, camera and bird field guide to check up on some of the birds flitting around in the coastal bush and “fynbos” that line the fairways. Fynbos is a type of brush that is found in the S/E coastal areas of the country, and is the habitat of some of our endemic bird species such as the Cape and Gurney’s Sugarbirds.
As we sat admiring the view after our round of golf, we could see the rocky outcrop called Cove Rock to the south west. That brings me to the sad story of the “Suicide of the Xhosa Nation”. In 1856 a young Xhosa maiden named Nongquase claimed to have seen a vision while fetching water for her family at the nearby river. She proclaimed that on the 18th of February 1857 a huge storm would arrive and the fore fathers of the Xhosa nation would rise out of the sea and together with the wind, drive the white people and all Xhosas who had disobeyed the spirits of their fore fathers, into the sea. Despite efforts from the Cape Government Administrators and missionaries to counter this delusion, the people by and large believed her. This led to the people killing their cattle, destroying their crops and building huge “kraals” for the cattle that would accompany the warriors coming from the sea. The place where the fore fathers and cattle would come out of the sea was to be at Cove Rock, which had specific spiritual meaning to the Xhosa Nation.
Sadly as the day arrived, nothing happened. It is estimated that more than 60 000 Xhosas died in the ensuing seasons in spite of large amount of food aid that came from the authorities and missionaries in this area. This marked the end of the military power of the Xhosa nation. The book by Mostert, called “Frontiers,” gives a very interesting history of this part of the African Continent, including the tragic story of Nongquase, who mislead a nation.