oa Historia - Sir George Napier en die Natalse Voortrekkers, 1838-1844

Volume 34, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



Sir George Napier and the Natal Voortrekkers, 1838-1844. Sir George Napier was appointed governor of the Cape because of his philanthropic sympathies and his declared undertaking to limit expenditure. After visiting the eastern districts in 1838, he decided that the Great Trek was detrimental to all of southern Africa and he undertook a wide range of relatively inexpensive measures to bring it to an end. However, all these efforts proved to be unsuccessful. The solution of the Trek problem to which Napier gave preference viz. the annexation of Natal, was not acceptable to his superiors because of the expenditure involved. Napier nevertheless repeatedly argued in favour of this suggestion, claiming that the initial high costs involved, would prevent greater financial burdens in the long run. He pointed out that Natal eventually would have to be annexed in order to protect the blacks, and to prevent pressure from the Voortrekkers which could lead to increased tensions and perhaps war on the eastern frontier. However, any hope of in agreement between Napier and the Trekkers was dashed when the governor received news of a Voortrekker raid on the Bhaca south of Natal in 1840. He immediately sent troops to protect the Mpondo and other black allies of the Cape Colony, and at the same time he ordered the soldiers to prevent the Volksraad from settling large numbers of Natal blacks in the area. After the British military victory over the Voortrekkers at Port Natal in June 1841, Lord Stanley eventually sanctioned the annexation of Natal, while Napier's attitude towards the Voortrekkers hardened because of their actions against the Bhaca. He was distrustful of all their dealings with the blacks and accusing them of slavery, a few indentured blacks were freed from the custody of Voortrekkers who had returned to the Colony.The majority ofVoortrekkers being dissatisfied with the British measures taken after the annexation, eventually left Natal. It is clear that philantropic considerations played a far greater part in Napier's policy towards the Voortrekkers than claimed by J.S. Galbraith in Reluctant Empire.

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