Chapter Two
The Early Missionaries. Kuruman. Robert Moffat and Mzilikazi

ATTEMPTS to establish a mission among the southern Tswana began early in the nineteenth century. A haft-hearted effort, on which the traveller comments caustically, was made by the Dutch Missionary Society just before Lichtenstein's visit in 1805.1 One may also mention the missionaries Kok and Edwards, who worked among the Tlhaping, while the latter penetrated as far as the Ngwaketse country in 1807 or 1808. But it seems that these missionaries were more interested in trade than in spreading the Gospel. Moffat later says of Edwards, 'having amassed a handsome sum, and long forsaken his God, he left the country, retired to the Colony, purchased a farm and slaves, and is now, or was some years since, a hoary-headed infidel'.2 It was in 1813 that John Campbell came to the Tlhaping, whom he calls the Matchapees, and whom he found, under Chief Mothibi, son of Lichtenstein's Molehabangwe, at 'Lattakoo', something under forty miles north-east of the Kuruman River. From Mothibi he received the invitation, 'send instructors, and I will be a father to them'.3 That invitation was the cue for the founding, after much disappointment, of the famous London Missionary Society's institution near modern Kuruman. It should here be mentioned that the word 'Lattakoo', with its variants, which occurs very frequently in the accounts of the early travellers, is really a corruption, or anglicization, of the locative form of dithako, which is the plural of the Tswana word lorako meaning a stone wall. Dithakong means 'at the stone walls', in other words, 'at the town'. When the tribe moved to the Kuruman River in 1817, the old site became known as 'Old Lattakoo' while the new one became 'Lattakoo' or 'New Lattakoo', but it was usually simply called Kuruman.4

Campbell estimated the population of Dithakong at 7,500 inhabitants and notices the familiar Tswana institution of the cattle post. He had visited the 'eye' of Kuruman which he describes as

____________________
1
Lichtenstein, Travels in Southern Africa, Vol. II, pp. 308-10. See also Moffat, Missionary Labours, p. 218.
2
R. Moffat, Missionary Labours, p. 216.
3
Reverend John Campbell, Journal of Travels in South Africa, p. 136.
4
A corruption of Kudumane.

-8-

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