The Last Stand of a South African Hero – Luka Jantjie

The question of restitution and the redistribution of land in Southern Africa is emotive and divisive. It’s an issue that spawns online battles and verbal skirmishes from parliamentary benches to barstools, with opposing factions often brandishing abstraction and half remembered stories. The problem with these stories is that while they are often lost in a direct narrative sense, they are still threaded into the genetic memory of many people. This is in part what makes the land debate so fractious, complicated and potentially violent.

Though there may be no single truth, a better understanding of South African history can illuminate and inform the debate.

Luka Jantjie died in battle facing overwhelming odds. On the morning of 30 July 1897, fewer than 500 starving and exhausted men still stood against some 2,000 colonial troops. Armed with old muzzle loaders and a sprinkling of repeating rifles, the defenders were massively out-gunned. Not only did the colonial troops all have repeating rifles, they also had 7 and 12 pounder artillery along with Maxim machine guns. It had been a severely lopsided contest, and yet somehow the intrepid Batswana men had managed to hold the British Empire at bay for six months.


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