Title Chief (Kgosi)
Other Names
Date of Birth 1740-00-00
Date of Death 1827-00-00



Edited 14 Oct 2016

Life span: c.1740-1827

Of the many chiefs recorded in the oral traditions of the baTswana, Kgosi Kgaswane is remembered both for his longevity and for his wisdom. His grandfather, Mmatau (or Tau), founded the Mmatau offshoot of the baKwena ba Modimosana at the beginning of the 18th century. They settled at Molokwane on the Selons River west of the Magaliesberg where Kgaswane was born. The community flourished under Kgaswane's father, Sekano, and later under Kgaswane himself and the ruins of the once extensive town of Molokwane still remain an impressive sight. Other large subsidiary Mmatau settlements at Olifantspoort and Selonskraal (40 kms apart) indicate the great size and prosperity of the region over which Kgaswane once governed.
Early in his chieftainship, Kgaswane's rival, Kgosi Sekete, chief of the neighbouring baFokeng, attacked the baMmatau and both chiefs were wounded in the encounter. Kgaswane's son, Bogatsu, eventually killed Sekete with assistance from the baKgatla-ba-Kgafela, but Sekete's heir, Thethe, continued the feud with Kgaswane well into the 19th century.

However, when Thethe's brothers Nameng and Noge overthrew him, he sought refuge with Kgaswane, his erstwhile enemy. While there, he predicted the destruction of the eastern BaTswana in a sequence of invasions. As the Mfecane disruptions spread to the Magaliesberg, Thethe's predictions began to be realized. In about 1821, Sekwati, chief of the baPedi, sent an army under the command of his brother Maleketu to raid the area. Many baTswana were killed and women and cattle abducted, but the baMmatau were spared, probably because the raid may have been orchestrated by Thethe, still under Kgswane's  protection, to avenge his deposition as chief of the baFokeng.  If true, his plan ultimately failed because although the baFokeng were defeated by the baPedi and Thethe's usurper Nameng was killed, his second brother, Noge, drove him out from under Kgaswane's protection and, ultimately, killed him.

In 1827 another of Thethe's predictions came about with the invasion by Mzilikazi's Ndebele. On this occasion, Kgaswane was less fortunate. Most of the baMmatau were massacred, including the aged chief. The survivors fled to Thaba Nchu.
The first white travelers in the area approached the Magaliesberg through what had recently been the land of Kgaswane. The European pronunciation corrupted the word Kgaswane to 'Cashan' and the mountain range was referred to by that name in the early written records. Kgaswane had outlived his first son, Botagsu, and was succeeded by Maselwane, who returned to the Magaliesberg with the Boers to oust Mzilikazi. His name too was corrupted to 'Selon' in the written record and hence we have the Selons River and Selonskraal in the province.

South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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