Chief Jomsobomvu Maqoma Biography
Born in 1798, Maqoma was the first son of Ngqika (King of amaRharhabe) and Nothonto (Ngqika’s right-hand wife). He earned his evocative royal salute, “Jongumsobomvu”, during his initiation rites to manhood.
Jongumsobomvu is an unparalleled hereo of African history. He was simply the greatest general in the 19th century War of Resistance (the 9 “Frontier Wars”). He represents the longest and most sustained military and political record of personal involvement, commitment and heroism in Africa resistance to colonial advance, in defence of African land, autonomy, and independence. He successfully adapted pre-colonial military methods to become a sustained and effective guerrilla warfare strategy. He also applied diplomacy, negotiation and broad alliances. He was a wise, eloquent orator and innovative strategist. He was a fair and just judicial officer and popular ruler who sought to maintain the pre-colonial system of Xhosa self-rule. His example speaks for generations to come.
From 1834 to 1836, Jongumsobomvu (together with his brother, Tyhali) was the primary leader of amaXhosa armies in the 6th War of Resistance (Hintsa’s War) during which King Hintsa was killed in cold blood by British officers. Jongumsobomvu most effectively applied his military innovations in the “War of Mlanjeni” (the 8th War of Resistance, 1850 to 1853) during which the amaNgqika sustained their longest and most concentrated resistance to the British. The most important achievement of this war was the killing of Colonel John Fordyce which resulted in the British Government dismissing Maqoma’s old enemy, Governor Harry Smith. Jongumsobomvu’s military strategy was used until the last War of Resistance of 1877 to 1878 (the Ngcayechibi War) whose last battles were fought at Ntaba ka Ndoda.
Following the self-destructive and tragic “Nogqwuse” cattle killing movement (lasting from the winter of 1856 to the autumn of 1857, the British pushed their advantage and systematically hunted down key leaders of the amaXhosa. This ultimately led to Jongumsobomvu capture. Facing false charges about the killing of an informer headman named Fusani, he was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned on Robben Island. Released in 1869, he attempted to revive resistance. However, he was rebanished and returned to the island where he died of old age and dejection, there alone – with no wife, or attendant or goats as was the case with his first imprisonment – on 9th September 1873.
In 1978, as part of its search for legitimation the apartheid-era Ciskei homeland government exhumed and repatriated Jongumsobomvu and reburied him at Ntaba ka Ndoda. Ntaba ka Ndoda is where he fought, commanded and lost his first-ever military battle in the War of Amalinde in October 1818. From this lost, he learnt a lifelong lesson: the importance of the element of surprise in warfare. Ntaba ka Ndoda is the best place to honour the greatest fighting general of the 19th century
Know Before You Go
The Ntaba ka Ndoda memorial is reached by following the R63 road from King William’s Town in the direction of Alice for roughly twenty minutes, turning right onto the R352 towards Keiskammahoek, and then left onto the gravel road indicated by a sign that reads “Chief Maqoma’s Grave.”
The road passes initially through traditional Eastern Cape homesteads and then winds steadily up the slopes of the mountain. The summit is generally accessible with a sedan vehicle, as the condition of the gravel is mostly quite good.