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Invaders of Thaba Bosiu (1828 - 1865)
Invaders never conquered Thaba Bosiu. The various invaders, namely the Ngwane, the Korannas, the British and the Boers attempted on various and separate occasions to overcome the Basotho in raids. All failed in their attempts.
In 1828, shortly after the arrival of Moshoeshoe at Thaba Bosiu, Matiwane, Chief of AmaNgwane, who since the beginning of that year had dominated the inhabitants of the Caledon Valley, tried to conquer the Basotho under Moshoeshoe.
In a great battle that was fought at Thaba Bosiu, Matiwane's regiments were routed and the AmaNgwane ceased to be a threat to Moshoeshoe.
Since 1831 coloured raiders had been making forays into the Caledon Valley. The raiders repeatedly attacked Moshoeshoe's subjects very close to Thaba Bosiu. Sometimes they got away with Basotho women, children and cattle. They were driven away despite using firearms and fighting on horseback.
In 1831, the Ndebele of Mzilikazi, who had created a military state on the Zulu model north of the Vaal, invaded Lesotho. On their arrival at Thaba Bosiu, they began to scale the mountain at Rafutho's Pass. The Basotho hurled boulders, stones and javelins down on them from behind their walled fortifications. According to traditional lore, as the Ndebele withdrew Moshoeshoe delivered some fat oxen with the message that he thought hunger had brought them to this country. Mzilikazi did not launch another attack in the Caledon Valley.
Thaba Bosiu's renown as a citadel was, therefore, established by the repulse of the formidable Ndebele army. Moshoeshoe had emerged triumphant from African invaders only to be threatened by invaders from the British Colony of the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1852, the Cape Governor, Sir George Cathcart, invaded Moshoeshoe’s territory. The Boers had convinced him that the Basotho had stolen their cattle. In battles that were fought on the Berea plateau and later on the plain some three miles west of Thaba Bosiu, 5000 mounted Basotho armed with muskets, spears and battle-axes attacked Cathcart who was on his way to the fortress. The British had to withdraw. The time for diplomacy had arrived.
By 1854, the British had given independence to the Boers who established their Republic, the Orange Free State. There were tensions between the Basotho and the Boer immigrants as land that was originally occupied by the Basotho had been handed to the Boers. These tensions spilled over into war when the Boers claimed the area between the Orange and the Caledon Rivers and Boer farms became interspersed with Basotho villages.
In 1865 the Free State commando were determined to destroy the Basotho people. Thaba Bosiu withstood the last attack during Moshoeshoe's lifetime, and with the death of Louw Wepener, the most ruthless of the Boer Commandants, the Free State joined the long succession of people whose leaders failed to storm the mountain. These were Matiwane in 1828, the Korannas in 1831, Mzilikazi's army in 1831, Sir George Cathcart in 1852 and Boshof who was president of the Free State in 1858.
Today Thaba Bosiu is the most venerated site in Lesotho, for it is not only the mountain where the Basotho Nation was founded, but it is also the burial place of Moshoeshoe and of the leading chiefs of Lesotho, the "Sons of Moshoeshoe". It was the custom until recently for chiefs to visit the summit early in the morning before going to an important meeting and runners would drive special oxen through the night to await the chief's arrival on the hill.
Thaba Bosiu is a national monument having been so declared by Lesotho Government in 1967. Ruins of buildings still stand.
In times of national catastrophes and psychological stress, the people look upon the mountain as the source of inspiration and guidance that sustained their spirit in their upward struggle for freedom and political Independence since the times of the Great King Moshoeshoe.
In 1870, the Great King died on the 11th March on the mountain upon which he had lived since his youth. Just two years before, on the 12th March 1868, Lesotho had been declared British Territory and the Basotho became British subjects through Moshoeshoe's request to the Cape Governor Sir Philip Wodehouse. Four years later in 1872 Lesotho was annexed to the Cape Colony.