Kgosi Galeshewe (1840 - 1924)
The Order of Mendi for Bravery in
Profile of Kgosi Galeshewe
Among the names of traditional leaders who stood their ground and marshalled their subjects as they laid the foundation for freedom and the struggle for the liberation of South Africa, that of Kgosi Galeshewe must reign supreme. His heroism and bravery were always inspired by his love and respect for the people he led in the vast area now named after him in Galeshewe, Kimberley, in the Northern Cape.
For nearly nine months, Galeshewe displayed his battle skills as he led an armed force against the oppressors in a rebellion. He remained true to his belief and undeterred to fight for what he stood for.
Thrust into the chieftaincy of the Ba Tlhaping tribe of Tswana-speaking people when he was born in 1840, Galeshewe was to become one of the heroic figures who fought colonialism with stealth, always at the forefront of protecting the interests of his people against British colonisers.
As part of his struggles with the colonialists, he had his fair share of problems with the then government when they captured him in 1878 following an attack on Cornforth Hill near Taung. This followed the attacks he co-mounted on isolated traders and farmers in retribution against laws that disadvantaged the economic activities of the Batswana people.
As a result, he was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. Together with Lika Jantjies, he led another uprising 19 years later, which became commonly known as the Phokwane Rebellion. Subsequently, Jantjies was killed and Galeshewe recaptured, bringing distress to his people as the Batlhaping lost their land, with some of the people executed for participating in the rebellion.
This time around though, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In particular, this arrest showed that Galeshewe was viewed as an enemy by the oppressor, especially for his ability to stand up and fight for the rights of his people.
As the then government rejoiced over his arrest, his own people saw him as a hero who risked his life for their good. He remained a champion who believed in the economic emancipation of his people and who always believed in their potential to use the land for their own development.
Galeshewe died in Magogong outside Hartswater in 1927. In his honour, the biggest township in Kimberley, Galeshewe, was named after him. Until this day, he is a celebrated leader who stands out as a true example of commitment to principle.
The South African Navy has named one of its ships after this respected fallen hero. South Africa is proud to admit Kgosi Galeshewe into the Order of Mendi for Bravery in the Gold category.