By ‘Odidi Matai-Sigudla and Fahdia Msaka
The Makana municipality is gearing up to commemorate the 22 April 1819 Battle of Grahamstown next week, with the Makana Freedom Festival set to take place at the Egazini Memorial Site, where the 1819 battle took place.
The Battle of Grahamstown occurred during the Fifth Xhosa war between amaXhosa and British colonisers, after the British stole 23 000 cattle, killed amaXhosa and destroyed their homes.
The Xhosa prophet and doctor who Makhanda is named after, Makhanda Nxele (also known as Makana), led the Battle of Grahamstown. But the British – aided by a group of Khoekhoe soldiers – defeated the amaXhosa, massacring over 1000 Xhosa people. Makhanda was captured, and imprisoned on Robben Island, later drowning during an attempt to escape.
Ward Two councillor, Ramie Xonxa of the ANC welcomed the traditional leaders of the Mhala Traditional Council of Peddie and the amaNdlambe, who arrived in the Council Chamber to chants of ‘AmaNdlambenisi! AmaNdlambene!’ (a Xhosa chiefdom located in the Port Alfred region).
Zandisile Sakhatha of the Sports and Culture Department said the Makana Freedom Festival would be a chance for the youth to learn about what happened in their town. At the festival, local musicians, guest speakers, and the people of Makhanda will be invited to share and gain knowledge of the town’s history.
“We are custodians of heritage, and if this is going to be (annually done), it has to show in our financial planning,” said Sakhatha.
Xonxa said the town had missed holding the annual event during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this year, they hoped to celebrate the battle with reenactments of the war and a gala dinner. “Everything is going to happen. What is doubtful is the gala,” Xonxa, mentioning that funding for this had yet to be finalised.
The council members suggested establishing a committee that would be available throughout the year to collect funds to ensure that the Makhana Freedom Festival was an annual event.
The mayor has written to the Premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, about the upcoming event, but it can’t be said yet that Mabuyane has agreed to help with funds for the event.