“wathint’abafazi wathint’imbhokoto uzakufa” (you touch a woman you dislodge a boulder, you will be crushed) captures the essence of this feminine power. Our iTongo ladies of Water (Cups) Queen Mantatisi (Four of Water) and Queen maMohato maBela (Queen of Moritsoana) – Great wife of Moshoeshoe I epitomise feminine power in action. In a patriarchal society both women had to rise above their stations and circumstances and take control of their lives, their families and their communities.
What do we learn from them? We are the Mothers of Light. We need a strong sense of our individuality to manifest our passions in a practical way. Ego should not be about the idealisation of self, but rather a consciousness of our characteristics and powers. We need to use all that we are for the greater good.
The element of Water represents our emotions, feelings, hope, intuition, dreams and visions.
We determine the quality of our experiences. When we are warm and outgoing with a solid faith in our abilities, expressing self assurance, we find that our thoughts, ideas and wishes are positively received and responded to. When we disengage with ourselves, from our truth and our essence then we may find that life is difficult. Opportunities seem to pass us by and the people we interact with seem to be closed to our needs and desires.
Last week we celebrated Women’s Day and we need to take inspiration from the women of history who showed us that we can achieve anything when we stand together. Power in numbers and solidarity for common goals and standing up for what is right, even in the face of danger. Our personal integrity should not allow us to stand back and do nothing when a woman is abused. We should not turn away, because we ‘don’t want to get involved’. We need to be there as support, to comfort and to protect our women.
The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world. An estimated of 500,000 rape cases take place in the country, every year. Children are now playing a game called “Rape, Rape”. Only when we have truly become centred and strong within ourselves, when we have absolute faith in our abilities and live with vigour and strength – then we can ‘Run with the Wolves, and shop with the poodles.’ live our lives with grace and compassion. When we are able to nurture and create life within us and around us can we stand up and shout – I am Woman, Hear me Roar!
Queen Mantatisi (1781-1836) was the Commander of the Batlokoa of Southern Africa, and was perhaps one of the most well-known and feared women military leaders during the early 19th century. She was the daughter of Chief Mothaba of the Basia in the Harrismith District; the area that was later named the Orange Free State.
She married Mokotjo, the chief of the neighbouring Batlokoa. Mokotjo died while their son, Sekonyela, was still too young to take over control of the chieftaincy. As a result, Mantatisi assumed control and acted as regent. Reports claim that Mantatisi was a tall, attractive woman who bore her husband four sons.
After her husband’s death, her clan suffered a series of military encroachments by the AmaHlubi clans who were fleeing their homes in neighbouring Natal and Zululand. According to historians, Mantatisi took the Batlokoa into the Caledon Valley where, after seizing crops and cattle, they drove out the more peaceful Sotho clans living in that area. Her reign of military conquest extended as far as central modern day Botswana. At the height of her military and political power, her army numbered forty thousand warriors. However, she eventually suffered a series of defeats beginning in Bechuanaland in January 1823. After Mantatisi’s son, Sekonyele, reached maturity, he took control of the Batlokoa social structures and military arm. Eventually, he was conquered by Moshoeshoe I, son of a chief of the Bakoteli – a branch of the Kwêna (Crocodile) clan.
maMohato maBela – Great wife of Moshoeshoe I
The oral traditions of the Basotho reflect the importance of women when forging political and military alliances through marriage. Ancestry and family connections were important to the social structure of the Basotho and are one of the reasons why arranged marriages used to be a common occurrence, especially for the children of leaders and chiefs. One chief would betroth his daughter to another chief to secure alliances. The father incurred an obligation to help the husband and his family and vice-versa.
The value of women is indicated by the fact that they were often captured in battle and were then ransomed back. While Moshoeshoe was still at Butha-Buthe two of his wives were captured by a MoFokeng chief, it is said that Moshoeshoe recaptured them in a counter attack. Sekonyela captured MaMohata in an attack at Thaba Bosiu; she was ransomed for six head of cattle.
MaMahato was a tall and strong woman. It is recorded that her marriage was a good one with mutual respect however there is a notation that MaMohato died in childbirth as a result of a harsh beating by her husband. Apparently, she had been unfaithful. The BaSotho saying “morena ke mosali” meaning “woman is chief’. Missionary D.F. Ellenberger (1835-1919) explains this as meaning “that even a chief must respect her and may not abuse or punish her, even though she may have provoked him”.