Until the War of the Guns, Basutoland was thought of as the outstanding success of the Cape Government’s ‘civilising’ policy as embodied in the regulations. Their apparent effectiveness in undermining allegiance to the chiefs led to glowing reports to the Cape Parliament on their use in converting a self-sufficient, subsistence society led by chiefs and based on the extended family into an individualistic consumer-producer economy. They were even adopted as the model for the subsequent Transkeian regulations.1 And yet, alone among the tribes ruled by the South African colonies, the Sotho chiefs were able to unite their people so effectively that they achieved the only successful revolt against the colonists. At first sight this revolt would appear to negate the Cape officials’ claim to have already made important modifications in the social structure of Basutoland. With rebel forces seen to include groups on whom the Cape officials had counted as certain allies against disloyal chiefs, their analysis of the degree of social change effected appears questionable. But to take the revolt as proof of the failure of the Cape’s chosen means of changing Sotho society is to misunderstand the nature of both the process taking place until the Gun War and the social adjustments that were made.


Explosive Force Outstanding Success Apparent Effectiveness Early 188os Cape Policy 
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© Sandra Burman 1981

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  • Sandra Burman

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