Teaching the Israelites a Lesson

If, however, resistance is offered there will be no alternative and the Israelites will have to be taught a lesson.

Read the transcript below, or look at an image of the original letter sent by Colonel Truter: Page 1| Page 2

Letter from Colonel Theo Truter to the Secretary for Justice, Cape Town, written at Queenstown on May 23, 1921

RE: 'Israelites at Ntabelanga'

I have the honour to advise you for the information of the Minister that I have arrived at Queenstown with Deputy Commissioner Trew on Tuesday the 17th instant. The various detachments of Police ordered to Queenstown were still arriving from day to day and mobilization was completed on Friday the 20th instant. The force consists of:-

Mounted: 30 officers and 586 other ranks
Foot: 112 other ranks
Machine Gun Troop: 1 Officer and 41 other ranks, with three Maxims
Artillery: 2 Officers and 55 other ranks with 2 Guns
Medical Staff: 1 Officer and six other ranks

Opportunity was taken whilst mobilizing to train the men to work together, an opportunity the have never had before. On Saturday morning, the Force was given Regimental Drill with Machine Gun detachment and did very well.

General Van de Venter expressed himself very satisfied.

On Friday afternoon, after consultation with the Magistrate and the Secretary for Native Affairs, I addressed a letter to the "Prophet" a copy of which is attached, I also gave it publicity in the local press.

This was done to give the Israelites and the Natives generally an idea of what is intended to be done so that they should not have any reason, subsequently, to excuse resistance (if any) to ignorance of what was intended.

In reply I received a communication from Enoch Mgijima a copy of which I attach, to which I replied as per further copy attached, at the same time warning the messenger (a most intelligent native) that we did not come to war on them but that resistance to lawful authority would entail most serious consequences.

The force consisting of:-

Mounted: 22 Officers and 590 other ranks
Maxim Gun Troop: 1 Officer and 42 other ranks with 3 machine guns
Artillery: 2 Officers and 55 other ranks with 2 guns
Medical Staff: 1 Officer and 6 other ranks, left this morning and will encamp on the farm Potgieters Kraal tonight where General Van De Venter and I will join it.

A sufficient force consisting of 112 other ranks of foot Police, in addition to those usually stationed here, have been left in Queenstown for eventualities.

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 24th instant, we shall commence dealing with the Israelites at Ntabelanga.

I trust that the steps I have taken will have the approval of the Government and I can assure the Minister that everything possible has been arranged to prevent any bloodshed. If, however, resistance is offered there will be no alternative and the Israelites will have to be taught a lesson.


South African Police

- Letter from Colonel Theo Truter to Secretary for Justice, May 23, 1921, National Archives, Pretoria, JUS, Vol. 288, Ref. 2/853/20


back to the Enoch Mgijima memorial page

"You take your orders from the government. I take mine from Jehovah."
Enoch Mgijima
Captured Israelites, 1921
Picture © Museum Africa


Historical documents: Clues to a terrible tragedy

In this lesson plan, learners are encouraged, through their study of historical documents, to explore the reasons for a religious group risking their lives to defy General Smuts's government in 1921. Learners will also be asked to think about why the government and its police used violent force against the so-called Israelites.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
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Artwork Photo Gallery
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The Bulhoek Massacre part 1
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The Bulhoek Massacre part 2
In the decades since the Massacre, the church has grown in strength, and today has chapters throughout Eastern Cape