“Murder! Murder! Murder!!! The Bullhoek Massacre” – W.H. Harrision, 1921

Christians Slaughter Their Christian Brethren. Great Empire Day Celebration.

How appropriate and how much in keeping with the Matabele Massacre and other of their brutal empire-building tactics. And the Bullhoek tragedy was either by fate or circumstances enacted on their very Empire Day.

We accuse the responsible Government, whose forces are headed by a brutal assassin, of murdering unarmed strikers in Johannesburg, 1913, slaughtering unarmed Natives in Port Elizabeth, 192o, and their latest debauch is the gruesome mutilation of hundreds of Natives who were Christians and a passive community.

Hence this brutal invasion is truly symbolical of Governmental tyranny their hysterical efforts to exploit the workers, irrespective of their particular colour or religious beliefs, and to maintain their position functioned by an idle and parasitic class. Their armies are ever available to suppress any libertarian effort from the oppressing yoke of Capitalism. A condemnation meeting will he held on the Parade at 11 a.m. Sunday morning; Sunday evening, Adderley Street; St. Mark’s Schoolroom, Tennant Street, Monday evening, 30th.


A 1921 leaflet by Cape Town anarchist W.H. Harrison, condemning the South African state’s 24 May massacre of a millenarian black Christian group at Bullhoek, near Grahamstown, the Eastern Cape.  24 May, Empire Day, was a British Empire holiday (phased out in South Africa in 1952 for Van Riebeeck’s Day). Expecting the apocalypse, 3000 “Israelites” led by “prophet” Enoch Mgijima built houses on his land at Bullhoek. Ordered to disperse for violating the 1884 Native Locations Act and other rules, they refused. Hundreds were killed by police, backed by the army; many survivors were sentenced to hard labour.

The anarchist-led Social Democratic Federation (SDF) of Cape Town held rallies in protest; Harrison wrote the anti-imperialist leaflet above. With fellow SDF members D.L. Dryburg and William Green,  who also spoke at the rallies, he was successfully prosecuted. An appeal later overturned the convictions.

Source: 28 June 1921, Cape Times

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About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I am currently also involved in union education and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented papers at more than 120 conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 3 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and written well over 130 other articles, papers and entries. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. I have several books, including 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014) and 'Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism' (co-written with Michael Schmidt, AK Press 2009).