27 OCTOBER 1896, Death of Reverend Gway Tyamzashe (pictured), the last black man to hold a claim in the Big Hole.
The Reverend Gway Tyamzashe
Reverend Prince Gway (Gwayi) Tyamzashe
22 January 1844 – 27 October 1896
No 1 Location in Kimberley, (roughly) bordering on Phakamile Mabija Road (formerly Transvaal Road) on the one side and the railway line to Johannesburg on the other, was known as Gway’s Location, according to many maps and other references such as newspapers. It was supposedly demolished at the beginning of the siege of Kimberley in October 1899, but by 1921 there were at least 1200 Blacks and coloureds still residing at Gway’s No 1 Location.
What do we know about this man? Surprisingly, more than we thought! A Congregational clergyman (Wesleyan Methodist), he was remembered by Solomon Plaatje as the “first ordained black minister I ever saw”, and, according to Plaatje, was for several years, up until his death in 1896 a close neighbour of Plaatje.
Born at Blinkwater, near Beaufort West, he was the eldest son of Tyamzashe, and grandson of Mejana, and great grandson of Oya, all of the Rudulu clan, also known as the Mangwevu. As a child he saw the horrors of the latter Frontier wars, and was with his mother, Nontsi, during the Nongqause cattle killing period. His father was the Head Councillor to Nkosi Sandile of the Xhosa people. After the wars, his family moved to the mission station under Reverend Love, now known as Lovedale. Some fellow pupils at Lovedale were the Solomon brothers, Sir William and Sir Richard, Irvine Grimmer, and the Schreiner who became Premier of the Cape Colony.
Gway, or Gwayi, Tyamzashe was first educated, and then trained at the Lovedale Theological Seminary, and ordained a minister at the Mutual Hall, New Rush in July 1873 by Reverend Phillip, the Congregational Minister in Kimberley, especially to minister to the “coloured” people at the New Rush. The name “New Rush” changed to Kimberley a mere two days after his ordination. Before becoming a minister at Kimberley, he taught at Gqumahashe village on the banks of the Tyumie River.
Reverend Tyamzashe used to attend the executions at the Transvaal Road Police barracks, particularly in the 1870s in his official capacity as a minister in offering comfort to the condemned murderers.
He married Rachel Susanna Maria Daniels, who came from Mahikeng (formerly Mafeking), on 30 November 1875.
In 1884 he, and his family moved to the Zoutpansberg via Johannesburg, and he was arrested by the ZARPS on the Witwatersrand for not having a Pass. He was taken to gaol, but released by President Kruger after his wife had interviewed the President. He opened several missions in the region until returning to Kimberley in 1890.
He wrote at least two articles or letters. One was a letter to J Noble, the Secretary to the Commission on Native Laws and Customs in Kimberley on 27 October 1881 (Cape of Good Hope, Report and Proceedings G4 – ’83). The other, entitled Life at the Diamond Fields, appeared in the August issue 1874 of Outlook on a Century.
He died on or about 27 October 1896, having been ill for some time with asthma, leaving his wife and eight children. The Reverend Tyamzashe had gathered his family together, selected a hymn to sing, and while singing together, he had died. His funeral was attended by the Reverends William Pescod and Jonathan Jabavu.
One of his sons, Benjamin John Peter Tyamzashe, a Xhosa composer, choir conductor and organist, taught at Tigerkloof near Vryburg from 1913 to 1924.