What about Jameson Hall?
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With all the focus on Cecil John Rhodes, his lieutenant has retreated into the shadows of the conversation, says Murray Williams.
A quick refresher on the man who has named the famous “Jameson Hall” and “Jammie Shuttle” is a fascinating read.
As Wikipedia reports: “Leander Starr Jameson was educated for the medical profession… After acting as house physician, house surgeon… and showing promise of a successful professional career in London, his health broke down from overwork in 1878, and he went out to South Africa and settled down in practice at Kimberley.
“There he rapidly acquired a great reputation as a medical man, and, besides numbering President Kruger and the Matabele chief Lobengula among his patients, came much into contact with Rhodes.
“Lobengula expressed his delight with Jameson’s successful medical treatment of his gout by honouring him with the rare status of induna. Although Jameson was a white man, he underwent the initiation ceremonies linked with this honour.
“Jameson’s status as an induna gave him advantages, and in 1888 he successfully exerted his influence with Lobengula to induce the chieftain to grant the concessions to the agents of Rhodes which led to the formation of the British South Africa Company.
“Jameson’s character seems to have inspired a degree of devotion from his contemporaries… People attached themselves to Jameson with extraordinary fervour.”
“In 1895, Jameson led about 500 of his countrymen in what became known as the Jameson Raid against the Boers (republics). The Raid was later cited by Winston Churchill as a major factor in bringing about the Boer War of 1899 to 1902.
“The idea was to foment unrest among foreign workers (Uitlanders) in the territory, and use the outbreak of open revolt as an excuse to invade and annex the territory.
“The Jameson Raiders arrived in England at the end of February 1896, to face prosecution. He was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment as a first-class misdemeanant for 15 months,” Wikipedia reports.
So despite being a great doctor, Jameson was also a war criminal, to some. To add a bitter irony, he was convicted in a country which itself committed vast and unspeakable war crimes against African and Boer women and children in the Boer Wars. So where does that leave us?
Maybe, over a century later, acknowledging we still haven’t reached even vague mutual agreement on how we publicly reflect our history. Jameson Hall is named after a man who to many is no better than a Slobodan Milosevic.
What a chance this presents for an “Accord on the Steps” – perhaps not framed by the “Jammie Steps”, but steps toward a new understanding?
* Murray Williams’ column ’Shooting from the Lip’ appears in the Cape Argus every Monday.