Today In Fact, 23 July

Two African leaders are linked to this day.

Ras Tafari Makonnen was born today in 1892 in the Ethiopian village of Ejersa Goro in Harrar. His father was the governor of Harrar and in 1910, after the death of his brother, Tafari became governor of Harrar. Over the years, the royal palace intrigues found Tafari promoted to Ras and co-ruled Ethiopia from 1917 to 1930. From 1930 until his death in 1975, Tafari was Emperor Haile Sellassie of Ethiopia.

Haile Selassie was the last Emperor of Ethiopia and the last ruler to claim descent from King Solomon and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. The Solomonic dynasty was used to bolster claims to power in Ethiopia since at least 1275.

This man had a varied and difficult life. He spent the five years in Exile in Bath, England and led the fight against the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, returning home with the help of South African forces under Orde Wingate in 1941. He promoted the founding of the Organization of African Unity and was eventually killed by the Derg in his royal palace.

He claimed royal descent from Solomon and is revered as God by Rastafarians.

An African who had little claim to any nobility or Godliness but whose strength of character and resolve has left an indelible mark upon the people of South Africa was Andries Pretorius, born on 27 November 1798 on a farm near Graaff Reinet in the Eastern Cape. Pretorius joined Boer Voortrekkers in 1838 and led the battle of Blood River on 16 December 1838 which led to the overthrow of the Zulu King Dingane and the creation of a special day of remembrance among Afrikaners known as “Dingane’s Day” until 1910, then from 1911 until 1994 as the “Day of the Vow” and since democracy in South Africa as the “Day of Reconciliation”.

In 1852, Pretorius was instrumental in negotiating the Sand River Convention in which Great Britain recognized the Boer Republics. His erstwhile antagonist was Sir Harry Smith, after whom the town of Harrismith was named.

Pretorius had, by 1848, settled a farm in the Magaliesberg mountains and died on his farm in 1853. Two years later on this day in 1855, his son who was the leader of the Transvaal republic named the capital city of the Republic; Pretoria after his father. The city centre is still called Pretoria but the Metropolitan area is now called Tshwane.

Pretoria today is the centre of a large and thriving city while Harrismith is a small town.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (