A Compendium of Kafir Law and Custom


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when an individual obstinately refuses to obey the orders of his chief, the kraal to which he belongs is held responsible for his conduct; and the headman thereof is expected to punish him; the fine going, of course, to the chief. When a kraal, or clan, is rebellious, the custom of "eating up" is resorted to; which consists in collecting secretly an armed party, sufficiently strong, and proceeding in as stealthy a manner as possible to such kraal or clan, and seizing all their cattle, etc. If they resist, they are fired upon or assegaied without ceremony; and should any other kraal attempt to assist the rebels, they also would be eaten up.

"Eating up" is the only physical force which a chief has at his command to keep his people in order; and although often abused for political purposes, it is absolutely necessary, as being the only means he has of commanding obedience to the laws.

To maintain his popularity, and cause his people willingly to assist him on such occasions, the booty is always divided among the party engaged on such service, the chief reserving only a very small portion for himself. Hence the system of "eating up" is very popular among the Kafirs; and they are always ready to turn out and assist their chief in plundering their fellow subjects, without ever thinking of inquiring into the merits of the case.1

Gutmann reports a case where a chief who was unable to control his subjects invited a friendly neighboring chief to come in and "eat up" the country. Chief Mlavi of one division of the Chagga invited chief Rindi of another division to pillage his subjects in this way, on the sole condition that no one should be killed. This was done, and the expedition became known as "the face-slapping war."2

1Maclean, J.n/an/an/an/an/a, , 76.

2 Gutmann, op. cit., 539.

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Chicago: A Compendium of Kafir Law and Custom in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed July 22, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VLIW1ZI6ADMRRRW.

MLA: . A Compendium of Kafir Law and Custom, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Jul. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VLIW1ZI6ADMRRRW.

Harvard: , A Compendium of Kafir Law and Custom. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 July 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=VLIW1ZI6ADMRRRW.