Nongqawuse was an Xhosa orphan living with her uncle in South Africa. One day, after fetching water with a friend Nongqawuse told her uncle Mhlakaza, a Xhosa spiritualist, that she had met the spirits of three of her ancestors. The ancestors had told her that killing the cattle and destroying the crops would end British rule over the Xhosa nation. The sun would turn blood-red and the ancestors would sweep colonizers into the sea. The Xhosa cattle had already been dying of lung disease, possibly introduced by European cattle.  Paramount Chief Sarhili heard the prophecy and ordered his followers to obey it. Historians estimate that the Gcaleka killed between 300,000 and 400,000 head of cattle, and razed large swathes of farmland.

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