The name Bvekenya is indelibly connected with Crook’s Corner. But who is Bvekenya and where is Crook’s Corner?
Words: Anita de Villiers
Pictures: Anita de Villiers & supplied
Bvekenya is the Shangaan name for Cecil Barnard (1886–1962), one of South Africa’s legendary adventurers, big-game hunters, ivory poachers and blackbirders*. Bvekenya means ‘the man who swaggers when he walks’.
Crook’s Corner is a piece of bushveld in the far northeastern corner of Kruger National Park’s Pafuri region, where the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers meet to form the borders between Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
How did Crook’s Corner get its name?
It is in this remote wilderness where adventurers found solitude. It is also where fugitives found refuge from the long arm of the law. They would skip the unprotected borders whenever news came via the bush grapevine that the law enforcers of any one of the three countries were on their way.
It was especially the Portuguese that sought Bvekenya’s blood. A skirmish on the Save River of Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) nearly cost him his life. After walking the 150km back to the Pafuri, the people of Makuleke became allies in his ivory poaching endeavours.
Right at the beacon that marked the junction of the three countries, Bvekenya set up camp. It is said that Makuleke himself loosened the beacon that marked this strategic spot. Now Bvekenya’s camp stayed intact, and he only had to move the beacon to ‘remove’ himself from the country whose law enforcers had trekked into the bundu to arrest him.
In later life, Bvekenya leaned more towards conservation. His son, Oom Isak Barnard, tells how his father’s sentiments finally turned when he stood face-to-face with Ndlulamithi. This was the majestic tusker he had sought for many years. But watching the elephant through his gun’s sight, compassion turned events. Bvekenya lowered his gun and Ndlulamithi walked free.
More Interesting Facts…
- *Blackbirders were labour brokers that recruited workers across borders for the mushrooming goldmines on the Witwatersrand.
- Oom Isak Barnard relates the story about his father Bvekenya, and Crook’s Corner, on africanxmag.com (The Ivory Trail)
- Ndlulamithi died of natural causes at the estimated age of 58. His tusks are in the Elephant Hall at Kruger’s Letaba Rest Camp.
- T.V. Bulpin’s book The Ivory Trail is a must-read for those interested in this era of South Africa’s history.