From the book: The Role of the Missionaries in conquest by Nosipho Majeke
IN THE LATE SIXTIES the old Missionary Road that had led Dr. Philip, the Rev. Shaw, the Rev. Robert Moffat and latterly David Livingstone and all the rest of the advance guard into the interior of Africa, acquired a new importance. In 1867 diamonds were discovered in the Campbell lands claimed both by the Waterboers and the Koks of Griqualand West. Then gold was discovered at Tati on the northern borders of Bechuanaland and the Missionary Road became the road leading to the Eldorado that was believed to lie north of the Limpopo, where Mzilikazi had set up his kingdom. These discoveries were to have far-reaching effects on the whole of Southern Africa.
When the grasslands that were good enough for cattle to graze on were found to contain the precious diamonds and gold, British Imperialism had no doubt as to who should possess them. For were they not the instruments of a vast economic expansion? That old Imperialist vision of a new civilization extending to the tropics””a vision that had so well guided the superintendent of the London Missionary Society””could now unfold to its fullest extent. In the Cape Colony the foundations of the new economy had been laid, but it was soon overtaken by an economic depression because the very nature of that economy demanded continual expansion. Now it could leap ahead. The time had come for British Imperialism to take over proper control in Southern Africa; it was imperative to complete the military subjugation of the Africans; it was essential to bring the Trek Boers back into the fold. Capitalist economy demanded a single, unified control. The flimsy barriers between state and state had to be swept away; boundaries had been all very well when it was a case of splintering the Sotho nation; cattle-"Republics "had been a pleasant fiction when it was expedient to pacify the unruly Trek Boers. And in any case, being completely bankrupt, they were "in pawn" to the Standard Bank of England, which, as the historian, Walker, expresses it, "carried the financial unification of South Africa far in advance of the political." Trade and commerce knew no boundaries; telegraphs, railways, trade routes, roads leading to still further Imperialist conquest in Central Africa””these knew no boundaries. The steel of the rail-roads must grapple the states together in an economic unity.
And there was need for haste in completing the task. Other European powers were joining the scramble for colonial possessions in Africa; French, Belgians, Portuguese and the hungry Germans, youngest of the capitalis countries to enter the race, were preparing to curve up the last remaining sections in Central Africa. And what complicated the situation for the British was that the Boers were spreading themselves into Bechuanaland, on their western border, across the vital trade route to the interior. They were also looking east, being desperate for an outlet to the sea. The granting of independence to the Trek Boers had its own logic and would have to work itself out during the next three decades.
Now the cry of "Annexation!" was taken up by one politician after another and action followed the word with amazing rapidity and rapacity. British "Protection" sought to embrace all with the grip of a giant boa-constrictor. With the discovery of diamonds in the Campbell lands of Cornelis Kok, the Cape Colony, which was about to receive self-government, annexed Griqualand West "for the peace of South Africa" (1871). This was done to out-manoeuvre both the "Free State" and the Transvaal, both of whom claimed it for obvious reasons. With a large gesture reminiscent of Sir Harry Smith, President Brand had proclaimed the "Free State Sovereignty" over the Campbell lands, while M. W. Pretorius, President of the Transvaal, gave his illegal blessing to the "Diamond Fields Republic," the grandiloquent name give to the horde of prospectors swarming in from every province to the Kimberley dry diggings.
But with that time-honoured hypocrisy for which it is justly famous, British Imperialism considered it a "holy duty" to "annex the lawful possessions of such chiefs as desired to be taken over." The Transvaal claims were brushed aside. Then, on the strength of a defunct treaty once engineered by Dr. Philip between the dead chief, Waterboer, and the Colonial Government, the Campbell lands, which were claimed by the Waterboers as well as the Koks, were annexed to the Colony. It was a piece of shady practice in keeping with the urgency of the times. The next day the Union Jack was hoisted over the Diamond Fields, The seventies were a period of wholesale annexations, completing the subjugation of a number of tribes on the north-eastern border of the Cape Colony. "No-man's-land" was still in a state of ferment and by 1873 the maXesibe and a section of the maMpondo stated to be "asking for protection." When the maMpondomise resisted Government interference, the Resident Agent enlisted Adam Kok to subdue them, but before the decade was out, he, too, was annexed. 1877 was a year of widespread resistance on the part of the maGcaleka, maNgqika and baThembu in one last heroic effort, and yet so strong was the influence of the missionaries among the people, that effective unity was no longer possible. "It was clear," wrote the Rev. Ayliff, "that the influence of Christianity had helped peace." With the final defeat of the maXhosa their lands were still more broken up. The missionary's further comment on the event is a significant one:
"The Gcalekas, broken and impoverished, woke at last to the value of the Christian religion." In 1878 the flame of resistance leapt still higher, extending from Zululand to "No-man's-land" into Basutoland, into the Transvaal and as far as Kuruman, with the warriors of Cetywayo, the Zulu chief, the maMpondomise, the baThembu, Adam Kok's Griqua, the baRolong and the baTlhaping all taking part. The rout of the Imperial forces at Sandlwana ("Isandlwana" ) was a victory to remember when tales of heroic deeds are handed down from father to son, from generation to generation. So alarmed was the Government at what had taken place that it immediately passed the Disarmament Act, depriving all Africans of guns, "as a civilizing measure." The still independent maMpondo were wroth, and the Fingos cried out at the injustice. "If we have served the Government faithfully, we ought to be allowed to keep arms," said the Fingos. "What will be our fate if we are disarmed?" Their fate was the same as that of their brothers.
"I would annex the Planets"
"Annexation!" Again and again that word reveals the driving power of British Imperialism to create the conditions of a unified control in Southern Africa essential to the development of the new economic system. To complete the conquest of the tribes on her eastern borders was but one of the tasks facing the Colonial Government after the discovery of diamonds and gold. As we have indicated, the centre of land-plunder had shifted still further north. And the further north, the greater the danger from the weakness of the Boer States. The "Free State" could for the time being be left to its own devices; it was on the whole amenable to the idea of Imperial protection, and it was well-hemmed in””though we can hardly subscribe to Professor Walker's comment that the annexation of Basutoland "had solved its (the 'Free State's') Native problem" ! The focal point of weakness was the Transvaal.
There were various reasons why the Transvaal had to be brought under control. There was the basic question of creating a unified state control throughout the country and this in turn involved other factors. The tribes, especially in the eastern Transvaal, were in a state of upheaval. (We cannot speak of boundaries because there were none in actual fact.) In the east, this instability presented two dangers: the maZulu from the coast might unite with the maSwazi and other tribes further north (Cetywayo was said to be giving them encouragement) and overwhelm the Boers. This would have the obvious repercussions on the Colony. Secondly, with the possibility of new gold-fields being discovered the Portuguese on the north-east might themselves take advantage of the general disorder and come down on that region.
Hence the urgent suggestions to "annex the Republics in the commercial interests of South Africa," and simultaneously the suggestion to "annex all the tribes to the Portuguese border." By 1876 the Colonial Secretary was proposing to annex the Transvaal in order to "avert a general Native war" and at the same time to push on the plan of "confederation" of the various states, including Natal, of course under conditions dictated by the Cape Colony, the arm of British Imperialism in Southern Africa. The taking over of the Transvaal was promptly done””prematurely, as it turned out””by no Jess a person than Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who came up from the Queen's Crown Colony of Natal and stated his terms to the President (at this time the Rev. Burgers), while "Imperial troops, Cetywayo's warriors and a representative of the Standard Bank were lined up on the frontier." Then he ran up the Queen's flag at Pretoria and for a year or two reigned as Administrator. But by 1881 the Transvaal claimed independence after one of those little skirmishes that took place from time to time between the British and the Boers. But to go back a little in time. Under the powerful lure of the gold, the Boers themselves had their eyes turned northwards to that corridor to the interior, the Missionary Road through Bechuanaland. This meant interfering with the tribes along its route, the ba-Tlhaping, the baRoIong, and other small Tswana tribes. Since "annexation" was the order of the day. President Pretorius did likewise and attempted to make the chiefs agree to be his "vassals."
But in Bechuanaland at this time there was the Rev. John Mackenzie of the London Missionary Society, a staunch Imperialist of the old school, and he advised the chiefs to seek British "protection," which they did. The British said "Hands off!" Or, in ministerial language, the Colonial Secretary bade Pretorius "refrain from encroaching on tribes in alliance with Her Majesty."
In those freebooting days, however, ministerial decrees had little effect in restraining any of the colonial aggressors. The Transvaal had no sooner received formal recognition of its independence from the Imperial Government, than it proceeded to declare two little 'Republics," Stellaland and Goshen, right across the Missionary Road in Bechuanaland. This brings us to the wider issues involved or the British in this question of the weakness of the Boer States.
Here it is necessary to point out that for the politicians of the fast three decades of the 19th century, "South Africa" had not its boundaries fixed at those lines laid down at the beginning of the 20th century. The stabilization of Union might be said to have been the expense of amplitude””though by the 1914 War the arm of the Union was already stretching northwards again. The drive towards unified state control carried the predatory vision of Smuts' predecessors””Rhodes and the rest””at least as far north as the Zambesi River encompassed the land of the maNdebele, where Lobengula had succeeded his father, Mzilikazi, as chief. For Imperialism had reached the peak of its- rapacity and it was the era of naked aggression.
The man who most clearly expressed the aims of that era was Rhodes. Indeed he was the embodiment in human form of the rapacity of British Imperialism. "I would annex the planets if I could. I often think of that," said this monomaniac in all seriousness. The age demanded a different voice from that of the suave Dr. Philip whose business it had been to visit the chiefs of all the tribes and offer them the "friendship" and "protection" of Britain. But for both men the end and aim were the same””the supremacy of British Imperialism. What the missionary-superintendent had envisaged and planned for at the beginning of the century, was at the end of it brought to fruition under Rhodes.
The starting point of all Rhodes's planning lay in the following credo: "I believe in a United States of South Africa, but as a portion of the British Empire." Secondly, he always planned in terms of a South Africa extending to the Tropics. "We must always remember," he said, "that the gist of the South African question lies in the extension of the Cape Colony to the Zambezi." And again, impressing upon the Cape Parliament the supreme importance of annexing Bechuanaland, he stated:
"The question before us really is this, whether the colony is to be confined to its present borders, or whether it is to become the dominant state in South Africa."
Coming down to more detail one can perceive two inter-related aims in all his vast schemes of expansion:
"to strengthen the Cape Colony and create a South Africa stretching to the Zambesi was to strengthen British control in Africa, particularly against the power he feared most””Germany. Let us see how this was related to the question of the Trek Boers. Where possible we shall quote Rhodes himself, for he had a habit of stating a situation bluntly."
In the course of her subjugation of the peoples of Southern Africa, British Imperialism had concentrated on those to the south-east where fertile lands promised the greatest profits. So far she had been tardy in gaining control over the more arid regions to the north-west comprising Great Namaqualand, which lay west of Bechuanaland. She had her missionary outposts of the Wesleyan and London Missionary Societies, but it had been left to the Rhenish Mission to establish the strongest footing in that region. Then, in 1883, Germany declared Namaqualand and Damaraland in the north-west as "Protectorates" under her jurisdiction. Britain became thoroughly alarmed. With her eyes already stretched to Central Africa, she saw this as an unfavourable move. In fact, Germany had cried "Check mate!" to her northern expansion. Rhodes had urged on the Cape Parliament the necessity to annex the territory, but the farmers, lacking the predatory vision of the British Imperialist, weren't interested.
Rhodes' next step was to drive home the "supreme importance" of annexing Bechuanaland. Addressing the House on the introduction of Bill for that purpose, he said:... "Bechuanaland is the neck of the whole territories up to the Zambesi, and we must secure it unless we are prepared to see the whole of the north pass out of our hands." Now the granting of independence to the Transvaal Boers in 1881 had set him snarling, and when they proceeded to set up the two small "Republics" across the trade route through Bechuanaland, he did not mince words in the course of his assessment of the situation. He foresaw the possibility of an understanding between Germany and the Transvaal to close the way through Bechuanaland.
"Do you think," he asked, "that if the Transvaal had Bechuanaland, it would be allowed to keep it? Would not Bismarck (the German Chancellor) have some quarrel with the Transvaal, and without resources, without men, what could they do? Germany would come across from her colony of Angra Pequena (on the west coast of Namaqualand). There would be some excuse to pick a quarrel””some question of brandy or guns or something””and then Germany would stretch from Angra Pequena to Delagoa Bay. That is, from east to west. (Delagoa Bay was a trategic port on the east coast and at that time in Portuguese hands.) Rhodes could be magnanimous to the Boers. It was also his policy to conciliate the Cape Dutch and carry them with him in his plans, but it was always on the assumption of British supremacy. We see from .the above quotation that once more it was a question of British Imperialism making a move on the great chess-board of Southern Africa, both to protect the Boers and ensure its own supremacy.
To turn to the other aspect of Rhodes's vast schemes, the strengthening of the position of the Cape Colony. He once said:
"I made the seizure of the interior a paramount thing in my politics and made everything else subordinate."
And again, in the parliamentary debate on Bechuanaland:
"I look upon this Bechuanaland territory as the Suez Canal of the trade of this country, the key of its road to the interior...."
And on another occasion, with reference to the two small "Republics" claimed there by the Transvaal Boers, he said:
"Are we prepared ... to allow these republics to form a wall across our trade route? The railways have been constructed with a view to the trade of the interior. . . . We must look to the development of the north, not only in the interest of the merchants, but also in the interest of our farmers."
Here we have the beginning and end of the whole Imperial purpose " Southern Africa, the establishment of British supremacy and with the new economic system. And for this the land had to be consented and the people subjugated. The task was not yet finished.
Annex to the Tropics," the missionary-superintendent had said.
I made the seizure of the interior a paramount thing in my politics,” said Rhodes. Between Bechuanaland and the Zambesi lay half a million square miles of unconfiscated territory and a still unconquered tribe, the maNdebele. The lands were fertile, there were many herds of cattle, and explorers said there was gold, fabulous gold.
Rhodes set about completing the task
Rhodes was better equipped for the job than any of his predecessors. The outstanding feature of this final stage of Imperial conquest in Southern Africa is that private enterprise with its colossal dividends (the Chartered Company) could, and did, do the job of British Imperialism. This was made possible by the discovery of diamonds and gold in the already confiscated territory where thousands of landless Africans were working in the mines. Thus from the bowels of African earth came the wealth that was to conquer and enslave still more Africans. With the discovery of the all-important Rand gold-fields in 1886 the ruthless financial battles to procure the monopoly of control both of diamonds and gold, raged fast and furious. They were but part of the larger conflict for the confiscation of a country and the subjugation of a whole People, in this cut-throat contest between financiers Rhodes finally emerged triumphant over all his rivals. By 1887 he had bought up all holdings in the big De Beers Company and in the same year founded the Gold-fields Company of South Africa. Less than a year later a still stronger monopoly was obtained by the founding of the De Beers Consolidated Mines.
From the outset Rhodes regarded this as an instrument for carrying out his plans for British supremacy." I want it put in the trust deed," he said, "that we have the power to go to the Zambezi, or further north, to spend the money of the Company, if thought advisable, to acquire a country and form an empire."
The new corporation "would be empowered to annex a portion of territory in Central Africa, raise and maintain a standing army and undertake warlike operations."
In the same year (1888) that the Consolidated Mines Company was formed, the Rev. J. S. Moffat persuaded Chief Lobengula to sign a treaty pledging that "peace and amity shall continue forever between Her Britannic Majesty, her subjects and the Amandebele people."
Once more the missionaries
What part did the missionaries play in this last act of the long drama involving the conflict between two systems, tribalism and capitalism? It was the same as they had performed consistently throughout the period. Only the nature of their role was more patent, more difficult to conceal owing to the naked aggression of the time. They had to become more obviously the tool of British Imperialism.
The way north had been paved by the missionaries of the London Missionary Society, chief of whom was the Rev. Robert Moffat. We have several times referred to him and here it is necessary to pause and give a fuller picture of his activities, because they have a bearing on the events with which we have to deal in this chapter.
On his arrival at the Cape of Good Hope in 1817, two years before Dr. Philip, he had been sent first on a mission to the Namaqua in the north-west and had won the approbation of the Governor, Lord Somerset, for the influence he had obtained over the chief, Afrikaner, who had hitherto stood out against the invaders. In 1819 he was sent to revive the mission among the baTlhaping in south Bechuanaland and spent the rest of his long career at Kuruman. Rober Moffat was a man of upright character and strong personality, who, from his mission centre at Kuruman, played what was perhaps a more important part than that of the missionary-superintendent, Dr. Philip, who was more pre-occupied with political machinations. Because of his personal qualities he carried the prestige of British power among the chiefs, with whom he kept in constant contact, and the name of "Moshete" was known far and wide.
One of the most remarkable things in the annals of the missionaries is the story of the relationship that sprang up between Robert Moffat and Mzilikazi, chief of the maNdebele. The full account is old by Moffat himself in his "Matabele Journals," which were discovered only a few years ago by his grandson. In them he kept a day to day record of each of his five visits to Mzilikazi, the first in the year 1829, when the maNdebele, having left Zululand, were in the region of the Vaal River; the second was at Mosega””Mzilikazi having moved further west towards the Bechuanaland border”” when Moffat, through his influence, not only procured safe passage for the explorer, Dr. Andrew Smith, but was instrumental in getting the chief to accept a treaty of "friendship" with Britain (1836) this being part of Dr. Philip's general scheme of establishing a footing among the tribes. The treaty had meant little at the time, but fifty years later it was to reap a dreadful harvest. Moffat's remaining visits took him far north into the country of the maShona, whither Mzilikazi had led his people and now occupied territory stretching to the Zambesi River. Moffat had received instructions from the London Missionary Society, after consultation with the missionary-explorer, David Livingstone (who was his son-in-law) to inaugurate two new mission stations, one north and another south of the Zambesi. This was no easy matter, for while the chief had conceived a great affection for the missionary, the maNdebele were strongly opposed to the establishment of a mission station in their midst.
Moffat's description of his third meeting with Mzilikazi after a lapse of nearly twenty years is most moving, perhaps partly because of the fact that the missionary himself so casually received the devotion bestowed upon him." I confess I do not comprehend his attachment to me, "writes Moffat, "and yet he will not hear the gospel." On arriving within a few miles of Mzilikazi's place, Moffat was welcomed by the people, who came running out of the villages to meet him.
"Everyone seemed to know Moshete (Moffat) ... by name . .. I am sure if I heard the name Moshete once, I heard it a thousand times . . . while all appeared really delighted with the prospect that Moselekatse (Mzilikazi) would soon see his friend he had so long and so earnestly desired to see. . . ." (Moffat's Journal, 1854.) The next day the two men came face to face, both of them aged since last they had met.
"He (Mzilikazi) grasped my hand, gave one earnest look, drew his mantle over his face. It would have been an awful sight to see the hero of a hundred battles wipe from his eye the falling tear. . . . He spoke not, except pronouncing my name, Moshete, again and again. Withdrawing his head, he looked at me again, his hand still in mine, and again covered his face . . . Now and then, when he thought I was not observing, he cast a look at me, as if I were his only son, lost but found, though he affects to call me Machobane, the name of his father." (Ibid.)
The journal gives many instances of the trust that the Chief reposed in the missionary and the advantage that the latter took from his "entire confidence in his friendship" to impress upon the chief the necessity to "cease from all aggressive wars" and to open his kingdom to the missionaries. It was to require all Moffat's resources of persuasion before Mzilikazi finally consented on his fifth and last visit in 1860 to the setting up of a mission station at Nyati, but only on one condition, that, if Moffat himself did not remain, then his son, J. S. Moffat, should take charge of the mission. Young Moffat accepted the charge and received from Mzilikazi and from his son, Lobengula, who witnessed these things, the affection and trust due to the "son of Umshete" (Mshete.)
It was solely Moffat's personal influence with the Chief that overcame the strong opposition of the maNdebele to allowing missionaries into their country. They would express themselves freely to Moffat on the sources of their suspicion of the White men, whether British or Boer, and shrewdly observed, for example, that wherever the missionaries penetrated, the Boers would follow after. Moffat records more than one conversation where the Chief and his indunas bluntly put it to him that, though the Boers had proved hostile to the British, the latter supplied them with guns and ammunition, which they used against the Africans.
"Do not the English supply them with guns and ammunition, while they know the Boers use it to destroy the natives, that they may take their country?"
So Moffat reports a question put to him by the Chief, and in his journal adds:" It was impossible for me to deny the fact that the English did enter into a treaty to supply those very Boers with arms and ammunition. ... I was only glad that he (Mzilikazi) appeared not yet to have heard of the law promulgated by our Government .... that the native tribes north of the Vaal River be not allowed to purchase a single ounce of ammunition. , . . Had Moselekatse pressed the question a little further, I should have been in a fix."
Moffat records another conversation which reveals how the Africans were clearly aware of the true nature of the relationship between the British and the Boers in their common attack against themselves. We make no apology for quoting at some length. The occasion was a visit to Sechele, Chief of the baKwena, whom Moffat visited on his way back from Mzilikazi in 1854. Sechele had a brother, Khosilintse, who was an eloquent speaker and had on a previous visit given Moffat a taste of his uncompromising logic when he had argued that "The Boers and the English were one, on one side, and the natives on the other." Khosilintse, then, took Moffat up on the question of the Boers, those who were a menace to the peace of the Tswana tribes along the Missionary Road, but whom, apparently, Moffat made some attempt to defend. Moffat’s note“ Khosilintse then proceeded, rather warmly. . . He said he wondered how I could talk so, as he and everyone else knew I was a friend of the Bechuana (baTswana) . . . for he considered that my reasoning went to allow the Boers to do as they liked with them (the baTswana) . . . . Do you not see that we are reduced to poverty by the Boers, who are taking our meat and drinking our milk?' And raising his voice to a higher key, he asked: 'Where are our children? When fathers and mothers lie down at night they ask: "Where are our children?" ... Is it because we have not white skins that we are to be destroyed like libatana (beasts of prey)? . . . Why do the English assist the Boers? Why do they give them power over lands that are not heirs to give? Why do the English supply them with ammunition, when they know the Boers? Do the English want our country? You have spoken about what the word of God says. Have not the English the word of God, and have not the Boers the word of God? . . Are we only to obey the word of God because we are black? . . .'" Khosilintse relates an incident about the Boers, and then Moffat continues:
"He resumed in a more sarcastic tone: 'We have been told that the English is a wise nation. What is wisdom? We have been told the English is a strong nation. They have driven their white Bushmen into our country to kill us. Is this strength? Have the English no cattle and slaves of their own that they send their Bushmen to take cattle and our children to sell? We are told that the English love all men. They give or sell ammunition, horses and guns to the Boers, who have red teeth, to destroy us, and if we ask to buy powder, we can get none. No! No! No! Black man must have no ammunition; they must serve the white man.
Is this their love? The English are not friends to the black man.
If I am accusing the English, or the Boers, falsely, tell me! Are these things not so? You (Moffat) know all these things better than we do. ... I speak the truth. My words are not the words of a Boer. They are mine, I, Khosilintse! You know they are the words of truth. . . ."
Then Moffat concludes:
"His eloquence was not that of fine language or modulated voice, but it was the deep tones of a stricken soul. . . (adding) I was right out thankful to depart, for though I had had many tough bones to pick in my missionary career, I never was in my life so completely floored."
The mission at Nyati some miles north of Mzilikazi's place did not prove a successful one, but the link between Mzilikazi's 'on, Lobengula, and the Rev. J. S. Moffat, the "son of Umshete,” had been established, and was to be put to profitable use at the appropriate time.
The man most responsible for blazing the trail among the unknown peoples of the north was the Rev. David Livingstone. Sent out as a missionary to Kuruman to assist the Rev. Robert Moffat, he would carry his Bible and his gun on exploring expeditions into North Bechuanaland, for the explorer was stronger in him than the evangelist. Thus he extended the Missionary Road into hitherto unknown regions. His habit was to conciliate the chiefs, rest awhile preaching the Word, and then pass on to new pastures, eventually crossing the Zambesi and penetrating as far north as Lake Nyasa. He was the avowed servant of "Commerce and Christianity," whose frank opinions on these two subjects we have already quoted.
"The opening up of a path from either the East or the West to the centre of the Continent is a prominent part of our plans," he said.
This was the man who more than any other made it possible for Rhodes to think in terms of a Cape Colony stretching from Table Mountain to the Zambesi and even beyond. Where Livingstone had trod, his brother missionaries followed one after the other, consolidating the missions, and in these outlying regions very often combining trade with religion. And not only came the missionaries; the Missionary Road was the recognised route for explorers, hunters, traders, adventurers, speculators and seekers after gold””men of many nationalities, but all seeking something, all of them the petty agents of a new system. Wherever he went, Livingstone had upheld British interests.
In the early days he had come up against the Boers, who were already trekking into south Bechuanaland." The Boers resolved to shut up the interior and I determined to open the country," he said. "And we shall see who have been most successful in resolution, they or I."
There was no doubt as to who was the most successful. By the eighteen-eighties, Bechuanaland had been well-mapped out. The chief of most standing in the territory was Khama, chief of the bagaMangwato (Bamangwato) whose territory lay nearest to that of the maNdebele. He had been Christianized and encouraged to regard the British as his protectors. At the time of which we speak the most staunch upholder of British interests in Bechuanaland was the Rev. John Mackenzie, of the London Missionary Society, missionary to the bagaMangwato, but more or less unofficial administrator of the whole territory. This Rev. John Mackenzie was a forceful character and as ardent a politician as Dr. Philip had been; he was backed by the Aborigines Protection Society (which was still in existence); he was a maker of passionate appeals to British public opinion and a hater of the Boers. He, too, advocated the annexation of Bechuanaland as the key to the interior. But he was somewhat out of place in this period of rank aggression. It was Rhodes who was the more true embodiment of the spirit of the age. Rhodes, too, made an appeal to the British public””and thereby launched his Chartered Company, that most powerful instrument of British Imperialism.
The two men clashed over the question of control in Bechuanaland. And here we may observe a curious phenomenon al work. Both men were servants of British Imperialism. But the Rev. Mackenzie wanted control to be secured under the old and simple formula of Her Majesty's "Protection," while Rhodes aimed at control under the Cape Government. Rhodes's approach was in keeping with his aim to strengthen the Cape Colony as the dominant arm of British Imperialism in Southern Africa. At the same time it reflects another factor, on which we have already commented, that at this stage the gigantic resources of private enterprise could do the job of Imperialism. This dictated a different attitude to the Imperial connection. It could, when necessary, make use of those traditions that had been built up around the British Crown, and call upon the assistance of its old and trusted agents. In fact this is precisely what Rhodes was going to do when he came to deal with the maNdebele. On the other hand, private enterprise has its own ruthless laws and tends to resist anything that comes between it and the insatiable necessity to expand.
On the question of a Bechuanaland "Protectorate," then, the Rev. John Mackenzie was all for the Imperial Flag, with the Boers thrown out neck and crop. But the predatory vision of the Imperial speculator was charper than that of the missionary-politician. Rhodes managed things differently and he knew the Boers better. There were two methods of handling them””conciliation and a show of force. Boomplaats had been an example of the one, while the recognition of their land seizures at the expense of the Griqua and the baSotho was an example of the other. So Rhodes employed both methods, but in their proper time and place.
Paul Kruger, now President of the "South African Republic" (Transvaal) in place of Pretorius, was one of those whom Rhodes tried to conciliate. The extension of the railways northwards and the removal of all tariff-barriers between states were essential to economic expansion. Paul Kruger, however, had a monomania as strong as Rhodes's””to uphold Dutch Feudalism. Immovable in his prejudices, he was stubborn about railways””he preferred the ox””and stiff-necked on the question of tariffs, which, it may be said, enraged the Dutch farmers at the Cape. Kruger for his part was very anxious to obtain control over Swaziland, which would bring the Boers a step nearer a much-needed sea-port, and for this he required recognition by the Imperial Government. This was even more important to the Boers than the pasturelands flanking the Missionary Road in Bechuanaland, though, of course, they wanted the two little "Republics," Stellaland and Goshen, also recognised. The question of Swaziland was left in abeyance. Meantime Rhodes went in person to Stellaland and got the Boer farmers to agree that they would accept a Bechuanaland "Protectorate" under Cape control, if they in turn were left in possession of the land they had confiscated from the Africans. In the matter of Goshen, however, where Kruger suddenly proclaimed the land of a petty chief to be under his Government's "protection," Rhodes decided to urge that an expeditionary force should be sent from England to establish a "Protectorate" over Bechuanaland, especially since the Cape Parliament couldn't come to a decision over the matter. There was need for haste since the German annexation of Namaqualand and Damaraland west of Bechuanaland had just been ratified. Thus, south Bechuanaland, including the territory of the chiefs as well as that claimed by the Boers, was declared a British Crown Colony, while the rest of Bechuanaland became a British "Protectorate." The first Deputy Commissioner was the Rev. John Mackenzie.
In this manner the game was played, with a land and a people as pawns. As far as the Africans were concerned, the stormy contest between Rhodes and the Rev. Mackenzie (the details of which do not concern us) had been nothing but shadow-boxing. Rhodes had it either way and the main purpose had been achieved. To control Bechuanaland was to control the way to the north. The Missionary Road would be converted into a railway route, the life-line of trade the land and its people would be exploited when the Imperialists were ready to do so. But first””the way was open to the land of the maNdebele.
"Peace amd Amity "
It was at the end of 1885 that Bechuanaland had been declared a British "Protectorate." In 1886-7-8 several events happened in quick succession. Gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand within the Transvaal; Germany and England came together to discuss their respective spheres of exploitation in East and West Africa; Rhodes founded the Goldfields Company of South Africa and procured his monopoly of financial control in the diamond and gold industries. Feeling in a stronger position owing to the fact that the Rand gold was in Transvaal territory, Kruger despatched his agent, Grobler, to angle for a treaty of "protection" with Lobengula, chief of the maNdebele. When this became known, the Rev. J. S. Moffat, who had just been made Assistant Commissioner for the Bechuanaland "Protectorate," was ordered to proceed at once to Lobengula. For the next few years his duties in Bechuanaland were completely neglected, for he bad more important work to do as "British Representative" with the Chief. His first instructions were to find out about this alleged Grobler agreement, get Lobengula to repudiate it and persuade him to sign a treaty giving Britain the exclusive right to interfere in his affairs.
The Rev. J. S. Moffat, son of the Rev. Robert Moffat, was eminently suited to the task that his Government imposed upon him. He had spent his boyhood at Kuruman Mission Station; he had learned the language of the people; he "knew" the African. His first mission had been to the maNdebele in Mzilikazi's time. It will be remembered that Mzilikazi had agreed to the establishment of a mission station in his territory on one condition: "Umshete (Robert Moffat) must either come himself or send his son." Later, the Rev. J. S. Moffat took his father's place at Kuruman and also held a position in the Moffat Institute which trained African teachers and preachers. Owing to internal disputes he had left Kuruman and became missionary to Sechele, chief of the baKwena, whom Livingstone had conciliated on his way north and with whom Robert Moffat had kept in contact. Then he entered Government service in an official capacity and became a "Native" Commissioner over a small Tswana tribe on the borders of the Transvaal when the latter territory was still under the jurisdiction of the Cape Government (1880). His appointment had been due to the fact that, while he had been missionary with the baKwena, the authorities (as R. U. Moffat, his son and biographer, informs us) "had been quick to see how valuable the services of a man like Moffat might be in dealing with the natives." Rhodes apparently was under the same impression and we have no reason to doubt the further statement of J. S. Moffat's son that:
"Cecil Rhodes placed ... a high estimate on Moffat's presence and influence in Matabeleland."
Moffat's arrival at the place of Lobengula opened up a chapter of treachery and plunder on a grand scale. The manoeuvres and manipulations that followed make sordid reading, but the stakes were high””no less than a territory three times the size of Britain, a people to the number of half a million, and limitless wealth beyond. One may well ask why the Imperial speculators in land and gold, who were not likely to be thwarted in their gigantic schemes for the lack of a mere scrap of paper called a "Treaty," should have taken so much trouble with these empty formalities of waiting for the Chief's permission. It might be answered that in making use of the time-honoured machinery and agents of British Imperialism, they were paying their respects to the old myth, for public consumption. It is in the nature of national myths to have an enthusiastic mass following. Be that as it may, in this instance Imperialism made full use of the myth of "Protection," that had been so assiduously propagated by the missionaries.
Lobengula received the "son of Umshete" as a man he could trust. "For his father's sake as well as his own Moffat received a warm personal welcome," states his biographer. By this time concession-hunters, big and small, were swarming round the chief, to use his own phrase, "like wolves," and to pacify them he would throw out this promise and that, contemptuous of their importunity. There were two people, however, in whose advice he seemed to have implicit faith, the Rev. Helm, his interpreter, and, first and foremost, the "son of Umshete." The latter had to wait some time before the chief would give him an answer, but he "waited patiently" and at length was able to hand over to the High Commissioner a document duly signed by himself and Lobengula, a document that is rightly designated as "The Moffat Treaty." It invoked the early treaty that Dr. Andrew Smith, through the influence of Robert Moffat, had persuaded Mzilikazi to sign. Witness the dignified language of this document:
"The Chief Lo Bengula, Ruler of the tribe known as the Amandebele, together with the Mashona and Makakalaka, tributaries of the same, hereby agrees . . . that peace and amity shall continue for ever between Her Britannic Majesty, her subjects, and the Amandebele people; . . . and so to carry out the spirit of the treaty of friendship which was entered into between his late father, the Chief Umsiligaas, with the then Governor of the Cape of Good Hope in the year of our Lord 1836." The Chief also agreed to make no agreement with any foreign State to "sell, alienate or cede" any part of his territory, without the sanction of Her Majesty's High Commissioner for South Africa.
Thereafter, the only document that Lobengula seems to have treated seriously was this treaty of "friendship" with Britain. "It was that same treaty, signed and sealed by himself (Moffat) that Lobengula respected and trusted in to the very end," writes R. U. Moffat, who also states: "It was an instrument that paved the way for all that was to follow."
For Rhodes the gist of the agreement was that it gave him the right of way in the land of the maShona as well as the maNdebele, as far north as the Zambesi. The next step was to obtain exclusive mineral rights. For this purpose Rhodes sent up three of his henchmen, including Rudd, his partner in De Beers. They did not wait immediately upon the Chief, but first presented Moffat with letters of introduction. Concerning this he himself has written:" My instructions were to introduce them to the King with a favourable recommendation, and then to leave them to work out things for themselves."
They very much needed Moffat's influence with the Chief, who was becoming highly suspicious of every concession hunter who approached him. But at last after three months of weary waiting, Rudd rode off triumphantly with a document, witnessed this time by the Rev. Helm, which gave him "exclusive power over all metals and minerals situated and contained in his (Lobengula's) kingdoms, principalities and dominions." It may be mentioned that by one of those curious but unimportant chances, Rudd, on his way back, nearly perished of thirst in the Bechuanaland desert, but was rescued by some kindly Africans. In return for the Rudd Concession, Lobengula was to receive £100 a month, 1,000 rifles and a gun-boat on the Zambesi River.
Meantime Rhodes had not been idle. He went to England to float a British South Africa Company, with himself as managing director, and to procure Government support for his schemes. After some jockeying in the right quarters, some influential members of the House were won over to the point of view that it would be an excellent thing to have a private Chartered Company, over which the Government could retain control, though the financial responsibility would be that of the Company. They advised Rhodes, however, to include on his board of directors "men of social and political standing who would command more respect in England than those who . . . were merely associated with South African companies." Some members of the aristocracy and others were forthwith found to join the board, and then the Queen granted her Royal Charter.
The London Times, a. paper of ancient repute, trumpeted the fabulous riches of the land of the maNdebele, where the Chartered Company would "lay the basis of a great English-speaking colony in what appears to be the fairest region in Africa." Thereupon the British public in every walk of life took out shares to the tune of a million. The powers granted to the Chartered Company were "gigantic."
It could make treaties, promulgate laws and maintain a police force; it could engage in mining and any other industry; it could build roads and railways and even charter ships if necessary. Its field of operation included Bechuanaland and had no limit northwards. Back in South Africa, Rhodes obtained the willing support of the Cape Parliament and the Afrikaner Bond (Dutch Party). The founder of the Bond, the Rev. du Toit, a one-time opponent of Rhodes, declared: "Let us not ignore the guidance of Providence. God has given us England as a guardian."
To return to the land around which so many schemes were revolving. Here the duties of the Rev. J. S. Moffat were not yet over. The Chartered Company was established in October 1889. In that month Moffat wrote:" The principal thing occupying my thoughts has been a request from the Chartered Company to remain here as Government Representative."
" . . . (It) is a Government appointment, but it is really to be paid for by the Company."
His letters of this period express approbation both of the Chartered Company and of Rhodes, yet he seems to have been troubled in conscience at the role he would have to play. Hesitating to accept the post, he wrote:
" . . . It means probable discredit and misunderstanding in the minds of the natives, for when the conflict and collision, humanly speaking inevitable, come, they will look upon me as their betrayer."
R. U. Moffat, his biographer,, explains the situation as follows:
"The Chartered Company were now preparing to occupy Mashonaland ... but they feared that the passage of an imposing cavalcade along the eastern border might upset the equanimity of the Matebele. Violence at this stage was the one thing that the Directors wished to avoid, and so high an opinion did they set on Moffat's presence in Matabeleland that they agreed to provide the funds if the Government would appoint him British Resident for the next two years."
These words are sufficient to explain the role of the missionary in this whole Imperial transaction. It was natural that he should receive instructions not to identify himself in any way with the Chartered Company.
The next, and final, preliminary was a nasty bit of business. This was the obtaining of the Lippert Concession whereby Lobengula was induced virtually to sign away his land. He was by this time regretting that he had ever signed the Rudd Concession; disgruntled concession-hunters were whispering in his ear that Rudd and his companions were actually agents of the Cape Government. He became alarmed; this signing of documents expected of him by the whites was perhaps not such an imbecility after all. Acting, therefore, in the spirit of the Moffat Treaty that had invoked the name of his fathers, he directed through his missionary an appeal to the Queen:
"The White people are troubling me much about gold. If the Queen hears that I have given away the whole country, it is not so."
With the Chief's suspicions thus thoroughly aroused, it was thought necessary to get round him by means of a trick and with petty cunning the swindle was carried out.
Lobengula was deceived into believing that he was granting a land-concession to a German, Lippert, while it was actually being granted to the British Chartered Company, which had bought Lippert off beforehand. Lobengula naturally thought he was playing one concession-hunter off against the other, for how could a chief give away the land of his people ? The plotters knew he would calculate in this way, but they wanted his signature. In due course Moffat received a confidential letter from the British High Commissioner outlining the scheme and assigning him his part in it. It is an interesting document. "If he (Lobengula) knew the concession had been bought by the Company," it ran, "he might possibly refuse to ratify it." Moffat was instructed to be present at the interview between the chief and Lippert and to make certain of the exact nature of the concession. Of course, in the eyes of Lobengula, Moffat's presence was in itself a guarantee of safety.
Moffat was obviously extremely uneasy at his part in the transaction, even though it seemed to be a passive one. In fact he protested against it to the High Commissioner." I am thankful Your Excellency assigns to me a quite limited course of action," he wrote. But His Excellency was quite unperturbed by the scruples of his agent. Moffat had no choice but to stand by while Lippert told as many lies as were necessary for the success of the scheme, and wait till Lobengula signed. Moffat wrote again to the High Commissioner:
"Mr. Lippert has not yet succeeded in bringing his negotiations to a successful end. I have been twice, at the chief's request, present while interviews have been going on. The chief has asked me to give him my advice. This is just what I am unable to do.
... I have had to do what is very hard””to sit by in silence and to hear things said which are not true. ... I hoped to have been relieved from the necessity of being present at any of these meetings, but the chief would not go on without me."
Of all the actors in this tragic drama for the subjugation of a people, none played a part so ignoble. Commenting on the fact that the Chartered Company had now consolidated its position, his biographer writes:
"Moffat's presence in Matabeleland then became a hindrance rather than a help and the Government . . . withdrew its representative from Matabeleland."
Events now moved swiftly. British Imperialism knew when to bide its time and when to hasten. It remained for the Chartered Company to occupy the land of the maNdebele. 1890 was a year of feverish activity. In the background was the strong arm of British Imperialism which was simultaneously making treaties with Germany and Portugal, mapping out their respective spheres of exploitation north of the Zambesi. A British Protectorate had been declared in Nyasaland. It was decided that the maNdebele were too formidable for a frontal attack. To do this would require a strong military force, and the Chartered Company didn't want any unnecessary expense. So it was agreed that they should first occupy the land of the maShona, a less war-like tribe north of the maNdebele.
For this purpose the Chartered Company set about recruiting a company of gold diggers, a motley crowd from the Kimberley dry diggings, mostly English and Dutch from the Transvaal, the Cape Colony and Natal. They have been designated by the title of pioneers, but it would be more correct to call them the buccaneers of Imperialism. From the outset they looked to obtain land, cattle and gold shares, each one being promised a 3,000 acre farm and 15 gold claims. They were to be accompanied by a British South African police force. This was the "army" of the Chartered Company. In Southern Africa the wars of aggression had been carried out by the Imperial forces assisted by commandos of local Dutch and English farmers, but the Company employed adventurers and gold diggers.
Elements of the gigantic and the petty entered into this final stage of the military conquest of the Africans: the ruthless battles and the vast speculations of the financiers, the manipulations of the politicians, the hypocrisies of the humanitarians, the greeds and brutalities of the gold-seekers. It demonstrates more clearly perhaps than at any other period the coming together, the interaction, of all the agents of Imperialism, all of them harnessed to a single predatory purpose. Here we may observe the rapacity of the system as a whole and in its many parts, for each one is moulded by the system and is an image of the whole.
The Company was still busy recruiting when a report came that the Boers, undeterred by the mere matter of a signed concession, were already trekking into Mashonaland. Rhodes took immediate action. To the Colonial Secretary he wrote with a crudeness of phrase that revealed his real attitude to the Trek Boers." The report as to Boers squatting ... if true, you must instruct the police to expel them. If not the game is up. You cannot allow a single Boer to settle across the Limpopo until our position in the north is secure."
Soon afterwards he and the High Commissioner met President Kruger to come to some understanding. The British professed themselves prepared to bargain over the land of the maSwazi, while the Boers agreed not to interfere with the Chartered Company in the land of the maNdebele.
With all impediments thus removed, the expedition set out for Mashonaland, not without angry protests from Lobengula, whose suspicions had to be allayed by Rhodes's most valuable right-hand man, Dr. Jameson. In this he was reinforced by a deputation from the Queen, advising him "to put his trust in the new Company." On the way some Africans in Bechuanaland and Mashonaland had been recruited as labourers for the roads and the prospective mines. Jameson became Administrator of the new territory and Rhodes Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. And the land of the maNdebele was declared a "Protectorate."
After a time failure to find gold precipitated the next step towards seizing the territory. The Chartered Company shareholders were clamouring for those fabulous profits that had been promised them. Rhodes was already looking beyond the Zambesi and by 1893 had bought out the African Lakes Company which, in co-operation with the missionaries, had established trading factories on Lake Nyasa. This territory had also been declared a British "Protectorate."
All this was in keeping with the nature of the new economic system and its insatiable need for profits. There was only one stumbling- block””Lobengula and his people. It was time to remove them. The speed and ferocity of the invasion that followed (known as the first "Matabele War" ) were commensurate with the necessity to open up Central Africa for further exploitation. Dr Jameson enlisted the Chartered Company's volunteer force of 600 on the plain and simple basis of prospective marauders. In fact, they refused to join without a written promise of loot; for each man "a farm of 6,000 acres, twenty gold claims and an equal share of the famous Matabele herds."
The well-tried plan of provocation, in the name of "protection" was once more put into operation and the spectacle of the abominations that followed is something for the imagination to baulk at. It was the simplest thing in the world to precipitate a clash. Lobengula's warriors were straining for battle and skirmishes between them and the maShona were frequent. So it was necessary for the British to "protect" the maShona. One of the opening incidents in this campaign of land-plunder was the cold-blooded massacre of warriors "who had been forbidden by their Chief to lift their arms against the white men." Lobengula was thus acting in the spirit of the treaty pledging "peace and amity" with Britain. But his envoys sent with messages to -the High Commissioner were shot. In his extremity, the Chief (as J. S. Moffat himself records) addressed a message to the missionary:
"I want to know from you, Son of Umshete, why don't you speak? Why do you keep quiet? What great wrong have I done?
I thought I wrote to tell you all. ... I want to know about this matter. Tell me."
In another letter to his wife, Moffat writes:
"I am not a bit sorry for Loben and the Matabele. I am sorry for ourselves””that we can demean ourselves to act so dishonestly."
Indeed the English are incorrigible! He even thought of resigning as a protest against what he called "this despicable business," but decided against it. "Would it be any use?" he wrote. "Should I not be simply squelched by the boundless resources of the Company and the High Commissioner together." He assessed the situation correctly; for they did, though he didn't resign. Having used him, they consigned him to complete obscurity in a small official post.
A good supply of maxim guns soon brought the Chartered Company's forces to Lobengula's village. There they found nothing but ruins, for the chief himself, before fleeing from the place, had used the dynamite he had received, to destroy it. By the end of 1893 the British could claim that they had added about half a million square miles to their Imperial dominions, while the maNdebele were relegated to two small "Reserves." It may be added the shares of the Chartered Company doubled over-night. Lobengula and his people were fugitives; two months later, it is said, the chief died of small-pox at the Shangani River, whither he and his regiments had been driven. The surrender of the maNdebele was ensured by the usual method of famine; all their cattle were confiscated and the people were prevented from sowing their corn until they had surrendered their arms.
It is a fitting commentary to the predatory nature of the whole proceedings that at first Rhodes was at odds with the Imperial Government over the settlement of the new territory (called Rhodesia). The Imperial Government indicated that all negotiations had to be conducted through its representative, the High Commissioner, and not the Chartered Company. "I had the idea and found the money," said Rhodes. "I certainly intend to settle the question on South African lines." But the fact that the Imperial Government (leaving the Chartered Company nominally in charge) and not the Colonial Government took over control, served merely as a reminder that Rhodes and the Chartered Company, like all the rest, were the servants of British Imperialism.
With the subjugation of the maNdebele and the confiscation of their territory, British Imperialism achieved two objects: the military conquest of the Africans in Southern Africa was completed and British supremacy was secured. Agreements with Germany and Portugal as to their respective spheres of exploitation had been concluded, and the Cape Colony, with those dangers removed from her far northern borders, had British controlled territory to the north of her. She was also to receive an additional piece of territory, British Bechuanaland. On the military plane, all the important moves on the vast chessboard of Southern Africa had been made.
The primary task, the subjugation of the Africans and the confiscation of the land, had to all intents and purposes been fulfilled. At the beginning of 1894 the maMpondo, the last of the tribes on the eastern borders of the Colony to retain their independence, were also annexed. It was now time to pass on to the second phase in the subjugation of the people.
There was still the matter of the Trek Boers. As we have indicated, the new economic system of capitalism demanded a unified control””call it confederation or union or what you will; the main point was that it had to be under the British Empire. A self-governing South Africa always had to have the protection (to use the word in its plain meaning) of Imperial resources behind it. The Cape Dutch knew this and supported Rhodes in his Imperialist schemes. If the Trek Boers, therefore, were not prepared to return quietly to the fold, it would have to be done by force. The attempt to seize the Transvaal, where President Kruger had dared to deny political rights to the British "Uitlanders" on the Rand gold-fields, miscarried in the farcical Jameson Raid””incidentally pulling Rhodes down with it. Many such Imperialist acts throughout the century had come off successfully, but this one was mismanaged. Hence the unfortunate episode of the Boer War, after which the British annexed the two Boer "Republics." But once the British had asserted their supremacy, they could afford to make the Dutch their partners in what was now the main task, the political and economic enslavement of the non-European people. This was recognition of the basic conflict in South Africa””as it had been from the beginning””the conflict between White and Black.