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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

British Protectorate

British Protectorate.

In 1884 it was agreed between Britain and the South African Republic that this state of anarchy should be crushed. The boundary agreed on placed the native chiefs claimed by the Republic and their freebooter assistants within its boundaries. The British Government at the same time formed a protectorate over the whole of Bechuanaland lying outside of this revised boundary; thus retaining for the Cape Colony the trade route to the interior and the sole channel for South African colonial expansion. Towards this end the Rev. John Mackenzie, as Deputy Commissioner, concluded treaties with the native chiefs. The free-booters still continued to occupy the country and make attacks upon one of the chiefs under our protection, which was protested against by Mr. Rhodes, who had succeeded Mr. Mackenzie.

It was decided to clear the territory of the freebooters and establish peace and order, and this was effectually accomplished by the expedition under the command of Sir Charles Warren, R.E., who held the territory till its fate was decided.

In 1885 the report of the British mission to Lo Bengula to discuss the question stated: "Lo Bengula acknowledged that he had no title to the country except that of Umziligazi's conquest; and by saying 'formerly Kkama had no country' he tacitly admits that now Khama has."

In that year the Imperial Government proclaimed British sovereignty as far north as the Molopo River, the territory being named British Bechuanaland; and shortly after a British Protectorate page 64 was proclaimed over the country to the 22nd parallel of south latitude, and extending our sphere of influence to the Zambesi. In 1891 the western boundary was extended to the 20th meridian of east longitude, coterminous with the German protectorate.

The chief of the Bamangwato tribe, our ally Khama, is a Christian, and the most enlightened and civilised of South Africa rulers. He has been a steadfast friend of the British and deserves well at our hands. His character is a fine one—firm, just, and earnest in the desire to raise his people. The Christianity of Khama is eminently practical; he acts as he preaches. He holds most decided views on the use of intoxicants, and no wine or liquor of any description is allowed to be sold anywhere throughout his territory; even the brewing of the comparatively harmless Kafir beer is without exception heavily punished. Khama feels so strongly on this question that he once expressed the opinion that he "feared the Matabele less than brandy." He wrote in a remarkable despatch in 1888, "Lo Bengula never gives me a sleepless night, but to fight against drink is to fight against demons, not against men. I dread the white man's drink more than all the assegais of the Matabele, which kill men's bodies and is quickly over; but drink puts devils into men, and destroys both bodies and souls for ever. Its wounds never heal." A proof of Khama's humanity is that when, some four years ago, the seat of government was moved from Shoshong to Palapye, to secure better water and a more advantageous site, all the old and infirm were carefully removed from the old capital—a most un-African method of dealing with the aged, who, regarded as an incumbrance, are left to shift for themselves. Seated under some shady tree in his "sigadhlo" (an enclosure where court is held), Khama is always accessible to his poorest subject, and is prompt and wise in his decisions. He can muster over 7,000 fighting men, of whom about 1,000 are armed with rifles, and he has some 200 mounted men, not uniformed in any way, of whom he is very proud. Khama's men cannot be counted upon as very reliable fighting material, for the Bamangwato are not a warlike race; but among them will be found useful auxiliaries, especially for scouting purposes. They did excellent work on the Pioneer Expedition under the guidance of Selous, when we entered Mashonaland in 1890.