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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Mission to Manika

Mission to Manika.

As mentioned elsewhere, the first step taken by me after arriving on the Mashonaland plateau was, accompanied by a small party, to make a rapid journey to Manika, by special invitation of the Chief Umtasa, to conclude a treaty of protection with him, and obtain for the British South Africa Company concessions for the mineral and page 67 other rights in his territory. I was also desirous of obtaining some reliable information, and, if possible, ocular evidence of that ever-vanishing and hitherto unknown quantity—the will-o'-the-wisp of so-called Portuguese "occupation." On our way through Mashonaland, not a trace or vestige of the existence of the Portuguese at any time, much less of a present occupation of this country, to which they laid claim with much well-simulated indignation just a year before, could be detected, or at any rate was visible to the naked eye. The ruins we saw at Zimbabye, for instance, and other places, could never by the wildest stretch of imagination be ascribed to Portuguese handiwork, or admitted for one moment as fulfilling their invariable contention of "ancient ruins and traditions," upon which they laid so much stress, and based their chimerical rights in this part of the world. Until we reached Manika there was nothing of general interest to record. We passed through some of the most charming scenery imaginable, crossing numerous streams of clear, swiftly-flowing water over rocky beds, winding their way amongst perfect wooded mountain scenery, of which one could find its exact counterpart in favoured portions of either Scotland or Wales.

On September 13 we halted close to the objective point of the mission, the kraal of the Manika chief, Umtasa (or Mutasa), or Mafamba-Busuko ("One who walks by night"), as he prefers to style himself, or again, Sifamba, as he is generally spoken of by the local natives. The kraal itself (at an altitude of 4,300 above sea-level) is situated at the head of what is really a pass, completely concealed from below in mountain fastnesses, and lying under a sheer massive granite ridge of rock another 500 or 600 feet high—a position, at all events in Kafir warfare, absolutely impregnable.