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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Treaty with Umtasa

Treaty with Umtasa.

It was not until the following day, the 14th of September, when in the Royal kraal a full indaba (or council) of indunas was held that after lengthy discussion a treaty was signed between myself acting on behalf of the British South Africa Company, and the King of Manika. Before signing the document, it was most carefully explained to Umtasa that if he had at any time granted any treaty or concession to anyone else, the negotiations would be at once closed. And it was only after his repeated assurance that such was not the case, that no treaty of any kind had ever been executed by him, and no concession ever granted to the Portuguese, that the Company's treaty with him was duly signed and formally witnessed by two of his own indunas and some members of my party.

We learnt that some Portuguese connected with the Mozambique Company were established at Massi Kessi, at the foot of the slope of the plateau, and it was stated that the Company claimed a large tract of territory west of Massi Kessi by virtue of a concession from the Portuguese Government.

Umtasa, as I say, was repeatedly asked whether at any time he had ever ceded his country, either to the Portuguese Government or to the directors of the Mozambique Company, and lie as repeatedly denied ever having done so, as also did his chief counsellors. When questioned as to the terms he was on with the Baron de Rezende, the local representative of the Mozambique Company at Massi Kessi he said, "I allow him to live there. He sometimes gives me presents, but I have not given him my country, nor have I ever concluded any treaty with him." Later on he said repeatedly that page 69 the Portuguese held an assegai at his heart, and when pressed for an explanation of this statement affirmed that he was terrorised and compelled to do what the Baron required of him by the threat that if he gave any trouble Gouveia would be called in to invade his territory with a large armed force. There is no doubt that the fear of this Portuguese free-lance, ever looming in the distance, was instrumental in great measure in inducing Umtasa to conclude the treaty he did. It is true that he was evidently very greatly impressed by the fact of a British expedition coming through the Matabele country from the far south, and some of its members so soon finding their way into his own dominions. The whiteness of our skins, as opposed to the dark yellow or black of the Portugese half-castes, and our travelling with horses and pack animals, and without porters and palanquins à la Portugaise, were also a source of great astonishment to him. But the fact he seized upon and grasped at once was undoubtedly the offer of protection by the British South Africa Company both for himself and his people. At the chief's urgent request one policeman and a native interpreter were left with him as representatives of the Company, pending the establishment later on of a regular police post to safeguard the Company's interests in the Manika country, and to protect Umtasa against any attack that might be made upon him.

The treaty entered into between Umtasa and the British South Africa Company is most comprehensive. It provides that no one can possess lands in Manika except with the consent of the Company in writing; it concedes to the Company complete mineral rights; it gives permission for the construction and establishment of public works and conveniences of all kinds, such as roads, railways, tramways, banks, &c. On the Company's side the king is assured of British protection both for himself and his people, and the payment of an annual subsidy, either in money or in trading goods, at the option of the king. In concluding this treaty the British South Africa Company became possessed of a most valuable addition to Mashonaland.

Independently of Manika bringing the Company nearer to the seaboard (to which it is of such vital importance to have access), and leading up to steps which brought about the treaty of the 11th of June, 1891, by which the navigation of the Zambesi and Shiré was declared free to all nations, and railway communication obtained viâ the Pungwé, the Company secured a territory of undoubted great mineral wealth. From time immemorial "the gold-fields of Manika" have been marked on all maps. Our party passed through page 70 three valleys (watered by the Revue, the Umfuli, and Zambesi Rivers), and we saw hillsides literally honeycombed with old alluvial workings for gold. When these extensive and very numerous workings were made it is impossible to say, but certainly centuries ago. The general opinion is that these shafts and pits, in places fully seventy and eighty feet deep (in many of which trees of good size have grown), were worked by gangs of slave labour under skilled supervision. Large quantities of gold must undoubtedly have been taken out of the country.

The "ancient kingdom of Manika," as it is called, was evidently at one time more extensive than at present. In recent years, however, the area covered by the Manika kingdom proper seems to have undergone some shrinking process, especially on the east Certain of Umtasa's vassals have fallen away—instigated and encouraged by the Portuguese, doubtless—from their lawful ruler. Umtasa himself, as I have said, maintained that he had been "pressed by the assegai of the Portuguese," and no doubt this has been the case with many others less able to take care of themselves