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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The Portuguese at Massi Kessi

The Portuguese at Massi Kessi.

Gouveia, then, was the main support of the Portuguese in the interior, and Umtasa had very good reason, by means of diplomacy, or otherwise, to avoid coming into collision with the Portuguese or bringing about one of those visits of persuasion with which Gouveia, on behalf of the Portuguese, had of late years favoured more than one independent chief—notably Makombe, at whose hands he afterwards met his death. Umtasa had also seen another neighbouring independent chief, Motoko—whose territory is close to what is marked as the Kaiser Wilhelm gold-fields on most maps-attacked by Gouveia; and although Motoko, who is said to have an unconquerable aversion to the Portuguese, had so well held his own that the "Guerra de Motoko" and its native equivalent are household words, Umtasa doubtless thought discretion the better part of valour. He therefore affected not to take any notice of the so-called Portuguese "occupation" at Massi Kessi, and had, to use his own expression, been "sitting watching." In addition to the Baron at Massi Kessi, there had been recently several engineers employed in making reconnaissances for the much-talked-of Portu-guese railway to Manika, sanctioned by royal decree in hot haste when matters were somewhat strained at Lisbon. With these exceptions, however, and one or two half-breeds living at a place on the Pungwé River close to the coast, there were no Portuguese, either pure blood or cross-breed, south of the Zambesi, in the interior of "Portuguese" South-East Africa.

Upon the conclusion of the Manika Treaty, Mr. Selous and two others of my mission rode on to Massi Kessi, where, it was said, some Portuguese were established. Mr. Selous and his friends on their way to that place met a party of East Coast blacks with two Portuguese officials (one a captain in the Portuguese army, the other a civil engineer), recently arrived from the coast, and bearing a letter to me—I having remained behind in the neighbourhood of Umtasa's kraal—protesting against the presence of the representatives of the British South Africa Company in Manika, as well as in Mashonaland generally. On hearing that Mr. Selous, who had informed them where I could be found, wished to go on to Massi Kessi, they intimated their willingness to fall in with that arrangement, and Mr. Selous went on and visited the Baron de page 73 Bezende. The latter may have under normal circumstances a small retinue of black "soldiers;" but these, it was understood, had been told off summarily to swell the cortège énorme, avec un drapeau dèployé (as the party was afterwards described), despatched late the evening before with the letter of protest to myself. Every nerve had no doubt been strained to render the cortège of as imposing an appearance as possible, with the object of duly impressing me with the solid and substantial, not to say military, nature of Portuguese occupation. Beyond, however, this one isolated representative of the Mozambique Company, Mr. Selous failed to trace the existence of one single other resident Portuguese, either official, colonist, trader, or miner. There were certainly some two or three engineers in the neighbourhood, temporarily engaged in surveying, and there were the two recently arrived officials from the coast already mentioned.

The contrast between this and the occupation of Mashonaland by the British South Africa Company struck us very forcibly soon after. At Fort Salisbury—to say nothing of what had been done at the various stations below—within one month of the arrival of the expedition, three hundred prospectors were scouring the country in all directions in search of gold, forts had been built, huts were springing up in every direction; postal communication, too, was punctually kept up from below, and the work of administration was being soundly and firmly established.

The Baron de Rezende was spoken of in high terms by the English prospectors who enjoyed the privilege of his acquaintance. Towards Mr. Selous and party his demeanour was that of frigid official courtesy. He protested against our presence both in Manika and Mashonaland. He pointed out that all these territories belonged to his Majesty the King of Portugal from time immemorial; that the roitelet of Manika was a vassal of theirs; that their authority was based upon ancient rights, and rights secured from Gungunhama, King of the Gaza country, who recently had been induced to move with his people to the neighbourhood of Delagoa Bay, so as to enable the Portuguese to have a freer hand in Gaza-land and Manika, as well as to keep in touch with this powerful Kafir prince. It must be admitted that Baron de Rezende, though evidently suffering from intense irritation, played his part courteously and well. He performed with dignity and tact the exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, task of bolstering up and defending claims and pretensions to vast regions which, in legal phraseology, have no foundation either in substance or in fact.