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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The Portuguese in Manika

page 74

The Portuguese in Manika.

Meanwhile, towards the end of October, in consequence of reports from native sources that Colonel Paiva d'Andrada, accompanied by Gouveia with a largo force of armed natives, was approaching the Manika country from the east, I determined to take decisive measures. I despatched small parties of police under Lieutenants Graham and the Hon. Eustace Fiennes, and later Major P. W. Forbes, to Umtasa's. To Major Forbes, in whom I had great confidence, I gave explicit instructions, which he carried out to my entire satisfaction. I judged that officer, who, for one so young, had considerable experience of the conditions of soldiering in South Africa, to be a man of clear judgment, vigorous mind, and determined character, of which he has since given abundant proof. Upon his arrival at Umtasa's kraal on November 5th, Major Forbes learnt that Colonel Paiva d'Andrada, accompanied by Gouveia, had recently arrived at Massi Kessi with from 250 to 300 so-called "bearers," the majority armed with rifles, sword bayonets, and reserves of ammunition. The avowed object of this armed force was to mete out punishment to Umtasa for signing the obnoxious treaty of September 14th. Major Forbes at once sent a letter to Colonel Paiva d'Andrada at Massi Kessi, protesting against his entering the Manika country with a large armed force, and warning him against taking any steps which might wear the appearance of an attempt to upset the treaty, as any such action on his part would inevitably lead to serious and grave complications. Major Forbes requested Colonel Paiva d'Andrada to withdraw his force both from Manika and from the territory of any Chief with whom treaties had been concluded by the British South Africa Company. This letter Colonel d'Andrada declined to answer.

Three days later, without any warning, Gouveia appeared at and occupied the Chief Umtasa's kraal with some seventy of his armed followers. Major Forbes, on hearing that Gouveia had established himself at the King's kraal, at once sent him a letter protesting against his presence there, and warning him that any attempt to coerce the Chief into granting interviews would be in defiance of his orders, which were to prevent any outside interference with the Chief Umtasa; and these orders he was prepared, if necessary, to carry out by force. To this letter Gouveia verbally replied that he should go where he liked, and that no Englishman should stop him. The daily expected reinforcements of the Company's police had not arrived, and with only a handful of men at his disposal, Major page 75 Forbes deemed it inadvisable to attempt to eject Gouveia from Umtasa's stronghold, situated, as we have seen, in a mountain fastness difficult of access. Meanwhile Colonel d'Andrada and the Baron de Rezende, with a large number of followers, all well armed, went inside Umtasa's stockaded kraal. In spite of Major Forbes's protests, news reached him on the 14th that both Colonel d'Andrada and Baron de Rezende had, with over 200 armed native followers, joined Gouveia at Umtasa's kraal, the last named having persisted in remaining there with the avowed object of intimidating the Chief into a repudiation of the treaty. Major Forbes at once decided to put an end, by a coup de main, to the persistent action of the Portuguese in coercing and menacing the Company's friendly ally. With an escort of twelve men, he proceeded direct to the King's kraal, and meeting the Baron de Rezende at the threshold, informed him that he was to consider himself a prisoner. Penetrating behind the thick palisade of rough poles among the numerous huts of the now thoroughly alarmed and excited natives (who rushed to their arms, and ran about wildly in all directions), the representatives of the Company's police proceeded in their search and within a short time arrested Colonel d'Andrada and Gouveia (the former being highly indignant and protesting volubly), persuading them that resistance was useless, and that they must proceed under escort to his camp. Meanwhile the second party, a few hundred yards off, were busy carrying out the task assigned to them of disarming the armed "bearers" of the Portuguese. The scene was an animated one. Upon the appearance of this party, and in the absence of their leader Gouveia, complete demoralization ensued among his followers. Thus was effected quietly but firmly, without the firing of a shot or the loss of a single life, a very effective coup de main, destined to have important consequences, not only as regards Manika, but the position of the British South Africa Company generally. The plan of campaign of this "peaceful mission" of the Portuguese was to have been as follows: Umtasa, after having been brought to a proper frame of mind by the persuasive presence of Gouveia in his kraal for some days, was, on the arrival of Colonel d'Andrada and Baron de Rezende, in full indaba, to have made the astounding statement that twenty years ago in return for Gouveia's "saving his life" (in other words, in return for services rendered him by Gouveia in the shape of helping him in some war with a neighbouring chief), he had sent an "elephant's tusk full of earth" to Gouveia, with the words, "Take my country—but come and save me."

page 76

Colonel Paiva d'Andrada protested that he was there on a peaceable mission as director of the Mozambique Company, accompanied by his friend Gouveia, an employé of the Company, and the Baron de Rezende, the local agent; they were there to discuss certain questions in connection with the mining interests of the Company with Umtasa. Similar protests Colonel d'Andrada repeated later, resulting in an action taken against the British South Africa Company, still undecided. These assurances, however, were hardly reconcilable with the facts that the bearers carried not only arms, but side-arms; that orders had actually been given to barricade the enclosure gateways, and not only offer resistance to the approach of any English to the Chief's kraal, but to drive by force the small body of the Company's police out of Manika altogether—"peaceable" designs happily frustrated by the sudden and vigorous action taken by Major Forbes. That officer decided to despatch Colonel d'Andrada and Gouveia to Fort Salisbury, for to have released them upon parole in the Manica country would have been a fatal mistake. Such action would have been attributed by the natives to weakness, and might have led to a dangerous rising among Gouveia's people in the Gorongoza province; whilst the arrest and deportation of the much-dreaded Gouveia by a handful of the British South Africa Company's police could not but raise British prestige not only in Manika, but throughout the whole of South-Eastern Africa. The next day Colonel d'Andrada and Gouveia were accordingly despatched as prisoners on parole to Fort Salisbury. It was decided that Baron de Rezende (also placed on parole) should be allowed to return to Massi Kessi. Meanwhile Major Forbes occupied Massi Kessi quietly and without any show of resistance. He had taken with him Baron de Rezende, and also Mons de Llamby, an engineer of the Company of Mozambique. On their arrival at Massi Kessi (which is nothing but a trading station and stockaded compound, built by the Mozambique Company), both these gentlemen were released, and Massi Kessi was temporarily occupied by a small detachment of the British South Africa Company's forces. Upon the arrival at Fort Salisbury of Colonel Paiva d'Andrada and Gouveia, a prolonged interview with myself resulted in their being sent down country for the instructions of Mr. Rhodes and the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Loch. From first to last the prisoners were treated with scrupulous courtesy, and every consideration was shown them by the Company's officials that was possible under somewhat embarrassing circumstances.

Writing after the event I am still of opinion, as I was then, that page 77 the steps taken by me were expedient. It must be remembered that our position in the country was by no means an assured one—exposed to the suspicion and animosity of the Matabele on the west, the jealousy and envy of the Boers on the south, and the bitter resentment of the Portuguese on the east and north-east. The arrest and deportation of these Portuguese officers removed a possible cause of danger to the existence of the new colony.

The incident caused great excitement in Portugal and much bitter feeling against England. It is not necessary to refer, except in the briefest terms, to the occurrences of that time. Bands of student volunteers were raised in Lisbon, and amid a whirlwind of patriotic demonstrations sent off to Beira, at the mouth of the Pungwé, with the apparent intention of marching on Manika and ejecting the British. Nothing, however, came of all these preparations for war beyond an attack on the British South Africa Company's border police post at Umtali, in Manika, made on May 11, 1891, when the Portuguese force was repulsed by Captain Heyman and a small number of our police.

The difficulties between England and Portugal were, after much further negotiation, happily ended by the ratification of a new agreement dated June 11, 1891, under which Portugal fared certainly worse than under the treaty repudiated by the Cortes. The boundary was drawn further east than in the previous treaty. The frontier, starting from the Zambesi near Zumbo, runs in a general south-east direction to a point where the Mazoe River is cut by the thirty-third degree of east longitude; it then runs in a generally south direction to the junction of the Limpopo and Sabi, whence it strikes south-west to the north-east corner of the South African Republic, on the Limpopo. The frontier follows the edge of the plateau; but the Portuguese sphere was not allowed to come further west than 32° 30' E. of Greenwich, nor the British sphere east of 88° E. A slight deflection was made westwards to include Massi Kessi in the Portuguese sphere, Umtasa's town being left in the British sphere.