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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Claims of Portugal to Gazaland

Claims of Portugal to Gazaland.

The claims of Portugal to Gazaland may be very briefly referred to. Gazaland is a vast native territory situate on the South-East African littoral, bounded on the east by the Indian Ocean for some six hundred miles, on the north by the Zambesi for about three hundred miles, on the west by Mashonaland, and on the south by Tongaland, Swazieland, and to the Transvaal.

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Early in this century Gazaland—indeed South Africa south of the Zambesi—as far south as the Kei River district in what is now the Cape Colony, was populated by a large number of clans or tribes of aborigines of the great Bantu race, and all speaking one or other of the dialects of that tongue. One of these tribes claimed dominant power, and, by the commanding powers of its leader Chaka, and the warlike attributes of the tribe itself, this Zulu tribe grew by conquest till it had consolidated in one large empire all the other hitherto independent clans and tribes within a radius of several hundred miles. Chaka's power was thus extended all over the present Colony of Natal, a portion of the Cape Colony, the district of Delagoa Bay, and the eastern portion of the Orange Free State and Transvaal. In 1820 two of Chaka's fighting captains fell into disgrace. One of these, Umziligazi, as noticed elsewhere, ravaged his way to Matabeleland, and the other, Soshangane, broke to the north and settled in Gazaland, where he was accepted as paramount chief. When Soshangane died he was succeeded by Umzila, who on his death left a well-consolidated kingdom to his chief son, Umdungazwe (called also Gungunyane and Gungunhama), the present paramount chief. Not long after Umzila's death, Umdungazwe sent an embassy to the Governor of Natal with the intimation that Umzila was dead, and that he, Umdungazwe, reigned in his stead, but the mission received no encouragement.

The Portuguese were tolerated on the coast by the natives, and their influence gradually extended inland. The possession of the only ports in use on the Gaza littoral allowed the Portuguese to control the ingress to the country from the sea.

The Portuguese are understood to base their claims to Gazaland upon its discovery by the Portuguese, the contention that the Gaza king is their vassal, and the assumed existence of a treaty alleged to have been made between Gungunhama and themselves. This proved to be a document signed at Lisbon, from which the signature of Gungunhama is absent. It is not necessary to discuss the validity or otherwise of the other contentions, as, although Gungunhama sent two envoys to England in the summer of 1891 to offer his allegiance to Her Majesty, Lord Salisbury declined to take him under British protection, except as to that portion of his territory which, according to the Anglo-Portuguese agreement, lies within the British sphere.

What Portugal will do with Gazaland remains to be seen. It is much to be feared it will be in the future what it has been in the past-nothing. Portugal has certainly not the capital to carry out the page 79 work of colonisation and development, and seemingly she no longer possesses the great initiative energy she once undoubtedly possessed in this direction.