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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The War

The War.

The responsibility for the war rests neither with the British South Africa Company nor with Lo Bengula. The blame lies with the "war-party" in Matabeleland—in other words, the "matjaka," the young unmarried soldiery—who have been at all times impatient of control by their indunas, or chiefs, and even by the King himself. There has been from the first on the part of the High Commissioner (Sir Henry Loch), Mr. Rhodes, and Dr. Jameson, prudence, patience, and skill in the conduct of our relations with the Matabele, with the view of averting collision so long as it could be avoided or postponed. Lo Bengula has throughout been subject to circumstances which occasionally overmaster the very ablest and most powerful of rulers—the will of the people; in Matabeleland that of the military hierarchy, of which the most dangerous section, again, is the "matjaka." I well recollect when the Pioneer Expedition started on its journey to effect the occupation of Mashonaland, it was a matter of grave doubt whether Lo Bengula would be able to control the "war-party," and the situation at various times during the I progress of the Expedition was undoubtedly critical he had no desire to fight; not that he was particularly friendly to the Expedition, but he understood the strength of the white man and the inevitable result of collision. He had a most difficult part to play to retain his seat on his throne and his head on his shoulders; and, in order to accomplish this, he was obliged to manage the matjaka with great tact and adroitness. Any symptom of either yielding or wavering might at any second have cost him his life. At last, three years after the occupation of Mashonaland, the "matjaka" got the upper hand, and forced what was practically a declaration of war.