Commandant Van Rensberg, who raised the Africander Corps of the Bulawayo Field Force
(Source: Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia)
Selous ends his book with a supplementary chapter on the British and Dutch colonizers of Rhodesia. He believed that there was too much "race-hatred and race-jealousy" between them while each of these two "races" had always been fighting for the same goals. He also talks about "the mutual assistance given by each to the other during the recent troublous times."
No one, I think, who has carefully read the little history which I have just brought to a close, can fail to have been struck by the conspicuous part which has been played by the Dutch settlers in Matabeleland in the recent struggle for supremacy between the white invaders of that country and the native black races; and it will probably come as a surprise to many to find that the Boer element is so strong as it is in Rhodesia, for that country has always been considered more exclusively British as regards its white population than any other State in South Africa...
When the rebellion broke out, Commandant Van Rensberg at once formed an Africander Corps, the great majority of whose members were Boers, although it numbered in its ranks a certain proportion of colonists of British blood, and it is a matter of history that these Dutchmen under Commandant Van Rensberg and Captains Van Niekerk and Pittendrigh have done splendid service during the recent insurrection in Matabeleland, and have fought side by side with Grey's Scouts and Gifford's Horse, and all the other troops of the Bulawayo Field Force, in a way which has won for them the admiration and respect of their brothers in arms and fellow-colonists of British blood; and that the mutual esteem and good fellowship engendered between the two races during the recent time of common peril may be fostered and maintained in the coming years ought not only to be the earnest desire of all thinking men, but should be also one of the main objects constantly kept in view by the English Administrator of these territories.
All the various States of South Africa will no doubt be united sooner or later under one flag, but I am beginning to have my doubts as to what flag that will be. It is true that at the present time there exists in South Africa a very large British population of highly intelligent and energetic men, who have been attracted to that country by the diamond and gold fields. That population is constantly increasing, but it is not one which settles on the land. It is rather a population which has come to the country on a visit, in the endeavour to make a fortune with which to retire to the old country...
...As the Boers hold as large a stake in land, if not in wealth, as the British in South Africa, and as they were the first comers, and can lay claim to having killed off as many natives, and generally prepared as much country for occupation by white men, as the British, I think they are entitled to some consideration in the matter of the flag which is eventually to fly over the confederated States of South Africa...
"Now that your king has deserted you, and we occupy our country. Do you submit to us?" What could we do? "If you are sincere, come back and bring in all of your arms, guns and spears."
I cannot say what happened to Lobengula...All that we could hear was that the King had disappeared alone; no one knew where he went.
...We surrendered to the white people and were told to go back to our homes and live our usual lives and attend to our crops. But the white men sent native police who did abominable things; they were cruel and assaulted a lot of our people and helped themselves to our cattle and goats...We were treated like slaves. They came and were overbearing and we were ordered to carry their clothes and bundles. They interfered with our wives and our daughters and molested them. In fact, the treatment was intolerable. We thought it best to fight and die rather than bear it...
We had been flogged by native police and then they rubbed salt water in the wounds. There was much bitterness because so many of our cattle were branded and taken away from us; we had no property, nothing we could call our own. We said, "It is not good living under such conditions; death would be better—let us fight."
Our King gone, we had submitted to the white people and they ill-treated us until we became desperate and tried to make an end of it all.
We knew that we had very little chance because their weapons were so much superior to ours. But we meant to fight to the last, feeling that even if we could not beat them we might at least kill a few of them and so have some sort of revenge.
...the death of their king left them like a swarm of bees bereft of their queen. Their councils were divided; their military arrogance crushed out of them by the heavy defeats their best regiments had sustained at the Tchangani, the Impembisi, and in a minor degree at the Singuesi.
Short of food, and living like wild beasts in the rocks and forests, with all the bitter discomfort which such a life entails even on savages during the rainy season in a sub-tropical country, they saw their women and children sicken and die day by day, until their only hope of life seemed to lie in a speedy return to the high and healthy plateau from which they had fled.
But there lay the laagers of the white men strongly defended with cannon and Maxim guns. From such positions they could not hope to drive them, nor without a leader or any cohesion between the numberless little parties into which they were divided did they dare to try conclusions with the mounted patrols which scoured the open country.
What wonder then that when liberal terms of peace were offered them, first one Induna with all his people, and then another and another, surrendered, until in a short time the whole nation had freely and frankly submitted itself to the white man's rule?
Such is a brief account of the conquest of Matabeleland in 1893, which was practically settled by two battles, in which the Matabele attacked the white men in laager and were in each case driven off with heavy loss by the fire of the Maxim guns.
The Kafirs have entirely failed in their attempt to kill all the white men in Matabeleland, and to re-establish themselves as an independent nation.
the throwing open to European enterprise of a rich and fertile territory, blessed with a climate in which white men can live and thrive...
It is now known throughout South Africa that Matabeleland and Mashunaland are white men's countries, where Europeans can live and thrive and rear strong healthy children.
"...I do not feel that the fact of our having to live with the natives in this country is a reason for serious anxiety. In fact, I think the natives should be a source of great assistance to most of us. At any rate, if the whites maintain their position as the supreme race, the day may come when we shall all be thankful that we have the natives with us in their proper position...What I would like in regard to a native area is that there should be no white men in its midst. I hold that the natives should be apart from white men, and not mixed up with them...We fail utterly when we put natives on an equality with ourselves. If we deal with them differently and say, "Yes, these people have their own ideas," and so on, then we are all right; but when once we depart from that position and put them on an equality with ourselves, we may give the matter up... As to the question of voting, we say that the natives are in a sense citizens, but not altogether citizens. They are still children..."
In 1884 his regiment was recalled to England, and on the way home touched at South Africa, for trouble was brewing in Natal, and it might be needed. Baden-Powell was not, however, destined to see fighting on this occasion, and spent his time travelling through Natal on horseback. In this way he learned something of the habits of the Zulus, and perfected his scouting technique...
In 1887 Baden-Powell returned to Africa as aide-de-camp to his uncle and saw active service for the first time against the Zulus. With the perspicacity of the wild man they named him "M’hlala Panzi"-"The man who lies down to shoot"-that is, the man who takes careful aim and thinks before he acts. One day he was lying down in this manner examining the approach to Dinuzulu’s last stronghold, when, happening to turn, he saw before him a native warrior "in all the glory of glistening brown skin with his great shield of ox-hide and his bright assegai." Most men would have felt the situation to be too tense to notice such details. Not so Baden-Powell who, as Ruskin said of genius, saw "with the eyes of children in perpetual wonder."
On the approach of Baden-Powell’s servant, the warrior made off. Baden-Powell pursued him to a gully and was soon inducing the natives he found there to surrender, winning their immediate confidence by unconcernedly playing with one of their children. It was during this short and not very important campaign that he heard for the first time ten thousand men acclaiming full-throated their Chief in a ritual chant-"Eengonyama"-"a wonderful anthem"-which he never forgot and was afterwards to teach to the Scouts.
In the year 1895 the King of Ashanti began to cause trouble, and Baden-Powell was a member of the Expedition which marched a hundred and fifty miles through dense bush and forest to his chastisement. It was then that he received further lessons in thinking things out before taking action, or, as the natives of those parts expressed it, "Softlee softlee catchee monkey," a phrase which was ever afterwards on his lips. The wild tribes of the Gold Coast were, like the Zulus in the south, to give him a new nickname, "Kantankye"-"He of the big hat," an allusion to the cowboy sombrero he always wore, and to teach him a new war song which appealed to his soldiering instinct.
"If I go forward, I die,
If I go backward, I die,
Better go forward and die."
[an Ashanti mantra]
In this campaigning he became friendly with a captain of engineers, whose practice of carrying a long staff, marked off in feet and inches, Baden-Powell was to remember and copy long afterwards when devising the equipment of the Boy Scout; and it was then, too, that he learnt the secret of the left handshake. A chief of the Ashanti people offered his left hand to Baden-Powell, saying, "In my country the bravest of the brave shake with the left hand." This form of salute was in fact a secret sign of an order of chivalry among these brave people.
Hardly was this expedition finished when he found himself a lieutenant-colonel en route for what he called "the best adventure of my life," the Matabele war. By then his abilities as a scout were known and recognised, and he was in charge of all the scouting work of the expedition.
WHEN COLONEL BADEN-POWELL entered the capital city of the Ashanti people in 1890 he was met by one of the Chiefs who came to him holding out his left hand. B.-P. held out his right in return but the Chief said: "No, in my country the bravest of the brave shake with the left hand." So began the "left handshake" of the world-wide brotherhood of Scouts.
"I contend that we are the finest race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimen of human being, what an alteration there would be in them if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence, look again at the extra employment a new country added to our dominions gives. I contend that every acre added to our territory means in the future birth to some more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence. Added to this the absorption of the greater portion of the world under our rule simply means the end of all wars...
Put your mind into another train of thought. Fancy Australia discovered and colonised under the French flag, what would it mean merely several millions of English unborn that at present exist we learn from the past and to form our future. We learn from having lost to cling to what we possess. We know the size of the world we know the total extent. Africa is still lying ready for us it is our duty to take it. It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race more of the best the most human, most honourable race the world possesses."
- A Bigot (A Big Idiot)
In one draft of Rhodes' 1877 "Confession of Faith", he wrote:
...if there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible...
If there be a God, there be much red indeed.
“I told you he would not kill that nigger.—See—here—” He took up the knife which had fallen from Peter Halket’s grasp, and fitted it into a piece of the cut leather that lay on the earth.
...one hour after Peter Halket had stood outside the tent looking up, he was lying under the little tree, with the red sand trodden down over him, in which a black man and a white man’s blood were mingled.
All the rest of the night the men sat up round the fires, discussing what had happened, dreading an attack.
But the Englishman and the Colonial went to their tent, to lie down.
“Do you think they will make any inquiries?” asked the Colonial.
“Why should they? His time will be up tomorrow.”
“Are you going to say anything?”
“What is the use?”
They lay in the dark for an hour, and heard the men chatting outside.
“Do you believe in a God?” said the Englishman, suddenly.
The Colonial started: “Of course I do!”
“I used to,” said the Englishman; “I do not believe in your God; but I believed in something greater than I could understand, which moved in this earth, as your soul moves in your body. And I thought this worked in such wise, that the law of cause and effect, which holds in the physical world, held also in the moral: so, that the thing we call justice, ruled. I do not believe it any more. There is no God in Mashonaland.”
“Oh, don’t say that!” cried the Colonial, much distressed. “Are you going off your head, like poor Halket?”
“No; but there is no God,” said the Englishman. He turned round on his shoulder, and said no more: and afterwards the Colonial went to sleep.
Scientific Researcher, Independent Historian, and Co-Founder of Black Research Central
In-Depth Info on History and Science from another perspective.