1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bechuanaland

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Bechuanaland (a name given from its inhabitants, the Bechuana, q.v.), a country of British South Africa occupying the central part of the vast tableland which stretches north to the Zambezi. It is bounded S. by the Orange river, N.E. and E. by Matabeleland, the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, and W. and N. by German South-West Africa. Bechuanaland geographically and ethnically enjoys almost complete unity, but politically it is divided as follows: — 

I. British Bechuanaland, since 1895 an integral part of Cape Colony. Area, 51,424 sq. m. Pop. (1904) 84,210, of whom 9276 were whites.

II. The Bechuanaland Protectorate, the northern part of the country, governed on the lines of a British crown colony. Area (estimated), 225,000 sq. m. Pop. (1904) 120,776, of whom Europeans numbered 1004. The natives, in addition to the Bechuana tribes, include some thousands of Bushmen (Masarwa). Administratively attached to the protectorate is the Tati concession, which covers 2500 sq. m. and forms geographically the south-west corner of Matabeleland.

The Griqualand West province of Cape Colony belongs also geographically to Bechuanaland, and except in the Kimberley diamond mines region is still largely inhabited by Bechuana. (See Griqualand.)

Physical Features. — The average height of the tableland of which Bechuanaland consists is nearly 4000 ft. The surface is hilly and undulating with a general slope to the west, where the level falls in considerable areas to little over 2000 ft. A large part of the country is covered with grass or shrub, chiefly acacia. There is very little forest land. The western region, the Kalahari Desert (q.v.), is mainly arid, with a sandy soil, and is covered in part by dense bush. In the northern region are large marshy depressions, in which the water is often salt. The best known of these depressions, Ngami (q.v.), lies to the north-west and is the central point of an inland water system apparently in process of drying up. To the north-east and connected with Ngami by the Botletle river, is the great Makari-Kari salt pan, which also drains a vast extent of territory, receiving in the rainy season a large volume of water. The marsh then becomes a great lake, the water surface stretching beyond the horizon, while in the dry season a mirage is often seen. The permanent marsh land covers a region 60 m. from south to north and from 30 to 60 m. east to west. In the south the rivers, such as the Molopo and the Kuruman, drain towards the Orange. Other streams are tributaries of the Limpopo, which for some distance is the frontier between Bechuanaland and the Transvaal.

The rivers of Bechuanaland are, with few exceptions, intermittent or lose themselves in the desert. It is evident, however, from the extent of the beds of these streams and of others now permanently dry, and from remains of ancient forests, that at a former period the country must have been abundantly watered. From the many cattle-folds and walls of defence scattered over the country, and ruins of ancient settlements, it is also evident that at that period stone-dykes were very common. The increasing dryness of the land is partly, perhaps largely, attributable to the cutting down of timber trees both by natives and by whites, and to the custom of annually burning the grass, which is destructive to young wood.

Climate. — The climate is healthy and bracing, except in the lower valleys along the river banks and in the marsh land, where malarial fever is prevalent. Though in great part within the tropics, the heat is counteracted by the dryness of the air. Throughout the year the nights are cool and refreshing; in winter the cold at night is intense. In the western regions the rainfall does not exceed 10 in. in the year; in the east the average rainfall is 26 in. and in places as much as 30 in. The rainy season is the summer months, November to April, but the rains are irregular, and, from the causes already indicated, the rainfall is steadily declining. From December to February violent thunder and hail storms are experienced. In the winter or dry season there are occasional heavy dust storms.

Geology. — The greater part of Bechuanaland is covered with superficial deposits consisting of the sands of the desert regions of the Kalahari and the alluvium and saliferous marls of the Okavango basin. The oldest rocks, granites, gneisses and schistose sandstones, the Ngami series, rise to the surface in the east and south-east and doubtless immediately underlie much of the sand areas. A sandstone found in the neighbourhood of Palapye is considered to be the equivalent of the Waterberg formation of the Transvaal. The Karroo formation and associate dolerites (Loalemandelstein) occur in the same region. A deposit of sinter and a calcareous sandstone, known as the Kalahari Kalk, considered by Dr Passarge to be of Miocene age, overlies a sandstone and curious breccia (Botletle Schnichten). These deposits are held by Passarge to indicate Tertiary desert conditions, to which the basin of the Zambezi is slowly reverting.

Fauna. — Until towards the close of the 19th century Bechuanaland abounded in big game, and the Kalahari is still the home of the lion, leopard, hyena, jackal, elephant, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, buffalo, antelope of many species, ostrich and even the giraffe. Venomous reptiles, e.g. puff-adders and cobras, are met with, enormous frogs are common, and walking and flying locusts, mosquitoes, white ants, flying beetles, scorpions, spiders and tarantulas are very numerous. The crocodile is found in some of the rivers. Many of the rivers are well stocked with fish. In those containing water in the rainy season only, the fish preserve life when the bed is dry by burrowing deeply in the ooze before it hardens. The principal fish are the baba or cat-fish (clarias sp.) and the yellow-fish, both of which attain considerable size. Bustards (the great kori and the koorhaan) are common.

Flora. — In the eastern district are stretches of grass land, both sweet and sour veld. In the “bush” are found tufts of tall coarse grass with the space between bare or covered with herbaceous creepers or water-bearing tubers. A common creeper is one bearing a small scarlet cucumber, and a species of watermelon called tsoma is also abundant. Of the melon and cucumber there are both bitter and sweet varieties. Besides the grass and the creepers the bush is made up of berry-yielding bushes (some of the bushes being rich in aromatic resinous matter), the wait-a-bit thorn and white thorned mimosa. The indigo and cotton plants grow wild. Among the rare big trees — found chiefly in the north-east — are baobab and palmyra and certain fruit trees, one bearing a pink plum. There are remains of ancient forests consisting of wild olive trees and the camel thorn, near which grows the ngotuane, a plant with a profusion of fine, strongly scented yellow flowers.

Chief Towns. — The chief town in southern Bechuanaland, i.e. the part incorporated in Cape Colony, is Mafeking (q.v.), near the headwaters of the Molopo river. It is the headquarters of the Barolong tribe, and although within the Cape border is the seat of the administration of the protectorate. Vryburg (pop., 1904, 2985), founded by Boer filibusters in 1882, and Taungs, are towns on the railway between Kimberley and Mafeking. Taungs has some 22,000 inhabitants, being the chief kraal of the Batlapin tribe. About 7 m. south of Vryburg, at Tiger Kloof, is an Industrial Training Institute for natives founded in 1904 by the London Missionary Society. Upington (2508) on the north bank of the Orange, an agricultural centre, is the chief town in Gordonia, the western division of southern Bechuanaland. Kuruman (q.v.) is a native town near the source of the Kuruman river, 85 m. south-west of Vryburg. It has been the scene of missionary labours since the early years of the 19th century. North of Mafeking on the railway to Bulawayo are the small towns of Gaberones and Francistown. The last named is the chief township in the Tati concession, the centre of a gold-mining region, and the most important white settlement in the protectorate. Besides these places there are five or six large native towns, each the headquarters of a distinct tribe. The most important is Serowe, with over 20,000 inhabitants, the capital of the Bamangwato, founded by the chief Khama in 1903. It is about 250 m. north-north-east of Mafeking, and took the place of the abandoned capital Palapye, which in its turn had succeeded Shoshong. The chief centre in the western Kalahari is Lehututu.

Agriculture and Trade. — The soil is very fertile, and if properly irrigated would yield abundant harvests. Unirrigated land laid under wheat by the natives is said to yield twelve bushels an acre. Cereals are grown in many of the river valleys. Maize and millet are the chief crops. The wealth of the Bechuana consists principally in their cattle, which they tend with great care, showing a shrewd discrimination in the choice of pasture suited to oxen, sheep and goats. Water can usually be obtained all the year round by sinking wells from 20 to 30 ft. deep. The “sweet veld” is specially suitable to cattle, and the finer shorter grass which succeeds it affords pasturage for sheep.

Gold mines are worked in the Tati district, the first discoveries having been made there in 1864. There are gold-bearing quartz reefs at Madibi, near Mafeking, where mining began in 1906. Diamonds have been found near Vryburg. The existence of coal near Palapye about 60 ft. below the surface has been proved. The coal, however, is not mined, and much of the destruction of timber in southern Bechuanaland was caused by the demand for fuel for Kimberley. Copper ore has been found near Francistown.

Formerly there was a trade in ostrich feathers and ivory; but this has ceased, and the chief trade has since consisted in supplying the natives with European goods in exchange for cattle, hides, the skins and horns of game, firewood and fencing poles, and in forwarding goods north and south. The protectorate is a member of the South African Customs Union. The value of the goods imported into the protectorate in 1906 was £118,322; the value of the exports was £77,736. The sale of spirits to natives is forbidden.

Communications. — As the great highway from Cape Colony to the north, Bechuanaland has been described as the “Suez canal of South Africa.” The trunk railway from Cape Town to the Victoria Falls traverses the eastern edge of Bechuanaland throughout its length. The railway enters the country at Fourteen Streams, 695 m. from Cape Town, and at Ramaquabane, 584 m. farther north, crosses into Rhodesia. The old trade route to Bulawayo, which skirts the eastern edge of the Kalahari, is now rarely used. Wagon tracks lead to Ngami, 320 m. N.W. from Palapye Road Station, and to all the settlements. From the scarcity of water on the main routes through the Kalahari these roads are known as “the thirsts”; along some of them wells have been sunk by the administration.

Government. — The protectorate is administered by a resident commissioner, responsible to the high commissioner for South Africa. Legislation is enacted by proclamations in the name of the high commissioner. Order is maintained by a small force of semi-military police recruited in Basutoland and officered by Europeans. Revenue is obtained mostly from customs and a hut tax, while the chief items of expenditure have been the police force and a subsidy of £20,000 per annum towards the cost of the railway, a liability which terminated in the year 1908. The average annual revenue for the five years ending the 31st of March 1906 was £30,074; the average annual expenditure during the same period was £80,114. There is no public debt, the annual deficiency being made good by a grant-in-aid from the imperial exchequer. The tribal organization of the Bechuana is maintained, and native laws and customs, with certain modifications, are upheld.

History. — Bechuanaland was visited by Europeans towards the close of the 18th century. The generally peaceful disposition Missionary work.of the tribes rendered the opening up of the country comparatively easy. The first regular expedition to penetrate far inland was in 1801–1802, when John (afterwards Sir John) Truter, of the Cape judicial bench, and William Somerville — an army physician and afterwards husband of Mary Somerville — were sent to the Bechuana tribes to buy cattle. The London Missionary Society established stations in what is now Griqualand West in 1803, and in 1818 the station of Kuruman, in Bechuanaland proper, was founded. In the meantime M.H.K. Lichtenstein (1804) and W. J. Burchell (1811–1812), both distinguished naturalists, and other explorers, had made familiar the general characteristics of the southern part of the country. The Rev. John Campbell, one of the founders of the Bible Society, also travelled in southern Bechuanaland and the adjoining districts in 1812–1814 and 1810–1821, adding considerably to the knowledge of the river systems. About 1817 Mosilikatze, the founder of the Matabele nation, fleeing from the wrath of Chaka, the Zulu king, began his career of conquest, during which he ravaged a great part of Bechuanaland and enrolled large numbers of Bechuana in his armies. Eventually the Matabele settled to the north-east in the country which afterwards bore their name. In 1821 Robert Moffat arrived at Kuruman as agent of the London Missionary Society, and made it his headquarters for fifty years. Largely as the result of the work of Moffat (who reduced the Bechuana tongue to writing), and of other missionaries, the Bechuana advanced notably in civilization. The arrival of David Livingstone in 1841 marked the beginning of the systematic exploration of the northern regions. His travels, and those of C. J. Andersson (1853–1858) and others, covered almost every part of the country hitherto unknown. In 1864 Karl Mauch discovered gold in the Tati district.

At the time of the first contact of the Bechuana with white men the Cape government was the only civilized authority in South Boer encroachment.Africa; and from this cause, and the circumstance that the missionaries who lived among and exercised great influence over them were of British nationality, the connexion between Bechuanaland and the Cape became close. As early as 1836 an act was passed extending the jurisdiction of the Cape courts in certain cases as far north as 25° S. — a limit which included the southern part of Bechuanaland. Although under strong British influence the country was nevertheless ruled by its own chiefs, among whom the best-known in the middle of the 19th century were Montsioa, chief of the Barolong, and Sechele, chief of the Bakwena and the friend of Livingstone. At this period the Transvaal Boers were in a very unsettled state, and those living in the western districts showed a marked inclination to encroach upon the lands of the Bechuana. In 1852 Great Britain by the Sand river convention acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal. Save the Vaal river no frontier was indicated, and “boasting,” writes Livingstone in his Missionary Travels, “that the English had given up all the blacks into their power … they (the Boers) assaulted the Bakwains” (Bakwena).

With this event the political history of Bechuanaland may be said to have begun. Not only was Sechele attacked at his capital Kolobeng, and the European stores and Livingstone's house there looted, but the Boers stopped a trader named McCabe from going northward. Again to quote Livingstone, “The Boers resolved to shut up the interior and I determined to open the country.” In 1858 the Boers told the missionaries that they must not go north without their (the Boers') consent. Moffat complained to Sir George Grey, the governor of Cape Colony, through whose intervention the molestation by Transvaal Boers of British subjects in their passage through Bechuanaland was stopped. At a later date (1865) the Boers tried to raise taxes from the Barolong, but without success, a commando sent against them in 1868 being driven off by Montsioa's brother Molema. This led to a protest (in 1870) from Montsioa, which he lodged with a landdrost at Potchefstroom in the Transvaal, threatening to submit the matter to the British high commissioner if any further attempt at taxation were made on the part of the Boers. The Boers then resorted to cajolery, and at a meeting held in August 1870, at which President Pretorius and Paul Kruger represented the Transvaal, invited the Barolong to join their territories with that of the republic, in order to save them from becoming British. Montsioa's reply was short: “No one ever spanned-in an ass with an ox in one yoke.” In the following year the claims of the Boers, the Barolong, and other tribes were submitted to the arbitration of R. W. Keate, lieutenant-governor of Natal, and his award placed Montsioa's territory outside the limits of the Transvaal. This attempt of the Boers to gain possession of Bechuanaland having failed, T. F. Burgers, the president of the Transvaal in 1872, endeavoured to replace Montsioa as chief of the Barolong by Moshette, whom he declared to be the rightful ruler and paramount chief of that people. The attacks of the Boers at length became so unbearable that Montsioa in 1874 made a request to the British authorities to be taken under their protection. In formulating this appeal he declared that when the Boers were at war with Mosilikatze, chief of the Matabele, he had aided them on the solemn understanding that they were to respect his boundaries. This promise they had broken. Khama, chief of the Bamangwato in northern Bechuanaland, wrote in August 1876 to Sir Henry Barkly making an appeal similar to that sent by the Barolong. The letter contained the following significant passages:

“I write to you, Sir Henry, in order that your queen may preserve for me my country, it being in her hands. The Boers are coming into it, and I do not like them.” “Their actions are cruel among us black people. We are like money, they sell us and our children.” “I ask Her Majesty to defend me, as she defends all her people. There are three things which distress me very much — war, selling people, and drink. All these things I shall find in the Boers, and it is these things which destroy people to make an end of them in the country. The custom of the Boers has always been to cause people to be sold, and to-day they are still selling people.”

The statements of Khama in this letter do not appear to have been exaggerated. The testimony of Livingstone confirms them, and even a Dutch clergyman, writing in 1869, described the system of apprenticeship of natives which obtained among the Boers “as slavery in the fullest sense of the word.” These representations on the part of the Barolong, and the Bamangwato under Khama, supported by the representations of Cape politicians, led in 1878 to the military occupation of southern Bechuanaland by a British force under Colonel (afterwards General Sir Charles) Warren. A small police force continued to occupy the district until April 1881, but, ignoring the wishes of the Bechuana and the recommendations of Sir Bartle Frere (then high commissioner), the home government refused to take the country under British protection. On the withdrawal of the police, southern Bechuanaland fell into a state of anarchy, nor did the fixing (on paper) of the frontier between it and the Transvaal by the Pretoria convention of August 1881 have any beneficial effect. There was fighting between Montsioa and Moshette, while Massow, a Batlapin chief, invited the aid of the Boers against Mankoroane, who claimed to be paramount chief of the Batlapin. The Transvaal War of that date offered opportunities to the freebooting Boers of the west which were not to be lost. At this time the British, wearied of South African troubles, were disinclined to respond to native appeals for help. Stellaland and Goshen.Consequently the Boers proceeded without let or hindrance with their conquest and annexation of territory. In 1882 they set up the republic of Stellaland, with Vryburg as its capital, and forthwith proceeded to set up the republic of Goshen, farther north, in spite of the protests of Montsioa, and established a small town called Rooi Grond as capital. They then summoned Montsioa to quit the territory. The efforts of the British authorities at this period (1882–1883) to bring about a satisfactory settlement were feeble and futile, and fighting continued until peace was made entirely on Boer lines. The Transvaal government was to have supreme power, and to be the final arbiter in case of future quarrels arising among the native chiefs. This agreement, arrived at without any reference to the British government, was a breach of the Pretoria convention, and led to an intimation on the part of Great Britain that she could not recognize the new republics. In South Africa, as well as in England, strong feeling was aroused by this act of aggression. Unless steps were taken at once, the whole of Bechuanaland might be permanently lost, while German territory on the west might readily be extended to join with that of the Boers. In the London convention of February 1884, conceded by Lord Derby in response to the overtures of Boer delegates, the Transvaal boundaries were again defined, part of eastern Bechuanaland being included in Boer territory. In spite of the convention the Boers remained in Stellaland and Goshen — which were west of the new Transvaal frontier, and in April 1884 the Rev. John Mackenzie, who had succeeded Livingstone, was sent to the country to arrange matters. He found very little difficulty in negotiating with the various Bechuana chiefs, but with the Boers he was not so successful. In Goshen the Boers defied his authority, while in Stellaland only a half-hearted acceptance of it was given. At the instance of the new Cape government, formed in May and under control of the Afrikander Bond, Mackenzie, who was accused of being too “pro-Bechuana” and who had been refused the help of any armed force, was recalled on the 30th of July by the high commissioner, Sir Hercules Robinson. In his place Cecil Rhodes, then leader of the Opposition in the Cape parliament, was sent to Bechuanaland.

Rhodes's mission was attended with great difficulty. British prestige after the disastrous Boer War of 1881 was at a very low Rhodes's mission.ebb, and he realized that he could not count on any active help from the imperial or colonial authorities. He adopted a tone of conciliation, and decided that the Stellaland republic should remain under a sort of British suzerainty. But in Goshen the Boers would let him do nothing. Commandant P. J. Joubert, after meeting him at Rooi Grond, entered the country and attacked Montsioa. Rhodes then left under protest, declaring that the Boers were making war against Great Britain. The Boers now (10th of September) proclaimed the country under Transvaal protection. This was a breach of the London convention, and President Kruger explained that the steps had been taken in the “interests of humanity.” Warren expedition.Indignant protest in Cape Town and throughout South Africa, as well as England, led to the despatch in October 1884 of the Warren expedition, which was sent out by the British government to remove the filibusters, to bring about peace in the country, and to hold it until further measures were decided upon. Before Sir Charles Warren reached Africa, Sir Thomas Upington, the Cape premier, and Sir Gordon Sprigg, the treasurer-general, went to Bechuanaland and arranged a “settlement” which would have left the Boer filibusters in possession, but the imperial government refused to take notice of this “settlement.” Public opinion throughout Great Britain was too strong to be ignored. The limit of concessions to the Boers had been reached, and Sir Charles Warren's force — 4000 strong — had reached the Vaal river in January 1885. On the 22nd of January Kruger met Warren at the Modder river, and endeavoured to stop him from proceeding farther, saying that he would be responsible for keeping order in the country. Warren, however, continued his march, and without firing a shot broke up the republics of Stellaland and Goshen. Bechuanaland was formally taken under British protection (30th of September 1885), and the sphere of British influence was declared to extend N. to 22° S. and W. to 20° E. (which last-mentioned line marks the eastern limit of German South-West Africa).

The natives cheerfully accepted this new departure in British policy, and from this time forward Khama's country was known as the British protectorate of Bechuanaland. That portion lying to the south of the Molopo river was described as British Bechuanaland, and was constituted a crown colony. In 1891 British protectorate.the northern frontier of the protectorate was extended to its present boundaries, and the whole of it placed under the administration of a resident commissioner, a protest being made at the time by the British South Africa Company on the ground that the protectorate was included in the sphere of their charter. Under the able administration (1885–1895) of Sir Sidney Shippard (q.v.) peace was maintained among the natives, who have shown great loyalty to British rule.

The history of the country shows how much has been due to the efforts of men like Livingstone, Mackenzie and Rhodes. It is quite clear that had they not represented the true state of affairs to the authorities the whole of this territory would have gradually been absorbed by the Boers, until they had effected a union with the Germans on the west. The great road to the north would thus have been effectually shut against trade and British colonization. With regard to the precise effect of missionary influence upon the natives, opinion will always remain divided. But Livingstone, who was not only a missionary but also an enlightened traveller, stated that a considerable amount of benefit had been conferred upon the native races by missionary teaching. Livingstone was a great advocate of the prohibition of alcohol among the natives, and that policy was always adhered to by Khama.

In 1891 the South African Customs Union was extended to British Bechuanaland, and in 1895 the country was annexed to Cape Colony. At the same time it was provisionally arranged that the Bechuanaland protectorate should pass under the administration of the British South Africa Company (see Rhodesia). Khama and two other Bechuana chiefs came to England and protested against this arrangement. The result was that their territories and those of other petty chiefs lying to the north of the Molopo were made native reserves, into which the importation of alcohol was forbidden. A British resident officer was to be appointed to each of the reserves. A stipulation, however, was made with these chiefs that a strip of country sufficient for the purposes of a railway to Matabeleland should be conceded to the Chartered Company. In December 1895 the occurrence of the Jameson Raid, which started from these territories, prevented the completion of negotiations, and the administration of the protectorate remained in the hands of the imperial government. The administration, besides fostering the scanty material resources of the country, aids the missionaries in their endeavours to raise the Bechuanas in the scale of civilization. The results are full of encouragement. The natives proved staunch to the British connexion during the war of 1899–1902, and Khama and other chiefs gave help by providing transport. Anxiety was caused on the western frontier during the German campaigns against the Hottentots and Herero (1903–1908), many natives seeking refuge in the protectorate. A dispute concerning the chieftainship of the Batawana in the Ngami district threatened trouble in 1906, but was brought to a peaceful issue. The Bechuana were entirely unaffected by the Kaffir rebellion in Natal.

Bibliography. — Of early works the most valuable are David Livingstone, Missionary Travels in South Africa (London, 1857); Robert Moffat, Missionary Labours and Scenes in Southern Africa (London, 1842); J. Campbell, Travels in South Africa (London, 1815), Travels … a Second Journey … (2 vols., London, 1822); and A. A. Anderson, Twenty-five Years in a Waggon in the Gold Regions of Africa, vol. i. (London, 1887). See also J. D. Hepburn, Twenty Years in Khama's Country (London, 1895); S. Passarge's Die Kalahari (Berlin, 1904) deals chiefly with geological and allied questions; John Mackenzie's Austral Africa, Losing it or Ruling it (London, 1887); John Mackenzie, a biography by W. D. Mackenzie (London, 1902); and the article “Bechuanaland” by Sir S. Shippard in British Africa (London, 1899), give the story of the beginnings of British rule in the protectorate. Of larger works dealing incidentally with Bechuanaland consult G. M. Theal's History of South Africa; E. A. Pratt's Leading Points in South African History (London, 1900); and Cecil Rhodes, His Political Life and Speeches, by Vindex (London, 1900). See also the Statistical Register, Cape of Good Hope, issued yearly at Cape Town, and the Annual Report, Bechuanaland Protectorate, issued by the Colonial Office, London.

(F. R. C.; A. P. H.)