Page:EB1911 - Volume 03.djvu/624

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605
Bechuanaland

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