Mmegi Blogs :: Ghanzi In History (Part 6) - "Western Rhodesia"
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Sunday 21 April 2019, 16:34 pm.
Ghanzi In History (Part 6) - "Western Rhodesia"

In our last instalment the British West Charterland Company (BWCC) abandoned its claims over much of north-west Botswana, including the Ghanzi region, in favour of Cecil Rhodes British South Africa Company (BSACo).
By Jeff Ramsay Mon 06 Aug 2018, 13:26 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Ghanzi In History (Part 6) - "Western Rhodesia"

This occurred after the then disputed Boteti region was awarded by the British Government to Gammangwato, thus placing it outside of the BWCC concession area. Earlier the BWCC chief prospector, a German named Passarge, had concluded that the wealth of the region lay in diamond deposits around Letlhakane.

As both a businessman and a politician, Cecil Rhodes valued the press for both the political and commercial advantages. He owned a number of newspapers and generally knew how to recruit journalists to his cause.

From 1892, BSACo-influenced scribes began marketing Ghanzi as an environmental paradise. The region was described as not too hot or cold, noted for its always gentle breezes. Ghanzi’s fair climate was thus characterised as an ideal location for a gentlemens health resort.

Prospective settlers were further enticed with the prospect of free farms of 5,000 morgen (4,284 hectares 10,585 acres) for the first few dozen families who paid the one pound application fee.

By 1893, hundreds of poor Boers were ready to embark on a new trek to Rhodes’ new untamed Eden, but they were delayed by continuing ownership disputes between BSACo and the Batawana.

A Rhodes-ian agent named Isaac Bosman had tricked Kgosi Sekgoma-a-Letsholathebe into signing a paper supposedly giving the BSACo control of Gatawana for 999 years.

But, Bosman’s fraud was exposed by a local Moruti, Khuku Mogodi, who assisted Sekgoma in petitioning the authorities. The Motawana wrote:

He [Rhodes] wants to bring whites and take our lands, the same way as he has done in Matabeleland, and we are afraid to have our country taken from us and ourselves hunted down like beasts on the veldt. Our dislike for the company is very great. If the Boers are from Rhodes, let them get back at once.”

Dikgosi Bathoen I, Khama III, and Sebele I also supported Sekgoma by threatening to block any Boer trek to Ghanzi via their territories.

When trekkers appeared at Pitsane, local Barolong and Bangwaketse burned the grass around their wagons, while Bathoen threatened to shoot any trespasser into his territory.

These incidents, along with other disputes, led the Resident Commissioner Morena Maaka Shippard to ask for an extra contingent of Bechuanaland Border Police (BBP) in order to attack the Bakwena along with the Bangwaketse.

He noted: The moral effect of entrusting the operations entirely to white troops would be greater on the natives. The Boers could then discipline the Batawana.

Shippard’s plan was rejected by London as


premature. Instead, there was a failed attempt to fix an enquiry into the Bosman concession.

This, along with subsequent attempts to enlist Khama in obtaining a new concession proved futile.

Rhodes then recruited the German missionary author, Dr. Theophilus Hahn, to testify that the Batawana had no claim to Ghanzi insofar as its rightful inhabitants were nomadic Bushmen.”

Acceptance of Hahns opinion was preceded by the departure of a scouting party under Bechuanaland Border Police (BBP) Captain J.W. Fuller.

As with all BBP officers at the time, Fuller had been given BSACo shares.

Fuller confirmed Hahns contention that the Ghanzi was not beneficially occupied by others, just idle Bushmen who could be exploited as labourers.

He further reported that its well-watered pastures could support up to 900 farms of 5,000 morgen.

Armed with the testimony of Dr. Hahn and Captain Fuller that Ghanzi was only inhabited by nomadic Bushmen, the Assistant Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Edward Fairfield, also legally designated the region as a nullius terra or empty land.

In this context, the Colonial Office finally gave Rhodes BSACo clear permission to colonise Ghanzi in August 1895; at the same time Dikgosi Bathoen, Khama and Sebele decided to travel to Britain to lobby against the company’s claim to all of Botswana.

The first 37 Ghanzi claim holders, including such enduring surnames as Drotsky, Lewis and Talijaard, arrived in 1898. After spending a few years exterminating anything walking on four legs, many moved on.

In 1904, the Ovaherero already at Makunda, began welcoming hundreds of relatives who were then fleeing the German genocide in Namibia.

This influx resulted in the stationing of a colonial police presence at Ghanzi to help suppress cross-border resistance by both the Nama and Ovaherero.

In the same year, High Commissioner, Lord Milner, wrote “the settlement of European farmers at Ghanzi has not proved a success.” By then, only one of the trekker families, the Talijaards at D’kar were reported to be engaged in agriculture, although the Transvaal Labour Commission reported that 1,000 Bushmen were employed as farm workers.

By 1910 only11 farms were occupied. In 1913 half of the Ghanzi farms were put up for auction, resulting in a new wave of migration.

By 1936, 42 farms were occupied. Most of those who arrived were Afrikaners, including the Burgers, Coetzees, Kotzes, Goosens, and Van Heerdens, though a few such as Burton, Hardbattle and the Ramsden brothers were of British origin.

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