Previously we noted that in his association with the â€śconcessions kingâ€ť Eduard Lippert, through the formation of the Secheleland Concession Syndicate as a counter claimant to Rhodesâ€™ Chartered Company (BSACO), Kgosi Sebele I had placed himself in the position of the proverbial rabbit who joins forces with a hungry jackal in taking on the (British) lion.
The duplicity of Lippert and his associates is reflected in their notorious April 1891 “Humbug Concession” with the Amandebele Nkosi Lobengula. The documents for this concession were finalised after one of Lippert’s Matabeleland agents, Renny-Tailyour, was able to convince the Nkosi to attach his royal elephant stamp, along with various signatures to an otherwise blank sheet of paper, which was forwarded to advocate J.W. Leonard with what were allegedly notes in layman’s language detailing the agreement. The final document, of course, contained a great deal more than what the Amandebele monarch had bargained for.
As with Sebele, Lobengula and his indunas were apparently attracted by the prospect of undercutting the British Royal Charter claims of BSACO in their territory. While the full story of how Lippert’s men gained the Amandebele confidence only to betray it is a book unto itself, it is worth noting that the trust had been meticulously cultivated. Bulawayo agents, both European and African, on Lippert’s payroll had long been in the forefront of exposing and opposing Rhodes designs through activities as grand as the prospect of organising diplomatic missions to London and Berlin and as simple as availing and translating newspaper articles and other documents for the Nkosi.
Nor were the Amandebele without reason in taking promises of German and Transvaal Boer political support seriously, given Lippert’s diplomatic status in Berlin and Pretoria. The suggestion that “Offy” Shepstone, the then commercial advisor to Nkosi Mbandzeni of Swaziland, was also part of the scheme, as well as Lippert’s supposed vendetta against Rhodes were also said to have been lures. Such perceptions were further reinforced by “Morena Maaka” Shippard’s detention of Lippert’s agents in the Protectorate. As with Lobengula, there is evidence that Sebele, along with his brother-in-law and long time ally Bathoen I, was influenced in his concessions policy by trusted local Europeans, most notably Henry Boyne and “Sack” Alloway. Both men had track records of running guns for the Bakwena and Bangwaketse as well as supporting their protests against British colonial as well as past Boer intrusions.
An Irishman by origin, Boyne was a well accepted member of Molepolole society, with a Mokwena wife and family. He became the chairman of the “Kanya [i.e. Kanye] Exploration Company” that consolidated royal concessions in Gangwaketse.
The Kanye based Alloway on the other hand was designated as the local manager of the Secheleland Syndicate. Like the Kweneng concessions, the Gangwaketse agreements were predicated on recognition of the Kgosi, rather than Mmamosadinyana, as the sovereign of the soil.
What Bathoen and Sebele, and perhaps their local agents as well, did not know is that in Johannesburg Lippert and the Leonard brothers were quietly offering their majority interest in the Kweneng, as well as Matebeland, concessions to BSACO, for the then considerable sums of 100,000 and 250,000 pounds respectively.
Rhodes secretly agreed to purchase the “Humbug” concession provided that its validity was further confirmed by Lobengula. In this context Lippert personally set out for Bulawayo, where under the pretence of offering German support against the British and Rhodes he was able to finally convince Lobengula and his indunas to sigh a second fatal agreement, which would subsequently be used as a legal basis for robbing the Amandebele of most of their land.
The Secheleland and Kanya Concessions were, however, of a different content. Prior to 1895 potential BSACO interest purchasing Lippert’s interests in either of the two was frustrated by his inability to get around the key provision contained in both concessions that the exercise of any commercial activities would still require the consent of the “Chiefs”. When, at the end of 1895, the BSACO publicly revived its interest in purchasing the Secheleland concession it was a political ruse rather than a genuine commercial transaction. The resulting negotiations served as a cover for now Cape Colony Prime Minister Rhodes’ audacious conspiracy to overthrow the Boer government in Pretoria and seize control of the South African Republic (Transvaal) by the formation of a pro-British rebel administration in Johannesburg, which would then be backed up by an invasion from Bechuanaland by a private BSACO army.
Through his grand conspiracy Rhodes, with the covert support of leading officials in London, hoped to personally unite Southern Africa under the British Crown as a white run confederation in which he and his partners would control the vast mineral wealth of gold and diamonds.
The leader of the “Transvaal National Union” who was designated to assume leadership the rebellion in Johannesburg was none other than the Chairman of the Secheleland Syndicate, Sebele’s top lawyer Charles Leonard Q.C. “Secheleland concession shareholders” thus came to serve as the codename for Leonard’s Johannesburg rebels whose planned uprising or “shareholder meeting” was secretly financed through the BSACO’s “New Concessions Account.” Ironically it was the concession’s shares “flotation,” i.e. the signal for the BSACO invasion, which proved to be the ultimate salvation for the Bakwena and their neighbours.