The Establishment Of The Protectorate (Part 15) – “The Struggle For Ghanzi”

Both as a businessman and a politician Cecil Rhodes valued the press. He owned a number of newspapers and was effective in manipulating the content of others.

With London’s blessing, in 1892 his British South Africa Company (BSACO) sponsored articles advertising Ghanzi as an environmental paradise. “Never too hot or cold, noted for its always gentle breezes,” Ghanzi was described as an ideal location for “a gentlemen’s health resort” as well as farming activity.

Prospective settlers were subsequently enticed with the prospect of free farms of 5,000 morgen (4,283 hectares) for the first few dozen families who paid the one pound application fee. By 1893 hundreds of poor Boers, in particular, were ready to trek to the new Eden, but their dreams were delayed by longstanding Batawana claims to the territory.

A Rhodes-ian agent named Isaac Bosman had tricked the Batawana Kgosi Sekgoma a-Letsholathebe into signing a paper that supposedly gave the BSACO control of all of Gatawana for 999 years. But, Bosman’s fraud was exposed by a local Moruti named Khuku Mogodi, who approached the then Assistant Commissioner for the Northern Protectorate, John Moffat (son of Robert Moffat). According to Mogodi, Sekgoma had simply voiced his acceptance of the July 1890 extension of the Protectorate over Ngamiland.


Burdened by feelings of guilt for his own complicity in the Rudd Concession that had paved the way for BSACO’s destruction of the Amandebele, Moffat ultimately sacrificed his own colonial service career to take the matter over the heads of his superiors, who were all in one way or another in Rhodes pocket.

Moffat’s voice was reinforced by business and political rivals of Rhodes, some of whom had come together with the Batawana as the “British West Charterland Company,” which had served as an instrument to oppose German as well as BSACO claims. For his part, Kgosi Sekgoma further maintained that: “He [Rhodes] wants to bring whites and take our lands, the same way as he has done in Matebeleland, and we are afraid to have our country taken from us and ourselves hunted down like beasts on the veld. Our dislike for the company is very great. If the Boers are from Rhodes let them get back at once.” In his struggle, Sekgoma was supported by Bathoen, Khama and Sebele who collectively vowed to block any settler migration into Ghanzi via their territories. When a lead party of trekkers appeared at Pitsani, local Barolong and Bangwaketse burned the grass around their wagons, while Bathoen publicly threatened to shoot any trespassers.

 This turn of events resulted in “Morena Maaka” Shippard once more seeking authority for a potential military assault on the Bakwena and Bangwaketse. Now realising that he would not find any support from other merafe he noted that: “the moral effect of entrusting the operations entirely to white troops would be greater on the natives.” But, Shippards’ call to arms was yet again rejected as premature by London.

 To buttress his Ghanzi claims Rhodes had recruited Dr Theophilus Hahn to testify as an academic expert that the Batawana had no claim to Ghanzi in so far as its rightful inhabitants were nomadic “Bushmen.” The son of an early German missionary in Namibia, Hahn had established himself as a pioneering authority on Khoisan ethnography. His early articles, notably “Die Nama-Hottentotten” (1867) and “Die Buschmanner” (1870) and book “Tsumi-//goam: The Supreme Being of the Khoi-khoi” (1881) laid a significant foundation for subsequent scholarship.

 But, by the 1890s Hahn’s own interest had shifted from Khoisan culture to colonial land grabbing. As an agent of the German Colonial Company of South West Africa (i.e. Namibia), as well as the BSACO in Bechuanaland, Hahn maintained, in contradiction to his own earlier observations, that the “Bushmen” were the Kgalagadi’s exclusive indigenous population. His 1895 report to the British Colonial Office entitled “Who are the real owners of Ghanse” thus affirmed: “It can only be claimed by the Bushmen, who admittedly and indisputably from times immemorial lived on it and never left it.”

Since the so-called “Bushmen” were at the time considered to be a dying race of landless nomads, granting them exclusive indigenous status conveniently allowed the colonialists to ignore the interests of other communities that have also long been part of the Kgalagadi’s multi-ethnic mosaic.

Hahn’s report ultimately became the basis for the BSACO’s division of the Ghanzi ridge into farms ignoring the rights of Batawana, Barolong, Bakgalagari, and Ovaherero, as well as the “indigenous” //Ai-khoe or Nharon in the region.

Acceptance of Hahn’s opinion was preceded by the departure of a lead party of trekkers escorted by Bechuanaland Border Police (BBP) under Captain J.W. Fuller. As with all BBP officers, Fuller had been bribed with BSACO shares. He subsequently submitted a report confirming Hahn’s contention that the Ghanzi was not “beneficially” occupied by others, just “idle” Bushmen who could be exploited as labourers. He further stated that its pastures could support up to 900 farms of 5,000 morgen.

Based on the testimony of Hahn and Fuller, the Assistant Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Edward Fairfield, legally reaffirmed BSACO ownership of Ghanzi by designating the region as “nullius terra” (empty land) suitable for white settlement.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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