We left off with Kgosi Khama III, accompanied by his secretary Simon Seisa, trusted advisor Ratshosa and the sympathetic Deputy Commissioner John S. Moffat, in Cape Town at the invitation of the High Commissioner Sir Henry Loch.
The timing of the visit is interesting not only because it coincided with the period that Cecil Rhodes and his deputy Dr Jameson were away in Britain, but also because it turned out to be one of Loch’s last official activities.
When Khama arrived there was much speculation that he had been summoned to ensure his continued cooperation with the expansion of Rhodes interests in the region. Loch indeed did seek Khama’s support for the extension of the BSACO railway from Mafikeng to Bulawayo through eastern Botswana.
But it appears that Loch’s agenda, as well as Khama’s disposition, were by then moving in a different direction. On the 22nd of February 1895, the day after Rhodes and Jameson arrived back in Cape Town, Loch suddenly announced that he was stepping down, an action made all the more curious by his firm denial that he had resigned from office.
Almost immediately it was further announced that he would be replaced by Sir Hercules Robinson, who had been Loch’s predecessor until 1889 when he became the Chairman of the London Board of Rhodes’ DeBeers Company.
Loch was still packing when, on the 27th of February 1895, he telegraphed his superior, the colonial Minister Lord Ripon, the following message:
“Chief Khama has ever been a faithful friend and ally of Her Majesty’s Government, and to handover that Chief, his people and his territory, to be administered by a commercial company, dependent on their prosperity upon what they may get out of the country, would be a breach of faith such as I am sure the Government would not for a moment entertain.”
Clearly Loch, like Moffat, had himself fallen out with Rhodes designs.
During his talks with Khama, he had supposedly requested him to discuss BSACO claims to Ghanzi and Ngamiland with his Batawana counterpart, Kgosi Sekgoma Letsholathebe, which was based on the same fraudulent concession that J. S. Moffat opposed as a matter of principle. Khama did meet with Sekgoma Letsholathebe in Palapye in April 1895, but with the intent to be briefed by his “nephew” about how they might challenge Rhodes rather than to urge him to give in to BSACO.
For his part Kgosi Sekgoma bluntly warned that Rhodes wished to turn his territory into “another Mashonaland with the difference that this time the pioneers would be Boers.”
Khama later received a disturbing account from another Sekgoma, his own son and heir.
The future father to Seretse Khama reported that he had been tracking giraffe north of the Nata River when his right to hunt was challenged by BSACO men. When he told them “This land is my father’s and we have hunted here and still we hunt” the Company men reportedly replied: If you speak in that way we will seize all your land and property.”
Sekgoma II then asked “by what right and custom” only to be told that: “By reason of custom that we have taken the Matabele, and now it is our land.” In May there was further news that Bangwato in the border areas were being assaulted by BSACO police.
Khama’s visit to Cape Town had by then almost certainly opened his eyes not only to the imminent threat of Rhodes, but new possibilities of how he might be stopped. While Rhodes Cape Colony government had snubbed him, he was welcomed by many others as a model African Christian. With the assistance of sympathisers he was thus able to get his voice heard in the press and at public fora.
As he toured the port city the Bangwato Kgosi had been impressed by much of what he saw for the first time, from great ships to elevators to the latest fire equipment. But he was not overwhelmed.
He also found in the then growing Temperance movement to ban alcohol both allies and an issue already close to his own heart, that he would be able to deploy to good effect against Rhodes & Company. Speaking to the cheers of the converted at an evening gathering at the Congregational Church in Caledon Square he insisted:
“When I came to the Cape, I did not know that I had any friends. I felt like a lost man. I never expected to find friendship here. I am a black man, I have no personal friends among the white people, and I am astonished by the way you received me.
“I thank you because I believe you will help me to fight the enemy that is called liquor.
You must pray to God that he will help me in this matter, that liquor may be spilt into the sea, the liquor which is the enemy of the world.
If you can help me it will be a matter of great rejoicing to me, and God will be with you. God does not like destruction.”