We left off with the newly installed Secretary of State for the Colonies, Joseph â€śPushful Joeâ€ť Chamberlain, having finally received the petitions of Dikgosi Bathoen I of the Bangwaketse, Khama III of Bangwato and Sebele I of Bakwena, who collectively protested against the transfer of their territories to the administrative control of Cecil Rhodesâ€™ British South Africa Company.
The petitions had, moreover, arrived with the additional news that the three monarchs had left their respective towns with the intention of coming together to Britain to press their case.
For his part, Rhodes was worried that the turn of events could undermine his grand conspiracy to take over the Transvaal by overthrowing President Paul Kruger’s Boer regime. In a telegraph to his partner Alfred Beit he asserted that: “we must have the right of administration [over the Bechuanaland Protectorate] to collect our forces at Gaberoones [Gaborone Police Camp] as soon as possible as Johannesburg is ready.” Seemingly buying into the Dr. Jameson’s by then misguided belief that Khama was prepared to back down if the Company abandoned its support for Raditlhadi, Rhodes further observed:
“I may tell you that Khama is all right...but he is coming down with a missionary Rev. Willoughby, and the rascal, who detests me, may change Khama again on the road. It is awful to think that the whole future of the British Empire out here may turn on a wretched Kaffer and a Secretary of State who listens to some fanatic in the House of Commons.” Rhodes was now determined that the Dikgosi would not get beyond Cape Town, an outcome that was already being reported as if a fait accompli even before the three had reach the city. The press in Britain as well as at the Cape reported that the three would meet with the new High Commissioner Sir Hercules Robinson, but were now unlikely to proceed to Britain. Meanwhile Rhodes, through both personal communication and the press, urged Chamberlain to speedily transfer the Protectorate to his company.
Having already sent his wagon south to Mochudi, Khama left his then capital at old Palapye on the 6th of August 1895, accompanied by his secretary and interpreter Simeon Seisa, as well as the Rev. W.C. Willoughby. When passing through Mochudi and Ramotswa thereafter Khama conferred with the Bakgatla Kgosi Linchwe I and Balete Kgosi Ikaneng, briefing each on his intended mission.
Local traditions have long claimed that Khama urged the two to also join his mission along with Bathoen and Sebele, but they in each case refused, perhaps due to financial constraints. Weather this was what really happened or is a product of subsequent story telling is hard to tell. What is more certain is that in the absence of their personal presence the two looked to Khama in particular to also challenge the spread of Company rule to their territories. A petition by Kgosi Linchwe and the Bakgatla “Raad” (Dutch i.e. Kgotla) had already been forwarded to London protesting that transfer of Kgatleng to the Chartered Company would be tantamount to slavery. Having departed from Molepolole, also on the 6th of August 1895, Kgosi Sebele, accompanied by his secretary and interpreter Kehutile Gohiwamang arrived in for Kanye, where he was joined by Bathoen. The two then set off for Mafikeng, with Bathoen being accompanied by his brother Kwenaetsile as well as interpreter David Sebonego.
For the Cape Town leg of the journey they were also joined by the LMS resident missionary in Molepolole, the Rev. James Good. Khama caught up with Bathoen and Sebele in Mafikeng where they were hosted by the now elderly Barolong Kgosi Montshiwa, who had been an important ally to each of their fathers. With Monshiwa himself considered to be too old to travel the three visitors urged him delegate someone to join them.
While some of Montshiwa’s domain, the Barolong Farms, was within the boundaries of the Protectorate, most was part of the then Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland that was to be annexed by the white settler ruled Cape Colony. Having the Barolong join the mission, would strengthen the Dikgosi’s hand in protesting the pending transfer of Crown Colony to Rhodes’ Cape administration, as well as the Protectorate to Rhodes’ Company.
The three dikgosi had, however, already left Mafikeng by the time that the Barolong, after much debate, agreed that Montshiwa’s son and heir Besele (also referred to as ‘Wessels’) along with a local evangelist and English teacher, Stephen Lefenya should be sponsored to join the mission, raising 100 pounds for their journey. With Rhodes press claiming that the Barolong had dropped their earlier objections to annexation by the Cape Colony, the Barolong on the 16th of August 1895 also drew up a new petition addressed to the Queen protesting against the prospect of either Cape or Company rule.
After further stops at Vryburg, where they were lobbied in vain by “Morena Maaka” Shippard, Warrenton and Kimberly, Bathoen, Khama and Sebele finally arrived in Cape Town on the 18th of August 1895, where the received the news that Besele and Lefenya were following them and expected to catch up the next day.