We concluded last week by noting that the departure of the British Colonial Secretary Chamberlain, on a prolonged Spanish holiday immediately after his 11th of September 1985 meeting with Bathoen, Khama and Sebele, provided the dikgosi with an opportunity to take their case directly to the British public.
While Sebele proved to be effective in his role as the designated lead speaker, Khama nonetheless continued to attract the greatest public attention. The Phuti’s profile was further enhanced during the visit by the popular periodical Daily Graphic’s decision to publish a series of extracts from Hepburn’s “Twenty Years in Khama’s Country”.
For much of the trip, Bathoen had to content himself with being in the position of third among equals. A notable exception to this status occurred when the Oceana Corporation (who were shareholders in the “Kanya [sic] Concession”) invited London’s finest to a lavish banquet in Bathoen’s honour on the evening of Friday the 20th of September 1895.
Held aboard the “Ship Hotel” Bismarck on the river Thames, the elaborate function featured a 12 course gourmet French meal of 29 different delicacies, generously washed down with sufficient quantities of seven different vintage wines (dating from 1862-84), as well as an array of fine liquors. The highlight of the toasting was the appearance of bottles 1714 (i.e. then 181 year old) Moet Cuvee champagne.
On this, as on other occasions during the visit, all three Dikgosi avoided any sip of alcohol, Bathoen and Khama being staunch teetotallers, while Sebele appreciated the political need for strict abstinence.
The royal welcome accorded the three “Sons of Masilo” contrasted sharply with the closed official doors and popular indifference encountered by the Barolong Morwa-Kgosi Besele. With the annexation of the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland already approved and Chamberlain’s authorisation of the British South Africa Company’s takeover of the Barolong Farms, Besele and Lefenya, apparently in telegraphic communication with their morafe, decided to return home. They were thus aboard the steamship RMS Drummond Castle, when it departed from Southampton for Cape Town on the 28th of September 1895,
Meanwhile, Bathoen, Khama and Sebele departed by rail for the English Midlands region, which happened to be Chamberlain’s political stronghold. Their first stop was the manufacturing town of Wellingborough on the 24th of September 1895. There, after touring a boot factory and giving the obligatory interviews to the local press, they addressed a crowd of over five hundred at the local Congregational Church Hall. All three emphasised that they did not want to be transferred to Charter Company control, but rather remain under the “great Queen who has been our mother for long time”.
A subsequent visit to the relatively small town of Enderby proved to be a good “photo-op”. Khama had promised to go there to visit the parents of Alice Young, a female missionary stationed at Palapye. Most of the town turned out to see “King Khama” requiring the booking of two different halls to accommodate the crowds. That night the Dikgosi did two more meetings before large crowds at Leicester. By now their attacks on Rhodes Company were becoming sharper. Noted Khama:
“The company existed for the sake of wealth, and not for the sake of government or assisting mankind. Was he to be given away as a dog to a master he does not know....I think they ought to have asked us , and found out first what we think about it. Although we are black people we have tribes that we rule over, but if a Chief wants to make a new law or anything he must speak with his people.”
The highlight of the Midlands tour was a three day stopover in Birmingham, where Chamberlain had previously been a reformist mayor. There the city administration rolled out the red carpet. With Khama feeling ill, it fell to Sebele to then stir the Christian-oriented crowd’s attention:
“I rejoice to greet you and to give you my best greeting. A very long time ago, we began to see the teachers that came from your country, and the first teacher I ever saw was David Livingstone. It was he who taught me when a boy to read and write, and he taught us also the Gospel, that God wanted men to love one another, because he loved them. And I see that these words have some truth in them, because we who are men with black skin are evidently loved by those who are here, though you have white skins and are different from us.
“And I rejoice to see that you are trying to act according to the words written in the Epistle to the Hebrews- ‘Brethren, love one another’- and I hope that God will give us permission to go forward as you have gone forward in this land, that our children may learn, as I see your children learn in your schools, and that I and my people may become something like yourselves. Now 50 years have passed since Livingstone began to teach us, and we have seen some progress and we ask that you will give us your best wishes and the help of your teachers that we may be able to realise such great things. Again I say be greeted...”