We last left off with the 20th of November 1895 visit of Dikgosi Bathoen I, Khama III and Sebele I to Windsor Castle, where they were finally given an audience with Queen Victoria (Mmamosadinyana).
This followed the trio’s reluctant acceptance of Chamberlain’s “half loaf” settlement, which we now know from the exposure of once secret documents was originally intended to only be a pause in Rhodes’ ultimate takeover of the entire Protectorate.
In the end Goold Adams’ plans to reduce the half loaf to mere crumbs, along with the transfer of other parts of Botswana to Company control, was thwarted by the failure of the Jameson Raid.
Chamberlain had already given Rhodes the go-ahead to invade the Transvaal prior to the arrival of the Dikgosi in Britain. It was to be a covert operation with the British government not being officially involved.
At the time, the Colonial Office felt that the Transvaal was becoming too independent through the money it received from its booming gold mines. Germany capital and advisors were also very active in the Transvaal, thus threatened Britain’s predominance. Kruger’s Transvaal government was, furthermore, unsympathetic to British gold mine owners’ demands for cheaper transport, black labour and goods.
Bechuanaland was to be the forward base for the invasion of the Transvaal by BSACo mercenaries, with the eastern border serving as staging ground.
On December 23, 1895, a month after they had left Britain, Bathoen, Khama and Sebele returned home. At Kgore, near the Molopo border a crowd of several thousand gave them a hero’s welcome. The Dikgosi’s mission to Queen Victoria was already praised as a diplomatic victory which would stop Rhodes taking over the country. But, as they witnessed a growing number of Company troops stationed between Mafikeng and Gaborone it was not at all clear to the Dikgosi themselves they had really succeeded.
Newspaper articles continued to suggest that the Company’s target was Mochudi, where Linchwe was supposed to be eager to resist the imposition of BSACo control. These reports were, however, disinformation planted by Rhodes’ agents in a futile attempt to trick the Boers.
When Jameson’s force of armed horsemen set off from Pitsane Potlhogo on the 29th of December, 1895, their destination was Johannesburg. The invasion was part of a broader plot to overthrow Kruger’s South African Republic (SAR: Transvaal). Jameson goal was to provide support for an uprising of pro-British expatriates, “uitlanders”, in Johannesburg. The latter were to instigate a rebellion under the banner of a political front known as the Transvaal National Union.
The leader of the National Union was Charles Leonard; Q.C. Readers may recall that to the Batswana elite, Leonard was known for his legal advocacy before the 1893 Concessions Commission that the Dikgosi, not Mmamosadinyana, retained authority in Botswana as the “sovereigns of the soil”. Leonard’s involvement in Botswana affairs resulted from his position as legal representative of Secheleland Concession (Ltd) Pty, the Anglo-German concern that Sebele I had welcomed as a seemingly powerful counterweight to the Chartered Company’s administrative and commercial claims to Kweneng.
Coded communication between Rhodes, Jameson, Leonard and the other conspirators was conducted under the guise of commercial negotiations between the Chartered Company and Secheleland Concessions. “Secheleland concession shareholders” thus served as the codename for the Johannesburg rebels whose uprising, referred to as the “shareholders meeting”, was financed through Rhodes’ “New Concession’s Account.” When all was ready Leonard’s “shareholders” were to signal that the “flotation”, i.e. Jameson’s invasion, could proceed.
Despite the attempted secrecy, details of the Rhodes-ian plot became fully known to the head of Kruger’s secret police, Dr. W.J. Leydes, the godfather of what would become South Africa’s Bureau of State Security (BOSS). The expatriate rebellion failed after most of its leaders were arrested. Leonard escaped disguised as a woman.
After crossing the border Jameson’s force were likewise quickly surrounded by a larger Boer commando near Krugersdorp. There they surrendered on the 2nd of January, 1896.
Although Batswana were bystanders in the incident itself, the failure of what became known as the “Jameson Raid” was a pivotal event in Botswana’s history. Its failure resulted in the sudden withdraw of Rhodes’ Chartered Company from the administrative affairs of then Bechuanaland. The territory was thus able to develop separately from the Rhodesias (Zimbabwe and Zambia). In the process, the “half-loaf” imperial promise of protected reserves that the Dikgosi had received during their British visit became the “whole loaf” of a continued territory-wide Protectorate status within Mmamosadinyana’s Empire.
With the fall of Rhodes, the Dikgosi’s mission to the British thus came to be seen as an unequivocal success. Over the years, the story grew that Mmamosadinyana had listened to the Dikgosi and stopped Rhodes from taking the Protectorate.
But, the Chartered Company still retained its economic interests in Botswana after 1896. It owned the railway, and the alienated freehold lands of the Gaborone, Ghanzi, Lobatse and Tuli Blocks. For many decades it also continued to own the mineral rights over most of Botswana, in the process turning away independent diamond prospectors.