Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Jameson Raid of 1895 was Planned in Gaborone

We have just come into the New Year. I am reminded of the infamous Jameson Raid of 1895 because it occurred on the eve of the New Year. Many people in this country fail to understand that this is one event that had a bearing in the direction of this country.

Getting down to the suburb of the Village in the capital Gaborone, one finds a small well-kept colonial building sitting in the botanical gardens. This is the location where the Jameson Raid was planned. The planner and executor was a colonial statesman named Sir Leander Starr Jameson.The raid was conducted against the Transvaal Boer Republic of Oom Paul Kruger. The objective of this raid was to trigger an uprising by British expatriates working in the goldfields of the Transvaal. The raid lasted from the 29th December 1895 to 2nd January 1896. Coincidentally, this incident of our history happened at the same time when the three chiefs that had supposedly gone to England to seek a protectorate status for post-colonial Botswana arrived from London.The troops who were engaged in this operation comprised of soldiers of the British South Africa Company and certain elements of the Bechuanaland Police. A number of these policemen were indigenous Batswana. In actual fact this raid, planned in Botswana became a precursor to the famous Anglo Boer War of 1899 to 1902.The raid became such a disaster to an extent that eighteen of the raiders were killed while only four soldiers were killed on the Transvaal side. In the art of war, it is usually the raiders that sustain fewer casualties because they act with an element of surprise.

Cecil John Rhodes who owned the British South Africa Company otherwise known as the BSAC had authorised the execution of this military plan and went as far as funding it. At the time Rhodes was the richest man in Africa and he had desired for further expansion of his territory and wanted to increase his sphere of influence.Rhodes whom Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was named after, was a man of great ambition and he had such insatiable appetite for wealth. When the raid took place, he was at the same time the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony which was British ruled. There had been growing antipathy and resentment by the Boers who lived in the Cape and the failed raid only served to increase their resolve in breaking away from British rule.Niel Parsons who serves as a teaching professor at the University of Botswana Faculty of History has long stated that it was the raid that had more bearing on our protectorate status than the efforts of the three chiefs. Parsons has clearly outlined this in his book titled, King Khama, Emperor Joe and the Great White Queen, that the ultimate decision taken by Chamberlain who was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies was by far influenced by the consequences of the raid than the trip of the three chiefs.

Reading through this book will actually become an eye opener if you have been seeking the truth about our history and particularly in regard to this prominent overseas trip by Sebele, Bathoeng and Khama who was the youngest of the three.Coming back to Gaborone, there is an old cemetery tucked away in an unknown part of the capital at the Village. Here we find several well-kept graves of the soldiers and policemen who took part in the Jameson Raid. The graves serve as evidence to the involvement of Batswana in this infamous raid.I had earlier leant about the Jameson Raid from my history class in St Joseph’s College. We had a teacher going by the name of Barrache Mabuthoe who taught us history at junior certificate like a professor.

I often tell my former classmates that this woman did not just teach us history, but rather she was teaching us political science.Many of us in those formative years had great understanding of the Jameson Raid because our history teacher taught with such clarity. The level of education we received during those years was such great quality even though there were no resources in our schools. Of course Rhodes was an unavoidable character anywhere in our history books.Later in the years I was attending graduation at the University of Cape Town. On the wall of the hall stood a large imposing hand painted portrait, it was so large that it occupied a third of the wall. This was a familiar figure and it was only later that I recollected that this was Sir Leander Starr Jameson. Rising up further on the mountain behind the university hall stood the statue of his master, Cecil John Rhodes.Rhodes and Jameson were wishing to take over Botswana which was known as Bechuanaland. The reason why the three chiefs went to see Queen Victoria to ask for protectorate status was for the fact that Rhodes and Jameson had applied to the same authority to take over our country.

The Jameson Raid was such a perfect mistake for our case. I am certain if this never took place, then we would have a completely different story to tell. The British South Africa Company wanted land rights over what is now present day Botswana. These two fellows wanted to reduce us to what we now know as the Tati Concession.Had the raid not happened, we would have been reduced to a large reserve of native people without land rights. Imagine that Khama and the other fellows had gone to England to raise an issue with the queen against the BSAC, the same company that Khama helped win war against King Lobengula of the Ndebele.Rhodes was a ruthless capitalist who wanted everything for himself and none for Africans. He was so ungrateful in every sense of the word. After defeating the Ndebele with the help of Khama, Rhodes was now turning on his ally by demanding from the imperial government to give him Bechuanaland. But it is the raid that saved us.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.