HC Deb 12 April 1883 vol 278 cc56-7

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether there is any law preventing the supply of arms or ammunition to the Transvaal Government or the Boers by traders from the Cape Colony or from Natal; whether arms and ammunition mainly reach the Transvaal from Natal; whether it is not in the power of the British Government to prevent such supply from Natal; whether, when stating that ammunition, though denied to the Natives as an open transaction, could "be ob- tained by them in ordinary trade," he was aware that the penalties on traders thus supplying Natives are very heavy; and, whether he can inform the House what those penalties were?


Sir, there is no law such as the one described; but the trade in both Colonies can only be conducted under licence. I am quite unable to say whether arms and ammunition mainly reach the Transvaal from Natal; but no doubt some does. The laws connected with this matter are somewhat complicated; but, as far as I can make out, the Government could only stop such supply by an arbitrary Act, stopping all export altogether; but, in the case of gunpowder, there is a statutory power given in Act 22, 1872. Every Resident Magistrate is empowered by this Act to give to any White person residing in the Orange Free State, the Transvaal, or the Cape Colony a permit to buy powder. But Section 5 says the Lieutenant Governor shall have— Power, on due and sufficient cause to him appearing, and with the advice of his Executive Council, to suspend by proclamation in the Government Gazette the power of granting permits under the provisions of this law to the resident magistrates for such time as he shall deem necessary. It does not, however, appear to the Government that duo and sufficient cause has yet been shown for so very serious a proceeding, although circumstances may arise which would justify it. But to be at all effective, it would have to be extended to all persons, whether living in the Orange Free State or the Cape Colony, as well as the Transvaal. When I said that Natives could obtain supplies by "ordinary trade," I meant in the ordinary way they have hitherto obtained them, without any relaxation of the Colonial laws; and that they do obtain supplies is corroborated by an extract I will read to the House from a narrative handed to Sir Hercules Robinson by a Mr. Johnston, who had just returned from a stay of some duration at Montsioa's lager. The covering despatch from Sir Hercules Robinson is dated Cape Town, February 23. The words of Mr. Johnston are as follows:— The Natives are well armed; most of those who were fairly armed carrying breech-loaders, and there seemed to be no scarcity of ammunition. Many have learnt to reload Wortley-Riehards and Martini rifles.