HC Deb 06 March 1888 vol 323 cc375-6

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether the Government have any information regarding the alleged system of slavery in the Kabkari portion of Bechuanaland; and, if such slavery exists, what steps they intend taking to suppress it?


The facts of the case to which I understand the hon. Baronet to allude are as follows:—A certain portion of the inhabitants of Bechuanaland known as the Bakalahari stand, or rather stood, in an ill-defined relation of dependence and servitude towards the Bechuanas proper. According to native custom these persons can, and do, hold property of their own. Their servitude towards the Bechuanas takes the form partly of actual labour rendered, and partly of tribute paid in kind. They themselves stand in a position towards the Bushmen somewhat similar to that which they occupy towards the Bechuanas. The Secretary of State has laid down the following principles for the guidance of the Local Authorities on the subject:—(1.) Within the British border all these people are in the eye of the law already free men. (2.) He takes for granted, as far as Courts held by magistrates are concerned, that any magistrate would, as a matter of course, refuse to recognize or enforce any claim arising out of the supposed relation of master and slave, and would punish, as an infringement of personal rights, any attempt to exercise forcibly the claims of a master over a supposed slave. (3.) The Local Administrator is to take every opportunity of informing Chiefs and Headmen, who exercise jurisdiction, as to the state of the law, and to warn them against recognizing or enforcing rights which are incompatible with it.