HC Deb 02 April 1889 vol 334 cc1384-6
MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it is a fact that Lo Bengula denies having knowingly signed a concession such as that held by Messrs. Rudd, and asserts that the Missionary, who acted as interpreter between him and Mr. Rudd, erroneously interpreted the document to him; whether he will lay the concession upon the Table; whether, in view of the fact that Lo Bengula's territory is within the area of British influence, he would be allowed to grant such a concession to a person who is not a British subject; and, if not, whether Her Majesty's Government deem that he is entitled to grant a concession which excludes all but three British subjects and their agents from mining operations in his territory; whether, if the agents of the company (being British subjects) put themselves at the head of an armed force of Lo Bengula's subjects, and hinder, by force, British subjects from carrying on mining operations in the territory, they are acting in violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act; whether he has observed the following announcement in the Bechuanaland News:— I hear it is published in the newspapers that I have granted a concession of the minerals in all my country to Charles Dunell Rudd, Rochford Maguire, and Francis Robert Thompson. As there is a great misunderstanding about this, all action in respect of said concession is hereby suspended pending an investigation to be made by me in my country. (Signed) Lo Bengula, Royal Kraal, Matabeleland. Jan. 18, 1889. Whether he is aware that, on 17th November, 1887, Lo Bengula signed a concession to Joseph Wood, Edward Chapman, and William Francis, granting the exclusive right to mine, to erect mills and smelting works, and to use all water, in the land between the Rivers Shasha and Maklutei, in consideration of a payment of a rental of £100 per annum; and whether he can see his way to put an end to all exclusive concessions granted to British subjects within the South African territory which is under British influence?


Her Majesty's Government have no official information on the subject referred to in the first paragraph of the hon. Member's question. The concession is among Papers which are being prepared for early presentation to Parliament. The answer to the third paragraph is in the affirmative; the declaration of British influence does not enable Her Majesty's Government to control the grant of concessions by the chiefs. In reply to the fourth paragraph, the Foreign Enlistment Act cannot, it is conceived, have any bearing on these questions. Her Majesty's Government have seen the announcement quoted in the fifth paragraph, but have no means of judging whether it is authentic. It would seem to have been obtained, if genuine, by some parties competing with Messrs. Rudd and Company. The persons in the sixth paragraph mentioned allege that they have obtained a concession of the nature described on the date mentioned; but the land in question is in dispute, being claimed by Khama, who is under British protection, and all parties purporting to hold concessions have been warned not to enter the disputed area. We have learnt that the concession mentioned in the first question has already been largely shared with other Companies and persons, and it appears to Her Majesty's Government that the best mode of putting an end to all exclusive and competing concessions in that part of South Africa which is under British influence may be by uniting all valid concessions under one control, subject to important modifications, as for example the supply of arms, and also to such restrictions as may fully secure the interests of the natives and all other legitimate claims.


Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to carry out that policy of not interfering with the rights of the chiefs to make concessions, with a view to put an end to the difficulty?


I can only give the same answer that I gave the other day, that within the sphere of British influence we are able to advise, but we cannot do more, in a country which is not under our protection, and we cannot prevent the Ruler of that country from making a concession.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

Is there any authority from which we can gather information as to what "the sphere of British influence" means?

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

On the 8th of May last did not Lord Knutsford express a strong opinion as to these concessions in regard to territory under the protection of the British Government?


Perhaps the hon. Member will kindly give notice of that question.