HC Deb 16 March 1891 vol 351 cc1070-2

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government are in a position to give the House any information, in addition to that which has appeared in the public Press, as to the seizure of a British vessel on the Limpopo River?


Information has been received from the Acting Governor of the Cape, and indirectly from the Consul at Delagoa Bay, that the steamer Countess of Carnarvon had been detained by a Portuguese in the Limpopo River on a charge of smuggling, and was being sent to Delagoa Bay. We do not know any more at present.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I beg to ask whether the Lower Limpopo traverses territory admitted to be Portuguese; whether, by the laws of the Portuguese Province of Mozambique, through which lower river flows, no vessel may import arms or ammunition, either into the Province or through the Province to the interior, without a licence; whether the Countess of Carnarvon had that licence; whether, before the vessel is condemned as prize, there will not have to be a condemnation by a tribunal, at which it will be open to the owner of the vessel to appear; whether there is any Convention or Treaty now in force by which the right is secured to Her Majesty's ships to import arms and ammunition by the Limpopo, or to navigate that river to the sea; whether the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has approved of the alleged concession to exercise power and sovereignty in Manicaland granted to the South Africa Company by Mutassa, and whether the Charter granted to that company does not preclude them from exercising such power and sovereignty in Manicaland until such approval is granted; whether Manicaland does not form part of the territory where it was agreed by the Convention of last November?


The lower waters of the Limpopo are in territory recognised to be Portuguese; the importation of arms and ammunition into the Province of Mozambique is prohibited; we are not aware of the circumstances in which the Countess of Carnarvon was seized, except that it was on a charge of smuggling. If detained on that ground only, legal proceedings would have to be taken, and we should suppose that the persons charged would have an opportunity of defending themselves. In a case of smuggling there is no question of "prize." There is no Convention at present entitling Her Majesty's subjects to import arms by the Limpopo. The Secretary of State has not approved of a concession to the South Africa Company to exercise power and sovereignty in Mutassa's country, nor is the company doing so. Mutassa is an independent Chief, and is still governing his own territory. He has granted concessions to the company, and with his consent their police are keeping order among their own people. Manicaland, until its frontiers are surveyed and defined, is a loose geographical expression; and it cannot be at present declared to what extent it is affected by the terms of the modus vivendi. The question of the importation of arms is separate, and is not affected by the modus vivendi. The company's agents, as well as certain Portuguese officials, were at Mutassa's kraal before the date of the modus vivendi agreement. The capture of the latter took place shortly after that date, but before its signature was known in Manica.