HC Deb 16 November 1893 vol 18 cc1033-5
MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Chartered Company of South Africa is now dealing in any way either with land or mining claims in Matabeleland; whether Her Majesty's Government recognises its obligations to see that Her Majesty's assurances to Lobengula, that, in the event of his confirming the mining concession to Major Rudd, which he had informed Her Majesty had been fraudulently obtained from him, the white men, whom he allowed under the concession to dig for gold in his territories, would only dig where he permitted, would recognise him as Sovereign, and would only exercise jurisdiction over white men within his territories; and, if so, what steps are being taken to give effect to Her Majesty's pledges; whether the Colonial Office is receiving information respecting what is taking place, or what has taken place, in Matabeleland from any persons there other than those connected with the Chartered Company: whether he has observed telegrams stating that two white men had been found at Buluwayo, and bad been protected by Lobengula, and that he had provided a guard to certain missionaries who wished to leave his country, and that they had arrived safely at their destination; and whether it is intended to convey the thanks of Her Majesty's Government to Lobengula for thus seeing to the safety of the white men in his power whilst war was being carried on by the Chartered Company against him and his people; whether he has received any information leading him to believe that the Matabeles who were wounded in the recent engagements, and left on the fields of battle when the Matabele forces retreated, were properly tended by the victors; and, if so, whether he can say what were their numbers, and where they now are; and whether any steps are being taken to make it known to Lobengula that, if he consents to respect the Chartered Company's establishments in Mashonaland, the warlike operations against him will cease; and, if so, or if any other communications tending to peace are being made to Lobengula, who in Matabeleland is charged with the negotiations?


As far as we are aware, the Chartered Company is not now dealing in any way either with land or with mining claims in Matabele land; but in any case, as I have already stated, no action taken on the spot will prejudice the arrangements ultimately to be come to as regards Matabeleland. In reply to the second question, without admitting the assumptions contained in it, I may say that the war has necessarily altered the position, and the question becomes one of future policy in regard to the settlement of the country. The answer to the third question is in the affirmative. With regard to the fourth question, I have observed the telegrams alluded to in reference to Mr. Usher and Mr. Fairbairn; which I believe to be correct. As regards the missionary, Mr. Rees, he and his family reached Palapye on August 20th, Lobengula having sent a man with him as far as Tati. I need hardly say that the chivalrous conduct of Lobengula in these matters will be remembered, should he, as I hope, come in. As regards the last question, as my hon. Friend is aware, a message was sent to Lobengula promising a guarantee of his personal safety and good treatment if he would come in. We have as yet no information as to the result. I cannot at present add to my statement made the other evening in reference to the question of future policy. As regards the question of the wounded, I have as yet no further information on the subject. And in regard to this and his other questions, my hon. Friend must recollect that communications with Buluwayo are as yet very indifferent, and that the information so far received is necessarily very meagre.

MR. DARLING (Deptford)

Arising out of the question, may I ask whether the hon. Member can give the House any in formation as to the fate of Captain Williams?


We received a telegram from Sir Henry Loch a day or two ago expressing a fear that from the fact that nothing has been heard of Captain Williams the inference must be drawn that he was killed.


Is the only step taken with a view to peace the despatch of a message to Lobengula promising a guarantee of his personal safety and good treatment if he will come in?


I think that my hon. Friend will agree with me that to promise Lobengula a safe conduct and good treatment if he will come in and call upon the Matabele to lay down their arms, is the best way to secure peace.


I must ask the hon. Member to understand that I cannot admit anything of the kind.

SIR E. ASHMEAD - BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can state why, during the mouths of August and September, Her Majesty's Government did not send a reliable British Envoy or agent to King Lobengula to explain to him the policy and demands of Her Majesty's Government and of the Chartered Company; and if he can state what is the present position of Lobengula?


The matter was, of course, carefully considered; but, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, it was decided that it would be better to communicate with Lobengula by letter, and this was repeatedly done. The second question I have already answered in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton.


Can the hon. Member state how the message to Lobengula was forwarded?


I have no information on this point.