HC Deb 27 November 1893 vol 18 cc1805-8
MR.LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has now received any information as to the fate of the wounded Matabeles in the engagements that have taken place between that nation and the forces of the Chartered Company and the Imperial Bechuanaland Police; and, if not, whether he can state by whom the inquiry into their fate is being made; whether, in view of the statements made in various Cape newspapers, that persons were induced to join the Chartered Company's invading forces by the promise of 6,000 acres of land, 15 mineral claims, and five alluvial claims, and one-half of spoils, any action has been taken to inquire into the truth of this allegation, and, if found to be true, to inform the Chartered Company that this mode of payment for services will not be allowed; whether he has noticed that, according to recent telegrams, the Chartered Company is exercising jurisdiction in Matabeleland and dealing with that country as though it belonged to it; whether he can say from what concession from its Sovereign the Company derives such powers, in view of the fact that the Charter only gives it powers granted by the Sovereign's concessions, and Her Majesty pledged her word to him that, if he allowed the concessionaires to dig for gold, they would in no way interfere with his Sovereign rights over his country and his subjects; and whether any representative of the Imperial Government is now in Matabeleland, with instructions to see that no cruelty is done to its inhabitants and that the Chartered Company assumes no proprietary, or governmental, or other rights there beyond those contained in its concessions?

MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Paucras, W.)

Before the hon. Gentleman answers may I ask whether the mode of payment of those in the civil and the military services of the Chartered Company is not a matter that concerned that Company and those in their service alone, and is it not beyond the scope of the duty of the Imperial Parliament to interfere in the matter?


As regards the first question, we have as yet no information which would go either to prove or to disprove the assumed allegation made by my hon. Friend in his speech on November 9th—namely, that the Mashonas had been allowed to kill the wounded Matabeles. When, and if, such information is received, or if my hon. Friend will supply me with any information on the subject which may be in his possession, I can assure him that a searching inquiry will be made into the matter. But we cannot assume, without any evidence before us, that, so far as the circumstances permitted, the wounded Matabele were not treated with proper consideration. As regards the second question, I can only again repeat that no action taken on the spot will prejudice the ultimate settlement in regard to the interests of the natives; and on this point we have received satisfactory assurances from the Chartered Company. As regards the question of the exercise of jurisdiction in Matabeleland, Major Forbes has been appointed Magistrate at Buluwayo by Sir H. Loch under Her Majesty's Order in Council of the 9th of May, 1891. As regards the fourth question, my hon. Friend has in framing it apparently overlooked Article 10 of the Charter, and he has not taken into consideration the Order in Council of the 9th of May, 1891, which declares Her Majesty's power and jurisdiction over certain territories including Matabeleland. As regards the last question, as the House is already aware, a considerable force of Government police under Colonel Goold-Adams and other officers is at Buluwayo, and Sir Henry Loch has sent his Military Secretary, Major Sawyer, there too. But Her Majesty's Government have no reason to suppose that the Matabele will be treated with cruelty by the Company's officials, or that the Company is exceeding its powers.


With regard to the answer, I wish to know whether the Order in Council was in accordance with Her Majesty's letters, as sent through Lord Knutsford to Lobengula, distinctly specifying that no sort of jurisdiction was to be exercised by the Chartered Company, if a concession were allowed, in the territory of Lobengula? I will further ask the Under Secretary if he will inquire where the wounded are; whether the wounded are in Buluwayo, and, if so, by whom they are being nursed and treated?

MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)

May I ask whether the Order in Council is not made under the Foreign Jurisdictions Act, and does not purport to give any jurisdiction except over British subjects?


I think the Order in Council applies to the whole of these districts, and applies to the natives to a large extent. I understand my hon. Friend to ask how the Order in Council supersedes the former promises of the Government. I think he had better address his question to my predecessor in Office, because, as far as the present Government are concerned, they are bound by the Articles of the Order in Council granted to the Chartered Company. As regards the other question, I can only repeat that we cannot assume that the wounded have not been treated in a proper manner. It would not be becoming on our part to apply to the Company, without any evidence, on the assumption of my hon. Friend, that they allowed the wounded to be either killed or ill-treated.


I simply wish the hon. Gentleman to ask the Company whether they are being well-treated, and by whom, or whether they are being treated at all. The question implies no imputation, if really the Company are treating them well. On the contrary, it would be rather an advantage to the Company. I may ask my hon. Friend to be good enough to remember that I am precluded by the Rules of the House from asking questions with regard to Her Majesty's pledges of the predecessor in Office of my hon. Friend. The present Government are now responsible.


Is it not the case that the Bishop of Mashonaland has been treating the wounded, Matabele and Mashonas, both alike?


I have seen such a statement.


Is the Order in Council which asserts the supremacy of Her Majesty in that region not perfectly consistent with the letters in Her Majesty's name leaving a subordinate sovereignty to Lobengula?


The Order in Council, under Article and other Articles, gives Her Majesty power and jurisdiction in Matabeleland among other territories, and in the exercise of that power authority is given to the High Commissioner from time to time by proclamation to provide for the administration of justice, the raising of revenue, and generally for the peace of the country and the good government of all persons within the limits of the Order. Of course, the Government are responsible for the position; all I meant was that they are not responsible for having created the position.



said: With regard to the treatment of the wounded, I have received a communication from the Company. They state that they cabled on Saturday about the wounded, and they have not yet received an answer. They add— The Board consider it a great reflection on our forces, fighting under the English flag, to suggest without a shadow of evidence that other than humane treatment should have been given to the wounded.


May I ask whether that is from the Board in England?


Yes, Sir.


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