HC Deb 17 April 1896 vol 39 cc1174-6

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether his attention has been called to the fact that the villages of the natives of Matabeleland are being burnt by the forces of the Chartered Company, and that a farmer, on quitting his homestead, left a considerable amount of dynamite, with fuses attached, which exploded when the homestead was filled with natives, killing about 100; whether such proceedings are in accordance with the usages of war; and, if not, whether he will take steps to prevent their recurrence; whether any steps have been taken, either by communication with the chiefs of the natives remaining on friendly terms with the officials of the Company, or with those in arms against the Company, to ascertain what is the object of the present rising, and what alteration in the relations between the Company and the natives would lead to a modus vivendi between both; whether he is aware how many Martini-Henry rifles are in the possession of the natives, and how these were obtained; and, whether there was any importation of such rifles into Matabeleland, in connection with the Jameson raid, which have fallen into the hands of the natives?


The burning of the kraals of a native enemy is in accordance with the usages of South African warfare. I have no information of the reported explosion of dynamite in a farmhouse, but, if true, it does not differ materially from mining operations in a siege or the use of a torpedo in naval warfare. The Company's officers and a courageous Catholic clergyman, who is mentioned in this morning's papers, have been in communication with those of the Matabele who are friendly or inclined to submit; but the moment seems premature or unfavourable for a general parley with those who are determinedly hostile. At all events, it is a matter which must be left to those on the spot. I do not know what number of Martini-Henry rifles the Matabele possess. They probably obtained the bulk of them by barter or purchase in former years, when they were regarded as friendly to the British. I have no reason to believe that any such rifles were imported into Matabele-land in connection with the Jameson raid, or that, if such were the case, any of them fell into the hands of the Matabele. I may add that the arms of the Chartered Company are Lee-Metford rifles, and it appears that the rifles in the hands of the Matabele are not of that kind.

SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

asked whether Her Majesty's Government had decided to send an additional military force to South Africa, and, if so, what troops were to go?


Her Majesty's Government have decided to replace the troops which Sir H. Robinson has withdrawn from the seaboard colonies and ordered into the interior. Accordingly a battalion of the Line—the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment—and a body of cavalry or mounted infantry will be dispatched to South Africa as soon as possible. This movement is connected with the decision of the Government to make a permanent increase in the garrison of the Cape, a step which has been urged upon them by the Military authorities, who are of opinion that the present garrison is not adequate to the defence of the dockyard and coaling stations. To prevent the possibility of misapprehension, I may add that Her Majesty's Government are decidedly of opinion that, except in a case of the greatest emergency, Imperial troops are not the best suited to put down a native insurrection, which can be most promptly dealt with by local forces. This opinion has been confirmed by past experience in South Africa, and is held universally by all the most competent authorities in South Africa and this country. There is an ample supply of men and arms at present in South Africa, and the only difficulty is in connection with transport and the provision of horses.


In reference to the latter portion of that answer, connected with the ability of the colonial troops for the purpose of dealing with the rising in Matabeleland, I should like to ask whether the Government have authorised the recruitment of an additional number of Colonial troops for that purpose—additional to the amount stated by the right hon. Gentleman the other day?


No, Sir; we have not been asked by the local authorities to authorise any additional number to those already announced. We are perfectly prepared to do so if in the opinion of the local authorities such an increase is necessary.


At the cost, I suppose, of the Chartered Company?


Yes, undoubtedly.


May I ask whether an offer has been received from our Australian colonists——


Order, order! That does not arise out of this Question.


On a point of order I wish to ask you, Sir, whether it would not be in order upon this Question to ask whether an offer has been made on the part of the Australian colonists in the Transvaal to go to the assistance of the colonists in Matabeleland?


Of course such a question with proper notice is perfectly in order. The objection I took just now was that it does not arise out of this Question.