British South Africa Company’s fraud


THE first stage in acquiring territory was to enter into treaties with local rulers.
Although Lobengula had agreed not to enter into a treaty with any other power without prior British consent, and had granted mining concessions to the BSAC (including the right for the company to protect them), he consistently refused to delegate any general powers of government to the BSAC, and on realising he had been duped, had in fact, repealed the Rudd Concession.
Despite Lobengula’s repeal of the Rudd Concession, the BSAC convinced the Colonial Office in London that it should declare the territory a protectorate on the basis that a group of citizens of the Transvaal Republic, led by Louis Adendorff, planned to cross the Limpopo River to settle and proclaim a Boer republic in Mashonaland.
Accordingly, on May 9 1891, a protectorate was proclaimed by an Order-in-Council; initially covering Mashonaland and later Matabeleland.
In June 1891, when Adendorff and his party attempted to cross the Limpopo, as planned, he was turned back by a force of the British South Africa Company Police (BSAP).
Meanwhile, Cecil Rhodes, while obtaining a Royal Charter for the BSAC, considered Barotseland (now part of Zambia), as a suitable area for the Company’s operations and as a gateway to the copper deposits of Katanga, further north.
Accordingly, Frank Lochner was sent by Rhodes to Barotseland to obtain a concession by making a tempting offer to the British government to pay the expenses of a Barotseland Protectorate.
Meanwhile, King Lewanika of the Lozi people of Barotseland, under the mistaken belief that the BSAC represented the British government, as Lochner had incorrectly presented to him, consented to an exclusive mineral concession on June 27 1890 that resulted in the Lochner Concession.
The Lochner Concession gave the Company exclusive mining rights over the whole of Lewanika’s region, in which he was paramount ruler, in exchange for an annual subsidy and the promise of British protection; a promise Lochner had no authority to make.
King Lewanika, who had begun his rule of the Lozi people in 1876, had been driven from power in 1884.
After his return, concerned over further internal power struggles and the threat of Ndebele raids, in 1885 he was prompted to seek European protection.
Thus the BSAC accordingly advised the Foreign Office in London that the Lozi King had accepted British protection in exchange of a handsome mineral concession.
Accordingly, during negotiations with the Portuguese government at the partitioning of Africa, Barotseland was determined to fall within the British area of influence; thus the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1891 allocated the territory of the Barotse Kingdom to the British; while the boundary with Angola was not fixed until 1905.
Meanwhile, Lewanika, much as Lobengula, protested in vain that the terms of the treaty had been misrepresented to him.
The London Foreign Office had their reservations regarding the nature and extent of the protectorate, and never sanctioned the Lochner Concession, and did not grant BSAC administrative rights as it involved monopolies, prohibited in the BSAC Charter.
The British deemed a new concession necessary.
It was agreed to appoint a BSAC official as Resident Commissioner to secure this concession. So, in October 1897, Robert Coryndon, a former secretary of Rhodes and member of the Pioneer Column, reached Barotseland as Resident Commissioner.
The first British appointee as Resident Commissioner, appointed the previous year, died before taking up his post.
Coryndon, in his capacity as Resident Commissioner, declared Barotseland a British Protectorate, resolving its previaously anomalous position.
Coryndon also recognised that the 1890 mineral concession did not give the BSAC the right to make land grants.
But in 1897, Lewanika signed a new concession — the Coryndon Concession — giving the BSAC the rights to make land grants and to establish authority analogous to the king’s courts.
In 1900, Lewanika signed a further agreement, the Barotse Concession, which resolved disputed areas following the earlier concessions.
It was drafted in terms compatible with the Barotseland-North Western Rhodesia Order-in-Council (1899).
Up to 1899, Northern Rhodesia, outside of Barotseland, was governed according to the Order-in-Council of May 9 1891, which had no fixed clear boundaries to the area involved.
In 1890, Alfred Sharpe undertook an expedition with the objective of acquiring Katanga but only managed to make some treaties in north-eastern Rhodesia with local rulers, a number of whom later claimed that the contents of the documents had been misrepresented to them.
Katanga became part of the Congo Free State. The boundary between the Congo Free State and the British territory in north-eastern Rhodesia was fixed by a treaty in 1894.
In 1895, after the signing of the treaty and the appointment of a separate Administrator the area of North-Eastern Rhodesia was brought under BSAC’s effective control.
In their voracity the BSAC also considered acquiring interests in Bechuanaland Protectorate and Nyasaland (now Malawi), which initially was called the British Central Africa Protectorate, as proclaimed in 1891, on the understanding that the BSAC would contribute to the costs of its administration.
During negotiations for its Charter in 1889, Rhodes discussed the possibilities of taking over the administration of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), which was already a British Protectorate, with the British Foreign Office, and of working and possibly amalgamating with the African Lakes Company which was operating in Nyasaland with the BSAC.
Amalgamation was resisted by the directors of the African Lakes Company, and by 1893, they were ousted by Rhodes and the BSAC, in their usual ruthless manner.
The African Lakes Company had itself been attempting to become a chartered company in the late 1880s, but was considered unsuitable to administer a territory.
The Commissioner of the British Central Africa Protectorate had refused to act as a BSAC appointee and objected to Rhodes’ demand that all crown lands be transferred under BSAC control and that he facilitate the transfer of African lands in the Protectorate to it.
In Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), there was no shortage of land as the population density was lower than in Southern Rhodesia, and the European population was much lower. The BSAC, as was their wont, claimed ownership of all the unalienated land and the right to alienate it.
The Zambian Coat-of-Arms
The 1899 Order in Council stated: “…the Council shall assign to the natives land sufficient for their occupation, whether as tribes or portions of tribes, and suitable for agriculture and pastoral requirement.”
In 1913, BSAC drew up plans for native reserves along similar lines as in Southern Rhodesian (Zimbabwe), outside of which Africans would have no right to own or even occupy land. These plans were not implemented until after Company administration ended in 1928.
From April 1 1924, under an agreement signed on September 29 1923, the then Government of Northern Rhodesian took over the complete control of lands previously controlled by BSAC; paying the Company half the net rents and the proceeds from the sale pf certain land.
Much as the semantics over land in Australia, and elsewhere, whereby the doctrine of terra nullius applied that held any land which was unoccupied or unsettled could be acquired as a new territory by a sovereign state, and that the laws of that state would apply in the new territory oblivious to the rights and customary laws of the indigenous.
Land without houses or cultivated pastures or where the local people had not developed towns, roads or farms or displayed any social structure of government was interpreted in the Western sense as unoccupied or unsettled land; ready for colonising, purchasing or bartering.
The BSAC’s land claims in Northern Rhodesia was based on fraudulent concessions rather than conquest and, although a Parliamentary Committee in 1921 recommended that these claims be referred to the Privy Council, the British government preferred to negotiate an overall settlement for the end of BSAC’s administration in Northern Rhodesia, thereby effectively acknowledging the Company’s claim.
Dr Michelina Rudo Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant lecturer and specialist hospitality interior decorator. She is a published author in her field. For comments e-mail:


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