Chapter Four
The Boer Republics. Robert Moffat and Matšheng

THE history of Bechuanaland, and in particular of that part which we now call the Protectorate, was, until its final crystallization in the last years of the nineteenth century, influenced to a degree unusual even in those vast areas that have been subjugated by the European, by events outside it and indeed unrelated to it. It was not until 1895, that the Protectorate, in the persons of the Chiefs Kgama, Sebele and Bathoen, took the first positive step towards moulding its own destiny. The establishment of European authority over Bechuanaland, the subsequent division of that vast area into two separate political entities, and the declaration of the Protectorate, all these were but incidents in a conflict of far wider scope, and in which the fate of Bechuanaland itself was really quite incidental. So before continuing our study of the history of this Territory we must first consider the situation of southern Africa as it was about 1850.

We have already seen how the Great Trek brought a large number of the frontier farmers from the Cape Colony first across the Orange and then across the Vaal rivers. Their way was far from smooth, for apart from the natural difficulties of supply and the great hardships of travel, the country was much disturbed by tribal wars and their consequences. The voortrekkers soon came into conflict with Mzilikazi, who in the event they defeated (this was one of the causes of the retreat of the Matebele to the north) and their relations with other, though less formidable tribes, were no more pacific. Among the voortrekkers themselves fissiparous tendencies were very marked, and there were frequent disagreements among their leaders. The Imperial Government and the Government at the Cape were much exercised to know what to do with the trekkers beyond the Orange and the Vaal rivers. The trek was a movement away from British authority. 'We quit this Colony,' had written Piet Retief, 'under the full assurance that the English Government has nothing more to require of us, and will allow us to govern ourselves without its interference in future.'1 But Sir Harry Smith, who became Governor of the Cape Colony and empowered, by virtue of his office as Queen's High Commissioner in South Africa, an office perpetuated in his successors, to deal with affairs in territories beyond the Queen's acknowledged dominion but 'adjacent or contiguous to' the borders of the Colony, decided at the end of 1847 that the trek must be controlled. He carried the

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1
J. H. Hofmeyr, South Africa, p. 72.

-29-

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