ABSTRACT

Much has been written about Cecil Rhodes and his dreams of British imperial expansion. 1 In his now (in) famous “confession of faith”, he baldly stated that

Africa is still lying ready for us it is our duty to take it. It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race more of the best the most human, most honourable race the world possesses. 2

Using a combination of both his personal fortune and capitalising on his political connections in the Cape Colony and Britain, Rhodes began his campaign for the “far interior” in order to fulfi l his ambition of spreading British infl uence from “Cape to Cairo”. 3 His desire to colonise Mashonaland was precipitated by the discovery of the Witwatersrand gold reef in 1886 in the South African Republic (ZAR), as Paul Kruger’s republic began to supersede the diamond rich British Cape Colony. Increasing contact between the ZAR and the Ndebele King Lobengula Khumalo galvanised Rhodes into action,

as he unsuccessfully tried to persuade the governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Hercules Robinson, to declare the area a protectorate. 4 Unbowed, Rhodes decided that the next best thing was to dispatch missionary, and by this time, assistant commissioner in Bechuanaland, John Moffat to Lobengula’s court, the upshot of which was Lobengula’s signing of what became known as the Moffat Treaty on February 11, 1888. 5 Evidence of ‘imperial infl uence without imperial responsibility’, 6 the treaty sought to make Matabeleland a British sphere of infl uence.