15 SEPTEMBER 1900
Moselekatse was one of King Tchaka’s generals, ambitious, able, and afraid. The king did not love too fondly men who could fill a throne, and Moselekatse, born in a wise hour, fled from the sound of his master’s voice when the voice grew soft and caressing. With him fled the malcontents and in the country west of the Drakensberg they pitched their camps, and founded the Matabili race. By-and-bye they collided with the Boers, driven forth by the Englishmen and seeking a home. Hendrik Potgieter after a fierce struggle broke their power and they fled. Then old Moselekatse being dead, his son Umziligazi, ascended the throne.
The Matabele, being a Zulu, was a warrior. Up north he stumbled across the country of the Mashona, and took a fancy to it. The Mashona was a peaceful and ingenious unbeliever who worked in iron, made gunpowder, carved, brewed, spun, and tilled the earth. In politics he was a communist and couldn’t fight. The Matabele swooped down on him, stole his cattle devastated his country, carried off most of his women, made slaves of his children, and drove him into the mountainous districts. Here he spun and brewed, and tilled, and purchased life by paying yearly tribute to his conquerors.
Umzilagazi died, and his son Lobengula ascended the throne, and lived much in the fashion of his sire. Vague rumours spread southwards that his country contained a store of gold and the Benevolent Englishman pricked up his ears. Then the Englishman took thought to himself, and piling up a few cases of rum, a score of flintlock muskets and half-a-ton of Birmingham ware on his waggon he started off to interview Lo Ben. He found the simple savage in his kraal and explained to him that, filled with Christian love for his black brother, he had hurried up to warn him that the wicked and treacherous Boer was forming a plan to annex Matabeleland. This disturbed the serenity of Lo Ben, for he had a wholesome dislike of tackling the farmers. ‘My dear friend,’ said the Benevolent English, ‘be not afraid. The great white queen whose heart beats for all the suffering and oppressed has sent me to you to promise you her protection against these sinful and unchristian men. She desires that you should conclude a treaty of peace and eternal amity with her, and then should these abhorred-of-God Dutchmen invade your territory she will send her invincible white warriors to defend your sacred causs. In return she asks for nothing save your esteemed friendship and permission for her children to labour in your land and pay you tribute.’ Lo Ben thought the bargain a good one and struck it on the spot.
The Benevolent Englishman, having handed over his rum and muskets and Birmingham ware to Lo Ben, started off on a tour round the country and smelled out the gold. Then he came back to the king’s kraal and asked permission to dig for it, generously offering him a share of the metal. The obliged monarch could do nothing less for his benevolent friend, and in a short time some hundreds of Englishmen burning with love of their black neighbour’s land arrived in the country. They brought, besides pickaxes, Bibles, and Maxim guns along, and when Lo Ben asked them what the guns were for they told him they were intended for propagating Christianity. They built forts for the greater glory of God and took the wives of the unbelievers around them away to teach them the higher morality of the Briton. Murmurs arose from the ignorant savages and the chief came down to his benevolent friend to expostulate. When he had expostulated the Benevolent Englishman turning on him, said: ‘Miserable wretch that you are, how have you deceived us! We have brought you the blessing of civilisation; we have given you our protection—nay, we have even given you share of your own gold, and yet you raise your voice against us—you who persecute and extort a tribute from our beloved and peaceful black brethren of Mashonaland. Begone, and cease to trouble the Mashonas, lest in our wrath we smite you with the sword of the Lord.’ Lo Ben went away, but before he reached home the anger of the Englishman at the oppression of the Mashona had broken out. A troop of Matabili at Victoria were suddenly attacked by the English and thirty of them slain. Within eight weeks Lo Ben was dead, his palace razed to the ground, his soldiers slaughtered or fugitives, his youths were slaves, and his women the concubines of the pioneers of civilisation—the oppressed Mashonas were delivered.
Somehow, they turned out wanting in gratitude to their deliverers, who went amongst them, built town, and disseminated civilised ideas. So ungrateful were they, that after a couple of years of British rule they rose in arms—these timid, peaceful people—and fought desperately. They were, of course, crushed. The Bible and the Maxim gun prevailed against their charms and assegais. Their leader, Mashingombi, fell by the bullets of some English assassins, and the last of his followers and their wives were dynamited in the name of the British god. While the Benevolent Englishman merely stole his cattle, grabbed his land, and kicked him round the country, the gentle Mashona suffered in silence; he was not a warrior; but he took up his assegai and died like a man when the benevolent one insisted on teaching his wives and daughters British morality.