John Mackenzie and Southern Africa

Cecil Northcott describes how Mackenzie’s dream of a liberal empire south of the Zambezi met opposition from Cecil Rhodes and from the Boers.

In the long history of British relationships with southern Africa, or Austral Africa as Mackenzie liked to call it, there are many examples of personal initiative that influenced policy and changed the face of the map.

Cecil Rhodes is perhaps the most notable example, but John Mackenzie deserves more attention than he has had for his campaign between 1877 and 1891 to create a British Dominion from the Cape to the Zambesi. He failed in his major objective; but prepared the way for the Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1895, which is now the Republic of Botswana.

Mackenzie was a Scot, born at Knockando on August 30th, 1835, and went to South Africa as a missionary of the London Missionary Society in July 1858. He was part of the big reinforcement of missions planned to follow up the pioneer work of Robert Moffat and his son-in-law David Livingstone, and Mrs Livingstone was a member of the party.

Mackenzie was destined for the Makololo people, then living in the swamps of the Chobe near Linyanti in Northern Bechuanaland. Livingstone had conceived the idea of persuading the Makololo to move to healthier lands north of the Zambesi, and Mackenzie and his colleague were to be agents of the scheme.

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