The Matabele War, Part I

In the 1890s, writes J.V. Woolford, the colony of Rhodesia was a centre of conflict between Matabele warriors and the Mashona in which the British became involved on the Mashona side.

The Matabele War of 1893 was the first serious fight between blacks and whites in Rhodesia. It showed up many of the tribal differences that still exist and it revealed the extraordinary propensity of the British to underestimate the ruthlessness of a tiny white population; and it provided an interesting example of how whites thought in the age of Imperialism. Nobody can hope to understand the Rhodesian situation today without knowing the outlines of this peculiar and unsavoury war, with its villains and its heroes.

The 1890 pioneers of the British South Africa Company did not occupy the whole of Rhodesia, but only the part of it called, rather vaguely, Mashonaland. They found themselves living next door to the last tribal kingdom in South Africa, Lobengula’s Matabele, an offshoot of the Zulu nation of South-East Africa.

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