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Botswana and Namibia (Part 6)

Publishing Date : 07 August, 2017


In our last instalment it was noted that the Colonial Office in London was expressing its opposition to Germany's over the Ngamiland and Chobe region, in order to uphold the interests of British concessionaires already active in the area. In the process, proposals to partition of the territory under the rule of the Batawana King Moremi were internally rejected.

British claims to the Ngamiland-Chobe region were, in particular, grounded in the competing claims of two companies:

In September 1889 the British South Africa Co. of Cecil Rhodes had been awarded the right in its royal charter to rule the entire area on Her Majesty's Queen Victoria’s behalf. But, earlier, in 1888-89, the Batawana King Moremi had granted mineral rights to the Austral African Exploration and Mining Syndicate and Messrs. J. Strombom, J.A. Nicholls, and R. J. Hicks. These concessions were later consolidated to become the basis of the British West Charterland Company's commercial claims to the area.

In March 1890 German Kaiser Wilhelm II accepted his long serving Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck’s, resignation following policy differences on a number of issues including German colonial interests in Africa. Thereafter the new Chancellor, General (later Count) Georg Leo von Caprivi, and his Foreign Minister, Baron Marschall, accelerated diplomatic discussions with Britain over their competing interests in Africa.

After a conversation with Marschall, the British Ambassador, Malet, in May 1890 communicated Germany's desire to reach a comprehensive settlement sooner rather than later. Germany’s African ambitions were also the subject of both Caprivi and Marschall's inaugural addresses to the newly elected Reichstag.

On the 14th of June 1890 Ambassador Malet was informed by his Foreign Secretary that:

"The communications which have been in progress between Her Majesty's Government and that of Germany have now reached a point sufficiently advanced to justify me requesting Sir Percy Anderson to return to Berlin for the purpose of discussing the necessary details with Dr. Krauel. The negotiations conducted in Berlin during his previous visit, together with the conversations which have had with the German Ambassador since his return, have enabled the two governments to draw with sufficient completeness the outline of an arrangement for the adjustment of the matters that are in dispute between them..."

"The frontier between Ngamiland and Damaraland is not definitely drawn, and the details of it must be left to the negotiations of Sir Percy Anderson and Dr. Krauel; but it is agreed that in the latitude of Lake Ngami, and up as far as the 18 of south latitude the German frontier shall coincide with the 21 degree of east longitude from Greenwich. The character of this country is very imperfectly known, and the very position of Lake Ngami has been the subject of considerable uncertainty. There is, however, little doubt that the 21st degree of longitude will amply clear it, and will enclose Moremi's country within the British Protectorate."

The outline of the Anglo-German agreement was published in a semi-official German Gazette in mid June 1890, receiving favourable press coverage. The Agreement was subsequently signed in Berlin on the 1st of July 1890. In it Botswana's northern frontier with what is now Namibia was defined by Article III of the agreement:

"In South West Africa the sphere in which the exercise of influence is reserved for Germany is bounded, "1. To the South by a line commencing at the mouth of the Orange River and ascending the North Bank of that river to the point of its intersection by the 20th degree of East longitude.

"2. To the East by a line commencing at the above mentioned point, and following the 20th degree of east longitude to the point of its intersection by the 22nd parallel of south latitude, it runs eastward along that parallel to the point of its intersection by the 21rst degree of East longitude; thence it follows that degree northward to the point of intersection by the 18th parallel south latitude; it runs eastward along that parallel till it reaches the river Chobe; and descends the centre of the Main Channel of that river to its junction with the Zambesi, where it terminates."

The agreement coincided with the formal establishment of British rule over northern Botswana through the "Order-in-Council of 30 June 1890". This legal instrument unilaterally conferred on Her Majesty's High Commissioner for South Africa, in his capacity as Governor of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, the power to:

"Provide for the giving effect to any power or jurisdiction, which Her Majesty, her heirs or successors, may at any time before or after the date of this order have within the limits of this order." The limits of the Order were: "The parts of South Africa situate in the north of British Bechuanaland; west of the South African Republic; east of the German Protectorate; and south of the river Zambezi and not within the jurisdiction of any civilized power." A subsequent 9 May 1891 Order-in-Council the northern limits of the Bechuanaland Protectorate were specifically declared to include the Chobe District.



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