First Matabele War

Wed, 10/25/1893 - Tue, 01/23/1894

The British South Africa Company (BSAC) had a Royal Charter granted in 1890 by the British government, modelled on the old East India Company, to pursue an economic and physical colonisation of southern and central Africa during the 'Scramble for Africa'. Cecil Rhodes was a director, as was the Chairman of the company, James Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Abercorn of Baronscourt, County Fermanagh. The BSAC Royal charter granted them administrative control over an area between the rivers Limpopo and Zambezi. When the 'Pioneer Column' guided by Frederick Selous and protected by the British South Africa Police*, was sent by Rhodes to travel through the lands of the Northern Ndebele (Matebeleland) and the Shona (Mashonaland) it established Fort Salisbury, now Harare in Zimbabwe.

When the Ndebele, decendents of a Zulu breakaway faction, raided the Mashona in pursuit of an unpaid 'tribute', this was an opportunity for Rhodes to send a force to advance on the Ndebele King Lobengula's capital, Bulawayo. The result of the fighting was inevitable when the the spear and Martini-Henry equipped, yet formidable Ndebele Army, was no match for a force equipped with the Maxim machine gun. When King Lobengula died of smallpox in January 1894, it marked the submission of his kingdom and its Ndebele and subject Shona peoples.

The British South Africa Police was said to have been modelled on the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) with the first officers trained by the RIC at its Depot in Phoenix Park, Dublin.