This week in history
Sir Cecil John Rhodes started the colonisation process of what is now known as Zimbabwe 122 years ago. The renowned English businessman saw potential in this country once gold was discovered.
Lobengula Khumalo, King of the Ndebele, offered valuable mineral rights to Rhodes in exchange for European commodities such as firearms. Rhodes then convinced Khumalo to sign a concession permitting him to exploit the land. Rhodes wasted no time in acquiring a royal charter in 1889, and established the British South Africa Company to enable colonisation and the accumulation of wealth.
As European interest in land increased, so did African resistance. Khumalo desperately tried to renounce the agreement he had signed, but his efforts were fruitless. Rhodes settled a few hundred traders on the land, and the colony continued to expand, quickly reaching forty thousand people.
British forces engaged in battle with the people of Matabeleland on 27 June 1890. Although both sides wanted to avoid war, it was an inevitable consequence of the invasion. Two wars followed the conflict and much blood was shed.
Besides acquiring the gold that had been hidden for so many years, Rhodes improved the economy he had welcomed himself to. He laid railway tracks with the dream of connecting the Cape to Cairo and he longed to see the country flourish.
The company, however, was unable to generate enough mining profits and shareholders hastily withdrew with the arrival of the Great Depression in 1929. In 1895, the BSAC named the country Rhodesia in honour of Cecil Rhodes, the pioneer of the expedition.