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Development of Rhodesia



The following text is adapted from 'Life and Death at the Old Drift, Victoria Falls 1898-1905', researched and written by Peter Roberts and published in 2018. Please visit the Zambezi Book Company website for more information.



Police Postings

Following Lawley’s meeting with Lewanika the Chartered Company quickly focussed its attentions beyond the Zambezi. In September 1898, Captain Gordon Vallency Drury was sent from Bulawayo with a company of 13 British South Africa Police to establish a defensive fort at Monze (about 300 km north-east of the Falls).

Mr Hugh Felix Walker, a Bulawayo-based transport rider, was hired as the wagon manager for the journey.

The following year, 1899, Captain John Carden led a company of British South Africa Police to relieve Captain Drury at Fort Monze, again with Mr Walker assisting as transport manager, together with his two sons. The troopers patrolled on horseback over the Batoka Valley and Kafue Flats, ensuring the safety of the growing numbers of European traders and prospectors active in the region as well as enforcing the peace between rival regional chiefs, who were still actively raiding neighbouring tribes and taking captives to sell on to into slavery.

The names of many of these men are unknown, although several, including Carden, would later play important roles in the development of the territory. Others were less fortunate, with four of the men being immortalised in the small graveyard.

Walker’s Drift

Mr Walker is credited for initiating a new crossing point about 75 kilometres downstream of the Falls, known as Walker’s Drift. In a 1901 article entitled ‘A Beautiful Country,’ Walker, proudly promotes the potential of the lands across the Zambezi, describing in detail the process of floating wagons over the river.

“Mr Walker, a hunter of the first rank in Rhodesia, has been telling a representative of the ‘Bulawayo Chronicle’ about the wonderful stretch of territory north of the Zambezi... Mr Walker tells of the vast region north of the big waterway. ‘On the other side,’ he says, ‘is a beautiful country, and the plateau is much healthier than here... I went up there for the first time two or tree years ago, and have been there twice again. I went in for trading and hunting, but my chief idea was to have a look at the country with a view to settling there... We generally leave here in April and May and get back in October or November. There’s a road starting from the banks of the Zambesi... You get your waggons over in this way. Two hogsheads [large wooden barrels] are tied underneath the waggon, the wheels fastened to the body of the waggon, the disselboom [main haulage shaft] taken out, and then a dugout goes on each side of the waggon. Some... hold on to ropes and the others paddle... Two hogsheads were left there for the benefit of people crossing; these, however, have become ant-eaten, and anyone going up now should take hogsheads with them.’” (New Zealand Herald, May 1901)

Grey’s First Expedition

A large prospecting expedition led by Mr George Grey, for the Tanganyika Concession Company Ltd, found and staked claims to ancient copper workings in the Kansanshi region in September 1899 (the mine subsequently founded has grown to become Africa’s largest copper mine). The expedition, which left Bulawayo in early April 1899, consisted of five Europeans - Mr Frederick Crewe (second in command), Mr James Norval Justice (a geologist), Mr Paul MacDonald (a prospector), and Mr Mowbray Gore Farquhar (a hunter) - supported by 38 African carriers, 67 donkeys, eight oxen, seven horses and two pack mules. The party crossed the Zambezi River at Binga, 100 miles [160 km] downstream from the Falls. On the return journey Grey crossed at Walker’s Drift, 30 miles [50 km] upstream (Grey, 1901).

The Controller’s Camp

During 1898 Coryndon established a Company camp on the north bank of the river, known as the Controller’s Camp (also known as the Victoria Falls Station), situated five kilometres above the Falls near the confluence with the Maramba River, connected to the south bank via canoe, the closest crossing point above the Falls.

“In 1898 the Controller’s Camp was opened. It was situated five km above the Falls on the north bank of the Zambezi River near the confluence with the Maramba River and in the British South Africa Company’s Reserve. Next to Maramba Drift a canoe connection operated with Giese’s Ferry on the south bank.” (Shepherd, 2008)

The Controllers Camp
The Controller’s Camp or Victoria Falls Station

In October 1899 Major (later Colonel) Edwin Colin Harding and Mr Gifford Moore arrived at the banks of the Zambezi above the Falls. Harding, acting as the Company’s representative during the absence of Coryndon (who had departed on leave to England), headed north to Lealui. Moore, an Australian, meanwhile established himself at the Victoria Falls as the Company’s first District Commissioner for the Falls region.

Four independent traders are recorded as entering the territory from the south during 1899, rising to sixteen in 1900, of which ten are identified as cattle traders (Sampson, 1956).

Barotse Native Police

Major Harding, having served in the Mashonaland Mounted Police (where he received the Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George for his services in the Mashonaland Rebellion) and North-Eastern Rhodesia, was posted to Barotseland to establish a native police force.

“Harding was now sent up to Barotseland as Acting Resident Commissioner to relieve Robert Coryndon who left on leave in November 1899. Major Harding had orders, dated 31 August 1899, from the Commandant General in Southern Rhodesia, to take over command of the police detachment at Lealui, consult with Coryndon concerning the enlistment of native police and to enlist twenty-five to thirty... Colin Harding was accompanied by his brother, William, a newcomer to Southern Africa, as private secretary, and Sergeant F C Macaulay.”

Heading to Lealui, Harding obtained the Litunga’s permission to recruit officers, and in early 1900 the first recruits were enlisted into the new force.

“At Lealui in December 1899 Harding approached Lewanika for help with recruiting police. The Litunga was reluctant. He feared that the police would undermine his authority. Harding argued that they would only be trained at Mongu-Lealui and would then be posted to Batokaland, as area so far away that Lewanika could not maintain order there himself. He explained that the police would at any time enforce the Chief’s authority if required, always, of course, under the Administration’s orders and instructions. Harding reported ‘With these assurances he was content, and he promised to get forty of fifty recruits, but I am convinced that his consent was not given spontaneously. ...

“The first 25 recruits for the Barotse Native Police were attested at Lealui on 2 January 1900. There terms of service were explained to them by the Ngambela, Lewanika’s prime minister. The engagement was for 12 months at 10/- a month for privates, 12/6 for corporals and 15/- for native sergeants. Each man was to be issued with a free uniform and a blanket.”

Harding was convinced of the importance of the Barotse Native Police, recording in his annual report of 1899:

‘White police do not prove to be suitable for this territory. Under circumstances which necessitate frequent prolonged patrols at all seasons, and often on very limited or unsuitable rations, I have found them subject to a very large amount of general sickness and fever, and the difficulty of providing transport for white police, the expense of mounting them, and their natural inability to perform the duties required among natives quite unaccustomed to white men, have convinced me that it is necessary to police the territory with natives controlled efficiently by responsible white officers and instructors.’

The British Colonial Office were less convinced, one official referring to them as ‘this dangerous force’.

“On Coryndon’s return from leave [in mid-1900] Haring was appointed Commandant of the Barotse Native Police. There were six Company posts, Mongu, Victoria Falls, Kalomo, Fort Monze (BSAP), Kazungula and Sesheke, the last two having no permanent buildings, but being frequently visited. Kalomo was selected by Coryndon as Government Headquarters.” (Wright, 2001)

Sphere of Influence

On 19th January 1900 Harding, accompanied by his brother, William, and a party of Lewanika’s indunas with their retinues, left Lealui by canoe to explore the Zambezi to its source and map the extent of the Barotse territory and Lewanika’s ‘sphere of influence.’ Harding was especially concerned with Portuguese penetration into the western boundaries of the Upper Zambezi region, territory which he found still suffered from the activities of slave traders.

“On 19th January 1900 Harding, accompanied by his brother and a party of Lewanika’s indunas with their retinues, left Lealui by canoe to follow the Zambezi to its source. Sergeant Macaulay was left in charge at Lealui where he continued training the recruits. Harding had brought with him a photograph with a recorded message to Lewanika from the Administrator of Matabeleland, the Hon Arthur Lawley. At Lealui Harding made a recording of Lewanika’s voice with a message to his vassals calling on them, amongst other things, to send to the Litunga all arrears without further delay, or ‘the Great White Man who now visits you will mete out the punishment you deserve.’ Harding played this message to the various Lovale, Lunda and other chiefs he met and recorded their messages in reply, acknowledging the Litunga’s suzerainty and pledging their loyalty...

“Harding reported many deserted villages in the Lunda country where the people lived in fear of raids by the Lovale and Mambari [Afro-Portuguese] salvers. On his return to Nyakatoro, after reaching the source of the Zambezi, Colin Harding... set off overland to Chisamba in the Bihe country of Portuguese West Africa. He reported, ‘Every day I am seeing traces of the slave trade. The wayside trees are simply hung with disused shackles, some to hold one, some two, three and even six slaves. Skull and bones bleached by the sun lie where the victims fell, gape with helpless grin on those who pass, a damning evidence of a horrible traffic… yesterday we met two caravans and today one, all proceeding to the Lunda country for their living merchandise. Some were carrying spare guns, some calico, others powder.’ The Mambari exchanged calico, guns and powder for slaves and rubber. On 9th May Harding met a caravan eighty four strong on its way to the Lunda country. Harding was in no position to take any action. He was without any force of his own in Portuguese territory where the garrisons of the various forts appeared to ignore the passing trade... They all arrived back at Lealui on 19 June 1900. Harding had travelled a total of 2,235 miles [3,597 km] since leaving Kazungula in the previous October.” (Wright, 2001)

After an extended period exploring the remote western fringes of Barotseland, including travelling to within reach of the source of the Zambezi, Harding returned to the Falls in mid-1900, recouping briefly with Moore at the Company’s Camp.

“The two days spent at the Falls were of a most enjoyable description. Moore, who was in charge, came with me to North Western Rhodesia last October, and, strange to say, we had not met since that time. He was most kind and hospitable, fed me up with milk and eggs, provided two good horses for my further journey, and solved the difficulty of further transport by giving me six donkeys and a cart.” (Harding, 1904)

Sometime soon after, in early 1901, Harding’s brother, who acted as his assistant, died of fever whilst at Fort Monze (Western Zambia). Harding returned to the Falls with a Trooper Lucas, only to find more bad news.

“On my arrival at the Victoria Falls I was grieved to hear of other sad events which had transpired during the past few weeks. Moore had been laid up and nearly on two occasions died of ... fever.” (Harding, 1904)

Gifford Moore departed south soon after, to be replaced by Mr Sykes who arrived in May 1901.

Gielgud and the Slavers

At the turn of the century old slave routes from the east coast were still active and several bands of slave traders had penetrated the Kafue region from the north-east at the turn of the century, trading guns for slaves and encouraging tribal rivalries. In mid-1900 Valdemar Gielgud, an ‘old American scout’ and BSAC official (who had first entered the territory with Lawley in 1898) and his assistant, Mr Alexander Collie Anderson, were sent north to establish a Company presence in the Hook of Kafue region to terminate their activities, the last such engagements in the territory.

“During 1900 Val Gielgud, a District Commissioner, dispersed slave caravans on the Kafue River... Gielgud advocated strong patrols... [fearing] that, if the administration was weak, ‘every European travelling or trading will maintain, as is customary in other parts of Central Africa, a following of askari or armed natives who, either on their own account or with concurrence of their employer will raid and intimidate the native population.’” (Wright, 2001)

Next page: On the Wagon Road

Further Reading

Baxter, T. W. (1952) The Discovery And Historical Associations [In Clark, D. [Editor] (1952), Chapter 1.]

Harding, C. (1904) In Remotest Barotseland. Hurst and Blackett, London.

New Zealand Herald (May 1901), ‘A Beautiful Country,’ 27 May 1901. [Online source: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTIM19010527.2.48]

Shepherd, G. (2008) Old Livingstone and Victoria Falls. Stenlake Publishing.

Wright, T. (2001) History of the North Rhodesian Police. BECM Press.


Life and Death at the Old Drift, Victoria Falls 1898-1905

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'To The Victoria Falls' aims to bring you the wonder of the Victoria Falls through a look at its natural and human history.

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