One treacherous treaty signed by the British in Africa is the Rudd Concession, a written concession for exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland and other adjoining territories in what is today Zimbabwe, signed between King Lobengula of Matabeleland and Charles Rudd, James Rochfort Maguire and Francis Thompson, three agents acting on behalf of the British imperialist South African-based politician and businessman Cecil Rhodes, on 30 October 1888. Despite Lobengula’s retrospective attempts to disavow it, it proved the foundation for the royal charter granted by the United Kingdom to Rhodes’s British South Africa Company in October 1889, and thereafter for the Pioneer Column‘s occupation of Mashonaland in 1890, which marked the beginning of white settlement, administration and development in the country that eventually became Rhodesia, named after Rhodes, in 1895.
In reality, the Rudd Concession was a deceitful perfidious trick played by the British on King Lobengula to: 1) take his lands, and 2) appropriate the entire country then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from local chiefs who of course knew no English (or very little of it), with translators who very often were also cheating the kings of their lands.
The fact that Lobengula was a force to reckon with is not to be ignored. Cecil Rhodes himself confided to Rothschild saying, “I have always been afraid of the difficulty of dealing with the Matabele King. He is the only block to central Africa, as, once we have his territory, the rest is easy … the rest is simply a village system with separate headmen …” So trickery was the only way to go for Rhodes in order to get Lobengula.
Moreover, when you read the concession itself, it’s written on a piece of common paper, as in a 6th grader homework sheet, not legible even by those days’ standards, let alone by a non-native speaker such as Lobengula. It was not a colonial treaty of sovereignty, but a written concession awarding exclusive mining rights in Matabeleland, Mashonaland, and surrounding areas between King Lobengula of the Matabeleland, and James Rudd (representing Cecil Rhodes). For example, King Lobengula never ever discussed nor negotiated a single term in the fraudulent Rudd Concession with the British. Typical of European colonization in Africa!
This was signed on 30 October 1880. As early as 1889, King Lobengula tried to disavow the treaty, after realizing that he had been tricked. Once King Lobengula grasped the extent of this treachery (I mean, who would think that by talking to some people, ‘putting an X’ – signing some documents you don’t even understand, you are giving your entire land, sovereignty, humanity, inheritance, burial grounds, and people?), he sent a delegation to talk to the ‘White’ queen, Queen Victoria (similar to delegations sent by other African Kings, Prempeh, Behanzin to France, Duala Kings in Kamerun to Germany, etc) about the misappropriation, but his delegation was made to linger in London and was eventually never received, all while the British occupied the lands.
Cecil Rhodes was so happy about the Rudd Concession that he said, it is “so gigantic it is like giving a man, the whole of Australia”… OUTRAGEOUS!!!
For more information, please do check out the website of the late Jenny Bennett who did outstanding work detailing the story of The Rudd concession, Lobengula and the concession hunters, and Lobengula’s betrayal, and the Repercussions of the Rudd concession, or read Arthur Keppel-Jones, Rhodes Rhodesia Conquest book.
9 thoughts on “British Colonial Treaties in Africa: The Ruud Concession in Zimbabwe 30 Oct 1888”
Much currency has been put on the Rudd Concession when in fact it bestowed nothing on Rhodes and his gang. This concession has been proved to be a forgery, and was never used by Rhodes to occupy Matabeleland. Rhodes occupied Matabeleland after the war and conquest of Matabeleland using ” the rule by right of conquest”. King Lobengula repudiated the R concession in January 1889, because” that piece of paper did not contain my words and the words of those who got it”. The King had told Rudd” first bring that you will give me and I will show you what I can give”. those are the words he was assured were in the document. Rudd and his gang never brought anything so the King gave nothing to them. When the King was aware of the trickery he arrested all the white men who had anything to do with the concession until the document came back but they did not bring the document and they escaped from Bulawayo. Why? Because they were afraid their dishonesty would be discovered. The King further wrote to the queen and put a statement in all major newspapers in the cape. so the Rudd Concession was null and void.
Thompson, thanks for commenting on the article.
It is not correct to say Rudd brought nothing to the King. The terms of the concession were very clear – and the rifles and ammunition were supplied as provided for. The agreement also entitled the settlers in Mashonaland to take whatever measures were necessary to ensure they were unhindered in exercising their mining rights. When King Lobengula sent his men to murder the servants of the whites living at Fort Victoria, this violated a key provision of the concession. The facts of history are pretty straightforward in this regard. It was not possible for the whites to look away – particularly when they themselves were threatened with death if they were to be found in the region upon the return of the impi. The consequences of the war that followed in Matabeleland were tragic, but not entirely the fault of the settlers.
It is never the fault of the settlers. I am just surprised that throughout the world, it was always the same story with European settlers: They were never at fault… they came, signed unfair treaties, or when they wanted your land, they claimed something happened, or they will force something to happen, and when one defended themselves, they had no choice but to retaliate. You can see this even in the conquest of the Americas, in Asia, in Africa… Ask many Native Americans, they will tell you about it, I am sure you will read countless stories where it was not the fault of the settlers… yet there was the trail of tears, and all others throughout the world. When is it ever their fault?
i find it incredible that white people despite what we know now about the process of colonisation, still argue like it was the Africans who negotiated in bad faith and reneged on legitimate agreements.The problem is that even today we Africans are repeating the mistakes of our 19th Century Kings. We think Europeans are people with whom we can do business. But they have no model for relating to us except as enemies in uneven wars or as field hands, household hands and a few overseers on the plantation….
Very well said… thank you for your comment… we are repeating the same mistakes as our forefathers because many of us do not know our history, and so everything seems new, when in reality it is not.
I have used your works in my presentation on Negotiating mining contracts.
Thank you for the informative piece of history
So glad the blog could be of help. Happy presentation!
this is real story