Perth set to get paper aimed at southern Africans

A new newspaper, the Southern African Independent, will be launching in Perth early next month.

Aimed at Southern Africans settled in WA it will be chock full of news and some top columns, both from Southern Africa and here in Perth.

With more than 20 years' journalism experience behind us, and excellent contacts in South Africa, the SA Independent is confident it can be a newspaper that will be professionally laid out, informative and entertaining. It will be available free to Rhodesian Association members.

We intend becoming a valid mouthpiece for, and window of, the Southern African community in Perth, as well as a provider of news and views from Southern Africa. But the newspaper can only succeed with your support.

If you would like a copy of our newspaper sent to you, please fill out the subscription coupon below and send it to us. And with your subscription we would like to invite you to take a free classified advertisement. If you have any news which you think would be of interest, please let us know. If you would like to advertise, don't hesitate to contact us we've kept our rates very reasonable.

Karen Jackman, Editor. Telehone 94447886.

The Early Days

The siege begins

New Chairman GRAHAM BLICK has an abiding interest in the place he grew up in -Shamva. So much so that he wrote his thesis on it. Over the next few issues we will reprint excerpts from his paper, starting with the occupation of the Mazoe Valley 1890 and the siege of Abercorn 1896.

SOON after the occupation of Mashonaland in 1890, the Mazoe Valley became a scene of great activ-ity, with prospectors spreading in all directions and small workings springing up in "ancient" gold min-ing sites.
Lower down the Mazoe River, near its junction with the Pote, the district was called Abercorn, in hon-our of the Duke of Abercorn, presi-dent of the British South Africa Com-pany. This is now known as Shamva.
By 1896 Abercorn boasted a small European community, mainly on and in the vicinity of Tafuna Hill, at the foot of which Messrs Deary and Company had established their trading store.

In June, although the Matabele Rising had begun nearly three months before and was in full fury, the settlers of Abercorn were peacefully occupied with their daily tasks, confident that, "' it can't happen to us".

No one suspected that some of the Mashona people were also planning to rise until the first sign of local trouble blew up in the adjoining Mtoko district, where the Acting Native Commissioner, H. H. Ruping, went to MAHOMBA's kraal to collect hut-tax, and met with a hostile reception.

Ruping's opinion was that the unrest was "due to the imposition and collection of hut-tax", and quoted the names of seven headman who had refused to pay, and who "forbade their boys to work for white men, and desired to have nothing to do with our government."
Ruping was subsequently murdered.
The B. S. A. Company's "Report on Native Disturbances 1896/ 97" states that there were about 20 prospectors and traders on the Abercorn goldfields at the start of the rising.

The Europeans had been alarmed by reports from Mazoe and on the 20th June 1896, fortified Deary & Company's store; they remained there in a state of siege for 23 days until they were relieved on the 13th July by a patrol from Salisbury led by A. H. F. Duncan, a retired naval officer and senior official of the company. Hickman in his article writes, "These are the bare facts, but the human side of the story is dramatic in the extreme; it follows largely the narrative of Edward Charles Broadbent, who may have taken command of the beleaguered people, and who wrote for the Rhodesia Herald after his rescue. He is described as a prospector and had been at work between the Mazoe and Pote Rivers when he heard of the rising, and was called in to Deary's Store with-all available guns and ammunition".

In a separate group John Fletcher, Joseph Francis Deane, George Holman and James Stroyan, all prospectors, made their way to Deary's but whilst passing CHlPADZl's kraal the party was fired on and Deane and Stroyan wounded. There is a curious reference in the official casualty list to Trooper George Holman of the Salisbury Field Force being 5 "wounded in action" on 17th June at Abercorn laager, but he only came in on the 20th and was certainly not a member of the Salisbury Field Force which formed part of the rescue party in July.

It is therefore most likely that he was wounded whilst defending the store. Hermann's Mining Camp had also been warned of the rising and when Louis Hermann came in, it was decided by the council of war that, having a horse, he should ride to Salisbury to report the situation.

But on the way he was murdered at MAKOMBl's kraal and three Africans who were also sent were never heard of again.

If they had been aliens they were probably murdered, but if locals, it is likely that they ran away. Alien or "Zambesi" Africans were as much in the Mashona target area as were Europeans. The other Europeans who endured the siege were John Robert Rowland, J. Pickering and A. Ragusin.
Broadbent was surprised at the ris-ing, because the local Africans had been quite friendly, though he had been somewhat disturbed for some time previously be-cause more produce had been bought for sale to the miners than they required, and the vendors seemed anx-ious to get powder and caps. departed with none but thought they obtained their supply from "Zambesi native traders" -the first reference Hickman has seen to trading being conducted by Africans who may have been hawk-ers rather than storekeepers. Then the Mashona suddenly stopped trad-ing, an ominous sign.

Deary & Company's store was not designed for defence; it was in a bad position on the level; with rising ground on every side, particularly the lower slopes of Tafuna Hill, but there was no other choice. So the settlers prepared for its defence.
At that time, buildings consisted of two store huts with a kitchen and mess huts in line on either side, and it was decided to set up the laager about 15 yards to the north of the site. It was in the form of a half circle with the flat side to the north, that is furthest from the store.

One of the store huts, that to the south-east was burned, because it would have screened the rebels where the grass was very long and close to it.
The foundations of the laager consisted of sacks of kaffir corn, mealies, and the like; for the breast-work, cases of corned beef, liquor and pickles were used.
“We loopholed it as well as we could, and filled up surplus holes with limbo, bundles of socks, clothing etc . . .” said Broadbent.

The inside measurements were about 150 square feet and here the refugees were quartered, eight Euro-pean men at the start, five Zambesi men, with one woman, one girl and three boys, 18 souls in all; together with six dogs which later proved most useful in their warnings of rebel ap-proach. Twenty-five other Zambesi employees deserted when the first shots were fired.

On Sunday 21st June before the laager was complete, the rebels came up in force from the direction of the Pote River and opened fire at 9.30 a.m.

They were driven off from the left by volley fire, a favourite mode of defence in those days, but moved round through long grass to the rear and there extended across the road to the right.
At this time Broadbent was wounded but not incapacitated, and several rebels shot in the open. Amongst them, as became apparent later, was their leader, for whose loss they swore vengeance.

This temporary repulse gave the refugees time to complete their laager. In the meantime the rebels retired into a kopje to the south-east, held a noisy council-of-war, and then began to parley with the garrison.

No notice was taken of them except by Fletcher, who “against orders and advice foolishly advanced to the edge of the bush. He held up his arms to show that he was without firearms, and was immediately shot dead”. His body lay where it fell, and he was probably buried at the same spot where his grave may be seen to this day.

Throughout the whole siege there could be no relaxation for the garrison. On the 24th and 25th June, most determined attacks were made, and Broadbent estimates that the rebel strength of guns was between 70 and 80 and there were “hordes armed with battle-axes and assegais”.

On the 25th the main body of rebels left, but a sufficient number remained to invest the laager. In all eight separate attacks were made and at other times rebels kept up a har-assing fire. The garrison enlivened pro-ceedings from time to time by throw-ing out plugs of dynamite with short fuses when the rebels crept up close through the long grass to the south and south-west “which had a very wholesome effect in making them keep a respectful distance.”