National Geographic : 1944 Sep
Rhodesia, Hobby and Hope of Cecil Rhodes BY W. ROBERT MOORE N the Public Gardens at Capetown stands a statue of Cecil John Rhodes. His left arm is outstretched; his eyes are stead fastly fixed toward the horizon far to the north. "Your hinterland is there!" he ex horts (Plate I). A few hundred yards away are the Assembly buildings where Rhodes, sitting in the Cape Parliament, had fervently pressed his ideas of northern expansion. He entered parliament at the age of 27, the year he got his degree from Oxford. Five hundred-odd miles northward is Kim berley, famed for its "Big Hole" and its diamonds.* Here, when gems were first found, came Rhodes, a tall, tubercular youth of 18 years. He was no ordinary happy-go lucky digger. The pockets of his rumpled, ill-fitting suit bulged with the classics! Here, while he pumped water, sold ice cream, and dug diamonds, he spun grandiose imperial dreams. Between paragraphs of Aristotle, he pondered and planned a glorious path of empire. Unlike some dreamers he also made money. In a few years he had founded a company that was to monopolize the entire South Afri can diamond trade and had won a fortune which would further his vast colonial schemes. As you travel still farther north now by express train, you pass through the empty desert of Bechuanaland, part of the path that Rhodes was instrumental in gaining. More than 600 miles above Kimberley you come to Bulawayo. Here, too, is another statue of Rhodes. It also faces north-north toward Cairo, 3,500 miles away (page 286). The Cape-to-Cairo Route Cape to Cairo! An all-British route span ning the entire length of the huge African Continent-that and more was Rhodes's ambi tious dream! t The foundation of Rhodesia was to be a steppingstone in his project. "My hobby," he once called it in a letter to a friend. Hobby indeed, this winning of trade and mining rights from fierce old black King Lobengula, pacifying natives, settling families, and juggling big business, while keep ing his eye on more northerly expansion. Only Rhodes (shall we call him the Colossus?) would have called it that! Let us look at this "hobby" fifty years after. Forty-two years have passed since Rhodes's body, hampered by a weakened heart, lost the race to his surging spirit and was buried in the lonely Matopo Hills, near Bulawayo. Only a scant score have elapsed since the land was finally annexed by Britain and the people acquired responsible colonial govern ment. Actually there are two Rhodesias.4 The Northern colony, about a tenth larger than Texas, is nearly double the size of the South ern. Together, they approximate the area of the States lying south of Washington, D. C., and east of the Mississippi River. But how different! Over the broad Rhodesian spaces white peo ple are scattered so thinly as to make our emptiest State, Nevada, look filled by com parison. There are only about 89,000 Euro peans in Southern Rhodesia, and 15,000 in the big Northern colony. There are about 26 black natives to every white person. It is still a young pioneer land. Small though the population is, today it is doing its bit. Many of Rhodesia's young men have donned wide-brimmed, beribboned campaign hats and British battle dress and gone north-north not only to Cairo, but to Somaliland, Ethiopia, Greece, Syria, and Libia. Now Rhodesians are fighting on all fronts. At home the women are driving army trucks and carrying on other war work. Planes Swarm over Airfields Planes swarm the sunny Rhodesian skies above a dozen airfields scattered over the country. Here's a new use for the colony's wide-open spaces. The pilots? They're York shire lads, men from London, burry-accented Scots, boys from the countinghouses in Liver pool, Anzacs from sheep and cattle stations in Australia and New Zealand. These ex tensive Rhodesian airfields are maintained by the Southern Rhodesian Government and operated by the RAF (Royal Air Force). "I was in France and got out the last day from Dunkirk," said one. "Now I'm training to hit back." "I was in London when they tried to burn it down; my wife and kiddy are still there," *See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Busy Corner-the Cape of Good Hope," August, 1942, and "Cities That Gold and Diamonds Built," December, 1942, both by W. Robert Moore; and "Under the South African Union," by Melville Chater, April, 1931. t See "Cairo to Capetown, Overland," by Felix Shay, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1925. $ See "Rhodesia, the Pioneer Colony," by Melville Chater, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1935.