oa Botswana Notes & Records - The political significance of the early Hermannsburg Mission in Botswana: aAn assessment of its role among Batswana, the British and the Boers

Volume 22, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0525-5090



The work of the Hermannsburg Mission in Botswana was ruled by many coincidences and external influences. Without being aware of it, the missionaries had their opportunity from 1857 until 1863/64, because they acted as executors of superior political interests. Until about 1861 they existed as shock-absorbers between Boers, the British (especially the LMS) and some Batswana peoples (especially baKwena, baNgwato and baHuruthse) by participating in maintaining the political status quo. After 1861 and especial1y after the death of Jurgen Schroder in May 1862, they lost this role and also their mission field, because firstly Great Britain gave up its retention against Africa north of the Orange River, as had been decided in the Sand River Convention of January 1852. Secondly, the Boers fell into a civil war and neglected their relations with neighbouring African peoples. Thirdly, the superiors of the Hermannsburg Mission, Ludwig Harms and August Hardeland, sacrificed the Hermannsburg Mission of Botswana to the superior view-point of winning back control over the South African mission. The most important political significance of the early Hermannsburg Mission in Botswana was simply its existence. While coming up, members of the Mission provoked the LMS, especially John Mackenzie and Roger Price, to enforce their own interests more seriously, whereby the LMS strengthened British imperialism. The Boers on the other hand, like the British interested in their own expansion into the north, failed. They had to pay dearly for having no mission societies of their own as Great Britain, had. These would have enforced their claims with a similar persistence. In conclusion the Linokana Convention in 1864 defined the zones of influence of the two European powers. With small deviations the Linokana Convention anticipated the coming borderline between South Africa and Botswana.

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