Lobengula (1845-1894) was the last ruler of the Ndebele, the tribe that split off from the Zulus and moved north. His Kingdom was short-lived, but it was the last major African state to fall to colonialism. Its strategic position at the crossroads of European ambitions combined with its rich natural resources made it an obvious target. Lobengula was eventually tricked into signing over his Kingdom to the authority of Cecil Rhodes.
The chameleon gets behind the fly, remains motionless for some time, then he advances very slowly and gently, first putting forward one leg and then another. At last, when well within reach, he darts his tongue and the fly disappears. England is the chameleon and I am that fly.
The British sent a missionary, John Smith Moffat, to Lobengula's court, to keep an eye on their interests. Moffat had made a name for himself in Bechuanaland (Botswana). Lobengula welcomed him as a bearer of spiritual tidings. The missionary persuaded the King to sign a treaty by which Lobengula undertook not to cede land to any power without the consent of the British. Rhodes followed the Moffat maneuver with a delegation to Lobengula, which asked for and obtained permission for Rhodes to trade, hunt, and prospect for precious minerals in Ndebele territory. However Rhodes’ promise to pioneers that they would each receive a 3,000-acre farm there infuriated the Ndebele. Lobengula canceled the concession and ordered the British out of his country. The British ignored his command and proceeded to complete the road link with the south, bringing in more settlers.
In August 1889, Lobengula wrote to Queen Victoria to complain:
The white people are troubling me much about gold. If the queen hears that I have given away the whole country it is not so.
When Rhodes announced the extension of the railway line from Mafeking northward through Ndebele territory, Lobengula decided enough was enough. War broke out toward the end of 1893. The Ndebele army was crushed, and Lobengula fled north. He died about a month later.