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TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 5 JANUARY

5 January 1876: Enquiry into allegations of bribery against Cecil Rhodes 

DID YOU KNOW

The Black Flag Rebellion of 1875, coupled with other matters of social misbehaviour, saw the appointment of Colonel Crossman as a Royal Commissioner with the task of holding an official enquiry into the practices, and then implementing changes to bring Kimberley into the fold of responsible governance. The Court of Enquiry began on 5 January 1876 with one of the charges to be investigated by Crossman being to do with the flooding of the mines and the ineffective machinery utilised. A certain Mr Heuteau who was responsible for the machinery and pumping of water from the De Beers Mine alleged that he had been offered £300 by a speculator if he could stop the machinery by damaging it and thus flooding the mine. He refused to name the speculator but Crossman threatened legal action against him so he compromised by writing the name on a piece of paper. The name he wrote – ‘Mr Cecil Rhodes.’ Crossman immediately called for Rhodes but Charles Rudd came in his place and told Crossman that Rhodes was not a man who bribed anyone and that he himself was prepared to give evidence that Heuteau had committed perjury.

Crossman then summonsed Rhodes and Heuteau to appear before him two days later on Friday 7 January. Rhodes arrived shortly after Crossman had closed proceedings for the day and apologised stating that he had been checking the pumping machinery at Dutoitspan Mine. He claimed that Heuteau was lying. The following day, Thursday 6 January, Rhodes attended a special meeting of the De Beers Mining Board, and appealed to the members for assistance in clearing his name, but they did not help. The Chairman even said that it was only one man’s word against another, and that, quite unbelievably, he had even heard about the bribe some months before! So it was to the enquiry the next day that Rhodes had to explain.

It was a very short hearing as Rhodes had met with his lawyer (and partner) Robert Dundas Graham, and he advised Crossman that he was going to charge Heuteau with perjury and had handed it over to the Public Prosecutor. Crossman allowed no representations in the light of the matter going to court and legal proceedings were allowed to take its course. The editor of the Diamond News, Richard William Murray (Snr), commented: “The Attorney-General will, we hope, not shrink from his duty. The charge has been made; the character of a respectable citizen has been assailed. If Heuteau can prove that his allegation is true, the Attorney-General ought to put the law in force against Rhodes; but if he cannot, then Rhodes ought to have full justice done him, for if a man be robbed of his good name, he has suffered an injury which, in some cases, it takes a lifetime to remedy.”

The preliminary hearing was in the Regional Magistrate’s Court on 13 January. Rhodes counsel called witnesses to the stand who told the court that Heuteau had told them before the enquiry that Rhodes was not the man who had offered the bribe. The accused reserved his defence, and despite the fact that no-one other than Crossman had seen Rhodes’ name written on the paper, the court decided that there was indeed a case against Heuteau and he was committed to trial on a perjury charge.

There was great surprise when a few days later the perjury charges against Heuteau were dropped, and nothing further was heard of the case, and, interestingly, nothing further was heard about the bribery charges against Rhodes. It does appear, in reading between the lines, because the newspapers carried no further stories that something had happened behind the scenes. It is pure conjecture but where there is smoke there must be a fire of sorts. Without stating that Rhodes was involved in some skullduggery it is most unusual that both the perjury and bribery charges were dropped. He did have friends in high places, and Brian Roberts contends that Heuteau was in danger of losing his job.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

ARCHIVED VERSION FROM 05/01/2017

Charles Rudd and Cecil Rhodes had the opportunity in 1876 of buying the entire De Beers Mine for £6000, but for various reasons, which probably included lack of finance for the purchase as well as the licencing fees, they declined after much discussion. While visiting his father at Bishop’s Stortford that same year, he wrote to Rudd: “I suppose our affair at De Beers looks bad now; don’t be low-spirited. If ever you were in a good thing that will give you an income that will…I suppose you, like the rest, are in a happy state of bills, short cash, and prospective insolvency. All I can say is I envy you. I never was so happy as when in bills up to my neck and pump breaking down.”

There were still problems with pumping the water out of the mines, and in 1876 Hawkins was requested by Rhodes to accompany him to a meeting of the De Beers Mining Board where he was asked to explain. “…there had been a very great delay in the arrival of the necessary machinery,” recalled Hawkins, “…from financial reasons. The Board had become fractious and impatient. I have never forgotten the way in which he, still quite a youth, handled that body of angry men and gained his point, an extension of time.”

In an undated letter (but certainly in either 1876 or 1877) Rhodes ended with an unusual statement that “My character was so battered at the Diamond Fields that I like to preserve the few remnants.” This comment hints at a scandal or scandals involving Rhodes, and what is surprising is that so few biographers have even mentioned it.

The Black Flag Rebellion of 1875, coupled with other matters of social misbehaviour, saw the appointment of Colonel Crossman as a Royal Commissioner with the task of holding an official enquiry into the practices, and then implementing changes to bring Kimberley into the fold of responsible governance. The Court of Enquiry began on 5 January 1876 with one of the charges to be investigated by Crossman being to do with the flooding of the mines and the ineffective machinery utilised. A certain Mr Heuteau who was responsible for the machinery and pumping of water from the De Beers Mine alleged that he had been offered £300 by a speculator if he could stop the machinery by damaging it and thus flooding the mine. He refused to name the speculator but Crossman threatened legal action against him so he compromised by writing the name on a piece of paper. The name he wrote – ‘Mr Cecil Rhodes.’ Crossman immediately called for Rhodes but Charles Rudd came in his place and told Crossman that Rhodes was not a man who bribed anyone and that he himself was prepared to give evidence that Heuteau had committed perjury.

Crossman then summonsed Rhodes and Heuteau to appear before him two days later on Friday 7 January. Rhodes arrived shortly after Crossman had closed proceedings for the day and apologised stating that he had been checking the pumping machinery at Dutoitspan Mine. He claimed that Heuteau was lying. The day prior, Thursday 6 January, Rhodes attended a special meeting of the De Beers Mining Board, and appealed to the members for assistance in clearing his name, but they did not help. The Chairman even said that it was only one man’s word against another, and that, quite unbelievably, he had even heard about the bribe some months before! So it was to the enquiry the next day that Rhodes had to explain.

It was a very short hearing as Rhodes had met with his lawyer (and partner) Robert Dundas Graham, and he advised Crossman that he was going to charge Heuteau with perjury and had handed it over to the Public Prosecutor. Crossman allowed no representations in the light of the matter going to court and legal proceedings were allowed to take its course. The editor of the Diamond News, Richard William Murray (Snr), commented: “The Attorney-General will, we hope, not shrink from his duty. The charge has been made; the character of a respectable citizen has been assailed. If Heuteau can prove that his allegation is true, the Attorney-General ought to put the law in force against Rhodes; but if he cannot, then Rhodes ought to have full justice done him, for if a man be robbed of his good name, he has suffered an injury which, in some cases, it takes a lifetime to remedy.”

The preliminary hearing was in the Regional Magistrate’s Court on 13 January. Rhodes’ counsel called witnesses to the stand who told the court that Heuteau had told them before the enquiry that Rhodes was not the man who had offered the bribe. The accused reserved his defence, and despite the fact that no-one other than Crossman had seen Rhodes’ name written on the paper, the court decided that there was indeed a case against Heuteau and he was committed to trial on a perjury charge.

There was great surprise when a few days later the perjury charges against Heuteau were dropped, and nothing further was heard of the case, and, interestingly, nothing further was ever heard about the bribery charges against Cecil Rhodes.

Aeon Computer Kimberley

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