John Harrison Clark
Harrison Clark in Broken Hill, undated
|Born||John Harrison Clark
Port Elizabeth, Cape Colony
|Died||9 December 1927 (aged about 67)
John Harrison Clark or Changa-Changa (c. 1860–1927) was an adventurer from the South African Cape who effectively ruled much of what is today southern Zambia from the early 1890s through to 1902. Alone and unassisted, he arrived to the country in about 1887, reputedly as an outlaw, and assembled and trained a private army of Senga natives, which he used to drive off various bands of slave-raiders. He took control of a bloc of territory on the north bank of the Zambezi river called Mashukulumbwe, became known as Chief "Changa-Changa" and, through a series of treaties with local chiefs, gained mineral and labour concessions covering much of the region.
Starting in 1897, Clark attempted to secure protection for his holdings from the British South Africa Company. The company took little notice of him. When a local chief, Chintanda, complained to the company in 1899 that Clark had secured his concessions while passing himself off as a company official—and had reportedly been collecting hut tax for at least two years, with no authority to do so—the company resolved to remove him from power, and did so in 1902. Clark then farmed for about two decades, with some success, and moved in the late 1910s to Broken Hill, where he became a prominent local figure, and a partner in the first licensed brewery in Northern Rhodesia. Remaining in Broken Hill for the rest of his life, he died in 1927.
Not much is known about John Harrison Clark's early life. The son of a man "in the hardware business" (according to a military officer who later encountered him, Major Deare), he was born in Port Elizabeth, Cape Colony about 1860, and engaged for a time in the Cape Mounted Riflemen during the 1880s. A tall, physically strong man, he wore a large black moustache, and was regarded as a fine shot and a capable hunter.
Rise to power
Arrival at Feira
Harrison Clark left South Africa in 1887, but it is unclear why; according to a story that may be apocryphal, he fled the country as an outlaw soon after his revolver fired—by accident, so the story goes—and killed a man. Whatever the truth, he travelled to Portuguese Mozambique, from where he made his way upriver along the Zambezi until he reached Feira, a long-abandoned Portuguese settlement at the confluence of the Zambezi and Luangwa Rivers, in what is today southern Zambia. Feira was founded by Portuguese missionaries in about 1720, but by 1887 it was a ghost town. Its last Portuguese inhabitants had fled amidst a native rising about half a century before, and since then it had been deserted.
The explorer David Livingstone, who visited Feira in 1856, described it as utterly ruined at that time, but still conspicuous by the ramshackle monastery buildings on the site. When Clark arrived about three decades later, the Portuguese still maintained a boma (fort) called Zumbo on the opposite bank of the Luangwa, but the surrounding country, Mashukulumbwe, was largely wild, and out of the control of any kind of central government. Harrison Clark settled at Feira, initially alone. Apparently regarding himself as an independent British trader, he hoisted the Red Ensign of the British Merchant Navy over his house.
Slave-raiding was rife in Mashukulumbwe, with Portuguese and mixed-race Chikunda-Portuguese gangs competing with each other for the capture of local Baila and Batonga people for use as slaves. Clark, who became known to the locals as "Changa-Changa", did not approve of slavery, and resolved to take a stand against it. He raised a private army from amongst the Senga people, which he trained himself, and issued with a vague uniform. Some time during the early 1890s, he confronted and routed a band of Portuguese slavers who were attacking a Baila village, leading the jubilant townspeople to proclaim him a chief.
Securing this position with his growing band of Senga warriors, Clark began to collect "taxes" (which he defined himself), and to oversee the activities of foreign traders in the area. Locals paid tribute in the form of cattle, and overseas merchants wishing to work in the territory were soon required to obtain a "trading licence" from Harrison Clark before they could operate. Holders of his document had to give Clark one piece of calico textile from every bale of material they brought into the area, and, where a trader was harvesting ivory to sell overseas, Clark levied every other tusk as an "export tax". As well as regulating local trade, Clark encouraged the people to make paths between their villages, and repeatedly defended them against the various slave-raiding gangs. As his Senga troops expanded, he conferred various grandiose titles on himself, most prominently "King of the Senga" and "Chief of the Mashukulumbwe".
All of this caused considerable annoyance to the Portuguese at Zumbo, though the boma coexisted with Clark's settlement for the most part. The most prominent trans-river clash came when Clark attempted to demonstrate the strength of his army, and in doing so overpowered the fort's garrison, pulled down the Portuguese flag and ran up the Union Jack in its place. This done, he and his men immediately returned to Feira, leaving the British flag flying over Zumbo. "[H]e knew, of course, that as soon as he left the Portuguese would return and pull it down," Anthony Lawman writes, "but that did not matter [to] Harrison Clark." His point made, he made no attempt to stop the Portuguese garrison from returning. Soon after, one of the half-caste Chikunda-Portuguese gangs ventured up the river towards Feira, intending to attack Clark, who was sitting on the riverbank taking a drink when he spotted the raiding party approaching. According to the account of one of Clark's followers, the white chief put his glass down and bellowed at the enemy leader to "voetsek you bloody nigger", whereupon the intruder and his retinue fled.
Following this, Clark consolidated his chieftainship by marrying the daughter of Mpuka, the chief of the Chikunda people. He relocated north, in 1895, to the confluence of the Lukasashi and Lunsemfwa Rivers, where he established his own village. He named the settlement "Algoa" after the Portuguese name for his birthplace, Port Elizabeth, and based it around a small stone fort, which he built and subsequently lived in. Clark's sphere of influence, which he oversaw from Algoa, is vaguely defined by W. V. Brelsford, a historian, as "the Luano Valley and the uplands as far westwards as the Kafue and southwards to Feira".
Contact with the British South Africa Company
First meeting; Clark seeks company protection
The British South Africa Company (BSAC), established by Cecil Rhodes in 1889, was designed to govern and develop the area immediately north of the Transvaal, with the ultimate goal of aiding Rhodes' dream of building a Cape to Cairo railway through British territory. Having a firm hold over Matabeleland, Mashonaland and Barotseland by 1894, the company began officially calling its domain "Rhodesia" in 1895. The BSAC sought to further expand its influence north of the Zambezi, and to that end regularly sent expeditions into what is now eastern Zambia to negotiate concessions with local rulers and to found settlements.
In 1896, Major Deare led one such company expedition north from the main seat of company administration, Fort Salisbury, to meet with the Ngoni chief Mpezeni, who ruled to the east of Harrison Clark. One day, to Deare's surprise, a small group of warriors approached his party from the west, carrying a letter. This message, written in English and signed "Changa-Changa, Chief of the Mashukulumbwe", said that its author had heard of a white man being entertained recently by Mpezeni, and wished to provide the same hospitality at Algoa. On taking up this invitation, Deare was astonished to discover that "Changa-Changa" was Clark.
Harrison Clark subsequently sought protection from the British South Africa Company. In the months following Deare's visit, he negotiated concessions with two neighbouring chiefs, Chintanda and Chapugira, each of whom signed over the mining and labour rights for his respective territory in return for a specified fee whenever Clark wished to use them. In August 1897, Clark wrote to the company administrator in Salisbury, Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey, requesting that the company honour these holdings, enclosing copies of the concessions he had secured. Also providing a cursory description of gold mining prospects in the region, Clark criticised the actions of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Warton, who was in the vicinity representing the North Charterland Exploration Company, a BSAC subsidiary. "Mashukulumbwe can be occupied without fighting," he wrote. "I am on friendly terms with all the natives, and, if necessary, can raise a force of three to seven thousand to operate on Mfisini or Mashukulumbwe. Colonel Warton's Administration of this country has been a mistake; the country is rich in alluvial and reef gold." The company took little notice of Clark, but he nevertheless continued in the same vein, acquiring similar concessions from Chief Chetentaunga, Chief Luvimbie, Chief Sinkermeronga and Chief Mubruma over the following two years.
Clark wrote to Salisbury on 12 April 1899, once more attaching copies of his concessions, with an offer to supply the company's settlements south of the Zambezi with contract labourers taken from amongst his neighbouring chiefs' populations. He said he had permission from all of the chiefs involved to do so. He requested as his fee £1 per man, and said that he had agreed a monthly wage of ten shillings for each worker, plus food, accommodation and fuel.[n 1] Having split his concessions into two sections to draw labour from, Clark proposed to provide Salisbury with workers from his eastern concessions, and Bulawayo with those from the west. The chiefs had agreed to provide workers on contracts lasting six months, but Clark wrote that he could attempt to supply labour all year round if the company wished.
Around the same time, Chief Chintanda crossed the river and headed south-east, towards Salisbury, hoping to discuss Harrison Clark's actions with the company. He met a local company commissioner at Mazoe on 14 April 1899 and gave to him a statement, which, among other things, said that Clark had been claiming to be a BSAC official, and had been illegally collecting hut tax and other tariffs on that basis for at least two years. Clark's labour and mining concessions, Chintanda said, had been agreed under the impression that he was representing Salisbury. Chintanda also accused Clark of raping a pregnant woman, and claimed that he was a prolific womaniser who unsettled the local population. "Whenever Clark sees a girl he fancies he takes her as his mistress for a few days, and when tired of her sends her home," Chintanda said. "The fathers and husbands of these girls are constantly complaining to me about Clark's actions, but I can do nothing as Clark is a white man, and professed to be representing the government." The chief asked the company to send a genuine representative as soon as it could.
Chintanda's affidavit caused the company to suddenly become deeply concerned about Clark's continued authority north of the river, and to begin investigating him more thoroughly. The situation was complicated when, after a month's perusal, the company's lawyers resolved that the courts in Salisbury and Bulawayo held no legal jurisdiction north of the river, and therefore could not licitly hear any case brought against Clark relating to actions north of the Zambezi. On 4 July 1899, Arthur Lawley, the company's administrator in Matabeleland, wrote to Cape Town to report the situation to the resident High Commissioner for Southern Africa, Alfred Milner. Lawley briefly summarised the charges against Clark, and expressed the belief that Clark's continued activity north of the river could potentially destroy the heretofore peaceful relations between blacks and whites in the area, which could in turn have wider implications for the region. He requested permission from Milner to hold a court north of the river, under the supervision of one of three chiefs, each of whom maintained good relations with the company. Milner replied in the negative on 17 August, saying that he agreed with Lawley's conclusions, but could not legally sanction this course of action. He told Lawley to wait until authority extended over Clark's area before pursuing the matter further.
The end of Clark's chieftainship
On 24 August 1899, Sub-Inspector A. M. Harte-Barry of the British South Africa Police interviewed Chief Mubruma, who corroborated much of what Chintanda had said regarding Clark's claims to represent the company; Mubruma said that Clark had visited the previous week, and had told him to have his men ready for work south of the river within a month. Mubruma asked Harte-Barry if Clark really was employed by the company, and, when told that he was not, said that he would not provide Clark with contract workers. He indicated his willingness to take part in such a scheme if the company wished, however. He made no comment relevant to Clark's alleged sexual misconduct.
During 1900, the company established two forts far to the north-west of Algoa, neither of which impeded seriously on Clark's domain. The company's establishment of a boma at Feira in 1902 effectively ended his reign. Arguing that the company's rule over the area was less efficient than his own had been, Harrison Clark demanded that the company pay him for his concessions, which he said gave him authority over the area. The British South Africa Company had previously bought bona fide concessions from private individuals in a similar manner, but it refused to deal with Harrison Clark, saying his concessions had no legal validity. To persuade him to desist the company offered him compensation, the form of which differs by source; Brelsford and a man who knew Clark personally during the 1920s, Colonel N. O. Earl Spurr, say that Clark was given farms as compensation, while a 1920s business acquaintance, A. M. Bentley, writes that the company promised Clark grants of land and the right to reserve a specified number of local mining claims. Clark was initially unhappy with what he was offered, but soon acquiesced when he realised that to challenge the company he would have to travel to Salisbury, to South Africa, or perhaps even to England. Wherever he went, the legal battle would cost a great deal of money, and he could not be sure of winning. He therefore accepted the compensation, and his days as a chief were over.
Later life and death
Clark became a farmer, and proved successful, experimenting with the growing of rubber, cotton and various other plants previously absent from the area. His cotton plantation developed promisingly for a few years, but he abandoned it after heavy rain destroyed an entire crop around 1909. He remained on the farm until the late 1910s, when he either gave or sold it to missionaries of the Catholic Church, and moved to Broken Hill, one of the largest settlements in what had become Northern Rhodesia in 1911. Here he lived for the rest of his life. Retaining "Changa-Changa" as a nickname, he helped to develop various businesses, acted as a partner in the first licensed brewery in Northern Rhodesia (alongside Lester Blake-Jolly), and sponsored a number of local events. He attended most Broken Hill social functions ("always most immaculately dressed", according to Spurr), owned one of the first motor vehicles in the city (a dark green Ford Model T), and donated to a number of local charities. His last job was personnel manager at a local mine.
Clark died from heart disease in Broken Hill on 9 December 1927, aged about 67. He left the modest savings he possessed at the time of his death to his sister, who was still back home in Port Elizabeth. Though he was regarded as a shrewd businessman and "one of the pillars of society in the Broken Hill of those days" (says Spurr), he had had never been considered rich. "What I liked most about this remarkable man," Bentley writes, "is that he was not keen on making money but on developing Northern Rhodesia". According to Brelsford, Clark was greatly respected by the local black people, who considered him a higher authority even after his chieftainship ended, and consulted him often to settle their disputes. "Changa-Changa" endured in the local vernacular as a word roughly meaning "boss", and was still in use in the 1970s. M. D. D. Newitt writes that Clark embodied much of the pioneering spirit of the time, and was "an object of legend" to his fellow frontiersmen. Peter Duignan and Lewis Gann take a similar line, saying he "experienced in his own person the transition from bush feudalism to capitalism." "He had led a wild, tough life but it had not turned him either into a rascal or into an uncouth bush dweller," concludes Brelsford. "He was one of the first Northern Rhodesians and he was a grand chap."
- Even taking inflation into account, these are not huge sums. Using the calculations of current value devised by MeasuringWorth.com, £1 in 1899 equates to about £88 on the basis of the retail price index, or £528 on the basis of average earnings. A wage of 10 shillings (half a pound) per month is comparable to about £44 using the retail price index as a meter, or £264 using average earnings.
- Brelsford 1954, p. 20
- Brelsford 1954, p. 14
- Edwards 1974, p. 160
- Brelsford 1954, p. 13
- Newitt 1973, p. 309
- Ransford 1978, p. 107
- Letter from Clark to Earl Grey (October 1897), included in Brelsford 1954, pp. 24–25
- Brelsford 1954, pp. 14–15
- Brelsford 1954, pp. 15–17
- Brelsford 1954, p. 14; Lawman 1958, p. 67
- Brelsford 1954, p. 16
- Lawman 1958, p. 67
- Lawman 1958, p. 69
- Brelsford 1954, p. 17
- Berlyn 1978, pp. 99–101
- Documents included in Brelsford 1954, pp. 23–24
- Letter from Clark to Earl Grey (August 1897), included in Brelsford 1954, p. 23
- Documents included in Brelsford 1954, pp. 26–28, 30
- "Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1830 to Present". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
- Letter from Clark to Milton (April 1899), included in Brelsford 1954, p. 25
- Statement from Catino Francisco Lubino Chintanda (April 1899), included in Brelsford 1954, p. 21
- Telegram detailing legal counsel (May 1899), included in Brelsford 1954, p. 28
- Letter from Lawley to Milner (July 1899), included in Brelsford 1954, p. 21
- Letter from Milner to Lawley (August 1899), included in Brelsford 1954, p. 29
- Letter from Harte-Barry (August 1899), included in Brelsford 1954, pp. 29–30
- Brelsford 1954, pp. 17–20
- Earl Spurr 1954, p. 93
- Bentley 1954, p. 94
- Bentley 1954, p. 93
- Earl Spurr 1954, p. 91
- Duignan & Gann 1978, p. 348
- Journal articles
- Brelsford, W. V. (1954). "Harrison Clark: King of Northern Rhodesia". The Northern Rhodesia Journal (Lusaka: Northern Rhodesia Society) II (4): 13–31.
- Earl Spurr, N. O. (1954). "John Harrison Clark (Changa Changa)". The Northern Rhodesia Journal (Lusaka: Northern Rhodesia Society) II (6): 91–92.
- Bentley, A. M. (1954). "Harrison Clark". The Northern Rhodesia Journal (Lusaka: Northern Rhodesia Society) II (6): 92–94.
- Berlyn, Phillippa (April 1978). The Quiet Man: A Biography of the Hon. Ian Douglas Smith. Salisbury: M. O. Collins.
- Duignan, Peter; Gann, Lewis H. (1978). The Rulers of British Africa, 1870–1914. London: Croom Helm. ISBN 0-85664-771-3.
- Edwards, Stephen John (1974). Zambezi odyssey: a record of adventure on a great river of Africa. Cape Town: T. V. Bulpin. ISBN 9780949956088.
- Lawman, Anthony (1958). The Long Grass. London: Robert Hale.
- Newitt, M. D. D. (1973). Portuguese settlement on the Zambesi: exploration, land tenure, and colonial rule in East Africa. New York: Africana Publishing Company. ISBN 9780841901322.
- Ransford, Oliver (January 1978). David Livingstone: the dark interior. London: John Murray.
- Brelsford, W. V. (1965). Generation of men: the European pioneers of Northern Rhodesia. Salisbury: Stuart Manning.