John Moffat (missionary)

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John Smith Moffat (1835–1918) was a British missionary and imperial agent in southern Africa, the son of missionary Robert Moffat and brother-in-law of missionary explorer David Livingstone. He is also known for his various publications and essays detailing his journeys and experiences in Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.

Like his more famous father, Moffat was a Congregationalist minister affiliated with the London Missionary Society but he became involved in British colonial expansion particularly in Matabeleland, later part of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.[1] His missionary work included helping to start the first mission in Matabeleland in 1859, and in 1865 he took over the running of his father's mission in Kuruman. In 1879 he resigned from the missionary society and joined the British Bechuanaland colonial service.[1]

In 1888 at the instigation of Cecil Rhodes he was sent to Matabeleland to use his father's reputation to persuade its king Lobengula to sign a treaty of friendship with Britain and to look favorably on Rhodes' later approach for the Rudd Concession mining rights. Moffat discovered later the extent of Rhodes' deception of Lobengula and the deceit behind numerous concessions negotiated by Rhodes' British South Africa Company, BSAC. He fell out with Rhodes when the latter provoked Lobengula into the First Matabele War so he could take that country. In 1893 Moffat exposed the trickery behind the BSAC Bosman Concession in Ngamiland, which was abandoned as a result. In 1894 when the BSAC police clashed with warriors of the Bamangwato king Khama III in Bechuanaland, he warned that Rhodes' next victim was Khama, a British ally. But Moffat's boss, Shippard, was Rhodes's agent, and he dismissed Moffat.[2]

Books in English[edit]

  • Travels in the Eastern Mediterranean first published 1889[citation needed]
  • The Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat. New York, NY: A. C. Armstrong & Son. 1885.
South-East Africa, 1887


  1. ^ a b "Moffat, John Smith". Dictionary of Christian Biography. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012.
  2. ^ Parsons, Neil (6 May 1982). A New History of Southern Africa. Macmillan. pp. 176, 181–183. ISBN 978-0-333-26220-7.