§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it has been brought to his notice that certain black men inhabiting East Africa were induced by the Chartered Company of South Africa to enter into a contract to be transported to Rhodesia and to work in the mines there, and that on reaching Lorenco Marques they declined to proceed further; whether he can state what was the nature of the contract; whether the black men understood its stipulations; whether the Chartered Company of South Africa obtained the permission of His Majesty's Government to enter into it, and its provisions; and whether any supervision in regard to its conditions was exercised by British officials; and what has become of these black men.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I will answer this question in the absence of the noble Lord the Member for Rochester. The journey of the agents of the British South Africa Company to engage labourers in North-East Africa was undertaken with the consent of His Majesty's Government. As to this particular case, we are informed that a number of natives belonging to Jibuti in French territory came overland to Zeyla in British Somaliland, having been engaged as labourers for Rhodesia by one of these agents. Application was made by him to the Customs superintendent for permission to embark them, but this was only granted upon a promise by the agent that he would take them to Berbera, so that the Consul General might be satisfied before sanctioning their embarkation. This, however, for some reason as yet unexplained, the agent failed to do. On reaching Beira they became alarmed and refused to go any further, and a struggle took place, in which one native lost his life. The Portuguese authorities ordered an inquiry, the result of which we are awaiting; and a full explanation has been called for from the British South Africa Company. We have every reason 1561 to believe that the natives in their alarm were labouring under a misapprehension, but we are not aware of the terms of the contract, which presumably was made under French jurisdiction.