In 1889 seeking to weaken the Ndebele king Lobengula's control over the territory, Cecil Rhodes promoted white settlement in Ndebele and Shona lands and dispatched a group of colonists known as the “Pioneer Column” to the region in 1890, under military guard.
Evenetually, using a cattle raid as a pretext, a military force entered the Ndebele kingdom and using the newly invented Maxim machine gun with deadly effect, Rhode's forces inflicted a crushing defeat on Lobengula’s troops, who were armed only with spears and shields. Over 3000 Ndebele warriors fell in battle, against only one white casualty. In the years that followed, Lobengula’s people were forced into tribal reserves, while the best lands were seized by a steady influx of settlers from Britain and South Africa.
Following the abandonment of Bulawayo, a column of soldiers had been despatched by Leander Starr Jameson to attempt the capture of Lobengula, leader of the Ndebele nation.
The column camped on the south bank of the Shangani river about 40km north-east of the village of Lupane on the evening of 3 December 1893.
The commander of the column, unwilling to set off across the river in the dark, sent 20 more men under the command of Henry Borrow, intending to send the main body of troops across the river the following morning.
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